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