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
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.
Norway is Shocked.
And so the NGOs finally come to speak in the Great Hall.
The speakers start with WWF. Its African spokesman makes a spirited contribution. He names no names but he is sharply critical of what goes on here. Now NOAH comes to the microphone (this is the main Norwegian animal welfare group). She speak
s clearly and firmly of her concern about Norway being known as a whaling nation, and would prefer they were known for their good animal welfare standards. She then explains how bad the statistics are from whaling and that 50% of the UK public are concerned about this. Norway is represented here by a small and declining industry here, she says. A ‘perceived stamp of approval for commercial whaling’ would aid the industry and leave it open to develop new products.
Headlines, she tells us, in Norway on Monday stated that the ‘IWC may open for commercial whaling’. She concludes that whaling is a cruel outdated and unnecessary activity. ‘Thank you’.
NGO speaker Siri Martinsen of NOAH
The Species Management Specialists spokesman contributes something on the sustainable use of animals and a lack, he claims, of scientific information to the contrary. He doesn’t like conservation management programmes very much and continues in a similar theme for some time. [The scribe fades out.]
A lady representing the NGOs in Latin American and the Caribbean come next. She explains all the hard work going on in these regions into whale watching activities. A wider Caribbean whale sanctuary is being developed. With respect to vote buying, this discredits the region, she says, and a thorough investigation should be made. If it can be established that such accusations have merit, then the IWC needs to take actions.
Another pro-use group follows. ‘So, where to from Agadir…?’ he asks. [Home soon many of us hope.] Various concepts follow and the scribe drifts away … cast a shadow/undermined/agreed by scientific committee/respectful dialogue…
The Cousteau Foundation comes next and reminds us of Jacques its founder. He was a great supporter of the moratorium. She goes on to highlight much of the good conservation work done by the IWC – ship strikes, whale watching, small potatoes and so forth but meetings about The Future have eaten up the time of the Commission, and its money and the work time of the Scientific Committee.
The Cousteau Society says we should make a plan and a budget for these animals. Greenpeace Japan comes next. He speaks in Japanese ‘as a citizen of Japan’. He speaks of the CBD meeting coming up in Japan but also notes Japans role at CITES in the blue fin tuna issue [a failed proposal to protect them]. There are many wrong doings – and he boldly lists some and receives a round of applause, mainly from the rear of the room.
The Vice Chair suggests that we are finished for the day but Norway calls for the floor. He is quite shocked by some of the accusations, he says – including accusations made about you Chairman and he queries who the Norwegian NGOs here represent. He suggests that a film referred to is a falsification. The Acting Chair comments that in making presentations NGOs are told not to make accusations to particular governments. Norway will take this matter up later under another item later he concludes and we stumble out into the evening sunshine.
Sue of WDCS and a friend
The Chairman starts the afternoon session by thanking the Finance and Administration Committee for meeting over lunch. A coffee break is promised for 16.30.
Let’s All Go Whale Watching
The Chairman of the Conservation Committee takes us through the report of his committee on whale watching. The work of the Scientific Committee on this issue is reported on via the Conservation Committee report.
India notes the importance of the work of the two committees on whale watching and how it can provide sustainable livelihoods to people.
The Conservation Committee Chair notes a discussion in the Scientific Committee about how to liaise between them, and they want a liaison officer.
The meeting is suddenly awoken by a loud greeting made in Maori by one of the delegates from New Zealand. She speaks strongly, now in English, in support of work on whale watching.
Argentina describes the development of a plan on whale watching to run for five years. He offers to host the workshop on whale watching in Buenos Aires in November.
Australia (the Minister speaking) thanks Argentina for its leadership, and offer to host the next whale watching workshop, and he expects interest in the use of the tools that the workshop will provide will grow as more countries become involved. Australia will provide 20,000 dollars for the workshop; it urges the Commission to endorse the draft strategic plan and workshop.
Uruguay speaks up in favour of whale watching too and so do other countries.
Whale watching is also favoured by the UK, which notes that ‘assessing a country’s suite of opportunities for whale watching using the consistent approach that the workshop will develop will support a reliable and effective management regime for future opportunities’.
The Brazilian Commissioner makes an explosive intervention on whale watching… it is so fast and furious that the translators seem unable to cope, except for the last few words, when he is looking forward to going to Buenos Aires.
The Mexican Commissioner reminds us of something in the Scientific Committee report – problems in the Mekong for the dolphins there. He thanks Dr Kato – the retiring Chairman of the Scientific Committee’s Whale Watching group.
Luxembourg celebrates income generation from this ‘form of terrorism’ [this may have been a mispronunciation from the translator as the Commissioner was speaking in French and the scribe listening in English, and it seems unlikely that he would be promoting whale watching terrorism] and he congratulates Argentina.
Argentina thanks the US and Australia for financial support and mentions the great world expert on whale watching, Erich Hoyt.
The USA thanks Argentina and others, including Dr Kato from Japan for his work as chair of the sub-committee for more than ten years.
Any other comments, asks the Acting Chair Man expectantly.
Cameroon has a lack of security in its waters and this industry is far too luxurious for some nations.
