IWCroundlogo05 Head of the International Whaling Commission steps down; leaving the question of “scientific whaling” unresolved Japan needed to cede more ground, says outgoing head of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) William Hogarth*, voicing regrets over his failure to design a compromise regarding Japanese “lethal research” on whales.

After a meeting next month in Portugal, Hogarth will step down as both US delegate and head of the world whaling body. While announcing his disappointment in leaving the chairmanship without having resolved the “scientific whaling” issue, Hogarth also said that his efforts brought civility to the IWC, where annual meetings had long been showdowns between pro- and anti-whaling nations.

Norway and Iceland are the only nations that hunt whales in open defiance of the 1986 IWC moratorium; Japan is instead using a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal research.

In a series of closed-door negotiations with Japan and other nations lead by Hogarth, Japan allegedly offered to reduce but not end its annual Antarctic whale hunts; an offer which infuriated the neighbouring countries Australia and New Zealand.

Japan accuses Western nations of cultural insensitivity and is currently pushing for the IWC to accept whaling of the coast of Japan, since whaling is a time-honoured Japanese tradition.

One of the highlights of Hogarth’s time as head of the International Whaling Commission was a compromise brokered by him in 2007, in which Japan agreed to suspend plans to expand its hunt to include Humpback whales – a species that haven’t been hunted by Japanese whalers for several decades.

* William Hogarth is a biologist and dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.