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Reckless whaling poised to begin

Report from the WDCS team at IWC 64: Wednesday afternoon.

So we are now half way through the Commission meeting and many matters of substance remain open and Korea has announced it means to start scientific whaling.

A hasty and marine debris-heavy lunch passes by all too quickly and then we are back in the big hall where we live. The Chair explains that the new microphone system has totally broken down and we will need to wave to gain his attention.

We return to the deadly topic of ‘special permits’ or as it is also known ‘Scientific Whaling’.

Dr Debi Palka, Chair of the Scientific Committee, tells us that no new proposals have been received.

There is a pause and then Debi explains how the Scientific Committee runs its review of the results of special permit hunts. She stresses that the process tries to make this independent and that data availability matters are defined in annex P3.

The US now speaks up to support the earlier comments from some nations about not funding the Icelandic review.

Iceland says again that they have been preparing for this review [for their ‘scientific whaling’] for a long time and they do not want it postponed or delayed, as it will disrupt the work of the Greenland {Editor: Iceland surely – pay attention] research institute. If the Commission decides this we will have to live with it but it is not what we want he stresses.

Japan says that it has listened with interest since this morning and again wants to tell us about the huge number of peer-reviewed articles in journals. In the scientific committee we need data brought by scientific research and 100% data on this comes from special permit scientific research; we need this for age structure. Many delegates denied this important work this morning and he is disappointed at this. But he thanks the Professor Walloe for this support – he explained that there is data that cannot be obtained from non-lethal research. We need lethal research. In the discussion we heard a lot of arguments and some continued to deny this – not constructive. I may say that this kind of discussion comes only from political will and not scientific evidence. This commission, especially on Monday morning said we should work for whales based on science but in today’s discussion I could not match this.

Australia says he originally raised his flag to speak to Iceland but he now addresses Japan. He is one of the scientists who has spent much of the last decade in the Scientific Committee and there is a very solid scientific basis to the criticism being levelled at Japan’s research. Whilst of course some things can be measured from dead bodies, the scientific committee has not concluded any useful information from this lethal research and most of the discussion there revolves around criticism of methodology.

Australia he adds is critical of how the review programme works. After the taking of 200 whales a review is indeed due but the question here is one of timing and who funds it. 

The Icelandic scientist comes to the microphone again and says Iceland cannot accept any delay. The sample size of 200 is not very big but numerous scientific projects were made on each whale. We are looking at multi-species management as well as feeding and pollution studies. If we postpone the review many involved scientists would not be available. Because of the small size of the programme it may be suggested that it could be taken during an annual meeting but this would be impossible. It needs to be held in the country of the proponents. It is clear and there should be no doubt that the costs should be paid by the IWC.

Chairman Bruno has heard enough about this but Professor Walloe of Norway wishes to support Iceland. The review is already late and delayed by the financial crisis in Iceland he tells us. The review should be carried out as prescribed but the delegate from Australia ‘kicked it to me’ I have to say that Article 8 is not limited to science for conservation. It is true there is some debate about the value of the science being published.

The Global Guardian Trust is the next NGO to be brought to the microphone. He is based in Tokyo and his organisation promotes sustainable use. Article 8 is critical to proper operation of the IWC – we have heard from the Chair of the Scientific Committee that important information has been provided to the IWC and we are disappointed at the attempts to trivialise this. Hundreds of scientific papers have been produced and peer-reviewed this adds to our knowledge. Anyone can obtain the papers on the internet. Some take the view that this information is not of interest to them but the preference of some should not subvert the preferences of others. These activities are carried out in a careful and sustainable nature. Not all research is for everyone. It is niche activity that focuses on some topics. There are thousands of topics. Understanding the biology of whale populations is [three minute 21 seconds] is of interest but just because I have no interest in some areas of research does not mean they are not valuable. I would ask delegates to recognise scientific permit whaling as important to sustainable use, and therefore the conservation of whales [four minutes 28 seconds – well done].

We move to the agenda item – Safety at Sea and on the Screen a slide appears labelled:

‘No longer condone the violence of the Sea Shepherd (SS) – assuming safety during demonstrations on the High Seas’.

Japan now makes claims about SS – including wounding of its scientists and the use of weapons, including ‘fire bombs’.

A video follows for a few seconds showing two boats seemingly locked together  -filmed from a third which seems to be training a powerful jet of water towards them. A rigid-hulled inflatable flying the skull and cross-bones flag is shown next and Japan notes that acid bombs have been thrown and one of their seamen splashed with acid.

The issue of non-biodegradable materials to entangle propellers is mentioned. And the Japanese speaker notes that this is not just a danger to seamen but also to the Antarctic environment. [This would seem to be a reference to a new source of marine debris in the southern ocean.]

Japan continues: Last year a resolution (2012-2) passed at the IWC by consensus called for ‘refrain from actions that intentionally imperil human life, the marine environment or property during demonstrations…’. Japan does not think this is being abided by. The whaling controversy cannot be used to justify violence.

