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INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION

57th Annual General Meeting
Ulsan, Korea

PLENARY MEETING - DAY 5 (Friday 24 June)

The primary item of business in the morning was discussion of how to take forward the process of developing a Revised Management Scheme following on from discussions on Tuesday afternoon. Two possible ways forward were presented in draft resolutions. Many countries stated that they were concerned at the length of time the process was taking (so far over 10 years) and they were unhappy with the content of both resolutions since they believed that neither went far enough. This view is reflected in the high number of abstentions on both proposals. The first proposal by Denmark and Korea received 2 votes in favour, 26 against and 27 abstentions. The second proposal from Ireland, South Africa and Germany received 25 votes in favour, 3 against and 28 abstentions and was therefore passed (See Resolution 2005-4).

The rest of the day was dedicated to discussing the report of the Finance and Administration Committee. Matters discussed included simultaneous interpretation at meetings and document translation, frequency of meetings, legal advice within the IWC, financial contributions, and NGO participation.

The Commission was pleased to receive invitations to host the Annual Meeting from the USA (2007), Chile (2008) and Portugal (2009). Next year's meeting will take place in St Kitts and Nevis in May/June.

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PLENARY MEETING - DAY 4 (THURSDAY 23 JUNE)

The primary item of business in the morning was discussion of matters related to socio-economic implications and small-type whaling. Japan gave a presentation on the hardship suffered by its four community-based whaling communities in Japan (Abashiri, Ayukawa, Wadaura and Taiji) as a result of the moratorium and introduced the Shimonoseki Declaration on Traditional Whaling. Last year, the Commission had reaffirmed the Commission's commitment to work expeditiously to alleviate the continued difficulties caused by the cessation of minke whaling (see Resolution 2004-2).

Japan introduced a proposal to allow the taking of up to 150 minke whales from the Okhotsk Sea-West Pacific stock of the North Pacific each year until 2009 or until the quota based on RMS is decided, whichever was earlier. This would have required a three-quarters majority to become effective. In the event, there were 26 votes in favour, 29 votes against and 3 abstentions. Japan decided not to present a similar proposal for a take of up to 150 Bryde's whales.

The Commission then adopted a Resolution encouraging collaborative research on common minke whales off the Korean Peninsula.

The Scientific Committee has expressed great concern, over the critically endangered western gray whale. The population is small (only about 100 whales) and the only known feeding grounds lie along the northeastern coast of Sakhalin Island, where existing and planned oil and gas developments pose potentially catastrophic threats to the population, through habitat damage, ship strikes, noise and oil spills. Five members of the Scientific Committee participated in an Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) under the auspices of IUCN and with the co-operation of the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Limited. The Commission welcomed this report and passed a resolution supporting further efforts to conserve this population.

The Commission then went on to discuss whalewatching issues. The Scientific Committee examined a number of related matters including possible biological impacts of whalewatching on whales and the development of the scientific foundation of whalewatching guidelines.

Notwithstanding the different views of member countries over the legal competence of the IWC to manage small cetaceans, many Contracting Governments continue to co-operate in the consideration of small cetacean issues, particularly with respect to the work of the Scientific Committee. This year the Committee discussed matters related to the status of the finless porpoise, as well as reviewing progress on its previous recommendations on species such as the vaquita, baiji and Dall's porpoise. It was pleased to hear that the Government of Mexico is declaring the highest vaquita concentration area as a refuge.

When adopting the Scientific Committee's report, the Commission warmly thanked the outgoing Chair, Doug DeMaster (USA) and welcomed his successor Arne Bjørge (Norway).

The Commission then discussed the report of the Conservation Committee. There is some disagreement over the establishment and terms of reference for this Committee but the Commission agreed to two of its recommendations: one to develop a research programme to address the issue of inedible ‘stinky' gray whales caught by Chukotkan aboriginal subsistence hunters (see HERE) and the other to make progress on the issue of whales being killed or seriously injured by ship strikes.

Finally, the Commission considered the report of its Infractions Sub-committee. This sub-committee receives reports from Governments concerning any breaches of whaling regulations discovered.

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PLENARY MEETING - DAY 3 (WEDNESDAY 22 JUNE)

The primary item of business was discussion of matters related to aboriginal subsistence whaling. The plenary discussed the report of the sub-committee that had met the previous week. The Commission agreed that no changes were needed to the catch limits presently in force. These are:

West Greenland common minke whales (taken by Greenlanders) - The annual number of whales struck for the years 2003-2007, shall not exceed 175 (up to 15 unused strikes may be carried over each year).

However, there was considerable discussion over the fisheries off West Greenland. This year, the Scientific Committee repeated that it is extremely concerned that it has never been able to provide satisfactory management advice on these stocks due to problems concerning stock identity and abundance (see SC report). It made some strong recommendations for scientific work and urged us to exert considerable caution in setting catch limits for these stocks. There was considerable discussion of this item. The Home Rule Government of Greenland, through the Danish Delegation, voluntarily agreed to reduce its quota of fin whales to 10 animals. It also informed the meeting that it had requested additional funding from parliament for research and that it would initiate a survey in 2006 in co-operation with scientists from the IWC and from NAMMCO.

The next major subject considered concerned scientific permits. Scientific Permits can be issued by Contracting Governments under Article VIII of the Convention.

Two continuing permits were discussed this year. JARPNII is a long-term research programme primarily aimed at feeding ecology in the context of contributing to the ‘conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources in the western North Pacific, especially within Japan's EEZ.' The programme involves the taking of 150 minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales, 50 sei whales and 10 sperm whales in the western North Pacific. A proposed permit by Iceland, primarily for feeding ecology studies for 100 common minke whales, 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales in each of two years was presented two years ago; the research institute had only requested a permit for 39 common minke whales from Iceland this year. Again, as in the past different views on the value of this research were expressed in the Scientific Committee.

