Campaign Whale is in Panama City attending the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). On the agenda for what is always an extremely difficult week are proposals to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic, to allow ‘small-type’ commercial whaling for minke whales in Japan’s coastal waters and controversial subsistence whaling quotas for indigenous people in the USA, Russia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Greenland.
In particular, Campaign Whale is very concerned about the creeping commercialisation of what is supposed to be whaling for food in remote communities and not whaling for profit, as well as the appalling cruelty inflicted upon the hundreds of whales targeted in these hunts.
Campaign Whale’s lobbying priorities include supporting a proposal to focus more scientific research on the pollution threat to whales and the people that eat them. We also want further funding for research and the development of recovery plans for highly endangered species of small whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Monday 2nd July 2012
Day one of IWC 64 has not been a good one for anyone who cares about whales. A proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic, a highly-prized goal for the vast majority of anti-whaling countries, was defeated in a vote today.
This very same proposal brought last year’s meeting in Jersey to a standstill when Japan and their pro-whaling allies staged a walk-out in order to prevent a vote on the sanctuary from taking place. A vote then may well have secured the 3/4 majority needed for the sanctuary to be adopted. Today the whalers and their allies had sufficient numbers on their side to block it.
Unfortunately, Japan has ‘encouraged’ many small island states and lesser developed countries to join the IWC in recent years and vote in favour of whaling. With the whalers now able to block important conservation initiatives like the sanctuary, making real progress at the IWC has become increasingly difficult. However, there are still many important issues yet to be considered this week and Campaign Whale is determined to win all we can for the whales this week. Further reports will follow as events unfold here in Panama.
Tuesday 3rd July 2012
Today promised fireworks as the highly contentious business of renewing ‘aboriginal subsistence whaling’ quotas for the next six years was on the IWC’s agenda. These quotas, involve the cruel slaughter of several hundred whales each year, and are only meant to be awarded to remote communities that depend on hunting whales for food. However, the growing commercialisation of this whaling has led to angry confrontations, as anti-whaling members have increasingly raised concerns whether some quotas are still justifiably exempt from the IWC’s commercial whaling ban agreed in 1986.
Anticipating problems, the United States resorted to a procedural manoeuvre by combining their quota request with that of the Russian Federation and St Vincent & the Grenadines. This made it harder for countries to vote against the package of quotas which included controversial quotas of gray whales for the Makah tribe of Washington State, who have not hunted whales for some 90 years, and humpback whales for St Vincent in the Caribbean. The whalers of St Vincent kill humpback whales despite failing to provide essential data on their hunt to the IWC for many years. These hunts are all the more shocking because the whalers often target mothers with calves, a practice forbidden under IWC rules.
If all this weren’t bad enough, Denmark submitted a massive quota request for its Greenlandic whalers for 1,140 minkes, 114 fin, 12 bowhead and 60 humpback whales over the next six years. The Greenland request was repeatedly challenged and the issue has now been deferred until later in the week.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the US joint proposal. Despite attempts to separate the three quota requests in order that each could be judged on its own merits, there was not enough support for this. The proposal was passed by a large margin of votes, including the support of all the EU Member States attending this meeting. In the end, the US had got its way and both the Makah and St Vincent’s whalers were awarded quotas that are quite simply unjustified.
One highlight of an otherwise distressing day was the announcement by Italy, the Netherlands and the UK of sizeable donations to the IWC’s Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation Research of around £35,000. The whalers refuse to accept the IWC has jurisdiction over the many species of smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises. They face mounting threats to their survival, especially from toxic pollution and entanglement in fishing nets, and are hunted in huge numbers in Japan, the Faroe Islands and elsewhere around the world. Campaign Whale is proud of its work in helping persuade governments to support this vital research that will help save critically endangered species.
More news from Campaign Whale in Panama will follow.
Wednesday 4th July 2012
Day three of the IWC meeting here in Panama has been dominated by two issues: Firstly, the annual ritual of Japan tabling a proposal requesting an ‘emergency relief’ quota of whales to allow for the resumption of ‘small-type’ whaling in its coastal waters. Once again, the ‘hardship’ and ‘distress’ caused to their coastal communities was expressed, deprived as they have been of whaling for 25 years, thanks to the IWC ban on commercial whaling. What they didn’t mention of course, is the hundreds of whales killed in the north-Pacific every year by Japan’s bogus ‘scientific’ whaling programme, on top of the hundreds of whales killed in Antarctica for ‘research. This whaling has created thousands of tons of frozen whale meat that remains unsold. This is all in addition to the tens of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises cruelly hunted in Japan’s coastal waters that are not protected by the whaling ban. With all this whaling, creating mountains of whale meat that is not being eaten, it’s difficult to see where the hardship or distress is being felt. Although Japan’s request has been left open for further discussion later this week, it is very unlikely to be approved, and rightly so, having been rejected by the IWC many, many times before.
