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6 CONCLUSION T he end of chapter 1 outlined a hypothetical situation concerning the discovery of minke whale oil as the source of an effective and safe cancer treatment and asked how such a discovery might affect the debate over uncertainty issues concerning population estimates, MSY rates and levels, and so on. The answer, I believe, is now clear. Such an eventuality undoubtedly would cause a major change in the treatment of uncertainty by all the governments currently opposing any lifting of the moratorium: the utility of exploiting minke stocks, in criterion I terms, in order to provide a cancer cure would far outweigh the existing benefits derived from not exploiting them. In fact, the political advantages many governments derive from protecting the minke would disappear as the criterion II definitions of established needs in relation to whales abruptly changed. Few but the most devout animal protectionists would dare to openly argue in favor of protecting an unendangered species at the expense of human lives. Subsequently , the IWC’s ongoing disputes over uncertainty in population estimates, effects of environmental change, MSY levels, and monitoring of catches would disappear almost over night as governments quickly readjusted their perceptions of uncertainty to accommodate the needs of their societies. As this hypothetical scenario demonstrates, the strength of the data and the conclusions made by scientists generally concern politicians less than the political impact that acceptance or rejection of a given piece of research is likely to create. This perspective, when applied to environmental policy debates like those of the IWC, can explain a great deal about why perceptions of how to manage uncertainty vary widely according to the 177 issues at stake. As Aron has observed concerning the strong opposition to the NMP and also the RMP, it is the political implications of the issue at hand rather than the science behind it that often have the most influence on the positions governments take: The NMP, unlike the RMP, did not explicitly take errors into account in its formulation, however, in generating critical numbers, the low end of the estimates was selected to minimize the consequences of error. Also the terms of the NMP were, by themselves, very conservative. The big problem was less the data issue, which was solvable, but more the fact that the NMP permitted whaling. This is the real issue of the RMP, as well.1 As the preceding chapters have shown, the concept of scientific uncertainty , including the risks it poses and judgments concerning where the burden of proof should lie, has been understood and applied in different ways and toward different ends over time in the IWC. The IWC’s first two decades were characterized by policies that, for the most part, used uncertainty as a basis for downplaying the risk of overhunting, resulting in the severe depletion of most Antarctic stocks. An increasing number of governments in the following decade, however, adopted a very different view of uncertainty and demanded progressively smaller quotas before finally opting for no commercial hunting at all. For many IWC members in the 1950s and early 1960s, dealing with uncertainty issues was a simple and straightforward task. For the five Antarctic whaling nations, uncertainty concerning population estimates and quota levels appeared to mean only that there were no compelling reasons to adopt lower quotas at the expense of their respective industries . This approach to uncertainty dominated IWC policy until the mid1960s when two important changes occurred. The first was a consensus among the Antarctic nations on the need to reduce the Antarctic quota, brought about only by the increasing scarcity of the larger species. The Scientific Committee’s improved ability, resulting from the work of the Committee of Three and Committee of Four, to better explain the cause of the decline in whale numbers and catches (i.e., unsustainable quotas) also was an important factor here, but would in itself have made little difference without the added weight of the Antarctic collapse. The second change, in part a result of the first, was the declining financial viability and importance of Antarctic whaling for all but the Japanese and Soviet industries, which reduced not only the number of active Antarctic 178 CONCLUSION whaling nations but also the strong influence that the whaling industry had so far exerted over commission policy. The impact of these changes was such that, by the early 1970s, many in the IWC either had or were about to adopt an entirely different...


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