How the Abundant Minke Whale Was Added to the CITES Appendix I

The minke whale was moved from Appendix II to Appendix I at the 1983 meeting of CITES held at Gaborone, Botswana. At this meeting, the following proposals were made on whales:

Proposal by Seychelles (anti-whaling scientist Sidney Holt belonged to Seychelles' IWC delegation and thus supposed to have affected whale-related politics of this country) to list all large whales under regulation by the IWC in Appendix I as of January 1986. Since many large whales have already been listed in Appendix I, the proposal actually was meant to add the remaining large species - minke whale and Bryde's whale - to Appendix I.

Proposal by Ecuador and Colombia to add Bryde's whale to Appendix I immediately. In the proposal, it was stressed that the catch limits of most stocks of Bryde's whale were set to zero by the IWC.

Proposal by Seychelles to add Baird's beaked whale and bottlenose whale to Appendix I.

Since Bryde's whale was covered in two overlapping proposals, Seychelles amended the proposal so that whales whose IWC catch limits were zero were to be added to the Appendix I, excluding those already in the list, those which will be newly added at this meeting, and the West Greenland stock of minke whales.

Although the IWC Scientific Committee had admitted that the population of the minke whale was robust, Seychelles explained as the biological reason for the proposal that the population of these whales might decrease in the future because the harvesting of their prey fish was increasing.

Since the proposals lacked scientific justification for the idea that these whales were threatened with extinction and thus did not satisfy the CITES's own criteria (Berne Criteria), the Secretariat of the CITES recommended that these proposals be rejected.

One thing to be noted is that among the 58 nations which attended the meeting out of 81 member nations at that time, there were many nations which did not belong to the IWC and thus did not have correct knowledge about whale populations or the IWC regulation of whale stocks. If people who are unfamiliar with the IWC read the proposals to list in Appendix I those whale species whose catch limits were set to zero by the IWC, they might think these whales are endangered and need to be added to Appendix I.

However, "zero catch limit" does not necessarily mean that the whale stocks are endangered. Even if the population of a whale stock is at its initial level, i.e., not decreased because of whaling to it, the catch limit set by the IWC is zero because no one is supposed to take any whales. This situation was applicable to the Bryde's whale stocks. In the case of the minke whale, "zero catch limit" was going to start in 1986 by the commercial whaling moratorium decision of 1982, which lacked scientific justification and has never been recommended by the IWC Scientific Committee.

Under energetic lobbying by Seychelles and anti-whaling NGOs, these proposals were adopted (the first proposal got 5 against, 30 for, and 24 abstentions, second proposal got 4 against, 34 for, 18 abstentions, and third proposal was adopted without vote since the results would be obvious). Thus, both minke and Bryde's whales, which were not "threatened with extinction" at all, were added to Appendix I.

The next day, when putting on vote the West German proposal to add all species of seals to the Appendix II list, Canadian request for a secret vote, intended to avoid emotional voting, was adopted and the proposal on seals was defeated (27 against, 23 for, 6 abstentions).

"Gaborone - Botswana", Fukuzo Nagasaki, Geiken Tsuushin No. 350,
1983, The Institute of Cetacean Research (Whale Research Institute at that time).