Thursday, June 26. 2008
It is cool and cloudy in Chile. A dog is sleeping in its little 'dog nest' deep in the ivy outside our hotel. We pass by and it wakes up, and someone rather rudely takes a photograph as we head to the IWC meeting across the brown river. (It is soon asleep again - but no such luck for us!)
[It is hot in the meeting room â€“ will the fragile peace hold in this heat? Certainly there are some hot topics coming up. Will there be biscuits. Will the earth move. How is the dancing going?]
The major of Taiji sits quietly.
Japan take the floor to refer to its claim for coastal whaling â€“ which is usually made at this point in the meeting. The delegate notes that the major of Taiji, one of the towns that conduct this type of whaling, is sitting quietly behind him. But in the new spirit of IWCâ€™s attempts to reach a common ground, they will NOT make this request this year.
There is a small pause. The earth shakes gently, somewhere a city dog howls and then we more suddenly into the review of Japanâ€™s Special Permit (â€˜scientificâ€™ and lethal) hunt.
[The temperature soars].
The Scientific Committee Chair now describes the main part of the Scientific Committee report. He draws particular attention to the proposal for a new review process for lethal research that the Committee supports.
The UK is pleased that we have a clear process to review Special Permit whaling, although â€˜if he has a regretâ€™ it is that the time-table for the review of JARPA 2 (Japanâ€™s ongoing lethal research) is a long way off .
The US Commissioner, DeMaster, is very pleased about this development too.
Switzerland takes the floor for the first time and he thanks the hosts and then the Scientific Committee for their â€˜tremendous and excellent workâ€™. He notes that scientific whaling is a difficult topic and so it is excellent to see this progress.
Japan seems to like the plan too. He notes that they were actively involved in achieving this success in the Scientific Committee and commits to the process. As far as scientific committee is concernedâ€¦ he hopes that the commission and general public will also achieve greater understanding of scientific whaling.
The chair is again peering towards the back of the room and cannot make out who wants to speak. [This is a big international meetingâ€¦ get him a telescope, lend him some binocularsâ€¦ come on.]
India compliments the scientific committee but also calls for the increased use of non-lethal methods.
New Zealand also welcome the report of the Scientific Committee but adds that it will come as no surprise to all that they oppose the scientific whaling programme in the southern ocean. This issue inflames people in New Zealand, and she is also worried about human life and also the pristine Antarctic environment. But she is pleased that Japan did not take humpback whales and calls on them to â€˜take the hard optionâ€™ to stop scientific whaling.
Slovenia, on the behalf of the EU block, notes that there are several non-lethal research techniques and that these allow for non-lethal studiesâ€¦ scientific whaling should be brought under IWC control in the first place and then phased out.
The Australian Minister, Peter Garret, strongly opposes killing whales in the name of science. There is simply no need to kill whales in this age. Special Permit whaling is commercial whaling and he has particular concerns for humpback whales and fins because of their conservation status. There is no defensible level of scientific whaling. No scientific reason for this.
He proposes that the approach to scientific whaling is reformed. The Commission does not currently play a part in approving these takes and he thinks it should. Indeed, Commission should agree by consensus such matters.
Secondly, research should seek to meet the aims of the Commission.
Garret concludes that Special Permit whaling can only be a source of division and it must stop.
Brazil agrees with Australia and New Zealand. They are strongly opposed to this practice.
Mr Cowan of the UK associates with Slovenia and others. The British public is outraged that this is nothing less than commercial whaling in disguise and it undermines the 1982 moratorium. However, he welcomes Japanâ€™s decision not to take humpbacks in the last whaling season and that they did not take fins. Then he asks Japan if they still plan to take fins given that they only saw 9 whales of this species during their whole expedition.
Iceland says he will refrain from a long political speech, he does not wish to spoil the friendly atmosphere hereâ€¦. But does not agree with UK.
St Kits and Nevis says, at some length, that this is an important issue and that such research is important for the fishing and whaling industryâ€¦ he says that sharing the economic benefits of whales will be an important development in future discussions.
Japan says shall we just go back to the usual exchange of acrimonious comments? He believes that positions are first made and then arguments follow from this. He knows that some countries say there is no need for lethal studies but â€¦ well he does not agree.
I might be convinced, he adds, if you say there is no need to kill any animal in the 21st century. People tend to close their eyes to the information not supporting their positions. The information from our studies is ignored because it does not fit with the arguments.
He continues at some length and is also concerned about how journalists report Japanese science. He calls on media and NGOs to join the lunchtime event where the latest results of Japanese science will be presented but urges also that there should be no emotion-based acrimonious comments there.
This issue, he concludes, is a symbol of the problems that we face.
Russia talks of Copernicus and the middle ages when we thought the earth rotates around the sunâ€¦ he was burnt at the stake and the crowd cheered. In this crowd was the beginning of the NGO movement. There is laughter and some low level jeering.
â€˜Japan' he adds, 'is clearly not researching whales so they can have a database of the lengths of the tails of the whales â€“ we will never work out the RMS or get out of the moratorium without this [lethal] researchâ€™.
Chairman â€“ there is no action here that we are coming to.
US â€“ We oppose Japanâ€™s lethal programme â€“ it is unnecessary for modern conservation.
Argentina, Costa Rica and Chile also voice concerns.
Portugal stresses the importance of science to the IWC but notes that modern research starts by minimizing lethal aspects.
Mexico notes that Japanese research has not even met its own aims.
Korea says that we do not use a single standard for scientific studies. In his delegationâ€™s view, problems have arisen because political decisions have prevailed. The decisions of the Commission have been charged by political values. We cannot stop scientific whaling under these circumstances. We need to return to reason [the floor is shaking gently]
Luxembourg is not happy with Special Permit whaling â€“ in the current state of knowledge, these are not meeting scientific priorities and therefore should be stopped and non lethal research techniques used.
