THE Voice Of The Two Hundred
The sixty second meeting of the IWC in Agadir, Morocco, closed on Friday afternoon. It was a remarkable meeting. It opened amidst accusations of high level corruption and with two large, highly controversial and complex issues to consider:
Firstly the ‘Chairman’s Consensus Proposal’ (also referred to as The Deal in the WDCS reporting from Agadir) which included the setting of commercial quotas, despite the global moratorium; and
Secondly, a proposal for a new ‘aboriginal’ hunt in Greenland of ten humpback whales. (Aboriginal is here in quotation marks as there is ample evidence that whaling in Greenland is significantly commercialised.)
The Greenland humpback proposal has been fought over for four years and if it had of been voted on at IWC 61, it would probably have failed, but the then Chairman of the Commission deferred it for further intersessional consideration.
IWC 62 opened and closed very swiftly and was highly pressurised. Despite the many days of closed meetings ahead of what should have been the open IWC plenary session in Agadir, including the two day workshop in the days immediately preceding (all dedicated to The Deal), the powers-that-be felt that it was important to again exclude everyone but the official government representatives once more. Hence, all non-governmental delegates (and many others) were locked out of proceedings for two more days. After this, the Commission was forced to go through its proceedings at a great pace.
Eventually, the Chairman’s Proposal was declared dead for this meeting (it may of course be resuscitated in some form in the future) and the moratorium remains safe for the moment. However, Denmark was finally granted its humpback quota aided after much remarkable manoeuvring and greatly aided by the countries of the EU who evidently found successful co-ordination more important that the fate of the whales.
It is difficult to see during or after an intense meeting like this what factors affected the debates the most – especially with so much of the important discussions (including those of the European nations) occurring out of the public eye and ear.
However, one contribution was widely reported, received by all Commissioners and may well have helped sway the debate and maintain the moratorium. This was the petition provided by marine scientists and other experts. It was first circulated to the IWC Commissioners from all nations via the kind help of the delegation of the United Kingdom in the days running up to main meeting. At this time some 140 experts from some 30 countries had signed on. By the end of the meeting, when it was circulated again, over 200 experts had signed on from over 40 countries.
The petition was launched at the end of May by Mark Simmonds and Sidney Holt and mainly gained support by simply being passed from colleague to colleague. It would probably have gained far more names if it had been started sooner. It should also be noted that many whale specialists working within the context of the IWC did not sign either because they had been so instructed not to or, possibly, because they feared this might complicate their working relationships with others.
Despite this, the voice of the 200(+) marine scientists and other experts is still a strong clear statement of concern. (The list was closed in the last session of IWC 62.)
Sidney and Mark are grateful to all those who took the time to consider this matter and lend their names to this statement.
Sidney adds the following: ‘Thanks to everyone who signed up. The story is not yet over and we shall have to work during the year to ensure there is no backsliding. We'll be in touch’.
Sidney’s further thoughts can be found on his blog site HERE
Paul Spong (another signatory to the expert’s petition) has also been running a helpful blog commentating on developments in Agadir and this can be found HERE
Links to some of the press resulting from the petition of the 200+ are given below. These are merely some of the English language articles, and we know it also crossed the language barrier and was reported in many non-English speaking countries including Iceland, Japan and Norway.
AFP: HERE; BBC: HERE; DW-WORLD: HERE; FRANCE 24: HERE; SCIENCE MAG: HERE
Marine Scientists Petition To The IWC
We the undersigned marine scientists respectfully call on the member nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) not to undermine the conservation achievements of the last few decades by again endorsing commercial whaling at their next meeting.
We are aware that at its 62nd meeting in Agadir, Morocco, June 21st- 25th, the IWC will consider a proposal to grant catch limits to the three member nations of the IWC – Japan, Norway and Iceland - that continue to take whales for commercial gain, using well-known loopholes in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The proposal will even permit whaling in a Marine Protected Area (“sanctuary” in the terminology of the IWC) created specifically to protect whales in large parts of their ranges. We believe that to do so would be highly inappropriate and untimely and would again risk the future of the whales.
Whilst aware that some whale populations are showing signs of increase in the absence of whaling pressure, partly as a successful result of the global “moratorium” on commercial whaling adopted in 1982, and partly from application of the management procedures agreed in 1975, such increases are not a sufficient rationale to justify the IWC endorsing commercial catches. There is no evidence that any of the few populations and species known to be increasing have reached, or are anywhere near, the levels that might justify non-zero catch limits under the IWC’s existing management and conservation policies and procedures. Furthermore, whales inhabit marine ecosystems that are now increasingly impacted by human activities ranging from oil spills to the effects of persistent pollutants, climate change and increased ship traffic and other hazards; these provide further rationale for providing these remarkable animals of the global commons with the highest possible levels of protection, including protecting them from commercial takes.
The lessons of the past show that commercial whaling has always been intractable to sustainable management, and we see no changes in the attitudes of the industry which continues to favour extracting monetary value from the whales as fast as possible and, in the process, evading and obstructing efforts to ensure full compliance with international regulations and transparent supervision. The long-lived and slow-breeding whales are also difficult and expensive to monitor adequately. We are also growing increasingly aware of the complexity of their population structures, behaviour and societies.
