65th International Whaling Commission Meeting: Portoroz, Slovenia.
I wonder how they have survived. Not just the whales but the campaigners and members of the non-governmental movement who, year after year, have trudged off to meetings of the IWC to largely sit on the side-lines and watch nation States play political football with the lives and possibly the future of the largest mammals to have even inhabited the planet.
The 65th meeting seems to have followed that pattern, and its highlights make for rather gloomy reading.
Despite breaking the rules last time round (the Panama Meeting) Greenland (supported by Denmark and, bizarrely, the EU) got the votes necessary (more the 75%) to carry out extensive whaling – 164 Minke, 212 Fin, 2 Bowhead and 10 Humpback – every year for the next 4 years. Did the IWC hold them to account for breaking the rules last time? Simply, no.
The South Atlantic Whales Sanctuary, a conservation dream promoted by many South American countries, once more failed to get the three quarters majority needed to become reality – despite 20 years of effort.
The discussion on the Future of the IWC was a non-event. How can it be credible for this meeting to take place every single year? Imagine the cost, the effort, the lack of transparency, the politicking. Even CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), my old stomping ground, has the good sense to meet once every 3 years.
Welfare discussions were once again characterised as being a ‘tool for the bunny-huggers to end whaling’ by the pro-whaling community, instead of a deeply serious issue that is a high priority for the public at large and which deserves ongoing and detailed deliberation – after all, even England’s controversial and widely-condemned 2013 badger cull was judged by government inspectors to have been a failure on welfare grounds. Welfare matters.
Politics at the IWC seems as naked as ever. The reported remarks by the delegate from Antigua and Barbuda that the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would never happen unless concessions were made to whaling because he and his colleagues ‘had a blocking minority’ clearly told the world that those who support – and are supported by – Japan and other pro-whaling nations do not vote with their conscience or consider each case on its merits. It’s politics as usual.
So when is there going to be some common sense at the IWC? Maybe soon! On a motion from Chile, (well done Chile) it seems as if, in future, the role of NGOs will be enhanced, allowing far greater participation by civil society at meetings, in line with other international conventions.
That is a big step forward as, in my experience, all too often NGO delegates, people who dedicate their lives to very specific issues such as whaling, the ivory trade, the trade in tiger, rhino, lion and other wildlife body parts, often know more than the governments. Through the work of NGOs, a spotlight can be focussed on the future survival of some of the world’s most iconic species and their habitats, habitats that are home to millions of other, less glamorous, species that rarely if ever secure the limelight of media and public attention.
My hat is off to all those, like the redoubtable Dr Paul Spong (on whose excellent reports this blog is based), who year after year have followed the well-worn path to the IWC to bear witness to what our leaders do, in our name, to whales around the world. Maybe, just maybe, at the next IWC he and his comrades will have to the opportunity to help government delegates understand just how we, the people who vote for them and who pay their salaries, all feel about their performance on our behalf.
Maybe that will bring about the change we wish to see.
P.S. If you wish to support Dr Paul Spong and Orcalab you can adopt Springer the Orca here.