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Korea decides to go Scientific Whaling

Report from the WDCS team at IWC 64: Wednesday morning; The advent of ‚reckless whaling‘!

We can hear the Tovi parrakets as we wake up. They fly by chattering and shrieking and then settle at their usual morning post awaiting breakfast on the telegraph wires opposite our modest hotel. There seems to be much gossiping in the flock this morning.

The big issues for today are:

• Where are we with the Greenland request for more whales?

• Does Korea really mean to start scientific whaling on the endangered Sea of Japan or ‘J’ stock of minke whales?

• Can the EU nations find a clear voice on issues or will they coordinate themselves to a standstill?

The heavy rains of last night have washed the streets somewhat clean and we advance towards the moist marble opulence of the El Panama Hotel under a cloudy sky. On route, the various street vendors of various things are variously vending them.

Curiously, inside the main hall, the first arrivals are the handful of scientists left over from the earlier meeting of the Scientific Committee here in Panama. We spot the Greenlandic scientist and his counterparts in France, Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Japan. The distinguished figure of the WDCS Director of Science – currently annexed to the UK delegation – can also be seen striving to remove a large gobbet of chewing gum from the sole of his shoe. All these gentlemen have been malingering in these halls for far too long.

As the clock ticks towards nine, other delegates start to rally. The Chair is in his seat on the dot of nine and sadly surveys the room, noting the poor time-keeping abilities of others.

EU delegations have been in coordination (probably all through the night) and their commissioners look especially bleery eyed as they enter the room; or is this more to do with the fine Australian reception last night.

The Chair opens the meeting at nine minutes past nine, and reminds us that the issue of the request from Greenland for an expanded hunt is still in play. [We know.]

He also notes that some of those NGOs will be allowed to speak again.  Those who will be given their five full minutes of fame – including Claire Bass again – are told that they must stay in the room all day because there is much on the agenda and the Chair means to be strict.

We move to the agenda item covering Whale Killing Methods and Associated Welfare Issues and the report of the meeting held on June 25th.

Michel Stachowitsch (one of those lurking scientists) and the distinguished alternate commissioner for Austria (resplendent in his traditional wooden bowtie) gives the report of this meeting which he chaired. The full report is on the IWC website. Various papers were presented and three countries noted that they provided their reports on this issue to NAMMCO as they found this more satisfactory.

The full report of the meeting last week can be found on the IWC website but as Michel takes us through this. We note that the Chairman of the Eskimo Whaling Commission had noted that its hunt was 75% efficient and that this is an improvement.

Euthanasia was discussed and it was concluded that the appropriate tools were often not available for use at sea. Guidelines include putting the welfare of humans first and animals next.

The Chair offers the microphone to Tanzania but he really does not want it.

Cyprus on the behalf of the EU members gathered here at the IWC believes that the IWC has a clear role in animal welfare issues.

Australia notes with concern the highly variable reporting of welfare data by some members. Three countries reported to another organisation she adds but Australia does not see this as an alternative to reporting to the IWC and regards this as an abrogation of responsibility to the IWC.

The USA [happy 4th of July guys] congratulates Michael on his workshop, supports its work and highlight the successful work ongoing in Argentina and Brazil on disentanglement. The US is donating $12,000 for apprentices to come from Argentina and Brazil to the US be trained in disentanglement. 

St Vincent and the Grenadines uses darting guns and there seems to be some improvement generally except when there is adverse weather. They are looking at an enhanced weapon system. The guns they currently use were made in the previous century and are consulting with the US and other countries.

Japan tries to make an intervention – we hear ‘testing… testing… this is the microphone – we will try again’ then:.. Mr Chairman, thank you very much. We have been presenting reports to the IWC and the relevant authorities in the IWC for the improvement of killing methods and for the safety of worker voluntarily. I believe that we have obtained results and reduced times to death and improved efficiency. From the standpoint of animal welfare we have been able to follow the IWC guidelines. We have agreed that reduced times to death are more humane and we have fulfilled this purpose. The data that we have provided voluntarily has not always been used for the purposes intended. They have been used by anti-whaling organisayipsn and nor for the purposes intended. Therefore Japans reserved the right on this.

Argentina thanks the UK for its recent workshop on whale killing welfare and supports its conclusions. In the Buenos Aires Group (BAG) they have always supported whale welfare.

Mexico thanks ‘Mike’ for this chairing and associates with the USA and David Mattila.

