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Thursday afternoon: Smalls and Resolutions and the return of Fernando.

This is the WDCS team blog from IWC 64.

Post-lunch, up on the main stage, the Chairman is seen to offer the Executive Secretary a ring. This is apparently not so much an acknowledgement of their relationship, as lost property.

The debate is somewhat fast and loose this afternoon.

We first hear Mexico speaking of an issue that is ‘sensitive to his country’: the fact that Iceland left the IWC and then rejoined with a reservation to the moratorium and then started to export whale meat. He is concerned and asks for more information about the trade in whale meat.

Does Iceland want to reply? No but Argentina supports Mexico.

Norway says whale meat trade is an issue for CITES not us and notes the reservations to the CITES ban that Iceland, his country and Japan hold.

Iceland now speaks and associates with Norway. That was exactly what he was going to say.

India says we should cooperate with international bodies and the IWC should not lose sight of its prime mandate.

Russia and Japan support Norway, too.

We move to the Monaco resolution (as promised – just after lunch; well done Chair, exactly as you planned). This is IWC 64/1 REV.

Monaco introduces this/his resolution and comments on the ‘limited gravity’ given to this Commission to allow compliance with its own measures for large whales. This is complicated by the taxonomic range of species dealt with here. The adequate integrative conservation of migratory species is a matter of great significance, including for many developing countries. This resolution is not about shifting the responsibility for whaling to the UN. He seeks to draw the attention of the wider community of countries to the need to adhere to the decisions of this body. Adopting such a text will cause modernity and marry with various activities under UNCLOS. The scientific and conservation agenda of the IWC is registering great progress and gaining much respect but it is all undermined by the fact that key decisions of this body are not respected by some of its own members. As long as we act as a restrictive club, the situation will not improve. So, to cut a long story short, he wants to stress that he has come here on the behalf of Monaco to get your serious attention to this issue and seek progress forward in a consensus way and I will stop here and would be very happy to listen to various remarks and then see how we proceed.

India now lists many other Multilateral Environmental Agreements. They are important and India supports Monaco.

Japan notes that much was changed in this resolution and this could almost be a new one. Rules of Procedure B means that nothing should be discussed unless it was circulated the day before. The reason for this rule is to allow countries to properly study matters. I will not invoke this rule he says mildly but we need more time to study and read this resolution.

The Chairman says that the document was distributed yesterday and in pigeon holes at 17.30.

Monaco agrees that it was available at 17.30 and you alleged there were new paragraphs but some were in fact deleted and two moved around.

Japan said he checked for the new proposal over and over again and at 10.45pm he could not find it. But I am not opposing the chair’s rule on this he adds mildly.

Thank you Japan says Chair Bruno.

Monaco comes to the microphone again: the text was transmitted at 17.30 and it was in the pigeon holes at 18.12. It is not the fault of this delegation that a bug might have affected the website.

Chairman Bruno says that is Ok but Japan is willing to allow this discussion and I thank them to be willing to discuss.

However, St Kitts and Nevis is now waving: I am a one man delegation – he states – and I have a serious concern about the lateness of this proposal. In fairness to small countries consideration should be given – it is unfair to my delegation – we just don’t have no time to go through it.

Can we continue says Chairman Bruno?

St Kitts and Nevis says we need to hear from the Secretariat. Is this a new resolution? If it is I need to consult with my capital tonight.

And so for the first time, the Executive Secretary is asked for advice but it is the Chair that replies: so, he summarises, some members say it was modified in a substantial way and this makes it difficult to discuss, so we will hold it open through the coffee break and we will meantime move to ‘Administrative Matters’.

Monaco says that he will abide by the Chair’s wisdom but this document was made available 2 months ago and my colleague from St Kitts and Nevis has had more than enough time to digest this…. It is a trimmed down resolution. But I will wait until the coffee break.

The Chair asks St Kitts and Nevis if this is acceptable but he is still determined to hear from the Secretariat about when the document was made available.

Simon can you answer?


Thank you Chair, says Mr Brockington with conviction – the revision was received at 17.30 – the date stamp is the secretariat’s on this document and the pigeon holes were filled [with it] between 18.00 and 18.12. It went to the website at 18.20. The time stamp on the website is correct.

Norway said that they could not get it off the website either until after midnight. [Incidentally the scribe agrees.]

