A Majority of IWC Commissioners Agree: One Out of Three ASW Quotas Sucks



This is a long one, folks.  Get yourself a sandwich and make yourself comfortable.

Tuesday morning was a fast and furious litany of point-and-counterpoint discussion and interventions by commissioners addressing the Proposal by the Russian Federation, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the United States of America (http://bit.ly/JoeXSU).  Based on the comments by commissioners of over 25 IWC contracting governments, very few are satisfied with the U.S.’s effort to “bundle” three individual aboriginal subsistence whaling (ABS) quotas, from three different countries, addressing three different species (gray whales, humpback whales, and bowhead whales, respectively) from three different stocks.  This proposal was particularly controversial and divisive because it bundled a very poorly-managed, renegade, and often illegal whale hunt (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) with that of highly-regulated, well-documented and managed ASW hunts (U.S. bowhead and Russian Federation gray whale hunts). The primary bone of contention was not aboriginal whaling, per se, but the issue of linking renegade whaling on the verge of commercialization with credible ASW quotas.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would the U.S. risk associating its reputation – in an election year – by associating itself with a country that: 1) flagrantly hunts humpback whale calves in speedboats; 2) uses whale killing techniques outlawed by the IWC because they are ‘cruel and inhumane’; 3) fails to report biological and welfare data to the IWC, and; 4) is widely known to be openly courted by Japan?

Ah, bingo!  The U.S. needed Japan’s support of its ABS bowhead quota.  What could the U.S. bring to the table as a negotiation point?  How about legitimizing whaling operations in one of Japan’s ‘Caribbean lap-dog’ countries?  Great idea.  It was risky, and in the end, successful… unfortunately.  Rather than conceding to the requests of almost 50 international NGOs and the commissioners of numerous contracting nations to ‘unbundle’ the super-package, co-sponsors of the proposal, led by the U.S., refused.  This is a risky position for the U.S., which now risks terrible press from NGOs who are all too happy to report on the alignment of the Obama Administration with Japan’s lapdogs, who don’t apparently give a damn about adhering to acceptable practices of legitimate ASW policies.

Here’s what was said on the plenary floor from your commissioners….

DOMINCAN REPUBLIC:  The DR would like to recognize the U.S. for the unconditional support it has lent the DR in whale conservation efforts. However, the DR feels that in the Caribbean, humpback whale issues have been looked at from a different point of view.  Our whale watching industry brings in about 9 million USD in just 75 days.  With regard to SVG, we believe that this is the wrong way to focus on the humpback whale resources.  We call this system ‘artisanal whaling out of control’.  They have consistently failed in meeting requirements by the Scientific Committee and have broken many standards.  They hunt young ones as well as mothers.

In the Caribbean, there have been no aboriginal people for over 300 years.  For this need, we recognize the need of indigenous peoples in the U.S and the Russian Federation, but we cannot recognize the request of SVG.

JAPAN:  Our stand is that… it is important to promote sustainable uses of marine resources based on scientific findings.  Therefore, we strongly support the (joint) proposal.

ECUADOR:  Ecuador rejects the request for whaling by SVG, as presented.  There is lack of compliance and regular reporting.  We ask SVG to withdraw its request and shift to sustainable uses of whale resources, such as whale watching.

MEXICO: We regret that requests are presented in a single package; we may have to vote on it.  We really do not like this package deal; we would like to see each package on its own. SVG is closer to commercial whaling than ASW whaling, however, Mexico would like to support SVG in efforts to develop whale watching.

GRENADA:  Yesterday, we listened carefully to the SC report on this question, and the results clearly demonstrate that a sustainable use could be possible and would not harm stocks in the areas we’re discussing.  Today, we also listened carefully to the presentation by the U.S. representative.  We believe that we can support this package proposal.  We cannot grant one country our support and withdraw it from another. Therefore, we support the package as presented.

