HL Deb 09 July 1979 vol 401 cc747-8WA

OF ALSA asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the fact that the lack of decision regarding a moratorium on the commercial killing of whales, which a previous Administration supported in 1972, is causing confusion among large numbers of the British public and conservation bodies, they will now declare before the meeting of the International Whaling Commission on 9th July that they subscribe to the previous policy declaration.


My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has reviewed United Kingdom policy on whaling and concluded that a radical change in direction is required. We believe that the present methods used to kill whales are unsatisfactory. We are not convinced that the science of whale populations is yet adequate to enable catch quotas to be set at levels which can be guaranteed to prevent a continuing decline in stocks.

The United Kingdom will therefore seek to secure a moratorium on commercial whaling at the IWC meeting held in London from 9th to 13th July. During the period of such a moratorium we would press for further studies. We will also support the principle of whale sanctuaries. Special considerations apply to aboriginal whaling by eskimos and similar peoples to meet local nutritional and cultural requirements; the Government believe that such activities should be allowed to continue under strict controls.

We consider that the International Whaling Commission remains the most appropriate body for ensuring international co-operation towards the effective conservation of whales. The United Kingdom will therefore continue to be a member and play a full and active part in its activities.

The Government will be seeking to obtain agreement within the EEC for a Community-wide ban on imports of sperm whale oil and other derivatives. We will also enter into discussions with the user industries.

The Government are concerned that the effectiveness of the measures taken by the IWC to conserve whales should not be undermined by indiscriminate whaling by non-member countries. We are therefore considering whether the United Kingdom could take any further steps to help this objective.