IWC 67 Day Two
It’s quite unreal, sitting on the balcony of our room looking out over the pool and past the palm trees to the ocean rolling in, thinking about this day inside. Very clearly, lines have been drawn, though it’s hard to know how the balance will turn out before this week ends. One of the great characters from the past has shown up, Daven Joseph whose deep hypnotic voice still fills the room with nonsense. He is representing Antigua and Barbuda though he has previously skipped around wearing badges of opportunity. Today in full throttle he castigated the audience for failing to uphold the rights of indigenous people to food security, then lost his train of thought creating a list of supporters, forgetting that the USA had endorsed the comments of others about the issue at hand. To be truthful, I feel for him. The ASW Bundle which treats all requests the same is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of details that may upset some members.
The lowlight of the morning was the defeat once again of the proposal to establish a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS). It was supposed to be considered later in the agenda but generously moved forward by the Chair because Brazil’s Environment Minister wanted to make the pitch. He was passionate and eloquent, pointing out the great benefits that would follow for research opportunities and the economies of local communities on both sides of the South Atlantic, adding the clincher support of the Scientific Committee which had considered the SAWS Action Plan since the last rejection and given it a thumbs up. Nothing doing. Country after county repeated Japan’s line – no need, goes against the objectives of the Convention etc. So it failed with a 61% majority. I thought at the time that Japan made a strategic mistake by announcing its unqualified opposition at the beginning of the debate. Had it made even a slight gesture of sympathy for what is clearly a heartfelt cause of the proponents, perhaps stating its understanding or even abstaining in the vote it might have garnered sympathy for its own heartfelt causes. My prediction is it won’t get even a shred of that later this week when it lunges at the Moratorium.
Just a few minutes later it’s suddenly dark here. Helena and I are about to head off to an NGO sponsored reception at a restaurant along the beach from the hotel. It will be interesting to see who among the delegations shows up. This morning, Chairman Morishita announced the event and said it was open to anyone “if you don’t have anything better to do”. It was quite a reveal and consistent with his absence from the Conservation Sub-Committee meeting a couple of days ago. The role of NGOs at this meeting is certainly evolving in a positive direction but it is clear we are still second-class citizens. No respect from the sustainable users who believe they alone have the keys to the future, totally failing to understand that we are all in it together.
By the end of this day the various positions of IWC members were perfectly clear. Everyone respects and sympathizes with the genuine needs of people who have relied on whales for food for centuries, even millennia. But there is a deep suspicion of the motives of Japan and others who use the rights of aboriginal people to food as a means to their own ends. Much is included in the Bundle that has little or nothing to with actual need, including the killing of up to 4 humpback whales annually by the tiny Caribbean island of Bequia. This hardly equates with the needs of Arctic people who’ve relied on whales for their survival for thousands of years and doesn’t sound fair, yet it is what the Bundle proposes. To me the story we heard about Bequia kids rushing out of their classroom when a humpback whale was seen off shore sounded more like the enthusiasm we see in many parts of the world when whales are sighted, not a thirst for blood.
Voting on the Bundle was put off until tomorrow. Meanwhlle, drafters are hard at work revising language to deal with the comments that have been made, in hopes they will find common ground.
We will know in the morning how things pan out.
by Paul Spong,
September 11, 2018