Here we go. The countries are now presenting their arguments for their resolutions.
Japan has been lobbying hard in the corridors and over coffee (and I can assure you a fourteen year old can lobby excellently), but have not been able to persuade the other countries that its proposal to lock the IWC into accepting a road map to lift the moratorium in 2012.
This is a diplomatic trick often used by countries to get an agreement accepted 'but not immediately.' The students were far too astute and repudiated Japan and the vote went down 60% against and 40% for, and so was defeated.
The next vote was just as rich in debate but this time it was for an application for Bowheads whales for the US Alaskan Inuit peoples.
This is a group of peoples that have been reliant on whaling for a number of animals for thousands of years. Most years when the US brings such a proposal the IWC members grant the quota.
However, in the last few years Japan has been holding the US quota request for ransom and applying pressure to get its own demands by holding the US hostage in threatening to zero their quota.
The students here did not use quite those techniques, but they did question the US robustly on its application asking questions about how much of the hunt is 'commercial' in trade in whale ivory?; how many people really need the meat?; What other animals and foods could the Inuit eat?
After a challenging debate, the US won its vote with 60% in favour of granting the quota, 20% against, and 20% abstaining.
We then come to the really tricky vote. Iceland had proposed a quota for itself, but wants to change its application from Commercial whaling to Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW).
The request from Iceland was for ten humpback whales. This was met with incredulity by Norway, who accused Iceland of abandoning its whaling heritage. Australia and others were suspicious of this move and the questions become tougher and tougher.
The normally quiet and dignified Icelandic delegation found themselves under enormous pressure. The initially quiet commissioner for Iceland slowly rose in volume and passion, rebutting all attacks and comments. A willingness to compromise varied back and for as the debate raged.
In the background Japan was seeking to influence the Icelandic vote to its own advantage. Sweden and the UK was unable to reach a consistent EU position and so the UK felt it had to absent itself from the vote.
Eventually Iceland was able to persuade the delegates that it was being honest in giving up commercial whaling and offered to reduce its quota to 10 minkes under an aboriginal quota. The vote was 70% in favour.
For those of you who are followers of the real IWC, the EU discussions will ring all too true. Sweden are being particularly difficult in the 'real world' with respect to Greenland and its demands to open up its whaling. Sweden seems to believe that any request for an aboriginal quota should always be favoured in its totality. Maybe some colonial guilt there me thinks.
The day ended with a brilliant presentation from Mark Simmonds on the reality of whaling, which stimulated even more questions from the students.
WDCS would like to thank Sea Life for making this conference happen (Mark, Rob, Max and Paul, you know who you are - and don't forget the bicycles said they children as they left) . Also our thanks to WDCS's own Mark Simmonds for his inspiring guidance throughout the two days. As one person said, 'the whales could not do better if they had to pick a single champion to defend them'. Mark was ably assisted by Rob and Victoria (who refuses to let me publish a picture of her here )
Next we should thank the teachers and their supporters who helped the children prepare and engage in the conference. Their dedication was clearly evident in the enthusiasm shining through the children in their care. We take our hats off to you for your leadership and scholarly aptitude.
Our real and best of thanks also go to the students and teachers from all over the UK that attended the conference. The pupils were both inspiring and delightful in equal measure. If the future of whales is in their hands, then they are in good hands indeed.
We look forward to building upon this conference with an education initiative reaching out to all schools in the UK and even further afield. We shall let you know more as our thought develop.