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1 INTRODUCTION E stablished under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has, since its first meeting in 1949, been the main forum for debate over the hunting of various whale species and the kinds of management that should be applied to them. Since its inaugural meeting, however , the IWC has struggled to create and implement a regime capable of managing both whales and whalers in a sustainable manner. Fifty years on, the commission’s attempts at compromise between the needs of the whaling industries and its responsibility to protect whale stocks from depletion continue to be undermined by a dearth of agreement among IWC members over the commission’s goals and how they should be pursued— thereby creating a situation that bodes ill not only for the future of both the IWC and the animals it is intended to manage, but also for the future of international cooperation on wildlife management problems and issues at large. At the heart of the IWC’s ongoing management impasse has been the double-edged role played by scientific uncertainty in the commission’s policy-making process. This study focuses on this issue to explore why the commission has been divided and frustrated in its attempts to agree on how and to what ends whales should be managed. Thus, in terms explaining why the commission’s pro- and anti-whaling blocks remain locked in stalemate over the moratorium, the single most important development within the IWC over the last fifty years was a dramatic switch in how many formerly pro-whaling members perceived scientific uncertainty— a gestalt-like change in perception concerning how scientific uncertainty should be understood—which occurred incrementally between the col3 lapse of the Antarctic stocks in the early 1960s and the moratorium’s eventual adoption in 1982. In the 1950s and early 1960s, scientific advice urging lower catch limits was opposed by the then majority of active whaling governments in the commission on the grounds that there was too little scientific evidence, and therefore too much uncertainty, to support contentions that blue, fin, and humpback whale stocks were being depleted. The early 1960s, however , brought the realization that uncertainty had been overplayed in the rejection of lower quotas, as the Antarctic stocks collapsed along with the commercial viability of pelagic whaling for all but two of the five nations involved. The result was that during the latter half of the 1960s only Soviet and Japanese whaling in the Antarctic continued. Soviet and Japanese catches, however, were restricted by the IWC’s now much smaller quotas and complete protection of two of the whaling industry’s three traditionally preferred species (the blue and humpback) by the mid-1960s. The third whale of choice, the fin, was hunted until 1975–76, but only at greatly reduced levels compared with the 1950s and early 1960s due primarily to the increasing scarcity of this species. In response, the Japanese and Soviet fleets concentrated instead on the smaller sei and minke whales in order to continue whaling. Then, by the early 1970s, essentially the same problems concerning scientific uncertainty over population numbers and sustainable catch limits again surfaced in the IWC. But this time, scientific uncertainty was used, primarily by the United States, to argue in favor of a moratorium on all commercial hunting.1 With strong support from the United States and a steadily growing number of other former whaling members, in addition to a contingent of new IWC members that had little or no experience with whaling, the moratorium was finally adopted by the IWC in 1982 and is yet to be lifted. Ironically, a number of the governments now citing scientific uncertainty in support of the moratorium previously had opposed reducing catches during the 1950s on the same grounds. This curious switch within the IWC concerning the status of whales and how scientific uncertainty is interpreted has the potential, I believe, to explain a great deal about the commission’s ongoing stalemate over its management goals in general and concerning the ends to which scienti fic advice has been used by the various groups and governments involved in the whaling debate. Thus, the central problem this study will focus on is the issue of why this switch in attitudes within the IWC occurred and what it can tell us about the current impasse over the moratorium. 4 INTRODUCTION Indeed, so far the IWC experience...


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