Shall future generations eat fish or whales?

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In the mid-twentieth century the Southern Ocean whaling industry was the world's biggest fishery. Since then, most whale species have been depleted to near extinction, most fisheries have declined and the ocean's living resources are in crisis. Marine biologist Sidney Holt will examine causes of this catastrophe and suggest restorative actions, looking at the state of science and the economic, political, social and emotional factors involved. The lecture will critically explore the relationship between campaigns and research concerned with wildlife conservation, environmental issues, and improving the welfare of wild animals.

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Sidney J Holt DSc


I confess that when I was invited to give this lecture I knew little about Gresham College except that it had once been the home of the Royal Society. Accordingly I plunged into the magical digital world to learn more. I soon found myself immersed in esoteric accounts of Freemasonry, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, British Israelism, the Knights Templar, the ideas of reconstructing London after the Great Fire as the New Jerusalem, and much, much more.[1] Down-to-earth web-sites told me the college was founded more than four centuries ago under the bequest of Sir Thomas Gresham and was closely connected with the Mercers' livery company (Numero uno in the hierarchy of the livery companies) as well as the Corporation of London. Another Worshipful City company, Haberdashers', was an offshoot of Mercers' (It's now number eight in the hierarchy), and I was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's Hampstead School.  We usually beat Mercers' School at rugby and I was sorry to read that it closed in 1959. Then, in the published history of the college, I read that Sir Thomas's uncle, Sir John Gresham, had founded Gresham School in Holt, Norfolk, which still functions. There might be my family's origins, which we think was in East Anglia, "holt" being the Norse word for a small woodland, or copse. Then I read that the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers (fourth in the hierarchy) has been the Trustee of that school since 1555. My first job (1947) was at the Government's Fisheries Laboratory, in Lowestoft, and some of us used to visit Billingsgate from time to time and pay homage to Fish Hall at London Bridge.  Which brings me to my subject.

You will see that I have modified the title of my talk. That is because although I shall focus on fishes and whales I think my subject could be of wider interest. The day after I decided on the change the naufrage of the American Insurance Group (AIG) erupted in the media and much talk began about the greed of bankers, insurers, CEOs bearing golden parachutes, shareholders and investors. I know very little about such matters but it seemed to come down to the question of an imperative - said to be embedded in the current version of globalised capitalism - to maximize profits by any legal means, and to ensure, when necessary, changes in law to facilitate that. And that is conceptually close to what the management of fishing and whaling, and the conservation of fishes and whales, are about. A few days later - 28 September - the US House of Representatives was engaged in revising the Administration's proposal for "bailing out" the financial system, and then voting to reject the revised version.  Greed was rapidly becoming the flavour of the year. The theories of the Chicago Gang of Free-Marketeers led by Professor Milton Friedman, so warmly embraced by the chemist Margaret Thatcher and popular actor Ronald Regan, seemed to be in trouble. Exactly four decades earlier Professor Garrett Hardin had published his controversial "The Tragedy of the Commons" that put a powerful phrase into our language, describing the fate of unregulated use of limited resources. It now seemed that the scarcely regulated financial system of 21st Century capitalism constituted another, larger, Commons.

In pursuit of my revised title and thesis I propose to spout three parables, and fill the interstices with examples and attempted explanations. The first is a parable of connectedness. The second is a story of illusion; the third is one of the relationship between greed and hegemony and empire..

On 28 September the New York Times published an editorial by Eduardo Porter that I cannot resist quoting. Porter wrote:

 "Of course, it's all Gordon Gekko's fault![2] 'Greed and irresponsibility,' blasted Barack Obama. 'Greed and excess and corruption,' charged John McCain. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could tell from as far away as Brazil that the 'boundless greed of a few' blew up the American financial system. With the Eureka moment behind us, I would suggest that this insight offers a way to try to restore the abused financial markets to health. If greed is to blame, the question is whether we can line up a reasonable array of alternative incentives - and disincentives - to do away with greed for good.[3]

In an earlier period of financial chaos - the Great Depression of the 1930s - President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, in his second inauguration address: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics"

Early Christians designated greed as the second of Pope Gregory the Great's and Dante's seven cardinal sins. Avaritia male est. Looking further back a twenty-first century blogger reminded we Web-surfers that Zeus had decided to sink the idyllic island of Atlantis because its people had become too greedy. I'm addicted to the excellent Website Wordsmith that I peruse every morning over coffee. A few weeks ago it introduced me topleonexia, meaning "excessive or insatiable covetousness", or, as the Christian activist Don McClanen put it: "an insatiable need for what I already have".[4]

Eduardo Porter went on to write "Capitalism, in all its cleverness, decided that what you can't beat, you should use. It worked to harness greed. To be able to discuss it in polite company, economists renamed it "maximization of utility", and built a theory of the world that everyone benefits when we seek to maximize our own individual welfare. He still had hopes, he wrote, "Because there is a crucial brake that has been missing from the edifice of high-tech financial capitalism - a counterbalance at the other end of the scale from where utility gets maximized. That brake is fear. My suggestion, then, is to put fear back in the picture."

But fear of what, exactly? Fear of the nasty consequences of greed? Or fear of the consequences of not exercising one's greed, such as the fear of a fisherman who, refraining from taking a fish now rather than later (when it has grown bigger, or reproduced), worries that someone else will come and take it, or that it will die one way or another - perhaps by being eaten by a whale - before he gets back to it.

It used to be said that in not caring for the conservation of finite resources we are borrowing from our children with little intention of arranging for them to be paid back. By the standard of maximizing present utility it may be that the debts thereby incurred will never be repaid. Will Nature repossess the planet? Is that the inevitable consequence of the rhetorical question "What have future generations ever done for me?"

Another New York Times editorialist, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote on September 23 "Greed - and its crafty sibling, speculation - are the designated culprits for the financial crisis. But another, much admired, habit of mind should get its share of the blame: the delusional optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking." She continued, brilliantly, to advocate The Power of Negative Thinking. Vice-President Dan Quayle once defined positive thinking well: "The future will be better tomorrow."I would assert that in many situations "positive thinking" sends us into a state of denial of facts and real processes, and in the case of the depletion of living resources impedes the implementation of the precautionary approach orprincipleadopted by UN conferences on the environment and accepted in principle by most governments.