St Kitts and Nevis accepts the explanation and Mr Chair I would have to discuss with my authorities this evening so please give us until tomorrow as I really really really need to consult.

So this is quite difficult says the Chair – can we look at it tomorrow morning first time. Ok says Monaco.

The resolution text can now certainly be seen on the website, including all amendments. The most important part – the operative part – says simply this:

NOW therefore the Commission: 7. Calls the attention of the international community to the circumstance that significant unregulated catches of highly migratory species of cetaceans continue to take place, including within the IWC Southern Ocean Sanctuary; 8. Invites Contracting Parties to consider this issue in collaboration with the United Nations General Assembly, with a view to contributing to the conservation efforts of the IWC.

The full text is here: https://iwcoffice.org/_documents/commission/IWC64docs/64-11Rev1.pdf

A silver ring with a black stone is now advertised by the Chair and people are encouraged to claim it.

Everyone Loves Dave.

We try to move on to Administrative matters. All the administrative issues discussed are now enshrined in a draft resolution that will agree the changes discussed so far – such as the move to biannual meetings. But countries are now concerned that the process relating to this is not in order and the small working group looking at it has not been properly consulted.

Nonetheless Donna of Australia, Chair of the Finance and Administrative Committee, continues with her report. There is a mention of the famous and fabulous Dave Mattila and good work ongoing and the hope to extend him. The US is working on this.

Mexico finds David Mattila excellent too and encourages the US to extend him. Argentina appreciates his work too. (Let us hope he is extended soon.)

We edge towards a coffee break which proves to be very long. Church bells are ringing outside. This may be in celebration of the fact that there has been no tropical deluge today.

Post various coffee-spills, Executive Secretary Simon notes that the document on the draft changes to procedure [including biannual meetings] is being printed at the moment and already on the website – the link works and it will be in the pigeon holes shortly. The Health Effects Resolution – complete with changes from the debate yesterday – is also out. The final document we are waiting for is the one which speaks to assisting developing countries which is being written by a number of developing countries. We will see it soon.

Donna now tells us about ‘cost saving methods’ – including a more web-based and paper-free approach. Cyprus/EU wants us to be more efficient and the UK echoes this and, on the basis that we shall be moving to biennial meetings – this is an opportunity time to make sure our processes are fit for purpose and the UK Commissioner is keen to join any group.

We now leap back to agenda 18 and the resolution from Germany and other members of the EU. Some amendments have been proposed and now says Chair Bruno Germany or Cyprus will tell us something. Cyprus says Germany will speak. He does and notes some changes.

There will be an NGO speaker we are told and the secretariat sets off to find the NGO catapult.

Mexico and Australia want some words that have been struck out to be retained. The words say ‘and take steps as necessary to counter such negative effects’ – they both say they will not block consensus but they would like these words if possible.

Japan says we were trying to find some consensus on this document but we cannot make consensus on this. He asks for the new line that now reads ‘Recalling also that resolution 2003-2 urges Governments to limit scientific research to non-lethal methods only’ to be removed.

The US supports consensus. They do not object to the return of the words as requested by Mexico and Australia. 

St Kitts and Nevis have some concerns with this document and these relate to the relationship with the WHO. In the preamble we note information exchange with the WHO but in the operative paragraph we ask for cooperation which is different and he recommends a change to address this. We should limit this to ‘increased exchange of information’.

Chairman Bruno says carefully that we are close to agreement and I will ask Germany to speak.

Germany says that he cannot speak for all EU states that are members of the IWC but I think we are close, we will consider the other amendments and we will come back to this tomorrow.

An NGO is rolled out to speak on this item. It is redoubtable Sandra Altherr of ProWildlife, one of the sponsors of the marine debris workshop.

She very clearly tells us about diabetes in the Faroe Islands and health concerns in Greenland also arising from eating contaminated whale meat [2 mins, 31 seconds]. She outlines many scientific papers [3 mins, 29 seconds] and finishes on time.

Many EU delegates are now moving around the room.

This is the last NGO on the list of speakers and Chairman Bruno now asks to meet with them all again when we break. Are they in trouble?

Suddenly we are back with the Scientific Committee report and small cetaceans again.