The major discussions this year centred on a new proposal by Japan (JARPA II). The previous JARPA programme was an 18 year programme that finished last year. The complete programme will be reviewed by the IWC Scientific Committee in 2006, when all of the data and analyses become available. The stated objectives of the new long-term research programme proposal are:

The proposed catches for the full programme are: 850 (with 10% allowance) Antarctic minke whales, 50 humpback whales (not to begin for two years) and 50 fin whales (10 in the first two years). There was considerable disagreement over the value of this research both within the Scientific Committee and the Commission. A Resolution was passed (30 votes to 27 votes with 1 abstention) that strongly urges the Government of Japan to withdraw its JARPA II proposal or to revise it so that any information needed to meet the stated objectives of the proposal is obtained using non-lethal means. Japan withdrew a proposed resolution in favour of the research programmes.

The next issue considered concerned sanctuaries. A proposal by Argentina, Brazil and South Africa for a South Atlantic Sanctuary required a three-quarters majority to be passed. In the event it received 29 votes in favour and 26 votes against with two abstentions. A proposal by Japan to remove the existing Southern Ocean Sanctuary would also have required a three-quarters majority. In the event it received 25 votes in favour and 30 votes against with two abstentions.

Finally, the Commission considered environmental matters, particularly related to the Scientific Committee report. Items covered included the relationship between sea ice and cetaceans, habitat degradation, progress on two established programmes (POLLUTION 2000+ and Southern Ocean collaborative studies), Arctic issues and anthropogenic noise.

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PLENARY MEETING - DAY 2 (TUESDAY 21 JUNE)

The meeting opened with a proposal by St Lucia for a private Commissioners' Meeting to look at meeting procedures. The Chair's ruling that this was in accord with past practice and therefore acceptable was challenged by Australia. After a vote (28 votes in favour, 20 against and 9 abstentions), the private meeting took place.

The next item on the agenda considered was that of the Revised Management Procedure. The Commission endorsed the Scientific Committee's report on general RMP issues, western North Pacific Bryde's whales, North Atlantic fin whales and bycatches.

In the afternoon, the Commission discussed the Revised Management Scheme Group. Business began with an overview presentation on the Revised Management Procedure. This was followed by discussions of the RMS Working Group report. The Chair noted that the working group was not in a position to put forward a proposal for an RMS at this year's meeting. In the event Japan put forward an amendment to the Schedule (the rules governing whaling) with a proposed RMS that inter alia would have lifted the moratorium. This would have required a three-quarters majority to have passed. The final vote was 23 in favour, 29 against and 5 abstentions.

The Commission then went on to complete its business from the previous day on whale killing methods and animal welfare. It agreed terms of reference for a technical workshop to be held immediately prior to the 2006 Annual Meeting in St Kitts and Nevis.

The Commission had hoped to complete its discussions on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling today, but given the time, agreed to discuss this matter as the first order of business tomorrow.

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PLENARY MEETING - DAY 1 (MONDAY 20 JUNE)

The meeting was opened by its Chair, Henrik Fisher from Denmark. Opening statements of welcome were made by the Korean Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (H.E. Keo-Don Oh) and the Mayor of Ulsan (Maeng Woo Park).

There are nine new member nations to the IWC, bringing the total now to 66. At the start of the meeting, 57 countries with the right to vote were present. A complete list can be found HERE

On the opening morning, the major items were business items and the adoption of the agenda.

Japan had proposed deletion of a number of Items of the Agenda. One of these concerned the item on Sanctuaries. The Chair ruled that it was not in accord with the Convention to delete this item. In a subsequent vote, the Chair's ruling was upheld by 31 votes to 24 (with two abstentions) and so this item remained on the Agenda. The other items proposed for deletion by Japan included whalewatching, whale killing methods, small cetaceans, health issues and the Conservation Committee. This was defeated via a procedural motion to close the debate (29 votes in favour, 28 against). Therefore the Agenda was adopted. The expected timetable for the discussion of the accepted agenda items can be found Below.

The afternoon session began with a proposal by Japan to broaden the option of voting by secret ballot in the Commission's Rules of Procedure to items other than choice of venue for meetings and election of officers. The proposal was defeated by 30 votes to 27.

Following completion of a number of largely procedural issues, business turned to the IWC Scientific Committee's report on the issue of the status of whale stocks (apart from those subject to aboriginal subsistence whaling and those covered under the implementation process for the Revised Management Procedure, which will be discussed tomorrow).

The discussion covered Antarctic minke whales, western North Pacific common minke whales, Southern Hemisphere, blue, fin, right and humpback whales, Northern Hemisphere right whales, bowhead whales and western North Pacific gray whales. Of particular interest was news of the recovery of some of the stocks of Southern Hemisphere humpback and right whales (although others remain of concern). By contrast, the Committee was particularly concerned over the status of the western North Atlantic right whale (population size around 300 animals and with animals being killed by ship strikes and bycatches in fishing gear) and western North pacific gray whales (population of around 100 animals and whose feeding grounds coincide with oil and gas developments, and who also subject to threats from ship strikes and bycatches).

The final item considered concerned whale killing and associated animal welfare issues. The Commission considered the report of a working group that had met the previous week. Later in the meeting, consideration will be given to holding a specialist workshop prior to the 2006 annual meeting.

Source: IWC Press Releases

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