Phew! The Compromise went Plonk!

23 Jun 2010

Arriving confident and ready to fight, promoters of the so called “compromise” document are today taking a low profile. Two days of “private meetings between commissioners” safe from the eyes and ears of NGOs proved fruitless. Japan, Norway, Island and Korea were successively heard by groups of 5 countries during thirty odd sessions over two days. The process was compared by some delegates to “speed dating”.

Now some countries feel, that they should start anew, others believe that they should take into account the documents on the agenda as basis for future work. The European Union prefers the latter. Formalities on how to move the discussion forward during this “new period of reflection” will be taken before the end of the debates.

Towards the finish line, France played an important role in the heart of the European Union to ensure that the compromise edging towards the reopening of commercial whaling be rejected.

Monaco wanted the future discussions to take into account the hypothesis of whaling exclusively in State territorial waters (12 nautical miles), under the prevision that concrete knowledge of whale populations as well as other concerns such as accidental catches and ancestral hunting be included. Japan’s campaigns in Antarctica are directly targeted.

India declared their persuasion of the importance of whales. On that note Robin des Bois’s report on the positive contribution of whales to the oceans ecosystems is an example of this importance. India suggested that the International Whaling Commission be renamed International Commission of Whales, which would eliminate the connotation towards whaling originating from the commissions’ founding in 1946.

Considering all aspects, Australia and a group of Latin American countries underlined that certain points had mutual consent such as improving knowledge on the impact of climate change on whales, noise pollution, reducing collisions and accidental catches. The total of accidental catches in 2009 declared by Japan was 244 big whales of which 179 were Minke whales “accidentally” caught by Japan and by North Korea where the meat of these animals quickly found its way to the markets. The figures are largely underestimated due to the lack of obligatory reporting to the IWC register. In 2009, 38 collisions with vessels were declared, which are deadly for cetaceans. The Scientific Committee is continuing its efforts to better understand chemical contamination of whales notably the phenomenon so called “stinky whales” in Arctic waters. The Scientific Committees’ work, which is often overshadowed by the political discussions, is remarkable. Alone, it confirms that the IWC works, and that the Commission is effective and could be even more so if non-lethal scientific research was developed.

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