Given the risks involved and that commercial whaling meets no essential human need, we call on all the IWC governments to abandon experiments in the lethal use of whales and instead refocus their efforts on the conservation of whale populations, on understanding their roles in the marine ecosystems of which they are important parts, and promoting, where appropriate, responsible non-lethal uses of them such as whale-watching.
1. Sidney Holt D.Sc. Adviser to charity Global Ocean, Italy
2. Mark Peter Simmonds, International Director of Science, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, UK
3. Professor Hal Whitehead, Dalhousie University, Canada
4. David Suzuki, Canada
5. Sylvia Earle, USA
6. Erich Hoyt, Senior Research Fellow, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Scotland
7. Paul Spong, Director, Orca Lab, Canada
8. Mike Bossley, The Australian Dolphin Research Foundation
9. Bernd Würsig, Texas A&M University, USA
10. Alexandra Morton, Canada
11. Craig Matkin, USA
12. David Bain, USA
Read the full list of signatories.
THE Voice Of The Two Hundred
...Just some pictures.
Al Jazeera TV interviews Australian Minister Peter Garrett outside the conference centre.
Interview with a humpback.
Monica the US Commissioner on the Big Screen
Siri Martinsen of Noah debates with Norwegian delegate
Fabian of Belgium, Justin of Monaco, Black of the BBC and Michael of Austria in a coffee break.
The UK Commissioner, Nigel Gooding, is congratulated on the world cup result by the Slovenian Commissioner.
Campaign Whale in the Great Hall
UK Minister, Richard Benyon and UK Alternate Commissioner, James Grey (on the left)
The Belgian Commissioner makes an intervention.
Kate and Sue of WDCS
Laura of WDCS
Paul Spong of Orcalab & Ali Baba
Delegates say goodbye to Nicky Grandy
How often do we want to meet?
So after a rather miserable lunch – we return to the Great Hall for the final session, which is administrative. Donna the Australian Commissioner now takes the microphone and takes us through the report of the Finance and Administration (F&A) report. It is now 16.10 and she goes at speed through a number of matters.
UK delegation in reflective mode
Then we return to a substantive manner. F&A left the issue of whether or not the IWC will continue to meet every year (or ever other year) hanging.
The USA says this is linked to their proposal for the Joint Aboriginal Quotas which has not been discussed yet, although their spokesman says he has a reasonable idea of how this will go and would prefer annual meetings for the next couple of years.
Various views are expressed. Australia says that there is important work to do following The Pause and they prefer annual meetings, but moving to biannual in the future.
St Lucia reminds us that the aboriginal quotas are up for review in 2012.
France likes biannual meetings, as does the rest of the EU.
Brazil says keep them annual for now but the work of the Scientific and Conservation Committee should continue.
Russia would prefer a biennial arrangement when aboriginal quotas are set for ten year period. (Did the Commissioner just grin?)
The Acting Chair asks the Chair of the Scientific Committee where the quota reviews stand. She says it would be difficult to do this in 2011.
Australia says let us meet for the next two years and then biennially thereafter.
France wants to make sure that the Scientific Committee meets every year
So, says the Acting Chair, shall we meet for the next two years and revisit this next year? It is agreed. (Nothing changes.)
We move on through F&A and amongst other things we come to the fees for NGOs. In the future, each NGO will pay £520 for its first delegate and then £260 for others. Interpreters are free.[Bargain – get me some of those.]
F&A finishes and we return at 16.54 pm to Agenda No 3. This is to allow a number of things says the Chairman vaguely, but one of these things is a statement from the US now found in document IWC/62/31
An Inuit whaling captain then greets us. He says it is difficult for people from moderate climates to imagine life in places like Barrow. He explains that they have been able to live for generations because of the Bowhead. He notes that Agadir has many things to offer that he does not have back home and adds that the relationship of his people to the bowhead whale is at the core of his culture. He says that they have met every standard and requirement requested…. He is concerned at how his people are being treated here.
The Alternate US Commissioner comes to the floor. He is pleased that the Commission reached consensus on Denmark, but he is aware after further consultation that we may not reach consensus although all members here ‘profess’ support for indigenous whaling, and he withdraws his proposal.
So remaining in front of us is ‘a proposal from the chair on the way forward’.
The Vice Chair says that a period of reflection does not mean inaction.
He then presents a detailed proposal. It has two key elements:
Firstly that ‘member nations continue to work together to take initiatives on particular matters of importance but which have not received general support; and secondly an agreement to minimise plenary discussions on certain contentious matters for which it is clear no progress will be made. There are four points under each heading.
Some amendments are offered by Iceland and others.
The Acting Chair, at 17.29 pm, notes that this can stands as a proposal, a guide from the chair and will just issue a chair’s statement at the end of the meeting.
Spain thanks him for putting his ideas on paper but that it is bit too long for a decision, we would need to find better language and shorten the text.
Iceland says he is free to make proposals.
Australia thanks the chair for his proposal and as she understands it correctly this is not something that we have to agree. This is not approved and the previous Chair’s proposal is also not agreed. This should be clear and in the record. The spirit of the proposal is to give us time for a pause.
Spain says we must be clear in the record.
Monaco says that we have had recent problems with you [the Vice Chairman] making a statement on your own behalf and this being confused with something issued by the IWC; care needs to be taken, he stresses.
