Sustainable Use Countries Score Major Victory at IWC
Contact: Earl Bousquet
By a majority of one vote, the IWC's members adopted a “Declaration of Saint Kitts and Nevis” which urged the IWC to return to its original mandate or regulating whaling, rather than seeking to stop it.
The Declaration, proposed by the host country and backed by Japan, was supported by Caribbean, African, Pacific and mainly other developing states. But it also received key backing from other key IWC member-states, including Norway, Iceland and the Russian Federation.
Japan's Deputy IWC Commissioner, Joji Morishita, says it's a “victory” for the backers of sustainable use, but sought to assure the critics that it did not automatically mean a return to commercial whaling, which will require a three-quarters majority vote.
Morishita said any future resumption of commercial whaling would be on a smaller basis than the past.
He said it would have to be a combination of “the beginning of sustainable whaling, plus protection of depleted and endangered species.”
But the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil – all of which opposed the Declaration – have said they will seek to overturn it – even if it does not mean an automatic return to commercial whaling.
New Zealand's Environment Minister, Chris Clarke, said it was “the most serious defeat the conservation cause has ever suffered at the IWC.”
Brazil and New Zealand said the would oppose the declaration, with the Brazilian delegate seeking – after the vote – to question the credentials of Iceland.
But while the losers baulked, the winners declared this to be the first major victory for pro-sustainable use countries.
The Declaration argued that “use of cetaceans in many parts of the world, including the Caribbean, contributes to sustainable coastal communities, sustainable livelihoods, food security and poverty reduction.”
It emphasised that “placing the use of whales outside the context of the globally accepted norm of science-based management and rule-making for emotional reasons would set a bad precedent that risks our use of fisheries and other renewable resources.”
The document recalled that the purpose of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) is to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.
As such, the Declaration states, “the IWC is therefore about managing whaling to ensure whale stocks are not over-harvested, rather than protecting all whales irrespective of their abundance.”
It noted that in 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling, but “without advice from the IWC's Scientific Committee that such a measure was required for conservation purposes.”
Much to the chagrin of the anti-whaling lobby, the declaration noted that “the moratorium, which was intended as a temporary measure, is no longer necessary as the IWC's Scientific committee has agreed that many species and stocks of whales are abundant and sustain able whaling is possible.”
The document expressed the concern of its backers that ”after fourteen years of discussion and negotiation, the IWC has failed to complete and implement a management regime to regulate commercial whaling.”
It accepted that “scientific research has shown that whales consume huge quantities of fish, making the issue a matter of food security for coastal nations...”
The Declaration rejected as “unacceptable” that “international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with self-interest campaigns should use threats in an attempt to direct government policy on matters of sovereign rights related to the use of resources for food security and national development.”
It noted that the position of some IWC member-states opposed to the resumption of commercial whaling on a sustainable basis irrespective of the status of whale stocks “is contrary to the objective and purpose of the ICRW.”
The Declaration said, however, that “the IWC can be saved from collapse only by implementing conservation and management measures which will allow controlled and sustainable whaling which would not mean a return to historic over-harvesting and that continuing failure to do so serves neither the interests of whale conservation nor management.”
Based on all of the above factors, the majority of IWC Commissioners expressed, through the Declaration, their “concern that the IWC has failed to meet its obligations under the terms of the ICRW.”
The majority of Commissioners also declared “our commitment to normalizing the functions of the IWC, based on the terms of the ICRW and other relevant international law, respect for cultural diversity and traditions of coastal peoples and the fundamental principles of sustainable use of resources and the need for science-based policy and rule-making that are accepted as the world standard for the management of marine resources.”
The declaration was originally proposed by the host country (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and backed by its Caribbean neighbours, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Grenada.
It was also originally backed by Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Kiribati, Mali, the Marshall island, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, the Russian Federation, Solomon Islands, Togo and Tuvalu.
The meeting continues Monday and ends Tuesday evening.
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