WDCS is very sad to learn of the death of one of the great champions for the whales and one of our friends, Alexandre de Lichtervelde, the first Commissioner for Belgium to the International Whaling Commission.
Alexandre was appointed to this role in 2004 when Belgium joined the Whaling Commission and immediately brought to it a new, distinctive and very welcome approach. He was also deeply involved in Antarctic issues. Over the last day, as the news of his untimely death has broken, we have witnessed tributes to him coming from all around the world. These tributes show the deep affection and admiration that many felt for him.
Alexandre made a profound contribution at the IWC, and many of us at WDCS worked closely with him. He was highly instrumental in the expansion of the Commission’s work into a number of new and important spheres, including most recently consideration of the effects of ship-strikes on whales. He brought great energy and integrity to all that he did and he was essentially a key driving force in opening up the IWC to address new issues, including by the leadership he brought to its Conservation Committee. He also notably supported contributions at IWC meetings of young scientists.
We knew Alexandre as a man of excellent humour and he was often featured in the WDCS blog from the IWC, which we also knew he avidly read and would comment on (including if he felt it was not funny enough or inaccurate). At the IWC meeting in Morocco last year, Alexandre did not hesitate to pose for a picture for the blog waving a small fan in the air which was being used as a lobbying tool by one conservation organisation. Whilst he did not always take him self seriously, his dedication to cetacean conservation was very clear and he was determined to make a difference to the way in which the IWC worked. In this he was in many ways successful and this will be part of his legacy.
He was also good company and after the hard work at meetings was over for the day, he would be found celebrating with friends reflecting on events with a wry humour. We were proud to be counted amongst these friends and he will be very sorely missed by us and many others within the conservation world.
We send our sincere condolences to his family and his other friends.
WDCS is very sad to learn of the death of one of the great champions for the whales and one of our friends, Alexandre de Lichtervelde, the first Commissioner for Belgium to the International Whaling Commission.
So, we have now had a little sleep (and some fresh air), enjoyed some daylight and we have been reflecting on this momentous meeting of the whaling Commission.
Sunday July 17th.
Most IWC delegates have now left the island of Jersey and are scattered across the globe again. A few of us linger on. Jersey is too pleasant for some not to tarry here! The herrings gulls are still crying overhead and occasionally sneaking easy meals amongst heavy crockery that offers these muscular birds little challenge. The British Booze Hounds still roam wild too but they can be easily avoided. Just a few minutes drive away from the many bars and seductive night life of St Helier, are quiet leafy avenues, picturesque sandy coves and, of course, green fields hosting the handsome eponymous cows.
The Great Hall and the corridors of the Hotel de France now only hold memories of what occurred there over the last two weeks. These include the numerous interventions on science and conservation that were never spoken; the faded promises of non-governmental interventions; the ghosts of commitments from nations that never reached the record; and great whirling gyres of marine debris briefings that failed to generate a single helpful word during the public plenary of the whaling commission. But all is not lost, indeed far from it, bear with us and we will explain.
Media attention of course focused on the dramatic mass-walk out of the pro-whaling block and this clearly served its purpose. It stopped the meeting in its tracks and attempting to get it back on the rails used up all the remaining time available to the annual meeting. Because of this the excellent conservation work being done within the various bodies of the IWC went un-aired. And this surely is what the whaling nations wanted. For example, no one was able to highlight and praise the excellent conservation work on ship-strikes led by the Belgian Commissioner, Alexandre de Lichtervelde. Similarly, nations were largely unable to probe the arcane but vitally important report of the IWC’s Scientific Committee; and we know that many questions were poised but never aired. Hence as a strategy, if the whaling nations wanted the public discussion of these matters to be blocked, and we think they did, they were successful.
It is also likely that they were to some extent punishing the conservation block for the passage of the UK/EU proposal on governance which many of them would have been very bitter about. We will come back to this.
However, there may be a significant price for the use of a tactic that stopped an international treaty body from functioning. Many legal experts will now start to meticulously analyse what happened in Jersey. Some are already suggesting that the Chair should have moved to a vote the first time this was proposed (which was actually by Russia) under the IWC’s own rules and, if he had done this, the matter might have been resolved in a few minutes. However, this is probably only a small issue and the Chairman was in a very difficult position. Of much greater significance are the wider consequences of this action by a number of democratic countries with commitments to the rule of international law, including Iceland, Norway and Japan. International law would grind to a halt if this tactic of walking out part-way through a meeting to destroy its quorum was an acceptable mechanism. Voting and agreeing by qualified or other majorities is the normal mechanism. This is not just about the whales but about the fundamental principles underpinning all international agreements. These principles were undermined by the actions of the whaling nations.