Despite this, the report is noted and agreed.
Cooperation with other organisations is dealt with as read. No comments. We want our tea break.
Pierre of Luxembourg
The Aboriginal Hunts – The temperature starts to rise.
The Portuguese commissioner, who ably chaired the working group on the aboriginal hunts, now takes us through his report (into which the Scientific Committee has also reported).
He reports on catches and sitting alongside of him, we see the redoubtable Greg Donovan, Head of the Scientific Committee. The BCB bowheads stocks are noted; 112 Grey whales were taken in Russia, one was struck and lost; ‘stinky whales’ are mentioned (grey whales with a strong smell). There is a pause… no comment.
But the tension is building in the room.
The coffee staff are noisy, throwing crockery around in the service passage along the side of the Great Hall. We move to the west Greenland stock of fin whales – a quota of 19 has been agreed apparently and this can run for two five year periods [that may prove handy]: for Greenland’s bowheads, the strike limit is two whales (the committee again says the catch limit will not harm the stocks); North Atlantic humpbacks: 3 females caught have been reported caught in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and annual catch information requested (a scientist from the small island nations is reported to have been sighted in the committee).
Greenland calculates its quotas based on weight of meat and other edible products and this has been the focus of much debate and a lovely colour brochure, now on the front of the IWC website. Anyway, no one cares about this very much now and the discussion about the conversion factors for edible products is short. The UK noted the hunt’s low efficiency (or much meat wasted) and Denmark described how it was improving things. Bowheads were inefficiently taken this year according to the press said the UK; and Denmark said it would probably report on them next year.
No comments follow.
We move to the aboriginal subsistence quotas and the temperature starts to soar.
Here come the green papers and the big debate about which agenda is open and why. So before we get into this, here is an explanation.
The Acting Chair did not close agenda item 3 yesterday. This is the item about the Future of the IWC under which we have been discussing The Deal. By not closing it, he has left the possibility that some aspect of The Deal may resurface and, as we already found out, a proposal for aboriginal quotas derived from the deal landed in the pigeon holes late yesterday. This now forms a proposal for all aboriginal quotas made jointly by the US and Denmark (the ‘joint proposal’). There is also another proposal – the ‘Denmark proposal’ – which asks for a new take of ten humpbacks.
The debate starts with Japan saying that Agenda Item 3 is appropriate for the joint proposal. There is commonality between the proposals he says but they should be considered separately, with The Denmark proposal considered under 6.3.
The USA says its [joint] proposal was originally under item 3, but we feel it is related to either item, it may be a technical item. We feel it fits well here and countries have had notice of this for the last 60 days and overnight and we want to discuss it today [last few words are loud]. We can be technical or pragmatic, as long as we discuss it today.
The Acting Chair suggest that he was only holding the agenda item 3 open for a proposal on future work. This was my rationale Japan for not putting it under 3.
Japan would like to hear the opinion of others and needs to have time for some internal consultation.
Argentina: My delegation was one that gave an opinion this morning about the status of agenda item 3 – this is open exclusively for future work. Now you are saying that a document submitted at the last minute should be discussed under this. It is difficult to give an opinion. We may need to await instructions from our government and talk to the Buenos Aires group.
Mexico: we also find ourselves in a quandary. Yesterday we sent a report to Mexico and we have reported back about matters requiring discussion. Agenda 3 subsistence matters are finished. We too need instructions from our government. We propose this is held in abeyance.
Iceland says we must discuss the Danish proposal today. We could not take a decision in Florida as we had no quorum. The document 62/26 [the joint one] was a surprise – we had a policy of not taking each other by surprise; so I would treat them very differently.
USA: We appreciate comments by the other distinguished commissioners but this is not a complete surprise – the idea that aboriginal subsistence whaling would be held in abeyance during other discussions here is not new. We want to have this discussed. We want this quota out of the debate; it should stand on its own; we are owed the opportunity to know how others feel. Others have said I understand your need for your quota but I might need something else. These quotas cannot be a bargaining chip. I cannot stress enough that these discussions have been a long time coming. We need to know what this body’s view is of aboriginal subsistence whaling…
Acting Chair: I suggest a private commissioners meeting.
[From which civil society will be excluded]
Do I have your support. I see no objection…
Japan: I just question the procedure. We are prepared to discuss the Denmark proposal [not the joint one.]
USA: we have had private time; there is no reason to fear having a discussion here. Let us have a civil discussion here. Our work should be done in the open. A private commissioners meeting is not the way to do this. We seek to speak today.
Acting Chair: I wanted the private commissioners meeting to discuss how to handle the document.
Israel speaks for the first time and thanks the host. There is no harm in the delegations who submitted their proposal describing their proposals. We don’t need to take a decision, let us just hear from them.
The USA agrees ‘whole-heartedly’. This is not completely new ground; we are not asking for a decisions today
Vice Chair: so let us begin our discussions with a presentation
But Brazil says he has the same concerns as Argentina and Chile. We will not have time to take a decision. We are willing to listen but we will not be able to take a decision. We will not be able to get a decision.
