IWC gets nasty: an opening day of hypocrisy

Report on day 1 of the 50th meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Oman:


Indicative of the mood and momentum of the 50th meeting of the International Whaling Commission, the plenary session opened Saturday morning with best wishes from the Chairman of the Commission - also the major proponent of the Irish Compromise Proposal - to Norway, whose national holiday it was. This followed his 'off the record' statement to the Commissioners that he does not want to see any criticism of Norway or Japan at this meeting for fear that they leave the Commission.

However, pleasantries soon evaporated and Japan and its Caribbean allies soon got down to business. Japan launched a blistering attack on Argentina, whose support it appeared to believe that it should have had for its proposal for all decisions at the IWC to be made by secret ballot. Japan insisted that Argentina justified its opposition to the secret ballot, fiercely arguing that its position was contrary to its domestic policy. Argentina resisted this intimidation with dignity and reiterated its opposition to this blatant move to compromise the transparency of the IWC.

Inspired by Japan's lead, Caribbean states then tried to have conservation groups observing the meeting thrown out, protesting that an opening statement from an American welfare group was offensive and intimidating to them. The statement made reference to Japanese overseas development aid and the positions taken by Caribbean countries at the IWC.

Both these moves illustrate the intensively political nature of the IWC and, as a whole half day of the four day meeting was lost, conservation groups expressed concern and frustration at the pro-whalers provocative and spoiling tactics.

'The whalers have made it absolutely clear that they mean to fight the conservation and protection of whales using every tactic', said Sue Fisher, WDCS Whaling Campaigner. 'Cconservation countries must stand firm and not compromise in the face of this pressure.'

For further information contact Sue Fisher or Mark Simmonds in Oman on 0705 011 7134
or Fran Clarke at the WDCS office on 01225 334511 / 0468 241627.