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!
Tales from the poolside.
So, whilst we wait for any news, or a session of the IWC that is not closed to us to accidentally break out, here are a few thoughts from poolside.
They call him Ali Baba.
They call the WDCS Director of Science ‘Ali Baba’ here.
As he wanders the sunny streets – and especially when he visited the local Souk (a vast market-place of high quality fruit and vegetables and much besides) – the local people call out to him ‘Hello’ (or ‘Bonjour’) ‘Ali Babba’, in a good natured/ sort of way.
We believe it is a reference to his beard, as Ali Babba apparently had a famous beard connection.
You may recall the story:
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: the beard connection
Once upon a time in
Ali Baba knew they were robbers and he hid up a tree. He knew they were robbers by their evil looks, rough beards and bad language.
Their leader rode up to a mountain side and throwing his arms wide called out the magic words: ‘Sustainable utilisation’ or possibly "Open sesame!"
And so the story begins….
…later in the narrative, one of the robbers disguises himself by shaving off his beard.
This doesn’t entirely explain why bearded westerners gain this epithet but it is a culturally relevant story!
The Evil of Cats
We are sorry – I know many of you are cat lovers - but the WDCS delegation here needs to sleep and the street cats of Agadir – sleek of form, long necked and short furred – have taken up residence in the stairwell of the apartment block where we are lodged.
The stone stairway makes for excellent acoustic enhancement and the caterwauling (note this is entirely the right term here) that goes on for relentless hours through the night is really not helping us gain the three hours that we’ve come to expect at IWC meetings. Cats that are being encouraged to vacate their beloved stairway easily allude their pursuers and move onto higher landings and once (in the middle of the night a scantily clad WDCS delegate has reached the upper tier in pursuit, the darling little fluff balls heads down the other way to hide in the noxious space under the stairs. All this is made the more interesting because there is no lighting over the 5 flights and the painful unearthly mewing continues despite the ‘chase’. (Disagreements have arisen with another WDCS delegate who loves cats, feeds our fellow residents and just wears earplugs (and of course pyjamas) at night.)
The street cats drink in swimming pools and live in the verdant edges to the apartments and hotel gardens and are fed by tourists and staff in most of Agadir’s restaurants where they are generally welcomed (saves having to mop the floor).
But really they are evil… speaking of which
Back to The Deal (Nothing to report but here’s a thought – with thanks to
"The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often compounded of a multitude of strands."
An evil cat of Agadir
Further to numerous complaints about the brief nature of the report from the first day of the IWC this morning (well two complaints – one from someone who is actually here), here are some more words from the pool-side where we have been enjoying the aquarobics with some young Russian ladies and their more mature husbands.
The day starts bright and sunny. It is not as hot as it was a couple of weeks ago during the Scientific Committee when temperatures were in the forties and scientists started to keel over like so many dominoes in the heat.
Today the climate is less Sahara and more
Delegates enter via the coffee area and under the somewhat surprising picture of a whale shark. The whale shark (which is not of course a whale, or indeed a dolphin but … essentially a shark) last featured at the IWC meeting in St Kitts and
Senior diplomats and politicians are present today. Ministers, even ex-prime ministers, and their delegations are meeting and greeting as the last few minutes before the meeting begins. Camera flash guns are going off all around – everyone is photographing everyone else. Cameras, mobile phones, TV cameras – all kinds of recording equipment in being excitedly waved in the air.
Sir Geoffrey of New Zealand
Various consultations can be seem going on; for example the Australian envoy for whales finds the UK minister, Richard Benyon MP, who is here to show his solidarity with the whales and they are soon deep in discussion. Senior delegates elsewhere shake hands or bow, and exchange small witticisms and congratulations or commiserations over the latest football scores.
Finally everyone finds their seats and some drumming begins from the far end of the room. Is it a troop of Belgian fan dancers? Sadly no.
A troop of Moroccan musicians and dancers in splendid traditional dress march in from the back. They are rewarded with applause.
Then Anthony Liverpool, the Vice Chair of the Commission, acting for the Chairman, who is unwell and wisely absent, thanks the King and the host country for their hospitality.
He welcomes everyone and the deputy major of Agadir and the Secretary General of Moroccan fisheries welcome everyone and wish the meeting well.
The chairman then rules it is a coffee break. No one challenges this, and delegations vie for beverages in the small hall way area under the watchful eye of the whale shark. Delegates bearing deeply secret pieces of paper bustle around avoiding NGO delegates.
