IWC 67 Day Five
Going for broke
There was a slightly unreal feeling in the room at the start of today’s final session of IWC 67. Everyone knew that Japan was laying everything on the table but no-one including me was totally sure of the outcome.
The day started off tidying up unfinished business from the days before. The Sub Committee on Special Permit whaling had run into a road-block and its report had not been adopted. The obstacle came in the form of a report from a specially convened group of experts who were tasked with evaluating Japan’s “research” whaling programs. The experts had given Japan a thumbs down on pretty much every element of the program, which unsurprisingly upset Japan. For a while there was a bit of a log jam that stalled the meeting, but Chairman Morishita solved it by proposing to list countries supporting Japan’s objection in his report of the meeting. Here they are: Norway, Marshall Islands, St. Lucia, Nicaragua, Iceland, Solomon Islands, St. Vincent, Senegal, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Côte d’Ivoire, Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Liberia, Surinam, Togo, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Laos. No surprise that it was precisely the same list that has supported Japan regardless of topic throughout the meeting.
The Chair then got down to the real business of the day. Those of us in the room on the whales’ side felt confident but weren’t sure. At the outset Japan tabled an amendment to it’s proposal, in essence saying that if the requested Schedule amendment failed to achieve a simple majority the accompanying resolution would not be put to a separate vote. Given the slim chance the Schedule amendment would achieve the required ¾ majority I took this as a good sign. Just the same there was tension in the room as the vote proceeded. It was relieved when Mexico answered “Si” to the question put by the Secretary. There was a chorus of “What?” accompanied by disbelief and then laughter as the Secretary asked Mexico again. This time Mexico did as expected and answered NO. A ripple of chuckles continued for a few more moments. The rest of the vote went pretty much in the manner of previous votes in the meeting, so in the end Japan lost. The vote was 27 in favour, 41 against with 2 abstentions. Because Japan achieved only 40% support its entire reform package was lost. Phew. I was glad to see Switzerland and South Africa rejoining the majority. The abstentions were again interesting, this time Korea and Russia. In explaining its vote, Russia said it didn’t like the split in the Commission so had abstained.
I think there was a collective sigh of relief in the room after that vote because things got a lot lighter after the coffee break. The Chair quickly got through the rest of the agenda, approving reports, appointing officers and committee chairs, approving venues for the next meetings of the Commission and Scientific Committee, and generally wrapping things up. There was even a touch of levity from Japan. It came during voting in a contest organized by Luxembourg for the best cetacean jewelery. Two years ago the contest was for the best whale tie and Japan won. The pieces were displayed on the screen one by one. When the image of a small dolphin appeared Japan raised a point of order, saying small cetaceans were outside the competence of the Commission. The room broke up.
It was difficult to know Japan’s thinking coming into this meeting. It brought such a huge delegation, which I gather included 9 Diet members and at least one senior government official. It was hard to avoid the feeling something was up. Sport and gambling terms come to mind. Japan is not alone in this forum but it might as well be. Meeting after meeting it fails to achieve its core objectives. Japan lost at virtually every turn at IWC 67.
I’m not alone in wondering what comes next.
by Paul Spong,
September 14 2018