The political economy of whale wars

Review of a new book that appeared in the newspapers caught my attention over the weekend. Judging by the review, this book explores and explains the international struggles surrounding commercial whaling. It must be an interesting read.
Also, not long ago I saw an article about the recovery of blue whale populations in the Pacific, which is strongly linked to the moratorium on whale hunting. This latter article provides empirical evidence that the moratorium on whaling works.
Despite this evidence, Japan, Norway and Iceland, remain the only three countries that keep insisting on continuing with commercial whaling. It is pretty clear that the global Willingness-to-Pay for complete moratorium on whaling far outweighs any benefits that commercial whalers from these three countries might derive from continuing whale hunts. Why then such stubbornness? The answer may have something to do with the domestic political pressure that whalers are able to put on their governments. And those governments are susceptible to yielding to special interests related to primary industries. Take for instance agricultural subsidies. Japan, Norway and Iceland are in the top five countries with highest agricultural subsidies in the OECD, and effectively in the world.
So, it seems that what happens to the whale populations on this planet is held hostage by a very small number of people that have vested interest in commercial whaling, and are able to lobby their governments to defy international whaling agreements. The rest of us, a vast, vast majority of us, who consider whales to be some of the most significant living treasures on this planet, can just sit on the sidelines and watch! What an unfair world!

Author: Tiho Ancev

Tiho Ancev is a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the School of Economics, University of Sydney. His main research areas are agricultural, environmental, natural resource and energy economics. Tiho’s main contributions have been in water economics and policy, economics of energy, economics of air pollution and climate change policies, and economics of precision agriculture and agricultural input use. He has published widely on these topics in top international peer reviewed journals. Tiho has led and contributed to national and international research projects in these research areas. He is currently the Managing Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.