The scientific committee has also noted its concern about research being stopped by these violent activities and the Japanese Commissioner notes actions being taken to try to address this in other fora, including the International Maritime Organisation  and that they seek the arrest of 5 persons – are there more? [Editor – are you sure that is what he said?] No – unclear, I fear I may have dropped off.

…. violent sabotage… criminal something… relevant government cooperate… continuous cooperation … illicit … legitimate….[please see reports from previous years on this topic]

The Chair now reminds us that the new microphones are broken and raises his flag to show how it should be done.

India strongly endorses the safety at sea resolution from last year and supports Japan. They recognise the rights of an individual to express their concerns but that this should be within the rules of the land or international ones.

Full compliance with international law is required. The IMO is the relevant forum, adds Australia and details some action that they have taken.

Antigua and Barbuda is ‘totally appalled’ at what she has just seen. All nations should strong condemn the Sea Shepherd and this must include the flag state and country of port which have an additional responsibility. These types of behaviour are terrorism that must be condemned in all of its forms.

St V and G says we must do something! Japan’s activities are legitimate under the rules of an international body. The flag and port state will not take action – let us not fool ourselves. He complements Japan. Tanzania identifies itself with St V and G.

The USA says human life is a top priority and we have called for responsible behaviour in the Southern Ocean.

The Netherlands is opposed to commercial and scientific whaling and disappointed by the actions of Japan in the southern ocean. There are adequate non-lethal methods for research she adds. As long as Japan continues this activity, it will prompt NGOs to protest. This matter should be referred to the IMO. The Netherlands deplores the activities on the high seas and has been in discussion bilaterally with Japan in the Hague and Tokyo. The Netherlands commissioner is then seen on the big screen to take a big gulp of water.

New Zealand is also serious about safety at sea. He notes the incident that led to the sinking of the Ady Gill (the superfast Sea Shepherd Vessel that came to a sticky end) and that this was investigated and that blame was apportioned to the skippers of both vessels. New Zealand notes that he (or rather his country) is not a flag state for any Sea Sheppard vessel. He notes Sea Sheppard has committed to return to the southern ocean.

And now….

St Kitts and Nevis – will he disagree with Japan? Interestingly we are now being given the Japanese translation through our headphones. 

Chair Bruno calls a halt and the audio technicians fly into action. The problem is fixed.

St Kitts and Nevis now expresses his sympathy to Japan. Sea Shepherd seems to be operating without fear or reprisals from flag or port states or the state where the organisation is registered. He is concerned that the protest is so much out of control that it is affecting our own sanctioned research. We should all be concerned about this. The SS organisation is making ‘millions and millions of dollars’ out of this … under other circumstances actions of terrorism would be ended but this is being recognised in Hollywood. We must all strongly condemn SS. One day several lives will be lost, he concludes.

Saint Lucia thinks this is relevant here as well as in the IMO and she too emphasises how this is affecting the work of the scientific committee. When will we take this seriously? When someone dies?

Norway associates with the last speaker and the scientific committee. They note that Paul Watson [of Sea Shepherd] was recently arrested in Germany and awaits extradition.

Korea supports protest apparently but is deeply concern about the escalation of confrontation.

And so it continues. … Until Japan takes the floor again: Japan is pleased that so many support them but is disappointed with one delegation that did not speak so clearly. He stresses that JARPA II [the ongoing Japanese lethal research programme in the Southern Ocean] is extremely valuable and sorry that the precious research could not be provided as planned…

Russia adds that Sea Shepherd is as difficult to find as Bin Laden [isn’t he dead and Watson in prison?]

The Dominican Republic calls on Japan to end its research in the Southern Ocean.

Australia now counters what Japan says and that there are many other nations conducting research there.

The international transport workers association representative who is now given the microphone apparently as an NGO speaker is a gunner on the catch research boat. He supports sustainable use and opposes violence on the seas… and takes up 5 minutes and 27 seconds on this topic before he is stopped by the chair. [Should that 27 seconds now be given to a speaker on the pro-conservation side. Claire Bass car probably say something sensible in 27 seconds.]

The Chairman now announces that we have a problem as not all delegates knew how to make an intervention thanks to the failure of the microphones.  Korea missed the opportunity and he apologies that they were not recognised.

So we now have the increasingly bizarre situation of Korea making a presentation on their intention to go scientific whaling when the discussion about this has already concluded.

Korea notes that conducting whaling under article 8 as describes in their opening statement is under consideration. And now he explains why – whale meat is still a dietary tradition, including in Ulsan and this is similar to subsistence whaling. Taking into account history and the 35 species that live around the peninsula, and that before the moratorium many species were taken. Since the moratorium entered into force, illegal whaling has been banned and strongly punished; Korean people have been asking when legal whaling can resume and they have been punished and whales have recovered and increasing amount of whales are eating fish that could be caught by fishermen. We have been doing research but there is a delay in stock work and this is a controversial issue in the committee. So, Korean government is forced to now conduct whaling for research. This programme is designed to analyse and accumulate data on the minke whales. It will provide comprehensive data including on stock-structure – it will be valuable research. We will submit research plan in due course. It has not been decided how many minke whales will be taken yet but this will in the national jurisdiction of Korea. I hope this research [on stock structure] will be given the highest attention in the Scientific Committee.