Korea makes a short statement – the gist of this is that they phased out commercial whaling after the moratorium came into place. But they still want whale meat. They think the RMP is best way to manage whaling and look forward to it being completed for the North Pacific.
Australia recommends decoupling the Scientific Committee from the Commission from 2011.
Any views? Chile supports Australia and so does Norway.
USA asks about the budgetary implications.
Australia: there is some extra work involved in running meetings in two different places.
The Executive Secretary notes that many member nations see many benefits but we do not have venue next year and this may put us under strain.
Austria and Japan say that we should not take a last minute decision on this.
But ‘this is a good idea’ says Brazil.
Norway says he could solve this by not separating the meetings but moving both to September and looking at this then. He is supported by Iceland.
The USA supports in general and 'further to the last two commissioners we would not move the timing of the Scientific Committee.
Australia thanks everyone for their comments and suggests we discuss this early at the next meeting.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer is then thanked for his efforts and he announces his retirement from the Commission.
Cherry Alison lists infractions for us. There are quite a few.
South Korea explains in detail how those found guilty of illegal whaling will be punished in Korea. In 2009 the Korean government detected 16 illegal whales.
The Great Hall
Where shall we meet and will Simon wear Nicky’s shoes’?
We move to agenda 24; date and place of annual meetings. The Acting Chair says there are a number of governments interested in IWC 63 but none have confirmed this.
If by September 1st 2010, there is no confirmation, the Secretariat will have to host that meeting.
Nicky Grandy will be leaving us after ten years announces the Acting Chairman. New Zealand is enthusiastically waving his name plate.
Dr Grandy we salute you, says Sir Geoffrey. Nicky has give us distinguished service and given help to the whales and supported 88 members with highly divergent roles here. She has conducted her role with cheerfulness. Nicky we are all grateful to you and we know previous commissioners from New Zealand have had robust exchanges with you and he apologises for some of the language used then.
St Lucia speaks of the Alice in Wonderland world of the commission. When she first arrived we wondered if this small woman could deal with the reins of two teams of people. [She returns to talk of Mount Difficulty for a while but the scribe fails to follow.]
The US Alternate Commissioner thanks Nicky too.
The African group of countries give her a present.
Then Korea thanks her too. He proposes two new agenda items for this year – i. decision on sustainable use of Nicky Grandy or ii. Consensus decision on Nicky Grandy.
Some laughter follows.
Japan says he feels the same way. IWC has had a very difficult and challenging time. He too has a gift – it is a doll and he tells a story: a fairy came to fishermen; to stop her leaving they stole her clothes and to get her clothes back she had to dance. This is a traditional story. I feel like I would like to take away your gown to keep you in this organisation he adds.
A deputation from Japan now approach the stage and the doll is handed over by the Japanese Secretary of State.
Spain notes that the coordination on this issue is the easiest she has had. She wishes Nicky well from all the EU nations.
The longest serving commissioner, the Russian Commissioner, is now called on to speak for all the Commissioners.
First Mexico speaks for the Buenos Aires Group – he recognises Nicky as neutral and professional. How will Simon [the new Executive Secretary] wear her shoes? he asks And he thanks her for her good nature. ‘We shall miss you dearly’.
The Russian Commissioner then hands over a gift and speaks in English: 'do not forget IWC – we shall sing one song for you; are you ready to hear?', and he sings the old Elvis number: ‘love us tender, love us so, for our Nicky we love you,… love us tender too, love us too, for Nicky we love you, and we always will.”
Something is unwrapped on the distant stage.
Nicky thanks everyone for the gifts. This is turning out to be quite a roller coater ride she says. She is grateful for the improved atmosphere in the Commission. She hopes this may be her legacy. She makes a special comment about her excellent staff and singles out Greg Donovan for special mention. She does not know how he does what he does. I used to be so frightened at the call of ‘Point of Order Mr Chairman’; but I have been grateful for the opportunity of meeting such a diversity of people.
The Acting Chairman thanks all the Commissioners and he makes a special mention of the interpreters and also the technicians. He finally welcomes Simon Brockington [the Executive Secretary nominate] and thanks Morocco and Agadir
And so we leave the Great Hall for the last time. (One of us has been in this building for every day but two since May 30th, will he be able to function in the wider world? Could he function before. He cannot remember.)
WDCS would like to express its thanks in particular this year to Australia for being an inspired champion of the whales, including its team in the scientific committee. Buenos Aires Group thank you for standing so firm and, Argentina, congratulations on many fine interventions.
We are also very grateful to our colleagues representing the UK, Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria. Thanks also to our good friends in the Scientific Committee and our sister NGOs, especially (but not only) HSUS, AWI, WSPA, EIA and Prowildlife.
We salute Monaco for his independent thoughts (and reserve the right not to always agree with you).
We (again) wish the executive secretary, Nicky Grandy, a happy retirement from the IWC and thank the IWC secretariat for their efficient assistance through this difficult and complicated meeting.
Welcome Simon and good luck in your new role.
Our thanks also to the kind people of Agadir; we are not sure about the small camels made of camel, or the street cats that sing so copiously in the night, but we like the red brick promenade and the wonderful tolerant mixtures of cultures found there, especially of a Sunday evening.