Secondly, after some discussion and criticism of Iceland and Norway’s ongoing commercial whaling in defiance of the IWC ban, both countries killing over 700 minke whales between them each year, the discussions were disrupted by the sensational announcement by Korea that they intend to start scientific research whaling. Killing whales for research is permitted under the Convention, but it is a legal loophole that has been much abused by the whaling nations since the whaling ban was introduced. Japan, for example, has killed tens of thousands of whales for ‘research’ during the commercial whaling ban. The situation is made even worse by the fact that any species can be killed, and in any numbers, including from endangered populations and species. Sadly, until now, only Japan has persisted with scientific whaling, which they conduct each year in the north-Pacific and Antarctic oceans. Although these cynical abuses of IWC rules are regularly condemned, the whalers fear little action will be taken against them. If world governments were serious about ending whaling, then economic and political sanctions could be taken against them, sanctions that would end whaling virtually overnight.
More from Campaign Whale in Panama tomorrow
Thursday 5th July
Day four of this year’s IWC meeting was a very good one for the whales. Yesterday, Campaign Whale hosted a meeting of concerned organizations to discuss how best to help two of the most critically endangered dolphins and porpoises at this meeting: the Vaquita and Maui dolphin. Unfortunately, the whaling countries and their allies refuse to accept IWC jurisdiction over small cetaceans as they are collectively known, and tens of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises are hunted and killed in Japan, the Faroe Islands and elsewhere around the world each year, with hundreds of thousands more ensnared and drowned in fishing gear.
The Vaquita is a tiny porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California. There are no more than 200 left and even these are seriously threatened by entanglement in fishing gear. Off New Zealand, the Maui dolphin has been reduced to just 55 animals, and every dolphin that dies in a fishermen’s net takes this critically endangered one step closer to oblivion.
Campaign Whale is determined once again to do all we can to help these sadly endangered animals. Last year, several countries donated a total of £60,000 to support the IWC Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation Research, and this year a further £35,000 was donated. Campaign Whale rallied other campaign organizations to raise a further £11,000, after raising over £10,000 at last year’s meeting. By encouraging and continuing this momentum, we are focusing global attention on the plight of critically endangered dolphins and porpoises, and so increasing pressure on governments and the IWC to help save the Vaquita and Maui dolphins.
Back to the meeting, Denmark’s massive quota request for Greenland returns to the floor. They are not prepared to compromise and the proposal is put to a vote where it fails to reach the ¾ majority it needs. While some groups view this as a victory, we are not so sure. The whalers will take this opportunity to portray the IWC as a dysfunctional body that cannot even agree to set quotas for indigenous peoples that rely on whales for food. Certainly, Greenland’s growing commercialization of its whaling does not meet IWC criteria for subsistence whaling, but this decision will be used as propaganda by Japan and its whaling allies once again as further proof that the Convention is no longer fit for purpose.
Also today, an important resolution was passed by consensus calling on the IWC to liaise with the World Health Organisation in researching and reducing the contaminant threat to whales and dolphins. It also called on governments to reduce toxic pollution of the marine nvironment and to responsibly inform consumers of the potential health threats from eating contaminated whale and dolphin products. Campaign Whale helped produce a lobbying document on this issue and we were delighted this resolution was adopted. Scientists have established strong links between mercury and other toxic contamination of whale and dolphin products and a variety of human diseases and medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis, immune system suppression and hypertension. Threats to children include autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Welcoming this resolution in a joint press release Andy Ottaway of Campaign Whale said, “It’s time that urgent international attention is focused on this unfolding tragedy for whales and dolphins and the people that eat them”.
News from the final day of the IWC in Panama to follow
Friday 6th July
Today Campaign Whale made history! For the first time in over 20 years of attending IWC meetings we were able to directly address the meeting. We seized this opportunity to remind the IWC and its Member Governments of their collective and individual responsibilities to save critically endangered species such as the Vaquita and Maui dolphins from extinction. We also reached agreement with the Chairs of the Small Cetacean and Conservation Committees to find a way to develop conservation plans to help endangered species of small whales, dolphins and porpoises. We are delighted to have achieved so much for these sadly threatened species and we are determined to save them and the many other threatened dolphins from extinction.
Finally, Japan’s annual demand that the IWC provide an ‘emergency relief’ quota of whales for their long-suffering coastal whaling communities was withdrawn through lack of support. Like so many other IWC meetings, IWC Panama proved to be a bittersweet experience of good and bad. However, the growing drive to change this once exclusive whaler’s club in to a modern conservation forum for the protection of all whales, dolphins and porpoises is becoming unstoppable. We would like to thank our supporters and those other organizations whose tireless efforts are making that day grow ever closer.