After the tea break, the Secretary of the Commission, Dr Nicky Grandy, reads out a list of countries without voting rights; there are many. Delegates carefully note them down (not much point lobbying them if they cannot vote – should there be a vote).
Acting Chairman Liverpool is pleased with how the discussions have gone; he does not want discussions to be interrupted – commissioners need to be able to express their views without interruption. Delegates should therefore keep points of order to a minimum because it can be very disruptive. No second interventions from any country will be allowed until all countries that wish to speak have spoken. NGOs may address the meeting later (albeit briefly and giving delegates the opportunity to enjoy the small rather public rest rooms in the dungeon area). This is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. One individual per organisation will speak (no choruses).
Turning to the important issue of how delegates will be able to watch the important football matches happening over the next few days during the world cup, it seems Mr Liverpool has a cunning plan. He is going to close the commission for a couple of days. Various groupings (such as the European Union) will only need to send one representative into a series of bilateral working groups with the whaling nations, concerning The Deal.
And so it is, Gentle Reader, that we are all sent out (people on the podium calling for those not chosen to take part in discussions to leave the room as quickly as possible) and we head swiftly to the pool, because the fate of the whales is now in the hands of a few people who probably don’t like football.
Examination of the whale shark.
The meeting opened and shortly after this the meeting closed.
There was just enough time for some speeches of welcome and a coffee break. There will now be two days of private meetings about The Deal.
Along the sea front people are doing the same kinds of things that happen on sea fronts all over the world and the red bricks of the promenade are starting to heat up in the early morning sun. There are some joggers and just a few swimmers. Other people are moving their towels into place on sun-loungers to reserve them. Jet skis are being hauled into place and on a quiet part of the red bricks, a small troop of local youths, including one girl, who is modestly dresses in an all-over track suit with her hair covered, are practicing kick-boxing, kicking a pair of padded bats held high in the air by their trainer.
Two patrol men riding two-wheeled Segways weave through the throngs of tourists and local people strolling on the promenade. Sunday is a holiday for all and the hard sand adjacent to the sea is filled from one end of the bay to the other with local boys playing football. (The IWC is not of course the only international competition happening at this point and here football is a major interest.)
Some newly planned palm trees provide a little shade as delegates migrate along the promenade from their seaside hotels to the Conference Centre of the Golden Dunes.
Outside the conference centre today there two types of police in attendance, some standing behind the small trees that line the pavements. (They are not seeking camouflage, just enjoying the little shade that the trees offer.) The men in the smart khaki-coloured uniforms carry a two handled baton on their belts but the equally smart policemen in blue uniforms also have revolvers at their hips. Across the car park outside the conference entrance, tents are being moved into place – perhaps to take the overspill at coffee time – and inside a closed commissioners meeting is occurring in a hot room in the basement that we shall call the dungeon.
This cramped meeting of the commissioners (potentially representing 88 countries) only (give or take an aide or two) is expected to be looking at a revised version of the Chair’s proposal (The Deal). The last few days in earlier closed sessions were mainly devoted to discussions about this and Saturday may have been taken up with trying to draft something new – something more sweetly sugared to suit the tastes of a majority who might then vote it into place.
So what can we expect to see over the coming next few days?
Well either there will or will not be a new proposal to discuss, if there is (or perhaps even if there is not, we can expect countries to state their positions and at this meeting countries that have long been allies in their opposition to whaling may fall out. In particular the support from the
The less surprising support from the whaling nations (or at least
The skies here are full of birds. Squadrons of swifts in formation dissect the air shrilly screaming and the fragrant fish-processing docks at the northern end of the wide sandy bay help to ensure that there are many gulls, but there are also a range of species that Europeans can easily recognise, including house sparrows and collared doves (which are nesting in the palm trees along the red brick promenade). Then there are some more exciting avian sightings even in the heart of the tourist sector including a lot of kestrels and, rather surprisingly, an encounter in the middle of a hotel garden with a young booted eagle.
Fledgling kestrels just outside the conference centre.
Some of the gulls can be seen at night emulating bats and feeding on the fat and juicy insects that swarm around the powerful spotlights that line the shore. Their meals no doubt include a few of the large and winged cockroaches, which are poised to take over the world, when it finally become clear that human dominion has failed.
The gulls and the small kestrels seem to spend a lot of time sparring. The kestrels are perhaps a little smaller and but are more formidably armed with hooked beaks and talons. Both species seem to rearing their fledgling at this time and I suspect that the kestrels may have a less than holy interest in the young gulls. Perhaps as this is
The small kestrels state the following: ‘We should stop our constant arguing. This is making the bird community dysfunctional; we are at an impasse!’