Now Norway congratulates Greg for his report … and also Michael for chairing. However, he adds. I have listened to some of the speakers here and if criticism is abeing addressed to Norway, it is not justified. From 1993 more than 25 reports have come from Norway and from 1980 we have worked in the relevant workshops and data from 5,500 minke whales have been presented. We have worked to improve our and other hunts. We found that the discussions in IWC were not very productive. Sometimes they were counter-productive so we took them to another body where they can be more sensible. There we could discuss animal welfare and not whaling. Our data were often twisted and misused and the outcomes of some recommendations were counter-productive. Whale hunting is a legal activity and we as hunters should improve our methods and we will continue to do so.

I suppose, says the Russian commissioner gently, that everyone is aware that we are a peaceful country and we help countries reach their independence.  Over 200 years ago we stopped the British fleet in US waters and today is Independence Day for the USA and we are pleased that we helped with this. There is laughter and applause and some head shaking. He adds that the times to death in the Russian aboriginal hunt is declining and less bullets are being used. 45 new darting guns have been purchased for the Russian hunt and they are grateful to the Norwegian whale killing expert (Uncle Egil) and also for help from the USA and others.

Colombia and Argentina think welfare is important and the latter thanks the US for its training support. Brazil supports the recommendations of the whale killing group and also thanks the US for its support on disentanglement and thanks the famous Mr Matilla who was instrumental in all this.

India appreciated the work of the United Kingdom and thanks them.

Michel continues with his report and describes Mr Matilla as a pillar.

[We will try and get clarity on who Mr Matilla is and what he has done in due course – please bear with us – he was mentioned many times last week in various working groups.] 

Amongst other things, the intercessional work by the United Kingdom (a workshop complete with recommendations) is noted – this was intended to try and find ways forward on this topic. Several countries had thanked the UK for its work last week and Michael notes that Norway and the UK had joined forces to provide a good atmosphere for good animal welfare. An expert workshop on euthanasia of large whales was mooted to help entangled and stranded whales where euthanasia was the only option. Unconsciousness and death in whales are often difficult to determine and techniques should be improved. Liaison with other animals welfare bodies was also urged.

Chairman Bruno thanks Michael for the great job that he did. The Republic of Korea agrees and finds the killing of whales desirable. Whales caught in set nets are usually found dead and any attempt at euthanasia has usually not worked but under article ten of their new directive in Korea; any person who has incidentally caught whales must report it promptly to a police station and take necessary measures to rescue it. Likewise the Republic of Korea would be pleased to provide relevant information on this matter.

Mexico is keen on welfare and the US too – they thank the UK for hosting a constructive and successful workshop. The US agrees that animal welfare activities are much wider than just whaling and the US supports looking at welfare across a wider range of matters. He hopes that Greg Donovan’s overview of welfare will be published.

The UK in support of Cyprus – thanks Michael for his excellent chairing and other countries for this contribution and will coordinate the intercessional work. He invites all contracting parties to take part in the work and will report back to IWC 65.

The NGO catapult is prepared and Claire Bass of WSPA is allowed again to speak. She also congratulates the UK and welcomes the recognition that many activities’ can affect whale welfare and lists countries who has recognised that a range of activities affect whale welfare. She looks forward to constructive and collaborative work on welfare and she suggests that the intersessionl group could draft some guiding principles which could cover all areas of the works of the commission. There may be costs involved in this and she makes another donation – £3,000 – to help this.

Chairman Bruno thanks her and for the donation, and she must have been on time as she is not scolded in the least. He now consults with the executive secretary and then notes and endorses on the behalf of the whole Commission the report of the welfare group.

We move to item 12 – Socio-economic issues and Small Type Coastal Whaling and, as is traditional at this point, Japan presents its case for a special quota for its coastal communities. He notes the similarities between their claim and aboriginal subsistence whaling. The case is calmly presented and he now tries to pass the microphone to the chairman of the small type whalimg towns. A small microphone problem ensures and then we are told that 25 years have passed since the moratorium came into place. Many small towns had whaling as an integral part of their history and small type coastal whaling is small-scale and coastal resources of minkes are healthy and abundant. We have utilised whales for thousand of years and he provides more details of these traditions.

A UK minister arrives and there is much bustle in the UK delegation and a lap top computer is gaily thrown in the air to celebrate his arrival.

