Campaign Whale is at the annual meeting of the IWC in Slovenia. Our priorities for this meeting are to ensure the ongoing ban on commercial whaling is maintained; defiant whaling operations by Iceland, Japan and Norway are condemned and urgent action is agreed to save critically endangered populations and species. Daily updates from the IWC meeting will appear here:
Day four: Thursday 18th September
The final day of this IWC promised to be a feisty affair, not least because of a resolution tabled by New Zealand regarding so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. Earlier this year, the International Court of Justice passed a ruling that Japan’s long-term whaling in the Antarctic, declared a Whale Sanctuary by the IWC, was not actually ‘scientific’ and therefore illegal. Only legitimate scientific research is exempt from the IWCs whaling ban. This landmark case, brought by Australia and supported by New Zealand, prompted Japan to announce the suspension of its whaling programme in the region, prompting much premature celebration. However, Japan’s Prime Minister has already publically pledged to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2015.
Conservation work strengthened
A useful resolution was passed calling for the IWC’s Scientific Committee to work with the Conservation Committee in assessing the status, identifying the threats to and recommending mitigation measures for populations of whales, including small cetaceans. Not surprisingly, the whalers were very unhappy with this proposal, but after the usual reservations were expressed about the IWC having no authority to work on small cetacean issues, the proposal passed by consensus. It will have far-reaching consequences for the IWC. In particular, by directing the work of the Committee more toward conservation efforts, rather than simply the reintroduction of whaling.
Small whales receive welcome support
Campaign Whale has been working hard to raise support for conservation work to help save endangered populations and species of small cetaceans (smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises). Part of this strategy has been to raise funds from other organisations and so encourage governments to donate themselves. This meeting we were able to raise a further £18,000 pounds for the IWC’s Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation. With the UK, Italy and the Netherlands donating over £100,000 more. This was a record-breaking meeting for donations to the Fund. Campaign Whale also addressed the meeting, making an impassioned appeal to governments to help the critically endangered vaquita porpoise and Maui dolphins. We are delighted that this was well received and governments are finally rallying round to help despite the efforts of the whalers to block any such work. A copy of our statement to the meeting is reproduced below this report.
Scientific whaling made harder
Then came that scientific whaling resolution reflecting the ICJ ruling against Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling this year. Despite attempts to water it down, it was finally put to a vote and was passed by a large majority with Japan and its allied voting against. It instructs the Scientific Committee to review current and future scientific proposals in terms of whether the number of whales killed can be justified; the results will aid conservation or management objectives, and whether the results could be obtained by non-lethal means. With thousands of whales slaughtered during the whaling ban under spurious research programmes, this welcome resolution should make it harder, though sadly not impossible, for member states to cynically use research to undermine the whaling ban in future. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Japan then announced that the ICJ ruling simply applied to its current programme which had been suspended as a result. However, they said that a new research whaling plan will begin in Antarctica for 2015!
New Whale Sanctuary defeated
Once again, a proposal to create a whale Sanctuary in the South Atlantic was defeated. The conservationist’s success in establishing the Antarctic Southern Ocean Sanctuary back in 1994 prompted Japan to go on a successful recruitment drive for new pro-whaling allies. This has prevented many further conservation initiatives, including new whale sanctuaries, from succeeding. Sadly, the whaler’s now have a blocking vote to prevent the three-quarter majority vote that is needed to create them.
New coastal whaling plan rejected
Finally, Japan submitted an awkward proposal this year for a quota of just 17 minke whales to relieve the ‘hardship’ inflicted upon its coastal communities by the IWC whaling ban. This ‘small- type coastal whaling’ proposal is an attempt to create a new category of whaling that would be exempt from the commercial whaling ban. However, Japan’s coastal communities have been involved in Japan’s scientific whaling in the north-Pacific for many years, killing hundreds of whales for so-called ‘research’ every year. Additionally, Japan’s whaling fleet has also brought back hundreds of minke whales killed from Antarctica each year, while coastal communities
target up to 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises every year in cruel hunts. Thankfully, Japan’s application was rejected again as it has been many times before. It is vital that the whalers do not succeed in their persistent attempts to undermine the whaling ban by inventing new categories of ‘cultural’ or ‘small-type’ whaling.
