IWC U.S. Delegation Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Scott Smullen
St. George's, Grenada Addressing delegates and observers to the 51st International Whaling Commission meeting today, U.S. Commissioner D. James Baker urged the group to better determine how global environmental changes may jeopardize whale stocks throughout the world.
"The threats to whales from global environmental change are extremely widespread, and appear to be increasing," said Baker. "Issues such as increasing levels of chemical contaminants, rising sea surface temperatures and decreasing sea-ice coverage are problems that extend from pole to pole, across most marine ecosystems, and, as a result, affect all whale populations. We must determine more precisely and urgently the potential risks of global environmental changes on whales."
In a 20-minute multimedia presentation to the group, Baker identified some of the potential impacts of environmental change on whales and other cetaceans, including:
"We must start now to establish baseline data on the relationship between cetaceans and their environment so that we may better understand the impact of future environmental changes on whale populations, many already fragile as a result of their depleted status," said Baker.
Baker suggested the IWC continue collaborating with other international scientific bodies such as the Arctic Council's Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Southern Ocean-International Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics program (SO-GLOBEC), which are currently conducting research on chemical contaminants, climate change and a number of other issues.
Baker reminded delegates that the commission's long-term financial support is needed in order to support the Scientific Committee's efforts to adequately quantify and provide recommendations to the commission on these threats. Funding will enable the Scientific Committee to initiate research programs, link its efforts to ongoing environmental change research programs and invite scientists with relevant expertise to committee meetings.
"Ultimately, the most important step the commission can take is to supplement the current IWC research fund to ensure long-term financial support for research that can clarify the impacts of environmental change on whales and other cetaceans," said Baker.
In 1998, the IWC proposed that £100,000 be drawn from the commission's reserves to fund environmental programs. Currently, the Scientific Committee has no budget earmarked to study environmental issues. This year, Baker and others are recommending £126,000 be appropriated next year to support research on environmental concerns. Per last year's proposal, £100,000 will come from the commission's reserves.
"With adequate long-term financial support for research on the impacts of global environmental change on cetaceans, many of the gaps in current research may be appropriately addressed, and ultimately wiser management decisions will result from more complete information," said Baker.
Established in 1946, the 40-member International Whaling Commission is the global management authority for the world's whale populations and is charged with providing for the proper conservation of whale stocks. At last year's 50th International Whaling Commission meeting in Oman, the United States raised the issue of environmental threats by leading the passage of a resolution that created a new agenda item on "Environmental Concerns."
Notice to editors: To obtain a hard copy of the multimedia presentation by fax or overnight delivery, call the National Marine Fisheries Service Public Affairs Office at (301) 713-2370.