Vice Chair: USA seeks discussion not decision; do I have general support?
Mexico: we shall listen carefully, but my delegation will not discuss content; we reserve the right to discuss later.
Acting Chair – so we have a presentation on 25 and then only a discussion on 26.
Japan – I don’t wish to be difficult but we need time for consultation.
Acting Chair: so we proceed with presentation
Denmark: we have been in this position before; it can be no secret that our patience can be found on a very small plaice… please respect scientific advice. We need to put this into context – firstly our minister and we request that the vote takes place tomorrow. The Minister thanks Monaco for the hospitality in her language and makes a statement. She is here to underline her country’s commitment to international dialogue. She is concerned that the IWC is being violated; this has been ongoing for too many years; everyone must keep up their principles. I have advocated for increased sustainable use of living resources in Greenland. We much listen to each other and respect each others differences. Seals and whales are the biggest competitors with our hunters.
She continues: We are also affected by EU politics – the EU seal ban has effectively destroyed our seal market. For self-governance we have to use all material available to us and we need to limit the importance of western food and lower carbon output. Our traditional food has been evaluated by health experts and they are healthier than imported food. Shared stocks should be dealt with by the appropriate international body. We have fulfilled all the requirements made of us but some keep trying to find new ways to block our request.
Some parties and groups question the use of money… no one can become a millionaire from whale hunt in Greenland….
The minister is followed by someone from the Greenlandic hunters association and then another spokesperson.
At the end, Japan thanks Greenland for proposal, and announces that he has finished consultation. I would like to be helpful, says the Japanese alternate commissioner, and we agree to listen to the [Joint Proposal] by reopening agenda 3.
[This leads to a sharp intake of breath all around the Great Hall of Agadir and protest from several Latin American countries led by Costa Rica and with Australia agreeing].
Fortunately France has thought of something else that we can do and speaks to say we should now listen to the NGOs. He is supported by Sweden and Monaco.
Sweden – we support France.
But the battle over agenda 3 continues – it I still open insists Norway.
New Zealand agrees and says lets get on with the substantive matters and not this legal wrangling.
Iceland also agrees with this and wishes to hear the NGOs.
The Acting Chairman says he is looking for a consensual way forward. He says he has been indulging Japan. As a form of compromise is needed, let us have the document by the USA presented and a discussion.
Cameroon speaks to support Iceland.
Iceland – I only propose we hear the US proposal.
USA: we will be brief. We need to get through our agenda items by doing them.
Argentina reiterates that they are willing to listen to the proposal but not under item 3.
Acting Chair: there is a willingness to listen to the proposal. I propose that we allow the US to make the presentation but not under a particular proposal.
Japan: we can accept that [it is as if they speak for many because the US presentation starts almost immediately.]
USA: we understand that commissioners wanted aboriginal whaling separated from the rest of the proposal. We are one of the four countries that has aboriginal peoples; we do not wish them used as a negotiating chip ‘by both sides’; this is used for whatever is wanted at the time. The indigenous peoples have worked constructively even though they have been treated as a pawn. Aboriginal subsistence is well managed; this extends to the relevant bowhead stocks. It is industrialised whaling that brought these whales to the brink of extinction. So we propose here to give some sort of relief to these peoples, whilst this body seeks an end to its long standing problems. She refers again to pro- and anti-whaling nations using the hunts as a bargaining chip. We urge all the members of the commission to take a legitimate need off the table. I can only take it from the earlier discussion that many governments mean to keep it there.
The USA will have to decide if its indigenous hunters will get a fair shake from this commission. I know many countries wish to take things home for their own interest. We need to know this; we need candour. I understand that it is late and I would like to hear from commissioners.
Mexico – I thank the US commissioner for this presentation. It is difficult for me to digest. Through you Chairman, I ask the US Commissioner to provide us with the written presentation, so we can study it in detail.
Acting Chair says that the interpreters will kindly allow the presentations of NGOs. [Thank you.]
WWF speaks first and amongst other things is concerned about the failure to allow NGOs to speak more fully here. A fisheries group, says that conservation NGOs are to blame for the failure of the process. It has been a rare opportintry to end all the acrimonious debates… and he continues on similar theme.
[A few bored people are wondering around in the margins, photographing other peoples computer screens – we chased a few of these away earlier. What do they do with all these photos? What is this strange fetish?
What will the NGOs say? Does anyone care? Will there be dancing with fans? Commissioners settle into their seats for a little entertainment.]
We remind gentle readers that this is not a verbatim report but we try to capture the gist of what is being said and something of the experience of being based here and we welcome corrections.
Sue of WDCS and a friend
The latest twist at the IWC showed that the Chair’s Proposal for compromise was not killed yesterday when green papers arrived in delegates pigeon holes in the final few minutes of the meeting yesterday. Green papers are schedule amendments – proposals for quotas.
This relates to opening up a new hunt for humpback whales in the North Atlantic – something that Greenland, via Denmark which represents it here, has been proposing for several years to add to the quotas of whales and takes of small cetaceans that it already practices.
