IWC 66 Day Five

IWC 66 Day Five

The sands of time

Day Five of this meeting was devoted to Finance and Administration, a normally pedestrian subject, but one that produced unexpected drama. The resolution on providing assistance to countries with limited means came back to the floor in a form that didn’t please a large number of delegations, who thought it needed more work in the intercessional period before the next meeting in 2018. It did please Japan, which drafted the resolution and sees itself as the potential beneficiary. Japan has spent considerable time and money bringing countries in to support its view of whales, and the strategy has clearly paid off. The Commission is deadlocked over the issue of what whales represent. The current balance favours living whales. The moratorium on commercial whaling cannot be overturned without a ¾ vote, which is unlikely unless more countries come into the Commission to support Japan. Cynically, Japan has been very successful in convincing small and impoverished countries to join the Commission and support its view, but it falls far short of the ¾ majority it needs. This resolution is Japan’s big push. It came close to failing. The vote was 30 in favour with 31 abstentions and 1 non-participation. No votes were cast against the resolution. Had the abstentions been no votes, which they really were, Japan would have lost. It’s not as if there is opposition to the concept of assisting countries that are genuinely in need, it’s Japan’s manipulation that is offensive. The task of the pro whale side is now to bring whales the long-term security they need. That means bringing more countries into the Commission to fight for whales, and will involve real work over the next two years. Fortunately, far more people and countries love whales than those who want to see them carved up. So we shall see.

The problem I have with all of this is that the next two years will be occupied by efforts on both sides to shore up their positions. Time and money will be spent, needlessly. As important as it may be, whaling is a distraction from the fundamental issues of today. I asked Japan’s Commissioner Joji Morishita, who is now IWC Chair what he thinks is the greatest problem the world faces. He said population. I then asked him what is the second greatest problem. He said climate. I agree on both, though I reverse the order. Later, I asked him where whaling stands in his list of world issues. His answer was complicated, but it is way down for him, as it is for me. Climate is the only issue we can and need to deal with collectively. Our world and life upon it cannot afford to wait two more years.

We are out of time.

by Paul Spong,

Trieste Italy,

October 29 2016




Listen now

Stream our live hydrophone audio