Thursday, June 24. 2010
The Voice of Civil Society becomes a whisper
Outside small red taxis are zooming around. Delegates and many non-governmental observations [NGOs] representing conservation groups and other organsations emerge from their various hotels. The smart security police line the pavements, and security guards check badges as delegates enter. Not very far away tourists of many nations enjoy the sea front, common bulbuls sing their morning songs and cats rest after a long night of ‘singing’.
We, however, are back in the vast meeting room with its randomly directed spot lights, snares of electricity cables, and small flags marking the places of each nation. We have to be very efficient today stresses the Acting Chair speaking from the podium at the front of the room, because we are very much behind schedule.
Item number 3 remains open, as requested by Commissioners and the Acting Chair says that he is still working on some ideas on how to move forward during the ‘period of reflection’. He urges people to be brief and to the point and associate with others where appropriate.
Do the NGO interventions that were cancelled from the end of yesterday start this mornings’ session, as might be logical? No. They will be at the end of this new day. [Unless presumably something more important comes up and, of course, the later in the meeting they speak the less relevant their comments will be – if at all] . The finance and administration committee will meet at lunch time, so that is something to look forward to, as the NGOs will be excluded from this. Excluding NGOs (sometimes called civil society) is popular here.
He then draws our attention to two new green documents that relate to quotas (see last blog entry).
There is then some discussion on what agenda items are open and why. This may prove to be a critical issue.
Argentina assumed that point 3 was left open and this, she says, was because we needed to work out how to handle the reflection time; but, she here addresses the Chair, you also mentioned 6 and we should leave 6.3 for tomorrow. It would not be best to put them off to the very end of the meeting, in case commissioners need to leave; we should finish them today. For 3 we understand that all that is left is the period of reflection discussion and 6 we should finish today.
Acting Chair: I am keeping 6.3 just for consultation, we have up until Friday to complete our meeting, to ensure that we maintain the [good] atmosphere we have here. I want to provide as much opportunity for consensus.
USA: Good morning and thank you. We agree with the Commissioner from Argentina that his is very important and we support your desire for consensus. If we don’t have this discussion today we might not have as much time tomorrow. I don’t mind that you hold the agenda open but then perhaps we could have a discussion here during the day.
Mexico: the only thing we have pending is how we use this [intersessional] break; we are not prepared to consider any other proposal under this agenda item.
Chair: Yesterday I suggested a strong period of reflection and another reason for holding agenda item 3 is how to deal with this period. This is another reason for keeping this open. He seeks clarification from the US
She explains it is 6.3 she wants kept open. Sometimes the discussion in the plenary really helps us, she adds.
Australia: we received two [green] documents yesterday – one of these states it is for agenda 3 but the USA says this is under 6,3. I agree with Argentina and we look forward to your discussions. The Chairs’ Proposal document [aka The Deal] did not reach consensus. The new US/Denmark document is a proposal for amendment ofd the schedule – under our [IWC] rules it should have been proposed 60 days ahead fo this meeting.
USA: There is no doubt that everyone saw this 60 days ago. You could have it at various points on the agenda – we could avoid all business and recite the things we always to. We came here to see how to move the IWC forward and we see this as part of this.
Chair: we have a packed agenda, we need time to consult and be engaged. I don’t want to spend too much time to look at these items.
Brazil: agenda 3 should be open but only to discuss the period of reflection.
Denmark: we have two proposals – we would prefer some hours to allow consideration.
Iceland: we have two proposals in front of us; one of these caught us by surprise. He associates with Denmark.
Costa Rica aligns itself with Australia – item three is only about period of reflection.
Chair – so we will engage in consultation and engagement and now do I have your support to move on. It seems that he does as no one else speaks [and to the scribe at least this matter remains confused. There is obviously an argument that the US does not agree with, that the proposal are illegal as they were not provided in time.]
Back to the Scientific Committee
We move to revised management procedures (the device that provides catch quotas for commercial whaling) and Dr Debbie Palka, the Chair of the Scientific Committee, takes us through this complicated text.
The distinguished scientist from Belgium comments on this focusing on the importance of the RMP. He notes that additional human induced removals have now been added to the specifications of the RMP. Belgium strongly endorses this.
North West Pacific minke whales
Dr Debbie presents the report clearly and crisply. (A vast amount of work – including days of discussion at high level in the scientific committee is detailed in just a few minutes.)
Japan refers to annex G1 of something that probably only he has in front of him by way of giving Japan’s position. He is pleased with co-operation with Korea.