One green paper is a joint proposal between the US and Denmark, which essentially takes that part of the Chair’s proposal that concerned aboriginal quotas and makes it a separate new proposal. This includes the humpback quota request from Greenland as if it has been already agreed.
The other green paper is an overlapping proposal from Greenland (submitted by Denmark) for ten humpbacks in each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
What is happening here is that the US – basically to stop Japan and its allies blocking its Inuit hunt of bowheads is seeking to put in place a ten year period of quotas for the aboriginal takes – however in order to win support from the whaling nations it has linked this to the Denmark request for humpbacks and used part of the text from the Chairmans’ proposal (‘The Deal’) as a way to take this forward. This was one reason (but perhaps not the only one) why the agenda item (3) on the future of the IWC was not closed yesterday.
Certain parameters were meant to apply to the Chairmans’ proposal and associated discussions and this latest development thwarts all of them:
So it is that again the North Atlantic humpbacks’ fate hangs in the balance. We heard a number of southern hemisphere countries yesterday speaking up for this species in their region, will the northern ones act in the same manner? We doubt it. This last minute spin which illustrates what the US wanted from the chairs’ proposal perhaps more than anything (security for their hunt) is in the face of the long standing opposition of the UK and others to the hunting by Greenland which is increasingly commercialised, challenging the definition of aboriginal whaling as well as the lives of whales.
Some organisations here and countries are choosing to turn their back on this commercialisation, saying that they do not work on ‘aboriginal issues’. WDCS’s take is that this not one.
Lunch passes in a blur and suddenly delegates are back in the room; are they missing their closed sessions, all those romantic little liaisons with other like-minded (or not like-minded) commissioners? Anyway, they are now fully exposed to public scrutiny again and the biggest question of the day is, of course, who will win the football (and for our American reader the ‘soccer’ match). Another question is why is so much media now reporting that The Deal is dead when the agenda item is still open? Why are some NGOs celebrating the death of the deal, when it may just be sleeping. AGENDA 3 THE FUTURE OF THE IWC HAS VERY CLEARLY NOT BEEN CLOSED.
Into the Stocks with Debbie
We move on to that part of the agenda where whale stocks are considered and Dr Debbie of the Scientific Committee takes us through the various populations one at a time and at a healthy pace. [There is a promise that some NGOs might be allowed to speak at the end of the day and much negotiation is going on between the numerous groups present about who should have this privilege.] Anyway, first we encounter the southern ocean minke whales. The two most recent surveys do not agree and the substantial decline between the two surveys is of concern says the UK. Japan is less concerned. His scientists are fairly sure that the minkes are hiding under the ice [can they breath under there?] and he makes reference to some parts of the scientific committee report that probably are not available yet but which are obviously helpful. He looks forward to solving the issue of the disagreeing population estimates in the near future and to RMPing the minkes quite soon. The report on southern hemisphere humpbacks brings some comments from a number of countries that seek to protect them, notably New Zealand and Australia. The recovery of ‘their’ humpbacks is generally slow and numbers remain low.
Then the critically endangered Western North Pacific gray whales leap onto the stage and we learn there is much concern about them being accidentally caught in nets and also harmed by oil and gas development. The scientific committee has passed some recommendations and the commission is now being asked to agree them. Japan say they have improved their domestic laws and an educational programme for set-net fishermen is in place; fortunately since 2007, there has been no incidental take. Japan will work hard to help this depleted species. The USA views this as one of the most endangered whales. They welcome the development of an action plan for this species. Their lead scientist calls for surveys before seismic survey by the oil and gas industry commence and calls for oil and gas operations to use best practise. Russia now speaks and they too realise this population needs to be protected. They are doing some survey work with Japan but he is worried about some terms in the paper. These scientists are independent but independent of whom? He continues on this theme for a while and asks for the clear use of terms. Sometimes, he says, we hear that such groups of scientists are ‘dependent of’ some companies. He refers to the conservation plan and a sentence noting a contract between IUCN and the petrol company. He says we need to be careful with formulations.
[England has scored a goal against Slovenia and there is much excitement in the UK delegation. But then Rooney has a goal disallowed. ]
Mexico is supportive of conservation work. Monaco is next to the microphone and is represented by their scientists Justin Cooke (who also happens to represent the world conservation union – IUCN - to the IWC). He carefully explained that following the probable extinction of the baiji [the Chinese river dolphin] this species is likely to be the next cetacean to be lost. The IUCN plan for their conservation has been endorsed by the IWC scientific committee and these measures appear to have born fruit as there has been no entrapment in nets in Japan in the last two years. With regards to the seismic surveys, he agrees that the survey should be postponed. Justin is beamed up onto the big screens to either side of the podium holding Acting Chairman Liverpool and IWC Executive Secretary, Nicky Grandy.
What is slightly odd is that audio and image are out of sync and his lips move slightly after the words. Korea notes it utilised this species several decades ago. It is now extinct in Korean waters and now protected. The UK is worried about the status of the species and encourages more action. The seismic survey should be considered for postponement; they strongly support the conservation management plans and agree with the US that this one may be exemplary; Austria is always, she says concerned about stocks. It goes without saying that the IUCN recommendations should be supported! Oman tries to take a reservation on what is said about humpbacks in his region. [There is an isolated and increasingly beleaguered population of humpbacks in the Arabian Gulf.] He suggests that more research is needed. The Chair of the Scientific Committee agrees and notes this is what her committee is recommending.
