IWC Voting Stops, But Whaling Continues

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Santiago, Chile
As the third day of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) opened, conservation organizations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org) expressed concern that the sixtieth annual meeting is focusing exclusively on procedures and process while failing to deal with ongoing whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland. “So far nothing achieved here matters beyond the conference room door,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Global Whale Program Director. “Meanwhile, whales in the water around the world are being killed for products that nobody needs in the name of science no one respects.” 
“IWC countries are being pressured not to vote for conservation measures.   If Japan, Iceland and Norway are genuinely interested in compromise, they should immediately suspend their  whaling as a sign of good faith,” Ramage said.   

The IWC has been deadlocked in recent years as the last three nations engaged in whaling for commercial purposes – Japan, Iceland and Norway – have fought to block conservation measures in the forum. This year a “no votes” strategy being pushed by the IWC chairman and U.S. commissioner to the IWC, Dr. William Hogarth.
 
Dr. Hogarth has proposed that the present and future business of the commission be addressed by consensus rather than traditional voting. Suspending voting for passage of non-controversial issues by consensus is one process of an eight-step plan Hogarth outlined, which many suspect could lead to a return to IWC sanctioned commercial whaling. However the cessation of voting further paralyzes the commission while the 81-nation membership sorts out how to move beyond the voting impasse and conduct business for the 21st century.
 
Japan has long advocated for lifting of the 1986 ban on commercial whaling and continues to exploit a legal loophole in international treaties that allows scientific whaling – though it sells the meat it derives from the hunt. The IWC has criticized Japan’s scientific whaling program for failing to produce legitimate scientific data.
 
Longtime IWC observers fear the “no vote” strategy and behind-the-scenes negotiations spearheaded by IWC Chair and U.S. Commissioner Dr. William Hogarth involve Japan and their vote blocking coalition withholding support for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and other conservation measures in exchange for legitimizing commercial whaling by Japan. Pro-whaling nations don’t possess the votes needed to lift the commercial whaling moratorium but they do have enough allies to continue to force the IWC into a deadlock necessitating negotiation to move beyond the impasse.
 
Japan has killed more than 15,000 whales since 1986, most in an internationally recognized whale sanctuary around Antarctica. Norway has killed more than 8,000 whales over the same period, since the global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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