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A host of high profile names including Dr. Jane Goodall, Dame Judi Dench, and Chris Packham have banded together to help protect marine life. At a virtual press conference held today, the member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) were urged to back a new 50-year project that is out to save whales, dolphins, and porpoises from extinction.
The conference was called to honor the IWC’s 75-year anniversary and to launch the new long-term initiative, referred to as a “50-year vision.” The IWC’s 88 members – including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Norway, the UK, the US – are being urged to adopt and promote the new guidelines.
Marine life faces extinction
For billions of marine animals around the world, a myriad of (mostly anthropogenic) threats are raising the risk of extinction.
Fisheries’ bycatch, marine debris, habitat loss, and ship strikes are impacting population numbers, as well as chemical, plastic, and noise pollution. Further, commercial hunting still takes a heavy toll in some regions, and the accelerating climate crisis strains ecosystems further.
The newly proposed 50-year vision calls for a continued ban on commercial whaling and the regulation of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW).
“It is vital that the IWC maintain a clear distinction between ASW and commercial and special permit whaling, to ensure the integrity of the moratorium and meet the genuine nutritional, cultural and subsistence needs of Indigenous peoples,” a press release reads.
The five-decade-strong project also calls for the implementation of designated marine protected areas, and the monitoring of the whale watching industry.
Ultimately, the vision centers cetaceans as a “public good,” and recognizes their valuable ecological contributions. This includes the wildlife’s ability to improve ocean health, and therefore grow fish populations, promote biodiversity, and sequester carbon.
‘We must not fail them’
In a video shown during today’s conference, Goodall commented: “Some 80 percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the ocean. Our seas, along with our forests, are literally the lungs of our planet.
“Tragically, the vast marine habitat is increasingly threatened by our human actions. We are polluting it with toxic substances, large areas become acidified, the water is warming, commercial fishing has endangered many species, and its biggest and so loved residents – whales, dolphins and porpoises – are suffering.”
The 87-year-old primatologist continued, “Unbelievably, despite a 40 year ban, many still suffer the cruelty of commercial whaling. Then around 300,000 cetaceans die when they’re accidentally captured in fishing gear. They drown. A number of species and some populations are now facing extinction.”
She added that we “must not fail” these animals, and urged governments to prioritize them.
Vegan presenter and environmentalist Packham shared similar messages about the cetaceans. “They are extraordinarily beautiful, fascinating, and they have amazing life cycles and life histories … and of course they are highly intelligent too,” he said.
Dench and vegan musician Leona Lewis lent their voices to the cause too, along with British sailor Tracy Edwards and a wealth of NGOs.
Sue Fisher, marine wildlife consultant to the Animal Welfare Institute, said in a statement: “In the 1980s the world called on the IWC to “save the whale” and it met the challenge, banning all commercial whaling globally. Today, we need the IWC and its member governments to show leadership again – this time to save all cetaceans from the devastation we are wreaking on their environment.”
Fisher added, “We believe, guided by our 50-Year Vision, the IWC is up to the task.”