This is from our man Dave Walsh at the IWC meeting in Chile ...
Most of the Greenpeace team arrived last week - our IWC stalwart John Frizell, Thilo on politics, Karen, the head of Oceans at Greenpeace, Leandra, our scientist, Milko, Latin American coordinator, Rob from Greenpeace Australia. Already here, of course, were the fantastic team from Greenpeace Chile, especially Sam, Melissa, Rodrigo, Luis and Sergio.
This was always going to be a weird IWC - after years of deadlock between the pro-whaling and pro-conservation counties, IWC60 (this one) was supposed have an atmosphere of respect, peacemaking and reconciliation. This boils down to a kind of polite standoff, where everyone more or less agrees not to attack one another. Until, of course, someone else attacks first...
The meeting kicked off on Monday morning with an introduction from the chairman, William Hogarth and the Chilean environment minister. However, by the coffee break, chairman Hogarth, Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, and commissioners from Brazil, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile were outside the hotel, surrounded by a couple of hundred very excited young Chilean Ocean Defenders. Bill Hogarth cut the ribbon to announce the inauguration of a "whale kingdom", the Ocean Defenders celebration of the new Chilean whale sanctuary. The kids also called for the release of the Tokyo Two; our two colleagues, Junichi and Toru who are currently in prison in Japan, for exposing the government's whale meat scandal.
Later in the morning, Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet signed the whale sanctuary into being with another group of young Ocean Defenders at the former whaling town of Quintay, on the coast.
The creation of the Chilean sanctuary is a great boost for whale conservation in Latin America, especially with the pro-conservation countries again trying to get the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary approved by the IWC. Let's hope the organisation takes President Bachelet's example, by modernising the organisation into one that works for the whales, not the whalers.
Since then, there's not been an awful lot of going on here, except for those who are IWC junkies. A closed meeting of commissioners yesterday decided that meetings throughout the next year to decide the future of the IWC will not allow any observers, including NGOs, media or anyone else, to attend. This doesn't inspire confidence. In other modern fora like this, NGOs and observers are an integral ingredient of the process, so it's pretty deplorable that the IWC has shut us out."
However, we hope something good comes out of these meetings, and that the commission transforms itself into a body that protects the whales and not the whalers. While commissioners sit in rooms talking, whales are still dying in the Southern Ocean and around the world from commercial whaling, ship strikes, sonar-related deaths, netting and pollution amongst other human-induced hazards.
Another update on the way...