And so IWC65 came to a close. Overall, there was much to celebrate that will benefit whales large and small in the coming years, but the battle to save the whales and switch the IWC into a modern convention for the protection of all whales goes on. Campaign Whale is only able to fight for the whales thanks to the generous support of its supporters. For this we are very grateful and our determination to save critically endangered populations and species; end whaling and eliminate the growing environmental threats to all whales and their habitats, remains undiminished. With your continued support there is so much more we can do to fight for a future graced by these wonderful animals.
Statement on further NGO contributions to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation Research at IWC 65
Madam Chair, firstly I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government and people of Slovenia for the warm welcome to their beautiful country.
Small cetaceans represent the vast majority of whale species. They face increasing threats to their survival from toxic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear,
to large scale commercial and subsistence hunting. Sadly, these small whales include some of the most critically endangered species left on Earth, with some populations, and even entire species, reduced to a pitiful number of animals barely clinging to existence.
There were many strong interventions on the issue of small cetacean conservation in plenary yesterday, including repeated concerns expressed by the IWC’s Scientific Committee and the IUCN, recommending urgent action to save the vaquita and Maui’s dolphin and other threatened small cetaceans.
We have tragically lost the Baiji, and with only 55 Maui dolphins and perhaps just 100 vaquita left alive in the world today, can there be any greater priority for the IWC than to do everything in its collective power to help save these critically endangered species from being lost forever?
At IWC 64 in Panama in 2012, ten NGOs were able to contribute a further £10,300 pounds to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetaceans. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those contracting governments that have made such generous contributions to the Fund. Now, 17 organisations are pleased to announce a further contribution of £16,000 pounds to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetaceans.
Finally, I would like to remind all contracting governments that we are entrusted by future generations that will never forgive us if we fail to stop other cetaceans, large or small, from following the wonderful Baiji into oblivion.
Thank You Madam Chair
Day three: Wednesday 17th September
Today began well with Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union States, announcing the 35 nation demarche (protest) delivered to Iceland over its ongoing commercial whaling and trade in whale meat from minke and fin whales in defiance of the IWC’s whaling ban.
This was followed by Japan making its usual presentation calling for action against the Sea Shepherd organisation for disrupting its (now declared illegal by the International Court of Justice) whaling operations in the Antarctic. The Mayor of the coastal whaling town of Taiji, where cruel dolphin hunting was exposed in the Oscar-winning film the ‘The Cove’ then spoke complaining his town was being ‘sabotaged’ by anti whaling activists!
Following this, a presentation highlighted the threat posed to the Vaquita (a small porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California) with a strong call to urgent action from the Scientific Committee and IUCN. An NGO statement signed by 48 organizations, including Campaign Whale, was read out to the meeting calling on the IWC to do everything possible to help save the vaquita that has been reduced to just 100 animals.
Japan then began an interesting attempt to redefine the meaning of the IWC moratorium (the moratorium is a zero catch limit for all commercial whaling) for their coastal whalers. They suggested that quotas could be set for commercial whaling provided there are enough whales to do so! This of course is nonsense. The ban on commercial whaling can only be lifted by a three-quarter majority vote of the Commission and applies to all commercial whaling operations whatever the estimated size of the whale stock in question.
Following the first day’s disappointing vote in favour of Greenland’s huge subsistence whaling quota, some governments challenged whether Greenland’s whaling in the preceding two years without an agreed quota from the IWC was a breach of the Convention’s rules. However, astonishingly, the Chair said Greenland was entitled to catch whales without a permit because the IWC had not passed a motion forbidding them to do so! This is simply not true, and the fall-out from Monday’s controversial vote will continue to provoke angry repercussions.
Chile then tabled a proposal to improve the rights of NGOs attending IWC meetings and this was passed.
Campaign Whale has worked hard for many years to raise awareness and help for small cetaceans (small whales, dolphins and porpoises) which are killed in the hundreds of thousands each year and receive little or no protection. This is because the pro-whaling countries, for obvious reasons, refuse to accept the IWC has the authority to manage these species. These small whales are under increasing threats, including from toxic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear, but are also hunted in huge numbers around the world. For example, Japan targets up to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises every year and up to a 1,000 pilot whales and dolphins or more are hunted in the Faroe Islands. Many thousands more are killed for food and fish bait in South America, Africa and Asia.