COLOMBIA:  Regarding the proposal, Colombia believes that it should be discussed by components dealing separately.  We have no comments to make regarding the US and Russia, however, for the request of SVG, the report was not submitted in a timely manner. We believe that the information given by the commissioner of SVG yesterday should be submitted to the Scientific Committee for consideration at the next meeting.  We have concerns about whether this activity is really aboriginal subsistence whaling, and we would like to join what Mexico said. And, we can also lend technical assistance to SVG in whale watching.

CHILE:  Regarding the proposals for aboriginal subsistence whaling, Chile associates its comments with the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Colombia. We support the proposal for Russia and the U.S., as we believe that they do comply with provisions by the IWC, however, we would like to see a separation of this proposal, since we see that SVG do not comply with aboriginal subsistence whaling and they would be in violation of the Moratorium.

COSTA RICA: Costa Rica feels the same as other countries with respect to aboriginal subsistence whaling.  Regarding the request by SVG, our country believes that it does not have sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate their request.  In the Declaration of Needs submitted by SVG, they used to hunt small cetaceans and practiced this in the 18th and 19th Century.  However, the world has evolved and whales generate more revenue alive through whale watching.

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS:  I would like to congratulate the U.S. for showing leadership and courage to galvanize aboriginal peoples so as to ensure their desire to hunt and maintain traditions so that they are not trampled on.   We’re talking about subsistence hunting needs for food, to meet cultural and nutritional needs of coastal peoples.  We are all considerate of the need for food securities for coastal and marginal peoples.  We affirm the rights of communities to obtain food from whatever resources are available to them.  Mr. Chair, I think that this proposal has met all of the standards that have been established by our Commission, and falls within the acceptable uses of marine resources, and I must underline the fact that the Convention gives coastal states the sovereign rights to utilize their marine resources in a way that they see fit.  For some countries to come here and impose their views on smaller, poorer countries is rude, arrogant and borders on racism.  Small counties are being singled out for ridicule; we are small and vulnerable, and they are encouraged to scandalize their fellow countries. In the Dominican Republic, the commissioner claims that they are making a lot of money from whale watching – we congratulate them.  But SVG has a right to use their marine resource in a way that they serves their needs and their people.

SVG deserves an apology from the commissioners from these countries.  These comments are rude, and they have nothing to do with the friendly relationship that we enjoy with other nations in the Caribbean.

Why should the small, vulnerable country of SVG be punished for taking four whales from 10,000?  Why can’t anybody see that this is Colonialism rebirthed?  Why should we spend our time in frivolous arguments?  I hope that the indigenous peoples of Latin America are listening today.  Enough is enough, Mr. Chair!  I am appealing to this August body to resist from bigotry, to desist from elements of racism, and do what is right for the people of the world.

Chair Mainini (to Saint Kitts and Nevis):  I am not interested in hearing about Colonialism or cows in Australia, could you please stick to the point?

SAINT LUCIA:  I would like to clarify to the gentleman of the Dominican Republic that there are indigenous peoples in the Caribbean.  I am a descendent of the Carib, and there are full-blooded indigenous peoples living in the OEDS.  We have to look at food security; the whales being taken by these counties are to provide food for the people.  I heard countries splitting this proposal; I urge that countries please not consider this.  This will cause serious divisions in this Commission and will create mistrust and animosity.  The take of 4 whales from the North Atlantic humpback stock will not harm the stock of over 11,000 whales.  I say to the Dominican Republic, you can conduct your whale watching while SVG conducts its hunts.  The hunts are sustainable and yes, they are providing food to its people.  I’m sure there will be comments in the future about ‘who’s selling what to whom.’  If they are not allowed to at least sell a portion of that quota, how will they improve time-to-death?  If we want to improve time-to-death, we need to consider the cost incurred to these countries.  The cost of a Penthrite head is $1,000.  How will they pay for that?

ICELAND: In Iceland, we have whale watching and whale hunting in the same location, and there is nothing saying that this is incompatible.  It is easy to run this together.

