Wednesday Evening at IWC 64: in which Russia declares war on India and everyone appreciates Simon.
Joji Morishta of Japan rapidly reads the report of the sub-committee meeting on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling held last week. He pauses at one point in traditional style and the Chair asks is anyone has any comments. India makes an intervention at great pace (and gets through it with ‘just 6 seconds left’ notes the Chairman with a smile). The gist of what India said is that it should be the objective of the IWC to work towards reducing the number of whales killed within Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling and to help the relevant communities to identify alternative food resources.
Morishita-san continues and works steadily through his report. Mexico speaks of the excellent work done by the Eskimo in protecting the whales, studying them and managing their hunt. He regards them as exemplary and would like to see the same things done by Greenland.
Austria is aware that St Vincent and the Grenadines are not here but notes that data and samples had been requested from them last year and she asks the Secretariat to approach them for these things.
We plough on through the report and Morishita gives thanks to Greg Donovan, The Head of Science, for his hard work in the Scientific Committee on this theme.
Can we approve this report says the Chair hopefully?
Russia takes the floor to agree with the adoption of the report. He thanks Morishita for his excellent work but notes that he was not there for the meeting last week. He is surprised by the scientific knowledge of India and that India knows better than Scientific Committee the knowledge of Aboriginal Whaling, and we will return to Moscow with this information and we will be asking India why it took this position.
India says he did not understand Russia and ‘this thing’ [presumably his headset] is not working properly.
Russia, in turn, missed the question. Sorry he says? [Gentle laughter]
Repeat your intervention please says the Chairman. The Russian Federation is astonished by the scientific knowledge of India and that they said there was a need to reduce the aboriginal hunt. He hopes that is the position of the delegate not the country. They will report to Moscow and ask for a response from the Indian Government to explain the statement. Thank you!
India: we did not use the phrasing suggested… it will be advisable on the part of our colleague to understand what we really said. We did not say that the quota should be reduced but there was a need to systematically reduce the need of communities… and this is the Indian Government Position. We do not have a separate position.
‘Russia? Says the Chairman with an ominous tone.
Russia: Now we understand what is said by India and a response will be requested by the Russian government.
The USA now introduces a working paper proposing an ad hoc working group on outstanding issues relating to aboriginal subsistence whaling.
Is it still daylight outside? Will we ever get out of here… not even a biscuit!
Sweden supports the US – and says this is in agreement with updating our 60 year-old rules, which in his country is ‘retirement age’. Needs statements need to be updated. He was surprised at how these were used for the Makah tribe. We also need to take into account various new legal instruments.
Norway says that they generally support this proposal and that it should make things easier for aboriginal people. Although the management procedures are different and have to be different for both types of whaling [commercial and aboriginal] both are safe and ensure sustainable catches. The work of the scientific committee should follow similar rules (for example phase-out rules) for both forms of whaling. We do not support taking discussions on aboriginal subsistence outside of the usual forum… and he notes that such work is ongoing in NAMMCO. Hence he cannot support the proposal. [Blog editor – you say he supports it in the first sentence and then he doesn’t in the last bit. Which is it? Pay attention, and no more bloody giraffes!]
Switzerland supports the rights of indigenous peoples. Like Sweden (who he is sitting next to) he stresses the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People. He wishes to join the working group.
Argentina thanks the proponents. He comments on the issue of ‘unresolved issues’ and suggests that other issues could be of interest, including the conversion factor between whales and tonnage of meat. He is also interested in animal welfare, as is the rest of Buenos Aires Group. He lists other scientific matters and then says that he has ‘no problem’ … [cut off]
Herman turns his microphone back on.
I would like to ask the proponents what the size of the group is that you [USA] are thinking of, he concludes.
Iceland supports whaling in any form, he says again. There are only two categories of whaling sustainable and not sustainable and he associates with Norway.
Mexico agrees with Argentina – we need to standardise the ‘needs statement’. Perhaps Greenland can help us.
[The needs statement is a document provided by a nation in support of the claims by its indigenous people for an aboriginal whaling quota.]
Portugal associates with those supporting the working group.
Spain agrees with what was said by Sweden. This is a critical issue here and Spain would like the working group to bring us up to date.
Colombia associates with the proposal – obviously we agree with Argentina and Mexico, she adds.
St Kitts and Nevis supports the working group.
The Chair says that I have two countries speaking against this. Norway and Iceland will you block consensus on this?
Norway: we have made a statement and we support normalisation. We will not stand in the way.
Iceland: ‘Ditto’. [laughter]
The Chairman says can I close the item?
Argentina says I am sorry but I asked a question. How big is this group.
The USA says 8 = 4 ASW + 4 not ASW
Doug Demaster Alternate Commissioner for the USA
Argentina: Thank you. We would be willing to join the group and the Buenos Aires Group would like to have two members on the group.
Russia: The USA mentioned four countries, Switzerland agreed to participate and we have talked to countries – Austria and Japan will take part; if Argentina would like this would make four, so this closes the list. We would like to do the work and deliver, so really small working group! We request Argentina discusses this within the Buenos Aires Group and represent them itself.
Argentina: This was discussed within the BA Group and I would like to discuss it with them.
