HTML _ 97-55 - Norwegian Commercial Whaling: Issues for Congress
31-Dec-1996; Carl Ek; 8 p.

Abstract: On May 16, 1996, 23 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Clinton expressing their concern over Norway's announcement that it intended to permit its whalers to kill as many as 425 minke whales that year. The co-signers urged the President ¨to take decisive action to prevent Norway from resuming its illicit whale harvesting,¨ including the possible use of economic sanctions. For its 1997 hunt, Norway has increased its quota to 580 animals. The Norwegian government strongly argues that their whaling activities are neither irresponsible from an ecological standpoint nor illicit from a legal one. According to a 1996 abundance estimate, as yet unreviewed by the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) Scientific Committee, there are about 118,000 minke whales in the northeast and central Atlantic Ocean that are accessible to Norwegian whalers; if the abundance estimate is accurate, Norway's self-imposed 1996 hunt quota of 425 is unlikely to significantly reduce the minke whale population. Because the Norwegian government lodged an official objection when the IWCestablished a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 by adopting zero quotas for such whaling, Norway is not bound by the moratorium. Norway complied with the moratorium until 1993, when it resumed commercial whaling. For more than two decades, the United States government has supported a moratorium on commercial whaling. After working to ensure that any resumption of commercial whaling would be sustainable, the U.S. government began in the early 1990s to oppose more forcefully all commercial whaling. Most opponents of commercial whaling object on ethical or ecological grounds; however, important political considerations also arise in the debate. The current dispute with Norway over whaling is affected by a number of such factors, not least among them being that Norway has long been one of America's closest allies. U.S. policymakers may consider a number of options vis-a-vis Norway, ranging from pressuring Norway with trade sanctions, as urged by several environmental groups, to supporting a quota for northeastern Atlantic minke whales, calculated using the catch-limit formula developed by the IWC's Scientific Committee, as urged by the Norwegians. Some analysts view the Norwegian whaling issue as one chapter of a continuing international debate over the interconnections between trade and environment, in which the United States has considered the use of economic sanctions as one method of reaching beyond its traditional jurisdiction, compelling other nations to adopt similar environmental goals. [read report]

Topics: Marine

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