Today the Scientific Committee repeated its concerns and recommendations concerning the urgency of measures needed to save New Zealand’s Maui dolphin, which has been reduced to just 55 animals, and Mexico’s little vaquita porpoise, which has less than 100 animals left. Many countries voiced their extreme concern about the plight of the vaquita and Maui dolphins. They also reiterated their view that the IWC has the authority and expertise to work on small cetacean conservation issues.
Campaign Whale has been pressing for the IWC to initiate and support conservation management plans for critically endangered and threatened populations of whales and dolphins. We are delighted that despite the endless resistance of the whaling nations and their allies, the overwhelming majority of governments now want the IWC to work on these issues.
Just six years ago, the Chinese river dolphin or Baiji was declared extinct. The first cetacean species to be driven to extinction by human beings. Other small cetacean populations are in dire trouble and could be lost forever within the very near future. With the financial support and expertise of the IWC and its member governments, perhaps there is still hope, however late, for these wonderful animals after all.
More news, from the fourth and final day of the IWC to follow
Day Two: Tuesday 16th September 2014
In the morning of the IWC meeting here in Slovenia, Monaco tabled a resolution proposing international cooperation aimed at increasing conservation efforts for highly migratory species. The fact is, that the IWC only manages 17 of over ninety species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. During the 28 years that the commercial whaling ban has been in place over 40,000 great whales have been slaughtered by defiant whalers. Unsurprisingly, the pro-whaling minority rallied against the proposal, but fortunately it passed with a majority of over two to one in favour. This resolution is a further positive step in evolving the IWC from an old whaler’s club to a modern convention for the conservation of all whales.
The politics of extinction : Dolphins and porpoises on the brink
The Monaco resolution reflects our concern that many hundreds of thousands of so-called small cetaceans (small whales, dolphins and porpoises) have been cruelly hunted during the IWC ban on commercial whaling. For example, Japan alone kills up to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises each year. In Peru untold numbers of dolphins are killed for food and fish bait and the same is true in other South American, Asian and African countries. Closer to home, up to 1,000 pilot whales are driven ashore and slaughtered in the Faroe Islands. These small whales, dolphins and porpoises receive no protection and many populations, even species are being driven to extinction.
The Maui dolphin, found off the west coast of North Island in New Zealand, is a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin. This is the world’s rarest marine dolphin with only 55 left in the wild and nothing less than total protection from all threats can save it. Incredibly, the New Zealand Government refuses to ban gillnet fishing in the Maui’s habitat which almost certainly condemns this wonderful little dolphin.
The vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the upper Gulf of California in Mexico, is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. In the past three years, half of the remaining vaquita population has been killed in fishing nets, many of them set illegally to capture an endangered species of fish. Today, fewer than 100 vaquitas are left, with only a quarter of these females of reproductive age. The species will soon be extinct unless drastic steps are taken immediately.
The Government of Mexico has created a protected area for the Vaquita where all commercial fishing, including with gillnets, has been banned, and is encouraging fishermen to switch to fishing gear that does not threaten the vaquita. Over the past five years, the Government has invested more than $30 million (U.S.) in these efforts. However, while scientists have repeatedly warned for almost twenty years that eliminating gillnets is the only way to save the vaquita, a new, illegal fishery for totoaba, a giant fish that can reach 2m in length and 100kg in weight, is threatening to eliminate this wonderful little porpoise. This endangered fish, prized for its swim bladder, is exported to China where it is believed to have medicinal properties. Thousands of swim bladders are dried and smuggled out of Mexico, often through the United States. The remainder of the fish is left to rot on the beach. Fishermen receive up to $8,500 for each kilogram of totoaba swim bladder, equivalent to half a year’s income from legal fishing activities. At a meeting in July 2014, an international recovery team advising the Government of Mexico called on the Government to stop illegal fishing for totoaba and for the United States and China to help Mexico eliminate the illegal trade in totoaba products.