Returning to governance and, as we hope we explained in the blog, the passage of the UK’s proposals makes the 2011 Jersey meeting of tremendous importance. The acceptance of the package was an enormous success and we predict that some of the problems that have dogged the IWC for many years will now start to fade. ‘This was huge!’ as we said in the blog.
Something else of great importance also happened this year. For sometime we have raised concerns about the conduct of some subsistence hunts by indigenous people. This year the Commission finally agreed to initiate a programme that might tentatively be called ‘the road to reform of ‘Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling’, including working to ensure that indigenous whalers improve the humaneness of the hunts, address growing commerciality of products intended to meet subsistence needs, and provide adequate data in support of their requests for a whaling quota.
Whilst the whalers killed any public discussion of a priority issues for WDCS this year – the threat posed by marine debris to whales and dolphins – we did receive considerable support from many countries in the margins of the meeting. It was also highlighted in the Scientific Committee and has become a permanent agenda item for the Conservation Committee. Equally importantly the US plans to hold a special planning meeting on this theme in Honolulu in the coming year, and we thank them for this.
The UK, especially their legal expert (and Vicky’s minder) Jolyon Thompson, handled the whole complex issue of the governance proposal in the most exemplary manner. This was despite the fact that UK was ‘batting’ a largely new team this year, including their Commissioner, Richard Pullen. What an excellent start to his tenure in this role! We are grateful to the UK for the access that they gave to the NGO community both during the plenary, which was obviously very difficult during such a tense meeting, and before. We are also very grateful to Richard Benyon, MP, the British Minister, for coming to Jersey and bringing his passion with him. It is no secret that when he had to leave (on the second day of plenary) he was angry. He should now be feeling satisfied and pleased. There is still more to do but this was a leap forward.
We also salute our good friends Lorenzo and Yolanda on the Mexican delegation; the excellent Belgians, led by conservation-champion Alexandre, the outspoken and yet compellingly thoughtful Frederick Briand; the softly-spoken but formidable Donna Petrachenko; the determined Austrians, and also the many people who worked hard in the now largely forgotten meetings of the Scientific Committee back in Tromso including Naomi, Chris, Pierre of Luxembourg, Michael, Fabian, Uncle Frank, Bob, Justin, Jen, Russel, Miguel, Caterina and many more.
Last, but in no means least, in WDCS’s evaluation it is the Latin American countries that are now leading the conservation side for whales, along with Australia. Our compliments to you all in the BAG!
A special thanks this year to the many people, both within WDCS and outside, who helped ensure that a particularly stressful meeting for many of us, was filled with hugs, snacks, kind words and support. It is an honour to call you friends and colleagues.
Mark of WDCS (on the left) congratulates Richard Pullen, the no-longer-new UK Commissioner
The Belgian delegation, Els, Alexandre and Fabian
And finally - here is a very rare sighting indeed! Pictured below is the alternate Commissioner for Argentina, Miguel Iniguez, here accompanied by Carmen Asencio, the Spanish Commissioner (Carmen is on the left.)
Here ends the reporting from IWC 63.
Whilst we await the concluding comments from the WDCS team in Jersey (well one of them is still there propped up on the beach in the pouring rain), here are some pictures of marine debris found by colleagues during the IWC's Scientific Committee in Arctic Norway. Pierre Gallego, the Alternate Commissioner for Luxembourg is shown to provide scale.
And why were we making a fuss about marine debris this year at the IWC? Because it is everywhere in the seas - even here in the Arctic - and it is a growing, global problem. Human detritus dumped from vessels and sea platforms, blown from landfills, spilling from industrial outfalls and discarded by coastal communities does not just foul beaches and threaten human health and safety. As it pervades the sea, it kills or maims countless marine animals through entanglement or ingestion and destroys wildlife habitats by smothering the seabed and disturbing benthic communities by mechanical scouring. Pieces of marine debris can also transport invasive species between oceans and facilitate the transfer of persistent organic pollutants into the food web.
You can find out a little more about the debris threat here.
Stay tuned - final comments on IWC 63 coming shortly.