The corresponding virtue is - at least for Roman Catholics - Charity. For the agnostics among us frugality or perhaps parsimony might be better words.[5] For those of you who enjoy Latin tags here's another one, relevant to this talk, at least insofar as it concerns whales and whaling:Crudelitatis mater est avaritia, Greed is the mother of cruelty.

Awareness that the needs of others are denied is essential to the concept of greed. The demon who tempts to greed is Mammon, and although Mammon is for us usually associated with money he is interested also in other sorts of wealth. And, significantly for us, Mammon was also personified in the Middle Ages as the Demon of Injustice, and his ideas brought into the 16th and 17th Centuries by Edmund Spencer and John Milton.[6]Later occultist writings such as Collin De Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal (Paris, 1818, three years after the battle of Waterloo) describe Mammon as Hell's ambassador to England, so that should put this audience on guard.[7]

Now, why am I going on so about greed?  Primarily because I shall be talking mainly about injustice to future generations of humans, but the revolutionary notion of injustice to other species should also be brought into the picture. The work of preparing for this talk was eased by the publication in October of a study by the Agriculture and Development Department of the World Bank, assisted by staff of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): "The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform". Here are what I think are its most important findings:

"Long before the fuel price increases of 2008, the economic health of the world's marine capture fisheries has been in decline. The build-up of redundant fishing fleet capacity, deployment of increasingly powerful fishing technologies and increasing pollution and habitat loss have depleted fish stocks worldwide. Despite the increased fishing effort, the global marine catch has been stagnant for over a decade, at about 80 to 85 million tonnes, while the natural fish capital has declined. At the same time the margin has narrowed between the global costs of catching and the value of the catch. In many cases the catching operations are buoyed by subsidies, so that the global fishery economy to the point of landing is in deficit. The cumulative economic loss to the global economy 1974 to 2007 has been about two trillion US-dollars. The difference between the potential and actual net economic benefits from marine fisheries is conservatively estimated as about $50 billion per year.[8] Improved governance of marine fisheries could capture a substantial part of this annual economic loss. Reform of the fisheries sector could generate additional economic growth and alternative livelihoods, both in the marine economy and in other sectors."

Half of the marine capture fish stocks monitored by the FAO are said to befully exploited, producing at or close to their maximum sustainable yield(MSY).Another 25 percent of the stocks are assessed as "over-exploited", "depleted", or "recovering from depletion" and are rendering less than their MSY. The remaining 25 percent of the stocks are "under- 'or 'moderately- exploited" and while this implies that more could be produced from them, many are of low-value species, or species for which harvesting may be uneconomical. Globally, the proportion of fully exploited, and over-exploited, depleted or recovering stocks, has increased from just over 50 percent of all those assessed in the mid-1970s to about 75 percent in 2005. So, in economic terms, more than 75% of the world's marine capture fisheries are underperforming, or subject to economic over-fishing. In 1974 about 40 percent of the assessed stocks were rated as underexploited, or moderately exploited; this had fallen to 25 percent by 2005.

According to the World Bank " production of seafood from wild stocks is at or close to its long run biological maximum." I do not believe this, and I am publishing elsewhere the technical reasons for my opinion. While the Bank's conclusions are, I think, qualitatively correct, the numbers and the methodology of calculating them, are questionable. The scale of losses is uncertain but probably wildly under-estimated by the Bank.

Possibly the most important conclusion from the World Bank study is this:

If the overall MSY is about 95 million tonnes - as is assumed in the study - the current (2004) recorded catch being  86 million tonnes, worth about $80 billion, then the "optimum economic yield" would be just over 80 million tonnes, i.e. 6% less than the current catch by weight and 15% less than the Bank's assumed MSY. The difference in total market value of the catches would be less than that because the optimal catch would contain more of the larger, more valuable species than the current catch, and also the average sizes of individuals of the valuable species would be higher and generally more valuable per kilo. The optimal catch would, however, be taken with a fishing "effort" (size of fleet, time operating) roughly half as much as the current effort. The optimal catch would be taken from an overall biomass of fish in the ocean two to three times the current biomass (the difference depends on which of two theoretical fish population models you believe), attained by allowing over-fished stocks to increase naturally.

This general conclusion is not really new. In the 1940s the English naturalist and, later, Director of Fisheries Research, Mr Michael Graham, showed that by reducing trawling effort on North Sea bottom-fish stocks the same catch could be obtained with about half the effort. My then colleague Ray Beverton and I demonstrated the same effect for plaice and haddock stocks in the North Sea, Graham's assumptions having been confirmed by observation of how much the stocks had increased during World War II because of the sharp reduction of fishing activities. What isnew is the fact that this phenomenon is now global and applies to the total of marine fisheries.[9]

However the World Bank Report does not do justice to the fact that reaching any optimal state from where we are now will be painful. It would require acceptance of a possibly prolonged reduction of catches while depleted stocks recover. Some fisheries would as a result become unprofitable during the recovery period (if they were not so already), and the only sensible thing might be to subject them to a moratorium, as has already happened with a few fish stocks and, as we shall see, with whaling. This is how our ability to control greed will be tested.

Now, although I am not qualified to question the economic assessments inSunken Billions, I do question some of the biological science quoted. Too many numbers referred to as "estimates" are in fact assumptions or guesses. The crucial assumption made that the combined MSY of all fished stocks is a little more than the current reported annual catch is particularly questionable, yet that number is the main determinant of the study's specific conclusions. It is taken to be 95 millions tonnes but available data could easily allow it to be at least double that. The Report's discussion of whether the MSY might or might not be as high as 101 million tonnes is bizarre scholasticism. So while we can accept that the economic losses from lack of, or bad, management have been, and continue to be, enormous, we do not need to fix our sights on particular figures. Furthermore, the methodology adopted - based on treating all species in the global commercial catches as one huge collective lump of "biomass" and fitting to it an assumed curve of the type used in the nineteenth century to describe the expansion and ultimate limitation of human populations, was not even minimally examined as to whether it is mathematically or biologically defensible.

That being said I propose to outline a few of the reasons why we have arrived at the deplorable situation described in the World Bank Report, and in terms not commonly applied to this issue.