The Scientific Committee report is approved and we move on.
The Conservation versus Management Plans
Soon we are swimming through the report of the Conservation Committee. The distinguished scientist from France describes considerable survey work around the world that his country is contributing to.
We go to agenda item 8.2. This was part of the consensus document but the chair notes that some countries still wish to speak on this. The proposed South Atlantic Whale sanctuary was first suggested in 2002, and should remain on the agenda.
Remarkably for something that used to be the focus of heated debates, there are no further comments.
Japan reserves the right to propose a small type coastal whaling amendment to the schedule here. As item 3 is still open, he says that he may like to come back to this. [Something to look forward to.]
We move on to that part of the Scientific Committee report that deals with special permits - the devices used by whaling nations to conduct scientific whaling. In the past this too has been a major debate.
Australia saying that he does not wish to prolong the item [probably hoping for some NGO interventions, and notes that a broad range of views remains within the Scientific Committee, even though this is only now briefly discussed in the Scientific Committee Report. He refers to a minority statement.
The Chair tries to move to a coffee break but the dream of pastries disappears from view when Japan waves its flag and then makes careful reference to the detailed discussions in the Scientific Committee. He also refers to a paper that provides a list of published papers. There are 380 published papers; 169 peer-reviewed articles and many presentations to symposiums and many public places.
Japan wishes to submit this for the record to clarify what they have done using special permits. Australia comes back – he still does not want to prolong discussions he says again and refers again, mildly, to differences on views.
Coffee time lands.
There is lots of co-ordination occurring and … yes…. some pastries are available.
Sir Geoffrey interviewed
Back to item 10 says Brazil, and agrees with Australia and does not support non-lethal research.
Into the Wider Environment
We move to environmental issues and Dr Debbie tells us about the work of the scientific committee in this sphere – she talks about research in the Arctic first.
Austria notes that there will be an IWC workshop on climate change and small cetaceans in Austria in December and thanks a number of nations and some NGOs, including WDCS, for supporting this.
Debbie moves on to the presentations made on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This disaster was discussed at some length.
The US commissioner notes she is jumping up and down to attract the Chair’s attention because she is rather far back in the room. She has a number of comments to make. She starts on ocean pollution – this was one reason why they were so engaged in the future process she states. Dr Roger Payne’s report on pollution is mentioned (it is to be found in the lobby, where we lobby). She then commends the work of the scientific committee on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and describes what the US is doing to monitor and mitigate. She thanks many countries for their generous offers of help.
Mexico notes that the impacts of oil spills on cetaceans are little understood, but there has been an increase in stranded cetaceans. He thanks Debbie and the Scientific Committee and accepts the Scientific Committee report.
The US comes back to the floor to highlight the threat from oils spills in the Arctic. This is a crucial habitat for a species she cares deeply about. She asks the Scientific Committee to establish an intercessional workshop to look at this matter in the Arctic context – all associated activities.
Liverpool asks the SC Chair is she has comments. Debbie says we could plan it but not hold it before the next annual meeting. The intent would be to meet as soon as possible she says. Russia support the initiative. Finland speaks as one of the 8 Arctic countries and supports the workshop. Sweden supports it too.
Others support. Norway says he does not oppose… but we should not just look at oil spills, we should look at the mandate of the workshop and look at all increased activities.
UK we too support the idea of a workshop. Iceland supports the proposal and the words of caution from Norway.
USA says again it is hard for her again to be seen and defers to St Kitts and Nevis; he says what are the implications for the ‘cool-off period’ and let us pursue this on a broader basis, not just spills. Multiple use should be dealt with and developing nations would be pleased to help draft the proposal for the workshop.
Debbie suggests that it should be discussed at the next meeting of the Scientific Committee and the USA defers to her.
SOCER BREAKS OUT
Dr Debbie updates the Commission on the State of the Environment Report (SOCER) – and many delegates are disappointed as they hoped this might relate to the world cup from the Scientific Committee which focused this year on the Arctic.
Any comments says the Acting Chair? Swift tumbleweed. None
Anthropogenic sound is approached now. This was a special focus for the Scientific Committee this year and the scientific committee made a range of recommendations, especially to do with shipping noise. Debbie describes them.
The Chair notes that the Scientific Committee’s recommendations are approved – on we move.
