IWC 2012: Epilogue

Posted July 11, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Few are called… even fewer are bonkers enough to answer that call.

For the second time in as many years, the annual meeting began without a Chair.  The 2011 meeting in Jersey began rudderless with the departure of Chair Anthony Liverpool (Antigua and Barbuda) in the wake of unwelcome media attention the previous year.  The Chair position is a thankless, difficult responsibility to navigate, particularly in a climate where worldwide public perception is the that the IWC is largely a dysfunctional body whose vested interests can be bought-and-sold. It takes a thick-skinned, bold, resilient personality to withstand the onslaught from both sides of the whaling debate.

From the Girl Scouts to the United Nations, one gullible sod (um… I mean, volunteer) inevitably steps up to fill a gap in leadership when the circumstances call for it.  In 2011, Hermann Oosthuizen (South Africa) stepped up to chair what turned out to be a contentious plenary, which he chaired masterfully given the circumstances, and subsequently got ‘knuckle-wrapped’ by his tweaked government for it.  That alone should be a fairly reliable indicator of the low ranking of IWC on the lists of “Highly Effective International Bodies of Inscrutable Repute” of most of the 89 IWC contracting governments.

This left the IWC vulnerable and without leadership before the onset of the 2012 meeting… who would step up?  Perhaps because of his affable nature, northern European work ethic and sensibilities, or frustration with the typical IWC “ten minutes of work, followed by 40 minutes of coffee break”, meeting rhythm Bruno Mainini (Switzerland)  assumed control of the gavel.  All I can say is, “Wow…this is a different meeting altogether.”  We barely had a dozen coffee breaks all week, and ticked off more agenda items this year than during the previous two.

Alas, all good things must come to end, and on Friday afternoon, we were informed that the honorable Joanna Messiah, Esq. (Antigua and Barbuda) had nominated her colleague ­­­, Commissioner Jeannine Compton-Antoine (Saint Lucia) for the Chair position, with a two-year term.  As is the practice of IWC, the Chair and Vice-Chair shall represent a balance of pro-whaling and pro-conservation interests, and so it is that we now have Commissioner Frederic Chemay (Belgium) serving as Vice-Chair for the next two years.

Commissioner Compton-Antoine will be the first woman to serve as IWC Chair, and surely this is something to celebrate.  Even better, as the impartial Chair, Compton-Antoine must recuse herself from commenting on issues brought to the floor – one less scolding voice lecturing on hegemony, racism, Colonialism, and deliberate efforts by wealthy nations to keep poor nations from actualizing their sovereign rights to kill whales.  One less histrionic, gesticulating personality on the Commission floor.. if only for two years.  Undoubtedly, Compton-Antoine will make an “interesting” Chair – as a blogger, I’m looking forward to the material.

The final order of business for the IWC was to move to a biennial meeting cycle for the Commission, primarily as a cost-saving measure; the Scientific Committee would, however, remain on an annual meeting cycle.

Korea played its hand well earlier in the meeting when it revealed plans to resume coastal whaling.  With a gap of two years until the next Commission meeting, there would be plenty of time in which to develop a solid plan (i.e., establish quotas, counter debates about diminished minke whale stocks in the Scientific Committee, strategically coordinate logistics, etc.) before anything could be done to slow or prevent implementation of its small-type coastal whaling program.  Clever… “J” stock minkes will likely take one for the team, beginning in 2014.  And if Japan failed to get its own coastal whaling program passed on the floor, it can purchase its minke whale from Korean coastal fisherman – not a huge loss for Japan.  Cheaper to buy whale meat from others than to hunt for it yourself.

As a double whammy of sorts, Republic of Korea Commissioner Joon-Suk Kang proudly announced that he would be honored to host the 2013 meeting of the Scientific Committee.  Not wanting to commit their governments to what is sure to be a(nother) contentious, Carnival-esque meeting, not a single Commissioner volunteered to host the 2014 Commission meeting.

So, we wait to see where we’ll convene in two years.

In the meantime, this year’s meeting has indeed been a mixed bag for whales.

Signing off from Panama,

 Cheryl McCormick, Executive Director, American Cetacean Society

The Monaco Proposal: “IWC, Play Nice With the UN”

Posted July 11, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Commissioner Dr. Frederic Briand (Monaco), noting that the overwhelming majority of marine cetacean species currently recognized by the IWC are highly migratory species and thus critically dependent on international cooperation for their conservation and management, proposed that the IWC cooperate with the United Nations General Assembly in his mandate of whale protection where fragmented conservation efforts leave highly-migratory cetacean species vulnerable.

Briand made a compelling case that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires UN member states to cooperate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and, in the case of cetaceans, to work through the appropriate international organizations for their conservation, management and study both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone.

Briand’s proposal wasn’t completely unexpected; the esteemed commissioner from Monaco has a long history of criticizing the IWC Commission for its polarization, failure to reach compromise agreements, and refusing to ‘come into the 21st Century’ – in cooperation with other international forums -with regard to its whale conservation mandate.

Briand’s efforts to strengthen the IWC through international cooperation and partnerships, and ‘project the IWC into modernity’ is, on the surface, a sound one.   Seeking consensus from contracting governments, Briand requested that commissioners give the proposal their ‘serious attention’, noting that “the IWC Scientific and Conservation Committees are registering remarkable progress and are drawing increasing visibility and respect internationally.  Unfortunately, this is all undermined by a number of major problems, which is that key decisions by the IWC are not respected by some of its own members.”  That wasn’t exactly mysterious code; Briand is, of course, referring to Japan’s disregard for the Moratorium on commercial whaling, to which it agreed in 1982 and then went a’-whaling anyway under a loophole in Article VIII of the Convention.

Commissioners from Japan, Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Palau all claimed that they “just didn’t have adequate time” to review the proposal, and needed until the following morning to study the document and its implications, despite having received a draft two months earlier.  Commissioner Daven Joseph (Saint Kitts and Nevis) stated that he’d have to contact his government for further instructions on how to proceed with the proposal, and there simply wasn’t enough time.  Poor countries like his have significant barriers to effective communications that his colleagues from rich nations just didn’t understand.

Briand, almost lost his marbles on the spot, stated that he’d submitted the resolution sixty days in advance of the meeting, as required by IWC Rules and Procedures, but ultimately agreed to table the proposal until the following morning.

What a difference a few hours makes!  Certainly, the esteemed commissioners spent all evening and the following morning poring over the half page document, clarifying their positions and ‘contacting their superiors’ about how to proceed.  For Commissioner Joseph, it really wasn’t as difficult as phoning the boss back at Basseterre; Japanese Commissioner Kagawa could be consulted in a flash simply by traversing the room.  But… we must maintain appearances, mustn’t we?

