HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1731-3
3. Mr. Steen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the margins of error in the International Whaling Commission estimates of: (a) sperm whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere, and (b) sperm whale populations in the North Pacific; what are the margins of error in the International Whaling Commission's estimates of recruitment rates of these two populations; and what are the margins of error in the IWC's estimates of maximum sustainable yield and in the IWC's quotas for these two populations.

Mr. Bishop

This is an extremely complex and technical matter and it would be more appropriate for me to write to the honourable Member at a later stage. Sperm whale data and population calculations are to be studied at a special meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission early next year.

Mr. Steen

Is the Minister aware that Opposition Members wish to preserve what is best in the world? Therefore, will he see to it that Britain sets an example to other countries by promoting mammal welfare and by outlawing those who overhunt the whale and put it in danger of extinction?

Mr. Bishop

The Government are represented at the International Whaling Commission. This is an organisation that covers most of the major nations concerned with whaling matters. This country has not been engaged in whaling since 1963. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting a moratorium on all whaling, we believe that that is unwarranted, because the Whaling Commission has adopted an effective management procedure to control whaling. This was a matter concerned in the so-called Australian amendment at the recent International Whaling Commission's talks in London.

We must be realistic about this. There is a real danger otherwise that the whaling nations will withdraw from the commission, which would result in our having unregulated whaling. But there is no real danger to some of the species that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. Only five species are now hunted commercially. The remainder are under indefinite moratoria.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in answer to a question that I asked in the European Parliament, I was told that it was against a number of regulations introduced in 1965 or 1966 for any member State to have quantitative controls on the import of whale products? Where are the current regulations restricting the import of whale products into this country in conformity with those regulations?

Mr. Bishop

I said something earlier that I must emphasise. Any action taken should be with the agreement of most nations, or we shall get unregulated procedures. But since March 1973 there has been a ban on the import of all whale products except the major products of the sperm whale. Sperm whale stocks are not in danger at present. We are seeking as much as possible to find substitutes. Until then, the present situation must continue. But there is no real danger to the species that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) has in mind.

Forward to