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“If you start unilaterally whaling you have to pay for it."

This is the blog of WDCS team from IWC 64.

So one more time: it is raining; the tovis are shrieking at each other; the long-tailed grackles are foraging in the detritus; taxi drivers shout ‘taxi’ at us; and the vendors are  happily vending as we skip by towards the El Panama Convention Centre. [Image shows consultation during a break.]

In through security, into the outer hall, past the coffee and small snacks stations, past the pigeon holes (nothing in them) and finally out into the great meeting hall. Here we find AWI and WDCS quietly consulting and also a small number of IWC scientists who have been here for a month propped up in their seats. I wonder if they will try to come in again tomorrow. If they do it will not work because this is the last day.

Outside the thunder roars and a delegate from Greenpeace flanks the distinguished commissioner for Monaco, Frederick Briand, as he enters the hall.


After some kafuffle and a brief microphone failure, Dr Briand is asking for a substantive discussion about his resolution. He suggests the need for substantive intercourse with the United Nations.

Monaco seeks consensus on his proposal and he clarifies this to mean the greatest number of countries possible voting for it.

New Zealand thanks Monaco for taking the various amendments on board and noted that he previously had various concerns and did not want to bring the troubles of the IWC to the UN. He agrees that it would be best that the resolution should agreed be with the broadest possible support.

Cyprus [and we have to apologise here as this intervention was very difficult to hear] thanks Monaco for the resolution which stresses the need to improve the IWC and calls for an end to scientific whaling in sanctuaries; also highlights the numbers of species of whale that are found in waters including the high seas and others, the IWC is the appropriate forum for this. For the EU nations she joins the call for the best consensus. [We will seek to clarify this intervention].

Panama congratulates Monaco and also likes consensus. Ecuador supports the proposal for strengthening cooperation with the UN – and consensus.

There is a dangerous drinks spill in the middle of the UK delegation this morning.

Others follow similarly. Those that speak favourably use words like – thanks – synergy – United Nations – collaboration – need to show IWC is strong – admiration for the flexibility of Monaco and so forth.

However, not everyone is so positive.

Norway shares the concerns expressed by New Zealand about brining our problems to the UN. Norway opposed the text previously brought to the UN and several other countries shared his position, he adds. He cannot accept this renewed attempt to bring this to the UN General assembly but also likes consensus.

Iceland says that small cetaceans are dealt with by NAMMCO in their case. In this resolution we are asked to regret and show deep concern – this draft resolution is not an honest one and it cannot be so from our side and he associates with Norway.

Japan thanks the Chairman for allowing them another day to consider this resolution. During last night his delegation looked at the issue of consensus …but the resolution would divide our forum because of its unbalanced content. He then moves through a long list of technical and legal problems with the resolution. The gist of these is that he finds the focus on the high seas inappropriate, the species breadth inappropriate; the legal foundation of the resolution inappropriate; the fact that the IWC would be giving up its legal mandate and so forth. It is quite difficult concludes the Japanese commissioner to agree to consensus.

[And here we pause to extend good wishes to Elizabeth and her biodiversity work and we would like to reassure her that her sister is fit and well and performing well from deep in the relevant delegation – which we will not name for reasons.

Any other requests from readers – we note a strong request from the DM team at WDCS to continue the story of Fernando.]

So where were we?

The US likes the resolution however.

China appreciates the efforts made by Monaco but her delegation associates with Norway, Japan and Iceland – the IWC is the appropriate forum. She notes the huge workload in front of the UN General Assembly and that we should not go there hastily with the whaling issue. They are sorry but they will not join the consensus.

Antigua and Barbuda claims she is an advocate of consensus building… however Mr Chair as I sat here over the last four days I have came to the same conclusion I have before about the dysfunctionality here – exemplified by the failure to support Greenland yesterday and I agree with New Zealand that we should not take our dirty linen to the UN. I know the language had been refined somewhat but I therefore associate with Norway, Iceland and Japan.

Others speak using similar language and associate with the whaling nations and also rather confusingly New Zealand.

After a few more interventions, Dr Briand of Monaco replies again. He says most UN countries share our concerns about highly migratory species. There we are not interested in stocks and takes, but in conservation and this is the interpretation of UNCLOS. Suggestions have been made that this resolution is dishonest or ridiculous and there is an inappropriate focus on article 64 of UNCLOS (which deals with fishing). But Artcle 64 is followed by article 65, he adds definitively, and emphasises that this calls for more protection for marine mammals.