CYPRUS:  Speaking in behalf of EU member states, we would like to express our support of this particular proposal.  We are committed to protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and support ASW to support documented needs.  We are guided by precautionary principles of the Scientific Committee.

KOREA: We feel sympathy for the aboriginal people and their dependence on whale meat.  Korea would like to stress that our coastal whaling communities shares much in common with other aboriginal peoples in terms of their long-term dependence on whale meat, since prehistoric times.  We would like to support aboriginal subsistence whaling, but note that some countries have suffered from the Moratorium; it has been painful.  Some whaling communities have suffered economically because they are not able to conduct minke whaling.  Cultural differences and diversity must be reorganized and respected.  Needs for quotas must be granted as long as the use is sustainable.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA:  We wish to associate ourselves with the comments of Iceland, Japan, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and all of the ‘right-thinking nations who support this proposal.  Food and nutritional securities are human rights; no nation ought to have to prove their entitlement to food.

DENMARK:  We support aboriginal subsistence needs and reliance on whaling wholeheartedly; Having traveled in the north Arctic communities, I understand how precarious life is in those areas. We have a difference of cultural understanding and compassion.  This will slowly make IWC redundant.  We support the proposal and really discourage the splitting up of this proposal.

GHANA:  I always call for is peace and decorum – to force the unity, so that we can help each other, especially the strong ones propping the weaker one.  So, if we have issues that border on food security, employment, economic parameters, I think we should give it a good hearing. I want to congratulate the U.S. for bringing this proposal and want to associate my comments with those counties who support the proposal… to help those who are weak.

SOUTH AFRICA:  In South Africa, we don’t have aboriginal whaling, but we do have poaching and some land areas, and fishing in marine areas, and are moving to whale watching.  I fully support the proposal put forth by the U.S., Russia, and St. Vincent’s and the Grenadines.

SWITZERLAND: We fully support this proposal and are against splitting the proposal.

ISRAEL:  Regarding this package, we associate our comments with those countries in support of the proposal and are against splitting it.  The main reason for our support is the recommendation of the Scientific Committee.

ARGENTINA:  As other countries of the Buenos Aires Group said, Argentina has no problem with aboriginal subsistence whaling for Russia and the U.S. which are well-supported.  However, we do worry as expressed by other countries of Buenos Aires Group with comments of SVG.  Therefore, we cannot support the proposal ‘as-is’.

BRAZIL:  We, like other members of the Buenos Aires Group, we regret that we have to consider a package of three countries and three situations.  In the future, it would be useful to consider each quota on its own merit.  We have no question about the U.S. and Russia, but also have concerns with relation to SVG, related to the ASW subcommittee. Report and concerns raised today and yesterday by several delegations.  We are having difficulty in sporting this proposal in relation to SVG.

GRENADA:   We support interventions by SKN, AB, and SL.  We view this attack on SVG as divisive and not in the spirit of compromise and consensus which we have been trying to achieve.  Mr. Chair, I’m disappointed by what I am hearing this morning.

TANZANIA:  We do not support splitting this proposal, and associate our comments with SKN and SL.

PERU: We associate our comments with members of the BAG, and have concerns about the request SVG.  Different counties are supported by different arguments and should be treated separately.

MONACO:  We do unequivocally support the U.S. and Russia; it would have been preferable to treat these separately from the request of SVG. We are dealing with different latitudes, different practices, and different needs of different counties.  We are dealing with a special category of whaling called “A.S.W.’, where the “A” stands for “Aboriginal”.  There is no evidence that native peoples have practiced whaling in the Caribbean.  In the future, it may be necessary to have a historian present to help us with that issue.  That said, Monaco will not interfere with consensus on this issue.

PALAU:  Palau will support the joint package on the basis that… it will not harm the stock.

Chair Mainini:  There was no formal request to split the proposal, so the proposal stands ‘as is’.  Do we have, even if there are other opinions expressed, consensus?