As expected, “the Monaco resolution” was shot down the following morning.  Pro-whaling nations (including Iceland and Norway, of course) refused to adopt the resolution by consensus.  The result was hardly shocking, least of all for Dr. Briand, one of the longest-serving commissioners at IWC (and the sole member of Monaco’s delegation).  Bringing a proposal to the Commission floor isn’t really so much about getting it passed, as it is about publicly disclosing official positions of IWC member nations on specific issues.

The only question that remains unanswered is, just how long does it take Kagawa and Joseph to read and process a one-third page document?  Evidently, the answer depends on the content.

IWC: “Our organization is about to be shamed” by a tiny porpoise

Posted July 6, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Photo taken by Thomas A. Jefferson under permit (Oficio No. DR/488/08).

It’s never easy to talk about shame, but here we are again, faced with the inevitable reality of the  extinction of yet another species.  We bid adieu to the Yangtze River dolphin (‘baiji’), which was declared functionally extinct in 2006.  Evidently history teaches us nothing, as the same fate likely awaits the tiny vaquita porpoise.

If talk could bring back species from the point of no return, the vaquita would be thriving.  Workshops, conference presentations, and surveys continue in a veritable conga line of opportunity, while ‘action’ seems to be a elusive concept.  As has been widely recognized, actually removing gill nets, rather than talking about that, will bring about the possibility of a future for the vaquita.

Actionwhat a novel concept in conservation!

Sigh!  Here’s some more talk on the ‘plight of the vaquita’, brought to you by IWC.

Debbie Palka, Chair, IWC Scientific Committee: “(The vaquita) is close to extinction.  The Scientific Committee and Conservation Committee has said it many times and has made several strong recommendations.

The population has experienced a strong decline since 2009. When the latest population survey was conducted in 2008, the population estimate was 220 animals.  Illegal fishing continues to occur within the vaquita’s range, with one report of 87 boats fishing in the Vaquita Refuge (of the northern Gulf of California). 

We have also made the recommendation of continuing research on techniques to reduce gill netting for fin fish or remove all gill nets from entire range.  The Scientific Committee would strongly like to reiterate our extreme concern for the status of this species.  The only reliable conservation effort for species is to eliminate vaquita bycatch, if extinction to be avoided.  All gill nets should be removed from the Gulf of California immediately.”

© Mark Carwardine (

UNITED STATES:  The United States wishes to commend Mexico for past government initiatives on reducing bycatch for the vaquita.  We would like to express our extreme concern for plight of the vaquita as a result of bycatch in fishing gear and express our cooperation in joining efforts to advancing conservation initiatives.

AUSTRIA:  We have had one very worst case scenario recently with the baiji, Mr. Chair. My fellow commissioners, we are on the brink of another worst case scenario with the vaquita in Mexico.  How much greater must be the shame be when a highly-evolved species is on the brink of extinction again?  Frankly, its time for diplomatic niceties and step-wise strategies to take a backseat to action.  Our organization is about to be shamed.  We will be under the eternal judgment from future generations if we fail.

We call on the IWC, range states, and NGOs to raise this issue to a higher level of resoluteness.

CYPRUS (on behalf of EU member states):  We wish to express that we are deeply concerned about the findings of the Scientific Committee about status of two species – the vaquita and Maui’s dolphin.  Both species are severely impacted by entanglement in fishing gear.  We congratulate Mexico on steps to reduce gill nets in vaquita habitats.

INDIA:  India fully supports and appreciates the work of the Scientific Committee.  Endemic species are very critical and need to be conserved at any cost.  The role of the Scientific Committee through presentation of their findings will be critical for the very survival of these endemic species.

SWITZERLAND:  We welcome the work of the Scientific Committee on small cetaceans, and appreciate their reports, even when there is no good news.  Switzerland urges all contracting governments to reduce direct and indirect effects (on small cetaceans) and (to) restore degraded habitats.

ECUADOR:  Ecuador wishes to associate itself with the previous comments and urges contracting governments to join us in this face of urgency in the loss of a species and he impact of gill nets on this particular species…Joint action by everyone together will help.

MEXICO:  I’m grateful for all comments made about this subject. Mexico, since in1997, always brought information about the vaquita to the IWC and information submitted to the Scientific Committee is information that I myself have developed with U.S. researchers.  We know that there is still much to be done to eliminate all gill nets, and we are making progress.  Declines in illegal fishing and loss of the population are slower, but still we are not able to bring about recovery.  The goal of the recovery program is to remove gill nets entirely by 2013. The U.S. has been tireless in its efforts to support us in developing alternative means to fishing.

On a personal note, I believe that Mr. Michael Stachowitsch, the esteemed Alternate Commissioner from Austria, nailed it.  Now, it’s time to put some action behind the talk.

Talk, it seems, will never go extinct.

Denmark Bets The House… And Loses It All!

Posted July 6, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

One of the most polarizing issues of this year’s IWC meeting was that of Denmark’s proposal on behalf of Greenland for an increase in catch limits for humpback and fin whales for its Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) hunt.  While ASW quotas of three countries (the U.S., Russian Federation, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines) were included in a “bundle” proposal that left commissioners with no option to evaluate quotas based on individual merit (buy one, get two free!), Denmark opted to go it alone with its quota.  Why?  Because unlike the quotas in the aforementioned ‘three quota bundle’, Denmark was requesting an increase in the number of whales that Greenlanders could take from 2013-2018.  Before moving on, let’s review what’s on Greenland’s menu for the 2013-2018 period:

Fin Whales: 19 per year                                                            (n =114)

Minke Whales (Central Stock):  12 per year                     (n = 72)

Minke Whales (West Greenland Stock) 178 per year   (n =1,068)

Bowhead Whales: 2 per year                                                  (n = 12)

Humpback Whales: 10 per year                                            (n = 60)

Total Whales Killed (2013-2018):                                        1,326*

* Includes an increase of 18 additional fin whales and 6 additional humpbacks

Well, okay… maybe Greenland needs an increase, right?  Perhaps a sudden population boom, increased interest in whale meat consumption over other ‘traditional dishes’, or increased reliance on whales as a source of protein unequivocally justifies an increase in the ASW quota.  I could get behind that rationale based on a well-documented, robust Needs Statement.

Umm…no.  As it turns out, Denmark’s request for an increase in the number of whales killed has nothing to do with the indigenous people of Greenland at all, and everything to do with selling whale meat to tourists in gourmet restaurants, a practice that is clearly commercial in nature and completely misaligned with IWC regulations.

Under IWC regulations, whale products including meat and blubber from struck and landed whales are to be used exclusively for local consumption.  The burden of proof rests with those contracting governments (IWC member nations) granted an ASW quota to provide robust evidence of the nutritional, subsistence, and cultural needs of its indigenous communities.  Denmark has failed to meet these standards in its Needs Statement, and in fact, a damning report by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) harpooned Denmark Commissioner Ole Samsing’s plans by publishing the results of an investigation revealing that whale meat was sold in 77 percent of tourist restaurants in Greenland – an indisputably commercial endeavor.  Once this report was distributed and shared among IWC, Denmark quickly lost support for its proposal.