Finally, we hope all the fledging kestrels that had their nest in the palm tree at Maxwell’s restaurant have a long and happy life in this bustling urban environment. We make our way back up the red brick road for one last time – back towards the fragrant fish docks where we live.
Alexander of Belgium demonstrates the famous fan.
How many humpbacks need to die?
So, one last time, along the red brick promenade, today under a sullen sky. It is so early that there are only a few joggers in motion and the birds are still singing loudly. Into the Great Hall – one last time - we go.
We are so early here that with the exception of a few Japanese press people, we are alone. The small WDCS media team crank up their printer and soon invitations to a briefing on the Greenland hunt are being distributed. This will be held in the press tent in the coffee break. Slowly the room fills up.
The EU nations, as usual, are somewhere behind closed doors conferring but soon many delegates are also conferring around the hall in small knots (probably wrapped up in the trailing power cables). They are probably awaiting news from the EU. The US Commissioner is missing today having flown home.
In the pigeon holes the only new document is a Statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, it laments the failure to come to consensus and concludes ‘Japan sincerely expects that all concerned Parties will continue to make every effort to achieve a consensus decision following the approach presented in the Chair and Vice-Chairs proposal’.
The Acting Chair opens by reminding us that agenda 3 is still open and also ‘whale killing methods’, item 9 on socio-economic implications; and aboriginal subsistence catch limits. He starts with the ongoing report from the Conservation Committee. We hear about the serious threat posed by ship strikes, something that the scientific committee also works on. Many issues are covered here including actions by the US to avoid ship strikes on whales and a working group led very ably by Belgium.
The distinguished Alternate Commissioner from Argentina thanks the contributors and particularly Alexander from Belgium for his work. France is also enthusiastic about the workshop and makes note of the excellent work done on this under the auspices of ACCOBAMS too.
Others also speak up in favour of this work area and to thank Alexander.
Stinky gray whales also pass by again.
Southern Right whales in Chile and Peru – which are endangered - are highlighted and Chile asks that this matter remain on the agenda of the conservation committee. Only 20 member nations attended the Conservation Committee. The US has called for greater cooperation in this matter.
We move swiftly to catches by non-member nations. But no one has anything to report. So we move to agenda….3…. no 5.3, which Norway asked to hold open. The Norwegian welfare specialist is brought to the microphone, he says that he will comment on something that NOAH the Norwegian animal welfare group said yesterday. He refers to a film that he says ‘pretends’ to show an inhumane hunt where the whale may have suffered from wounds for more than 2 hours. He continues that the film was shown here but that the members the Norwegian delegation did not have the honour to be invited to the viewing. The film shows a fishing boat and a harpoon with grenade is fired. The harpoon does not hit the whale. The whale dies… no sorry the whale dives. The scene is disrupted and the boat is then seen sailing away. The next scene shows the same vessel and it is a hunting situation again. The detonation kills the whale instantaneously. The commentator on the film says this is two hours later. The last scene shows flensing. He then tells us that another boat is then featured. Filming is done from the shore he says and he continues to critique the footage at length…. He concludes that he hopes that the Norwegian animal welfare groups will behave in a respectful way. In the 23 years I have been coming here he says he has never heard a story like this.
Japan says it has not had an opportunity to make a statement on other comments made by NGOs so he takes the stage now. NGOs have been told to make positive statements. Giving the floor to the NGOs we have no objection but they must conform to the rules.
Agenda 16 – Other Scientific Committee activities and actions.
So we turn to the Chair of the Scientific Committee, Dr Debbie Palka. Small cetaceans are mentioned now. The Subcommittee looked at small cetaceans in North Africa; there are various concerns, especially for the Atlantic humpback dolphin which is endemic to this region. We also note that there will be a climate change and small cetaceans workshop in the coming intersessional (something to look forward to).
We move on to other issues, including the recommendations made previously by the Scientific Committee on endangered cetaceans such as the vaquita. Sweden has increasing problems with bycatch he says and talks about seal and harbour porpoise bycatch in the Baltic Sea in particular. A coffee break is declared and a WDCS briefing on Greenland occurs in a tent in a car park. A few delegates attend and some press. WSPA calls an impromptu press briefing at the same time in the coffee area (having learn how to do this from the Pew Foundation a couple of days ago) and Siri Martensen who spoke for NOAH yesterday can be seen debating live with a Norwegian Scientist in front of the cameras. There seems to be no agreement.
The coffee break stretches on and on – when it resumes, we are back with Dr Debbie and we look at harbour porpoises including the recently isolated Iberian population of porpoises. Sweden is very concerned about the bycatch of porpoises and they have observers and porpoises. Then we look at the threatened franciscana (a dolphin species). Argentina and Brazil appreciate the work on the scientific committee.
We move to Narwhals and Scientific Committee is looking forward to a joint workshop with NAMMCO. [More romance is in the air.]
Cambodia’s population of Irrawaddy dolphin needs some urgent action to help it, says Dr Debbie. India then speaks up for its rare Gangetic river dolphins which have now become a national animal. Brazil appreciates the work of the scientific committee and is worried about the bycatch of the franciscana in Brazil and they are trying to improve this situation. Back to Indigenous whaling quotas.
