‘Exposing your Smalls in public’.
So where were we – ah yes in the gloom of a vast meeting chamber of a big international meeting room where ‘nothing is decided until everything is decided’ … or possibly just ‘nothing is decided’.
As we dream of freedom we are still reviewing that part of the Scientific Committee report that deals with the smaller cetaceans – a disputed part of the IWC canon of work because the pro-whaling nations do not accept that that IWC has competency for these species.
Finland now takes the floor and rather bravely highlights the Japanese catches of, for example and in particular, Dall’s porpoises. We noted last year, says the commissioner, new abundance estimates which went into unsurveyed areas and then Japan said it was looking at new management approaches such as potential biological removals to manage these takes. He adds that the scientific committee has advised that catch limits should be much lower. He asks Japan what progress has been made.
However, before they can answer, St Vincent and the Grenadines predictably questions the authority of the IWC to look at small cetaceans.
Italy chimes in with the notion that the work of the Scientific Committee’s sub committee on smalls is paramount and allows us to achieve co-ordinations. [I think we go that right.]
The UK shyly (and looking a little battered today) thanks the Scientific Committee chair for its work on smalls and notes that it maintains its concerns on Dall’s porpoises.
Ireland then makes a long, detailed, bold and wise intervention on smalls. The gist of which is to encourage this work to continue and highlight concerns on the boto (the Amazon river dolphin) and note that they too are concerned about the Dall’s porpoises. And they thank Australia for its generous contribution to the Small Cetaceans fund [one of the few thanks that Australia gets this meeting].
Japan now takes the floor and mildly dismisses the Commission - we will talk about this in the ongoing IWC negotiations; if you need more information please speak to us OUTSIDE of the IWC says the Alternate Commissioner. [There could be a long queue in the coffee break if there is one.]
France is concerned about the situation of the vaquita.
Korea comments that small cetaceans are outside the competence of IWC and notes that some 340 finless porpoises caught in a fishery in the Korean Straights are not a directed take. They are undertaking research on this.
Luxembourg very elegantly congratulates the SC on its excellent work on small cetaceans. Every year we speak about Dall’s and we must take measures to address this he adds in French.
Mexico loses his mind
Mexico suddenly breaks into the debate. Sorry to speak again says the distinguished Commissioner. He is having technical difficulties. ‘We need electricity to run the computer, and I don’t have any. Since I don’t have memory any more I need my computer to make interventions but somehow he recalls something to say and he thanks the US for their support for the vaquita.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is very concerned about the distinguished commissioner from Ireland commenting on management. This matter should not be part of the group.
The Chairman himself now mildly intervenes and reminds the Commission that this is one of the 33 issues which are part of the ongoing IWC negotiation on the future of the IWC and in doing so encourages the Parties to move on.
But Carmen the Spanish Comissioner still takes to the floor – it is important for this work [on smalls] to continue she comments.
[And so ‘smalls’ is finished for this year and many fine recommendations in the report of the Scientific Committee have been agreed.]
We move on to the Scientific Committee report on its views on its future. Arne Bjorge resplendent in silver beard and red bow tie tells us about the new Scientific Committee handbook [perhaps this will explain to us the differing roles of the Head of Science and the Chair of Science].
[The US is kneeling at the feet of the UK towards the back of the room (is this a coordination or more lobbying?). The US Commissioner nominate gustures wildly and points at a piece of green paper that can only be the Greenland proposal.]
There are no comments on the handbook or related matters and Arne ploughs on. We touch on surveys in Antarctica and thanks to Japan for supporting the SOWER surveys.
The appointment of a new Vice Chair for the Scientific Committee is noted: Kitikarto of Japan has been appointed.
The next chair of the SC is Debbie Palka of US as Arne, having served a record 4 years is retiring. He gets a round of applause and fiddles with his bowtie and smiles from the big screens.
The Australian Scientist notes that Arne got more excited as he moved to the end of his delivery of the Scientific Committee speech. He notes that Arne has been an excellent chair including taking on chairing of very difficult sub committees personally.
