Guest blog from Sara Holden, our International whales campaign coordinator
Just a few minutes before the opening of the 61st International Whaling Commission meeting, a large rat was seen scuttling through the hotel and out the door. As metaphors go, it was a good one. The IWC meeting venue is another. Hosted at a casino hotel in Madeira, Portugal, it is fast becoming apparent that anyone betting on a good outcome for the whales is unlikely to win.
After 12 months of talking and achieving nothing of substance, the smart money says another 12 months of talking is the only thing on the cards.
At the opening of the meeting, the organisers of the IWC announced that they hoped there would be no voting, no surprises and that resolutions that might only pass by a small majority should not be encouraged.
What is most shocking is not the vast amount of time, money, carbon spent bringing everyone together in order to not vote, but there isn’t a small majority at the IWC this year. In some years the balance of power rests on a knife edge between those who want to take the IWC into the 21st century, stop whaling and address the modern threats to whales and those who want to maintain a 19th century outlook and continue to hunt whales.
But this year the numbers are in our favour – roughly a 60/40 split.
So, with the odds stacked in their favour you would imagine the whale warriors of Europe, the Americas and Australasia, armed with their mandate to protect the whales would rise up, charge forward and ensure that votes are cast for the protection of whales
They will all say that politics is more complicated than that and diplomacy is a careful art in order to get what you want. But I would willingly bet if the pro whaling faction had the majority they would be using it to ram through all kinds of reforms to reach their aim of hunting whales.
So instead, here we sit – on a dormant volcano –in the sure knowledge that nothing will happen.
The head on the IWC – Bill Hogarth – is retiring this year. He has told the Commission that the achievement of which he is most proud is that the delegates are now talking nicely with each other. Yesterday he asked if delegates would write a message on an IWC flag for him to take as a memento – I leave it up to you to suggest a message...