REPORT on the 47th ANNUAL MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION
Prepared by J. Frizell - GREENPEACE
The results at a glance:
The commercial whaling mortorium continues.
NORWAY and g(0)
The discussion of Norway's population estimate by the Scientific Committee was a highly technical one and very few people were able to take substantive part in it. g(0) is a measure of the number of whales that were in the strip of water seen by a survey vessel but not seen by the observers. If observers see all the whales then g(0) is 1. Lower values of g(0), such as the figure of 0.36 used since 1992, are divided into the population estimate to correct it. The figure of 0.36 roughly triples the uncorrected population figure. It appears that the revised g(0) estimate of 0.50 being quoted after the January workshop (which doubles the uncorrected estimate and implies a population of about 62,000) is still not high enough and the true value is higher, thus implying an even lower population. However, some further refinements to the calculation methods were agreed and Norway seized on these in the plenary session of the Committee meeting to block agreement on any value of g(0) (since existing values had not been calculated with the refined method) and thus block calculation of any population value or range. Even so, the Committee was able to agree that the value of 68,736 was wrong and that it had been a mistake to accept it in 1992. The Committee also agreed that they were unable to provide management advise (quotas) for this population, even if the Commission were to request this.
There was good support within the Commission for a strongly worded resolution against Norway and on Day 3 of the meeting resolution IWC/47/35, which called on Norway to reconsider its objection to the moratorium and to halt immediately all whaling activities under its jurisdiction, was passed by 21 votes to 6. Norway argued against the resolution saying that the only problem was that the Scientific Committee had run out of time to do the calculations that in their opinion there were adequate numbers of whales and that a single year of whaling would not deplete the population. Immediately after passage of the resolution the Norwegian Commissioner stated that Norway would not abide by it, saying "No way".
SCIENTIFIC WHALING and the SOUTHERN OCEAN SANCTUARY
Two resolutions intended to make "Scientific" whaling more difficult were introduced. The first of these was a general resolution on whaling under special permit - IWC/47/31. While recognising that contracting governments have a right under Article VIII of the convention to authorise research programs, it requests a more detailed review of such programs by the Scientific Committee (including examination of non-lethal alternatives) and requests that governments refrain from issuing permits if they do not satisfy the criteria established in the resolution. The resolution was passed by a vote of 23 to 5 with Japan, Norway, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and the Solomon Islands opposed.
A second resolution on whaling under special permit in sanctuaries - IWC/47/30, was also introduced. Like IWC/47/31 above, it recognised the rights of governments under Article VIII but considered that contracting governments should use non-lethal methods for research in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and should refrain from research involving the killing of cetaceans in IWC sanctuaries. Efforts made to weaken the resolution were rebuffed and it was passed by a vote of 23 to 7, with Dominica, Japan, Norway, Korea, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and the Solomon Islands opposed.
Delegations from member countries of the Group of Temperate Southern Hemisphere Countries (the Valdivia goup) attending the IWC meeting (Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa) made a joint statement to the IWC. They said that the creation of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was a most significant step in the conservation of whales, expressed their regret that whales continue to be taken in lethal scientific whaling programs and called on countries engaged in scientific whaling to redirect their research efforts to non-lethal means and to co-operate in the implementation of the Sanctuary.
The IWC Scientific Committee received the report from the Greenpeace/IFAW/WWF Workshop to outline a program of non-lethal whale research in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. The workshop had identified questions that it believed research in a sanctuary should address and these questions are listed in the Committee's report.
A resolution on the environment and whale stocks - IWC/47/43, was submitted by Norway, USA, Spain, UK and New Zealand. As the list of sponsors suggests, an attempt was made to find common ground acceptable to all parties. Unfortunately, this led to the deletion of language requiring that the research recommendations of the Bergen Workshop on pollutants being implemented by non-lethal means. At one point the draft text simply urged parties to implement the recommendations of the Bergen workshop - a wording that would have been used by the whalers to justify the killing of whales for research. This was changed in the final draft by dropping references to implementation of the workshop results and instead directing the IWC secretariat to consult with governments and the Scientific Committee over ways to facilitate the development and execution of the program and report back. The resolution was adopted by consensus.
