South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary FAILS to Pass IWC Vote!

The first order of “real” business is a discussion on The South Atlantic: A Sanctuary for Whales, presented by the Governments of Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Uruguay to the IWC64.

Comments as presented by commissioners of the following contracting governments are as follows:

BRAZIL:  The document (IWC/64/8 Rev1, Agenda item 4.1) is the same as the proposal submitted in 2011, and is submitted with the objective of promoting conservation, biodiversity, and maximizing recovery of whale populations throughout their life cycles, with emphasis on breeding habitats and migratory routes with international cooperation and oversight from the IWC.  Also, for the benefit of coastal communities with eco-tourism and non-consumptive use of whales such as whale watching, and to advance research in conservation.  The co-sponsors hope that the resolution can be adopted by this Commission, preferably by consensus.

JAPAN:  I am against this proposal, for the reasons as follows.  When we reviewed the proposal for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (SOWS), this comment applies to the current proposal.  This (proposal) lacks a vigorous approach to the design and approach to the management prescriptions within a sanctuary and represents a ‘shotgun’ approach to management of whale stocks.  As far we understand, there is no scientific justification for the sanctuary, and so it’s against the Convention, which states that sanctuaries have to be established on the basis of scientific evidence.  Also, this proposal is being proposed even though there is already a moratorium on commercial whaling.  There is no commercial whaling conducted in the South Atlantic, so it’s like building a roof upon a roof, and is unnecessary.  We hope that the Commission will reject this proposal.

INDIA:  We support the establishment of the SAWS, keeping in view that it will promote marine biodiversity and enhance the livelihood of coastal communities through whale watching and eco-tourism.

COLOMBIA:  We support the SAWS and re-commit to the non-consumptive use of whales and believe that sanctuaries are an important tool in the protection of whale stocks and the role that (whales) play in maintaining the integrity of their role in the ecosystem.  It will also protect vulnerable coastal communities, which depend on sustainable use of coastal resources.

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS:  St. Kitts & Nevis has considered the proposal and has concluded that there is absolutely nothing new in this proposal to address our concerns.  In fact, this has the potential to negatively affect the way in which marine resources are used in the future.  It will be sending a clear and frightening signal that a few countries can impose their view and domestic policies about how marine resources should be used on the high seas.  This is a business of the international community, and not the business of a few states.  The sponsors have not included their own Economic Zones, but are aware of the implications of fisheries and transportation for others.  They want to impose restrictions on other countries, but not their own.  No evidence do I hear that other international bodies have supported this measure.  Whale sanctuaries are an irrational management tool.  We question the intent of the sponsors of this amendment.  We suggest that there is a conspiracy to ‘close’ all of the oceans off for the rights and privileges of coastal nations.  We cannot support this proposal.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Antigua & Barbuda cannot support this proposal and associate with others who do not.  We are concerned that this proposal is identical to the one previously submitted.  This has the implication for coastal nations whose way of life and culture are dependent on marine resources, and consultation with these states should be sought.  Despite our recommendations to members of the Buenos Aires Group, they have yet to seek this consultation.  There is no scientific justification for the establishment of the SAWS; it is not ecologically justified.  I am dismayed that it seems to be the practice of ‘cherry-picking’ issues of the Scientific Committee and it is a dangerous precedent.  The proposal as currently submitted is nothing more than a ‘feel-good’, self-serving measure, and a false sense of security for whales, which are highly migratory species.  Ocean resources must be shared.

NORWAY:  Norway supports the use of sanctuaries when they are functionally justified; there is no scientific justification for this proposal; therefore, we cannot support it.

ECUADOR: We are interested in non-lethal use of cetaceans and fully support the proposal.

AUSTRALIA:  Australia reiterates its strong commitment to whale sanctuaries, and the establishment of new sanctuaries through protection of whales and broader protection of marine resources. Sanctuaries facilitate the protection of whales by providing economic benefits to coastal communities by promoting non-consumptive use of whales, such as whale watching and ecotourism.  We set aside areas where whales can fulfill their ecological roles, and sanctuaries also inspire and educate the public on the importance of promoting marine biodiversity.  We strongly support the establishment of a permanent whale sanctuary which will protect whales.  No whaling, including so-called “scientific whaling” should be conducted in any sanctuary, at any time.

CHILE:  Consistent with our foreign policy, we fully support the proposal to support the proposal to establish the SAWS.  We express our unrestricted support for this proposal.

ICELAND:  Our position is that there has been no scientific investigation to support this proposal, and it will do nothing to enhance the conservation measures already in place, since no whaling takes place in that area.  The proponents are from the Southern Atlantic, but will have strong consequences for nations in the North Atlantic.  Therefore, this proposal needs more consultation and discussion; we are strongly opposed to this proposal.