Korea then speaks up – if anything more strongly than Japan – about his traditions including the famous Ulsan petroglyphs that show ancient whaling. The Commissioner is concerned about the effects of the moratorium. The Korean government is under pressure from the people of the Ulsan area (one of the coastal villages). They doubt that the IWC is taking this issue seriously and supports the request from Japan and notes the similarity to the situation in Korea.

St V and G has a clear understanding of this issue and the regrets the constant denial of this request  by the IWC and they identify with the coastal communities of Japan and the lack of empathy of people here for his people and the people in Greenland. Thanks much.

Guinea agrees

Australia says this is a commercial quota proposal and an exception to the moratorium. Commissioner Donna Petrachenko explains that Australia therefore cannot support this proposal which would undermine the moratorium, Japan speaks about science but Australia has concerns about the viability of any whaling in this region and notes there are many other threats, including ship strikes and marine pollution (but no mention of marine debris). She adds that the conservation status of J stock whales remains unknown: this is a ‘protection stock’ and should not be whaled upon. That wuld be a disregard of science. Efforts need to be made to recover this population. We have heard talks about sustainability and Australia cannot support this proposal she says very clearly.

Iceland says that the long history of this proposal shows we have a problem operating in a sensible and sustainable way in this forum and supports Japan ands also the views of Korea.

The US associates with Australia and remains concerned about the large removals of whales off Japan and Korea and we support that the Scientific Commitete complete the review of these stocks which should be completed at the next meeting. They support the continuation of the moratorium and hence not the Japanese proposal.

Denmark asks if any scientific whaling will be in addition to the quota. What would be the number taken for scientific purposes – only if this is done can they take a view.

Russia says that no one in this room has such a long history of whaling as Japan. This started 9000 years ago. Only Korea has a similar history – the Japanese were the first human beings to utilise this resource. The Russian Commissioner has been to these ‘villages’ [or as the scribe knows big cities] and seen the celebrations when a whale is landed and the emotion involved., It is important to protect their cultural tradition. He calls on distinguished delegations to support cultures worldwide. In Panama he has been to several restaurants and in all they ask for the traditional  Panama food and as a rule they end up with an hamburger or pizza! It is important to keep traditions and we support Japan. He calls for a decision made by consensus.

New Zealand says this is a difficult issue and he does not doubt the impact on coastal communities of the moratorium but ‘that was over 25 years ago’. He is also sorry about the impacts of the tsunami and NZ was one of the first to send in a rescue team. But he cannot support this exception to the moratorium. The commercial nature of this hunting means we cannot support. If we review the committee’s report you can see how difficult it is to identify the population structure. The boats involved in small type whaling also take part in scientific whaling – hundred of tonnes of whale meat. The Government of Japan has authorised the takes of many whales. University research has shown the communities are not suffering. We do not support.

Cyprus on the behalf of blah blah balah does not support any ‘new type’ of whaling and has serious doubts about impacts and the lack of defined need of coastal communities.

Ecuador is also concerned and does not support. Argentina prefers to have the report of the scientific committee report before this happens. He also notes a large quantity of meat unsold (1200 tonnes). Why do they need more?

Monaco is ‘completely opposed’ to commercial whaling and associates with Australia.

Colombia respects the rights of all people to food but fully supports the moratorium and STCW might establish a new loop hole. Costa Rica thinks this will open up commercial whaling and supports others with similar concerns. Chile aligns itself similarity. This is because of high lethal bycatch the ongoing work of the Scientific Commitete and because STCW is a way if lifting the moratorium. They also note reports of radioactivity in the whale meat and suggest that people should avoid easting it. Brazil also does not support.

Chairman Bruno notes that he has closed the list but now lists others than wanted to speak but will not be allowed to – Norway was

The NGO delegate, a Mr Eugene La Pointe, is also not allowed to take the floor as he cannot be given precedence if countries are not allowed to speak

Japan thanks those countries that expressed support and he is aware that there has been opposition. He supported aboriginal whaling yesterday and notes (again) the similarity of the whaling he proposes. He does not understand the commercial concerns – agriculture and forestry also have a commercial nature – why should whaling be exceptional. According to the rule of procedure he would like to consult with concerned countries and keep the topic open and tomorrow and the day after come back to this topic.

A frenetic coffee break follows. Many delegates are consulting – Greenland is seeking votes for its expanded quota; Japan seeks votes for its small type coastal whaling and much coffee is spilt.

