UPDATED: International Whaling Commission Day Four: Protected Species or Schnitzel?
And so, gentle reader, a day after adopting a sweeping resolution to improve the transparency and effectiveness of this body, member governments of the IWC have spent most of the day meeting in secret. It's 7:30 in the evening now here on the Channel Island of Jersey.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare team, together with other non-governmental observers, national delegates and International Whaling Commission staff has been sitting in and around the cavernous meeting room for almost eight hours following a walk-out of the hard-core whaling minority led by Japan.
The pretext for this protest?
A proposal by Latin American governments to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
Following presentation of the Sanctuary proposal by the delegate from Brazil, Japan's cool as a cucumber IWC Commissioner Joji Morishita abruptly announced that he would lead a walkout of "sustainable use" countries to "break quorum" in a last-ditch attempt to derail a vote. (That's right folks, they've gone to the mattresses over a popular proposal to protect whales in waters where Japan, Norway and Iceland have no interest and there is no whaling!).
They say that making laws, like making sausage, is a process most of us wouldn't want to watch. For much of today, there hasn't been anything to see. But behind closed doors at the end of a hallway in the Hotel de France here in St. Helier, after two centuries of slaughter, the fight to determine whether our planet's whales become protected species or schnitzels, rages on. Team IFAW has made good use of this time to work media inside the hall and far away.
In the open now is the farce that is Japanese "scientific whaling". Japan wants to kill whales, and it may be willing to kill this Commission to do it. Today, with St. Kitts, Cameroon and Iceland in the sidecar, it has driven the IWC to the brink.
The Chairman has just come in to say they're going to start again at 8:00 p.m. Check back later to see whether this meeting ends in a rainbow coalition or a raging storm . . .
Updated - 7.14.11 - 9:30 PM Jersey time
All Set for the Perfect Storm (in Panama)
Well, that's all folks. Forty minutes later it was done.
The Chair returned to the podium to announce that the day had been spent negotiating a page worth of language describing this morning's walkout by the whaling team and what it might mean. An intersessional working group will spend the next year considering rule changes to clarify what constitutes a quorum of IWC countries. (Wait, you thought that question might've been raised by the other team in yesterday's exhaustive review of the rules of procedure? Don't be silly!).
The agenda item of the Latin American countries' proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary will be "held open" for the next year with commitment to take action on it at the beginning of next year's annual meeting. The report of the IWC Conservation Committee was hastily adopted with no meaningful discussion of any of the many threats whales face around the world. How Japan and its hard-core minority have been allowed to scuttle a vote on the sanctuary is disappointing and difficult to understand. But Team IFAW here is heartened by the progress made this week and the positive reforms to clean up the IWC that were adopted.
And so, the IWC stumbles forward and the scene is set for a perfect storm in Panama, host country for the 64th annual IWC meeting next year!
As this strange meeting closes, the crystal ball remains cloudy but it is clear that Japan and the pro-whaling block were dealt a blow this week. Their increasingly desperate attempts to stop the migration of the IWC toward whale conservation and away from whale killing are now starkly visible.
They want to kill whales, even if it means killing the IWC. But this week showed that we can hold the line and make progress with an engaged conservation majority making progress for whales and efforts to protect them worldwide.
Check back over the next days for more on this meeting and its implications for whales and what we can all do to keep the pressure on!
For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort end commercial whaling, visit http://www.ifaw.org