The Public Policy

Blowhards and Blowholes

Aren't we done saving the whales yet?

By 6.25.08

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Let me preface this little rant by insisting that I love animals. In fact I'll be working with the Alexandria Animal League over the next few months to improve their web presence to get those adoptions up.

I don't buy unnecessary animal products that will never be used. I eat meat but abstain when I'm around those who find carnivorous tendencies off-putting. And I'm encouraging my dear mother to put her dogs on a vegan diet.

But today, allow me to inform you that the lower house of Congress recently passed the absurd House Concurrent Resolution 350. It requests that the whole world end the practice of whaling for any purpose.

Passed by a voice vote over the single loud objection of Alaska Rep. Don Young, who rightly called it "nothing more than a fund-raising gimmick for those environmental groups that oppose whaling," the Resolution declares the U.S. should use its clout with the International Whaling Commission to

* end commercial whaling for any reason;

* oppose any new "Commission-sanctioned coastal or community-based whaling, even if it is portrayed as noncommercial"; and

* help to beef up all "conservation and management measures."

And why was such a measure put forth at a time when the whales might even be seen as a potential source of renewable, alternative fuels? Hmm? What happens when oil hits that crucial mark where we might have a renewed desire to explore some alternative resources? If oil prices keep rising, it's got to happen eventually right?

BUT I DIGRESS. The resolution stems from recent reports showing that perhaps one quarter of the meat harvested under IWC sanctioned subsistence whaling allowances is being exchanged for money and sold commercially by a group that specializes in Arctic foods.

Activists can affect outrage at this crass commercialism but the small time whale hunters countered that if the meat was not sold frozen, a great deal of it would go to waste. That seems rather unnecessary, especially if the legal sales cut down on the demand for poached whale meat.

Believe it or not, there's actually some creature benefit to whaling taking on a more commercial existence. In Norway, whalers generally kill their prey within a minute. Whales that die of natural causes can take as long as six hours to die.

Which is more humane? Having stayed up with an ailing pet of ten years, I'm going to go with one minute.

According to the International Whaling Commission whose meeting in Chile for 2008 convened Monday, whaling countries would like to start targeting Humpbacks, whose populations number an estimated 64,000 total.

Granted I'm no zoologist but that sure seems like a significant stock, and it makes sense for whaling nations, such as Denmark and Greenland to go after animals that they frequently encounter -- those "low hanging fruit," so to speak -- rather than the ultra rare species that environmentalists would probably like to see protected.

AUSTRALIA IS BOLDLY making the case that whales are worth far more to humans alive than dead. The nation is even holding its first national Whale Day to toast these cows of the sea.

For nations with well-developed whale-watching programs, such as Australia, that may well be true. But the best way to make the case for nations protecting whales is for a few businesses and countries to show how profitable whale tourism can be and let others follow their lead, rather than using the Commission as a U.S. turned regulatory ratchet.

Those who are serious about saving the whales will have to find better ways to sell them -- alive and flipping.

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