Outrageously, the whalers continue to block all efforts to address the relentless slaughter of small cetaceans, or even to help those populations and species, like the Vaquita and Maui dolphin that are perilously close to extinction. It is up to the vast majority of governments at the IWC to rise above the petty and increasingly nasty politics over whaling and to do everything possible to help save the Maui dolphin and vaquita before it is too late. Only a few years ago, the Yangtze River dolphin, or Baiji, was declared extinct. Unless we act now, the Maui dolphin and vaquita will quickly follow.
On a depressing note, attempts to agree measures to improve animal welfare aspects of whaling have been blocked again by the whalers who refuse to provide information on the times to death inflicted upon harpooned whales. Iceland, Norway and Japan defend this outrageous behaviour by arguing that such information has been used to at tack their whaling operations. What we do know, is that there is no humane way to kill a whale and even the exploding harpoon condemns many animals to an agonising death. Many harpooned whales are repeatedly shot with rifles to finish them off and death can take anything from several minutes to over an hour. Worse still, with no agreed reliable method of confirming a whale is actually dead, it is possible that many animals are paralysed by the harpoon strike and are actually butchered alive.
Also in subsistence hunting whales suffer terribly. Information provided by these hunts over the past two hunting seasons (between the IWC’s biennial meetings) has revealed many whales are struck but lost, meaning they face a long and lingering death from terrible injuries. Those whales that are actually captured may be harpooned and shot many times before they succumb to their wounds.
The fact that the whalers refuse to resolve the inherent cruelty inflicted upon advanced mammals that clearly have a great capacity to suffer, is a major argument why whaling should remain banned and the defiant whalers sanctioned until they halt their whaling operations.
However, many countries hunt huge numbers of small whales, dolphins and porpoises that they argue are exempted from the IWC whaling ban. In Japan, thousands of dolphins are cruelly slaughtered with knives and spears while closer to home, in the Faroe Islands, hundreds of pilot whales and even dolphins are driven ashore , struck with steel hooks and dragged ashore to be killed with knives or spears. The fear and suffering inflicted upon these whales simply defies belief.
The north Atlantic is now the epicentre of global whaling, by Iceland, Norway, Greenland and the Faroes. With up to 2,000 whales and perhaps as many more smaller whales and dolphins being cruelly slaughtered every year, it is time that the UK and EU made a determined stand and effective stand for the whales. All these countries export seafood to the UK, US and Europe where public opinion is overwhelmingly against whaling. Even where strictly controlled hunting for food by remote indigenous communities is accepted, the small whales, dolphins and seals targeted by hunters are contaminated by toxic pollutants that seriously threaten the health of
the animals and the people that eat the meat and blubber.
More news, from day three of the IWC, to follow
Day one: Monday 15th September
The opening day of IWC 65 was not a good one for anyone that cares about whales. The European Union, including the UK, have just supported proposals that allow Greenland’s whalers to kill 828 whales over the next four years. This includes 176 minke whales each year, but also 19 endangered fin, 10 humpbacks and 2 bowhead whales each year.
This highly contentious proposal awards Greenland an increased subsistence quota (non-commercial quotas awarded to indigenous communities) of whales to provide food after it was blocked in 2012. This was because of increasing concerns that quota demands were rising while the hunt was becoming more commercialised with increasing sales of whale meat, including to tourists!
Additionally, the Greenlanders also kill thousands of small whales (and seals) that are not included in the quota calculations in terms of the meat tonnage these animals provide.
By supporting this proposal, the UK and EU have undermined efforts to prevent a new category of ‘cultural’ commercial whaling that will undermine the commercial whaling ban and give other whaling nations hope that their coastal whaling plans will eventually be accepted. The Japanese are tabling a proposal for coastal whaling later today. They believe their whaling should be accepted as Greenland’s whaling has been.
UK Defra Minister George Eustice addressed today’s meeting this afternoon, but unfortunately made no mention of Norway or Iceland’s whaling, let alone the horrific slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands as the UK government has been asked to do. The increased Greenland quota pushes whale slaughter in the north Atlantic still higher…potentially over 2,500 whales each year, not including the thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises also killed by Greenland’s hunters each year.
