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A day of highs and lows for whales: round-up of final day of the IWC meeting in Slovenia

  • The day began with the Distinguished Commissioner for Australia reporting on the Finance and Administration Committee, noting that Japan has offered to Chair the ‘Working Group on Support for New Countries’.
  • There is some laughter in the margins, as many people believe Japan has already been running its own ‘Recruitment Working Group’.
  • There is some debate on the allocation of the Scientific Committee to cover Special Permit Whaling workshops. Many believe that the whaling country proposing the Article VIII whaling should foot the bill or that meetings should happen at the same time as the normal IWC meetings, rather than be hosted in remote places which are expensive for delegates to reach.

The whalers actually want IWC and their countries taxpayers to subsidise their so-called ‘scientific whaling’

  • The IWC agrees to review and report back: but when and will Japan squeeze its next workshop in on the back of your taxes?
  • The Finance discussions continue with an agreement to waive press fees but potentially put up NGO fees.
  • Antigua and Barbuda begins a long diatribe, complaining that some countries allow their NGOs to come to the meeting and contribute, when developing countries cannot afford to come.
  • To us, it sounded like Antigua and Barbuda was arguing for NGOs to subsidize countries like themselves (this would be cheaper for Japan, I am sure) and the same NGOs to be stopped from being active by their governments. (Remind me to check on the state of democracy in Antigua and Barbuda, as this is getting scary.)
  • When Antigua and Barbuda accuses the IWC of being “undemocratic” the Chair rebukes him and says, “maybe biased sometimes”. (Did the Chair really say that or is my hearing failing me?)

The Finance Committee continues its report:

  • Recommends adoption for a voluntary fund for ASW (Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling)
  • Antigua and Barbuda again opens up, arguing, “[It is an] issue of great concern that Commission’s work more dependent on voluntary contributions, with influence peddling by rich against the poor, with countries using economic might against this organisation”. Their representative goes onto argue that any voluntary contributions should be ‘taxed’ –presumably to allow whaling studies to be speeded up?!
  • Chair, politely, suggests that Antigua and Barbuda joins the appropriate Working Group and table such suggestions there. Antigua and Barbuda appears to mutter into his microphone but does not say more…at this stage.

IWC/65/12:  Resolution on Civil society participation

  • Japan said it would join the consensus but asked for its request for a code of conduct for NGO activities be recorded.
  • The resolution is passed by consensus and the Chair congratulates Chile.

 IWC/65/13 rev 4: Resolution on Scientific Committee

This seemed to become largely a discussion on small cetacean issues:

  • Iceland said it doesn’t think IWC has competency on small cetaceans.  It said that NAMMCO deals with this issue for Iceland. Said it would support the Res for consensus purposes as long as not negatively affecting Scientific Committee resources. (Maybe Antigua and Barbuda likes this voluntary fund)
  • Japan agreed with Iceland, stating that this resolution will NOT change Japan’s basic stance on small cetaceans. Japan said it defines ‘conservation’ in a “commonsense way”(ie like the common man would) but will not block consensus adoption of this Resolution. (Not sure who Japan’s common man is, but highly likely to work for Far Seas Fisheries in Tokyo)
  • Russia says it believes in consensus but does not believe that the issue of small cetaceans falls under the competency of IWC. Russia says that it is happy to discuss small cetaceans in other international fora and won’t submit small cetaceans data to IWC for this reason
  • Norway, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines all agreed with Iceland, Japan et al ‘that small cetaceans have no place here’.