You don’t fish whales he adds, you kill them! You kill them with grenades; fast vessels; harpoons! There is much unfinished business on our agenda. There is too at UNCLOS. We don’t know how to handle the other cetaceans. There are many of them. Do we wish to handle the unfinished business of this body about all theses species, should we develop management plans for them? He also refers to the agreement on straddling fish stocks.

The main concern and objective of the Monaco Resolution adds Dr Briand is to build bridges into what is going on in New York. We need to move very swiftly into the future – we cannot ignore other processes and I am pleased for all that spoke up for consensus. IWC wishes to work together with the UN and note in our remote club.

Monaco then starts to answer the specific points from Japan but is interrupted by the Chair and asks how he wished to proceed.

Monaco says I have to finish my intervention – I don’t plan to keep the floor for hours and hours but I need to report back and reply. We have unlimited scientific takes here – this cannot go on. In New York it was suggested that the opinion was expressed that we should limit whaling to here but that opinion only came from three nations. I propose we come back to this after coffee.

Ok says Chairman Bruno and lets us know there are yet more NGO interventions to look forward to, as they did not use up all their time.

In the meantime, we return to the issue of the budget and Australia does not want to fund the Icelandic workshop to review their scientific hunt. Nor does the US.

Iceland regrets that this has come up again.

The UK Commissioner, the redoubtable Nigel Gooding, thinks that priority should be given to the other projects and sees no pressing need for the current work at this time.

Mexico agrees – “if you start unilaterally whaling you have to pay for it”.

A coffee break occurs. Some soft fruit falls to the floor and creates skidding issues but no lethal takes occur.

Back in the hall Japan is now telling us how they wish to proceed with their proposal for Small Type Coastal Whaling. They will not put it to the vote. Japan prefers consensus voting to hindering constructive dialogue and it is counter-productive to ask for voting. Instead their commissioner says that we will have an ad hoc small group to work on this and seek to resolve issues on small type coastal whaling by Japan. This is inline with 2004/2 adopted by consensus. This resolution affirms the commission’s commitment to work expeditiously to end the hardship of whaling communities in Japan and encourages IWC members to work collaboratively on this. He asks for the cooperation of the secretariat and, as this is a small working group, he would like just six members.

This document, says Australia, did not meet the 100-day rule for consideration here and we cannot support consensus. Commissioner Donna is however pleased that Japan will not put small type whaling to the vote.

St Kitts and Nevis says that many here have been ‘tolerant’ to issues concerning conservation, and quite rightly so, but with respect to issues that affect us this is not the case and he supports Japan’s request on this matter [a small working group on small type coastal whaling] to be agreed here. Japan should be allowed to keep this on the table and agree whatever kind of resolution they want to.

Ecuador supports Australia.

Cyprus has the same understanding as Australia about the 100 days rule. [That presumably mean the whole EU thinks the same.]

The Chairman proposes to keep the item open.

Japan speaks to the procedural issue and says that their document is neither a resolution nor a schedule amendment. They believe in pursuing constructive dialogue and hence we seek consensus on this proposal. I see there is none and so we will not try to continue the discussion in this commission. I have some supplementary comments on Small Type CW – we respect sustainable use and dietary customs. We have supported every single aboriginal quota made this year but some countries opposed us yesterday on unreasonable ground, this is unfortunate as [our whaling] shares characteristics with aboriginal subsistence whaling and shows we are dysfunctional there. [He continues for some time – see the commentary in the previous WDCS blogs over the last 20 years or so on this matter]. Finally he asks that his statement be included in the meeting.

Chair Bruno asks if we can now consider the Scientific Committee budget.

Australia comments that with respect to the £24,000 for the Iceland review we propose to allow it go forward but in future it should be noted that we expect reviews to be funded by the countries who unilaterally commit to scientific whaling.

Iceland says that they note the proposal that the countries conducting the research should pay. There is no upper limit to such costs – so it is illogical that these costs should be paid by the country. This matter cannot be replaced here. He is glad that Australia has ‘come to its senses’ on this.

Japan does not agree with Australia’s view but is pleased the budget is agreed.

The US agrees that we can accept this spending plan and that this matter should be looked at by the Finance and Administration Commitete.

The UK supports Australia too.

So to summarise – no vote on small type coastal whaling; no small working group to look at small type coastal whaling; the review of Icelandic scientific whaling will be paid for this year but this matter will be looked at in the future.

Then Monaco comes to the microphone again–  do we want to keep the ball in the IWC by adding about 40 missing species to the IWC schedule? We have not revisited this list of species dealt with by the IWC since 1977.

