The International Politics of Whaling

The International Politics of Whaling

The International Politics of Whaling

The International Politics of Whaling


Whales: large, mysterious, intelligent -- and endangered. In 1986, a global moratorium on whaling was issued by the International Whaling Commission. However, that decision was not without controversy. Some countries, such as Norway, continue to whale in defiance of the ban. In this fascinating book, Peter Stoett combines ecological sensitivity with a hard assessment of the political realities of the international regime to examine this important issue. The International Politics of Whaling examines contemporary whaling issues with an emphasis on three factors: our knowledge of whales and current whale populations and the impact of whaling; the actors and institutions involved in the debate over whaling; and the ethical dimension. Reluctantly, he concludes that the current global moratorium on whaling is problematic and that we must focus instead on habitat preservation in order to protect whales more effectively.


This book adds the chapter of whaling to the expanding literature on global environmental politics, or international ecopolitics. It is by no means a closed chapter, but one that continues to unfold as controversies over whaling and habitat preservation remain unresolved. Nonetheless, a sufficient body of literature dedicated to the cetacean issue-area network has developed, warranting a book that engages in a broad political analysis, looking both to the past and the future.

Over the last few centuries, whales have received extraordinary human attention. Much of this attention, of course, focused on killing them. But the relatively swift ascent of the whale as environmental symbol, combined with the harsh economic realities inherent in hunting a vanishing population, conspired to produce what must be described as one of the more remarkable international regime transitions in ecopolitical history.

The International Politics of Whaling seeks initially to provide an entertaining and informative journey through the intertwined processes that resulted in the present condition of whales and whaling. Ultimately, we explore that condition itself, asking not only what whaling history teaches us about global problems that demand multilateral management, but which challenges face cetacean populations now that the harpoon no longer appears to be the principal threat to their existence. As well, we address the many ethical questions which the whaling story raises. For example, is a global moratorium on commercial whaling an instance of cultural imperialism? Is aboriginal whaling, which is today based on meeting subsistence and cultural needs, still acceptable?

This book grows out of research conducted for an article that appeared in the European journal Environmental Politics and my PhD

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