And whilst you are waiting, we can also recommend a new book to you that many of the IWC delegates have contributed to and which looks at many of the issues discussed in and around the whaling commission: 'Whales and Dolphins - Cognition, Culture, Conservation and Human Perceptions' was published by Earthscan just a few weeks ago. More information here. The contributors include the alternate Commissioner for Argentina, the ex-Commissioner for the UK, long-standing members of the UK and New Zealand delegations and NGO experts from Norway, the UK, Canada and many others.
At 19.53 or thereabouts there is a general return into the Great Windowless Hall.
The Chairman mounts the stage and says 'Hello everybody we will reconvene at eight o'clock'.
A distinguished NGO delegate rushes to the front to photograph this momentous moment.
A few minutes later members of the efficient and effective IWC Secretariat are moving papers around the room.
The piece of paper that we have been awaiting for many hours is entitled 'Paragraphs for Inclusion in Chair's Report'. It notes some of what happened earlier and concludes
'While recognizing the diversity of views in the Commission on the issue, the Commission recognises the importance of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary to many member Governments. The Commission resolved:
a. to continue to discuss the establishment of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary as the first substantive agenda item at IWC 64;
b. that if consensus cannot be reached on the item, a decision will be taken in accordance with the Commission's Rules of Procedure.
At 20.2O The Chairman, now joined by the Executive Secretary on the stage, announces that the latter is taking orders for gin and tonic. 'Hands up for gin and tonics' he says amiably.
A sea of hands rise.
And just a reminder this is not a verbatim report. We welcome comments and your help in making it accurate. Thanks to those who spotted many mistakes already.
Simon Brockington, the Executive Secretary, is on the phone on the stage. Is he putting through the drinks order?
A paper airplane is flying between delegations. The Korean Commissioner complains that this is 'not in accord with the rules of procedure'. He is rewarded with laughter and some applause on the side of the Great Hall that can see what is happening and confused and worried glances from the saide removed from this airplane diplomacy.
A line of Secretariat staff have appeared at the exits. There is no escape.
20.32. Please take your seats... this matter was complex and sensitive, says the Chair and he thanks all for working so hard on it. He explains the agreement as described above.
We now have very little time for many items, he notes. As it is so late we will need to adopt reports very quickly, Next year's agenda will allow time for more conbsideration of matters not considered at this meeting (is he sure?)
Can we adopt the Conservation Committee and the sections of other reports dealing with conservation plans.
Australia - on the conservation committee report we would like to have a full discussion at next year's meeting.
Mexico: I agree. This is the longest report we have ever had.
The distinguished delegation of Mexico
The reports are adopted in totality (including all the many parts of the Scientific Committee report not presented or in any way described or probed). Except for one...
Chile: Sorry I would like to introduce a small issue in the Scientific Report. There is a matter of stock estimates here presented in a table that needs to be clarified. Why are these presented?
There is an ominous silence. Everyone wants to be somewhere else.
The Chair goes to Debbie (Scientific Committee Chair) for clarification. She says: The purpose of compiling this was to look at the estimates and determine which ones had been accepted.
A statement is read on small cetacean contributions. A long list of groups has contributed a combined £10,300. There is appreciative applause.
Italy is very glad to also make a voluntary contribution of £25,000... because Italy 'believes in these projects'. More applause.
France will do likewise. A further outbreak of clapping.
The Chair of the Commisson moves to conclude the agenda in record-breaking brevity. In the private commissioners' meeting we also decided a few matters he says. The Chair of the Commission will be decided by postal vote. Vice Chair of Conservation Committee will be Alexandre de Lichtervelde, the Belgium Commissioner, [Congratulations.]. We now need to decide on next year's meeting.
Panama takes the microphone. Their commissoner speaks of his small country with a vibrant and growing economy. Panama City has become a centre for international meetings. He lists other attributes including a law for sea mammals that prohibits hunting and he has already issued a list of countries that require visas. [That may be handy.] He continues to extol the virtues of his country and its capital and then a video is turned on with vibrant background music that shakes the hall (and we notice some Latin delegates starting to move to the beat). We see scenes of dancers, tree frogs, beaches, more dancers, shipping, beaches again, a whale or two (a rare sighting in this place) and some dancers.
So we shall be going to Panama City for IWC 64.
The Chairman moves to close. He heard he might be asked to chair only two weeks ago and since then he has had great help from the Secretariat. 'Simon and Greg you are wonderful', he adds.
