Humane Society urges sanctions against Japan's whaling policies

provided by The Humane Society

he Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization, announced in lage November that it has filed a petition asking the Interior Department to certify that Japan is diminishing the effectiveness of an international program to protect endangered and threatened species by trading in whale meat.

The HSUS sent a petition to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt last month urging him to certify Japan under the provisions of the Pelly Amendment, a law that allows the President to impose trade sanctions against a country that is diminishing the effectiveness of an international program to protect endangered and threatened species.

By law, the President was required to respond by Monday, November 13, to an earlier Commerce Department Pelly certification asking him to pursue sanctions against the Japanese government after its fleets hunted and killed five endangered sperm whales, 43 Bryde's whales, and 40 minke whales this year.

"President Clinton has forced our hand," said HSUS Executive Vice President Patricia Forkan. "Japan is openly daring the United States and the international community to stop it. In the short run, we believe that trade sanctions by the United States may be the only way of stopping Japan from killing these three whale species. In the long run, sanctions may be the only way of stopping Japan and its allies from reopening the world's oceans to full-scale commercial whaling."

Although there has been a moratorium on commercial whaling in effect since 1986, Japan has continued to whale by exploiting an unintended loophole in International Whaling Commission (IWCF) regulations that allows nations to self-issue special permits to kill select whale species for "scientific purposes." As part of its "scientific" whaling program, Japan has killed up to 540 minke whales annually.

Japan has sought to overturn the international moratorium since its inception. In recent years, it has admitted to checkbook diplomacy, using its economic clout to buy the votes of smaller, poorer nations in an attempt to overturn the IWC whaling ban.

Unlike the Commerce certification, which focused on violations of the IWC, the HSUS petition centers on Japanese actions as they affect the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international agreement that governs trade in endangered species. The petition asks the Secretary of the Interior to certify that Japan is engaging in trade "diminishing the effectiveness" of CITES.

"We are gravely concerned by President Clinton's lack of response," Forkan said. "The world faces a critical juncture at this moment, one that may decide the fate, the very survival, of the world's whale populations. If the United States backs down now, commercial whaling may again become widespread and the threat of extinction becomes very real."