A Question of Integrity, Part II

Funny thing about the ‘politics of whales’ – it appears that heated IWC deliberations causes onset of “unexpected illness” (and we don’t just mean stress!) among those in the highest positions of IWC leadership.

IWC Chair Christian Maquieira (Chile), the chair of the IWC since 2009, fell inexplicitly and suddenly “ill” immediately prior to the most critical meeting of the IWC in over twenty years. Despite being widely regarded as the chief architect of the compromise being hotly debated and voted upon during this year’s meeting, Mr. Maquieira will not be attending this year’s meeting due to this unspecified malady.

Maquiria, as it turns out, is under a tremendous amount of pressure from all parties within the Chilean Parliament to resign his position as Chair. They feel that through his advocacy of the compromise package, Mr. Maquieira is not acting in a way that reflects the will and values of the Chilean people. In 2008, a poll of the general public found that 99 percent of Chileans supported the formation of a whale sanctuary within their jurisdictional waters. The Chilean government has made it very clear where it stands on the position of commercial whaling.

Since they unveiled the package, Mr. Maquieira, along with Vice Chair Anthony Liverpool (Antigua and Barbuda), have admitted to taking a lot of heat from both sides of the issue.

Chair Maquieira was also notably absent from the March intersession meeting in St. Petersburgh, Florida. As this meeting took place just after an earthquake struck Chile hours before his scheduled departure, everyone assumed that his absence was due to this tradgedy. Now, word comes down that his part of the country was not affected at all, and the timing of the disaster and his absence is largely coincidental.

Now, after the accusations levied at Vice Chair Liverpool (see below), we hear that he, too, is likely too ill to run the meeting. It is unclear at this point who will likely step into that spot, but the timing, again, seems somewhat interesting to say the least.

Given all of this, we are left to wonder who is really driving the compromise package? Certainly it seems many cultures and many nations shy away from it, and some (like Australia) have outright condemned it. The Chair of the IWC, who should be combining the will of his people with his role at the head of the table, clearly has not been doing this. The accusations against Vice Chair Liverpool may be suggestive of what we have feared all along; the package is really a way to move commercial whaling forward, not to allow time for a resolution to a long-standing conflict.

Ultimately, if the package goes through, the Chair and Vice Chair will likely feel better. The same cannot be said for the whales which will stand in the way of the harpoons that will be allowed.

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