Two members of the Secretariat are retiring: redoubtable Bernard and dear Fiona. There is a long and affectionate standing ovation for them and gifts are unveiled (explaining the strange veiled shape that has been standing beside the stage foir many hours) and handed over.
The Chairman declares the meeting closed.
Members of the Secretariat are soon swiftly dismantling the room. Flags are confiscated first and name plates quickly follow. Delegates whirl around saying good bye and thank you to each other (little knowing that they will meet each other the next day somewhere else on the island). Reporters are on their phones trying to explain what did (or did not) happen. Policmen and security guards start to relax and soon the Great dark Hall is almost empty.
We say almost because over in one dark corner of the Hall the WDCS communications team continues to work its magic long after everyone else has left. At 10pm, or thereabouts, they are finally gently encouarged to go and find some food... and sleep.
In the spotlight themselves: WDCS Team Media: Laura (on the left) and Danny
WDCS extends its thanks to the IWC Secretariat for their support and assistance and also to all NGO and national delegate friends for their help and support. The Blog Scribe thanks WSPA for updates and amusements (and allowing him to occassionally go to the toilet) and his editors as ever. Stay tuned for a retrospective on this very important meeting, more explanations and further expressions of gratitude, after we have had some sleep.
In the meatime, we note that BBC Radio Jersey ran a series of reports from the meeting through this last week. In the final installment they pitched Niki Entrup of WDCS against two pro-whaling pundits and this unterview can be accessed HERE for just the next few days. (Apologies to those of you too far away to take advantage of this).
19.14. The Chairman is still sitting in the atrium having tea with friends. Somewhere a small group is arguing.
The IWC travel chests are being packed. And outside the sun still shines. Even the small groups of protestors gathered behing the barriers by the road have dwindled away.
Worst of all Vicky has packed her bowl, ball and lead and headed off. Here is a picture of the outside of the Hotel de France: look at that blue sky!
A sudden outbreak of nothing occurs. The rumours are now rife around the corridors. Some believe that we will work until midnight. Others suggest that a special message is being crafted by a small group that will explain the status of the South Atlantic Santuary and how to conclude the meeting. The Chairman and Executive Secretary are currently sitting in the outer atrium surrounded by friends and sipping drinks. Many delegates have already left and will be reading this from airports and ferries as the make their ways home.
The remaining NGOs are wandering around listlessly lobbying each other. Similarly the remaining journalists (bored with the NGOs)are interviewing each other, themselves and even the flower arrangements. In the coffee areas, the huge coffin-like wooden boxes that are used to transport the essential items of Secretariat equipment are already being prepared. To the left of main stage in a largely empty great hall sits a mysterious draped item about six foot high. What is its purpose? Is it the next Chairman of the IWC? Will all be revealed? Only time may tell.
Apparently the small group now consists of Brazil, Argentina, Iceland and someone else.....
The gentlemen of Greenpeace
Niki Entrup of WDCS
The Ladies of AWI and Andy Ottaway of Campaign Whale
Else of Belgium (Argentina), Vanesa Tossenberger, and Roxana Schteinbarg
James Gray and Luke Warwick of the UK delegation
Whale-friendly Norwegians: Tanya and Linda
Nothing is still happening.
We were recently treated to some loud commentary from the press gallery where Black of the BBC was interviewing himself (presumably for the BBC). He commented that Jersey was seemingly not in the UK (which we knew, see loyal toast yesterday). Then went on to describe the situation of the Western gray whales - which are endangered and the story of Flecks - a gray whale who was tagged and followed far away from the accepted migration route to the 'wrong' side of the ocean.
Richard Black of the British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC in the press gallery.
The only real reason that we mention this is that there are many important issues embedded in the reports from the Conservation and Scientific Committees and we are never going to hear about them at this rate.
Meanwhile here are some pictures from the IWC this afternoon.
The lone Australian - Pam Eiser
Vane and Sue
The paparazzi find Vicky
The distinguished Colombian delegate, Fernando Trujillo
During the reception last night, we used a couple of quotes from the famed visionary naturalist, writer and conservationist Gerald Durrell. Durell died in 1995 but his legacy lives on in his centre is a famous attraction and training centre here in Jersey.
Here are those quotes both from his book 'Two in the Bush' published in 1966:
'Firstly what does conservation mean? It is not merely the saving from extinction of such species ... You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is not only vital for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself — a point that seems to escape many people.
