Spotlight Panama: Day three at the International Whaling Commission meeting

It was good to see day three start off with continuing good discussions on the welfare of whales.  This included a report from the Humane Killing Methods committee which once again failed to find any way of humanely killing whales at sea.

We then moved back into more dangerous waters with a Japanese proposal for small-type coastal whaling.  This proposal would have required a three quarters majority to be successful.  With no such pro-whaling majority at this meeting, Japan was clearly up to something.  Conversation around the water coolers centred on whether it might be a ruse to do with other votes to be taken later in the week.  After much discussion, including a moving presentation from a representative of a Japanese coastal community (should probably say what they were talking about that was moving?), the chairman noted that there was no hope of consensus and deferred the discussion to later.

The next agenda point was the IWC-funded US $24k study on the outcomes of Iceland's scientific whaling, which ended five years ago.  Pro-conservationists suggested there were better ways of spending money.  Pro-whalers thought it an excellent use of funds.  The chair noted a lack of consensus and moved us on once more.

Under the agenda item on Revised Management Plan report, Iceland tried to get a sei whale review but didn't get anywhere.  Then, from just about nowhere, the Republic of Korea announced its intention to begin scientific whaling.  This has been a threat in the wings of the IWC for a number of years, Both sides of the debate lined up to make their points in what became a heated discussion.  In the end the Korean delegation shouted that they didn't particularly care what their opponents thought, they were just informing the IWC of what they proposed to do. 

If Korea plans to keep to the IWC procedure it will need to submit any plan on scientific whaling before the next IWC before it could begin.  It could be all bluster, but Korea could be serious, we will have to wait for next year to find out.  In the meantime the Korean government should expect to be hearing from an awful lot of people.

In the afternoon, Japan made its annual presentation of video and photographic evidence to back up its allegations of dangerous and violent harassment conducted by Sea Shepherd at sea.  This included a clear reproduction of the Sea Shepherd website that says the organisation only uses non-violent harassment.  Japan claimed that its scientific whaling programme had been badly reduced because of Sea Shepherd's activities.  All states that then intervened agreed that they could not condone violent action.  Australia noted that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) might be the best place to raise these concerns rather than the IWC.  Barbuda and Antigua, on the other hand, felt that the IWC was indeed the right forum for this annual discussion of "terrorism".   The Netherlands made an interesting intervention on this subject that majored on its opposition to scientific and commercial whaling and a respect for the right to non-violent demonstrations before finally noting that it condemned violent activities and called for the issue to be handled by the IMO and not the IWC.

Finally delegates considered a number of committee reports that provoked little or no debate.  So, we then came to the end of day three, the first day without a vote...  What tomorrow will bring, we shall see.

-- RM

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