The last drama of the 2005 meeting of the IWC was played out before the Friday morning coffee break. Earlier in the week, Sweden had offered to draft a compromise resolution on the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) that would potentially move the process towards quick implementation. The text that ended up as the resolution, which effectively called on the Secretariat to decide on crucial elements of an RMS, and left “scientific” whaling untouched, pleased virtually no one. By the time it was tabled, most of the co-sponsors, including Sweden, had dropped out. That left just Denmark and Korea as the sponsors of the resolution. During the debate, Japan announced that it would abstain. When the vote was taken, Japan was joined by 26 other abstaining nations. There were 26 votes against, including India, which was casting its first ballot of the meeting, and just 2 votes in support – Denmark and Korea. The result was so apparent before the vote was taken that it came as a surprise that the resolution was not withdrawn. In explaining his reasoning for insisting on a vote, the Danish commissioner likened himself to Pontius Pilot, in that he was turning the fate of the RMS over to the meeting. The comment had more than a few heads scratching.
Next, Ireland introduced a brief resolution which simply called for an intercessional meeting on the RMS to be held before next year`s annual meeting. Japan again announced that it would abstain. When the vote was taken, there were 28 abstentions, 24 votes in favour, and just 3 against, so the resolution passed. In effect, it allows the RMS process to move forward, though probably not to immediate completion. The timing and venue of the proposed RMS workshop are not yet determined, though some southern hemisphere nations expressed the hope that it would be held early in the new year, in their (warmer) part of the world.
The failure of the whaling nations to move the RMS process towards completion at this year`s meeting was a clear victory for the pro-whale side. Perhaps the most encouraging element of the meeting, from a pro-whale perspective, was the solidarity of the conservation minded nations, and their collective refusal to accept Japan`s demands. Japan contributed substantially to this solidarity via the outrageous nature of its “scientific whaling” proposals, and their attitude, which includes the stated intention to control a majority. There can be no question that Japan will work hard to bring more nations into the IWC, to vote on its side at next year`s meeting.
Altogether, the outcome of IWC 2005 was as favourable as could have been hoped by whale supporters. Japan was thwarted in its ambition to control a majority. As a result, conservation nations maintained a slim balance in favour of the whales. It goes without saying that the situation would have changed drastically, had Japan got its way.
Despite the as-positive-as-possible outcome, nearly 2,000 whales will be killed in the coming year, by Japan in its commerce-disguised-as-science hunts in the Antarctic and North Pacific, and by Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic.
For more stories about IWC 2005, see ECO at www.earthisland.org/immp