'We have inherited an incredibly beautiful and complex garden, but the trouble is that we have been appallingly bad gardeners.... We now stand so aloof from nature that we think we are God. This has always been a dangerous supposition.
The Chairman is sighted. There is now a group, they are drafting and they will come back at about 18.30. It takes longer than we expected, he apologises.
Thursday Morning Part Two
Will you block consensus Palau?
I did not ask for the floor, he says. There is no point in us getting our voting rights restored without using them, but we will not stand in the way of consensus.
Russia: this will destroy us but we will join consensus in case this is taken by consensus. We are against the proposal as it is. We do not want to break consensus but we will vote.
Iceland we will not take part in consensus. We will contribute to no vote taking place.
St Kitts and Nevis associates with Iceland.
Cameroon this should be left open, we support Iceland.
The Chairman asks the proponents how to proceed. Brazil says that he empathises now with what Great Britain went through in the last few days. He can feel a taste of it, he adds. He feels strongly on this matter and so do the whole Buenos Aires Group. I do not agree if we put this to the vote it will destroy the IWC. Voting is not a bad thing.
Argentina agrees. They have tried to be amenable and she asks the opposing countries to reconsider. This has been on the agenda for ten years and has been voted for before with a majority supporting. We are dramatising this.
The Chair asks for any other comments.
Japan says he speaks for the countries supporting the sustainable use of whales and would like to explain what they propose if we go for the vote. May I take more than two minutes? [The Chair nods.] We understand the importance of the proposal in front of us. We have made similar proposals about small type coastal whaling in the past. Yesterday we had wonderful progress and this morning we passed a resolution by consensus. Let us keep the dialogue of consensus and trust going. One thing different is that we think voting will have a negative effect. We don’t like to take hostile action but we are thinking of breaking the quorum of this meeting. He says it twice. Quorum would be 50% of the 89 members. When the sustainable nations leave this will break the quorum .This is not hostile, he adds mildly. [There is some laughter.]
So again I like to avoid any surprise and misunderstanding, Jogi concludes.
The spokesman for Japan on the big screen.
Colombia: We also hope to avoid voting but we must not be afraid of voting. The Buenos Aires Group will not abandon. Today… this year… some time… we will have to decide on this matter. This will define whether this conference will end, because we cannot understand that you can go in and out depending on the topics that we discuss. If the group that support’s Japan’s idea does this, it would put an end to this particular meeting.
Another Latin delegate takes the floor and passionately comments on the ‘overwhelming majority’ in favour of the proposal. We want consensus. We want an area or zone as a sanctuary – a powerful attraction for research. This will help to fight poverty. Please understand this!... voting is a highly valid democratic method. If you leave during voting this would not be acceptable and would be a lack of transparency.
Mexico supports his friends in the BAG.
Monaco believes in democracy and he reminds everyone here that the right to vote was hard won in many countries; why should we be deprived of this.
We continue in similar vein for a while.
The Chair now calls on Brazil and Argentina.
Brazil says that we should vote.
Very many delegates now start to leave the room. The Norwegians, the Russians, the Caribbeans, Africans and Palau quietly leave.
We think that the last mass walk out was at the Anchorage meeting, but we cannot recall the message.
After a while, a private Commissioner’s meeting breaks out. Some hours later, Greg Donovan Head of Science takes to the stage to tell the remaining delegates (those not already at lunch, getting a haircut or shopping) that the Commissioners are still meeting. We wait and the clock ticks increasingly loudly. How many agenda items are still left? Fifteen.
Tick, tick, tick, tick.........
14.46 There is a Herman-alert.
The Chairman is briefly sighted in the public part of the meeting forum. The slowly mounts the stage.
He says, I don't know who invented lawyers but the procedural matters are complex and we will be at least another hour. He makes to leave.
A small NGO delegate rushed forward to award him a well-deserved biscuit.
Tick... tick... tick....some delegates are seen to be leaving already.
‘This is huge!’
The reality of what was concluded last night is still sinking in. Some are suggesting that this is the most significant development since the moratorium went into place in 1982, or perhaps since the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was established.