Japan and Norway submitted a resolution on further research needs - IWC/47/36, calling on member governments and the IWC to adopt their research programs to address the effect ofenvironmental changes and the effect of polutants to cetaceans in the Antarctic Ocean. New Zealand then tabled an amendment that would require such research be conducted "entirely by non-lethal means". After considerable discussion the Chair ruled that New Zealand's amendment did not create a new resolution but simply changed the focus of the existing resolution. The amendment was upheld by a vote of 23 to 4 with Dominica, Japan, Norway and the Solomon Islands opposed. Switzerland, seconded by St. Vincent, then proposed a weakening amendment which would add the words "wherever possible" after the New Zealand amendment. This was rejeted by a vote of 13 to 11, with Denmark, Dominica, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, ST. Lucia, St. Vincent, Solomon Islands, Sweden and Switzerland voting in favour of the weakening amendment. Japan withdrew the resolution, with New Zealand's amendment in place, before it could be voted upon.
JAPAN'S COASTAL QUOTA
Japan introduced a schedule amendment to allow a coastal catch of 50 Minke whales and Japan, Norway, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Dominica, Grenada and Solomon Islands introduced a resolution - IWC/47/28, that would have the same effect. These were voted on together and the proposal, which would have required a 3/4 majority to pass, was rejected by 10 votes to 14 with 9 abstaining.
Following the vote, Japan asked that this agenda item be kept open and later in the week introduced a new resolution - IWC/47/47, which would recognise their Action Plan (which was intended to remove the commercial elements from this whaling, though in the view of many did not go far enough) as an effective management measure for an intrim quota, should this quota ever be agreed. This was subsequently amended on the floor to recognise the plan as having "constructive management elements" and was accepted by a vote of 13 to 10 with Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK and USA opposed.
LEGALITY OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN SANCTUARY
Japan introduced a paper - IWV/47/38, incorporating a legal opinion it had commissioned which purported to show that the sanctuary was "ultra vires and without effect". Japan requested that the IWC commission an independent legal opinion on the legality of last year's decision. This was strongly opposed by most members and the UK circulated a comment on Japan's legal opinion dismissing it. The point was made repeatedly that the IWC cannot go back and review its own decisions - India put it best by saying "What happens if we commission this opinion and some members do not find it to their taste? Will there be a second opinion? A third?". There was a strong majority opinion against commissioning an opinion but Japan asked that the item be kept open.
Subsequently, Japan introduced a resolution - IWC/47/45, which would request the Secretariat to "refer the matter to relevant international legal institutions". Again there was strong opposition. The resolution would have been voted down but France, opposed even to voting on it, moved to close the debate as a way of getting the item off the agenda. This was supported by the USA and Mexico, but Russia intervened to say that, according to the rules of procedure, the debate could be adjourned but the vote could not. There was vigorous debate on this, much consulting of the rules of procedure and finally the Chair ruled that debate was closed but the item would remain on the agenda for next year. Japan said they would prepare for discussion of this item at the next meeting.
Greenpeace Ireland was very active in the weeks before the meeting and throughout it with activities ranging from a whale walk to chairing the joint press conference at the beginning of the IWC Annual General Meeting. A very powerful performance of Heathcote William's poem "Whale Nation" toured Ireland, using a mixture of local and nationally known actors and finished with a performance in Dublin the night before the IWC meeting began. They ensured a presence outside Dublin Castle every day despite rain and competing pro-whaling protesters from Norway.
Greenpeace UK organised what must have been one of the largest demonstrations ever held in front of an IWC meeting complete with Molly the Minke (a life sized moving model of a Minke whale) and banners that covered the castle gate and spilled out onto the road in front of the castle, down the street and around the corner.
The most interesting development at this meeting was the large scale presence of the right wing, "wise use" movement. Over 1/3 of all NGO's registered at the meeting (43 out of 127) were from known "wise use" front organisations. In addition to these, there were an unknown number working outside the meeting. They produced two publications, the International Harpoon and the IWC Conservation Tribune which were distributed daily throughout the meeting. Most of the people in the press room at any given time were "wise use" PR people.
This meeting served to further isolate Norway and Japan but both of these nations have made it clear that they intend to continue with their whaling activities.John Frizell
Whales in Danger Information Service