The Humpback Question
Spain speaks up on the behalf of the member nations of the EU – they have full respect for the aboriginal people’s rights, and believe that takes much be sustainable. The aboriginal takes should also be subject to review by the IWC and the Scientific Committee.
She asks, on the behalf of the EU member nations, for the following amendment: Catch quotas should be 10 fin whales for 2010, 2011, 2012 and for humpback whales should be 9 in 2010, 11 and 12.
Denmark says that an agreement has been reached on substance with the EU, there remains ‘one small matter of presentation’ and he needs a few minutes to fix this. He asks for a five minute break.
Long minutes pass and he then comes back with some changes to the proposal: The word 'take' is changed to 'struck' in one place and the West Greenland fin whale take is reduced from 19 to 16 with a footnote that says they voluntarily reduce this take from 16 to 10. How will the rest of the commission receive this?
Spain now wishes to speak to Denmark for a few minutes to verify the wording. You may says the acting chair. European commissioners are running around (possibly to escape further 'co-ordination'). The Denmark says the EU did not like half a sentence and he has agreed it. He reads the change... ‘In IWC in Agadir... Denmark and Greenland agreed to voluntarily reduce further the catch limit... from 16 to10... then as before, he says. Spain is satisfied and thanks Greenland for its flexibility. There is an outbreak of applause...
The Vice Chair puts it to the body for acceptance by consensus.
But Costa Rica takes the floor: our country expresses its deep concern about the lack of an analysis by the Scientific Committee - she is also concerned about the status of stocks and poorly managed coastal whaling. We should be very cautious about this... we said previously that there should not be unilateral decisions made by countries. The humpbacks in the Caribbean are important to us - for whale watching - whilst the scientific committee might not affect the stock, it may affect whale watching; we have previously asked for technical advice from Greenland and this has not been forthcoming; as a sign of good will we ask that Greenland make their request without humpback whales.
Australia supports aboriginal subsistence whaling but only within some constraints - it needs to fit the criteria for aboriginal hunts; it must not threaten the hunt. The current proposal raises concerns, including the threats to other nations' interests. We cannot support an expansion. Switzerland recognises the collective rights of indigenous peoples and the right to the enforcement of treaties. He mentions the relevant UN conventions. Catch quotas have been given to indigenous peoples in the past and this should not continue. The Scientific Committee has said that up to 10 humpbacks will not harm the stock. We strongly support the proposal. He concludes by asking for action on welfare.
Brazil associates with Australia.
Iceland supports sustainable whaling and Greenland.
St Lucia is disappointed with the Commission... we don't support science and the scientific committee, and people were not listening, so I will quote [and she does]. Greenland is covered in ice; they can't grow food.. if we called whales chickens we might give them a quota. She gains some applause.
Argentina says she needs to be very clear. We do not oppose aboriginal quotas. We have a problem with this proposal. The additional quota (with or without additions) - has problems with conversion factors (we would have liked more consideration of this); the needs statement is old. The efficiency of the hunt is also problematic and we would like more information. This stock breeds elsewhere. The range states have not been consulted. We support Costa Rica. More applause.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is convinced that the needs presented are fully justified and the scientific committee says this is sustainable and will not harm the stock. There is unequivocal support here for aboriginal whaling. Please support as amended. Hesitant applause. A long list of speakers is read out.
Japan says that we have been spending much time on the future process ... we must nurture this process but the discussion about Greenland places a dark cloud over this. This is exactly what we like to avoid... there was mention of whale watching. There are 10,000 northern humpbacks. Some of the countries opposing this have a bycatch of 20 or more, they are being inconsistent. I don't see any logical reason to oppose this proposal. Similar sentiments follow - either supporting or opposing the proposal from Greenland and the European Union.
Russia suggests we should spend less money on the scientific committee. There is little chance for a consensus... for a future for the IWC. A consensus should be a principle for aboriginal whaling. I would like to give the floor to a representative from indigenous community whaling in the far East. He is angry and amongst things he says the whale is not a human being and he says that fear has been generated amongst the aboriginal people... a guilty mind is never at ease. A few other countries follow -
The only ground that Tanzania has to stand on is science, he says.
The USA regrets there is not consensus support and asks countries not to block a consensus decision. He repeats the adice of the Scientific Committee and the COMMENDS the EU for their flexibility.
Monaco calls for cool heads; there are some legitimate questions to ask. We have always supported aboriginal/indigenous requests and we have procedures to set quotas. The proposed strike limits must not harm the stocks. The Scientific Committee says a take of ten will not harm the stock. But there is also the proper foundation of nutritional needs and here would could have a debate.. not as long one. Is this really subsistence whaling. This population is not exactly starving; they have one of the highest per-capita incomes anywhere in the world [and he provides some figures]. The needs statement is nearly 20 years old and we have many questions; I encourage Denmark to withdraw the last line of their table to make us all more comfortable. I do not think that the loss of ten humpbacks will harm their population. This looks to me more like a totemic issue. Monaco is not enthusiastic to support this and we urge them to withdraw.
A little later Brazil asks for a ten minute break and the stone stairways down to the rather public toilets have never been busier. A rather public co-ordination of the EU occurs against one wall of the great hall. Such a thing has rarely been viewd in public. Many stare and take pictures.
After the break it becomes apparent that there is no will to break the consensus on the Danish proposal. Some countries ask that the debate is carefully recorded in the report from the meeting but it seems that this is all they can do.