Ecologists and ecologically informed campaigners, and some political scientists, are fond of saying "Everything is connected". Here is an example of that truism. During the summer of this year there were many news accounts of piracy in the Indian Ocean, particularly off the coast of Somalia. Certain TV-reporters managed to talk to the pirates who had taken a Ukrainian ship full of heavy armaments said to be on their way to the Sudan via Kenya. Many of the pirates were Somali fishermen. They had taken up their new profession because they could no longer make a living from fishing. They said this was because large fishing vessels were operating in those waters, coming from Europe and East Asian countries, and scouring the sea of fish. Those vessels operated without hindrance within 200 miles of the Somali coast because Somalia has no government and so there has, in recent years, been no control of any kind over its 200-mile-wide Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). So why is there no government? The reasons are multiple and complex but one is that the land was caught up in the cold war. When the British colony comprised of the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Chagos Archipelago became independent it was broken three ways, into two new independent states and the British Indian Ocean territory, the largest island of which is Diego Garcia. Between 1967 and 1971 the long-term Chagos residents - whose very existence had at first been denied by the British Government - were expelled so that the largest island, Diego Garcia, could be handed over to make a naval and air base from which the United States could, if circumstances required, bombard the Middle East and Southern Asia, and, as it later turned out, use as a destination for rendition flights. The USSR wanted a corresponding military base in the Indian Ocean and sought an arrangement with the newly independent Republic of Seychelles. But Seychelles, guided by President Albert René, opted for Non-Alignment and neutrality.[10] The next option was Somalia, the Government of which, under the Presidency of Mohamed Siad Barre, was Soviet-friendly at the time. I was working in FAO then and hired a well-known fisheries scientist, Dr Michael Edelman, a Soviet citizen, to go and work there, setting up a fisheries administration and trying to introduce marine research. It was going well, and I was sending Michael who was passionately interested in classical music, packages of recordings unobtainable in Somalia. The Barre regime went pear-shaped in 1991 with, it is widely believed, a little help from the USA via Ethiopia; since then Chaos has reigned.

So one fisheries problem is the propensity to go elsewhere, to fish in someone else's waters - maybe with a license from the coastal state, maybe not - when one has depleted the resources in one's own waters. Or go to the High Seas where control is nominal. Consider this: more than a half of the fish now being consumed in the European Union is caught outside the waters governed by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, caught by vessels flying European flags or others. This situation is not unique to Europe: over 80% of the sea-food consumed in the USA is now imported, causing a trade deficit in this sector of $9 billion annually.[11] A large part of the global fish catch - variously estimated as between one third and two-thirds of the total - is taken in what is now designated as IUU fishing - Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported - much of it under Flags of Convenience (FoC), and the practice of "flag-hopping" to circumvent regional conservation and management measures, is rife.[12]

Now for another excursion into connectedness. The World Bank report bases calculations on Maximum Sustainable Yield. This notion is embedded in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); attaining it is deemed to be the universal aim of fisheries management, though hedged by various weasel phrases. Scientists have for fifty years been very critical of this idea, for a variety of reasons that I do not have time to explain here. The World Bank at least recognized one big fault of the notion, which I was writing about in the late 1940s with Ray Beverton, that mathematical economists such as Prof. Colin W. Clark at UBC, Vancouver have since analysed in depth.[13] What matters is not the absolute size of the catch  but the difference between its value and what it cost to  take it - the Net Economic Yield (NEY). However, when it comes to international regulation of fishing a maximum NEY is not easy to agree as a target so practically all international management is based on regulated catch sizes, commonly expressed as TACs - Total Allowable Catches - and the requirement that these be sustainable.

Now I beg your indulgence for what American educators might call Population Dynamics 101.The notion of sustainability - that universal buzz-word - in managing the exploitation of wild animals such as fishes and whales goes back to a Belgian mathematician, Pierre-François Verhulst, who published in 1838 an equation that sought to explain why the Rev. Thomas Malthus was wrong in thinking that human and animal populations would grow indefinitely, that is geometrically (exponentially) until they collapsed from lack of basic resources. The essence of the equation was what ecologists call density-dependence or compensation,meaning that the relative rate of population increase (that is, the absolute rate - e.g. numbers per year divided by the size of the population at any given time) decreases as the population gets bigger, until eventually the population ceases to grow. This process would be recognized now as one of negative feedback, a process that in nature tends to stop runaway change and promote peace (equilibrium).

Verhulst's equation leads to a curve of population growth through time which is S-shaped, called in the scientific literature a sigmoid, or ogive. As a population grows the absolute rate of increase at first increases, then decreases. Where it bends, at some intermediate size - what we call theinflexion - is the maximum rate of growth. If we can, by fishing, adjust our effort (number of ships and their size, amount of time spent fishing, and so on) so that the population size is held at that inflexion, then we can for ever continue to take the maximum sustainable yield, year after year. If a population is reduced, by too much fishing effort, to below the level of the inflexion, it is said to be over-fished. That is the essence of the simple Theory of Fishing and much of the practice of what Michael Graham called, in 1943, Rational Fishing.[14] I'll not worry you here with the details - such as that there will be variations from year-to-year, and perhaps cyclic changes and other forms of disequilibrium.

Verhulst had no computer. He did what paper-and-pencil mathematicians are inclined to do: he supposed that density-dependence was linear; that is , for every increment of population number the relative rate of increase would diminish by the same amount. This gives a symmetrical sigmoid curve of population against time, in which the inflexion occurs when the population has attained one half of its final number, called in ecology the carrying capacity. Such a curve is called a logistic. As often happens with such things Verhulst's simple assumption of linearity, made for algebraic simplicity, came to be thought of, as time passed, as a scientific finding, an observed fact. There was no empirical evidence for it then, and there is not now.[15]  Yet the World Bank study used it, as many others have done before them, as the given, biologically endorsed wisdom.[16]

MSY as a universal objective of management dates to the immediate post-World War II period, when the United States was negotiating a peace treaty with defeated Japan. Japanese people were starving, in need of fats especially (as was Europe) and were traditionally sea-food eaters. General McArthur arranged for them to return to factory-ship whaling in the Antarctic on which they had embarked in the mid-1930s.[17] The Japanese fishing industry wanted to operate again practically world-wide, and that was OK with the American occupiers so long as Japan kept out of the Northeast Pacific where the United States' most important fishing industry was located - the Pacific salmon, shared, of course, with Canada. The US negotiators invented a new "principle", the Principle of Abstention. This was that if a coastal state was fully utilizing a marine fishery resource in waters adjacent to its shores other states should refrain from exploiting that resource. So what did "fully utilizing" mean? US scientific advisers came up with the idea that it meant the resource was being managed for MSY. From that point this objective was pursued relentlessly by the US fisheries-diplomats everywhere, being introduced to the global UN fisheries negotiations of 1955 and 1958.[18] It later proved somewhat embarrassing; the Abstention Principle was dropped although MSY unfortunately survived. This was because the salmon industry declined and the tuna industry grew to dominate the US West Coast and Washington's on-going fisheries negotiations. The tuna industry in the early years needed bait fishes, and these were best obtained from the coastal waters of Pacific Latin American countries; roles were thus reversed. In the UNCLOS the old abstention principle has effectively mutated: it now says that if a coastal state is not fully utilizing the fish resources in its waters it should license others to take the "surplus".

In 1986 the Australian engineer William de la Mare performed a computer simulation of a procedure intended to bring an exploited stock of whales to MSY level by setting TACs, which the whaling fraternity calls catch limits. He showed that the best procedures would fail, and lead to over-exploitation even when there were excellent data and the biological parameters perfectly known.[19]  We might say that enthroned, "managed" greed, institutionalized in MSY-management theory, breeds destruction.  De la Mare was working in the context of the effort by scientists associated with the IWC to develop a safe management system for any renewal of commercial whaling.  That could bring me to my second topic - The Whaling Problem. But first let me offer you a brief look at how official bodies have in practice been dealing with the matter of stabilizing fisheries, preventing or curing over-fishing and bringing them to a state of sustainability, high productivity and - maybe - profitability.

Where better to do that than by reference to the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which is supposedly dedicated to sustainability, and also to the recovery of depleted resources. Advice on TACs is provided to the EU by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an intergovernmental body dedicated to science, established early in the 20thCentury. ICES' advice is transmitted to the European Commission which advises the decision-making body of the EU - the Council of Ministers. On the way the advice is examined and commented upon by the European Parliament. The most common scenario is that the best estimate of a sustainable TAC offered by the ICES is topped up by the Commission and topped up further by the Council of Ministers to satisfy the short-term interests of the fishing industries. To make matters worse, the actual kill is often much bigger than the TAC for two reasons - huge quantities of undersized or unsaleable fish are discarded at sea, and the continuing blight of IUU fishing. It is almost as if it is thought possible to negotiatewith Nature, who actually decides how many fish will be born and how many will die naturally, and hence what might be any "surplus" available to humans. ICES and other scientists can make mistakes - sometimes big ones - and sometimes they are over-optimistic and sometimes too pessimistic, but they are nevertheless better at sounding-out Nature than the others, even than the fishermen themselves.[20]

I'll give you just one example of this process: the anchovy fishery in the Northeast Atlantic. ICES advice for a sustainable catch in 2003 was 12,500 tonnes. The Commission advice to the Ministers was 19,800 tonnes. The Ministers settled on 33,000 tonnes. The industry could not find all those anchovies; the reported catch was 10,600 tonnes. The following year the ICES advice was 11,000 tonnes and this was accepted by the Commission. The Ministers, however, stayed with 33,000 tonnes. The reported catch was 16,400 tonnes. This upward swing was not surprising as anchovies are short-lived fish with highly variable reproduction. Nevertheless ICES found it could advise only 5000 tonnes for 2005. The Commission accepted this and the Ministers generously reduced the TAC from 33,000 to 30,000! The actual catch that year was 1,100 tonnes, this from a fishery that had yielded an average of 30-40,000 tonnes per year from 1990 to 2001.

I could also quote you examples for cod, herrings and other staples among the historic fisheries of the Northeast Atlantic, for tunas in several regions, and for the relatively new fisheries of the Antarctic zone of the great Southern Ocean.

So, at last to the whales. First, I note that the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 (ICRW), which provides the umbrella for the IWC, was the first international treaty to refer explicitly to the interests of future human generations. The first paragraph of its Preamble reads: "Recognizing the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks;". In view of what actually happened in the following forty years, as these "great resources" were practically exterminated by vast fleets from Europe, Japan and the USSR we might exclaim - as Vice-President Elect Joe Biden did when asked by an interviewer whether "Spread the Wealth" Obama was a Marxist who believed in "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need - "Are you joking?!" 


Now, a look back in history. "Modern Whaling",[21] by the Norwegian method - that is using powered catcher boats, cannons firing harpoons tipped with explosive grenades, and with air-pumps to keep dead whales afloat - was from the beginning closely connected with militarism and imperialism, especially their manifestations in the Antarctic. Whaling was a reason for British tenacity in holding the Falklands Islands and the Dependency - the Islands of South Georgia, the South Shetlands, the South Orkneys and the South Sandwich Islands - all of them at one time whaling bases. The Norwegian whalers paid license fees to operate land-stations on South Georgia, before the first World War, although they eventually escaped by inventing the whaling factory ship, with a stern ramp up which dead whales could be hauled. This new technology also opened the entire Southern Ocean to modern whaling. Before and during that war the British threatened to cut coal supplies to Norway, on which Norwegian industry depended for all its energy, unless its trade in whale oil with Germany ceased; this was because the oil from baleen ("whalebone") whales - called "whale oil" in the trade and statistics - was the raw material from which glycerin was made, in turn the raw material for explosives.

After the war the relationship between Britain and Norway was two-sided. On the one hand the companies in the two nations were fiercely competitive, but on the other they collaborated in efforts to sustain an Anglo-Norse monopoly of Antarctic whaling. The special relationship is illustrated by the fact that the biggest whaling company anywhere, ever, was Salvesen of Leith, of Norwegian descent. The company's history illustrates how commercial whaling can be biologically unsustainable yet economically "sustainable". Salvesen, which began in 1851 as ship-brokers and timber merchants, went into whaling in the Arctic at the beginning of the twentieth century, shifted later to the far more profitable Antarctic, made so much money that when they pulled out of whaling in 1963 they transformed into one of Europe's biggest transport and logistics firms after experimenting with, and profiting from fishing and cold stores.[22] 

During the depression years of the 1930s Germany and Japan both decided to break the British-Norwegian monopoly and sent factory ships to the Antarctic. Although the two totalitarian powers formed an Axis (also with Italy) they had somewhat different though connected interests. "Guns not butter" and "First guns, then butter" were Nazi slogans - variously attributed to Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels - and although they had a broad metaphorical meaning related to the drive for national self-sufficiency they also had a specific one - whale oil was used to make a substitute for butter -margerine - by a chemical process, hydrogenation, developed in Germany. Japan, on the other hand, desperately needed fuel oil (it had plenty of coal after occupying Manchuria), especially for military use, which at the time could best be purchased from the USA. Japan's industrialists devised a brilliant way of securing this. They built whaling factories the oil produced by which was transported, in the factories, to Rotterdam for off-loading to the German market, at a time when the League of Nations, led by Britain and France, was applying sanctions to Germany. The factory ships then crossed the Atlantic - cleaning their tanks on the way - passed into the Pacific via the Panama Canal, loaded mineral oil at west coast US ports, and carried it across the Pacific to Japan. In those years most of the meat was thrown back into the sea or converted to meal, and used as fertilizer. Although Japan's authorities repeatedly claim that Japanese whalers have always produced food for human consumption while Europeans did not (as if margarine was not edible!) the fact is that the market for whale meat depended on the post-war development and application of the new technology of freezing at sea.[23]

Just before the Second World War broke out Norwegian entrepreneurs and diplomats noted that Japan and Germany presented a threat to their hegemony. By the end of the war all the Japanese factory ships had been destroyed. Nevertheless, General McArthur, commanding the US occupation of Japan, encouraged the resumption of Antarctic whaling on humanitarian grounds; the Japanese diet was short of both fats and proteins. A few fibs were told by the US Administration, such as that the deal was only for one year; in fact it was open-ended and no limits were imposed on the Japanese whaling fleet, except, initially, with respect to where it could operate within the Antarctic.

Immediately after the war several countries - especially Argentina and Italy - wanted to get into the Antarctic whaling business, which was set to become very profitable again. One way and another, the British and Norwegians put a stop to that. Occupied Germany also wanted to revive its industry, and had as good a reason to do so as Japan, considering the shortage of fats in the diet of a near-starving population. But Germany was unlucky; the occupied region of the Baltic ports, Hamburg and Bremerhaven, that had served the German whalers previously, was administered by the British, who were not prepared to allow the resurgence of whaling competitors. However, German interests and expertise had a back door - they were important in the creation of a whaling fleet, the Olympic Challenger, under the Panamanian flag, owned by Aristotle Onassis and managed by a company Board that was based in the USA and almost wholly composed of American nationals. This fleet caused untold trouble to the IWC, was arrested by the Peruvian authorities and released with a fine, and finally purchased by a Japanese company. Another fleet that caused great post-war grief to the other whalers flew the Dutch flag - the Willem BarendszI, later replaced byWillem. Barwndsz II. But through the 1950s and 60s Japan steadily increased its fleet, in the last stages by buying the fleets of the UK, Netherlands and Norway as they went out of business due to declining catches. The vendors got reasonable prices mainly because these factories carried with them negotiated percentages of the overall IWC catch limits. In the 1960s the one-factory-ship Soviet fleet - the Slava, a vessel acquired as war reparations - was augmented by several very large new factories[24]. These were eventually producing frozen whale meat only for the Japanese market, but had as a secondary purpose the large-scale catching of sperm whales, which are practically inedible but yield a special industrial oil as a strategic material.[25] The Soviet sperm oil did not enter the global market, and the equally important strategic stockpiles desired by the USA were derived from numerous sperm whaling operations by a group of client states.

Most whale populations were depleted by "modern whaling", earlier than most of the fishes. That was not because they were less abundant (in terms of biomass) but because they were even more valuable. It is not widely known how big were the catches of the large whales in the 1930s and again in 1940s to the mid-1960s. This is partly because catches were always quoted as numbers, with fish being quoted in tonnes, and production was recorded in barrels of oil, not weight. The tonnage of whale catches from the Antarctic - from which most of them came - was between 15 and 20% of the total world fish catch, by weight, and considerably more in market value. But, you may ask, why are you fussing about that now, when commercial whaling has been suspended for a couple of decades? Certainly, commercial whaling continues in the guise of "scientific research", but its scale is relatively small, although increasing, and diversifying.

Of course there had been no hint of sustainable use of the resources in these operations of the 1930s and 1950-60s; they were mining the resources. There were, from the early 1930s, regulations limiting the catches from the Antarctic, by the infamous and disastrous Blue Whale Unit (BWU), but these were initially imposed in an effort to stabilize the price of whale oil, especially by preventing over-production - similarly to the actions of OPEC regarding mineral oil in the late twentieth century. After World War II there were efforts to use the BWU limitation as a conservation measure but with little success. Scientists called for its abolition almost every year in the first decades of the existence of the IWC, but this did not happen until 1973, in the wake of a UN Resolution of 1972 calling for a ten-year moratorium on all commercial whaling.

At least some of the Great Whales are now doing what they were supposed to do after they were protected from whaling - increasing in number. We have good data for only some of them - particularly the spectacularly watchable singing humpbacks. We don't have good reason for thinking the others are not recovering. If, as I suppose, most of them are, there are now a lot more fin whales - by far the most valuable species - than there were when they were protected in the Antarctic in the 1970s and everywhere else in 1986 when the so-called commercial moratorium (voted in 1982) came into force. I believe the Japanese whaling and whale-meat lobbies think the same way and, having gained a complete monopoly of factory ship whaling when the USSR dropped out of the business in 1987, are now executing a long-term plan which - if successful - will one day bring them great profit.

Japan lodged an "objection" to the 1982 moratorium, as the IWC's rules allow, so was not bound by the decision to put all legal catch limits to zero, indefinitely - to allow stock recovery, and give time for development of new safe procedures for limiting catches to sustainable levels and for allowing depleted stocks to recover to high, much more productive levels.. Japan, however, withdrew its objection on the promise that its fishing vessels would be licensed to operate in the new 200-mile wide fishing limits of the USA, in the Pacific. A change in US policy soon thereafter cancelled that permission and Japan decided to exploit a loophole in the IWC's rules, which allows any country to award its whalers, unilaterally, any number of whales, of any species, to be killed for "scientific purposes", with a requirement, moreover, that the carcasses be "processed". The beauty of this for a whaling operation is that the "scientific whales" can be killed anywhere (including in sanctuaries and other protected areas), at any convenient time, and without regard for long-standing rules that protect calves and nursing mothers, protected species and under-sized individuals. And avoiding the minimal rules that aim to reduce the inhumanity of hunting and killing methods. The requirement that the dead whales be processed of course practically ensures that the meat and other commodities from them will be marketed, although some of it may be given away, or sold cheaply, to schools, prisons, hospitals and the like and to help promote consumption generally. The original idea of the processing requirement was to avoid waste, and there were other such well-meaning regulations, such as setting a limit to the number of dead whales that could be used as fenders on the side of the catchers and as buoys to which other dead whales, awaiting processing, could be moored. 