The committee looked at beaked whales in the North Pacific this year – reviewing their status and we are directed to page 72 and impacts on stranded whales are noted and that whales should be sampled for gas. It is noted that since military sonar was ended around the Canaries there have been no atypical mass strandings there and the Committee recommends that loud noise is kept out of their habitats.

Beaked whale are also noted as especially vulnerable to Dave Matilla [Editor: no MARINE DEBRIS; first and last warning blog scribe].

Any comments from any beaked whales says the Chair.

China would like to introduce some information about beaked whales – no he seems to be speaking about the Yangtze River dolphin [this is the right agenda item but a little early]. They have taken some baby dolphins into captivity and hoped to protect them.

Thank you China for this information.

Peru has had a die-off on its coasts but does not think human activities including seismic activities are to blame. Most animals come from one species although four species are stranding. They do not know the exact cause but suspect a biotoxin from algae blooms.

Ok, says Chairman Bruno but, in fact, we are still talking about beaked whales.

Chairman Debi moves on to the voluntary fund for small cetaceans and thanks counties and organisations. She now talks about the ongoing decline of the vaquita, despite the efforts by the Mexican government to reduce bycatch.

Debi and her committee are extremely concerned and the only reliable way to save the species is to remove entangling gear from the Gulf of California. She wisely pauses.

The US is also concerned and then the distinguished alternate commissioner for Austria takes the floor:

Mr. Chairman, in a follow-up to the EU opening statement, Austria has always taken a keen interest in the core responsibility of the IWC, namely to protect whale and dolphin populations and species from extinction. We have had one worst case scenario very recently, the extinction of the baiji in China. My fellow commissioners, we are on the brink of another worst case scenario, this time it is the vaquita in Mexico.

When a bridge collapses, someone takes responsibility. When a bank or a corporation goes under, there is shame and someone takes responsibility.

Fellow delegates, how much greater must the responsibility and shame be when a highly evolved mammal species is lost forever? We are approaching that point once again. The SC has been telling us this for some time now, in the strongest language they have at their disposal. Frankly, it’s time for diplomatic niceties and step-wise strategies to take a back seat to immediate, concrete action with no compromise. We must do this for the sake of these cetaceans, and we must do it for the credibility of the IWC – we fear our organization is about to be shamed.  We are already in the dock of the court of world opinion, of civil society, and under the eternal judgment of future generations on this issue, the verdict will not be pleasant if we fail.

We therefore call upon the Commission, the secretariat, the range state and NGOs to bundle and boost their efforts on the vaquita to an entirely new, higher level of urgency and resoluteness.

How much greater must the shame be when a highly evolved species goes extinct? We must do this for the sake of this species. Our organisation must not be shamed and we will be in the court of eternal judgement – we all on the Commission the Secretariat and NGOs to bundle and save the species.

Cyprus … notes that the vaquita and the maui dolphin are both endangered by entanglement. They congratulate Mexico on their work and support the call from the scientific committee to remove all gill nets from the habitat. They ask New Zealand what steps they will take on Maui’s dolphin.

The Chairman suggests we are still on vaquita.

Chile supports others in this, as does Panama. India notes the report on small cetacean projects that have been funded and that they are important.

Switzerland congratulates the small cetacean group on its work and calls on all relevant governments to act to protect them. Others make similar sentiments.

Lorenzo of Mexico appreciates the comments from everyone and lists some of the actions ongoing in his country. The vaquita recovery programme is a comprehensive one. He agrees with Austria.

Debi now moves on and notes growing concern about bycatch of porpoises in the Belt Area between the North Sea and Baltic. (We are on page 76.) The inner Baltic has a critically endangered porpoise population there too.

The franciscana section of the report is noted. We hear some more about river dolphins including some recommendations about the boto which is used as bait in the region and Brazil takes the floor to say that they will act on these recommendations. Colombia will also step up its actions – especially with respect to directed takes. This is a cross-border activity she adds.

Sweden now seeks some clarification: did the Chinese delegate say that the Yangtze river dolphin still numbers one thousand. [They were speaking about finless porpoise they reply not the baiji or white dolphin]

Chile is concerned that there is confusion about what the small cetacean sub-committee is able to recommend.

New Zealand details the work that they are doing to protect their dolphins including extension of the protected area.

Lorenzo thanks Caterina for her excellent chairing of the group.