Mexico also thanks Arne; as does the US. Their acting Commissioner notes Arne was once his deputy. He says I don’t think people realise how difficult this role is; buy him a cool drink.
Then we bounce back to the report of the Conservation Committee reports on Ship Strikes: Belgium notes the new database.
UK very eloquently congratulates the Conservation Committee for its work and praises Australia for its major contribution to the work of the Conservation Committee [another of those rare thank-yous to our antipodean friends] and reports back to the plenary on the small small cetacean workshop on climate change which they have been trying to fund raise for in the background of the great humpback non-debate.
They note that thanks to the generosity of Australia, WWF, Austria, the US and WDCS there is enough in the kitty for the small small workshop to happen – although we have not quite reached to total sought, so further contributions are welcomed.
Luxembourg associates with the UK and agrees that the small small workshop is important and wishes it well.
Under the agenda item ‘catches from non-member nations’, nothing happens. [Not a word about the expanded bowhead hunt in the ex-IWC member nation Canada.]
Similarly the report of the infractions committee which notes the accidental [and illegal] take of a bowhead calf by the Alaskan Inupiat people passes without comment.
[It is late. It is hot. Commissioners are tired and the Chair is keen to finish.]
Achieving the Practical Installation of NGOs
The report from the IWC’s Finance and Admin Committee passes with little comment. We note that Commissioners are not keen to have their names and email addresses on the IWC website in case anyone contacts them [or spams them as one NGO did last year by accident]. No, Commissioners would much rather have small private meetings and not be disturbed by the rest of the world.
There is some discussion about trying to make the IWC carbon neutral. Fat chance if we keep having large international meetings.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned about the fees that have to be paid to allow it to attend the IWC and blesses the meeting with a long list of countries that pay less than it does.
NGO fees for attendance are noted (many hundred of pounds for the use of an uncomfortable chair).
Australia then takes to the floor to explain that the 1.5 million Australian dollars that it is donating to the IWC will be donated via the existing IWC payments structure.
[By the way we are now writing this at midday in WDCS HQ on Friday and the Children are still singing outside – four hours of singing and cheering. What energy!]
We move to the issue of who will replace Bill Hogarth as the new Chairman of the IWC. Sir Geoffrey of New Zealand is waving his flag with enthusiasm. He booms out that he would like to nominate Christain Maquiera of Chile. And Anthony Liverpool of Antigua of Barbuda is made Vice Chair. There is a heady outbreak of applause.
Portugal becomes chair of the IWC Advisory Committee, another group that meets in private, but we are pleased with his appointment as the Portuguese Commissioner is kind and wise.
The Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee is now Australia. [Might this explain why they were so quiet this year – they needed to gain support for this position? We can only widely speculate and peak through the cracks behind closed doors.]
The Chilean Commissioner Snr Maquiera now speaks to thank the Commission for the great honour it does him in making him the Chairman. He says that this is in recognition of the hard work and trajectory of the Latin Countries here. He thanks the outgoing chair for his leadership.
Maquiera does not support the status quo. He notes that 2010 is the UN Year of Biodiversity. He says he intends to take a hard look at the IWC and how it works.
Japan [the outgoing vice chair of the Commission] reminds us of normalization [which we have heard surprisingly little of at this meeting] and the [infamous] St Kits and Nevis declaration which dedicated us to normalizing the IWC [and made various ridiculous statesments about food security, but he does not say this.] He refers to Sir Geoffrey’s earlier mountaineering metaphors [will someone please explain to the scribe sometime whether Sir G is playing IWC bingo ; trying to mention climbing mountains as often as possible in international meetings] and the Japanese Commissioner recalling the bottle of Mount Difficulty wine offered by New Zealand, now offers himself Mount Compromise.
We move through a few administrative matters and then suddenly the US Commissioner nominate pops up to ask if we could decide here and now if the timing of the Scientific Committee relative to the Commission can be changed before the next annual meeting.
This is an issue because the Committee meets just before the Commission and this gives very little time for anyone to read and understand [and in some cases translate] its many pages of findings before they are discussed.
