Thursday, August 18, 2011

There's Deals an' Deals

Dr. Sidney Holt is ASOC's representative at meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and has decades of IWC experience. The following guest blog by Dr. Holt analyzes the various proposals for a "deal" between pro- and anti-whaling countries.  

In blogs I wrote after the IWC meeting in Agadir, Morocco last year I voiced concern ( about the continued presence, within the walls of the International Whaling Commission, of the Trojan Horse containing the ‘elements of a ‘deal’ that was being touted at an inter-sessional IWC meeting in Florida and at the Agadir meeting, where – thankfully – it failed to attract sufficient support. There are still those who like the idea of a capitulation by conservationists (unusually, the supporters of law and order in the ocean realm) and I wonder now what ‘elements’ are still lurking in there and may be secretly re-grouping.

So I thought to get in first, publicly, with my suggestions for a fair deal, that is one that would be a fair compromise, not legitimising illegitimate practices as did the original mother-lode. So, here goes:

Demands for action by the Objectionables (that is the three nations that continue commercial whaling in defiance of what are supposed to be valid and binding IWC decisions – Japan, Norway and Iceland:

1. Withdraw your objections to IWC decisions. That means, for Norway, your objection to the 1985 decision that the Northeast Atlantic minke whale stock was depleted and classified as a Protection Stock (PS) with zero catch limit until such time as it may be shown to have recovered.

For Japan withdraw your objection to the inclusion of the minke whale as being one of the species protected by the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (SOWS).

2. To Iceland: withdraw your invalid, so-called ‘reservation’ to the 1982 global moratorium on commercial whaling. You only got it through by virtue of a casting vote by the Swedish Chairman of the IWC at the Special Meeting of the IWC in Cambridge at which you were re-admitted to Membership of the IWC, where he was following the general policy of the Nordic Group of IWC members. A majority of IWC Members (if one excepts Japan’s Vote Consolidation Project crowd) have filed formal objections to that ‘reservation’, regarding it as entirely invalid, flatly contrary to the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 (ICRW) under which the IWC exists.

3. All Objectionables to withdraw their reservations to Appendix I listings of the whales under CITES, which prohibit international trade in all commodities procured from those species.

4. Japan: cease, immediately, all commercial killing of minke whales and others in the SOWS under the guise of conducting scientific research, and marketing the meat from those already killed.

5. All Objectionables and their allies to cease blocking the efforts of Latin American and other Southern Hemisphere countries from declaring the South Atlantic as a whale sanctuary. When it come up at the next meeting in Panama, as is scheduled, either vote for it or at least abstain from voting or adopt the occasional Norwegian tactic of simply leaving the room.

In return the Unobjectionables would offer to do the following:

1. Support, or at least abstain from opposing, proposals for opening commercial whaling for fin and minke whales by Iceland, minke whales by Norway and minke whales by Japan, and setting annual catch limits in strict accordance with the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) as was accepted by the Commission in accordance with the consensus advice from the Scientific Committee. That means not by using the unacceptable Norwegian unofficial version of the RMP that allows whalers to kill several times more whales in the first years of its applications than would the official and tested RMP. If you still want to ‘adjust’ the RMP parameters then you first have ensure that any modifications are thoroughly tested by the SC and that the amended, retuned version is then adopted by the SC by consensus.

2. Refrain from proposing any more whale sanctuaries for the time being.

3. Stay quiet for three more years about the need for the IWC to regulate the killing of medium-sized cetaceans that are undoubtedly ‘whales’ in common understanding, that is to say the narwhal, beluga, the pilot whales and the bottlenose whales other than the already protected North Atlantic species.

In return the Members of IWC that are also members of the European Union might agree to warmly welcome Iceland into the EU AND refrain from seeking to expel Denmark from the EU for allowing the continued killing of narwhals, pilot whales and belugas, and marketing export of commodities from them in and from its dependent territories.

I have heard rumours of another suggestion that could be examined with the Commission’s usual thoroughness and sense of quid pro quo. That is to allow Japanese scientists to kill minke whales, and perhaps also Bryde’s whales in the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary. As a reward for their refraining from sampling minke whales in the Antarctic within the SOWS. As Ms Hisa Anana, an adviser to the Government of Japan on the whaling question, whose minority report advocated cessation of ‘scientific whaling’, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, according to reporter Andrew Darby writing from Hobart :  “I think they have gathered enough scientific data”.

Of course the old Nisshin Maru, which won’t do much longer for work in the Antarctic, would make an excellent, if small, mother-ship for the Somali pirates operating in the Sanctuary, though I think they are harassing the whales that gather around the Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that abound in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Seychelles.

Point 1 above – re-authorizing some renewed commercial whaling under stringent conditions - goes against my deeply held prejudices: I think that the inevitable cruelty of the commercial hunts is the single, undeniable argument for the complete and permanent cessation of all commercial whaling. After so much talk about animal welfare in the IWC it is, I think, worth recalling what the hunts with explosive harpoon heads are really like. Dr Harry Lilly, who traveled on board a British factory ship, as medical officer, in the early days after the end of WWII, provided a graphic and most disturbing description. In his 1955 book about his experiences, “The Path through Penguin City”. This wonderful book has long been out of print but I have a copy and I intend to recall part of Lilly’s account in my next blog, along with a moving statement about our relationship with the animal kingdom by a perceptive and compassionate American woman, Alice Morgan Wright, when she returned home from a UN General Assembly at Lake Succees, NY in 1949. (Before the UN moved to its shiny new HQ in Manhattan.

Sensitive readers may want to forgo reading Blog 9. But for those who do, please be aware that Lillie’s harrowing account of a fin whale chase and kill by a British vessel in the Antarctic so long ago differed in no substantial respect from what Icelandic whalers are doing right now to the same species in the North Atlantic.

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