Speaker Highlights Limits of Aging International Whaling Treaty
March 16, 2009 — With nations bickering over an outdated international whaling treaty, the fate of the planet's greatest leviathans looks bleak, said Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the former prime minister of New Zealand, during a visit to Earle Mack School of Law on March 16.
Although commercial whaling was officially banned in 1986, the practice continues and is growing, said Palmer, who currently serves on the International Whaling Commission.
Nations are deeply divided over commercial whaling, and the convention that set forth rules governing the practice is fraught with ambiguities that some countries have sought to exploit, Palmer said.
"What we've got is an absolutely polarized dispute that gets worse and worse every year," Palmer said, describing the negotiations as "bitter and vitriolic."
Palmer, who served as prime minister and a member of Parliament from the Labour Party, taught political science at Victoria University in Wellington before teaching law at the University of Iowa and the University of Virginia.
International matters are far trickier to regulate, Palmer said, adding that pro-whaling Japan has found allies among non-hunting nations and threatened to withdraw from the 63-year-old convention that regulates whaling.
Adopted in 1946, the convention allows whaling for the purposes of scientific research, giving Japan a massive loophole, Palmer added.
"That is very broad language, as any first-year law student would know," he said. "We need a brand new treaty."
Now president of New Zealand's Law Commission, Palmer is involved in a systemic review of the law in his homeland.
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