The gulls listen with interest, their small brains hoping to find a way forward that might protect their precious and demanding chicks from the rapacious kestrels.
The kestrels continue: ‘What we suggest is that you allow us to take some of your chicks; not enough to harm your population obviously, just enough to satiate our appetites and allow our population to thrive.’
The gulls look less impressed, but the kestrels press their point.
‘If you agree to this we can have peace; you can carry on making that bloody awful noise that you make at five am in the morning and we can continue to… talk about other ways to improve things for you. We would also stop taking some of the other smaller birds that we now prey on. Perhaps we would even conserve them.’
One of the gulls, who perhaps has been out too long in the hot African sun, moves a little close to the chief negotiator of the birds of prey. ‘Tell me more’, he says ‘we have argued too long. I, for one, respect your right to eat us. Let us reach out across the cultural divide, let us be friends’.
Some of the other gulls now gathered in a crowd for what might appear to be some kind of a conference are mewing loudly.
‘Don’t be such a nit!’ one calls but he is hushed by others from his northern colony.
The compromise minded gull moves closer to the falcons ‘How many of us do you wish to eat’ he says. ‘If it is less than you do now, that might give comfort to my brothers and aid this ‘peace process’!’
The kestrels say that it will be ‘sustainable’ (that is seen as very important and many gulls are now nodding) and according to the calculations – because they will have to expend less energy hunting and quarrelling - they will need less gull babies than now.
The calculation is complex apparently and chief gull negotiator now moves forward to hear the details (something about a choice of tuning levels for the kill quota algorithm) and in doing so comes within striking range of the other side and, because they just cannot help themselves, true to their nature, they lunge, they grab, they rend and they eat him all up.
Assalam o alaikum Gentle Reader. Greetings from IWC 62 in Agadir, Morroco.
Whilst we try to make sure that our diaries from IWC meetings include light-hearted elements, the nature of the forthcoming meeting is going to make this difficult. The Chairman’s proposal for peace or compromise (or however you wish to dress it up – we shall call it THE DEAL here) is a proposal for the re-endorsement of commercial whaling – you will find discussion about the fuller implications of this elsewhere on the WDCS websites - and this is deadly serious. Nonetheless we shall seek to inform and entertain.
Our location is Agadir. This is seaside resort in
The ‘Golden Dunes Conference Centre’ is where the IWC has already been holding its cycle of annual meetings for the last 3 weeks. The meetings so far have been closed and have consisted of two weeks of scientific committee meetings and then some technical workshops, including further discussions on The Deal.
Whilst WDCS has been in attendance, we are not able to report from these closed meetings until the Commission’s plenary – the Sixty Second Annual meeting - which opens on Monday 21st. Meanwhile, let us tell you a little more about the locality. Whilst the ‘Golden Dunes’ may now have disappeared below the touristic developments; this is a friendly place and there are neighbouring towns which can be easily reached (for example the lovely Essauira and silver-edged Tifnit) where Moroccan architecture and other aspects of its culture shine through. But back to Agadir, the new red brick promenade (still under construction at its northern end – providing some interesting trip hazards for the unwary) is the focus in the cooler evenings of an amazing cavalcade of cultures. If you want to meet the locals and experience the carnival of nationalities here, take a stroll on a cool Sunday evening. Morocco is popular with the French, the British and the Russians; and flocks of them come and nest in the numerous hotels along the shore; they browse in the numerous souvenir and craft emporia (small camels made of camel skin being one purchase option) and feed in the many cafes and small restaurants. Many now come and stare at the signs outside the conference centre announcing the IWC is here – indeed it seems to have become something of a tourist attraction.
One strong element of local culture which is certainly alive here is the fine and ancient art of bartering – and perhaps this is relevant to the IWC meeting to come – here if you want a small model camel, a taxi-ride or, in fact, to purchase pretty much anything, you expect to have to haggle. And if you start this process, you should not expect to walk away without concluding a purchase; that would be seen as rude. IWC member nations take note!
And of course we shall be haggling in the IWC. One side is saying ‘we will accept your interest in conservation of whales, in whale watching and even in issues relating to the smaller cetaceans (the small whales, dolphins and porpoises which are disputed as relevant to the IWC’s work)… if you accept our right to kill some whales for profit’.
In reply, some are saying something like, ‘that is kind of you, how many whales would you like; we would like to see less whales killed than now and it must of course be sustainable’.
Others, of course, express a view that the whales should be left alone!
And so it is that under the strong Moroccan sun in a meeting hosted (we anticipate) in part in a tent, the whale’s future will be bartered.