In short the UK/EU reform package that was agreed despite some dilution coming from negotiations does the following:
- the issue of cash payments was addressed by inserting requirements for bank transfers from state institutions or government accounts
- audited financial statements will be available on the IWC public website
- mechanisms will be put into place to ensure that the decisions of the Commission are accurately reflected in writing; this applies to both consensus decisions and for decisions taken by a vote
- all documents produced during the meetings will be more accessible on the IWC public website
- there is also a mechanism by which countries cannot join at the last minute and vote; they need to be a member for at least 30 days prior to the meeting and have paid their dues prior to the first day of plenary
- the Commission will also make information more accessible and transparent via their website
The only great loss in the negotiations were the proposed improvements in participation of civil society (the NGOs). We could perhaps take it as a compliment that the voices of the NGOs are so feared that they need to be constrained here and severely limited. It is sad that the final wording did not improve the participation of civil society, but a working group has been agreed to that will review the issue and hopefully lead to improvements.
There are 16 items still on the agenda. The meeting will have to break the land-speed record for Multilateral Environmental Agreements to get through its business. Three other items on the agenda are two ‘possible tea breaks’ (without biscuits, obviously) and a ‘possible lunch break’.
Stand by, this is going to be fast and furious.
The NGOs did manage a reception last night. The indistinguised International Director of Science of WDCS, camouflaged in bowtie and matching waistcoat, welcomed everyone and introduced three speakers. These were the Commissioners for Mexico, Argentina and Belgium. There was much hilarity because the altitudinal disparity between the speakers and master-of -ceremonies required significant adjustment to the microphone.
There were three toasts during the evening – the first being the loyal toast - in the correct Jersey form - to ‘Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Normandy’; the second to ‘Mr Perfect’ the alternate Commissioner for the UK, who retires this year; and the last to the ‘IWC family’, WWF concluded the formal part of the evening by showing their video ‘Don’t be a bucket-head’ and generoulsy handing out ear-plugs and sleeping masks, which were much appreciated.
Mainly everyone had a nice time and celebrations and co-ordinations went on late into the night.
In reception-mode (from the left: Claire Bass of WSPA, Sue Fisher and Mark Simmonds of WDCS.
Part of the US delegation enjoying the NGO reception.
The one failing of the reception - which of course provides a place where observers and country delegates can meet and talk, was there was not enough food. Soon a queue of distinguished delegates, including several commissioners, forms outside the pizza shop around the corner from the reception.
A distinguished queue for pizza.
Anyway…. Back to the last day. Up the steep steps decorated with congratulatory snail trails. Past the British bobbies standing amiably outside the Hotel de France and into the Great (window- and biscuit-less) Hall.
‘Good morning. I expect that you will be pleased when this is finished.’
‘Good morning – my feet will be! replies the beaming policeman rising up on his heels in traditional manner.
Delegates mill and then distil into their seats
Good morning says Herman O, the Chair who sounds more that a little hoarse this morning.
We return to the issue of safety at sea. Japan has prepared a new resolution on this theme. Australia speaks up to support peaceful protest at sea and calls for consensus and other similar things. For example, India is deeply concerned and opposed to violent protest at sea by any individuals but they support peaceful protest.
The resolution text on lime green paper states (amongst other things) that the Parties ‘Agree that the resolution of differences on issues regarding whales and whaling should not be pursued through violent actions that risk human life and property at sea’
Can we adopt this by consensus? Cautious applause breaks out, then builds.
I take it that we do then says the Chair.
We move to the issue of Sanctuaries and there is a proposal from Argentina and Brazil for a Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Brazil presents it.
This is an issue presented repeatedly over the last few years and never passed. Will they move to a vote today?
Delegates are carefully stepping around Vicky who has already dropped off today.
Brazil notes that 60% voted in favour the last time we voted. Since then in the spirit of consensus they have not moved it to a vote again and they have improved the proposal in these years. They now think that it is again time to bring this matter to a vote. We hope by consensus. Perhaps, he adds after some discussion over coffee. [There is laughter.]
Brazil believes that the science is with him.
Argentina has been silenced (someone has broken the wire again) a gentle bell rings in the background… are we to fasten our seatbelts; are we landing?
The Commissioner for Argentina is given a microphone – she speaks eloquently and with gentle passion of the breeding area of the Southern Right whale and that this proposal is to establish a non-lethal management zone. Argentina has the longest constant study – over 40 years – on Southern right whales she says proudly. They seek long term protection and recovery. This proposal is not new – we last asked for a vote in 2007. We have been patient over the last few years. We seek consensus. For five years the Buenos Aires group has spoken of its support for this proposal.