ARGENTINA:  We wanted to ask for a short break whether there is a consensus to speak with other members of the Buenos Aires Group.

ECUADOR:  We would also like to request a break.  We are in agreement for two elements of this proposal – the quotas proposed for the U.S. and Russian Federation. However, there is no consensus within the group to adopt the third element with regard to SVG.  We have witnessed yesterday a vote on the issue of the South Atlantic Sanctuary, in which we have first tried to work by consensus, but when it was not possible, we took a decision by vote.  At this occasion now, we are also bound by our rules of procedure and therefore, I would ask on behalf of the BAG for guidance on how we can say “yes” to your question on how to proceed.

MEXICO:  After having paid attention to all countries that have spoken, it is clear that there is consensus for the quotas for the U.S. and Russian Federation, but not for SVG.  We would like to vote separately for the U.S. and Russian, and separate the quota for SVG.

U.S.: The Governments of US, RF and SVG resist efforts to divide the quotas; all are for a status quo quota, have been approved by the SC, and meet the guidelines for ABS as determined by the Commission.

Chair Mainini:  At this time, there is for the second time, no possibility for consensus.  For me, there is no other way than to go for a vote of the proposal by the U.S., Russian Federation, and the SVG.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA:  Are we voting separately for the quota requested by SVG, or separately for the three quotas together?

(Credentials Review:  One more nation present today – Oman, but arriving without credentials, and so cannot vote.  A ¾ majority is required for passage of the schedule amendment).


Antigua & Barbuda:  YES

Argentina: NO

Australia: YES

Austria: YES

Belgium: YES

Benin: YES

Brazil: NO

Cambodia: YES

Chile: NO

China: YES

Colombia: NO

Costa Rica: NO

Cyprus: YES

Croatia: Not present


Denmark: YES

Dominican Republic: NO

Ecuador: NO

Estonia: YES

Finland: YES

France: YES

Gabon: NO

Germany: YES

Republic of Ghana: YES

Grenada: YES

Iceland: YES


Ireland: YES

Israel: YES

Italy: YES

Japan: YES

Kenya:  Not present

Kiribati: YES

Korea:  YES

Laos: YES

Luxemburg: YES

Mexico: YES


Mongolia: YES

Morocco:  YES

Nauru: YES

Netherlands: YES

New Zealand: YES

Norway: YES

Palau: YES

Panama: YES

Peru: NO

Poland: YES

Russian Federation: YES

Saint Kitts and Nevis: YES

Saint Lucia: YES

St. Vincent & the Grenadines: YES

Slovenia:  YES

South Africa: YES

Spain:  YES

Sweden: YES

Switzerland: YES

Tanzania: YES

Togo:  YES

Tuvalu: YES

United Kingdom:  YES

United States:  YES

Uruguay: NO

ROLL-CALL VOTING OUTCOME :  48 “YES”; 10 “NO”; 2 “ABSTAIN”; 1 “DO NOT PARTICIPATE. Schedule amendment adopted as submitted.

In closing, a majority of IWC commissioners agree – one in three of these ASW proposals sucks.

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2 Comments on “A Majority of IWC Commissioners Agree: One Out of Three ASW Quotas Sucks”

  1. Very disappointed in the US position on this issue. Bundling a country with arguably no aboriginal hunting rights along with two legitimate and long-standing hunts reflects poorly on the very premise of aboriginal hunting rights. I’m reminded of the Vonage commercials on TV with the scary couple saying “We ALL bundle….”

  2. Sorry, Mike. Keep it civil (no cursing) on this forum for public comment. If you can revise that comment to omit the word “asshole” – I’ll gladly publish. I understand your feelings on the issue, but that probably won’t do much to advance the dialog. Ball’s in your court, Mike, I’m happy to publish a revised comment. Thanks, Cheryl McCormick, Executive Director, ACS.

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