Faroes: Sustainable whaling and sealing in line with the SDGs

Published on
April 10, 2019

Sustainable whaling and sealing are fully in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development,” according to Faroese Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Poul Michelsen.

Michelsen spoke at the opening of the 27th annual meeting of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), which took place 3 to 4 April in the Faroe Islands. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss research and developments relevant to the conservation and management of whales and seals in the North Atlantic.

“Our common goal is to make sure that our use of whales and seals is sustainable. We do not need to make unnecessary distinctions between commercial and non-commercial activities. We just need to base our decisions on the best available scientific advice,” Michelsen said.

NAMMCO member countries agree that whales and seals are resources that can and should be used sustainably for the benefit of their people and economies, he said. 

“Our unique form of whaling in the Faroes is largely non-commercial – that is the way it has developed over centuries as a part of Faroese food culture. But we also fully respect the rights of others to trade commercially in their marine mammal resources, also on international markets,” he said. “We have seen how a global organization, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), is still unable to find common ground on the management of whales as resources. After nearly four decades, the global ban on commercial whaling is still in place. This is because many of the IWC members do not consider whales as resources and have blocked decisions on sustainable whaling quotas. By doing this, they are actually leaving whales out of the [United Nations’] sustainable development goals, and they are ignoring the rights of peoples to benefit from their own natural resources. This is unacceptable. Even if countries do not themselves consume marine mammals, they should respect the rights of others to do so.” 

Michelsen explained that this is also why the Faroese government respects Japan’s recent decision to leave the IWC and resume commercial whaling in its own waters, and why he believes that “the time has come” for the Faroe Islands to review its position as a part of Denmark’s membership of the IWC. 

“We would also like to see Canada and the Russian Federation take the next step, after many years as valued observers in NAMMCO, and join us as full members as soon as possible,” he said.

The minister said that he was “very encouraged” to see more balanced information on whaling and sealing in the international media in recent years. 

“I take this as a sign that people have become better informed and are more interested in the cultural context of food production,” Michelsen said. “More and more people want to make sustainable choices in their own consumption patterns. And more people are beginning to understand what we have known in the North Atlantic for a very long time – that living marine resources, including marine mammals, are among the most environmentally friendly sources of food available.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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