Nevertheless, even in the face of dwindling support, Samsing dug in and ‘went for it’, bet the house, and called for a vote on the proposal stating, “We had in the presentations to the meeting made what has been humanly possible to demonstrate that we have respected all rules and regulations in this organization.  I will not speculate over why we have not been able to drum up support over a compromise, but the whole affair has to stop now.  Therefore, I request that the chair put the whole thing to a vote.”  Very risky, indeed, but Samsing has a job to do here, and he’s in a spot.  He’s losing support within a body that requires a three-quarter majority for passage of his proposal.  If he retracts the proposal, he goes home empty-handed, which doesn’t exactly make him a tough-talking Danish hero.  If he calls for a vote and it fails, at least he can report back to Danish and Greenland officials that first, it ‘wasn’t his fault’ that he didn’t bring more whales home, and secondly, he knows exactly which countries supported their bid, and who didn’t.  The reason for a failed vote would be pretty obvious.

So, how’d the vote turn out?  25 “YES”; 34 “No”; 3 “ABSTAIN”.  The Schedule Amendment for an increased quota request for Denmark on behalf of Greenland is rejected. Oman was included in this round of voting, since its commissioner was present and credentialed.  If you’d like to know how your country’s delegation voted on the proposal, the results of the roll-call are as follows.  For American citizens, you’ll likely be disappointed by the U.S. vote in favor of Denmark’s proposal, but it was hardly surprising, since it needed the pro-whaling voting bloc to approve its three-quota ‘bundle package’ earlier in the week, which included its six-year quota for bowhead quotas for Alaskan Eskimo communities.

What now for the Kingdom of Denmark?  Though it loses its six-year quota of completely, though it does have the option to submit a new proposal during an intersessional meeting (2013 at the earliest).  It can also re-submit a proposal during the next regularly-scheduled, which will likely be in 2014, since the Commission is moving to a biennial meeting schedule.

The problem with Denmark’s proposal is simple – it got greedy.

This is a celebratory day for 1,326 whales… and millions of whale-lovers worldwide.

IWC 64/12 VOTE BY ROLL-CALL;  Grant catch limits to Denmark on behalf of Greenland

Antigua & Barbuda:  YES

Argentina: NO

Australia: NO

Austria: NO

Belgium: NO

Benin: YES

Brazil: NO

Cambodia: YES

Chile: NO

China: YES

Colombia: NO

Costa Rica: NO

Cypus: NO

Croatia: Not present

Czech Republic: NO

Denmark: YES

Dominican Republic: NO

Ecuador: NO

Estonia: NO

Finland: NO

France: NO

Gabon: NO

Germany: NO

Republic of Ghana: YES

Grenada: YES

Iceland: YES

India: NO

Ireland: NO

Israel: NO

Italy: NO

Japan: YES

Kenya:  Not present

Kiribati: YES

Korea:  YES

Laos: YES

Luxemburg: NO

Mexico: NO

Monaco: NO

Mongolia: YES

Morocco:  YES

Nauru: YES

Netherlands: NO

New Zealand: NO

Norway: YES


Palau: YES

Panama: NO

Peru: NO

Poland: NO

Russian Federation: YES

Saint Kitts and Nevis: YES

Saint Lucia: YES

St. Vincent & the Grenadines: YES

Slovenia:  NO

South Africa: ABSTAIN

Spain:  NO

Sweden: NO

Switzerland: ABSTAIN

Tanzania: YES

Togo:  YES

Tuvalu: YES

United Kingdom:  NO

United States:  YES

Uruguay: NO

A couple of the highlights (or low points, as the case may be)….

JAPAN:  This is a very sad conclusion and for those persons living in harsh climates, you are depriving them of a very important source of nourishment.  The request by Denmark is solidly backed by science.  Those who voted against this proposal do not believe in science and I believe that this outcome is very regrettable.

SAINT VINCENT & THE GRENADINES:  This 64th meeting, when I go back to my small capital, is a meeting that I would certainly like to forget.  I feel the pain of the people of Greenland placed by this August body of distinguished commissioners who do not understand their circumstances.  There are those that could never understand the circumstances of coastal communities and the difficulties in which they live, and could never understand the difficulties of the weak and the poor.  I leave here on a very sour note.  I see this organization is about whales; it is not about people.  I believe that we have lost our focus, and I see greater polarization of this organization and in what we’ve done here this morning, we have done nothing to relive that.  I sincerely hope that those who have uttered their condemnations here would see that, and when you go back to your capitals with a good conscious and that you sleep well.

Korea Eyes J-Stock Minke Whales

Posted July 5, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Taking its cue from its feisty neighbor to the east, Korea followed up Japan’s proposal for a small-type coastal whaling quota with a provocative, fist-pounding rant about its own plans to turn ‘J’ stock minke whales to sashimi.

In his usual frenetic, ear-piercing style, alternate commissioner Jeongseok Park announced on the Commission floor that that Korea would be submitting a whaling proposal ‘in the spirit of trust, good faith, and transparency’ and that Korea’s position was that it did not accept that whales should not be killed or caught.  Jeonseok further asserted that the IWC was a forum for legal, not moral, debate, and that ‘moral preaching was not appropriate’ on the issue of whaling.

The esteemed commissioner from South Korea made the case that the consumption of whale meat in coastal communities such as Osong dated back to ‘prehistoric times’ and that the ‘J’ stock minke population had recovered since the moratorium on commercial whaling was implemented in 1986.

Using the red herring justification of ‘whales are gobbling up all of our fish’, coastal fishermen are appealing to the Korean Government for whales to be killed.  Keeping its hand close, Jeonseok announced that the Korean delegation would submit a research plan to the IWC Scientific Committee sometime in 2013.

Since suspending its commercial whaling program in 1986 in compliance with the moratorium, a limited market has operated in some coastal cities such as Osong, based on bycatch of minke whales that become entangled in fishing gear.  A minke whale can fetch upwards of $60,000 USD if caught as incidental bycatch.  That’s a big incentive for coastal fisherman, so it’s little wonder that minke whale ‘accidental bycatch’ off the coast of South Korea is on the rise.  This is clearly a very accident-prone population.

Commissioner Park closed by stating that he sincerely hoped that Korea’s research plan will be given the ‘highest consideration’, but in the same breath reminded his IWC colleagues that Korea was under no obligation to inform the Commission in advance of issuing a unilateral quota,

Here’s a sample of comments in response to Korea’s dropping its whale-anvil:

UNITED STATES: The U.S. opposes lethal scientific whale research.  Though allowed under Article VIII, it is unnecessary, and we would point out that it is our understanding that takes of minke whales would consist of special permit whaling.

