The moratorium on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986 has been one of the most successful international agreements in the conservation world. The number of whales killed each year instantly plummeted from 38,000 to between 1,000 and 2,000. Whale populations began to rebound. It brought about a new global consciousness — and conscience — about whaling.

Now a panel of the International Whaling Commission is proposing to effectively suspend that moratorium for 10 years. Its goal is a noble one: to bring the three rogue whaling nations into a pact that will place an agreed-upon limit on their catches, as well as to better monitor their whaling and ensure more humane hunting practices. These are all good ideas. Unfortunately, the proposal gives away more than the whaling commission would get. It says in essence that all a nation has to do to escape the commission's official disapproval is refuse to cooperate long and hard enough.

Supporters of the proposal say it would save at least 5,000 whales over the 10 years. The actual number would be somewhat smaller. That's because the three whaling nations — Japan, Iceland and Norway — currently set their own limits, which are far higher than those in the proposal, but don't actually catch as many whales as they say they will. Anti-whaling activists expect that pattern to continue. Demand for whale meat is declining; Japan's whaling operation survives only with the help of large government subsidies. If the three countries continue to catch whales at their current rate, the number of whales saved by the proposed agreement would be closer to 3,000.

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5/6/10 Several House members from the West Coast - including Congressman Mike Thompson - want to permanently re-impose the moratoria on offshore drilling in California, Oregon, and Washington, even though federal plans don’t even contemplate lease sales in Pacific waters. Bans on oil-and-gas leasing along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts expired in 2008.

H.R. 5213. A bill to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently prohibit the conduct of offshore drilling on the  Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington; to the Committee on Natural Resources.

To read the full text of H.R. 5213, click here

4/23/10 A proposal announced today by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) would, if adopted, for the first time in almost 25 years, endorse the killing of whales in their most precious feeding grounds, the Southern Ocean.

The IWC has had a moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986 but Iceland and Norway have legal objections to the moratorium and Japan continues to conduct commercial whaling using a loophole in the IWC which allows whales to be killed for “scientific purposes.”

In an effort to bring this whaling under IWC’s control, the Chair of the IWC has proposed to give these countries official commercial whaling quotas for the next 10 years.

“The proposed quotas are not set using the IWC’s own scientific methods, but are a result of political bargaining which has little if anything to do with the whales’ themselves,” said Wendy Elliott, Species Program manager, WWF-International. “Setting quotas for commercial whaling based on politics not science would be a step backwards for IWC,” Elliott said.

Furthermore the IWC Chair has proposed commercial whaling quotas for whale species listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.

If adopted the new proposal would legitimise commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, despite the IWC’s absolute ban on commercial whaling in this area since 1994. The Southern Ocean is the main feeding ground of many whale species such as blue whales, humpback whales and fin whales.

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5/6/10 From day one, drilling proponents have said that “new technologies make it safe” and that oil spills shouldn't be of concern.

I have always opposed drilling for oil off the coast of Northern California, and for good reasons. First, there isn't enough recoverable oil to benefit our needs vis-à-vis the risk. But that hasn't stopped some from pursuing leases to explore and drill.

Second, our coast is rich in marine life and is one of only four major upwellings in the world. Damage to this fragile ecosystem would devastate not only our district, but an incredible amount of marine habitat throughout the Pacific Coast.

Third, our tourism industry is the life-blood of many communities in Northern California and visitors don't buy rooms, dinner, or shop in areas devastated by oil spills or cluttered with off-shore oil drilling equipment. Our fishing communities, tourism communities and related businesses up and down the coast generate billions in economic activity, and should not be put in jeopardy by drilling off shore. 

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5/3/10 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today withdrew his support for a plan he championed to allow new offshore oil drilling off Santa Barbara County, citing the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Schwarzenegger, whose administration as recently as Friday defended the proposed Tranquillon Ridge offshore drilling project, said images of the spill in the Gulf changed his mind.

"All of you have seen, when you turn on the television, the devastation in the Gulf, and I'm sure that they also were assured that it was safe to drill," he said at a news conference today. "I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support for the T-Rridge project."

His new stance all but guarantees the demise of the proposal by a Texas oil company to allow the first new drilling in state waters in 40 years.

The governor had previously argued that the state, which is currently facing a $20 billion budget shortfall, should approve the plan to raise as much as $100 million a year in new revenue.

The plan would allow Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) of Houston to use an existing oil platform in federal waters to drill just over the line in state waters. The plan included an agreement by Plains to shut down all operations in the area after 14 years.

"My support for the T-Ridge project in California was based on numerous studies making me feel it was safe to drill ... and a commitment to remove the platforms," Schwarzenegger said at the news conference, which largely focused on wildfire protection.

"If I have a choice between $100 million and what you area see in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather just find out a way to make up for that $100 million," he said. "(When) you turn on television and see the enormous disaster, you say to yourself, why would we want to take that risk? The risk is just much greater than the money is worth, and so we will figure out how to deal with the extra $100 million problem."

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