Acting Chair Liverpool rules that the commission takes note of the scientific committee report and agrees its recommendations. Chair Debbie ploughs in with her summarise summary of the scientific committee report. Southern rights whales are considered and permits are recommended to deal with oil and gas development off South Africa. The USA then highlights the recent high mortality of southern right whales off Peninsula Valdes. More research is needed he says. Argentina (in this case the highly distinguished alternate commissioner) supports the recommendations made for this population by a workshop in March 2010. He thanks the US for supporting this workshop and Dr Robert Brownell for co-ordinating it. Brazil also thanks the United States and Bob Brownell. They agree with the scientific committee. The Scientific Committee report is noted and endorsed.
North Atlantic Right whales and other stocks are all swiftly dispatched and all relevant recommendations agreed.
A tea break erupts.
And – horror of all horrors, the delicious Morocan pastries swiftly run out. British scientists range around the room foraging but to no avail. The whale shark on the wall is starting to look tasty.
After tea we are treated to the return of an old favourite. Japan presents a power point entitled ‘Escalating Violence against Japanese Research Vessels by the Sea Shepherd’. We have reported this many times previously – so will not bother here. Suffice it to say, many are outraged. We move on to whale killing methods and some countries report on their hunts. New Zealand says its paper speaks for itself. Norway lists a few of its actions. Greenland also provides some data. The totals truck and loss was 7% for their west Greenland minke whale (i.e. animals that were struck and not recovered – poor things). There are no comments whatsoever. And without even a pause for some tumble weed to pass through because we are now very far behind with our agenda, we speed on to agenda irtem 5.2 but there is some hesitation on the stage… no it is OK, just some pesky countries interrupting things with questions. Austria notes that we all seem to accept indigenous whaling but that it could still be improved and made more humane and countries should help this process by providing more data.
The UK is given the floor and he calls for an end to the use of the [very cruel] cold harpoon and for welfare data to be provided. A Norwegian expert them takes us through the report of the IWC’s disentanglement workshop – which considered how to get whales out of nets. It includes a long section on Euthanasia and is available elsewhere [many good bookshops?] UK and others congratulate the people who took part in the workshop and produced the report. The US supports the conclusions of the workshop Argentina very eloquently expresses its appreciation too and suggests that similar workshops should be held elsewhere too. Others make similar compliments and the commission endorses the recommendations from the workshop. The UK has submitted a paper about hosting a workshop – to clarify this would not be an official IWC workshop (oh no) but we are inviting people to participate. The paper explains the rationale for this. And they may be able to find funds for would-be attendees. Belgium’s distinguished scientist speaks up in favour of this and recommends invited experts from outside the IWC should be invited. Argentina eloquently supports. Australia associates with the previous speakers; at IWC 63 we would like the working group on whale killing methods to meet.
Norway, however, decides to spike the fun. He says that is has no objections, but he has concern with just limiting this to whaling. He says whaling is the most regulated and best documented compared to other hunts. Only 2000 whales are taken each year whereas thousands of terrestrial mammals are taken. But no one is interested and others speak to support the distinguished alternate commissioner for the UK who relaxes back into his seat and receives the important news that the UK has beaten Slovenia in the football world cup.
Later, very sportingly the Commissioner for Slovenia comes over to shake hands with the UK Commissioner. In closing for the day acting Chairman Liverpool announces that because it is late and there is a nice reception out by the hotel pool next door with fanta and snacks and Peter Garrett, the NGO presentations are cancelled until a time when there is nothing better to do – or something like that – we cannot quite hear. So now it is off to pool side for that orange fanta.
Peter Garrett and Sir Geoffrey Palmer
More Evil Cats
Meanwhile elsewhere in Agadir on a traffic island surrounded by speeding red petit taxis there are further discussions about deal making between the predators of the town.
A small, but highly-focused group of kittens, have now joined the avian delegations’ debates on sustainability (also known as the how-many-chicks-can-we-eat debate).
Anyway the kitten team – their mewing threatening to rival that of the gulls - is now demanding their own ‘small and sustainable quota of gull chicks’! [You will recall the earlier negotiations with the kestrels went badly and someone got somewhat eaten.]
As this would be a ‘shared-quota’ with those same kestrels, the birds of prey are objecting strenuously, and emphasising that the kittens themselves would substitute perfectly well for chicks, should that prove necessary and this would be both sustainable and perfectly scientific. But the kittens are unable to stop pressing their case, their diplomatic skills are too limited.
They are too young; too inexperienced; too cute; and just too tasty; and one by one they are eaten by the falcons.
But tomorrow is another day and AGENDA 3 STAYS OPEN … let's see what else is going onto the menu.
Outside it is cloudy. Inside are the clouds parting? Delegates head to the Golden Sands Conference Centre.