And now we come to one of the big ones – IWC/65/14 Special Permit Whaling

  • Iceland said that special permit whaling under Article VIII has to be strictly scientific, therefore no room for political influences. This is not reflected in the draft Resolution so Iceland cannot support it.
  • Norway said it had concerns on several paragraphs of the draft Resolution, including paragraph 1(b) concerning Scientific Committee advice on elements on data likely to lead to the conservation of whales. Says that this restricts research objects and isn’t under Article VIII, so wants to ask if NZ intended for that interpretation?
  • New Zealand was asked to clarify and said that they did in fact debate long and hard, recognizing that their text might be regarded as a development upon the ICJ ruling but NZ thinks it is very useful for IWC to move in this future direction.
  • Antigua and Barbuda complains that countries that object to amendments to the proposal that help whaling countries, should be ignored. He goes on to refer to them as a ‘radicalised faction’. So much for democracy in the Caribbean.
  • Chair stated that since it had not been possible to achieve consensus,  would NZ like a vote? To which NZ responded yes.
  • Chair then said that as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) fees hit the bank that morning their vote was reinstated. (The Chair later retracts this as an error)
  • The IWC, in an historic move, votes to 35 yes, 20 no, and with 5 abstentions to adopt the resolution which will have implications for any future whaling under Article VIII
  • After results announced, Japan immediately announces that it will be submitting a new research plan for Antarctica to implement research activities from 2015 “in line with international law as well as ICJ language”.
  • Antigua and Barbuda now argue that as the Resolution was not passed by consensus, it’s not binding but Australia notes that he is wrong as specific instructions to the Scientific Committee are included and so have to be passed to the Scientific Committee. Antigua and Barbuda seems to want to make up the rules on the hoof…..

The Sucker Punch or IWC 65/10/rev 4: ‘Food Security’

  • Ghana introduced their proposal stating that it  been endorsed by ministers at last week’s ATLAFCO major fisheries conference in Rabat and so was difficult to amend, but had tried to ‘massage it’. 
  • Ghana sees this resolution as timely for IWC to demonstrate to the world that it supports the FAO’s quest to achieve its policy of sustainable use of our oceans whilst satisfying the right to food and ‘nutritional security’ for millions of people. The Resolution is about ‘utilising whales as a means of reducing poverty and hunger’.  Says it wants IWC to send a lucid message to the world that “we are united in the goal of ensuring food security for the 870 million people that the FAO calls ‘chronically undernourished’. “ Ghana claims that they have consulted widely to try to compromise and reach consensus, but said that they would go to a vote if necessary.
  • Antigua and Barbuda thanked the sponsor of this ‘very important and timely resolution’ and then launched into a diatribe accusing NGOs of making money from whale watching whilst coastal peoples starved. He ended by saying “to put it colloquially, we just want a piece of the whale action…NGOs are benefitting…we too want to benefit from this multi-million dollar industry”.
  • Once the Chair had managed to get Antigua back under control, other pro-whaling countries including, Norway, Russia, Grenada, Cote D’Ivoire, St Kitts, Cambodia and Guinea, speak in favour of the resolution.
  • USA said this is an important issue and acknowledged that it is critically important to address global food security challenges, and thus USA has had some constructive dialogues on the sidelines but stated that it cannot support the resolution as it stands. USA does not believe that the IWC is the right forum to take decisions on human rights issues, so believes that the proposal should be limited to ASW.
  • Gabon said it did not believe whaling contributes in a meaningful way to global food security but recognizes its importance to coastal communities and feels the proposed resolution should be more targeted to giving support to these. Suggested Gabon would support if reworded to talk about food security of “indigenous communities that depend on whale stocks”. Importantly, Gabon also acknowledged the role that whales play in terms of contributing to a healthy marine ecosystem – and thus healthy fish stocks.
  • Interestingly, Cambodia argues that conservation should be balanced with needs of humans: otherwise, they said, what is the point of conservation? This goes to the root of the issue for Japan’s allies. They don’t believe in conservation UNLESS it creates a return for human beings.
  • Italy, who spoke on behalf of the EU, said this is a vital global concern but had not been discussed enough before plenary! They commented that the current draft did not include the EU’s written comments, which they now reiterated. After a long list of concerns, the EU noted that it could not support this Resolution.
  • Ghana concluded, saying that everyone agrees this is a fundamental issue but repeating their contention that IWC is indeed to do with consumption. However, if it was not possible to reach consensus, maybe this issue needs more time and therefore proposed to move it into the intersessional period to allow for more dialogue, with the aim of bringing it back in 2016 and achieving consensus. Proposal withdrawn


