Whale of A Decision, But Who Really Wins Out?

Notes from 2016: This was the second guest post done for Fresh Earth Apparel, by a new friend, who now in 2016 is a very dear friend. 3 years later, debate on this topic still rages on, with legal progress made but Japanese whalers still sailing, and killing still being undertaken in ‘no mans land’ antarctica. Arguably now more talented, firm standing in opinions, occasionally pretty funny, ladies and gentlemen: Brad Fisher.


27 April, 2014


At the beginning of this month we saw the monumental victory for the whale populations of our great oceans, with the International Court of Justice voting in favour of Australia’s suit to end Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling in the Southern Oceans, an issue I’ve followed for many years.


“The scientific permits granted by Japan for its whaling program were not being used for scientific research as defined under the International Whaling Commission rules.” Thus the annual hunt and kill in the Southern Ocean, was not covered by the IWC convention to which Japan subscribed, end of story. To most observers this was simply stating the bleeding obvious, despite arguments being made based on tradition and cultural practice, however I don’t believe large scale whaling, with high-tech fleets ranging thousands of kilometres from their home ports was ever a Japanese tradition, but I’m no expert.


We talk too often of a new world order as if it means conspiracies and power plays, but what we saw at the start of the month was a real new world order: justice, transparency, and a fair result from a contest where both sides were treated as equals.


This brings me to this weeks news that the Canadian government has downgraded the North Pacific humpback whale from “threatened” to “species of special concern” based on evidence the population has increased to stable levels. “The species population is trending up…and we’re changing the law to reflect that,” Trevor Swerdfager, an assistant deputy minister with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told CBC News (based on 2011 data from the *COSEWIC).


On the surface this seems legitimate and a real positive win again for the whales, but the decision comes just two months out from the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project is to be decided upon. Coincidence?


The Northern Gateway Pipeline would see a likely increase in oil tanker traffic through key habitats and without the habitat they cannot be expected to continue their 4% population increases per annum. The endangered species legislation declares that: “no person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of any … listed threatened species.” The change in the whale’s status could potentially remove one of the remaining hurdles in the way of the approval of the pipeline.


This all comes just months after the Canadian government released a long awaited recovery strategy for the whales as part of their commitment to “threatened” species, sighting activities that posed a threat to the habitat…“vessel traffic, toxic spills, overfishing, seismic exploration, sonar and pile driving”…


I don’t pretend to be an expert on the issue and there are many facts I’m sure I haven’t discovered, but my feeling is there is something fishy at play here. However there are many views on the issue, biologists hailing the news of the status change as progress, those that believe the move is political, while others see no threat and look to the huge economic benefits the pipeline will bring. I do believe one thing is clear; this new world order of transparency is not upon us yet. When will we accept a change to the definition of human progress should include our environment and those within it?


*Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is an independent scientific body designated to determine the level of threat to a species and its classification under the Species at Risk Act.


Folks, please don’t hesitate to give a yell to @Fish_Brad on twitter if you want to discuss the issue or just chat in general. He’s a rad dude and would be more than happy to shout back.

This post is a part of a hidden collection about a charity centred business I launched in 2013/14. The home post is here.