Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XV No. 2 - April 2006


A Whaling Prelude to St. Kitts

By Heather Rockwell, CSI Alternate Board Member


As you read this newsletter, the 58th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is less than two months away. This 2006 battle of whale conservationists vs. whale hunters will convene on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, known for its lush tropical forests, pristine sandy beaches and devout support of every pro-whaling policy Japan can invent. I can't let the peaceful, tropical setting dull my senses - this year's fight to protect the great cetaceans will be as divisive as ever. As I prepare to represent Cetacean Society International (CSI) for the fourth time at the Sub-Committee meetings (involving the Whale Killing Methods meeting, the Conservation Committee, and others) and the week-long Plenary session of the IWC, I thought I would outline what we will be up against in St. Kitts.

The year started out with a convening of the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) Working Group in Cambridge, England on February 28th. RMS negotiations are extremely controversial. It is the RMS rules that will be used to "manage" the resumption of commercial whaling, if and when the zero-quota moratorium is lifted. The RMS Working Group meeting is a direct result of a resolution adopted by the IWC at the 2005 Annual Meeting in Ulsan, South Korea. The resolution called for the RMS Working Group to meet intersessionally to continue the work needed to develop and finalize an RMS for adoption by the IWC.

Many will be surprised to learn that the U.S. Alternate IWC Commissioner, Dr. Doug DeMasters, is the Chair of this working group. It is more than disconcerting to see the United States leading the sessions and suggesting text that will lead to the full-scale resumption of commercial whaling. To be sure, with Japan, Iceland and Norway already blasting away at Minke, Bryde's, Sperm and Sei whales (via special permit whaling and whaling under objection to the moratorium), one could conclude that commercial whaling is already occurring… and that it is being done without the rules being drafted in the RMS meeting.

At the end of this most recent RMS meeting in the U.K, however, the IWC issued a press release announcing that IWC member nations had become deadlocked... that they reached an impasse wherein the pro-whaling faction could not bring themselves to accept the restrictions being demanded by the majority of the IWC. The pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations cannot agree on how to address such issues as special permit (scientific) whaling, how to monitor whale killing, and how to ensure compliance by the whalers. These are significant issues, because, in the decades just prior to the adoption of the moratorium in 1982, horrendous whaling violations were common

Word is circulating that the U.S. government offered to work with Japan bilaterally on the issue of controlling Japan's continued scientific whaling hunts in the Southern Hemisphere and off the coast of Japan. CSI and other conservation-minded Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are trying to determine what the U.S. is up to. It will be interesting to see what happens when the RMS Working Group meets again during Sub-Committee week in St. Kitts. We (CSI and other NGOs) will be seeking clarification on the U.S. government's whaling policy. To be sure, we will be advocating a much tougher U.S. stand against Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian whaling.

This brings us to the 2006 Annual Meeting of the IWC in June, being hosted for the first time by the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The eyes of the world will be especially focused on the six Caribbean member nations of the IWC: Antigua and Barbuda; Dominica; Grenada; St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With extremely few exceptions, these Caribbean countries have continually voted for Japan and their whaling schemes over the course of the past twenty years. However, it is worth noting that both St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted for the zero-quota moratorium back in 1982, and Antigua and Barbuda voted with conservation-minded countries to establish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in 1994. What a difference a decade makes!

One of the major concerns whale conservation organizations like CSI have this year is the very real possibility that Japan and its pro-whaling allies will finally achieve a simple majority. Currently, there are 30 member nations that vote "for the whales" (conservation) and 32 member nations that vote "against the whales" (pro-whaling). The conservation countries are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Panama, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. The whaling countries are: Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Cameroon, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Denmark, Dominica, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Russia, Senegal, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Togo, and Tuvalu. At the time this newsletter went to print, no new nations had joined the IWC since last year's Annual Meeting.

With regard to the list of pro-whaling nations, it is of particular interest to note the groups of Caribbean, West African and South Pacific nations that consistently vote with Japan. These small countries continually use the same arguments to justify their voting records. From the erroneous "whales eat too much fish" debate to claims of solidarity with other small, island states, including Japan, these smaller developing nations (all with sizable foreign aid packages from Japan) are proving to be formidable foes in the fight to protect whales.

So, what happens during the IWC Plenary session if Japan and their whaling allies obtain the simple majority? In formal Commission meetings, a three-quarter majority is needed to make significant changes, such as the ¾ vote required to adopt the zero-quota moratorium. However, with even just the simple majority, Japan and pro-whaling nations can upset the meeting and cause havoc in the diplomatic negotiations to save whales.

For example, with 50% of the vote, Japan and their allies will begin with an attack on the meeting's agenda by trying to remove such important whale conservation issues as whale killing methods, whale watching, and small cetaceans. Next, they will call for secret ballots to be used for voting, thus allowing for a closed and non-transparent meeting. A final order of procedural business for the whalers would be to have certain conservation NGOs removed and barred from the meeting. Then, the pro-whaling nations will start proposing resolutions that: support a Japanese or Norwegian version of RMS Schedule Amendment; condemn the IWC for not furthering progress on the RMS and lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling; and applaud the research findings from Japan's scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean and North Pacific.

However, if the conservation-minded countries somehow manage to maintain the simple majority, then the above noted chaos could be prevented. The proceedings of the IWC will remain open and transparent for everyone to see. Japan and Norway would be prevented from pushing through their RMS plans for at least another year. Sanctuaries would remain on the agenda for discussion, especially concerning the continued protection of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. The conservation-minded nations could generate more support for the Buenos Aires Declaration (see Jan. 2006 Whales Alive!) and the strong push by Southern Hemisphere nations demanding recognition of the rights of coastal states to develop nonlethal uses of whale resources, including whale watching and ecosystem preservation.

Both Japan and Iceland could again be called to task for their continued special permit (scientific) whaling. Not only does Japan intend to double their take of Minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere in 2006, they also plan on killing 70 endangered Fin whales over the next three years and killing 50 endangered Humpback whales in 2008 - all within the confines of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. And too, Japan continues to increase their hunt of whales in the North Pacific. They are now killing 220 Minke, 50 Bryde's, 100 Sei, and 10 Sperm whales - all in the name of "questionable" science. Iceland recently announced that they plan to take 50-70 Minke whales during the 2006 summer season, up from 39 whales in 2005. And finally, the Norwegians could be confronted for continuing to set their own whale kill quotas. Norway has already set a quota of 1,052 minke whales for the 2006 season, which is an increase of over 300 whales from last year.

So, as you can see, the conservation NGOs and CSI (including you with me as your representative) have our work cut out for us in St. Kitts. There are guaranteed to be days during this contentious meeting when we will be sitting in the conference room for up to 12 hours debating with Japan, Iceland, Norway and their allies. And while I have always dreamed of traveling to the Caribbean to be able to dip my feet into the warm tropical waters, be assured this trip that my mind will be focused on protecting the whales.


Go to next article: In the Presence of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises or: Table of Contents.

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