Small Explosions in the Magma Chamber
After a sooty lunch, we return to find Arne Bjorge talking about the critically endangered small stock of Western Pacific Gray Whales.
Mexico stresses its concerns about this population and Japan notes that it has not had any bycatch or stranding this year and that this may be good news.
[Given the earlier comment that increasing bycatch could mean increasing population size, does this perhaps work the other way around?]
[Nonetheless] The UK is pleased to see no bycatch on this critically endangered stock and calls for mitigation throughout its range. The UK is delighted that Sakhalin energy have postponed their seismic surveys in the gray whales’ important feeding grounds and calls on all oily companies to cooperate in protecting this endangered population.
The US like the UK is very concerned about these whales and notes that they have been of special interest to the Commission since 2001.
Russia takes to the floor and very quietly says something or other. Via an interpreter the Commissioner gently thanks IWC Secretariat and Scientific Committee for their work. Very quietly he says something about the western and eastern gray whales (one being rare the other common) being… what was that? The same stock? The same species? But he is very quiet and it is hard to make out.
But sharp ears have Bobbed up in the US delegation and their flag is being waved. Moustaches are bristling.
There commissioner speaking loudly and clearly says that if something is going in the record along the lines of what the Russian Commissioner has just [quietly] said, he wants it on the record that this is clearly two stocks.
Russia quietly [almost shyly] adds that this matter perhaps needs more study. Scientists need to co-operate and not collect data in only one group he adds. And data from one any one group should be available to everyone. [It sounds like there is some problem in the field between perhaps competing researchers.]
But actually the quiet voice of the Russian Commissioner and his translator are very soothing. It is strangely peaceful here in the grand magma chamber, if hot.
Then there is a loud crash as someone falls over a coffee cup, hits an electric plug and a large bulb goes pop.
Back to Arne Bjorge. He explains that there will be much tagging of the endangered whales but only the lucky already identified males. He adds that the Scientific Committee will be looking at genetic studies in 2010. .
Southern Hemisphere whales are next reviewed and the recent mass mortalities of right whales in South America are highlighted in the Scientific Committee report and several eloquent interventions.
Now we jump into another agenda item: we move to ‘whale killing methods’ and the room starts to heat up even more.
The report from the whale killing methods workshop, which met last week, is now presented by its chairman – the Finnish Commissioner. There is a shuffling of delegates as welfare specialists move into their seats. [The UK welfare expert sits behind her commissioner, who a few minutes later is joined by the UK Biodiversity minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, who we are very pleased to see here.]
The UK is gamely waving its flag after the report reading is finished and The UK minister speaks to note the rapidly developing science of animal welfare and proposes that we look at the standards used by the OIE organization. (He also notes that he is the latest in a line of UK ministers to attend the IWC, showing that the UK government believes this to be an important forum dealing with important matters for the UK people. Indeed animal welfare is of prime concern to the UK he adds and needs serious consideration here. The OIE provides culturally neutral standards.
However in the spirit of ‘compromise and reconciliation’ various countries speak to tell him that he is wrong and being a bit silly, and Norway in particular emphasizes that whaling is about hunting and not meat production and mentions deer (and we think we hear boar) hunting in the UK.
The UK agrees to go away and think about this some more.
Japan and Iceland note that they prefer to take their whale killing (and welfare) data to a different body to the IWC, NAMMCO (The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission). They find this body more conducive to a rationale examination of their data.
Despite this Germany speaks up boldly to encourage Iceland and Japan to bring their whale killing data to the IWC table.
And Australia and Belgium welcome the UK initiative.
Monaco thanks the hosts. The absence of data does not help us at all he says. We have to dig into the scientific cruises to get at data here. He then refers to a cruise report under JARPA II and gives some statistics showing a high proportion of pregnant females are being killed.
The Chairman then starts to speak to say there is no consensus, but he is interrupted by
Japan who says he has been trying to speak for sometime and suggests that next time he will shout. He states that Japan was forced not to bring their data here – when ever they submitted data they were criticized and that working group used to be ‘emotional’ [another of those key IWC words].
He concludes, with a sad look into the camera beaming his image up onto two big screens at the front of the room that Japan is confused. ‘When we try to submit something we get criticized and when we do not, the same happens!’
Iceland speaking for the first time thanks hosts and moves swiftly to their support for the sustainable use of all marine things including whales. He has nothing to add to the report given from the whale killing workshop. [So why did he speak?]
We leave this agenda item bruised and a bit battered [and not at all in a humane way] and move to another item which usually no one cares about – relations with international organizations.
There is an outbreak of discussion about relations with the World Health Organisation. Several non-whaling nations are concerned about contaminants in whale meat. The IWC Secretary Nicky Grandy promises to speak to them (again) on this matter.
The UK Minister mentions the International Maritime Organisation and praises their ongoing work on ship strikes (as in trying to stop ships striking whales).
And then rather suddenly and rather early in the day everyone is sent away to wash the sooty substances out of their ears and prepared for a reception in the big yellow fort at the far end of town.
Shortly after most people have left the great hall/magma chamber a white paper appears in the delegation pigeon holes…. This is a detailed proposal from Greenland explaining their rationale to open up a new hunt for humpback whales in the North Atlantic. They seek to kill fifty.
Most delegations will not see this until the morning.
Small Explosions in the Magma Chamber