St Kitts and Nevis said that he stayed out of the debate earlier. This issue should be withdrawn, it is ‘frivolous’ and we do not have time for this.

New Zealand says his is not frivolous and the comments from Japan, Norway and Iceland show we have a serious problem and my remarks were misinterpreted. I indicated initial concerns now dealt with in the revised draft.

Monaco says let us keep the spirit of building dynamics on our side. I heard call for us to improve how we deal with small cetaceans. We see difficulties in gaps dealing with small cetaceans and also how we deal with animals sometimes on the high seas and sometimes in national jurisdictions.

Monaco now says that he will build an intercessional task force on this to further explore synergies with the UN on matters that are going on there anyway and he will invite interested parties to identify themselves now before I take a plane home. I will not ask for a vote on this resolution.

So, says Bruno, hopefully we can move on – no says Monaco I need to know who can join.

St Kitts – we just had a proposal for a working group shut down, please Mr Chair, we cannot now decide on another one!

Yes, agrees the Chairman, please tell Monaco in the lunch break if you would like to work with this non-official group.

But Monaco comes back to say that this is a permanent agenda item – ‘association with other organisations’. We cannot dismiss this frivolously in 27 seconds. We cannot be told now that in the order of saving time we cannot look at this again for two years. Yesterday we did not raise a point of order. I do not want to keep the floor for a number of hours but indeed I heard and recorded that a number of countries are interested in this. I use this floor as an IWC Commissioner with an interest and knowledge. This is an initiative of one member party of IWC – thank you chair.

Thank you Monaco says Bruno and we close the agenda item and Monaco.

Administration of the IWC – when will we meet again.

The temperature is dropping now in the room and delegates are starting to drift away. Only the two rows of pot plants stationed at either end of the great hall remain fully engaged.

We move back to the administrative arrangements for the IWC. The Commission will meet biannually, other committees likewise, but not the scientific committee which will meet each year. The new bureau of four commissioners will meet during the years when the Commission does not meet [and will be a closed meeting].

South Africa asks for clarification on how the four commissioners are chosen and asks for appropriate regional representation.

Chile asks if the Conservation Committee will meet annually or not. It seems they will meet ‘as required’. All of these subsidiary committees (apart from the Scientific Committee) will be treated equally. 

Some small amendments are offered and then Monaco is invited to the microphone and St Kitts and Nevis starts to speak before Monaco roars over the top of his and makes his amendments.

St Kitts and Nevis says mildly is this the time for me to make suggestions on the suggestions made?

Well says the Chairman mildly we seem to have the document in front of us, so this would seem to be the right time. If we encounter major changes we may have to break.

St Kitts and Nevis likes a small bureau and that the 4 commissioners should reflect a regional balance but also that we could have another commissioner and this would create more balance. He suggests that the representation needs to include an African country and hence he calls for a fifth member. He adds that when we go to a biannual meeting, the priority to pay annually will diminish. The reality will be that people will prefer to pay biannually and he calls for a change that means fees could be paid biannually.

He also calls for some changes to the payment rate. He is worried about paying 2% above the base-rate.

Martin of Switzerland says that the consequences of the request from St Kitts and Nevis would be huge. He does not support the amendment or the 24 month payment period and the smooth running of the Secretariat could be affected.

The debates goes on and we will not detail it all here – not because it is not important but because it is going to be moved into a lunch time drafting group and we need to work out if we can rescue Fernando. Stay tuned.

After a while some NGO interventions break out briefly. The stop watch is started and the NGO catapult primed.

La Point of IWMC is not happy about quite a lot of things and tells us about them in 3 minutes and 26 seconds – well done!

Samantha Dawes of Campaign Whale then comes to the microphone. In a moving intervention she tells us that small cetaceans include some of the most endangered species such as the vaquita and Maui’s dolphin and she notes there are many strong recommendations from the Scientific Committee at IWC 64 about how to help them. Several NGOs and countries contributed to the small cetaceans fund last year and she thanks them notes further donations to support the work of the small cetacean sub committee: £11,000 on behalf of Campaign Whale, CSI, HSI, IFAW NaturaFund, Whale Man, OceanCare, RSPA and WWF International [and at 2 minutes and 14 seconds she finishes – nicely done Sam]

Three minutes left says Chairman Bruno.  Another NGO is allowed to access a microphone and hopes that the good NGO interventions made here show we can behave. He encourages countries to keep going on the Southern Ocean sanctuary and is cut off at 5mins and six seconds… no he keeps going and thanks the host country.

And we go to lunch. Or in fact we stay in the big hall where we live and write the blog.

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.