Small point of clarification – we normally give thanks to Commissioners and others for their contributions at the end of the meeting. However, further to earlier references to ‘Belgian Fan Dancers’, we would like to make it clear that this does not relate to the Belgian Commissioner for whom we have the greatest regard.
His recent work on small cetaceans and ship strikes is helping to set standards for conservation work within the commission.
Small paper fans have been distributed to delegates by a group of organisations who are in support of The Deal as a lobbying tool and our vague allusions to fan dancing relate to this activity.
Romantic encounters at the IWC
The halls are again filled with delegates. Sun glasses and swimming trunks are back in the closet and suits and ties are back in fashion.
Liverpool: Welcome back everyone [he does not add that he hopes everyone had a nice couple of days on the beach or perhaps in the lobby of the Atlantic Palace hotel, but he could have.]
He makes some introductory comments, noting that for almost a quarter of a century ‘our different views have dominated’ – to resolve this will not be easy.
He states that the last two days of ‘opening’ [closed] meetings have been conducted in a constructive manner, noting that the commissioners agreed to devote as much time as possible to this work. Ten groups have consulted with each other and he explains that there have been 30 sessions over the last 2 days – some of these groups have never met in a formal but private manner before – a wide range of issues have been discussed - and this was not limited to whaling – all of the groups reported that their discussions were very useful and conducted in a cordial manner. Some reported that they came closer together and they dialogued late into the night.
It has become clear, he says, that whilst we are very close to a consensus, more work is required. These include such matters as the moratorium, numbers of whales, special permit whaling, sanctuaries and trade, and table 4 (which contained proposed quotas as part of The Deal).
Everyone Loves Geoffrey.
Japan next takes the floor. Their spokesperson notes that the situation remains complex and that they support the spirit of sustainable whaling and protection of endangered stock protection. Japan appreciates Chairman’s efforts to address problems. She expresses heart-felt gratitude to Sir Geoffrey and Chairmen’s efforts – she notes that substantial compromises have been accepted by Japan. Japan respects science – she is ‘disturbed and alarmed’ that members support management based on science but oppose takes where science says OK because of public opinion. Some members she adds think only aboriginal subsistence hunts are OK and that ‘even taking single whale is not acceptable.’
This important body needs to rise above domestic politics. Some members are unhappy with the chair’s proposal ‘unfortunately’, she concludes.
Uruguay speaks for the Buenos Aires group of Latin American countries. He refers to the statement he circulated a couple of days ago and how open they have been to discussion. They have raised 13 points which all can share.
He eloquently stresses the need to work on conservation; and given the unlikelihood of finding a consensus, a minimum consensus on future opportunities should be found.
Argentina then takes the floor and says that exchanges have shown the need to reach a balance; there is only one promise – in the future we may discuss amending articles 5 and 8 [whaling under objection and scientific whaling]. In conclusion, the proposal does not meet the needed of the countries that we represent. However, they recognise the need for dialogue – the positive results of implementing the moratorium and highlight the work of the conservation and scientific committee, including work on climate change, emergent diseases and pollution. She greatly appreciates the role of the Scientific Committee and suggests it should be separated from the Commission.
The USA Commissioner, Monica Medea, takes the floor, after nearly 3 years of discussion, it appears that our discussions are at an impasse – or at least it feels this way, she says. We have given our unwavering support to the moratorium and we have helped to refocus the IWC on conservation. Unfortunately, we have not achieved as much agreement as we hoped. We have enjoyed – I think – a wonderful dialogue; future dialogues can build on this. I am always optimistic and we can find out way out of the difficult situation we have found our way in. I hope we can continue to work in the way that we have in the small working group and over the last few days.
Australia in the form of its minster Peter Garrett, thanks Morocco and Liverpool. He does not repeat Australia’s well-known position but he associates with Argentina. He says we should focus where our views converge and build on that. Some have claimed that the IWC is dysfunctional and will collapse, but he does not share that view. Many countries have put great effort into discussions and he thanks them. The product of this process will not attract consensus support. This has been a good departure from acrimony he add reading from his lap-top. Future discussions can also take place in a mutually constructive manner.
He continues that there is a need to make sure that whale populations stay healthy and viable components of ecosystems and a further need to redefine the IWC to ensure the long term conservation of whales. The Chairs’ document has helped us move along – but we now need to close it and build on collaboration – e.g. capacity building around the world; we need to take steps to ensure that the Commissioners have time to study the result of the scientific committee – and we should fully embrace critical conservation work for example on western Gray whales, disentanglement, western gray whales, depleted populations and governance gaps to ensure transparency and enhance accountability. The future can only be assured with best practice management.
‘A Troubled Old Creature’
New Zealand in the form of redoubtable Sir Geoffrey Palmer then associates itself with the remarks by Peter Garrett on the need for cultural change [and as far as the scribe can tell no other of his remarks]. As chair of the support group [which has been working on The Deal] he makes a number of obervations – the support group is over and it should not be revived. We need to look at where we have come from and where we are going– the IWC is a ‘troubled old creature’. He lists the various well known problems – Article 8 scientific whaling; despite the moratorium thousands of whales have been killed and so forth. NZ is a strong advocate of the conservation of whales. He provides a little history: For many years we focused in the RMS – but no conclusion – in 2002, the conservation committee was set up but not everyone takes part. Matter became increasingly undiplomatic and our impasse stopped our business. After the carriage of the St Kits declaration [a resolution passed in favour of whaling] – something needs to be done to make the IWC work better; many meetings occurred ‘I have been to so many meetings that I cannot recall so many’ – he continues to detail the actions. [Does he perhaps sound a little tired?]
