It isn’t over

There was a palpable sense of relief today, at 6:43pm, when the 62nd Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission finally adjourned.  There was no decision about a venue for the next meeting.  It has been a long and difficult road.  This is not to say that Morocco, Agadir, the beach, the promenade, the sunset, the balmy air and friendly people were difficult – indeed, they are all quite marvelous – but rather that sitting in a large cool room engaged in looped discussions about the fate of whales does tend to wear on one.  Probably because the USA’s bowhead proposal had disappeared during lunch, this afternoon’s session moved along smoothly in a neutral zone, with the report of the Finance and Administration Committee.  This was followed by presentation of a document prepared by Chairman Livingstone that contained his vision of “the way forward”.   He didn’t entertain discussion, but it’s clear that he’s not giving up.  For the moment at least, however, no-one is buying in. We will see.

It will not be at all surprising to see the promoters of this year’s deal coming back around next year, with the same idea dressed in slightly different clothing.  It’s all feels quite reminiscent of the days a decade ago when The Irish Proposal, equally scary, was on the table, driving everyone to distraction.  Eventually it went away, but until it disappeared, it created a lot of work and heartache.

We can fully expect that the effort to hand over the moratorium in exchange for whales’ lives will continue, but we can also expect the mob to resist.  The mob, by the way, or at least its energetic fringe, was very much present at this meeting.  A small group of protesters maintained a vigil on the street outside the venue for the entire week.  They were creative, cheerful, persistent, and their messaging was very much to the point – no whaling, no killing of whales, period.  Today, they sang for the entire time the meeting was in session.  No-one inside heard.

Possibly the most constructive suggestion of the day came from Australia, who proposed that the work of the Scientific Committee and the Commission should occur at separate times of the year.  Several speakers supported the idea, but it soon got bogged down with dates and scheduling, so it will come back around next year.

The highlight of the afternoon session was a touching farewell to IWC Secretary Nicky Grandy, complete with a song by the Russian Commissioner that brought the house to its feet.  In the post for the past 10 years, Dr. Grandy has handled the organisation with impressive skill, managing somehow to wrestle it into a group where opponents do not attack each other on sight.  Her successor, Simon Brockington, had a pretty good introduction to his role at this meeting, and by now must understand something of the swamp he is walking into.  He is a very cheerful fellow, optimistic too, possibly just what this tired old (IWC) body needs… new blood.

Posted by Paul Spong

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