NEW ZEALAND:  New Zealand strongly opposes ‘scientific whaling’ under article VIII (of the Convention).  New Zealand takes particular opposition to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  The data collected has not contributed meaningfully to whale conservation or management.  With regard to Korea’s request for a permit for North Pacific minke whale stocks, we are strongly opposed to Korea’s proposal.

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS:  We respect the rights of all contracting government to engage in scientific research on special permits and urge all contracting governments here to do the same.  This type of research is still valuable and critical and it is our view that scientific research is the bedrock of the work that this organization is suppose to do in managing whale stocks around the world.  We hope in the spirit of science and research independence, that this body will endorse and support this type of research.

RUSSIA:  With regard to scientific permits, Russia in general supports scientific research, and the results of the research in Japan are interesting for the understanding of the situation with whales and their habitats within Antarctica.  Russia supports the proposal by Korea to return the traditions and cultural to the people in coastal communities.

We will have to wait until 2013 to see what Korea brings to the table.

P.S., the ‘J’ in J-stock isn’t short for ‘juicy’, Commissioner Park.

Japan Requests Quota for Small-Type Coastal Whaling…For the Gajillionth Time

Posted July 5, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Proposed Schedule amendment to permit the catching of minke whales from the Okhotsk Sea-West Pacific Stock by small-type whaling vessels, submitted by Japan

During a contentious meeting on the IWC floor yesterday, the delegation of Japan once again made its annual request for a quota for small-type whaling vessels from the Okhotsk Sea-West Pacific Stock of minke whales.  Each year brings a new case for support, and a litany of reasons why Japan’s four coastal whaling towns want a quota to kill.  Ultimately, the proposal item was tabled – for the gajillionth time.

Japan’s commissioner Kenji Kagawa made the following case for support to the Commission.

“Japan recognizes the importance of the cultural needs of coastal whaling communities and those areas have been impacted by the moratorium, and the need of alleviation of needs in those areas (sic). However, our requests to address those areas have always been rejected.

A lot of facets of Japanese whaling culture have in common with Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling and the IWC is granting their catch limits.

With regard to the landing, processing location and consumption of whales, the tradition of the region, the culture in the region is to be restored, as well as rituals and ceremonies would be permitted in the regions that whales historically have been hunted.  We do not request to lift the moratorium, but request an exception for these areas.  We have not requested a catch quota, because Japan is willing to negotiate with other nations.  We are going to introduce appropriate monitoring and surveillance, which includes international monitoring by vessels, and DNA monitoring of whale meat, based on discussion.

And also, in order to secure the transparently that is to be conducted with this whaling, and accountability, Japan is willing to be accept members of IWC nations willing to serve as monitors.  Japan has shown that catch of minke whale by this proposal is going to be negligible, in terms of long term sustainability of the stock, and these documents have been supplied to the Scientific Committee in 2009.  We have also shown that the minke whales of ‘J’ stock are not applicable to the protection stock.

With that backdrop, we make the proposal as follows:

●  The duration of the quota is 5-6 years, and 6 years in case the IWC is to be a biennial   meeting instead of annual meeting (sic).

●  The meat is to be used domestically.

●  With regard to landing, processing, allocation and consumption of whales:

– Traditions and practices to restore original cultures are permitted only for community-based whaling.

– Whale meat and products consumed by people is limited to communities in the region.

– Catch of all stock of the Pacific and ‘J’ stock minke stock.  Bycatch may occur in small numbers.  However, these are negligible in terms of the long-term sustainability of these stocks.

Again, I would like to stress that this is an exception to the moratorium. Twenty five years have passed since the moratorium has taken passed in Japan.  These whaling communities who have been whaling in these small coastal communities of Japan have engaged in whaling as an integral part of our history.  Mr .Chairman, you and all in this room know this is a small operation and that our minke whales are healthy. Our ancestors have started using beached whales dating back thousands of years.  Whale meat and blubber are a part of our traditional food.  Whenever whales are caught, the first whales of the season – the meat is distributed to the community, and such traditions are passed down from generation to generation. The IWC has stipulated in the Convention that this is an international association for the sustain use of whales and orderly development off whaling.

Unfortunately, the IWC has caused us great distress for a quarter of a century.  We continue to hope that the IWC will establish a minke whale quota for our communities before it renders itself entirely irrelevant to the discussion.”

(Chair Bruno Mainini solicits interventions from the Commission floor)

KOREA:  Whales are taken in a lawful, sustainable, and sensitive matter.  Local traditions reflect the socio-economic livelihood and nutritional needs.  Korea also has a long history and background.  Those who attended the meeting in 2009 will remember a presentation of the culture of whaling in Korea at Osong.  This proves that whaling began (there) as early as 6,000 BC.  Whaling resources has been an indispensable part of traditional foods around Osong.  It is not easy to change dietary practices.  We would like to consider modifications of the provisions of the Moratorium.  Korea is sensitive to communities around Osong who want to resume coastal type whaling and would like to support Japan in recognizing their long tradition of whaling and nutritional needs that are similar to Korea’s.

SAINT VINCENT & THE GRENADINES:  With regards to the socio-economic implications on small type whaling. Saint Vincent & the Grenadines has a very strong association with this and can identify with the coastal communities of Japan, and recognize the lack of empathy of this body with the people of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Greenland.  It is difficult to understand the plight of people whose cultures are very different from ours and those who depend on marine resources for economic and sustainability reasons.  There is a desire for independence for all peoples to maintain traditions and cultures and to manage their resources in their own way if that is sustainable.  Saint Vincent & the Grenadines supports this proposal.

GUINEA:  Within the fishing laws of Guinea, whaling is banned.  As we always have, we have a Scientific Committee to define what can be removed without harming existing stocks.  We need to keep in mind the traditions and the various aspects relating to peoples’ lives.  So if we see no threat and we see a request submitted before us to catch a quantity that will not harm existing stocks, we do not see how we would adopt a philosophy as to why we would continue to reject such a request, so that we can continue to evaluate such requests in light of scientific advice.

AUSTRALIA:  I think I need to be exceedingly clear about Australia’s statement at this time.  Japan is seeking to carry out what is what amounts to a commercial whaling proposal, pure and simple. And as was stated, is an exception (to the moratorium).  Australia is resolutely opposed to commercial whaling and strongly supports the moratorium.  We reject the proposal resolutely.  This is making a mockery of science.  We cannot support a proposal that legitimizes commercial whaling.  We think that efforts need be focused to recover this population and that range states need to develop a conservation plan to recover this stock.