So it is that the humpback whaling – a commercialised hunt at that – resumes in the North Atlantic.
Some may seek compensation in the fact that the actual number of whales being taken will not increase. But some of the fin whales are really ‘paper whales’ – they are big and awkward to manage. The Greenlanders probably don’t want them. The humpbacks are far more tasty!
The world whales have been spared the threat of the clocks being turned back fifty years and the IWC sanctioned commercial whaling, but it seems that the unnecessary slaughter of ten humpback whales and transparency may have been the price.
Dogged by continued accusations of corruption and vote buying and feeling unable to discuss the Chairman and vice-chairs proposal on the ‘Future of the IWC’ in the scrutiny of public view, the Commission took its horse trading behind closed doors.
As the US IWC Commissioner said yesterday that on speaking with other countries about the US proposal for its ASW hunters, most delegations expected some trade off for granting a quota. If this is what the US is willing to state dogged the issue of quotas for a recognized ASW hunt imagine what the double-dealing was like behind closed doors.
However, thankfully his lack of transparency did not prevent nations from seeing through the failing in the Proposal.
The prospect that the IWC could control the current renegade whaling was surely tempting to many, but the reality was that this Proposal was never going to do that. The devil, as they say, was always in the detail.
It effectively abandoned the precautionary principle for political science and indeed, this fundamentally flawed approach to the science underlined the flawed political approach to everything else, including international law, relying on ‘gentleman’s agreements’ for nearly all its substance. And all this without any guarantees on Scientific whaling or whaling under objection.
The whalers demonstrated that they had no intention, and showed no indication, that they would surrender these Treaty rights. Yes Japan dangled the prospect that it may scale down its Antarctic hunt, but it was never willing to surrender the principle of Article VIII because it can always rely on it to escalate quotas it in the future. Iceland was clear that it would never give up trade in whale products for this is the only way its whaling could hope to be profitable .
Japan’s actions on blue fin tuna at the recent CITES meeting shows how it can make that Convention dance to its tune. The prospect of a CITES down-listing of whale species following IWC commercial whaling quotas would have brought overwhelming pressure on any future IWC that thought it could regulate trade on a nod and a prayer.
The reality was also that the proponents of this deal were also already talking to South Korea to adapt the proposal to allow for their whaling to be recognized in the deal. So what was meant to tie in three countries was, within minutes, already being expanded to allow for more.
We did see progress made on the protection of small cetaceans and WDCS welcomed the initiative of Belgium to address the issue of their protection of this under represented group within the IWC.
The failure of the IWC to see through the application of Denmark for ten humpback whales, brought on behalf of Greenland, was indicative of the underlying problems that the IWC refuses to face up to in addressing aboriginal subsistence whaling.
Whilst WDCS welcomes the saving of live of minke and fin whales, the unnecessary deaths of these ten humpbacks will shame the IWC for years to come, especially if they end up on the dinner plates of tourists in expensive hotels.
Overall the IWC is at a turning point. WDCS believes that what may have happened here is that countries that came to the table to negotiate away the moratorium may have realised that this is not an point of principle that is worth sacrificing because those who would gain never intended to honour the approaches being made, - and for those who opposed any form of commercial whaling there is a realization that there is a need to challenge the fundamental principles of the IWC and find a way to end commercial whaling once and for all.
WDCS remains committed to working with all countries and delegations that will work to end commercial whaling and teh abuses of ASW once and for all.
25th June 2010: Despite huge concerns from many delegations, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has just adopted a new quota for Greenland's so-called aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW).
Greenland had requested an increase in its subsistence whaling quota of some 10 humpback whales a year, for a period of three years – the same proposal it has tabled unsuccessfully each year since 2007.
Despite repeatedly claiming, year after year, that it requires ever more whale meat, this year Greenland secured the quota by ‘whale-trading’ - agreeing to reduce its quota of minke and fin whales in exchange for 9 humpbacks even though it would get less, not more, whale meat out of the deal.
WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, has consistently argued that Greenland has failed to justify its claim to need more whale meat because so many of the whales it hunts end up on supermarket shelves rather than meeting the genuine subsistence needs of remote indigenous communities.
This year, WDCS provided new evidence to the IWC that hunters are ’whaling to order’ for a commercial processing company that supplies supermarkets, and that whale meat is being sold in fancy hotel restaurants frequented by foreign tourists.
Greenland’s willingness to barter humpback whales for fin and minkes is further evidence that it does not need more whale meat. The tonnage of whale meat from the 22 minke and 9 fin whales it is ‘surrendering’ far exceeds what they will get from 9 humpbacks.
We fully expect humpback meat to make it into the same commercial distribution chains as the other species, perhaps even at a premium price because its flavour is apparently preferable in Greenland.
Sue Fisher of WDCS says, “Despite agreeing to maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling earlier this week, the IWC has just voted for commercial whaling. It makes no sense for Greenland to give up tonnes of whale meat when it says it needs more, unless there are commercial motivations in play. In one vote the IWC may have irreparably damaged its credibility by overturning a long-established process for approving subsistence quotas and condoning commercial whaling in the name of subsistence.”