South Atlantic Whaling Sanctuary

  • Brazil introduced the proposal, saying that the resolution has evolved due to input from scientists and others. All range state members were co-proponents and noted the large amount of bilateral discussions which had taken place.
  • Brazil stressed that sanctuaries “don’t threaten fishing economies or food security”. But, as not possible to achieve consensus so far, they would be taking the proposal to a vote.
  • Vote – 40 yes, 18 no, and 2 abstain, so Schedule Amendment fails to get the required 3/4 majority.
  • Denmark antagonizes many in the conservation community by intervening at this point to say that it wanted to state that its ‘yes’ vote here was NOT a precedent!
  • WDC notes that Denmark is bound by the EU Common Position which dictates that it MUST vote for Sanctuaries and so its intervention is in contravention of the EU position. BUT will the EU Commission take action against Denmark? The smirk on the face of the EU Commission representative here in Slovenia suggests not.
  • Again, the EU Commission fails whales by putting its own political agenda before the safety of whales.


Japan’s proposal to tackle the Moratorium – IWC/65/09: schedule amendment (original version) – Small Type Coastal Whaling (STCW) as submitted by Japan

  • The vote almost immediately goes to a vote and fails very dramatically.
  • Vote records 19 YES, 39 NO, and 2 abstentions.
  • Of course, Antigua and Barbuda has to say something and reveals, as did Cambodia earlier the true root of their national position: ‘Burns my soul’ that coastal people are denied their rights to use coastal resources, saying there is “no way that [they] would ever vote for SAWS unless the proponents become more aware of the needs of coastal communities… the sanctuary is tied to granting of consumptive use of whales by other countries… we cannot have conservation without pay-back”

The meeting ends with various Commission reports being adopted.

  • Australia ensures that the major opposition to the Scientific Committee’s review of JARPA II is appropriately recorded in the record.
  • Argentina again contests the issue of the failure to record Greenland’s whaling as an infraction.
  • Chair says it is simply a procedural issue and just happened to be an ASW hunt. Chair suggests that the IWC ‘kicks the problem into the long grass’ and that it is handed over to the Operational Effectiveness Working Group (OEWG) to deal with. Australia, UK, USA, Japan, Chile and Argentina are all members. WDC will watch this closed shop as best we can!

The Commission then moved on to appointing a range of Chairs of committees and sub-committees, with Switzerland’s Bruno Mainini taking on the position of Chairman of the Commission and Japan’s Joji Morishta, as Vice Chairman.

 And so the IWC65 comes to an end. It’s been a meeting of some highs and lows:

  • The Greenland issue will rumble on, with a huge amount of work to be done to clean up the impact of Greenland’s inchoate commercial whaling on other ASW operations.
  • The ICJ resolution gives real cohesive guidance to the IWC Scientific Committee for the first time with the test of reasonableness and potentially puts any premature whaling by Japan in contempt of both the ICJ and IWC. Let’s see if Japan is willing to risk it by pressing ahead with its threat to resume whaling in the Antarctic in 2015.
  • Japan’s head-on attack on the moratorium and Schedule paragraph 10(e) was thankfully defeated, but reveals an emergent joint strategy between Greenland and Japan to argue for ‘sustainable whaling’ as both seek to support each other.
  • Small cetaceans made their mark and the IWC challenged countries to do all they could to stop any of the big whales smaller cousins from going extinct. Even Japan mentioned Taiji and Denmark mentioned the Faroese pilot whale hunt.
  • Unfortunately, the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary was defeated, even though 40 voted for it, 18 against. Again, it was the usual suspects who voted against the Sanctuary, with Antigua and Barbuda nailing their flag clearly to the Japanese flag pole, saying they would only ‘vote for such a sanctuary if the proponents voted for Japanese whaling’.
  • As the meeting ended, Iceland complained that the ‘whalers had lost out’ – so not all bad then!

 It was a long and complicated meeting, but WDC was pleased to play our part. We remain committed to fight for the whales and dolphins of the world and will fight all attempts to advance whaling. Thanks for your continued support, we will continue to campaign for a world which is safe and free for all whales and dolphins.