Whaling meeting ends in failure after shutting out NGOs and media

Posted on 30 June 2010
The recent IWC meeting failed to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.
The recent IWC meeting failed to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.
© Chad Graham/WWF CanadaEnlarge
The 62nd annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting ended with governments failing to reach an agreement on a proposed package on whaling.

The IWC took the unprecedented decision to open discussions at this year’s meeting behind closed doors, shutting out civil society and members of the news media. The Commission also did not allow NGOs to speak until late Thursday.

Negotiations fell apart on a proposal by the Commission’s Chair that attempted to reduce current whaling and bring it under the IWC’s control. WWF did not support the proposal as drafted, but was urging the IWC to find a solution that would at a minimum eliminate whaling in the Southern Ocean, a critical whale feeding ground, and halt whaling of threatened species.

“The IWC has been at a standstill for several years now. While the Chair’s proposal was not acceptable as drafted, we are left with a situation in which yet again, Japan’s whaling fleet will kill hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean in the name of ‘science’,” said Wendy Elliott, WWF International Species Manager.

“At this IWC meeting, politics have yet again won over the conservation of whales. The IWC’s commercial whaling ban was one of the greatest conservation achievements of our time, saving many whale species from the brink of extinction.

“But that decision was made more than 20 years ago. It is time for the IWC to become relevant again and step up to its responsibility to help save these majestic animals that are so crucial to the health of our oceans.

“This year has been a disaster for marine species, mainly driven by a complete disregard for scientific advice by some governments. Only three months ago, the international community failed to agree on critical protection for several marine species at the meeting of the United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), including an urgently needed international ban on commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

“This trend of failure to protect our marine environment must be reversed, or everyone, not just fishing and whaling countries, will be in deep trouble as the oceans are emptied.”

“The international community must implement a science-based recovery and management plan for the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery at the next meeting of its management body, the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, in November” Elliott said.

Some conservation achievements were made this week - for example the Commission decided to investigate the impacts of oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic, a critical initiative in the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This kind of work is the real future of the IWC,” Elliott said.

Mammadou Diallo from WWF's office in Dakar suggested to the Commission that a speaking mechanism is adopted similar to other international conventions such as CITES, where the NGOs participate in the decision-making through interventions on agenda items after governments speak.

"The IWC should consider creating a sponsorship programme for delegates from developing countries to avoid further allegations of vote-buying, such as those published in media reports prior to this week’s meeting," said Diallo.

The recent IWC meeting failed to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.
The recent IWC meeting failed to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.
© Chad Graham/WWF Canada Enlarge