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.