Now we are in a situation where no nation was satisfied. Hence, the chair’s proposal being considered here. He suggests that there was a common consensus on many matters, if ONE LEAVES OUT THE ISSUE OF NUMBERS. He acknowledges the major contributions made by Monica and US team and he also pays tribute to the Government of Japan, especially to Jogi Morshita for the diplomatic process. There can be no doubt, he adds, that Japan showed a real willingness to compromise (gentle applause). We can go no further. There is an absence of political will to compromise – but interest in the IWC has increased through this period; we now have 88 members.
He continues with the thought that the NZ point of view is one of caring for whales. Every Christmas the conflict in the southern ocean causes outrage. One of our people is even in a Japanese jail –because he wishes to protect whales. Our focus has been to remove whaling from the southern ocean but we have not succeeded.
He suggests that there are three ways forward:
Acting Chairman Liverpool reminds delegates to please take their translation headsets off before speaking. [This explains some of the irritating noise during Sir Geoffrey’s contribution.]
The report provided here is not verbatim but is intended to capture the gist of what is said. We welcome corrections if we got anything wrong.
Further to these seminal contributions many other took the floor. Here we shall provide only an outline of what they side highlighting any new matters and, of course anything amusing.
India is in favour of whale conservation and he opposes lethal takes and violence at sea… he suggests a renaming of the body to the ‘International Whale Commission’.
Liverpool reminds speakers to take their headsets off again,
Mexico says very eloquently the Commission must respond to the problems of the 21st century. Discussions have been fruitful but we cannot support anything against the moratorium or catches bigger than those provided by the best science – which is the RMP.
[The man from the BBC, Richard Black, is stalking across the centre of the room. The media is meant to be corralled at the back of the room (or in their tent with the cat). Will the Moroccan security guards swoop? No.]
Mexico supports a ‘time to think’.
Spain now speaks for the whole EU (25 member states)– she thanks the hosts and highlights the excellent facilities; she thanks the Chair for his role and also Sir Geoffrey. The EU has come with willingness to negotiate – they want an effective IWC and believes the discussions have been useful.
In Praise of ‘Friendly Chatter’
St Kitts and Nevis, who it is always worth listening to (as his rhetoric is often highly entertaining) has serious misgivings about the latest turn of events that stops us from further considering the Chair’s proposal. He is sorry that we have not found a way forward… international negotiations require compromise. During the course of negotiations, positive things have come including ‘friendly chatter’; Developing nations have strengthened their roll. We, he stresses, have been subject to many accusations. People have asked, why are you here and, as coastal states, we see the oceans as vital to food security.
But, he adds, there is continued speculation about why developing nations are here. It is timely for putting a number of matters into context – we have been accused of being proxies for other countries – this is wrong. We have no choice, as developing nations, but to support sustainable development….This document [The Chairs’ proposal] represents the furthest we have reached, so we should look very carefully at this document. [There is weak applause]
Coffee follows soon after this and in the coffee area under the watchful eye of the whale shark.
The booming voice of the Pew Foundation's, Sue Lieberman, can be heard in coffee area inviting delegates and press to come and to a briefing from her organisation and some friends. Many delegates head determinedly in the opposite direction.
After a hasty coffee, various countries are waving their flags, including the UK which is finally recognised by a nod from…. from Madam Secretary of the Commission Nicky Grandy, sitting alongside acting chair Liverpool up on the podium at the front of the room.
[Dear Nicky – you would be sad if we did not acknowledge you in this way – and whilst we are having this little side-bar interlude, thank you so much for all your help and kind support through the years. Wishing you a happy retirement. The WDCS team. ]
We resume deliberations on item 3.
Korea appreciates the Chairs’ efforts and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Their commissioner loudly says that ‘the moment of truth is approaching’ and ‘the train is heading for the tunnel’.
Iceland says it is a shame that we did not agree numbers and he agrees with Sir Geoffrey, that this is because of lack of political will. He too likes Sir Geoffrey; and like the Australian minister he does not think that this is the end of the world. Dialogue has been good and a one year break will let us clear our minds and reflect on matters.
Monaco takes the floor. He is concerned about bipolarisation here – but this is a ‘caricature’. There are not two groups here – there are at least a dozen views here and this, he says, enriches us. There have been constructive dialogues. But he supports closing the door on the document … but we do not start from scratch here; catch limits should be defined by science. Various areas of work have been productive. Monaco proposes a brand new way forward – a new paradigm – we need a win-win context. Limited whaling will have to be sustainable; Norway has demonstrated this is possible he suggests and whaling could occur in limited areas. Monaco is of the view that whale stock sustainability is compromised when you harvest far from your territory; you can behave like ‘a careless tourist’ far from home. His ‘assessment after many years’ is that resumption should be restricted to sovereign waters – is there any other globally satisfying compromise to propose. At least this option should be on our future road map.