MEXICO:  We fully support the proposal, for reasons already expressed.  Regarding Japan’s concerns, let me say that there are very clear objectives.  There is no commercial whaling now, but not all stocks are at historic levels.

CYPRESS:  We would like to express our clear support for this proposal.

SWITZERLAND: We acknowledge that sanctuaries can contribute to the conservation and management of whales, and this is why we are in favor of this proposal.  Sanctuaries are fully aligned with the Convention and encourage all coastal states to commit to the conservation and management of whales.

CHAIR: “How should we move forward?”

BRAZIL:  If all efforts to reach consensus fail, then there are procedures to follow.  After a lengthy discussion after our meeting in Jersey, and after a very lengthy discussion on this proposal since it has been presented, we believe that all aspects of these questions have been fully discussed and that all questions have been answered.  It seems to us that we cannot reach consensus, so we seek your consult on having a decision on this very important matter by a vote.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION:  Can you please clarify whether or not we have a quorum?  Not all contracting governments have submitted credentials.

CHAIRWe have a membership of 89 contracting governments.  A quorum would be 45; I have no doubt that there are 45 members present, but the only way to know is to count.  I can count if you like, but I’m certain that there are more than 45 members, so we can proceed with the vote.

Results of Roll-Call Voting of Contracting Governments:

Antigua & Barbuda:  No

Argentina: Yes

Australia: Yes

Austria: Yes

Belgium: Yes

Benin: No

Brazil: Yes

Cambodia: No

Chile: Yes

China: No

Colombia: Yes

Costa Rica: Yes

Cyprus: Yes

Croatia: Not present

Czech Republic: Yes

Denmark: Yes

Dominican Republic: Yes

Ecuador: Yes

Estonia: Yes

Finland: Yes

France: Yes

Gabon: Yes

Germany: Yes

Republic of Ghana: No

Grenada: No

Iceland: No

India: Yes

Ireland: Yes

Israel: Yes

Italy: Yes

Japan: No

Kenya:  Not present

Kiribati No

Korea:  No

Laos: No

Luxembourg: Yes

Mexico: Yes

Monaco: Yes

Mongolia: No

Morocco:  Abstain

Nauru: No

Netherlands: Yes

New Zealand: Yes

Norway: No

Palau: No

Panama: Yes

Peru: Yes

Poland: Yes

Russian Federation: No

St. Kitts and Nevis: No

St. Lucia: No

St. Vincent & the Grenadines: Abstain

Slovenia:  Yes

South Africa: Yes

Spain:  Yes

Sweden: Yes

Switzerland: Yes

Tanzania: No

Togo:  No

Tuvalu: No

United Kingdom:  Yes

United States:  Yes

Uruguay: Yes

VOTE RESULTS:  38 “Yes”: 21 “No”; 2 “Abstain” and 0 “No participating”

A  three-quarter majority has not been achieved; therefore, the proposal submitted by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and South Africa to establish the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) fails to pass.

BRAZIL:  I am reflecting and thinking about the co-sponsors and those who supported our proposal for the SAWS.  The majority of members at this Commission feel disappointed, but we have seen democracy in action and we thank you for the transparency and the concrete way in which you have conducted this vote.  Speaking for Brazil, we see this as an ongoing process.  All sanctuaries established in the past have been subject to a vote, and is an uphill process.

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7 Comments on “South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary FAILS to Pass IWC Vote!”

  1. erica churba Says:

    just pass this please save the lives of the ones who cant speak up

  2. Elsy Shallman Says:

    For once do the right thing and do what’s right for wildlife.


  3. What harm can a Whale Sanctuary cause?? Please! Selfish people.


  4. It’s extremely disappointing that this didn’t pass, whales in the South Atlantic need all the help they can get.

  5. Karl Watson Says:

    I am from the Eastern Caribbean…Barbados to be specific and I would like to voice my extreme disappointment and disgust that fellow Caricom islands such as St Kitts, Antigua, Grenada and St Lucia voted against the proposal. I cannot help but agree with the Brazilian comment that this has a lot to do with unsavoury Japanese methods. These islands have NO whaling tradition, in fact, make money off whale watching which should encourage whale conservation..so their votes are bizarre to say the least.


  6. It is frustrating to read the comments from the pro-whaling nations. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be there in person. A whale sanctuary should be a no-brainer.


  7. [...] vote follows yesterday’s failure to approve the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, proposed by Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Uruguay. The proposal failed to garner a [...]


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