The Chairman reminds all of the 2 minute rule and that we will be hearing from NGOs in due course. [Or will we…. There are some herds of giraffes on the way.
The Chairman reads a list which includes the mysterious countries of ‘Spare 1’ and ‘Spare 2’.
Various countries speak in support. These include the Latin Countries and the USA (their support is ‘unqualified’ states their Commissioner and she hopes for consensus). Australia concludes a statement in support within ‘four seconds’ of the Chairman’s deadline and stresses the conservation benefits.
However Palau states that he will vote against; as he has before. He is not convinces that the whales in the area are critically endangered. The UK says that their position is clear. Sanctuaries are a key conservation element and the IWC should both create and respect them. They support Brazil and Argentina.
Chile speaks of his hope for consensus (was he not listening to Palau). India too hopes for consensus and asks Palau to re-consider their position.
Russia (there is a gentle sigh): our position is well-known. We support the creation of sanctuaries in the areas where it is needed and on a case-by-case basis. The proposal from Argentina and Brazil interferes with the process of the 'Future of IWC’. There was a decision to take this as a process. We do not support global sanctuaries whilst the moratorium is in force. We request Brazil and Argentina to withdraw the process if they do not want to destroy the future process. This kills the future process by ‘unhumane methods’.
The Chair invites Uruguay because their microphone is not working ‘to move to another country’. There is some laughter
Uruguay moves to ‘Spare One’ and gives his full support to the sanctuary and congratulates the Chair on his election and process. He also thanks the Secretary.
Iceland recalls that the proponents were not eager to establish the sanctuary when we were working on a package deal and there is no scientific basis and justification for a sanctuary.
New Zealand likes consensus and says we should work towards this.
Denmark has repeatedly announced its positive stance towards real sanctuaries. However, the Danish parliament has announced that we have to vote yes on this proposal if it is put in front of this body. In the future, we are clear that sanctuaries must have a positive support from the Scientific Committee and all coastal states must support.
Israel is considerably more positive about the sanctuary.
Monaco says ‘Bonjour’ and he is loud and strong in support of the sanctuary. Monaco overwhelmingly supports the proposal. Consensus is a process that works on the majority of most.
Switzerland has been to Patagonia. He worked there in 87, and he has been back since, and he knows the efforts made there to protect the whales and the importance of local people and whale watching there. Finding consensus takes a lot of time here and we may not have time to do this here. We should leave this item open. We do not need to decide today.
St Kitts and Nevis says he sees this as an emotional response and wants a more thorough discussion.
Portugal hopes that we do not have to go to a vote.
Spain says that much time has passed since we last voted. Last time we supported and we noted at this time that consultation with coastal states was needed. In the intervening 11 years this has been remedied She too prefers not to vote.
Cameroon wishes to keep the item open.
Now we move to the NGO interventions. Each will get four minutes and be cut off. A speaker on the behalf of Latin American NGOs says that it is a well known fact that whales were affected by the whale Olympics of previous years [whaling]. The moratorium allowed recovery but more decades are needed for recovery. She makes her case eloquently and concludes with the hope that this highly restrictive means of NGO participation will be revised.
Someone from the IWMC organisation thanks Brazil and Argentina and says we should consider the broader view. The way one species is managed affects how other species are manged. We must use best tools. Whale sanctuaries are a blunt instrument because they cover all species. They are not a tool because cover all specie including those that are not endangerted. No whale haunting takes place within the boundaries of the sanctuary this situation is magnified and this sanctuary is largely symbolic. This will be used by those opposing whaling… Ultimately these measures affect fisheries and … give the impression that all environmental effects have been addressed. We need a management system based on science on which whaling can be managed – the purpose of this organisation – and whale sanctuaries will be unnecessary. This lacks scientific justification. We were told that the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was a failure with a little rationale behind and there is no clear recommendation from the Scientific Committee that…[he is cut off but can still be faintly heard in the distance bemoaning this and that].
I am sorry said the Chair.
The Chair asks us if a cup of coffee would be a good idea.
Brazil says that he could use some coffee.
A long coffee break follows. The Buenos Aires Group meets in one corner. The UK NGOs meet with the UK Commissioner in another. Press people rest in their special place – a gallery high about the hall where they can watch all the comings and going and with the aid of a small telescope quite possibly read all the delegates' computer screens below.