Campaign Whale has called on the UK and EU to make a stand for the whales, not least beacause most defiant whaling is now taking place in the north-east Atlantic, on Britain and the EU’s doorstep where public opposition to the cruel slaughter of whales is strongest. The fishing and whaling industries in the whaling countries are closely linked and the UK and Europe are a vital market for their seafood exports. It’s time words were matched by tough sanctions against individuals, vessels and companies involved in whaling. This could end whaling almost overnight.
Ironically, also today, the EU led an international demarche against whaling by Iceland. The EU, its 28 Member States and the governments of the United States, Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Monaco, today declared their opposition to the fact that the Icelandic government still permits commercial whaling, in particular, the hunting of threatened fin whales and the subsequent trading of fin whale products with Japan. In stark contrast, Norway has killed over 700 minke whales this year, and received no criticism at all!
More from Campaign Whale at the IWC in Slovenia tomorrow
Campaign Whale’s Opening Statement to the 65th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)
September 15th-18th 2014
A future for whales and the IWC
Campaign Whale is extremely grateful to the Government of Slovenia for a warm welcome to their beautiful country.
Campaign Whale believes the case for ongoing moratorium on commercial whaling is stronger today than ever before. Commercial whaling has devastated many whale populations, pushing populations and even entire species to the brink of extinction. Even today, considerable uncertainty remains over the size and status of the world’s remaining whale populations especially given the mounting threats they face from increasing environmental degradation, such as climate change and toxic pollution.
The recent, tragic extinction of the Baiji dolphin highlights the fact that many of the most threatened populations and species of whales are actually small cetaceans. The IWC has a critical role to play in devising and implementing recovery plans for critically threatened populations and species such as the Vaquita porpoise, which is perilously close to extinction. Surely there can be no higher priority for both Member States and the Commission than this.
Campaign Whale believes the IWC can only meet its responsibilities to conserve and allow for the recovery of the world’s whale populations by upholding and strengthening the moratorium on commercial whaling for decades to come. Times and attitudes have changed, and so has the scale of threats to these wonderful animals. The IWC must evolve from an anachronistic organisation dedicated to whaling into a modern convention dedicated to researching and protecting all cetacean species.
We would like to see the IWC expand its work to address the conservation and welfare needs of all whales, including small cetacean species that are hunted in huge numbers around the world. These animals are under serious threat, including from toxic pollution, which poses a threat both to the whales and the people that eat them.
Campaign Whale is extremely concerned at the serious health risks posed to people that consume whale products that are increasingly contaminated with highly toxic chemical compounds caused mostly by industrial pollution. People that regularly consume whale and dolphin meat, blubber and other organs are seriously jeopardising their health and even that of their children.
Meanwhile, the threat posed to cetaceans and the marine environment from toxic pollution is truly alarming. It is not possible to accurately predict the combined impact of increasing levels of dangerous pollutants and accelerating environmental decline upon whales and dolphins and marine ecosystems. So it cannot be responsibly claimed that consumption of whale products is safe, or that any level of whaling is sustainable.
Campaign Whale would like the IWC to:
- Prioritise and implement emergency recovery plans for all critically endangered populations and species, such as the Vaquita.
- Maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling indefinitely.
- Reject any proposals that would legitimise commercial whaling in coastal waters.
- Close existing loopholes that allow commercial whaling under ‘objection’ or for so-called ‘scientific research’.
- Maintain the essential distinction between commercial and subsistence whaling and oppose increasing efforts to create a new category of whaling that would circumvent the moratorium on commercial whaling.
- Base any subsistence whaling quotas on nutritional need alone while assessing the health impacts from pollutants on both whales and people
- Urgently address the inherent cruelty of killing methods.
- Develop a long-term comprehensive programme of non-lethal research in to the growing environmental threats to all cetaceans.
- Work with appropriate international fora to end the consumption of contaminated whale products because of the serious risk to human health.
- End international trade in whale products.
- Stop the hunting of the small whales, dolphins and porpoises that are killed in their tens of thousands each year and are not protected by the IWC moratorium.
- Adopt proposed whale sanctuaries provided they do not compromise the future of the moratorium in any way.
- Promote and monitor well regulated and responsibly conducted whale-watching operations as a viable and sustainable economic alternative to whaling in the whaling countries.
- Regulate whale-watching and reduce or halt operations where disturbance is a problem