Ice dancing on wet marble allows delegates to return to hear Scientific Committee Dr Debi Palka chair speaking about matters relating to stock assessments and the RMP (the agreed mechanism to calculate commercial quotas) – this is an especially dense part of the Scientific Committee report.

The US notes that the fin whale quota approved by Iceland is more than three times greater than what the Scientific Commitete would approve. They also do not think that a sei whale implementation is appropriate at this time.

Iceland think their fin whale quota is good variant 2 an d this was also discussed by NAMMCO which thinks the takes are precautionary.

The UK associates with the United States. The catch is 1.7 times higher than what would be approved by the RMP

Argentina says something but it is not translated. We assume he associated with the US and UK.

Debi now tells us about trial plausibility and the need to meet the Commission’s conservation objectives. Trials have medium plausibility with respect to the stocks of the North Pacific minke whales. Simulation trials will be used to advise on variants next year and she pauses before going to bycatch.

Bruno Chair thanks the scientific committee for their excellent work.

No one comments and we move along.

Debi describes her report noting also that how to assess mortality associated with marine debris was touched on.

There are not comments and we suddenly move to special permits and Korea asks for the floor. He thanks Dr Palka for her leadership of the scientific committee but he sees several controversial points relating to whales in Korean waters. There is a difficulty in identifying stocks. He hopes that matters can be progressed.

Chair Bruno tries to move on but India notes he supports the revised management scheme and hopes that the Scientific Committee can resolved problems. He is, however, concerned that some countries are not adhering to the revised management procedure and he asks Norway if there are at risk of exceeding their own quota developed via their own version of the RMP?

Mexico says that what Korea has said worries him greatly. He is very worried about stocks and we are looking at a second research effort that will very likely reach the same conclusions as the other research efforts.

The Chair says does Norway wish to reply.

Their distinguished scientist says that they are about half way through their whaling efforts this year which have been affected by the weather. They will not exeed the quota.

The USA opposes lethal research. It is unnecessary for modern whale management and conservation. Korea needs to follow procedure P in terms of developing its proposal. Takes of minke whales in this area would be composed 100% of J stock whales.

Australia associates with Mexico and the USA. There is no reason to kill whales in the name of science. All necessary data can be collected not lethally. She invites the scientists from Korea to visit her research station in Hobart to learn about non-lethal measure.

Argentina does not support scientists whaling and we worry about the impact – and we support the US and others.

Chair Bruno says we now need to move to scientific permits.

Denmark says that they do not wish to participate in this kind of discussion on scientific whaling. Panama supports and joins other members of the BAG (Buenos Aires Groupo) as does Ecuador. Germany is in the BAG too – or at least he agrees with them -and adds that scientific whaling could open the door to commercial whaling. Monaco regards scientific whaling as ancient and obsolete.

Bruno notes there are many more speakers on his list.

Korea says the scientific research they plan will be discussed in more detail. The UK notes that special permit whaling is unnecessary and of little value and there are perfectly adequate non-lethal approaches.

The impact of whaling is being looked at by the scientific committee – we need to avoid depleting small stocks.

Japan says that the committee agrees that implementation is allowed. New Zealand says we now seem to be in the middle of the debate on scientiftc whaling – he takes particular exception to whaling in the southern ocean and makes sentiments similar to that made by the commissioner from the other side of the Tasman Sea. He concludes that scientific whaling proposal from Korea borders on the reckless.

Switzerland agrees that scientific whaling is bad and then says something about other members being advised not to speak… but his meaning is unclear.

St Kits and Nevis likes scientific whaling – this body should promote research especially on stocks that are not endangered or threatened.

Cyprus notes you have heard already from some UK states and she add on the behalf of blah blah and she will come back under the ‘special item’.

Norway support the right – valuable knowledge is undoubtedly collected through this scientific approach.

The Chair notes that we are speaking about scientific permits under the wrong item and that the comments will be recorded under the next one. .But before he can get there India takes the floor to firmly oppose scientific whaling.

Russia do you want to take the floor under 13 or 14. Russia seems prepared to wait.

Agenda item 14 is cracked open and Russia notes that Japanese research is interesting for the understanding of the whales and their habitats in Antarctica.

Bruno tries again to close item 13 – third time lucky.

The Commission endorses the scientific committee and moves on. He promises again to get the comments in the right place and he looks to Executive Secretary. Simon Brockington, who smiles and nods.

Chairman Bruno notes that special permits have been issued in the North Pacific by Japan since last year.

