| Day 1 21 June 2010 | Day 2 22 June 2010 | Day 3 23 June 2010 | Day 4 24 June 2010 | Day 5 25 June 2010 |
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 1 - 21 JUNE 2010
Proceedings of the 62nd Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission, held in Agadir at the kind invitation of the Government of Morocco, began yesterday with speeches of welcome by the Deputy Mayor of Agadir and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Marine Fisheries.
There are three new members to the Commission bringing the total to 88, of which 69 were present on the first day. The full list of member countries can be found HERE. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Anthony Liverpool, Vice-Chair of the Commission in the absence of the Commission’s Chair Ambassador Cristian Maquieira who was unable to attend for reasons of ill health. The Commission sent its best wishes for a speedy recovery and looks forward to welcoming him back in the future. Ambassador Liverpool noted the importance of the meeting given the ongoing discussions on the future of the IWC on which he hoped that a consensus resolution could be found. He looked forward to the same level of co-operation and desire for consensus that had characterised recent meetings. After adopting the Agenda he described his proposals for how to progress the discussions on IWC’s future.
He noted that for almost a quarter of a century, the very different views on whales and whaling held by members have dominated IWC’s discussions to the detriment of its effectiveness and that to resolve these difficulties is not easy.
Since the Annual Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2007, he recalled the significant level of intersessional activity representing an enormous amount of time and resources by all members of the Commission and demonstrating a real commitment to trying to arrive at a consensus solution to the problems IWC faces so that the IWC can become as relevant, credible and effective a conservation and management body as possible.
Ambassador Liverpool recalled the consensus resolution passed last year in Madeira in which members agreed to intensify efforts to resolve IWC’s problems by this meeting in Agadir at the latest and referred to the Proposed Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales released by himself and Ambassador Maquieira in April as a basis for discussions. He believed that there is no doubt that efforts have been intensified and noted that members are still working very hard on the issue.
Given that this Annual Meeting is the first time that all member governments have been together since Madeira, he stressed the need for all members to be involved in the negotiation process. He referred to the two days of open meetings last week at which both member governments and NGOs participated in a constructive manner and noted that he was working to incorporate these ideas but that this takes time, with some issues being easier to deal with than others.
Because of the great importance of this work, Ambassador Liverpool informed the meeting that the Commissioners had agreed to devote as much time as possible to the intense negotiations needed to try to reach a final consensus solution. They had also agreed that a new negotiating paradigm involving all members was required and had established a number of negotiating groups that would meet in closed sessions.
To allow for these sessions, the Commissioners agreed to a timetable to complete its Agenda that included the suspension of the Plenary Session until Wednesday morning when open proceedings allowing full discussion would recommence.
Ambassador Liverpool announced that he would issue a short press release on Tuesday morning to keep everyone informed of progress. The plenary meeting was then adjourned.
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PRESS RELEASE - DAY 2 - 22 JUNE 2010
Negotiation sessions among ten groups took place during yesterday and are continuing today. The groups involved are the African nations, the Buenos Aires Group (of Latin American countries), the European Union, Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, small island developing states and two further groups – one comprising Australia, Israel, Monaco, New Zealand, Oman, and the USA, and the other comprising Denmark, the Russian Federation and Switzerland.
The groups reported to a private meeting of Commissioners this morning. All groups reported that their discussions so far had been very useful, had lead to a fuller understanding of respective views and been conducted in a very cordial and respectful manner. The opportunity for all countries to engage in negotiations was welcomed.
The Commission will reconvene in plenary tomorrow at 09.00 when a fuller report on progress with negotiations will be made and discussed. An NGO session is planned for the afternoon providing an additional opportunity for their input. It is anticipated that negotiations will continue during the week.
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PRESS RELEASE - DAY 3 - 23 JUNE 2010
The Commission reconvened in Plenary and began by discussing Item 3, Future of the IWC.
The Chair of the Meeting, Ambassador Liverpool, summarised the work undertaken over the previous two days by the negotiation groups referred to in yesterday’s Press Release. Almost 30 negotiating sessions were held. All groups reported that their discussions were valuable and been conducted in a very cordial and respectful manner, despite the fact that in a number of cases their fundamental positions remained very far apart.
The Commission agreed that while it was very close to agreement on a number of issues within the proposed consensus decision, there remain major issues upon which more work is required, including such matters as the question of the moratorium, numbers of whales that might be taken, special permit whaling, indigenous whaling, sanctuaries and trade. It also noted documents available on aspects of the Future of the IWC. The Chair of the Meeting, commended the attempts to reach consensus if at all possible. He stressed the need to find a way forward that provides a fair compromise. He noted that all members wanted the organisation to become as relevant, credible and effective a conservation and management body as possible.
The Commission had a full discussion of the progress made and the difficulties encountered during the process. A number of suggestions were made on how to take the issue further during the coming year and beyond; the Chair left the item open for further consideration of a way forward.
The Commission then received the report of the Scientific Committee on the status of whale stocks. New information was received on Antarctic minke whales, North Pacific common minke whales, Southern Hemisphere humpback whales, Southern Hemisphere blue whales and a number of other small stocks of bowhead, right and gray whales. The Committee was particularly pleased to receive positive evidence of increases in abundance for several other stocks of humpback, blue and right whales in the Southern Hemisphere, although several remain at reduced levels compared to their pre-whaling numbers. Information remains lacking for other stocks.
Special attention was paid to the status of the endangered western North Pacific gray whale, whose feeding grounds coincide with oil and gas operations off Sakhalin Island, Russian Federation. The population numbers only about 130 animals. The Committee commends the draft conservation plan for western North Pacific gray whales and Commission members agreed to work together to try to mitigate anthropogenic threats to this endangered population. The Committee also recognised the value of continuing to co-operate with the IUCN Western Gray Whale Advisory Committee and encouraged its continuation beyond 2011. The Committee recommended postponement until next year of a seismic survey planned to be undertaken by Rosneft this summer in an area and at a time when the highest number of gray whales are present.