Norway supports Iceland and Japan. We have heard that scientific whaling meets no needs but he disputes this.
St Lucia associates with Iceland and others. As a scientist she adds that she is appalled that countries do not recognize the tremendous contributions made from these [lethal] studies. The meeting is now â€˜degeneratingâ€™ and especially when the UK refers to the â€˜so-called scientificâ€™ information. This she claims is insulting. To manage our resources properly we need this data â€¦ we need lethal data.
The Chairman says that he still has a long list of speakers and notes again that there is no action here.
Peru associates with Argentina. France associates with all opposed to scientific whaling â€“ it is not necessary to kill them for research he stresses.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, however, associates with those that support lethal research â€¦ and so it continues.
[Now we are cooking]
Switzerland says that lethal research is only acceptable where other methods cannot work and any suffering of animals needs to be justified.
Spain goes back to what Slovenia said and encourages again a phase-out of lethal research.
The Chairman notes the report and endorses its recommendations, which include (if we can think back that far) the recommendations for a new review process in the Scientific Committee.
Coffee and no biscuits follow. [Come on Chile itâ€™s not too lateâ€¦.]
The restart of the meeting is delayed because with camera bulbs flashing at the front of the room, Morimoto-san, The Japanese Commissioner, is presenting Peter Garret the Australian Minister, with several volumes of what we assume are the results of Japanese research or perhaps a collection of books of Japanese recipes. It is not clear. Perhaps we will never know.
On to the SAFETY OF VESSELS.
[No cooling off in the Commission today]â€¦ This concerns actions against the Japanese whaling fleet on the high seas.
The Japanese statement includes the following sentiments:
â€œViolent actsâ€?. â€œHarassmentâ€?. â€œTrespassâ€?. â€œIrritable Chemicalsâ€?. â€œInterfere navigationâ€?. â€œSerious Damageâ€?.
Their spokesman says (in Japanese) that important people are watching how the member countries will react to these acts. The only organization mentioned is Sea Shepherd.
He mentions the need for co-operation between nations and the need to bring the wrong doers to justice.
The Netherlands takes the floor. Their spokesman has been following the issue â€“ they support the right of free speech and the right to demonstrate â€¦ but within the law. Complaints have been received and investigations are in progress. The issue of safety of sea should be dealt with in the appropriate bodies and they welcome the fact that this matter will be looked at by the IMO next week.
Mexico speaks up to support Japan in this matter of international law.
New Zealand fully shares concerns for the safe operation of vessels in the southern ocean â€“ the risk of maritime accidents and their consequences are of great concern. Next years the fleet will be in an area where they have rescue
There must not be risk to human life and property. They will continue to work with Japan.
Australia was deeply concerned with the escalation of matters in the southern ocean and whilst opposed to whaling under special permit and supportive of the right to protest but it must be lawful and so he calls for the â€˜utmost constraintâ€™. Our calls were not heeded last season and several incidents took place that were not in accord with safety at sea. National or international laws may have been violated.
Iceland notes that the Commission has already condemned this activity by consensus and welcomes the international co-ordination on this matter reported by Japan.
India gently recognizes the right to demonstrate but urges that it must be peaceful.
The US associates with previous speakers and whilst it does not think this is the relevant body it does think full investigations should be made.
Peaceful activities would be encouraged says Korea but interference with lawful scientific investigations that endanger life must be punished.
We now come to that most important issue, the Climate Change workshop. [WDCS strongly supports this initiative.]
The Australian Minister speaks up strongly in support of the need to address and actively manage emerging threats. He is pleased with the climate change initiative and that one of his scientists, [we will name him â€“ the redoubtable, Dr Nick Gales], will Chair this meeting. He pledges 10,000 Australian dollars to the project.
Mexico thanks Australia
Italy makes her first intervention and â€˜adds her voiceâ€™ to all other countries who have thanked Chile for hosting so well. She adds that she has spent over three weeks here [she was also part of the Scientific Committee meeting] and has â€˜always felt at homeâ€™. She is pleased that the meeting of the climate change workshop will be in March in Siena in Italy.
The Netherlands too is concerned about climate change, especially the changes in the ice in Antarctica, where the whales feed.
For the US, Acting Commissioner DeMaster, speaks up to support the initiative and says that it will make a financial commitment
France also supports, as does Argentina
Costa Rica also welcomes the workshop. It is in line with the focus of their work and it is important for Costa Rica to understand this matter better. They thank Italy for hosting the main workshop and offer to host a pre-meeting which they have bee discussing with interested parties.
Equador notes the threat of pollution.
Luxembourg (in the form of its scientific advisor) then congratulates the Scientific Committee on its excellent body of work on environmental issues. He notes that the Commissionâ€™s Standing Working Group on Environmental Concerns was exceptionally well attended this year and considered a broad range of important topics. We associate with the earlier comments of Germany and others concerning climate change.
Climate change is a fundamental threat to whales and it is entirely appropriate that this body should seek to understand it more fully. The Scientific Committee has made excellent progress in its preparation for this workshop and we thank them for their hard work. Details of the workshop can be found on pages 17 and 18 of annex K.
Noting that the workshop does not presently have full funding and some matters remain to be resolved, Luxumbourg requests that this agenda item is held open to allow us to consult with other delegations and to report back at a later time on progress.
Finally he thanks Australia for the support they have provided and also Costa Rica for their offer to hold a pre-meeting.
The UK is delighted that the workshop is being convened by a British scientist and Uruguay stresses that we need to allow mother earth to breath.
[And here we break because the biscuit shortage is now so accurate that we have to go and have a lie down.]