Despite Predictions, This Year's Whaling Commission Meeting Is Anything But Dull

There had already been highly vocal complaints asserting some IWC member countries who wished to attend the meeting had not been able to do so because of UK visa delays, the grandstanding implication being the delays were intentional…After the high drama of the 62nd International Whaling Commission meeting in

Agadir last year, when NGOs had to lobby hard against a deal to legitimise commercial whaling, many expected this year’s meeting in Jersey would be a much more subdued, less controversial affair. In fact, many journalists were dismissing it as ‘too boring’ to bother attending, and as a result, the press corps here is notably smaller than usual.

However, while there may not have been headline-grabbing decisions taken here yet, watching events unfold on the floor of the meeting today was anything but dull.

IWC 63: Delegates from the European Union scrum during a break.
After a damning expose on IWC corruption in the Sunday Times newspaper last year, the UK Government submitted a proposal aimed at improving the forum’s effectiveness and increasing transparency in the way it operates and makes decisions.

While this may not sound too controversial to most, the move to bring IWC in line with similar organisations would have a huge effect on those who currently benefit from the IWC’s rather anachronistic way of functioning and the veil of secrecy which surrounds that outdated process. Hence, when the UK’s resolution was reached as an item on the agenda earlier today, then tabled at the last minute after having morphed into a

European Union resolution that had gained the backing of other EU member countries, it caused something of a meltdown among delegates on the floor of the meeting. There had already been highly vocal complaints asserting some IWC member countries who wished to attend the meeting had not been able to do so because of UK visa delays, the grandstanding implication being the delays were intentional… However this gambit did allow the question of whether or not major decisions should be taken in their absence to be raised. The visa issue, which could have proved a major sticking point, was solved after some frantic investigation by the UK, which was able to report back that only two member countries which applied for visas had been unable to attend – Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau.

The UK delegation, determined to see the paper discussed and adopted while momentum for success was high and their Minister, Richard Benyon MP, was present, continually came up against delay after delay as opposing member countries made procedural complaints, based mainly around the validity of tabling the paper as an EU proposal.

Despite the Chair ruling that an EU proposal was acceptable, St Kitts and Nevis argued vehemently against this, until a short break was called to try to resolve the issue. This led to an intense discussion between the St Kitts delegation and the UK Minister, with dozens of delegates crowding around them. Finally the Chair announced that the meeting would proceed with discussion of the EU paper; Only for another intervention to be made by the Russian delegation on another point of order questioning the validity of an EU proposal at IWC.

Another break was called and another heated debate continued between the opposing sides. With no easy resolution in sight, the Chair eventually called for a private meeting with the Commissioners. As bemused delegates waited around, it was finally signalled that the main meeting was over for the day and would reopen in the morning. When the meeting resumes Wednesday morning with discussion of the effectiveness paper, no-one can predict exactly what will happen, other than it is likely to be anything but boring… Check back for more from the floor of this year’s IWC meeting later today. -- RM 

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales