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Brussels, 5 June 2008

Strong EU support for the protection of whales

The Commission welcomes the decision reached today by the Environment Council on a common position to protect whales in view of the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) later this month in Santiago de Chile. The decision allows for a coordinated EU approach at the meeting and strengthens the European Union's voice at the IWC.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "With this decision the European Union can now take a strong role at the International Whaling Commission and use all its political, moral and economic weight to ensure a more effective protection of whales worldwide."

Protecting whales worldwide

The decision adopted today by the Council will strengthen the European Union's commitment to protect whales in the European Union and internationally. It provides the European Union with a common position on maintaining the moratorium for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Chile on 23-27 June 2008.

The Commission calls on the members of the International Whaling Commission to fully adhere to the 1986 whaling moratorium. All whaling operations such as scientific whaling by members of the IWC must remain the control of the IWC. The Commission asks all EU Member States to uphold their strong stance against whale hunting and forge a common front to counter attempts by some countries to undermine conservation efforts. There is no need to kill whales to obtain scientific information about whales. Adequate data for management purposes can be obtained using non-lethal techniques.

Whales are highly migratory species and are a fragile component in the biological equilibrium of marine fauna and many whale species are endangered. But the EU's efforts to protect whales will not be effective if it is not backed by coherent worldwide action towards the development of a comprehensive international framework. The international ban on commercial whaling must stay and more efforts need to be made internationally to protect whale species.


Whaling in the European Union is not allowed in EU waters. Under EU environmental law all whale species are protected within EU waters. However, the EU is not opposed to aboriginal peoples whaling for their subsistence – as allowed under the IWC Convention - provided it falls within the confines of catch limits based on scientific advice. This is the case for the aboriginal peoples of Greenland which are allowed to hunt fin and minke whales. But the Commission condemns whaling disguised as scientific research as carried out by Japan.

The paper presented by the Commission in December 2007 highlights the need to establish an effective international regulatory framework on the hunting of whales. The paper states that the moratorium remains important but emphasises the necessity to take a comprehensive approach to address issues such as scientific whaling. It also underlines the need for the EU to act as a united major player in international whaling policy. The European Union has not yet been able to use its political weight within the IWC because of the lack of a coordinated and agreed EU position.

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