John Frizell - Greenpeace International whales campaigner writes from the IWC meeting in Morocco,
Greenpeace campaigners at international meetings usually find themselves crammed into chairs at the back trying to listen to the proceedings, read stacks of documents, write talking points and spot the right people to lobby. But not this time. Until this morning, we have found ourselves locked out of the meeting room so the participants can negotiate over the fate of the whales without being watched by pesky NGOs. It hasn’t produced much in the way of results. One participant described the negotiations as ‘cheerful , pleasant and meaningless’.
The fact we know this should be a hint that locking us out was a waste of time. But in the relative quiet, I’ve been reading the parts of the IWC’s report I usually don’t have time for.
The scientists who have been studying a critically endangered population of humpback whales in the Arabian sea and South Africa recommended that a budget be agreed for the Conservation Committee to develop a conservation plan to protect them and ensure their recovery. The Scientific Committee identified a seismic survey due to generate very loud sounds in the feeding habitat of the Western grey whales which are critically endangered, with only 28 breeding females left, at the height of the feeding and calving season, stating extreme concern and asking for the survey to be called off.
The Conservation committee is exploring everything from speed limits to acoustic warnings to help the Atlantic right whale which still teeters on the edge of extinction due to due to ship strikes.
The working group on whale watching is finding ways to make the billion dollar a year whale watching industry sustainable.
The list goes on...
Behind the scenes, the conservation minded scientists and countries are working to protect the most endangered whales and ensure their recovery. But they are given little in terms of the IWC’s resources or budget because the received wisdom is that the core business of the IWC is setting quotas to kill whales. Everyone wants to talk about quotas.
Whale conservation is the future -- not whaling. The rumor tonight is - now that the closed door talks have failed we will be allowed back in tomorrow. Perhaps with killing whales off the agenda for the rest of this year - the IWC can devote itself to whale conservation for the final 3 days of the meeting. Perhaps the future will start tomorrow.