Fisher continues on the role of the EU who proposed a compromise that was ultimately adopted, “The EU came under huge pressure from Denmark to capitulate. Denmark has broken the back of the EU on this issue.”
“Having previously refused to abide by the EU Common Position, Denmark has clearly indicated that it is not here to represent the views of millions of Danes but people in Greenland and the Faroes who want to conduct commercial whaling. This is not the democracy of the European Union we were promised, but the dominance of one country over 24 others” Sue Fisher from WDCS concludes.
The EU has just proposed amending the Greenland proposal to 178 minke (that's down from 200 in current schedule, but already proposed by Denmark), 10 fin (down from 19) and 9 humpbacks.
Denmark has asked for five minute break to discuss with the EU.
The meeting resumes, with Denmark speaking and says it wishes to make 'small changes, some are substantive.
Putting 16 fin whales instead of ten, but with 'voluntary reduction of fins to 10 whales a year'.
There is some discussion of what footnotes actually say, but time is running out for ten humpbacks.
Costa Rica speaks of the value of whale watching and regrets this proposal.
Australia speaks that its support the principle of ASW, but the Danish proposal raises lots of concerns
Brasil endorses concerns of Costa Rica and Australia.
Iceland says there is only two forms of whaling, sustainable and unsustainable and therefore support
St Lucia speaks up for the proposal, attacking those who have problems, and then quotes the Sci Comm report and ASW report. St Lucia of course, chooses to ignore any of the concerns raised by countries on commercialization and non use.
St Lucia sounds like that the reduction of fin whales down from 19 fin whales is not appropriate? Now argues that IWC is ignoring the Scientific Committee. The spokesperson notes that Greenland is covered by ice and cannot grow food (thats not quite true actually - see latest edition of National Geographic with article on climate change and the growth in agriculture in Greenland - limited but, growing - ed)
Argentina agrees with Costa Rica.
St Vincent is convinced of the arguments. There is sound science involved for humpbacks. Many interventions from delegates that support ASW and they support the amended proposal.
I am now going to leave this to my able colleague above who is reporting this subject much better than I.
Sorry back in as some interventions now important -
Russian federation speaks passionately for the proposal
USA speaks in favour
Monnaco, says there are two criteria for it, science, wish it feels it is okay, and the second is real need, noting Greenland's highest indigenous income, rich fishery takes, and take of 4000 small cetaceans and therefore cannot rely on 20 year old 'needs statement' - asks withdrawing of last line of table of humpbacks, ie 90 tonnes of humpback will ham people, it seems totemic attempt to add tasteful whale species. We should look to proper regulation and need real needs statement, and Monnaco is not enthusiastic to support - clap from room.
Ecuador supports last speaker and other Latin countries.
New Zealand notes that this issue was put off at the last meeting as debate would be highly divisive and would prejudice the future discussions, and so intersessional was held. The people of Greenland have travelled a long way and we owe them to give them the quotas. (NZ speaks for killing humpbacks - ed). NZ is supporting because we follow the EU on this issue. 'Purity and absolutism cannot be the guide for an international organsiation that will work' - clap from pro-whalers (pro-whalers - ed?, yep! -ed 2)
St Kitts associates with NZ.
Chile associates with Ecuador and Latins (I think )
Kiribati supports the proposal
Korea pleased to support amended proposal
India: respects ASW, but are of view that IWC should work to reduce dependence on whales in a controlled manner. India maintains that there should be monitoring for use of whale products so to ensure only used for indigenous peoples.
Costa Rica: associates with Latins and notes Monnaco's comments.
sorry, missed one intervention
Palau supports, and complains that commissioners want to protect animals over people.
Norway: says that Greenland may well leave if not given quota (sorry I thought Denmark spoke for Greenland? ed)
Marshall Islands: associate with support for proposal
Chairman: sums up. I feel we better agree this if we want to progress the discussions on the future of the IWC, and asks countries that are not in favour should not block efforts to pass by consenus? Asks if silence means agreement
Brasil: speaks and asks for ten minute break. break agreed
All back into the meeting
Brasil: Brasil remains committed to the future of the IWC, and appreciates the mutual understanding and that this could prevail. We note that we have asked for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, we would like to see an undated statement of need from Greenland and fully understand ASW and respects cultures and will not block consenus
Australia: we support IWC regulated ASW, but we need a more work (as noted by Brasil) for needs statement and in spirit of cooperation Denmark does deliver, will not break consensus
Denmark, we have heard much today and from those who don't like the proposal. We are willing to consult wth range states in run up to 2012 negotiations, in two years. We shall consult at home on needs statement, having done so in 2007.
the humpback has been hunted in Greenland for a very long time, and therefore is part of culture as well as food supply. we have concentrated on need statement in tonnes as this is what we thought people wanted.
Mexico speaks: asks for its intervention to be recorded in Chairman's report
Monnaco: will not block vote on grounds of the wider debate
St Vincent: some countries patting themselves on their back for not standing against this. Greenland has absolute right to these whales and the 'condacending reluctance' of countries, they are not heroes for not standing in way of Greenland.
Chairman: I will note all views in my report, considering all views, proposed schedule amendment asks for adoption by consensus as revised by EU.