Can I close the item says the Chairman hopefully.
Chile associates with Argentina and would like to talk more with him.
The USA says that we would like at least one person from the Scientific Committee and mentions the name Nick Gales.
Here is Nick Gales.
The Chairman says shall we keep this open?
And so the item of 'Nick Gales' is kept open.
The USA says lets us close it except for membership.
The Russian Federation supports the USA and says that a discussion with the Buenos Airs group can report later.
The Chairman says we have 15 minutes left and there are quite a view items left. Japan?
We move on to Small Type Coastal Whaling.
Japan says that the importance to Japan of Small Type Coastal Whaling is well known. This has been a part of the ‘future of the IWC process’ too. At the beginning of this meeting I stated that we would like to propose this matter for consensus or other means. We know it will not get consensus. But we see the very positive consensus by EU/UK issue. We do not bring up something contentious. I would like to see further consensus and cooperation for a good dialogue.
The chair opens the floor for comments. There are none. Can the Chairman close the item. He can.
The next item is the IWC in the future. So, some science fiction coming up maybe: whales in space. These are the journeys of the Star Ship IWC. Its three year mission is to boldly go where no multilateral environmental agreement has gone before. The USA says that they do not need to present their resolution but hope that all will strive to build trust and consensus. She looks to other governments for their support. It may be possible to put some language into your report and if other governments are supporting – today was evidence of this in spades. Thank you Mr Chairman and thank you for letting us talk… [She is cut off}
The microphone is turned back on but she is finished she says.
Sweden support this resolution because he thinks the IWC is dysfunctional and he reads from the Convention the text stating that the body is concerned with the ordelrly development of the whaling industry.
New Zealand does not support quite that, but he supports a process.
Iceland supports the resolution.
Russia supports the resolution mostly.
India: We are of the view that the IWC should work on threats to the whales and he gives a long list of threats. He adds considering the diverse role that the Commission has to play we should rename the body as the International Whale Commission.
Argentina says she has some problems with the draft and the resolution and he is grateful that the USA expressed a view that settles this concern. This would not be a resolution but words in the report and we would like to see these words and we would be prepared to consult to help with this.
Japan supports the forward process and the content and spirit of the resolution, and he like the flexibility of the proponents of the resolution. He too is flexible in this regard.
Spain supports the resolution in the terms presented by the USA. Portugal likewise.
Colombia associates with Argentina; so does Chile. The latter adds that we should not be afraid of taking a vote.
Australia associates with New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and others.
The Chairman and the Executive Secretary have their head together up on the stage.
Can we accept that the resolution is withdrawn, but it will appear in the Chairman’s notes. Item four is closed. Our last item is visas.
‘Good evening everyone!’ says Simon Brockington brightly beaming out across the room. This is our report on visas. He points to a paper. It was produced in a quick manner and if you may see errors; bring them to me and I will produce a revised version.
He adds that his principle contact is DEFRA, which is where the UK Commissioner is housed. They passed the question to their Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We helped where we could. Problems seem to be principally the inflexibility of the online visa system. We identify here some measures that we can use to learn from this.
The UK thanks the Secretariat. The commissioner speaks to this concern – 8 states were identified in a note from the Secretariat as potentially having problems. One delegate has arrived and visa applications for others cannot be investigated without further details. He too wishes to learn from the lessons.
Mexico thanks the Secretariat for his work.
Ghana notes that letters to the governments need to go to the Commissioners themselves as ‘letters get lost’.
Antigua and Barbuda congratulates the Secretariat. And congratulates those who ‘actually made it’ here.
Japan thanks Simon. Next year if we decide to go to Panama [which has invited the IWC starship to land there next year] we will probably need to go through the United States and I will be required to carry a visa for transit. You may like to keep this in mind. If some of my colleagues do not have an embassy in the relevant countries this can be ….
Not far away a room full of food is quietly spoiling.
Our heart-felt congratulations to Simon for his work, says Monaco. To avoid a reoccurrence of this kind in the future, it is useful to make the arrangements as soon as possible for this.
Ecuador says I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the UK hosts many multi-lateral agreements. Delegates from outside the UK and EU always have problems updating visas. Multilateral Organisations need to find a way to facilitate entry.
Russia associates with Monaco. He is not satisfied with the response from the UK. Half the nations were not allowed here.
Thank you personally Simon for the great work and also Julie who has done her best.
Iceland thanks Simon too for clarifying the issue. The issue has short and long term aspects, We need to prevent this from happening again. The short term aspect is that we need to continue to work at this meeting using consensus. There should be no other decision-making.
Simon thought it was a really constructive discussion and he will be meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth \office shortly.
An NGO delegate from the Save the Food group rushes to the front and the reception is announced.
Some small time later a shuttle from the Star Ship IWC lands at the Royal Hotel and the transporters beams a range of delegates into the remarkably enjoyable NGO reception. Here many delegates celebrate ‘one small step for Jolyon Thompson (and friends ) but one giant leap for whale-kind’.
Tomorrow – the final curtain and does anyone care about marine debris?
Mrs Lonsdale of EIA and Mr Perfect of the UK take 'tea' together.