At first the "scientific whaling" programme involved the killing only of minke whales, a "small" species (adult individuals each weigh "only" about 6-8 tonnes) that had killed by the Soviet and Japanese whalers in tens of thousands in the last days of legal commercial whaling: from 1970 until the moratorium. It is not profitable to catch and market a relatively small number - a few hundreds rather than thousands - only of this species, and the research expeditions therefore have to be highly subsidised. The "research programme" has been moved a bit towards profitability by steadily increasing the numbers of minke whales caught, operating also in the North Pacific during the southern winter, and, recently, adding other, much larger species to the list of "scientific whales". The excuse for this expansion is that it is necessary to study how the different species of whales might be competing with each other for food. The excuse for increasing the numbers of whales killed is that they might be competing with humans for commercially valuable fish and this, too, needed study that can it is claimed - only been done by looking in their stomachs.  In fact the "problems" that are supposed to have been solved by scientific whaling have changed throughout the twenty years, and it is of interest that the IWC's scientists reported last year that not one of the specified research problems has in fact been resolved.

The expansion of the "research" operations has put some strain on the relatively small (6000 tons displacement, 2000 tonnes hold capacity), elderly factory ship - Nisshin Maru - and its associated catcher boats that conduct them. The increase in Antarctic catches has led to an operational need to use a transport vessel to bring frozen meat from the Antarctic to Japan in mid-season, there being insufficient hold and freezer space in the factory. The transport also serves to re-fuel the whaling fleet, an operation that violates IMO rules regarding pollution dangers in the vulnerable protected seas surrounding the continent. This Japanese-owned auxiliary - Oriental Bluebird - flies or, rather, flew the Panamanian flag-of-convenience. As I write this (October 29, 2008) news has come through that the owners have de-flagged this vessel after the Panamanian maritime authorities had fined them a ridiculously small sum when it was found to be "in violation of domestic and international regulations relating to its permissible use, the safety of human life and the preservation of the marine environment." It is now (November 15) unclear whether the auxiliary with accompany the Japanese fleet this coming season, and if so what flag it will fly and what will be the nationalities of its Captain and crew.

In the most recent season the research subsidy covered about one quarter of the expenses of the supposedly not-for-profit operation Another quarter was covered by an interest-free loan from the Government, and it has been reported in the Japanese press that the Institute for Cetacean research (ICR) - which is responsible for the scientific whaling operations - has defaulted on that loan. Meat sales covered the remaining 50% of costs. Evidently there are financial problems that probably cannot be resolved by trying to catch and process more whales using the old factory-ship, and it could be that the Japanese authorities will not be content to provide subsidies and erase debts on an increasing scale, indefinitely. So there is now talk of commissioning a new, larger and technically more efficient factory ship with better on-board processing facilities. If that happens it will, I think, be virtually impossible to rein in and in any way internationally regulate the "scientific" whaling and prevent an expansion to more of the larger whales, as they - presumably - recover.[26] If that happens the answer to the second part of the question I posed in my original title will likely be "Yes, but mostly only by Japanese consumers, although a few Norwegians might continue to eat Northeast Atlantic minke whale meat., and some South Koreans might continue to consume, as well as to export to Japan, the numerous minke whales they claim to catch "accidentally" in their fishing nets."[27]

There is another scenario. It is made plausible by the fact that the whale-meat dealers are finding it difficult to sell their produce to a younger generation of consumers, who have grown up in a period when whale meat was available in small quantities and was very expensive. This scenario is that Japanese whaling interests may be considering - or might even have already decided on - an exit strategy, notwithstanding the big investment they have made for two decades in a fake research programme. They have to contend, too, with escalating fuel costs for very long voyages. If that is so they will certainly conceal their reasons for such a decision, pretend they might get out of Antarctic whaling as a good-will gesture to the rest of the world, and seek a suitable quid pro quo. Think about it.

During the scientific whaling period the IWC's scientists have devised a completely new kind of procedure for regulating any future legitimized commercial whaling. It is exceedingly conservative - they think - and precautionary in principle. The MSY objective has been abandoned.  The Revised Management Procedure (RMP) aims at a fairly large, but not maximum, cumulative catch over a pre-defined period (100 years) during which the annual catch limits set by the procedure would be adhered to strictly - that is, no haggling. But the prime objective in the RMP is that there should be an extremely low probability that whaling wouldaccidentally lead in any year to depletion of the exploited stock to below about half the original number of whales in each population. The IWC decided that for any such procedure to be implemented there must be a water-tight scheme to ensure compliance by states and their whalers with the rules. It should come as no surprise that the Japanese - and also the Norwegian - authorities have consistently made difficulties in reaching an agreement, which would necessarily include a severe restriction on scientific whaling. Meanwhile more and more of the countries that previously were engaged in commercial whaling - for instance UK, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, South Africa, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Brazil - as well as many that were not, at least not recently - Argentina, Mexico, Ireland, India, Germany, for example - have come to the conclusion that "the moratorium" should stay in place for a long time to come, and perhaps be permanent.[28] One idea that is being discussed is to declare the entire Southern Hemisphere as a whaling-free region; that seems to be what the Southern coastal states want. Another is that whaling should not again be permitted on the high seas - which includes the ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent The idea is growing that future human generations should be left to decide for themselves whether they want or need to eat whales, and that the overwhelming priority now is to give the chance for the Southern Ocean and other marine ecosystems in which whales were once very abundant, to recover, and that will take many more decades of protection.

In recent years the Government of Japan has repeatedly threatened to leave the IWC if it does not get its way, which is mainly the lifting of the moratorium and the abolition of whale sanctuaries. I doubt they would do that. Why should they? If they withdrew they would attract far more international diplomatic, legal and popular trouble for themselves, and would forego the practical advantages of continuing scientific whaling without any international regulation. Furthermore, the RMP is so cautious that many of the whale stocks they would eventually like to exploit would receive zero catch limits for many years to come. No, those threats are bluffs.

