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.
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.
That's it for Thursday, no vote on Greenland, but maybe tomorrow, but the Mainichi Daily reports that , 'domestic consumption of whale meat -- long considered a
source of protein for Japanese -- has been on the decline. According to
the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries statistics, domestic
whale meat consumption dropped from 230,000 tons in fiscal 1962 to
5,000 tons in fiscal 2008. As of the end of 2009, 4,246 tons of whale
meat -- almost equivalent to total annual consumption -- remains in
So please, Japan, stop pushing this huge pile of whale meat up a hill. I am sure there are legitimate things you could spend you hard earned overseas aid on.
The US notes that ASW should be replaced with discussions of indigenous peoples, and that they should be "removed form the debate about commercial whaling, where they have been used as bargaining chips in other debates."
What the delegate for the US does not mention is the fact that it was the US that put ASW quotas into the Table 4 of the Chairman's proposal and mixed the two issues in the first place.
Okay, back to the issue at hand. The US says indigenous whalers need some ten years block quotas so that commercial and scientific whaling can be addressed separately.
The US accuses other countries of wanting to keep this issue open because they want to use this as a bargaining tool. The delegate says that other countries have said to the US that they cannot grant their quota without some trade off.
Okay that's honest at least, - and maybe revealing a little more to the world than most countries would actually like to have been said.
The US has walked into a trap here at the IWC. In wanting to get its ASW quota through, its allowed Japan to try and open the agenda item 3. 'The Future Process'. This of course means that they get to debate the issue of commercial whaling again.
Now how do they get out of this?
Actually, they are asking to postpone the NGOs statements (which should have happened yesterday) so that they can speak.
Oh, getting messy now!
If anyone wants to see this live, you can here by the way
Norway has now just pointed out that Agenda Item 3 is open, and claims that anyting can be discussed.
The Chairman is now trying to muster support for delaying the US presentation until tomorrow.
The US complains that the debate is stopping it from actually giving its presentation.
The Chairman notes that the US should be allowed to present, and by teh way Agenda 3 is still open. (ouch!)
It looks like the humpbacks may have been stitched up, more to come. This is going to be odd blog as its going to refresh as the presentation by Denmark at the IWC takes place.
The USA, who sought to 'slam dunk' their ASW quotas through with everyone elses, may have been outmaneuvered by the Chairman and whalers.
Denmark has been able to get its application presented on its own and having made promises to reduce quotas on other species, now seems to be pushing ahead with its quotas.
In its presentation, Greenland notes that groups (WDCS and WSPA) have mentioned that they do have commercial elements in their hunts, but (and maybe reflecting on Loftsson's comments), "no Greenlander will be a millionaire from whaling".
Now they attack the EU for 'petty domestic politics and being the early hunters of 'their ' whales.
Now argue for trade in whale products - I feel the slide towards commercial whaling getting strong here.
Now Greenland threatens to leave if they are not given their demands, saying the results of his discussion will determine this issue - i.e. "give us our whales or we walk".
My real problem with this is that our [WDCS]investigations show that some Greenlanders are abusing the rights of those that really need to hunt. This proposal when it goes through will make their futures more tenuous.
Ah, and now we hear the arguments for Humpbacks, on the grounds that its 'opportunistic'
Now the presentation discusses commercialization: basically saying that whales are hunted all over the place and meat needs to be moved around the country,
Grenades cost $1400, and some whales need 2 grenades, and crews need to be paid.
Supermarkets are important for moving food around the country, 'but all sharing is with greenlanders'
They have just said that 'It is true that commercial and ASW are intertwined, there is no difference'. But Greenland argues that "profit maximization is not the driver in Greenland".
Now we have argument for tonnage needed (that's tonnage for hotels as well of course, as teh WDCS report indicates).
Greenland now argue for multispecies management of species.
Now Denmark has just moved to put the vote off until tomorrow. Lets see what happens now
So AFP reports that Kristjan Loftsson, Iceland's millionaire whaler, doesn't really see the difference between whales and fish, "whales are just another fish". He went onto say, "If they are so intelligent, why don't they stay outside of Iceland's territorial waters?"
"Whales are just another fish for me, an abundant marine resource, nothing else," he said.
This is the man that is dragging Iceland through the mire with the international community. Whilst he is rich and can wallow in his millions when Icelanders around him suffer, he seems determined to ruin the Icelandic tourism industry making Iceland more of pariah.
Loftsson is also lobbying hard to stop Iceland from joining the EU. Not because its bad for Iceland and Icelanders - indeed membership would be a huge boost in support for the economy, but because its likely to be bad for him and his millions as the EU has a ban on whaling.
Never has one man stood to gain so much by denying so many others.
PS. Loftsson waffles on about killing whales with exploding grenades - well have a look at this picture for the truth. Full AFP story.
If you want to read more of the rant from this millionaire, see AFP
You will see in our previous blog that Denmark states that 'the presidency said she spoke on the behalf of the 25 member countries but really this is Denmark speaks for the Faroe and Greenland, so the claim that Denmark present is part of the EU family should be taken with a big pinch of salt.'
Now Denmark is meant to be bound by the EU Common position and this is a breach of that. What is the Commission going to do now?
And what about the rest of Denmark. We know from the number of protest postcards we have received on the issue of whaling from Denmark that this is not something they take lightly.
So how come Denmark does not speak for the Danes, and only the whalers?