Debi Palka now reports on the Scientific Committees discussion on special permit./ Scientific whaling. She notes that the scientific committee has a process known ‘fondly’ as annex P. In between these regular reviews the committee will only receive short reviews on scientific whaling programmes – see pages 82-86 of the scientific committee report. She records that the lack of discussion about this does not mean accord from all the scientists in the committee.

It is time for the first six year review of JARPA II and so the committee agreed a programme to deal with this.

Chile notes that she did not participate in the previous discussion because of confusion about the agenda item. She is not happy with how the small closed group of experts has been set up to review special permit reports. Special Permit studies are not useful to this commission. The biggest bycatch of whales occurs in Korea – there individuals should be used for research.

Australia says that none of the reach conducted by Japan or Iceland have produce any results of scientific merit and this is all the more serious because of the open nature of this research. There are many substantial and genera oppositions to this. The unnecessary deaths of so many whales means we need to work together on non lethal programmes. With respect to the workshop planned to look at Iceland’s program. The budget for this has been scaled back – there is a proposed allocation of £24,000 – we do not see any benefit in having this funded and we propose the reallocation of this funding.

Thank you Mr Chairman says Japan. Under article VIII we conduct scientific research and the data provided produce a huge number of scientific paper have been produced – 380 articles have been published and 170 articles in scientific journals. The science cannot be denied. Artcle VIII allows any party to use. This SC recognised the catch data under special permit. Some delegations emphasise said we have to return to science but scientific committee clearly recognises the data from our researches. Accordingly our special permit is recognised. South Africa says science has made much progress since the treaty was founded. They do not support lethal scientific whaling and asks Korea to reconsider.

However, St Vincent and the Grenadines thinks scientific whaling is useful and conducted within the necessary guidelines.

Brazil has difficulties with the concept of scientific whaling – they have other non-lethal methods and associates with others. Norway in the form of their scientific lead has absolutely no doubt that the scientific programmes of Japan (and he lists them all) give valuable information including on the age and helath and diet – some things canot be investigated by non lethal methods Iceland (their scientific lead also speaking) has no doubt about the usefulness of special permit whaling and Iceland’s research has led to more that 150 reports and articles. He strongly disagrees with the views that scientific permits have not produced any useful research. Iceland has been preparing for the planned review of their research and Iceland strongly opposes any suggestions not to do this but he was not quite clear if the proposal was to abandon or delay the review. Cyprus … in our statement made previously we state our opposition to scientific whaling – very concerned about Korea’s new proposal. J stock is considered endangered and catches should be avoided. There are very high levels of by catch and precaution should prevail – we are also in disagreement with the opening statement from Korea that minkes eating fish stocks that should be eaten by humans instead. Mexico associated with the BAG and Australia’s comments on the budget issue. There has been little useful science. He details several serious criticisms. The UK comes to the microphone.

The UK associates with Australia on financing. This whaling programme has finished and the money should be redistributed so the full costs of the scientific committee can be met. Chairman Bruno tells the UK we shall consider this under the report of the Finance and Administration Committee. Monaco associates with Australia and he has heard about the number of papers but there are papers and papers and science and science! How many of them have affected our paradigms and knowledge.? Together with Chile he believes that the reporting from the scientific committee should be improved with regard to sensitive issues like this. It is not enough to tell us there is not consensus – we expect this when a number of scientists are appointed with a specific position on this. We wish to hear reason based on evidence.

Chairman Bruno says please associate with others and I would like [in due course] to hear from an NGO on this point. He calls for Korea to speak but a nasty whistle occurs and then Korea booms across the room and asks what agenda item we are under. Some delegations are still speaking about scientific whaling he says. This should be discussed under the relevant item but before we have substantive discussion here are some preliminary remarks. We are under no obligation to inform you in advance of any plan. We are only under moral obligation to submit a plan. This is done in the spirit of trust good faith and transparency. It is getting louder and hotter in here. Korea continues: We do not accept any proposition that whale should not be killed or caught. This is a forum of legal debate not moral debate. Such kind of moral preaching is not relevant or lawful.

Bruno has severe technical problems. The list of speakers in front of him keeps changing and he proposes a lunch break, and so there is one.

Über Laura Zahn

Laura Zahn arbeitet bei WDC Deutschland im Bereich Kommunikation. Sie ist zuständig für die Erstellung von News und Blogs sowie unsere Newsletter. Außerdem arbeitet Laura bei der Entwicklung und Koordination von Kampagnen mit.