In recent years the Government of Japan has been making the utterly bizarre claim - in such places as FAO's Committee on Fisheries and its General Conference, and in the UN General Assembly - that an immediate renewal of commercial whaling is a necessary part of world food security. A better case might be made for it having a role in the fairly distant future, when stocks, especially in the Antarctic, have - hopefully - recovered under prolonged protection. But even then, a sustainablecatch of large whales would contribute rather little to the total sustainable production of wild sea-fish and shellfish, and real security comes from continuity, not one-off living resource "mining.[29] It will obviously be up to future human generations, not us, to decide what to do about the whales, whether to renew exploitation of them, and whether to eat them.

Lurking behind all this debate is the fact that no way has been found to make whale killing acceptably humane and, frankly, the remaining whalers are not doing anything much to make it so - and, naturally, are doing everything possible to prevent anyone else seeing, and recording, what they are up to.

Let me close by returning to the matter of greed. In developing the RMP for baleen whales the IWC scientists abandoned both the MSY target and the strict definition of sustainability, as unattainable. Instead, they invented, and tested by computer simulation, a target which is the highest feasible cumulative catch over an extended period (they chose one hundred years, for reasons connected with the life-spans of whales, the maximum likely life of any management institution and - most definitively - the computing power available to them at the time (the early 1990s) to carry out the necessary simulations.) This maximum cumulative catch is, however only the second priority of management; the first is to have negligible risk that the stock will be accidentally reduced by whaling in any one of the hundred years to less than some low but presumed safe minimum threshold.[30]  Furthermore, once a procedure had been agreed, in detail, allowable catches would be determined each year automatically, avoiding the usual annual negotiations of which I have given fisheries examples.[31]

What is not clear is whether pelagic whaling in the Antarctic, under RMP regulations, would ever be economically sustainable. The history of it does not help us, because those operations have always been mining, not for sustainability. The limited scale minke whaling conducted by Japanese interests for twenty years is not economically sustainable; it has always been heavily subsidised. An increase in catches, which has been happening slowly but steadily, tends to reduce the price received, even though the Japanese market is "socialized", i.e. the wholesale price is determined by the producer, the ICR. As we have seen, a further increase would entail investment in a new, bigger factory ship, which would be costly. It is of interest that the new plans for Special Permit "scientific whaling includes substantial numbers of the (presumably) recovering fin whales. Although the excuse for this is the need to look at their stomachs to determine whether they are competing with other whale species and even with fisheries (although the fin whale diet is almost completely confined to plankton) I think that Japan's planners are fully aware that if there is an economic future for Antarctic whaling then it rests mainly with the fin whale stocks, which have historically yielded far more than any other species, including the blue whale, which is twice as large but was less numerous.

So, whether biologically sustainable whaling, other than by very limited land-based operations in a few places, can ever be profitable - especially in the Antarctic, where most of the whales originally fed and will, we hope, do so again one day - is an open question. I think the answer is that it would not be profitable. It is made even less likely by two new factors: one is the fact that warming in the Antarctic zone is reducing the length of the ice-edge, which provides the special habitat needed for krill - the planktonic food of the baleen whales and other Southern Ocean resources. The other is more human greed: the current drive to exploit the Antarctic krill to provide feedstock, mainly for feeding cultured freshwater and marine fishes, as well as some terrestrial livestock such as poultry.

Attentive listeners/readers will notice that I have completely failed to identify how greed can be cancelled by fear, as advocated by Eduardo Porter. The appropriate epiphany is elusive.


I thank Professor Michael Mainelli and the Gresham College Academic Board for inviting me to give this lecture, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, especially Fred O'Regan, its CEO, and Patrick Ramage for encouraging and facilitating my participation. I thank Mary Carmel Finley and Michael Earle especially for information they generously provided, and Tim Holt for his frank comments on an early draft.




©Sidney J Holt, Gresham College, 19 November 2008 



[1] Thanks largely to the WWW and Adrian Gilbert's "The New Jerusalem: the extraordinary true story of how a secret society rebuilt London" Corgi, 2003, 430pp.

[2]          Gekko is a fictional character from the 1987 film Wall Street, portrayed by actor-producer Michael Douglas

[3]Porter continued: " This will be no easy task. From populist opprobrium to elitist disdain - standard social behavioural devices have proved unable to dent humanity's greedy nature. . Even religion's not insubstantial powers of persuasion (think Hell) and coercion (think Inquisition) have proved insufficient to blot out this insidious sin. The free market, it should be obvious by now, hasn't been up to the task either.

Greed reached its zenith in the 1980s which brought supply-side economics and its bedrock belief that the path to prosperity for all required removing every obstacle to utility maximization, including most regulations and taxes. Then financial markets crashed. The Rev. Jesse Jackson lambasted America's greedy corporations. And one survey found that 83 percent of Americans blamed 'unmitigated greed' for the financial crisis. A few years later the markets were again soaring; greed was back in style."

[4]   See Jaye Scholl's article in Barrons (New York), September 18, 2000: "Don McClaren offers the wealthy a different kind of freedom."

[5]   The best non-technical account of this idea of which I know is Professor Warren Johnson's "Muddling to wards Frugality: A Blueprint for Survival in the 1980s" Shambhala Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1979 (pbk edition of Sierra Club, SanFrancisco original, 1978).

[6]    Educated, respectively, I'm glad to say, in the City of London at Merchant Taylors'

School and St Paul's School, which was founded by Sir Henry Colet, Lord Mayor and also a distinguished member of the Mercers' Company.

[7]    De Plancy was a free-thinker, influenced by Voltaire.

[8]    The authors' 95% confidence interval for the lost economic benefits was between $26 and $72 billion for the base year, 2004. The cumulative period begins in 1974 because that was the reference year of FAO's first global marine fisheries resource assessment.

[9]  A useful adjunct to the Bank report, in plain language, would be Professor Elmer A. Keen's little book "Ownership and Productivity of Marine Fishery Resources: An Essay on the Resolution of Conflict in the Use of the Ocean Pastures!, McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg, Virginia, 1988. Of course the global picture was not then so dire as now.

[10]Some of us on the Seychelles delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in the early 1980s - particularly Dr Lyall Watson - had a special interest in  the Horn of Africa - specifically the low-lying Afar Triangle region that abuts Djibouti (ex-French Somaliland), as the favoured place for exploring human origins, especially our possible aquatic antecedents. I'm rather glad that funding for our little expedition didn't come through!