We wonder into a discussion about something called SORP (is this something Dave Matilla is working on – anyone know?).

No. This seems to be the Southern Ocean Research Programme as lead by Australia and New Zealand, Mexico, France and Argentina are very supportive of it. Monaco likes the synergies of countries here and hopes it is open for further partnerships.

We are now on ‘other issues’ in the Scientific Committee report.

Debi tells us about some other stuff related to DNA registers and using a new format. Something called TOSSM is mentioned.

She tells us a little about a discussion about whether or not the Scientific Committee means of operation are sufficient, including for example how its conveners and other officers function. The committee agreed all is fine as detailed in the famous Scientific Committee hand book (available on the web)

We then review the Scientific Committee’s publications and Debi gives a big thank you to Donovan and his crew for their work. 

Finally – before Dr Debi collapses at the end of her report – she notes that a new vice chair of the Scientific Committee was appointed, Caterina Fortuna (of Italy) and the existing Vice Chair will now step up. Debi says she has enjoyed working with many fine and enthusiastic scientists.

Dr Doug DeMaster says running the scientific committee is like herding cats, arguing with mules and listening to intellectual angels [we suspect that this statement wins him a game of NGO Bingo] – and adds that we thank Dr Palka for her work and committment.

Thank you everyone, says Debi.

Nick Gales of Australia adds his voice and that of his country to that of DeMaster – this is a difficult job – the scientific committee is full of difficult people he adds.

Bruno congratulates Debi, too, and thanks her on the behalf of the entire commission.

Bruno notes that we do not yet have a revised paper from the EU on their resolution – but will you allow this? Alarms squeal outside.

Germany says that he will read out slowly the changes and they do and everyone is happy with them. So the resolution is passed by consensus.

Bruno tells us that tomorrow we will start with Monaco.

Monaco is pleased to inform the meeting that a slight revisions that covers some ‘light typos’ and the deletion of a few words and at 16.40 it was placed on the website – there is no bug!

‘Hi’ says Simon Brockington the Executive Secretary of the IWC brightly, just so everyone is clear on documents, Monaco is up. The draft changes to the administrative document are also up and a new document from a range of countries has just appeared – a resolution for a fund of governments of limited funds. Japan has also submitted a proposal to seek options to resolve issues related to small type coastal whaling.

And so we end another day here in the big hall – where we live.

Tales from the pool side: part two. By vast popular demand, we return to the story of Fernando the love-sick parakeet.

Young Eleeto, the parakeet who is the rival to Fernando for the leadership of the tovi flock has learnt Fernando’s secret. He had noticed the occasional absences of his leader and quietly (which was difficult for a bird that is by its inherent nature very noisy) followed him up over the long roof of the El Panama convention centre. From a vantage point on the veranda of a pool-side room he watches as his rival offers a portion of a mango to a small dull bird. The small dull bird is not just indifferent to his attention but actually positively shocked by it.

Inspired and empowered by this information, Eleeto returned to the flock and looses no time in informing them that Fernando has lost his mind. By the time a frustrated Fernando returns to the roost in the upper stories of the huge pink Wyndham Hotel (and casino), the whole flock knows of his ‘perversion’ and are incensed by lack of judgement.

He has no sooner landed, when they begin to chide him.

– ‘Fernando loves a little brown chica’, one cries; – ‘Are we not good enough for you?’ calls one of his ex-girl friends, striking a vaguely provocative pose. – ‘Traitor!’ – ‘What’s wrong with your own kind!’ – ‘Little brown-bird lover!’ And so on.

And the shrieking and general carrying on continues until a desolate Fernando flies away. Eleeto, if his beak allowed, would have smiled to himself at this but instead he just moved into the centre of the flock proudly preened.

Shunned by the flock he grew up with, Fernando, the sad tovi parakeet returns to the pool side where he can at least be near the object of his obsession, the indifferent variable seed-eater.

But then calamity strikes!

Perhaps momentarily blinded by his own passions or tears [Editor: can parrots cry] he makes a misjudgement, crash-lands by the pool into the handbag of a sunbathing IWC delegate. Fernando emerges in a panic wrapped in a ball of wool. The more he struggles, the more he becomes entangled and when he tries to fly, the wool binds some of his flight feathers and after a couple of wing beats, he drops like a stone into the waters of the swimming pool….

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.