This week, March 23-26, the Australian government hosts the first international workshop on non-lethal whale research. Representatives from 13 anti-whaling countries are meeting in Sydney at the Australian National Maritime Museum to discuss methods of studying whales in waters around Antarctica that do not involve killing them as Japan does with its "scientific whaling" program.
The workshop is the first of an Australian initiative, known as the Southern Ocean Research Partnership. Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and the United States are participating. By the end of the week, they hope to have a draft five-year plan to present at the International Whaling Commission when it next meets in Portugal this June. Japan was invited, but it did not respond.
The partner nations advocate and use modern research technologies such as genetic and molecular techniques, satellite tagging, acoustic surveys and aerial surveying of cetacean populations. Ultimately, they want the International Whaling Commission to become more science and conservation-focused. This first workshop builds on a comprehensive reform agenda for the Commission.Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Australia was taking the lead to better manage the whales of the Southern Ocean and in the process, show the world that scientific research on whales could be done without resorting to lethal measures. "This is about building the world's most comprehensive whale research partnership with countries interested in developing an agreed scientific approach to research – one that doesn't involve killing whales," he said.
The destruction of the world's whales by industrialized hunting was an environmental catastrophe of the 20th century, Garrett told delegates at the workshop's opening session."Many countries were complicit in this destruction, and nowhere was it greater in scale or intensity than the Southern Ocean, where blue, fin, right, and humpback whales were pursued to the very edge of extinction," he said. "Australia acknowledges its own involvement in this tragedy and we must all learn from mistakes of the past to make sure they are never repeated again."
Japan, however, does not feel that it has made mistakes. There is nothing to learn other than most of the world does not appreciate Japan's food culture, I mean scientific methods. It is certainly ironic that this week Valdimir Putin decided to bend to world opinion and ban the annual massacre of baby seals in Russia. We can't all be outliers all the time.