The last post from Dave at the IWC meeting...
At last... IWC60, also known as the 60th International Whaling Commission meeting, is now over.
I started writing blog in the press room yesterday, while listening to the incredible (and often entertaining) rhetoric emanating from the pro-whaling nations, especially those whose votes have been "purchased" by Japan. The matter at stake today was a proposed expansion of Greenland's quota, to add 10 humpback whales to the quota of 200 minke, 19 fin and 2 bowhead whales already hunted annually. Alas, while Greenland's hunt supposedly falls under the definition of aboriginal subsistence whaling, it's becoming clear to Greenpeace - as well as other organisations like WSPA - that it's anything but; Greenland clearly doesn't need the whale meat it demands for local, subsistence use - much of it ends up in Greenland's supermarkets, for commercial sale, which means it's not fulfilling the IWC definition of "subsistence".
In the end, Denmark's request for a quota increase failed to get a 75% majority - losing 36 to 29. Most of the countries opposed it on the basis that Denmark had failed to do its homework fully before submitting the proposal (they could have come back next year and asked again); however, by the way the pro-whaling countries start ranting, including the countries that have had their vote bought by Japan, you'd think it was the apocalypse - one esteemed speaker (I don't recall where from) started pontificating about Greenlanders begging on the streets of Europe. Which is a little over the top.
The bigger picture here, however, is that factions of the IWC's pro-whaling contingent used this vote to throwing the rattle out of the pram, moaning about how the IWC has let them down, when in fact, they're the ones that are causing the upset. As I type this, Japan's spokesman, Joji Morishita says that "I feel like we're back where we were a year ago, in Anchorage". You're not the only one, Joji, but you could try foster more positive vibes in your camp.
In other news, one of the highlights (for want of a better term) of Wednesday was a lunchtime presentation by Japan (led by the one and only Joji Morishita) of their dubious science - especially memorable was the scientific paper that scrolled by rapidly on the screen as proof of "science", raising titters from the floor. During the question and answer session, Australian scientist Nick Gales and our John Frizell questioned Japan's findings, demonstrating that they were at odds with the findings of the IWC's own scientific committee. For instance Japan's insistence that humpback and minke whales were in "competition" for Antarctic Krill was dissected using a smart analogy incorporating the local drink here in Chile - Pisco Sour. Dr Gales suggested that if both he and Joji were drinking Pisco Sour, and there's a considerable about of Pisco Sour in Chile, then then they are not automatically in competition - after all, they're not about to drink it all themselves, we would hope.
Greenpeace head of oceans, Karen Sack, raised her hand, to ask a question (several speakers from Carribean nations got very excited as they thought she was speaking for Tanzania, and looks crestfallen when she said "Greenpeace"!
Karen: How does the unloading of boxes of whale meat from the Nisshin Maru, taken by the crew, contribute to research?
Joji: I don't think that is a scientific question.
Karen: I don't think that is scientific research.
Mr Morishita then declined to answer the question at all.
Later in the day, our campaigner from Japan, Wakao, represented Greeneace, as one of several non-governmental organisations chose to take the floor to the IWC - something that hasn't happened in several years.
In his speech, he said:
"All parties to this Convention need to take action this week towards turning that tide, so that in 2068, if perhaps one of our children is a Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, it will be possible for him or her to address this body saying:"
"'This Commission will be known to history as a body which rose to the occasion and became an instrument of conservation which brought back whale species from the brink of extinction and led the way for the protection of marine biodiversity so that we can be proud of the clean, healthy and vital oceans that we have today.'"
A stranger moment came earlier in the day, when the Russian Federation's commissioner launched into a rather weird tirade, comparing Japan's position at the IWC to that of the astronomer Copernicus, who was burned at the stake. This, said the Commissioner, was the beginning of the non-governmental organisation movement - and that NGOs today were trying to "push Japan into the fire". The only thing is, Copernicus didn't die at the stake, he died in his bed at the ripe old age of 70 (pretty amazing for the 16th century). According to Wikipedia: "He is reputed to have woken from a stroke-induced coma, looked at his book, and died peacefully."
What the hell is Mr Ilyashenko talking about? Yesterday, he made an intervention discussing the fact that Spain were two-up on Russia in Euro 2008, before describing the boto - the Amazon river dolphin as being as "beautiful as a young woman". I can't help thinking that something was lost in the translation.
Making plenty more sense was our own IWC expert John Frizell, quoted by Andrew Darby, in The Age:
Japan called on its opponents to give a little ground so it could move, in a cautious invitation to negotiate over the whaling divide.
After making a concession by suspending the kill of Australian humpbacks, the Asian power wants anti-whaling nations to make concessions themselves, its chief negotiator, Joji Morishita, said. "What do we get?" Mr Morishita asked The Age. "We would like to see something from the other side, then it will be easier for us to take the next step."
The request represents one of the few signs that Japan might ultimately negotiate to resolve the whaling dispute.
Long-time observers were wary of the offer. "It's like a burglar who comes to your house again, stands on the doorstep, and says, 'If you give me something then I won't rob you this time,"' said John Frizzell, of Greenpeace International.
Finally, while we're pleased that the 80 IWC governments have managed to agree on establishing a process to figure out the IWC's future, they shouldn't forget that they have a real, immediate responsibility for the protection and future well-being of all species whales large and small - including the vulnerable boto, the Critically Endangered vaquita of Mexico, and critcally endangered populations of Irrawaddy dolphin.
This week's meeting here in Santiago have no indication that whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary will be safe from the Japanese whaling fleet's harpoons or that whales and dolphins around the world are any safer from underwater noise, pollution, from entanglement in fishing nets, from ship strikes or the myriad other human-induced threats, including climate change. We would be much happier if all members countries of the IWC started acted as one to protect dolphins and whales.
Over and out from Santiago...