A powerful U.S. representative is calling for William Hogarth, the dean of USF's marine science department, to be ousted as the American delegate to the International Whaling Commission.
In a letter dated Wednesday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., says Hogarth — a Bush appointee — should get the boot because he has been working with the Japanese to dismantle the current worldwide ban on commercial whaling.
"The American people care deeply about protecting whales and do not want the U.S. to be the broker who capitulated to those who still want to kill whales for commercial gain," Rahall wrote to the acting head of the Commerce Department, which oversees such issues.
He wrote that Hogarth's ouster would "ensure that the Bush administration policies and negotiation tactics truly become a thing of the past."
Hogarth has been the target of such criticism from animal-welfare groups like the Humane Society for months.
Hogarth has said he is trying to work out a deal that will limit the number of whales being killed by Japanese boats.
But what Hogarth has negotiated "is not a compromise with Japan — it's a concession to Japan," said Kitty Block, vice president of the Humane Society International.
The University of South Florida dean contends the Humane Society and Rahall have misunderstood what he's doing in the closed-door negotiations.
"Whales are a very controversial issue," Hogarth said. "Emotions run real high. … I've not sold out the U.S. What I've done is for the best of the whales and the best of the U.S."
For 22 years, the International Whaling Commission, a global body with 80 member countries chaired by Hogarth, has banned commercial whaling.
The commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 amid widespread concern that some species were being hunted to the brink of extinction.
But two countries, Iceland and Norway, have consistently ignored the ban. Meanwhile, the moratorium has a loophole that some countries, such as Japan, take advantage of: A limited number of whales can be killed for research purposes.
In 1998, about 300 whales were killed for scientific research. Since then, Japan has allowed its hunters to kill 1,000 whales per year for scientific purposes. Animal-welfare groups say Japan is doing no research at all, just killing the whales for commercial reasons.
Last year, Japan threatened to leave the whaling commission unless the moratorium was lifted. Meanwhile, Australia and other countries are just as adamant that Japan should stop using the research loophole to undermine the moratorium.
Five months ago, a group of commission representatives met in a closed-door session in St. Pete Beach to hash out a number of issues, including the moratorium. The secrecy fueled the controversy over what agreement might emerge.
After another meeting last month in England, Hogarth's committee produced proposals that the Humane Society International condemned, saying they would "result in an immediate partial lifting of the moratorium on commercial whaling."
Block said the Humane Society agrees with Rahall's push to remove Hogarth from the commission, given his proposal.
However, Hogarth said that just because there's been a proposal put on the table, that doesn't mean that he as the U.S. representative will vote for it.
The commission will choose a new chairman and vice chairman in June, he said, and at that point Hogarth said he plans to resign anyway to allow the Obama administration to pick a new representative.