What You Need To Know About The 60th IWC Meeting

The plenary session of the IWC is just seven days away and I’m heading down a week early to sit in on a meeting on entanglements and health assessment of large whales. The impression I’ve gotten throughout my brief tenure at IFAW is that the annual IWC meeting is a real circus. What that means exactly I’m not so sure but am sure I'll find out shortly.

This will be my first IWC meeting. I’ve gone to plenty of meetings, conferences and symposia on everything from attaching cameras to sharks, to management of fisheries, and even a mind numbingly dull workshop on fishery statistics.  However none on these are on the scale of the International Whaling Commission. From what I’ve heard this is truly a unique experience and fans of the IFAW whale blog will be riding in the front seat on what is sure to be an adventure.  You never know, you might just learn something while we’re at it!

The IWC Scientific committee has been meeting since the beginning of June. This week, committee members will draft a report of their findings for the plenary session that starts on June 23rd. The plenary is when the political suits meet, toss science out the window, and argue over a convention on whaling written back in 1946. Seriously people, 1946!   

The big story at the IWC this year is going to be just how to move the organization beyond the stalemate that has gripped the commission.

Words like stalemate or deadlocked lead you to believe the IWC is
somehow unable to make decisions just as a hung jury can’t decide to
convict or acquit. I guess that’s possible except you don’t hear
much about the impact of Japan’s ‘vote consolidation’ effort on the
process.  Not to long ago I read a report by the Third Millennium Foundation on vote consolidation, it looked at recipients of Japanese foreign aid and how they voted at the IWC.  Oddly, there were striking similarities between the two. Effectively, Japan has helped create a deadlock and it’s holding the commission hostage to
negotiate a return to commercial whaling. Sounds a bit melodramatic,
but it seems true.

It’s shocking that such a tactic might succeed. After all, they’ve
gotten to the point where the Commission is officially considering
negotiation on something that’s had a worldwide ban since the 1980’s.

What’s really scary about this is that all science is out the
window. The only reassurance in Hogarth’s recommendations on
negotiation is that he mentions the science should not be compromised,
that any decisions should be supported by the science. If this is
genuine, then we’ve got a shot at thwarting a negotiated deal that
leads to commercial whaling. However could that mean Japan just
continues to buy votes and prevent the IWC from doing business? Japan
also seems to threaten to leave the IWC every year and it sounds as if
Hogarth believes that’s a possibility. I’m not sure what leaving the
organization would actually accomplish. Reminds me of a child that
doesn’t get his way storming off in a tantrum, but again I’m new to
this IWC stuff.

I’m finishing this blog post up at 4:30 am 31,000 feet somewhere
over South America and from where I’m sitting it seems as though all
that stands between harpoons firing and the exploitation of even more
of the world’s oceans is a small group of conservation minded countries
and dedicated supporters like you. It’s no exaggeration that the
situation for whales is in dire jeopardy and much of the negotiations
surrounding whaling is happening behind closed doors hidden from public
view. Here at IFAW we’re working hard to ensure that nothing happens
without the citizens of the world knowing about it. You can sign the
South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and show your support any number of ways
at http://www.stopwhaling.org

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