21 Nations Block Effort to Turn Southern Atlantic Into a Giant Whale Sanctuary

Thoth, God of Knowledge/CC BY 2.0

Today, in the enlightened, internetted 21st century, whaling should be the simplest goddam conservation issue out there. We've killed too many of them, they're endangered, and people love them. Ipso facto, we shouldn't kill them anymore. Right? There's the public support, the scientific urgings, and the financial incentives—whale-watching is a big booming industry. Plus, nobody really likes whale meat anyway, and nobody uses whale oil anymore.

So let's just stop harpooning the lovable blubbery bastards, right? Open and shut? Nope. Of course not. Yet another effort to protect whales has crashed and burned at the International Whaling Commission meeting; a proposal was made to turn the Southern Atlantic into a giant whaling sanctuary. Nations like Brazil and Argentina, both of which have thriving whale-watching industries, were totally behind it. So were more than 35 other countries.

Unfortunately, 21 nations weren't, and voted not to protect whales. The BBC reports:

Latin American countries argued that declaring a sanctuary would help whale conservation and whale-watching. The bid gained more than half of the votes but fell short of the three-quarters majority needed to pass ...

The proposal covered almost the entire Atlantic Ocean south of the Equator, from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of South America. It would have joined up with the two existing whale sanctuaries approved by the IWC, in the Southern and Indian Oceans.

This stuff is frustrating in a radically different way than something like climate change is; a major, multifaceted plight that seeps into every aspect of our daily lives. Nothing is more infuriating than world leaders' continued inaction on climate change, but the enormity of the problem at least makes the chaos understandable. If we can't rally to protect effing endangered whales (while of course respectfully preserving the right of limited catch for indigenous populations who subsist on them) then there's little hope, frankly, that we can protect much of anything at all.

Tags: Conservation | Whales

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