Just a reminder, as we start day two of blogging from the IWC annual meeting, that our reports are not verbatim but generally paraphrased. We endeavour to give the gist of what was said and strive for accuracy. We welcome corrections and comments. Readers will also notice that blogs often get revised as we go along.
The day starts dull and soggy. Delegates living in hotels with lesser numbers of stars pass by those breakfasting in the Hotel de France.
Even the gulls – normally pristine in their white plumage – seem a little bedraggled today, but they linger outside the meeting hoping for the odd wayward snack. There are no protestors outside yet but significant crash barriers have appeared on the road that leads towards the meeting hotel.
The issue of voting rights continues to be in play here. Who will be able to vote and is there really a problem for some getting visas?
Inside the meeting room the technicians are once again rehearsing the Japanese video about ‘violence on the high seas’. This was previously rehearsed during a coffee break yesterday. (In effect this means delegates coming into the room are getting a sneak preview of what will follow. One slide describes the tactics of the ‘SS’.)
In the pigeon holes we find a paper labelled ‘IWC/63/12 ‘Proposal to Establish an Ad Hoc Subsistence Working Group, Submitted by Demark, Russian Federation and the United States. The paper gives draft terms of reference for the group and an instruction to the Scientific Committee to provide advice to the next Commission meeting on ‘revising the current 5-year period for adopting’ the aboriginal quotas. We shall come back to this.
There is also a rather nice colour leaflet from WDCS in circulation entitled ‘Marine Debris and Cetaceans – a important role for the IWC’ (we apologise for the grammar slip in the title; someone was tired but the leaflet is otherwise jolly interesting).
There is a very brief delay in the opening of the meeting as Chairman Oosthuizen has misplaced his spectacles. Meanwhile European nations are notably whizzing around the floor co-ordinating their positions. Eventually the delegations settle, and the Chairman introduces the promised presentation on Sea Shepherd (SS). The presentation includes some audio of people shouting and the quiet voice of the Japanese Commissioner cuts in to describe the ‘violent activities’. Slides show the various boats being used and one details the ‘Harmful Assault Weapons of the SS’ which include ropes and cables to entangle propellers claims the Commissioner. The Animal Planet camera crew is also identified in the images. Despite the earlier rehearsals, the audio with the footage drowns out some of the comments made by the Commissioner. Amongst other things, Japan describes how the projectiles from the SS have penetrated nets and cloths used to try to protect their vessels.
Unfortunately one of the two giant screens at the front of the meeting fails part way through the presentation. The Japanese delegate goes on to name individuals involved and concludes with an invitation for people to contact them for more information…
No sorry, not concluded: another delegate explains that Japan’s research activities had to be truncated and that no lawful nation could condone such acts. Five activists are now on Japan’s international wanted list and arrest warrants have been issued for them.
Sometime later, Russia takes the floor to ask the two countries that Sea Shepherd is registered and flagged to, to comment. It is important to work with mass media and National Geographic that made the documentary about SS. He adds that we did not see in the [documentary] films the actions of violence shown here today.
The Netherlands states that this item should not be on the agenda of the IWC but on the agenda of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They support peaceful demonstration including on the high seas. Safety at Sea must never be jeopardised. They have had several bilaterals with Japan in which they have stated these views. Safety of human life at sea is the higherst priority.
There is also concern this morning that Vicky may have been thrown off the UK delegation for bad behaviour (perhaps associating with the wrong NGOs), as she is nowhere to be seen. Several NGOs have offered to take her onto their badges, if this is the case. It was notable yesterday that she was playing a significant role in the proceedings as virtually all delegates stopped to pat and stroke her.
Kiribati congratulations the Chairman on the assumption of his role and supports the position taken by Japan.
The Australian Minister speaks: Australia shares the same safety perspective as Japan. He stresses that the IMO is the appropriate forum for safety at sea.
Korea regrets hearing these kinds of reports over and over again. We last had a resolution by consensus on this in 2007. We all recognise different views on whaling and the right to disagree. As a student of international law, he sees the issue as one of utilising marine recourses… from a legal point of view he must agree with Iceland that as long as it is sustainable from the view of science it is OK. He continues for sometime, getting increasingly loud… every NGO and contracting government must comply with the rules of the IWC and the use of force or violence is strictly prohibited under international law and cannot be condoned….
The Chairman notes that he needs interventions to be kept short. He then reads out a long list of those wanting to speak and repeats that Japan wishes to speak on this. He will close the speaking list after Iceland (and before Japan).
Here we will now merely note who speaks and who they associate with. Morocco associates with Japan’s concerns. Mexico basically associates with those saying that this should be considered by the appropriate bodies and countries. New Zealand takes safety at sea very seriously. Norway expresses its unconditional sympathy for the Japanese scientists and stresses the legal and moral responsibility of the flag and port states.
The USA says that safety is a high priority and associates with Australia and others.
Portugal says that whilst many believe that the research programme does not conform to international standards, safety at sea is still important.
Our focus should not be on the terrorist organisation being discussed but on the flag and port states. He is disappointed by the statements coming from those nations.
Chairman: So Japan why do you wish to keep the item open and do you have any response to comments from the floor.
Japan says again that violence must not be condoned but condemned and this is relevant to the IWC and we should ask the relevant countries to take action. The IWC has carried out various measures but the terrorist activities continue and are escalating. We are working on a message that we might all agree here so please give me a couple of days to work on this.
The Chair will keep the agenda item open.
St Kitts and Nevis asks for the floor and ‘asks a pointed question’ for the flag and port nation…
Chairman: The speaking list was closed.
St Kitts and Nevis. But the matter remains open, perhaps we can seek comments from them when the matter is next discussed. The Chairman agrees.