Up on the stage the outgoing chair of the commission and the Secretary turn bleary eyes towards the US Commissioner Nominate. No they say. We have to come back to this.
We move to the issue of where the IWC will meet next. Morocco [sadly without the use of a power point – we always enjoy the welcome videos] notes that it is only 700 miles from Madeira and offers to host.
But before this can be accepted France starts to ask if the NGOs could perhaps get better value for money for their large fee but Chairman Bill swivels around in his chair to stop this line of discussion until we have agreed our next venue.
Guinea and some others speak up to support Morocco. [WDCS dreams of a cool tent in an oasis at the base of some huge hill with the meeting venue on top of it.]
It is agreed.
Madam Secretary then tells us that she is sorry, but that she has worked out what the schedule might be for next years’ meeting as we are finishing so swiftly [to avoid any unnecessary discussion here of matters of controversy or substance – but she does not say this]. But the plan for next year will look much like this one’s.
France finally gets to make his NGO-related comment. He says that we need to think about their ‘practical installation’. They should be given
i. [proper] speaking rights; and
Many NGOs at the back of the room balanced on uncomfortable chairs with laptops cooking their genitals, wrapped in cables and tripping over each others’ bags gently clap. As do some delegates under the table until they are admonished by their Commissioners.
[The NGOs pay £500 for their first delegates and then £250 more for each other person coming as part of their delegation. And for this they get a badge and the aforementioned chair, but no reliable source of electricity and no table. In the bad old days they rarely got access to water either but that seems to have improved and at this meeting they get wonderful pastries, cakes, fruit and occasional excursions into the sunshine too.]
No one associates with France and we move on.
We move to the final actions….
Portugal says good bye to us all. The US thanks him. Many people thank Chairman Bill.
He makes his concluding remarks – this includes thanking the US whale team including Deputy Doug. He refers back to the Russian intervention on small groups in smoking pools and then ‘takes us on a train’ ride that has taken him from Cambridge to London and on to Madeira…
Then [quite remarkably] he expresses his opposition to the Commission ‘holding natives hostage’. [Is this a reference to Greenland or the fact that Japan can block the quota for the US native hunters. Or perhaps both.]
Then he thanks Nicky Grandy [Madam Secretary] and says we must hitch up our goats and get going.
He receives a standing ovation. And the meeting is closed.
The hoards of secretariat staff who have been waiting anxiously in the wings now invade the magma chamber [as they do at the end of every commission meeting] to collect the flags of all the nations before they can be nicked.
And so IWC 61 ends with a whimper not a bang. The fate of humpbacks in Greenland is not resolved but, frankly, looks bleak.
Many readers will have noticed that WDCS has strongly opposed this addition to the Greenland hunts and we have received much criticism for this position (as have certain delegations) on the grounds of opposing the legitimate needs of native peoples. This is not correct. WDCS does not oppose properly regulated ASW that meets a genuine nutritional subsistence need of indigenous people and conforms to the requirements of the IWC. There are many problems with this humpback proposal and Greenland’s whaling in general that we will not detail here, but by deferring a decision at this meeting and transferring the politics a few months ahead to another meeting, the IWC is making itself look even more dysfunctional.
More positively as we close the web blog (and pictures are still to follow) as ever the scribe thanks the editor; and this year Team WSPA who helped keep the blog on line [thank you Jo] and Team WDCS amused.
The biggest thank you this year goes to the UK delegation who, under difficult circumstances, magnificently championed the humpbacks and withstood huge (inappropriate) pressure from many countries that should have been their allies.
We thank all our colleagues in our NGO sister organizations all over the world, for all their efforts, friendship and solidarity. It was wonderful to see the return of some old friends this year, but we greatly missed a couple of beloved members of the usual WDCS team. But you were with us in spirit and always on the end of a skype-chat. Kate, you are a marvel. Please now get some sleep! And finally, D.J – friend, coordinator, tour-operator and saver of local dogs - you rock!
Courages mes braves and good bye.
‘Exposing your Smalls in public’.