Happiness after an International Whaling Commission meeting- A FIRST!

by Phil Kline

September 19, 2014

The Humpback whale is at sea, in its natural environment.

© Scott Portelli / Greenpeace

The International Whaling Commission met this past week in Portoroz, Slovenia. This was the seventh meeting Ive attended as an observer, and for the first time, I left an IWC meeting HAPPY that whale and dolphin conservation has taken a step forward – truly a historic event.

The IWC is extremely polarized, very much like our current Congress. The competing interests of the pro-whaling nations versus the nations prioritizing whale conservation has left this institution in gridlock for years. This years multiple gains for whale and dolphin conservation is a fabulous achievement.

While a proposal to set up a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) in the South Atlantic failed, it gained more support than it has in previous years. For the first time ever we had multiple African nations step up to the plate and either not oppose or, in the case of Gabon, support the creation of this sanctuary, which is heavily opposed by pro-whaling Japan and its allies. Thanks to the 70 thousand Greenpeace supporters who signed on to a letter to Tanzanias president, Tanzania turned away from Japan and did not oppose SAWS. We didnt quite make it this year, but momentum towards this Sanctuary is building

For decades the pro-whaling nations have blocked any discussions of small cetaceans (dolphins) and only allowed the IWC to focus on the large whales species that are a target of their hunting. That changed this year with the passage of a resolution introduced by Monaco that directs the IWC to share data and information on dolphins and porpoises with other international bodies – it is a huge step to now include all cetacean species in IWC processes.

Another achievement at this meeting was recognizing that civil society has a legitimate right to be included in discussions and debate. A resolution that allows for NGO participation also passed this week, meaning that we’re now given the opportunity to comment during plenary on all agenda items – for the first time in the history of the IWC the voices of the world’s millions of whale lovers are in the room.

Japan’s endless push to restart commercial whaling in their coastal waters was soundly defeated once again.

The biggest achievement at this year’s meeting was the passage of a Resolution introduced by New Zealand that enshrines the recent International Court of Justice judgement that held Japan’s so-called research whaling in the whale sanctuary around Antarctica was not scientific research and directed them to stop.

The NZ resolution places many new restrictions and reviews on any future permits for scientific whaling, calls for the use of non-lethal research wherever possible, and if a permit for scientific whaling is granted that the data gathered is necessary for the conservation and management of whale stocks. It also requires review and comments from the IWC’s scientific committee before requiring a review by the full IWC plenary. All of this adds up to the granting of any new scientific permits to be a transparent process setting a very high bar.

READ the New Zealand resolution

We didn’t get all we wanted and there’s still years of work ahead, but global Whale and dolphin conservation has moved significantly forward at this year’s IWC meeting.

For me, this is first time ever, after an IWC meeting I’m traveling home HAPPY!

To all of our supporters THANK YOU for taking action and helping to make these wins possible – SAVE THE WHALES!

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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