ICELAND: The long history of this proposal shows that this organization is still having trouble functioning in a rational way.  As long as the hunting is sustainable, Iceland supports the proposal by Japan.

UNITED STATES:  The U.S. associates itself with the comments of Australia.  We are concerned with the depletion of minke whale stocks off the coast of Japan.  The U.S. supports the moratorium on commercial whaling and therefore cannot support the proposal by Japan.

RUSSIA:  No one in this room can tell that whaling for such a long time as Japan (sic).  Japan started to use whales 9,000 years ago. And 5,000 years ago, they were hunting for small cetaceans. And 2,000 years ago, they started hunting big whales.  It seems that only Korea has a similar history.  So, they were the first human beings to use this resource.  Even more, the first international agreements on whaling were signed by Japan and Korea in the 19th Century.  Both these countries have a long history on the use of marine mammals. Japan is requiring the quota for the four coastal villages – all of these have a long history of whaling.  I’ve been to these whaling villages and have seen the celebration of the local people when they land the whale and get it to shore, both the elders and school children.  That is very emotional heart-touching ceremonies (sic).  That is the cultural and historical needs of these villages.  It is not only important to protect biodiversity worldwide, but also cultural diversity.  Therefore, I would like to support the distinguished delegation to support the cultures worldwide.  Here in Panama, I visited several restaurants, and noticed that everybody is requesting the traditional dishes.  As a rule, it comes to finish with hamburger or pizza.  I believe it’s important to keep traditions, and so I support the proposal of Japan.

NEW ZEALAND:  This is a very difficult issue.  We do understand the impact of the moratorium on Japan’s communities, but that was 25 years ago.  What we are asking for is an exception to the moratorium on commercial whaling.  As the U.S. and Australia make clear, New Zealand cannot endorse an exception.  For the stocks taken in this program, the impact is highly questionable. Therefore, we cannot support this proposal.

MEXICO:  For the following reasons, we cannot support Japan’s proposal… we are a defender of the moratorium…Japan has authorized that thousands of whales be taken to supply communities, so they’re not suffering, as Japan states.

CYPRUS:  Any new type of whaling operations would be commercial whaling, and in violation of the moratorium.

ECUADOR: Ecuador aligns itself with Australia and other countries submitted in rejecting the proposal made by Japan.  We express our concern to sidestep the work of this Commission.  The reasons described in the proposal by Japan express interest in motivating commercial whaling.  We support strict adherence of the moratorium and non-lethal use of whales.

ARGENTINA:  Argentina fully supports the moratorium and as we understand it, the Scientific Committee has always protected the stocks through the moratorium.  In the report of the Scientific Committee, researchers who have been studying the stock structure of the minkes of the Northern Pacific cannot be determined. Therefore, before we permit any type of catch, we would prefer to have the completed Scientific Committee report on the type of impact that this type of proposal will have.

MONACO:  Monaco strongly opposes commercial whaling in any forma and we therefore align ourselves with statement made by Australia, to which we do not have to change a single word.

COLOMBIA:  With respect to the proposal submitted by the Government of Japan, we would like to say that we respect the right of food security of all people, but we no not support any lethal use that would end the moratorium.  We fully support the moratorium, and by this avenue, a loophole maybe used, as now under Article VIII.  Therefore, we support statements made my Australia, Mexico, etc.

COSTA RICA: We feel that Japan’s proposal is a way to open up commercial whaling.  We fully support the moratorium and therefore fully endorse the comments made by Australia, Mexico, U.S., and others made along these lines.

CHILE:  Chile would like to align itself with Argentina, Costa Rica, Australia, Mexico, and others. We cannot support this proposal by Japan, not only because the Scientific Committee has not finished its work, but because we need to be clear that an exception to the moratorium is legitimizing commercial whaling.  We call on Japan, particularly due to radioactivity found in whales (off their coast) that they put a stop to the consumption of this type of meat.

BRAZIL: Brazil associates with Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Australia, Mexico, and others in comments expressed by members of those delegations.  This is commercial whaling an exception to the moratorium that we cannot accept.  For these reasons, we would have to oppose this proposal.

(Chair Mainini closes the period for intervening comments.  No NGO will be allowed to speak on the floor at this time).

Chair Mainini to Japan: Japan, how would you like to move forward?

JAPAN:  First of all, some have expressed support and I would like to express our support to them.  We are all aware that there have been opposition to our proposal.  We have supported Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling yesterday, and our conditions are similar.  There are concerns about a commercial nature, which I cannot understand at all, but why is all whaling considered bad?  There is no commercial whaling. Why are we not allowed if there is no commercial nature?  According to the Rules of Procedures, we would like to adjust the proposal with related countries, and would like to request that the agenda item remain open and we will come back to it tomorrow or later.

No Honor Among Thieves

Posted July 5, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

There is no honor among thieves – anonymous

 After reading the previous post on Japan’s presentation on Safety at Sea, I hope your interest is piqued about which nations rushed over to Japan’s side of the Commission floor and formed a veritable conga line to offer their shoulders to cry on.

 Here are the commissioners’ interventions, presented in the order in which Chair Bruno Mainini (Switzerland) called upon them to speak regarding the agenda item, Safety at Sea.  I should note that after the 23rd intervention on the floor, Chair Mainini closed the comment session.

INDIA:  India strongly endorses the IWC resolution on safety at sea and shares the concerns of Japan on safely.  We are opposed to violent protest at seas from any organization, while recognizing the rights of individual to express opinions within the law of the land in peaceful protest.

AUSTRALIA:  Our position on safety at sea is clear.  Nothing less than full compliance is acceptable.  We will continue to assert that the MO is the appropriate forum to address safety at sea matters, not the IWC.  We respect the right to peaceful protest.  We do not condone, and continue to condemn, violations of safety at sea.  Protest actions are not the way for Australia to end whaling.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: This is a very serious matter, and for yet another year, I continue to be appalled at what we have just seen.  Whether the IMO or IWC is the appropriate venue, we should strongly condemn the actions of Sea Shepherd, because these deliberate acts of violence are very serious.  The flag states have an additional responsibility to ensure that the vessels carrying their flag conduct themselves in a manner that is acceptable. These are actions of terrorism which are to be condemned.

SAINT VINCENT & THE GRENADINES:  The matter of safety at sea has been continuous at our meetings.  We make pronouncements of condemnations, but these are superficial.  I am of the belief that the Japanese delegation will continue to have this as an agenda item so as to keep us mindful of the dangers faced while conducting the legal activities of an organization.  Let us not fool ourselves.  While we base our emphasis on the protection of whales, there is a greater need for protection of life and limb.

TANZANIA:  Like others, we condemn these unlawful acts. We very much identify ourselves with the comments of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines.  Flag states have a responsibility to stop these acts.

