The whaling nations of the world made only slight progress last week toward providing stronger protection for the endangered whale in its ages-old struggle to survive. The International Whaling Commission regrettably failed to approve a ban on the commercial hunting of the giant sea mammals. Nor could the 24 member nations of the commission even agree to a proposed moratorium two years from now that would give those relatively few countries with segments of their population economically dependent on whales time to phase out the industry and develop new jobs for workers involved in whaling.
But in voting to reduce the worldwide quota of whales allowed to be killed from this year's 16,000 to 14,500 next year, the whaling commission continued its recent trend of lowering, gradually, the annual quotas from their peak of 46 ,000 in the mid-1970s. The commission also reinforced an almost total ban on the factory-ship killing of whales -- but failed to outlaw the cruel use of cold harpoons.
The danger of extinction is still very real for some larger whale species in particular. The gradually mounting recognition of the need to preserve these magnificent creatures is encouraging. But the whaling nations themselves still have to show greater willingness to adapt to the changing demands of a shrinking world if whales are to be around for future generations of us land-based mammals to study and admire.