Proposal is adopted. Humpbacks will now die
Denmark says that discussion was acrimoneous, but thanks all. Grreenland Minsiter for hunting and fishing speaks: thank you, this now shows work of Sci Comm respected, and that there is no difference between certain groups of people and certain groups of animals. It is my 2nd time at IWC, and what I find out shocked me, thatt domestic and election issues put before our needs as indigenous peoples, and I strongly, strongly suggest that if IWC is going to work it should follow science.
Friday IWC 62
So here are the big questions for today…
Will the humpbacks that Greenland wants to hunt after 3 years of opposition be given to them.
Will the EU be the effective arbitrator in this.
Will more whales end up being killed after this meeting.
Is The Deal dead – has its vampire heart finally been staked or will it rise from its grave again in some new and more deadly form.
Is Agenda 3 open forever?
Part of team WDCS in the otherwise empty early-morning meeting room of IWC 62.
Okay, this is how it should be.
A country that has a group of people with a continuous nutritional and cultural need for taking whales should bring a needs statement to the IWC. This is reviewed and then if found to be correct, the Commission, on the advice of the Scientific Committee decides whether a species of whale can be hunted and allocates a quota. Unless you are Greenland.
This is how the system gets perverted -
If you are Greenland, you declare that you are an Inuit nation and that everybody in your country is going to be counted for the consumption of whale meat. You also, don't actually ask the IWC, you pass your demands on through Denmark and then threaten to leave if you don't get what you want.
Also you don't allow the IWC to think about numbers of whales with you request, you demand a 'tonnage' of whale meat and then point out that your ability to get the meat of the whales is limited by the experience of the hunters (sorry I thought these guys were experienced indigenous peoples? - ed) and whether they have a fishing boat, power boat, type of rifle etc. So you argue that the IWC has to use Greenland's figures for 'conversion' - that's how much meat can be taken off a whale - which seem much lower than any indigenous group. Strange that. But of course this leads to inflated numbers of whales being needed.
I was saying to colleagues today that the concept that you can bring a needs statement (or not) but make a claim and then say, ‘oh never mind - I quite like that one’ - makes this feel like this is more like clothes shopping when I know I need a 48 inch waste but have been buying 40 inch ‘for growth’, but in fact end up buying a 36 inch for the style and colour.
So what will happen today? We know that Greenland has said that this is about proving they can get what they want out of the IWC, so stand by for some 'whale-trading' just so Greenland can win this argument.
It seems whilst Greenland has been claiming a 40 inch waste for some time, but maybe today we shall see that its willing to agree to a 36inch waste because it likes the 'taste' of humpbacks both politically and in reality - well maybe the tourists in the hotels will too.
Norway is Shocked.
And so the NGOs finally come to speak in the Great Hall.
The speakers start with WWF. Its African spokesman makes a spirited contribution. He names no names but he is sharply critical of what goes on here. Now NOAH comes to the microphone (this is the main Norwegian animal welfare group). She speak
s clearly and firmly of her concern about Norway being known as a whaling nation, and would prefer they were known for their good animal welfare standards. She then explains how bad the statistics are from whaling and that 50% of the UK public are concerned about this. Norway is represented here by a small and declining industry here, she says. A ‘perceived stamp of approval for commercial whaling’ would aid the industry and leave it open to develop new products.
Headlines, she tells us, in Norway on Monday stated that the ‘IWC may open for commercial whaling’. She concludes that whaling is a cruel outdated and unnecessary activity. ‘Thank you’.
NGO speaker Siri Martinsen of NOAH
The Species Management Specialists spokesman contributes something on the sustainable use of animals and a lack, he claims, of scientific information to the contrary. He doesn’t like conservation management programmes very much and continues in a similar theme for some time. [The scribe fades out.]
A lady representing the NGOs in Latin American and the Caribbean come next. She explains all the hard work going on in these regions into whale watching activities. A wider Caribbean whale sanctuary is being developed. With respect to vote buying, this discredits the region, she says, and a thorough investigation should be made. If it can be established that such accusations have merit, then the IWC needs to take actions.
Another pro-use group follows. ‘So, where to from Agadir…?’ he asks. [Home soon many of us hope.] Various concepts follow and the scribe drifts away … cast a shadow/undermined/agreed by scientific committee/respectful dialogue…
The Cousteau Foundation comes next and reminds us of Jacques its founder. He was a great supporter of the moratorium. She goes on to highlight much of the good conservation work done by the IWC – ship strikes, whale watching, small potatoes and so forth but meetings about The Future have eaten up the time of the Commission, and its money and the work time of the Scientific Committee.
The Cousteau Society says we should make a plan and a budget for these animals. Greenpeace Japan comes next. He speaks in Japanese ‘as a citizen of Japan’. He speaks of the CBD meeting coming up in Japan but also notes Japans role at CITES in the blue fin tuna issue [a failed proposal to protect them]. There are many wrong doings – and he boldly lists some and receives a round of applause, mainly from the rear of the room.
The Vice Chair suggests that we are finished for the day but Norway calls for the floor. He is quite shocked by some of the accusations, he says – including accusations made about you Chairman and he queries who the Norwegian NGOs here represent. He suggests that a film referred to is a falsification. The Acting Chair comments that in making presentations NGOs are told not to make accusations to particular governments. Norway will take this matter up later under another item later he concludes and we stumble out into the evening sunshine.
Sue of WDCS and a friend