IWC 67 Day Four
The great divide
This morning began with a vote on the Florianopolis Declaration proposed by Brazil which essentially looks forward to a future for whales and the oceans they inhabit in which most whales live free from the threat of death by harpoon, and via their spirit and beauty contribute to the economies of their human neighbours. It’s a wonderful vision in which the inhabitants of our planet share its bounty and live in harmony. A pipe dream to be sure, but in this forum one that was accepted by 60% of those present and able to vote at this meeting. Japan and it’s bloc voted predictably but the vote was interesting in some of its other details. Switzerland, South Africa, Kenya and Nicaragua all abstained. The latter two had already been showing signs of sitting on the fence or dropping to the other side during the meeting but I had thought Switzerland and South Africa to be pretty solidly pro whale. I may have to revise that opinion tomorrow which is the last and possibly most dramatic day of IWC 67. Many big decisions have already been made but the one that could take the IWC back to pre-history has been put off until tomorrow, the last day. It’s Japan’s proposal to start commercial whaling again and redraw the rules under which the IWC operates. Given the way things have mostly been tilting in the whales’ favour so far, it’s a little unsettling to see how pleased some of the people who should be worried are looking. A rumor has been going around that the USA wants or needs to give Japan something so it doesn’t go home totally bruised. I haven’t had a feeling nor have any evidence to confirm that but the rumour is a bit unsettling. Almost at the end of this day a concession was made to Antigua and Barbuda regarding proposed annual meetings of the Conservation Committee that I felt totally unnecessary but it happened. Whether it’s a harbinger of a strange day tomorrow I don’t know but I do know we need to be vigilant.
The tricky shape of things here showed up in several ways today, most particularly in Japan’s response to an NGO comment about its whaling under “special permit”. EIA (Environmental Investigations Agency) on behalf of a dozen NGOs made a statement calling on the Commission to reject Japan’s proposal to overturn the moratorium in which it referred to commercial whaling by Iceland Norway and Japan. The reference outraged Japan which demanded an apology, presumably because the hundreds of whales it kills annually are for research not commerce. Chairman Morishita seemed a bit taken aback by the charge and suggested the parties get together to talk. It hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t but given the International Court of Justice’s characterisation of Japan’s research whaling as commerce I don’t think Japan has a leg to stand on. Quite possibly Japan might quietly let the matter drop, which would be the most sensible course, but the way things are going here it might want to go another round.
There’s no question things are heating up. We might see fireworks in the morning.
By Paul Spong,,
September 13, 2018