As discussed in the October 2008 issue of the Cetacean Society International's newsletter, the meetings of the Small Working Group (SWG) On the Future of the IWC do not allow NGO representatives to observe (much less participate) in their meetings. Tensions within the IWC have been running high, with pro-whaling countries threatening to withdraw if the commission does not become more amenable to their demands, and this commission purports to resolve some of the issues between pros and antis. The CSI newsletter quotes the chair of the SWG, Ambassador Alvaro de Soto as saying somewhat disdainfully in reference to the closed-door issue, "The dogs (NGOs) will bark, but the caravan (IWC) moves on." The IWC insists that the meetings aren't secret, but they're clearly worried that an NGO presence will have a negative impact on the process. Perhaps they decided that they'd rather make decisions and put off dealing with NGO protests. Would that really solve anything? The issue of whaling provokes such strong feelings on both sides that leaving NGOs (and the public) out of the decisionmaking process might only serve to heighten anger.
ASOC submitted a paper on the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary at the last open IWC meeting in June, and hopes the IWC will continue to consider taking the actions we proposed, including the development of a comprehensive management plan for the sanctuary and the funding of research on whale populations.