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3 THE ANTARCTIC COLLAPSE UNCERTAINTY TAKES A (BRIEF) HOLIDAY A s discussed in chapter 2, the excessive catching and investment by the five Antarctic nations during the 1950s was largely the result of the postwar demand for fats, the intense competition encouraged by the single quota system, and—most importantly—the general unwillingness of governments to accept the Scientific Committee’s majority view that the Antarctic quota was dangerously high. But by the 1958 IWC meeting, it was becoming increasingly clear to many in the commission that the so-called whaling olympic mode of hunting was driving both the industry and the fast-dwindling Antarctic stocks to ruin, leading the UK commissioner—with the strong support of Norway—to propose that the five Antarctic nations replace the competitive single quota system with preassigned national quotas.1 As had been the case since the IWC’s inception, however, conservation measures within the commission at the end of the 1950s remained secondary to the economic and political interests of the Antarctic whaling industries, as defined by criterion I (utility) and criterion II (compatibility with already established needs).2 The British and Norwegian push for national quotas essentially was an attempt to control the uneconomical and often chaotic way in which Antarctic whaling was being conducted . But in effect the scheme provided little in the way of protection for declining stocks, since the overall number of whales taken would remain mostly unchanged under the national quotas system. The SC’s calls at earlier meetings for both reductions in the number of whales taken and also fundamental changes in the commission’s management methodology— most significantly the abandonment of the Blue Whale Unit in favor of species-by-species quotas—were still no closer to being heard in the IWC. 66 Most commissioners continued to insist on what could be described as the “precautionary approach” to management: a focus on uncertainty to justify the interests of the industry over conservation measures that could not convincingly demonstrate their necessity.3 Thus, by the mid-1960s, the end game of Antarctic whaling was being played out to a conclusion made inevitable by fierce competition, itself caused by the single quota system and the Antarctic nations’ unrelenting preoccupation with recovering the exaggerated investments in whaling of the 1950s. The issue of uncertainty no longer concerned, as it had during the fin whale debate, for example, the question of whether a reduction in the Antarctic quota was needed; the SC’s conclusions, supported by the ever dwindling catch levels, were now strong enough to exclude any alternative explanations. The commission’s attention instead shifted to the question of how far reductions in the quota should be taken. This change in focus, however, did little to reduce resistance to conservation initiatives of those planning either to continue operations in the Antarctic , which by 1965 was only Japan and the Soviet Union, or those who needed catching to continue at least until they had cut their losses by selling their interests and leaving the industry, as was the case with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. For the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and later Norway, the utility of whaling had changed fundamentally by 1965 due to both the collapse of the Antarctic stocks and the increasing availability of other sources of edible oil and fats. The Dutch and British industries recognized that there was no longer any utility in continuing whaling operations because of the losses they were suffering. Their perspectives on whaling (in terms of criterion I, and also criterion II since demand for whale products was in decline by this stage) became completely different from those of Japan and the Soviet Union, where whaling and its products were still financially and politically viable, relevant, and in demand. Thus, the British and Dutch companies pulled out because the circumstances of the 1960s meant more utility in selling their respective interests and ceasing whaling than in competing for an increasingly scarce resource for which demand was steadily dwindling; whaling for the British and Dutch was no longer relevant to any established need as per the criterion II definition. For Norway too, there remained little point in maintaining a presence in the Antarctic. The economic rationalization that the Norwegian government had hoped would accompany the national quotas scheme never materialized due to the long delay in the scheme’s implementation, and THE ANTARCTIC COLLAPSE 67 also the effect this delay had in accelerating the collapse of Antarctic...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780295802008
Related ISBN
9780295986050
MARC Record
OCLC
815969423
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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