Welcome Everyone - Let's Dance.
The Chair of the Commission Dr Bill Hogarth welcomes everyone and congratulates Madeira on its fine weather. A line of musicians equipped with many stringed instruments sits over to his right hand side. This is the mandolin orchestra of Madeira. It plays a beautiful medley mainly around a waltz by Strauss to my ears – will Hogarth take the Secretary of the Convention up in his arms and dance around the hall? Sadly no. We sit and listen. All too briefly it is a beautiful day again.
The President of the Government of Madeira next greets the meeting. Amongst other things he notes that this is a scientific meeting that the whole world is watching. He believe we will be able to find a consensus and we will be able to regulate the whales… and he notes the dependence of the island on the seas. Next comes the Portuguese minister of the environment who refers to Madeira as the pearl of the Atlantic. Portugal is committed to the marine environment and the whales he says and describes how whale watching has replaced whaling both in Madeira and the Azores. Proving that whales can be a resource that is non-lethal used.
Three new parties are then called upon to speak: Estonia speaks very briefly and mentions sustainable use. Poland notes it is honored to join us and thinks that Multilateral Environmental Agreements can help global biodiversity loss. He adds that Poland has joined willingly and knowingly and hopes that the IWC can solve its internal problems. He thanks Madeira and Portugal for hosting this meeting (there will be many such diplomatic reference to the host, so we will just briefly note these). Tanzania is called on to make a statement. But no one speaks.
Next credentials are reported on. Madam Secretary tells us that there are a couple of outstanding matters in credentials and the voting rights of Cameroon, Grenada, Guatemala, Peru, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania are suspended because they have not paid their dues. The Chairman makes his introductory comments. He calls for the maintenance of a cordial atmosphere, resolutions by consensus only and the limited use of points of order. IGOs (Inter-Governmental Organisations) can make one intervention on one substantive item. NGOs will be allowed to address the meeting on Wednesday morning – up to 6 NGOs to address for up to 5 minutes each (should be fun). He says that we may finish early – maybe as early as late on Thursday, but don’t make plane reservations because Friday morning could be a meeting of the ‘small working group’ to consider the future of the IWC, if we have agreed to such. Next year could be a critical year he adds. Rule e has changed – the Commission will make every effort to agree by consensus.
Madam Secretary then tells us that in the future coffee will be over the main bridge rather than the sweltering upper magma chamber.(Hooray)
Mobile phones should be off and computers in silent mode. Several delegates quietly slide headphones on, so they can continue watching an episode of Friends. The meeting agenda is opened for comments. Japan takes the floor first. It deeply appreciates the host. Japan has made proposals in the past to delete certain issues, (a list follows, including small cetaceans, whale watching, elements of the scientific committee and so forth). Our position have not changed they state but they would like to respect the chair’s effort and spirit of co-operation here, allowing us to move towards the ‘normalization’ (one of the famous words of the Commission). However Japan hopes we will not be spending much time on draft resolutions or amendments to schedule. They want dialogue and mutual understanding; and would like to spend as much time as possible on the issue of the future of the IWC. Japan is also planning to make a presentation on JARPN II on Wednesday during lunchtime.
Denmark speaks to ‘clarify’ their position within the European Union. He notes that EU countries are required to vote together on certain matters and that whilst Denmark is a party to the EU, this does not correspond to the ‘realities’ of our position. He notes that they have two home rule communities to represent, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. These are not EU parties. This means, he says, that Denmark will support the EU when it accords with ‘our interests’ he will speak here to defend the national interests of Greenland. [So who speaks for the people of Denmark?] Korea (loudly) speaks to thank the hosts and notes his support for the Conservation Committee (which he chairs).
We move to redoubtable Arne Bjorge, the Scientific Committee chair who we will be hearing from sporadically during the whole commission meeting. For his first contribution he presents the report of the Scientific Committee on whale stocks. He tells the commission that the scientific committee is still unable to provide an estimate on minke whales in the southern ocean (this has long been promised). There have been three surveys looking at this matter CP 1 (circum-polar one), CP2 and CP3. The scientific committee is still trying to work out why the estimates between the last two surveys are so different. After this Mexico says how much he has enjoyed the island – at least from his walks to and from the conference centre (there is gentle laughter). He speaks of the problems between the estimates for CP2 and CP3 and asks why are there such big differences between them. Is ice the main reason? Bearing in mind the big effort put in to study the outputs from these surveys would similar problems be found in other population estimates if such effort was put into them? [It’s an interesting point.]
The Chair of the Scientific Committee consults rapidly with Donovan the Head of Science for the IWC Secretariat. Then he simply comments that there are methodological problems which the scientific committee will be looking at intersessionally. Japan still thinks that there is a relationship between the assessments of minkes in the southern ocean and the extent of the ice which they say was very different between surveys. [This is the old ‘they are hiding in the ice theory’.] We next move to western north Pacific minke whales – a key issue as it relates to any deal that might be made relating to Japan’s request for Small Type Coastal whaling. The Scientific Committee Chair notes that work on these stocks began in 2004.
[The heat is rising in the magma chamber - This is an issue of vital importance. There is a complex stock structure in this area.] After the Scientific Committee report, the UK swiftly thanks the hosts for the excellent location. He praises the collaborative work is highlights and concerns about bycatch leading to extinction. Korea is pleased that there is new data on minkes. Japan comes back and thanks Korea for the recent close cooperation between scientists. On the issue of bycatch, he says the use of words is very important. The word extinction was used [by the UK. This particular resource is protected. This is not ‘endangered’ and he adds sentiments to the extent that he is urging others [obviously including the UK] to be more scientifically accurate. Mexico congratulates Korea on their research, but eloquently notes that there could be at least four different minke whale stocks. In fact, we don’t know how many stocks, how many there are and what the movement is between stocks. Argentina thanks the hosts and agrees with Mexico, noting that the stock situation is important to them. The US Acting Commissioner thanks the hosts and notes that they really are concerned about bycatch and the scale of the current take (so someone clearly agrees with the UK). (At this point the scribes spongy earphone covers disintegrate and shower his shoulders and cheeks with sooty particles and which are now indelibly stuck to his collar in a very unattractive manner.)
The scribe returns from an abortive visit to the lavatory to remove soot and there’s laughter. Sir Geoffrey the New Zealand Commissioner is saying something. We conclude the morning by hearing the scientific committee report on southern ocean blue whales. It is received without comment. And so many now head out into the sunshine for lunch. Many minister are meeting somewhere, so the lunch break will be long – at least two hours to aid digestion. The scribe returns to the toilet and scrubs uselessly at this collar.