UNITED STATES: The safety of vessels and human life at sea is of the highest priority of the United States.  We are deeply concerned that confrontations in the Southern Ocean continue to threaten safety.

THE NETHERLANDS:  We start by mentioning that The Netherlands is opposed to scientific or commercial whaling and express concern about scientific whaling the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  There is no reason to use lethal means to conduct whaling.  We call on Japan to end this practice.  The Netherlands feels that the issue of safety at sea is not the appropriate forum for IWC.  The appropriate venue is the IMO.  A joint statement with New Zealand, Australia, and the United States on Whaling and Safety at Sea in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was published in December 2011.  We respect the right to protest peacefully on the high seas.  The Netherlands remains particularly concerned with the escalation of violence in the past couple of years.

NEW ZEALAND:  New Zealand takes seriously issues of safety at sea, particularly in the harsh environs of the Southern Ocean.  New Zealand understands Japan’s concerns for Sea Shepherd activities and are concerned that there will be a serious incident that results in loss of life. New Zealand notes that the Sea Shepherd organization’s return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is likely to continue for as long as Japan continues to conduct whaling in the Southern Ocean.

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS:  We would like to express our sympathies for the crew and scientists of the research vessels for Japan operating in the Southern Ocean, and for the constant harassment they face over the years by the unlawful acts of Sea Shepherd.  It seems to me that Sea Shepherd is operating in the Southern Ocean without any fear for reprisals or sanctions from either the port states, the flag state, or the country where the Sea Shepherd organization is registered.  If it were in their interests to do so, they would act swiftly.  We are seeing the seriousness of the Sea Shepherd activities, when it is affecting the site of the important work of the IWC and Scientific Committee.  The protests of the Sea Shepherd have gone so far out of control that it affects the scope of our work.  This is a wake-up call.  Protests are so institutionalized that the Sea Shepherd is making millions of dollars and is now endorsed by a country that is one of our members.  Acts of terrorism would be banned by this country, and now we see a documentary has been accepted by Hollywood. That is not right. We are going to see one day that lives are going to be lost.  The message is that anything and everything can happen on the high seas without reprisal.

SAINT LUCIA:  Saint Lucia associates with the comments of Tanzania, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. This is an IWC matter.  The violent acts in the Southern Ocean are escalating.  I encourage commissioners to read the report of the Scientific Committee, particularly page 54 of the Scientific Committee report, which says that the work of the Scientific Committee is being affected by the actions of the Sea Shepherd. I want to ask the Commission, as I have in previous years – when are we going to take this serious?  When somebody is killed?  When we will be coming to the next meeting and we are expressing sympathy?

NORWAY:  Norway aligns with Saint Lucia and expresses firm support for Japanese seaman and scientists.  These violent activities and attacks against research vessels are taking place year after year; this support is dangerous by condoning these actions. Norway urges flag and port states to be clear in their messages.  In mid-May, Paul Watson was arrested in Germany awaiting extradition to Costa Rica for illegally interfering with fisheries operations.

KOREA:  Korea, in principle, supports peaceful and legitimate protests, but Korea expresses deep concern for further escalation of activities that increase risk of life and properties at sea.  All members of the IWC should condemn illegal and dangerous activities, and take necessary actions to discourage illegal actions on the High Seas.

KIRIBATI:  Kiribati does not condone, and strongly condemns, actions of Sea Shepherd against Japan’s research, which we have seen, endangers lives and vessels.  We fully associate our comments with strong sentiments of Saint Lucia and others on this issue.

BRAZIL:  Brazil supports all efforts to strengthen safety at sea.  However, we note that this issue falls within the purview of the IMO, which has the appropriate mechanisms to deal with this issue. We condemn actions of violence at sea, and regret violations of ‘scientific whaling’ in the Southern Ocean are at the heart of this matter.

COLOMBIA:  Colombia condemns all actions of violence.  As we said at IWC 63, this issue should go to the IMO.

JAPAN:  First of all, I thank delegations for their support with regard to safety at sea. However, my delegation was disappointed with one delegation who seem to be supporting Sea Shepherd by criticisms of Japans scientific research, in accordance with the Convention.  According to the resolution, the Japanese delegation emphasizes safety at sea.  The research of JARPA I and JARPA II is extremely important to the work of the Scientific Committee, and a great deal of scientific knowledge has been lost.  IWC has been continuously interrupted by violent radical oppositions of Sea Shepherd.  We would like to call again that we have to address this issue and understand that IMO is one of the organizations, but or the governments – actions must be taken.

ICELAND:  Iceland wishes to associate with Norway and Korea in support with Japan’s stance in this matter.

CHILE:  Chile would like to support what has been expressed by Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Colombia.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Russia supports statements made by Saint Lucia with regards that is a question which should be considered at IWC.  Russia and other countries are against the terrorism and in this case, Sea Shepherd is not an organization that would be as difficult to find as Bin Laden, and Sea Shepherd demonstrates ecological terrorism.  That’s why I call to IWC and Sea Shepherd flag state countries and as well as registration ports of Sea Shepherd to take measures in order to stop the ecological terrorism.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:  I would like to associate my comments with what Brazil, Colombia, and Chile have said.  We recommend to Japan that it reconsider scientific whaling because it’s no use risking the lives of Japanese sailors like this.  We would like to suggest that IMO is the best organization to take care of this matter.

AUSTRALIA:  My apologies for taking the floor a second time.  Australia would just like to point out that JARPA is not the sole source of research in this area of the Southern Ocean.

GUINEA:  My delegation would like to associate with those who have condemned the actions of Sea Shepherd. We grant great value of the research of JARPA I and II programs and, thanks to these outcomes, we have been able to discover that the stomach contents of some whale species included pelagic species exclusively.  The populations of our countries are also consumers of small pelagic species, that’s why we grant great importance to the interaction of fish species and whales, and for food securities.  We firmly condemn all activities that might jeopardize this program.

BENIN:  We have had the opportunity to hear all viewpoints and find fist solutions before us.  I would like to have my own perspective on this highly-contentious issue regarding security.  This question of safety is very much linked to whether we have the opportunity to carry out scientific research or not.  This ability to carry out scientific research must be ensured in a very bold way.  Within the IWC, as long as this issue remains unresolved, we will be forced with huge problems. When the IWC says clearly to the Sea Shepherd, it needs the outcomes of scientific research; we will see these problems end.  Such a resolution will enable this institution to make this decision and not IMO.

Not-So-Breaking News!…Japan Hates Sea Shepherd (Year No. 3)

Posted July 5, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

For the third time in as many years, IWC participants are a captive audience to “IWC goes to the movies”, Japan-style.   This year, Japan’s commissioner Kenji Kagawa treated us to a riveting (well, not really) presentation entitled, Don’t Condone Violent Actions by Sea Shepherd Against Japan, which left very little to the imagination as to the content.

