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Submitted Resolutions: Senate Concurrent Resolution 55

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, As Ranking Member of the Oceans, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I am pleased to join the Chair of the Subcommittee, Senator SNOWE, in submitting a resolution regarding the policy of the United States at the upcoming 55th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission, IWC. I wish to also thank my colleagues Mr. HOLLINGS, Mr. MCCAIN, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. AKAKA, Mr. REED, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. DODD, Mr. SMITH, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. CHAFEE, Mr. BIDEN, Mr. CORZINE, Mrs. BOXER, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mr. COCHRAN, and Mr. LIEBERMAN for cosponsoring as well.

The IWC will meet in Berlin from June 16-19, 2003. The IWC was formed in 1946 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, in recognition of the fact that whales are highly migratory and that international cooperation is necessary for their preservation. In 1982, due to the severe impacts of whaling on the populations of large whale species, the IWC agreed on an indefinite moratorium on all commercial whaling beginning in 1985.

Whales are already under enormous pressure world wide from collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing gear, coastal pollution, noise emanating from surface vessels and other sources. The need to conserve and protest these magnificent mammals is clear.

Despite the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, significant whaling has continued. First, pursuant to its reservation to the moratorium. Norway has continued to commercially harvest whales. Second, Japan has been using a provision in the Convention—which allows countries to issue themselves permits for whaling under scientific purposes—to kill whales in the name of science, and later sell the meat commercially. More than 7500 whales have been killed in lethal scientific whaling programs since the adoption of the commercial whaling moratorium, and the lethal take of whales under scientific permits has increased both in quantity and species, with species now including minke, Bryde's sei, and sperm whales.

The IWC Scientific Committee has not requested any of the information obtained by killing these whales and has stated that the scientific whaling data obtained through this so-called research is not required for management. Iceland, which joined the IWC last year under questionable legal authority—subject to the condition that it can unilaterally begin commercial whaling after 2006—has recently indicated its intent to lethally hunt hundreds of whales, including endangered species such as fin whales, pursuant to this same scientific whaling exception.
Despite a ban under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the first international trade of whale meat in 15 years occurred last year between Norway and Iceland, both member countries of the IWC. Reports indicate that Norway is seeking to broaden such trade.

One positive development expected to be addressed at the meeting is a proposal from Mexico to establish a conservation committee under the IWC. Such a committee would strengthen the focus of the IWC on conservation measures that are critically important for the survival of cetaceans.

This resolution calls for the U.S. delegation to the IWC to remain firmly opposed to commercial whaling. In addition, this resolution calls for the U.S. oppose the lethal taking of whales for scientific purposes unless such lethal taking is specifically authorized by the Scientific Committee of the Commission. It also calls on the U.S. to seek to end the sale of whale meat and blubber from whales killed for unnecessary lethal scientific research to remove this perverse incentive. The resolution calls for the U.S. delegation to support an end to the illegal trade of whale meat and to support the permanent protection of whale populations through the establishment of whale sanctuaries in which commercial whaling is prohibited. It further calls on the U.S. to support the establishment of a Conservation Committee, and to otherwise expand whale conservation efforts. Finally, the resolution directs the U.S. to make full use of all appropriate mechanisms to encourage a change in the behavior of other nations which are undermining the protection of these great creatures.

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