We move to the disease work of the Scientific Committee. Then under ‘other’, Marine Renewable Devices’ are identified as something that need more attention and a focus for next year’s work. In the SC report we find this text ‘…the Committee strongly recommends that countries co-operate to limit impacts on marine wildlife from these sources’.
The Chair rules that all recommendations are agreed.
We move to Ecosystems Modelling. Models have been reviewed; validations considered; working groups elaborated; and, generally, a good time had by all.
The Chairman acknowledges the wide range of activities being detailed here and we move on to reports from the contracting governments on environmental matters.
[Here we have a small wager that Monaco will raise the issue and few others support; Norway will say something unhelpful; and no progress will be made in terms of liason with the World Health Organisation – WHO – so here we go.]
But we start with Mexico who notes the risk from biomagnification of pollution up the food chain to human consumers. Monaco asks for more action on health issues. He first spoke on this issue ten years ago and asks for IWC to make more effort to liaise with the WHO.
The Netherlands eloquently associates with Monaco; as does the Czech republic. The IWC should intensify work on this issue via a working groups she suggests.
Others make similar sentiments.
Austria notes that the IWC Secretariat has been asked several time to liaise with the WHO; what concrete activities have happened she asks?
The Executive Secretary simply says she was aware of this but has done nothing. [No further explanation is forthcoming.]
Norway now takes to the floor. Their senior scientist tells us that pollution levels vary and there are health benefits from eating polluted cetaceans – large benefits (see report from NAMMCO, he adds) and the level of mercury is equally high in halibut and tuna. This is a varied picture and it is not correct to paint a picture of very unhealthy food.
Finland thanks the Commissioner from Monaco and agrees with him and that this is an Arctic issue and then he agrees with Norway that the issue is not clear.
Costa Rica associates notes we need to control sources.
Japan Makes Us Laugh
Japan associates with Norway and emphasises that his government is quite serious. They have had food safety issues in Japan and are vigilant. The Japanese government has strengthened food safety provisions. … as to small cetaceans, the ministry of health and safety are looking carefully at this. We live longer in Japan than other – non-whale eating people.
Much laughter follows.
Germany says we should have close cooperation with WHO.
[Yes, that went pretty well as expected.]
The Conservation Committee is Creeping
Now to agenda 13: the Conservation Committee reports in. Various highly endangered populations were looked at and then some small cetacean matters. It is noted that New Zealand commented that despite all the resolutions passed on small cetaceans overt the years, they have had little effect.
St Kitts and Nevis seeks clarification. He notes the use of the term ‘Conservation and Management Plan’. The Acting Chair says it is conservation and management plan. I reserve my comments he says. Can you help Debbie?
Greg Donovan (Head of Science with the IWC Secretariat) replies on the behalf of the scientific establishment. This is semantics and we just need to tighten up our terminology he intones.
St Kitts and Nevis thinks that much caution should be applied to the work of the Conservation Committee. It is not fully established here and its plans for collaboration with other bodies should be withdrawn. We should not divorce conservation from management… they are concerned about the creeping competency of the conservation committee here too. It should review its mandate.
Argentina thanks the conservation committee for its work, especially work on South Atlantic Right whales.
Brazil notes that by not participating in the Conservation Committee the doubts of
Switzerland says that its interpretation is that all cetaceans fall under the IWC mandate. The conservation status of some small cetaceans is in question .This is the right place to address this.
Australia thanks the Conservation Committee and she would like to echo the words of Brazil. Australia was delighted lats year when the IWC accepted Conservation Management Plans last year. This was a big step forward. They are intended to compliment and enhance local conservation initiatives. She describes here support in some detail. The Conservation Management Plan for Southern Right Whales will be an important text case.
Mexico associates with Australia and others. The UK thanks Belgium for their work in this area and associates with Australia and others.
Luxembourg firmly and eloquently taking the plenary microphone for the first time thanks the king and country for their hospitality and emphasises the importance of work on small cetaceans.
Ireland supports the Scientific Committee too.
St Vincent and the Grenadines says he has consistently opposed the conservation committee. The USA disagrees.
The Acting Chair tries to move on but Costa Rica is waving a flag… is it possible within the Conservation Committee to raise a concern regarding the east Pacific and ‘J stock’. We would like to have more knowledge of this species. Several other Latin American countries to support Costa Rica and so North Pacific minke whales creep onto the creeping Conservation Committee.
Lunch is blocked in by a meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee – will the NGOs be making there interventions in here?
Oh no – for it is closed to them. Perhaps they could just go home and stop botherng us.