“We feel that it’s unfortunate to repeat this comment year after year.  Since 2005, Sea Shepherd has been constantly demonstrating against us as we carry out scientific research approved by the IWC and we have been experiencing danger to our ships and crew members.  Because of the actions of Sea Shepherd, we have had injuries to our crew members and damage to our vessels.  Sea Shepherd has been crashing into us intentionally and other acts of violence.  They have boarded our ships illegally, arrested, and have been tried.

In the 2011-2012 season, Sea Shepherd has carried out atrocious and malicious activities. Roping our research vessels, coming close to our ships, sending fire bombs and also aiming various weapons at us.  They have bombs with different colors and trying to fire colored smoke bombs at us.  Since these activities, we have been receiving several attempts to undermine our scientific activities, and this is a great regret to us.  I would like to ask the international community to help and support us in our efforts to end these acts of violence and no longer condone the acts of Sea Shepherd violence.

Sea Shepherd continued its violent activities in the 2012 season as well.  They launched glass bottles using high-powered launchers.  Again, the Sea Shepherd are caught launching glass bottles against Japanese crew.  In fact, during the last season, one of the crew was spattered by spilled Butyric acid when one Sea Shepherd deployed dangerous ropes on our propellers. They deploy them right in front of Japanese vessels and a lot of non-biodegradable materials was used.  This is one of the ropes used by Sea Shepherd and retrieved by a Japanese vessel. The purpose of the propeller fouler is to destroy the propeller using metal pipes.  These propeller foulers not only threaten safety at sea but could harm the Antarctic environment and ecosystem.  This is a quote from the Sea Shepherd website that their tactics are non-violent.  But as I have shown you, the group’s tactics are extremely violent.”

(Quote from Japan’s presentation:The conservation societywill utilize every and all aggressive non-violent strategies and tactics…” – SS homepage News and Media, “Operation Divine Wind” June 30, 2011.”)

“Last year, IWC adopted a resolution on Safety at Sea.  It’s a shame that the spirits of the resolution are not fully respected, as you can see from these violent actions.  Sea Shepherd takes violent actions including launching propeller foulers and launching projectiles such as glass bottles and signal flares.  Law enforcement should be bound by international law in the high seas.  But lack of action from flag states have been condoning Sea Shepherd actions.   The whaling controversy cannot be used to justify violence  Let me end my presentation by quoting part of the resolution which was adopted by consensus last year.”

(“Safety at Sea” Resolution 2011-2 included here)

“So in this manner, we have seen the violence enacted by Sea Shepherd has threatened the safety of vessels at sea, the lives of crew members, and the property of ship owners.  These are acts of violence and should not be tolerated by any country that adheres to international maritime law.  Based on these acts of violence, we have been unable to carry out our legal research activities.  On this point, with regard to the violent activities of Sea Shepherd, we have considered these serious issues and asked appropriate countries to take actions.

At the IMO, we have asked for the adoption of resolution of statements criticizing Sea Shepherd, and have tried to solve this problem under the umbrella of cooperation.  In Japan, with regard to violent activity in the past, we have acquired arrest warrants for five activists whose actions have been confirmed.  We have asked INTERPOL for the arrest of these five internationally.

The criminal acts of these people have been notified to the secretariat of IMO and during the 2011-2012 seasons, before and after the occurrence of acts of sabotage. We have been approaching the relevant range states with regard to Sea Shepherd sabotage, especially The Netherlands, the flag nation of Sea Shepherd, and Australia, where Sea Shepherd is situated. We have been asking them to take responsible measures so that these acts of sabotage stop and to prevent recurrence of sabotage. Looking at the most recent season, no effective counter-measures have been taken by these relevant governments to prevent the acts of sabotage by Sea Shepherd. We would like to ask for the executive port of Sea Shepherd vessels, and the departure of Sea Shepherd vessels from the ports, and increase monitoring of Sea Shepherd members, and execution of enforcement, and review of preferential treatments they are receiving such as tax relief and subsidies.  As for past criminal acts, we would like to take legal relevant acts.  I would like to ask governments to cooperate with us for investigations, and seek continuous cooperation.  We would like to declare anew that we cannot tolerate acts of violence on legitimate research activities.”

Commissioners cannot resist responding to this ‘scientific research dog and pony show’, mostly for the benefit of their constituents back home.  Some can go on the record as taking a stand against so-called ‘scientific whaling’ and maritime safety, while others can advocate for the right to peaceful protest and dissent.  The paramour nations never miss an opportunity to demonstrate allegiance to their Japanese sugar daddy with histrionic cries of outrage and effrontery.

As for Japan, it benefits on both fronts. For sympathizers, it demonstrates a degree of international support for its “we hate Sea Shepherd” position with on-the-record statements – a good return on investment of vote-buying yen.  Secondly, Japan can use the platform to portray itself as a powerless, victimized nation thrown under the proverbial bus by western racist nations that willfully turn a blind eye to its being bullied by irrational black t-shirt wearing wanna-be pirates.

There are thirty-three Japanese delegates in Panama.  Surely at least one of these esteemed gentlemen has heard the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Hey, Japan… it’s time to try something different.

If you’re interested in the always-colorful interventions on this agenda item from IWC commissioners, stay tuned for the next post.

Whaling in Bequia: Not ‘Aboriginal’… Learned from Yankees

Posted July 4, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

Tuesday, July 3rd:  As we all know by now, the schedule amendment to bundle Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) quotas for the U.S., Russian Federation, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines was reluctantly passed by a vote on the Commission floor.  Most commissioners submitting interventions on the floor expressed ‘regret’ that the SVG quota request (aka, “whaling gone wild”) was not permitted to be extracted from the proposal and evaluated on its own merit… or lack thereof.

Amid the histrionics and allegations of ‘Colonialist racism’ from Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia and Saint Kitts and Nevis, one NGO representative – a native Bequian – had the temerity to take the plenary floor to read a poignant statement that exposed the thinly-veiled litany of lies and damn lies from the aforementioned commissioners.

The statement from Louise Mitchell Joseph of Eastern Caribbean Coalition of Environmental Awareness is presented below.

My name is Louise Mitchell Joseph.  I am native of Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  I speak on behalf of the Eastern Caribbean Coalition of Environmental Awareness, which is represented here by two NGOs – the Friends of the Tobago Cays and the SVG National Trust, which I chair.

I speak today on the issue of aboriginal whaling in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  In doing so, my group wishes to emphasize that in principle we are in support of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling in circumstances where the subsistence needs are genuine and the whalers are authentic aboriginal peoples.  This is not the case in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Aboriginal Whaling

In my capacity as Chairperson of the National Trust, I oversee all archaeological work that is carried out across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as to facilitate the research and documentation of the true history of our nation.

