IWC 67 postcript

IWC 67 postscript

Two dolphins

The morning after IWC 67 ended Helena and I decided to take a last walk on the lovely long sandy beach that fronts the resort where the conference was held. We got to the path leading down to the beach and decided to turn right towards the etchings in stone that had been left by former inhabitants of the area 6,000 or more years ago.  The ocean was still energetic, producing waves that hit the rocky shore and flung fountains of spray almost to our feet.  Suddenly Helena exclaimed “I think I saw something!” We stopped walking and looked out over the ocean, as we’d often done hoping to see a right whale without having the luck of some at the conference.  Moments later two dolphins surfaced then disappeared and surfaced again. The sight was a total thrill. They were swimming quietly along parallel to the shore between big rolling waves.  At one point I thought they were going to catch a wave and surf, though they didn’t and kept swimming quietly along.   We headed further up the path hoping to see more of them and encountered other people, in couples and clumps staring out to sea like us, enjoying the presence of the dolphins.  It was a marvelous affirmation of what had happened inside the meeting as it tilted towards enjoying rather than exploiting cetaceans.

Looking back on IWC 67 I have to characterize it as the best run and most interesting with the most agreeable outcomes of any I’ve attended in the last couple of decades.  For sure everything didn’t go perfectly but it seldom does in life and at this stage in human relations with whales that would be asking too much.  Among noteworthy details was a Secretariat that operated smoothly, making bits like registration and security easy and uncomplicated, a technical team that not only made following what was happening possible, but with the aid of a group of great interpreters seamless in four languages, and rapporteurs who managed to follow everything that was said regardless of language or accent. For NGOs there were tables to sit at and microphones for requesting the floor, both unheard of previously.  The performance of Chairman Morishita was masterful. Being Japanese there was some concern that he would be biased but he was not – rather, he was scrupulously fair. His command of English was impressive and impeccable, even down to idioms and jokes.  He kept the complicated agenda to its schedule, adding just a couple of hours at the end of day four when he got concerned about finishing on time.  He need not have worried.

For me, the highlights of the meeting were choosing the Florianopolis Declaration over Japan’s attempt to overturn the Moratorium, and the rejection in so many ways of Japan’s agenda – from the harsh scientific judgment of its “research whaling” to it’s proposal to solve the problems of the Commission by bringing high level diplomats into the picture.  As I said previously, that last was my biggest worry, but for the moment at least it’s gone.  It’s difficult to know what Japan will do in the face of such clarity.  Achieving even a simple majority vote in the future will be difficult to impossible.  Gone are the days when a bag of cash delivered at the last moment could add a voice and vote, and though the current pattern of voting causes suspicion about votes for aid there is no proof.  If that has been Japan’s approach, quite clearly it has failed.  So the big question now is, what will Japan do next?

I first went to Japan in 1974 hoping to convince it to stop killing whales because of what we were learning about them.  Obviously I failed, but in the process I was told that the way the Japanese mind works is to carefully consider a complicated issue from all sides over whatever time it takes and then finally make a decision.  Could now be the time?

When I put this question to Chairman Morishita after the meeting, he looked me in the eye and calmly said:

“No comment”.

by Paul Spong

Surrey, B.C.

September 16, 2018











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