Ship strikes and entanglements are also a threat to the endangered western North Atlantic right whale population which numbers around 300. The Commission agrees again that anthropogenic mortality should be reduced to zero as soon as possible.
The Commission endorsed the report of the Scientific Committee and its recommendations on whale stocks.
The Commission has on several occasions (examples: Resolution 2006-2 and Resolution 2007-2) strongly condemned dangerous activity in the Southern Ocean. This year, the Commission was disturbed to receive reports of an escalation of such behaviour. Progress on attempts to deal with this problem, which potentially can endanger human life, property and the ecosystem were discussed.
The Commission then received reports from a number of countries on animal welfare issues related to whales and whaling. These ranged from information on the most appropriate methods for euthanasia for stranded animals to information on killing methods and hunting information from a number of countries.
The Commission also received and endorsed the report of an IWC workshop on welfare issues associated with euthanasia and the entanglement of large whales that was held in Maui, Hawai’i, in April 2010. The workshop considered a number of issues related to the entanglement of large whales which it considers to be a global and increasing problem and IWC member nations are urged to intensify efforts to properly determine the extent of the problem and to find effective mitigation measures. The establishment of trained disentanglement response teams, particularly in areas where depleted populations are found, is recommended. A decision tree has been developed to assist in determining whether disentanglement or euthanasia is the most appropriate option, if it can be done safely and humanely. For stranded large whales, euthanasia is usually the most humane option. The workshop also made a number of research recommendations.
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PRESS RELEASE - DAY 4 - 24 JUNE 2010
The Commission began the day by discussing the Revised Management Scheme. The only activity presently undertaken is the Scientific Committee’s work on the Revised Management Procedure. This year, the Committee clarified a number of issues in the specifications of the RMP and completed the first stage of its work to assess western North Pacific common minke whales. Details can be found in the Committee’s report. Commission work on the RMS ceased in 2007, when it was accepted that an impasse had been reached at the Commission level on RMS discussions. However, the issue has been one of those raised in conjunction with the discussions on the ‘Future of the IWC’.
The Commission then turned to the question of sanctuaries. The Conservation Committee received reports from the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (www.icmmpa.org). It also received information on MPAs from CCAMLR and work by France in the EEZs of its territories in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean.
The Commission briefly considered information on special permit whaling. The Scientific Committee now discusses the results of these at periodic reviews and none occurred this year.
The Commission then proceeded to consider environmental and health issues. It will be holding a Scientific Committee workshop on climate change and small cetaceans. The workplan for Phase II of the IWC’s POLLUTION 2000+ programme has now been agreed. The Commission also received reports on a number of other issues such as ecosystem modelling, anthropogenic sound, and work on possible adverse effects on cetaceans of marine renewable energy projects. Details can be found in the Scientific Committee’s report.
The Scientific Committee and the Conservation Committee have been examining candidate species and populations for conservation management plans. The draft plan for western gray whales is considered a model for future plans and was endorsed by the Commission. Other possible candidates for the development of plans include the southern right whales of Chile and Peru and humpback whales in the Arabian Sea.
Those two Committees both consider whalewatching. The Commission had an extensive discussion of this issue, noting that it is important that the expanding whalewatching industry around the world is carefully managed so as not to cause adverse effects on cetaceans. The Scientific Committee is developing a ‘long-term whalewatching experiment’ to obtain information needed to the necessary scientific background to address management issues. The Conservation Committee standing working group on whalewatching will work with the Scientific Committee to prepare a five-year strategic plan for the management of whalewatching. A workshop will be held from 4-6 November 2010 in Buenos Aires.
The Conservation Committee also reviewed progress on the question of ship strikes, including the ship strike database and preparations for a joint IWC/ACCOBAMS workshop to be held in Beaulieu, France in September 2010.
This year, the Scientific Committee had focussed its discussion of small cetaceans of northwestern Africa and eastern tropical waters where especial concern was made of the status of the Atlantic humpback dolphin. In discussing progress on previous recommendations extreme concern was expressed over the status of the critically endangered vaquita in Mexico, conservation concerns were also expressed over the status of the franciscana in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, the Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River, and the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise.
The Commission then turned its attention to indigenous whaling. In the evening it received documents from Denmark and the USA as well as presentation on Greenland’s hunts and its request for a catch of 10 humpback whales. The discussion was held over until Friday.
The Commission also received oral statements from 8 non-governmental organisations.
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PRESS RELEASE - DAY 5 - 25 JUNE 2010
The most important item of morning business was consideration of the request for revised quotas for indigenous whaling in the Greenlandic hunts. A modified request was agreed by consensus although some countries expressed reservation over the humpback whale limit. The revised annual strike limits for West Greenland are 178 common minke whales (down from 200 on the basis of scientific advice), 10 fin whales (down from 19 on a voluntary basis), 2 bowhead whales (as before) and 9 humpback whales (a new quota within scientific advice).
The Commission completed its discussions on the Future of the IWC without reaching a consensus resolution of its main differences. However, it noted that the intense work over the last two years had led to increased understanding of the different views held and an improved atmosphere of trust. It agreed to a pause in its work on this topic to allow time for reflection until the 2011 Annual Meeting.
In closing the meeting, the Commission rose in ovation for the outgoing Secretary to the Commission, Dr Nicky Grandy. The Commissioners unanimously praised her tireless energy, efficiency, warmth, wisdom and good humour whilst running the Secretariat for a decade. She will be missed by all and provided a tremendous example for the incoming Secretary, Dr Simon Brockington.
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Is killing whales the best way to save them?