[11]Rubino, M., 2007. "Offshore aquaculture in the US: update on national legislation". Fish Farming News 5. Marine aquaculture enthusiasts assert that this industry "has the potential, if it is properly managed and profitable (aye, there's the rub sjh) to supplement the currently diminishing wild fisheries and to provide more of our sea-food" Harlyn O. Halvorson and John Dulf, 2008 "Offshore aquaculture legislation designed to balance production and protection" Mar. Poll. Bull. 56:11673-5. I have no time to discuss this, but one major problem is the supply of feed for caged fish, which generally must include small wild caught fishes or products from them.

[12]The international trade in IUU-caught fish was estimated to have been worth between 3 and 10 billion Euros in 2004. The  legal landings by the EU fleet were worth just under 7 billion Euros.

[13]  See "The Worldwide Crisis in Fisheries: Economic Models and Human Behavior". Cambridge University Press, 2006

[14]  The classic reference is his "The Fish Gate", Faber, London. Graham - and Beverton and I - also looked at another type of over-fishing, called "growth over-fishing", in which too many fish are caught before they have each sufficiently grown in size. Most over-fishing is actually a combination of both kinds.

[15]For those who would like to read more about all this I recommend my own chapter, "The Notion of Sustainability", in a book entitled "Gaining Ground: in Pursuit of Ecological Sustainability", edited by Dr David Lavigne, and published in 2006 by the University of Limerick and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Several other chapters of that book would also amply repay your attention. And, again blowing my own trumpet, my chapter "Sustainable Use of Wild Living Marine Resources: Notion or Myth" in "Foundations of Environmental Sustainability" (Eds. L. L. Rockwood, R. F. Stewart and T. Dietz), Oxford Univ. Press, 2008..

[16]  The authors did also use another equation, closely related to the logistic, in which the maximum sustainable yield comes when the exploited population is at 36%, rather than 50%, of the carrying capacity. There is precious little empirical evidence for that, either.

[17]  The Japanese excursions in the 1930s were not, as current propaganda would have it, to obtain food for people, but indirectly to acquire fuel oil for the military machine. Thereby hangs another tale.

[18]  This political process has been investigated thoroughly by a historian, Mary Carmel Finley. She is writing it up as a book but meanwhile her study is available at the University of California San Diego as a doctoral thesis entitled "The Tragedy of Enclosure: Fish, Fisheries Science, and Foreign Policy, 1920-1958", 2007.

[19]  De la Mare, W. K. (1986a). Simulation studies on management procedures. Rep. Int. Whal. Commn 36: 429-50.

[20]There was a time, in the IWC, when the scientists used to top up their own advice in the belief that it was unwise to suggest scientifically determined sustainable catch limits so low that decision-makers would reject them out-of-hand.

[21]  This is the term given to the method by the Norwegian historians J. N. Tønnessen and A. O. Johnsen in their classic "The History of Modern Whaling" Abridged edition in English published 1982 by Hurst & Co, London and Australian National University Press, Canberra. Where catcher boats operate from and tow their catches to shore for processing there it is called Land-Station Whaling; if they bring their catches to a mother-ship with a stern-ramp, or if the catchers are large enough and fitted to haul whales onto their decks and process then onboard, it is called Pelagic Whaling.

[22]The Norwegian pelagic whaling companies, based at Sandefjord in southern Norway, had similar histories, and in fact that thriving city is virtually built on blue whales.  One of Salvesen's catcher boats is now in Sandefjord's whaling museum.

[23]  Other myths are still regularly propagated by the Japanese whaling lobby. One is that whaling in the Antarctic, entirely from factory ships  - except for the brief post-WWII renting of a station on South Georgia from the British - is an ancient national tradition that must not be lost. In fact Japan was one of the last nations to engage in that industry.

[24]See how the whaling-ship trade went: the 13,000 ton Slava began in 1929 as the British built and flagged Vikingen. From 1939 to 1945 it was re-named Wikinger and flew the German flag. In 1945 it became British again, re-named Empire Venture, and was then handed to the USSR in 1946, and worked in the Antarctic until 1965/66. The new Soviet factory ships, coming in the 1960s, were nearly three times the size of the Slava. The Slava was the main source of large-scale falsifications of data about species, locations and quantities of Antarctic whale catches that were revealed by Russian scientists and operatives - ex-national inspectors - after the collapse of the USSR.

[25]  Their tertiary purpose, along with the huge Soviet fleet of very large fishing vessels - stern factory-trawlers, mainly, derived from the Salvesen design of whaling factories - was as a globally extensive source of military and economic intelligence.

[26]In recent years the US Administration has been moving away from its previous leading position inside and outside the IWC in support of conservation of whales, as it has become less committed to multi-lateral actions, in favour of bilateral politics. We await signals that the new Administration will correct course.

[27]  Published research by Prof. Scott Baker and his colleagues has shown, by DNA evidence, that these numbers are very much higher now than those reported in Korea's official statistics submitted to the IWC

[28]  The EU is currently reviewing its policy on commercial whaling, and the strong indications are that it will as a whole - with a possible opt-out by Denmark - unanimously support the prolonged continuation of the moratorium.

[29]  Another, equally bizarre aspect of this issue, is that Japan is routinely supported in the international fora mentioned, and others, by a claque of representatives of, mostly, small, poor, developing countries to most of which Japan has provided special aid packages, and which have in recent years joined the IWC and regularly vote with Japan See "Japan's 'Vote Consolidation' Operation at the International Whaling Commission". Third Millennium Foundation, Paciano, Italy, May 2007. 96pp.

[30]  A third criterion, that need not concern us here, was that there should not be such large year-to-year changes in allowable catches as to make the logistics of whaling impossible, with a loophole there for emergency action.

[31]   The European Commission is currently reviewing its fisheries management policy and procedures. I have suggested that the IWC approach points the way forward, within the limitations now set by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other related legal instruments, by redefining MSY not as a point on a graph but as the highest cumulative catch, over a defined time period, that is compatible with conservation considerations such as taking care not to reduce stocks to below thresholds that risk reproductive failure and possible extinctions. ("New Policy Objectives and Management Procedures for EU Fisheries: A Commentary and Suggestions" A briefing paper prepared for the European Policy Office of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Brussels, 27 January 2007.

This event was on Wed, 19 Nov 2008

Sidney J Holt DSc

Sidney J Holt DSc

Sidney J. Holt was a biologist who founded fisheries science, the academic discipline of managing and understanding fisheries. He was best known for the 1957...

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