News from the IWC – June 16th 2003

Dear All

The ‘Berlin Initiative’ was adopted today by 25 votes for and 20 against. This establishes a Conservation Committee that will meet prior to next year’s meeting and be able to discuss issues such as whale-watching, pollution threats and small cetaceans among other things.

Thankfully, their were no amendments to include ‘sustainable utilisation’ or direct links to completion of the RMS. However, Ireland said they supported the ‘Berlin Initiative’ because there had been no progress on the RMS and their proposals to compromise. Just how significant or not this proves to be for the IWC and the whales remains to be seen. It will not change the polarisation in the IWC with Japan having brought in Nicaragua this year with Belize and Ivory Coast likely to join in the very near future. And so the votes for japan continue to pile up but as yet they have little to show for such huge expenditure. However, Japan’s plans are for the long term and they are very patiently building to overturn the moratorium itself.Japan has tabled a proposal to take 150 Bryde’s and 150 minkes for their coastal whaling communities. It is unclear, but very concerning what the US attitude to this will be as they supported a Japanese resolution on community whaling at the Cambridge IWC special meeting last October.

The Russians have now tabled a formal proposal to delete the words whose traditional aboriginal subsistence and cultural needs have been recognised’from the Schedule against their Gray whale quota which is shared with the US. Yesterday it was rumoured that the US would oppose this proposal but it is unclear how other delegations will react. Given the potential consequences such a change in the Schedule would have for pending lawsuits on the Makah issue we are doing what we can to get this amendment defeated or withdrawn. It will need a 3/4 majority vote to succeed.

A proposal by Japan for secret ballots was defeated today by 19 for and 26 against. This is good news but once again the very fact that Japan can muster almost 20 votes these days has to be cause for concern. With more Japanese recruits likely to the IWC in the next year it is vital that more whale-friendly countries are persuaded to join as soon as possible.

Finally whale-watching was discussed with several countries pointing out that it is far more valuable than whaling. A better day than we might have expected – but many problems and unresolved issues lie ahead.Best to all

Andy Ottaway in Berlin for Campaign Whale and the Global Whale Alliance

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