The Chair now suggests that as we already had an extensive discussion on this earlier and determinedly heads off for coffee.

Much high level negotiating is now ongoing: in a the coffee area Monaco is surrounded by US officials and others and is no doubt negotiating the what is known here are the Monaco Proposal. Further up the corridor, someone from IFAW is interviewing someone else from IFAW. Many people from IFAW are seen to be running around.

Suddenly we are ion the world of environmental threats. Dr Debi tells us about SOCER – the state of the cetacean environment report. Then she tells us about the work of the committee on pollution and then its work on disease which now features an exciting new website.

Meanwhile a certain Commissioner can clearly be seen reading the WDCS blog. He points at something on the screen to his deputy. Will this matter be a disciplinary one? Or is it an amusing typo. This provides an opportunity for us to remind readers that the blog account of IWC 64 is not an official or verbatim account but we do strive for accuracy and welcome corrections.

Back in the main room post dangerous coffee spills and many small snacks (thank you again Panama), the USA is telling us about national work on disease events. Cyprus now comes to the microphone on the behalf of blah blah – and is concerned especially about dolphins and whales and skin diseases. She notes the work of the disease group and that further work on this issue is important as well as ship strikes.  

Chairman Debi notes this years State of the Cetacean Environment Report (or SOCER)  which will focus next year on the Atlantic Ocean.

Switzerland says that human health issues became a big issue over the years.

Cyprus on the behalf of (…) says something about degradation itaking its toll on the marine environment and increasing threats to cetaceans. This is of increasing concern. We appreciate the work of the SC on this matter through E. The EU has submitted a draft res on continued research and en and human health. We will introduce at the proper time and hope we can get support from the plenary. We need to increase research if we are to understand the status of cetaceans. Need to see positive and negative events in the marine env.

India appreciates the role of the SC and CC on env and health issues. Should include Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. Climate change makes that are vulnerable to climate change. Whilst the efforts can be rational and regional the impacts are global and cannot be blamed on developing countries. Conservation measures must be financed by developed countries.

Chairman Debi is now at point 12.2.2 on page 87 of this year’s record breaking Scientific Committee report which talks about the ongoing research into the Deep Water Horizon event in the Gulf of Mexico. Capacity building on oils spills was advocated by her Committee.

Debi then tells us about the workshop held ahead of the Scientific Committee here this year about MREDS – marine renewable energy developments. Apparently the workshop (which sounds fascinating) provided a review of the topics and some recommendations are summarised on various pages (and a figure) which Debi does not read out but tells us which pages to look at.

There are concerns about noise and renewable developments in Chile in critical blue whale habitat, where environmental impact statements were called for.

Cyprus leaps to the microphone on the behalf of (…) and thanks the SC for its work and welcomes the report and its recommendations. Wind farms are developing rapidly and work is in place to look at interactions between them and porpoises, and a range of impacts are possible and taking into account cumulative impacts new approaches are needed to reduce noise. Collaboration between nations is also needed.

No one else comments and we move to anthropogenic sound. See 12.4 page sixty says Dr Debi. The scientific committee is keen to develop maps of noise and overlay these with cetacean habitat data. The work of the [IUCN] western gray whale advisory group on noise is also noted and also that the IMO is working on noise from commercial ships. The secretariat is taking part in this apparently. Then we are told about PCOD which is an approach to cumulative effects modelling which we think Debi likes very much.

The US elaborates on its own work on noise. They have had two working groups – one on mapping to map characteristics and the other on cetacean distributions. Then the US held a symposium bringing all of this together – the final analyses will help to inform management in the US.

Cyprus (…) member states – notes that, over the last century, noise levels have increased because of man-made activities and this provides problems ranging from interference with group cohesion to death. The EU supports the Scientific Committee’s work.

So does Mexico he also likes the mapping work in the US. Australia thinks this is incredibly useful work too (by the US). Australia is offering acousticians to take part in intercessional work on this.

The distinguished alternate Commissioner from Argentina likes maps too and wants to join the intercessional group.

South Africa wants in as well and notes we are five minutes over time.

The Chair states that the Commission notes and endorses all recommendations. There is still much to do says the chair.

He adds that we will have to come to item 21 by the coffee break as there are many matters still to make decisions on. We will start with 18.1  but also open 21 – so please be prepared and don’t forget we have some items open e.g. – Greenland will have to tell us how and when they will proceed. I see Monaco and because we are over time I hope it will be the last hand I am seeing.

Monaco: I just wanted everyone to know we have an amended resolution by Monaco and I would like it to be addressed tomorrow morning.

Chair Bruno says we will handle it tomorrow but it may be in the afternoon and he closes the session and we all run way.

The blog scribe has a short discussion with the blog editor thus:

Scribe: so what do you think happens next in the parrot romance story? What do you think happens to Fernando.

Editor: I think he gets lost.

Scribe: is that it?

Editor: yes.

[So dear reader if you are interested at all in Tales from the Pool continuing you need to let is know.]


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.