South Atlantic whale sanctuary fails to pass at IWC

by Meena Hussein

July 2, 2012

Despite overwhelming public support and powerful speeches from supporting countries, the IWC failed to pass the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary this afternoon. This comes to me as a big disappointment after yesterday’s great showing of enthusiasm for the whale sanctuary.

Yesterday, hundreds of people joined together to save the whales. We formed an aerial whale image of a humpback whale with the word “Santuario” (spanish for ‘sanctuary’), asking countries from all over the world that are here for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to see the overwhelming support for whale conservation.

This morning, I handed the U.S. delegation your signatures. Over 52,000 of you signed our petition, asking President Obama and the U.S. delegation to support a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic. Well, they definitely heard your voice! The U.S. delegation voted in favor of a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic, and tweeted their disappointment when the vote did not pass. (Side note: they really loved our inflatable whales too!)

The US delegation at the IWC receives over 52,000 signatures in support of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

After I handed in your petition letters, I went outside to hang our “Sanctuary Now!” and “Santuario Ya!” banners next to the back entrance. I also met up with Surfers for Cetaceans, who had so many beautiful banners full of hand prints for people in favor of the whale sanctuary. We were all in great spirits, and enthusiastic about whale conservation.

Our "Sanctuary Now!" banner next to the Panamanian flags at the IWC conference center.

Surfers for Cetaceans demand South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

A couple hours later, I was disappointed to see the vote did not pass because of outdated IWC rules. About 69% of the member countries showed up for the vote, and voted 38 yes and 21 no in favor of the sanctuary. According to IWC rules, there needs to be a 3/4 majority in order for a vote to be valid. Oh did I mention they haven’t voted on anything in years? Yeah, I wonder why.

Corruption in the IWC is nothing new. For years, Greenpeace and other NGOs have exposed bribery, vote buying, and corruption in the IWC rules and regulations. Once again, the IWC has failed to protect whales and instead protect whalers. The whales have lost out to political bargaining by Japan and its allies.

Even though today was a disappointment, I will remain optimistic. All of the countries that were within the range of the whale sanctuary voted in favor of it, which is a great show of support. Today may not have been the happiest day for whales, but I know that day is coming soon.

A handmade banner asking for the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, from Surfers for Cetaceans.

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