St Lucia is appreciative of the Chairman’s hot seat and gets the scribe rather lost in a story about ‘climbing Mount Difficulty’ and eating in small passage ways.
Belgium does not want a new cooling off period and suggests that the Chairs consensus document should still guide our discussions.
Panama likes the moratorium and the Conservation Committee but welcomes constructive dialogue. He calls for an intersessional meeting to review the cooling down period.
South Africa likes cooling off too.
Grenada recalls the St Kitts and Nevis Declaration (a famous resolution passed a few years ago when the whalers had the majority) and is very disappointed that we have not come to a conclusion. He speaks of science and respect for cultural diversity.
Tanzania says that we should continue to strive for as consensus, but cool off could follow if this fails.
Costa Rica eloquently acknowledges the work of the IWC in the world of whales. The Chair’s proposal was a working document and helped to identify differences, she stresses.
The new commissioner for the UK, Nigel Gooding, makes his maiden speech in the IWC plenary. He graciously thanks the host and notes that the UK as a member of the EU fully supports the EU statement. He welomes the dialogue that has taken place and which has helped to clarify matters. For the UK key issues include trade, sanctuaries, science and welfare standards are important. The UK will continue to work constructively in this body.
[He does not ask, as some had hoped for a suspension of this plenary this afternoon to allow in-depth study of the football: Slovenia will be playing England.]
Denmark calls for some salt.
Denmark is taken by ‘surprise’ when asked to speak. He suggests that Denmark maintains a position in the middle of the IWC, so it is with great sadness that he hears the interventions today – but perhaps they have been a bit more polite. He adds that we still have nations dreaming of a brave new whaling world; others wish respect for the management aspect of the organisation. He says he is in a ‘gloomy mood’ and he wants to comment on the EU – the presidency said she spoke on the behalf of the 25 member countries but really this is Denmark speaks for the Faroe and Greenland, so the claim that Denmark present is part of the EU family should be taken with a big pinch of salt.
The redoubtable German Commissioner suggests we should constructively use the cooling down period to try to work out how to go forward.
Portugal doesn’t want us to cool off either – he too wants hard work.
France confirms that Spain spoke for the 25 nations – France is especially concerned about trade and sanctuaries and points to the EU declaration.
Kiribati congratulates the chairman on rising well to the challenge and she commends able Sir Geoffrey.
Cote d’Ivoire looks for the common ground to ‘save the IWC’.
And this continues for a little while until we drift off for a ligh lunch.
Speed Dating at the IWC
We understand that various groupings of countries have been meeting with various other groupings in order to seek mutual happiness, social gratification and a long and happy life. This is happening behind the IWC’s reinforced and famously closed doors. The groups, if unfulfilled in their quest for mutually satisfying relations, then move on to others to see if they like them better. (All of which is accompanied by Belgian fan dancing and nice Moroccan pastries.) Presumably if one group of countries finds they like another enough they may spawn some lovely little amendment texts that help put a deal in place. These texts will then be shared with others (but not the public obviously). Anyway, more importantly, we all had a truly fabulous reception yesterday provided by the generous host nation in the beautiful Atlantic Palace Hotel (where most of the country delegations and NGOs are staying and where poorer NGOs come and hang out in the hall ways and watch the… football; there are also fewer malevolent cats there than in many places).
The reception was around the pool and consisted of a huge buffet of food mainly cooked in the tradition terrines used here and a literal mountain of fruit for dessert. Moroccan musicians paraded amongst the delegates. As the stars came out, we briefly felt as if we were in the set of a glamorous movie. However, WDCS does not have too much time for this kind of thing and the team was soon taken off back to the fish docks many miles away, where we are lodging, to listen to the cats sing through the long night.
Tuesday – the IWC doors remain firmly barred. A few delegates peek out from the various meeting areas. Some even bravely exit for coffee, nimbly avoiding the few non-governmental representatives still lingering there to lobby them. Five minutes walk away through the hot sun, the lobby of the luxurious
However, relief is in sight for the press pack. Is it a bird, is it a plane… no it is the unmistakable form of everyone’s favourite friendly giant, Peter Garrett the Australian Environment Minster. Firstly he joins the press conference back over the in Atlantic Palace Hotel organised by WSPA (and focused on Norwegian whaling) and then, with film crews trailing him, swiftly strides to the conference centre where a media frenzy follows and a petition opposing whaling with almost one million names on it is handed over. Press Frenzy
Garrett makes some bold statements in opposition to whaling and the press pack – happy now that they have landed some film (or some text) scampers back to the media tent to beam their treasures through the air via various satellite dishes and similar. Minister Garrett
Meanwhile behind the closed doors the speed dating continues…. And almost certainly an EU co-ordination will break out. Never mind tomorrow is another day. A street cat of Agadir has moved into the tent and is sleeping paws-up on the carpets (no doubt waiting to trip up a passing delegate). It may be interviewed later.
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.