Whaling Deal On Life Support
Wednesday, we expected definitive news on the status of the IWC Small Working Group (SWG) “compromise” package, The Future of IWC. It didn’t come. Many of the delegates came in looking bleary-eyed and expressionless as a result of “intense, but cordial and useful” negotiations lasting into the night.
The 10 round robin groups met in 30 sessions during which pro- and anti-whaling nations were reported as being “close to reaching agreement on a number of issues”. Despite inroads on the cordiality front, a number of issues remain at an impasse, including the Moratorium, quotas contained in the package (“Table 4 Quotas”), Article VIII whaling (‘scientific’ whaling), Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW), sanctuaries, and trade.
IWC Vice Chair Anthony Liverpool recommended that groups continue to work toward consensus on adopted the package as a whole and refrain from “cherry picking” issues in addressing the way forward in determining the future of IWC.
After the delegates of many contracting governments read their statements concerning the process (below), IWC Agenda Item #3 (“The Future of IWC”) was kept open, thereby allowing additional debate during the remainder of the plenary meeting.
Until the agenda item is formally closed the “deal” is not technically dead. Rather, it remains on life-support until the Chair finally pulls the plug.
Highlights from various opening statements included:
JAPAN: All quotas should be based on scientific data, and Japan always applies that principle. Japan cannot accept quotas under any other condition. The IWC remains polarized and Japan has engaged the process in a sincere way and accepts the fact that, in effect, there is no prospect for consensus on the proposal. Not allowing the take of a single animal in the name of ‘conservation’ is not based on sound science and is unacceptable. It is clear that among whaling and anti-whaling nations, it has become impossible to rise above narrow-minded political and philosophical differences.
KOREA: The members of the IWC lack the political will to change the IWC in any meaningful way. There remain fundamental differences in views over sanctuaries and quotas. Science should guide the future process of any contracting governments, and Korea is pleased to work with scientists from Japan, Russia, and China to develop scientific recommendations with regard to the sustainable use of whale resources.
ICELAND: It’s important that coastal states be able to use their resources in a sustainable manner. Whaling is a part of a bigger picture. Iceland has been working constructively with other members of the Small Working Group to find a compromise between pro- and anti-whaling nations. The original two goals of the SWG were: 1) increased conservation of whales; 2) increased management of whales. The goal was never to eliminate or phase out whaling. Ultimately, contracting governments were not able to agree upon the numbers, largely due to lack of political will. Because of this, Iceland recommends a one-year pause in negotiations.
MONACO: Advocates a one-year “cooling off” period and states, “When you’re whaling on the high seas (vs. coastal whaling), you act like a ‘careless tourist.’ Whales belong to all of us.”
COSTA RICA: The government of Costa Rica encourages non-lethal, sustainable uses for whales, such as whale watching, as well as supporting the formation of sanctuaries. The document does not support my country’s interests.
DENMARK: We have always maintained a position in the middle of the IWC. It is with great sadness that I report that nothing has changed. While the dialog has been polite, it has lacked substantive discussion. I don’t expect anything to change in the next day or so, in the near future. Time is running out for the IWC. I speak for the future interests of the Faroe Islands.’