A day after voting for transparency, international forum for whales meets in secret

Monday, July 18, 2011
St Helier, Jersey
After a victory yesterday for those seeking to reform the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the annual meeting in Jersey was in disarray today (Thur) after several countries staged a walkout.

A UK proposal on greater transparency and effectiveness at the IWC was adopted by consensus yesterday. Today, a proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary by Brazil and Argentina led to a mid-morning walkout by Japan, Iceland, Norway and other pro-whaling countries.

Many hours of private negotiation eventually brought delegations back to the meeting room late in the evening to hear a report of the day’s proceedings and leave the sanctuary proposal open on the agenda for next year. The meeting then closed without discussion or debate on many conservation proposals and other matters before the Commission.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Just 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 today meeting in secret."

“After some progress for the IWC and whale conservation yesterday, the IWC is now being pushed to the brink by these actions. Japan wants to kill whales, and it may be willing to kill this Commission to do it. IFAW continues to push for greater protection for our planet’s whales and we believe it is essential that the IWC functions effectively as a conservation body for whales.”

IFAW backed the UK paper as a vital measure to secure the IWC’s future credibility and effectiveness. IFAW believes the final resolution is a step in the right direction for the forum, despite some initial proposals being dropped to achieve necessary backing from all member countries.

In light of widely reported accusations of corruption aimed at the IWC in recent years, the UK’s package aims to reduce secrecy in the IWC, outlaw last minute cash payment of dues and ensure improved governance and proper and timely reporting of Commission decisions within 14 days of meetings having taken place.

Following lengthy debate between many of the IWC’s 89 member countries over two days, proposals on NGO participation were dropped from the final UK resolution, but the proposal on banning cash payments, which had divided many, was retained.

IFAW also supports the plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary which it hopes will achieve success at next year’s meeting.

Under the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal, commercial whaling would be prohibited in the region. There would also be increased non-lethal whale research so that more information can be gathered on threatened species.

IFAW works around the world to protect whales from the many threats they face, including commercial whaling. IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary. There is no humane way to kill a whale and with little appetite for whale meat these days, meat from slaughtered whales frequently lies unused in frozen storage. IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.

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