Never in the history of archaeology in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have there been any findings to suggest that the Kalinago or Garifuna peoples killed whales, interacted with whales, or ate whale meat.  The Kalinago and the Garifuna are the aboriginal peoples of our country.  Over the last several years there have been many archaeological excavations conducted and there was no evidence found whatsoever of whale hunting by aboriginal peoples.  Neither whale remains nor weapons that could have been used to kill such large mammals were ever found. Neither are any images of whales inscribed in our petroglyphs. 

The killing of the humpback whales on Bequia is a relic of European and American origin, which began in about 1875 by a Scottish settler William Wallace together with his whaling partner, a settler of French origin, Joseph Ollivierre.  It is not an ‘aboriginal’ activity, it is an activity learned from the Yankee whalers.  Modern day whaling in Bequia is done by persons of mixed European and African descent.  

Economic Argument

The killing of humpback whales on Bequia cannot be justified on economic grounds or nutritional needs.  Alternative sources of protein can be obtained at cheaper prices on the island of Bequia.  Those sources include chicken and certain types of fish.

The alleged need for whale meat in SVG statement presented is based on the assumption that all of the 6,000 persons on Bequia actually eat whale meat, which is not the case, especially because much of the meat is taken to the main island of St. Vincent, which is not the intended recipient of the quota.  The IWC very specifically awards it to meet the needs of the people of Bequia. We must also look at changes in consumption patterns and food preferences over time.  The current trend among young people indicates that whale meat is not a desirable option.  A recent High School Survey (2011), which included Bequia students, showed that only 39% admitted to have ever eaten whale meat.  Also, some persons of certain religious faiths on Bequia do not eat whale meat.  It is, however, considered a delicacy and enjoyed by persons especially in the Paget Farm and La Pompe communities.  

The most critical economic argument in relation to whaling activities on Bequia is its negative impact on the tourism industry, which the entire country is heavily dependent upon, including Bequia.  It is the largest industry, the biggest employer, and the greatest source of foreign exchange revenue.  This has been the case since the collapse of the banana industry after the loss of preferential treatment on the European market.  The agricultural sector was further destroyed by Hurricane Tomas in 2010; and soon thereafter was hit by the black Sigatoka and Moka diseases, which destroyed most of the bananas in 2011 and 2012.  These events have caused SVG to be even more dependent on tourism than ever before. The killing of humpback whales in the heart of the main tourism area, the island of Bequia, is extremely damaging to the tourism industry.  It is a practice that we simply cannot afford as a country to continue.  The whaling activities of a small community should not be allowed to have such devastating economic impact on the rest of Vincentian society.


It is a well known fact that the Bequia whalers have had a long tradition of hunting mothers and calves, contrary to IWC-AWS regulations.  Our government has had a history of non-compliance with respect to its obligations to the IWC, including absence of adequate measures for the collecting and reporting of data in relation to whaling activities of Bequia.  

There is a misrepresentation in the SVG 2012 Statement of Needs, which reads, “Where there is wind the boats use their sails while searching for whales and to pursue them.” This statement omits to mention they key role of speedboats in the hunt, including towing the whale boat to the vicinity of the whale to give the appearance of ASW and to tow the dead whale back to shore.  Evidence can be seen in the Animal Welfare Institute report referred to below.  Based on numerous eye witness accounts, speedboats are not only used to herd the whales but also to strike whales, and have become a regular component to the hunting activities in recent years.  One such strike-and-loss, where the whale was harpooned from the speedboat and not the whale boat, occurred this past year just outside Admiralty Bay, a spectacle which was viewed by many.

Whale meat is not only sold on mainland St. Vincent but also in neighboring countries, and even to the Vincentian Diaspora in the United States and elsewhere.  I had an aunt of blessed memory, Auntie Gloria, who lived in St. Lucia and on her annual visit to Bequia would purchase her beloved Bequia whale oil to take back to St. Lucia with her in her suitcase.

I wish to also draw your attention to the ASW infractions by whalers on Bequia as set out in the June 2012 report by the Animal Welfare Institute.  Animal welfare interest groups would note that the cold non-exploding harpoon is still commonly used, which results in suffering and prolonged death after a whale has been struck.


In conclusion, and in light of the lack of genuine subsistence needs, commercialization of the catch, record of infractions, animal cruelty and the fact that the hunters are not aboriginal peoples as the exception for ASW requires, we call on the IWC to withdraw entirely a proposal for a quota of humpback whales on St. Vincent and the Grenadines to hunt whales under the IWC-ASW provision.  

Louise Mitchell Joseph, Eastern Caribbean Coalition of Environmental Awareness (ECCEA)

Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Defends Bowhead Quota

Posted July 3, 2012 by Cheryl M. McCormick
Categories: Uncategorized

In advance of discussions leading up to a vote on the Proposal by the Russian Federation, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the United States of America (, the following statement was prepared and read by George Noongwook, Chair of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC).

“Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak here today.  My name is George Noongwook.  I am a whaling captain from Savoonga, Alaska, and I am Chair of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.  Together, we represent four of the eleven northern Alaskan villages that depend on bowhead whales.  Life in our villages is a lot different from what most of you are experiencing.  Most of you here go to a grocery store on a regular basis for your food.  We in Savoonga have one grocery store.  You might find canned milk there. A pound of meat, if you can find it, might be $12.00 per pound.  We have fuel there, and a gallon of gas is $7.00.  We don’t get much food form the store.  We get most of our food from the ocean – whales, walrus, and fish.  This is how we feed our children, our families, and our elders.

This is how we have fed our families for over 2000 years.

We’ve been coming to IWC since 1977. Most of you will never visit our villages, but the decisions you make here have real impacts on lives.  We take your decisions seriously and abide by them.  Everybody knows that when our quota is discussed at IWC, everybody stays up at night, wondering…how will we feed our family?  Our bowhead whale stocks are healthy and able to withstand our hunt.

I’m sure most of you have never had to prove your need for food from your sources. but we are told we have to prove our need for food from our only reliable source of food – the oceans.

In 1977, the IWC asked us to asked us to improve the efficiency of our hunt.  Our average efficiency is 75 percent, despite spring ice that makes our hunt harder.  We were asked to upgrade our weapons to Penthrite (harpoons).  We have done that.

In spite of all of our efforts, we have faced many threats to our subsistence quota due to politics here, and all sides of the debate of commercial whaling.  This is devastating to our communities back home.  I don’t want to be negative – its’ not my way.  But I want to ask you to consider that your decisions here have impacts on real people.  Our way of life may seem foreign to you, but we are people like you are – we have families.  The food we take from the oceans keep our families alive and healthy.  Our hunting practices allow us to keep our families and cultures healthy.  Several of us have left our families to be here to answer your questions.  I want to thank you for your support for us to allow us to take whales at current levels.  Thank you very much.”