Whales on the Net
CHAIR'S SUMMARY REPORT FOR THE 58TH ANNUAL MEETING, ST. KITTS & NEVIS, June 2006
The 58th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) took place at the Marriott Hotel, St. Kitts from 16 to 20 June. It was Chaired by Henrik Fischer (Denmark). The associated meetings of the Scientific Committee and Commission sub-groups were held at the same venue in the period 1 to 13 June. A brief report of the outcomes of the main agenda items is provided below.
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 5 - TUESDAY 20 JUNE
The primary items of business on the final day concerned administrative matters, many of which had originally been discussed by the Finance and Administration Committee. The Commission agreed on a process for the 2007 meeting to improve facilities for French and Spanish speaking countries and agreed by consensus a resolution on the use of languages other than English. The Commission had received a request from St Kitts and Nevis to receive funds from the reserves to cover unforeseen costs of hosting the meeting. Although this was not agreed (a vote on this issue resulted in 30 votes in favour and 30 against with 4 abstentions), a number of Governments agreed to make voluntary contributions to help in this regard.
The Commission agreed to a Code of Conduct for non-governmental organisations.
This year marked the final year of the three-year term of the present Chair of the Commission, Henrik Fisher (Denmark). The Commission thanked him for his fair and wise Chairmanship and wished him well in his retirement. The Commissioners for the USA (Dr William Hogarth) and Japan (Mr Minoru Morimoto) were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively.
Next year's meeting will be held in Anchorage, Alaska from 4-31 May. The 2008 meeting will be held in Chile.
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 4 - MONDAY 19 JUNE
The primary items of business in the morning concerned environmental issues. The Commission received the report of the Scientific Committee on a number of matters. The Committee had spent two-days prior to the main meeting discussing seismic surveys and their potential effect on cetaceans with industry representatives, geophysical contractors, national regulatory agencies and funding bodies. It considerably advanced the Committee's ability to address this issue. It also welcomed the final report of Phase 1 of POLLUTION 2000+, an IWC sponsored international research programme to examine possible cause-effect relationships between chemical pollutants and cetaceans. The next issue covered was that of whalewatching, particularly its scientific aspects. The Scientific Committee had received reports that it agreed showed that in some circumstances, whalewatching and vessel traffic can have an adverse impact on some small cetacean populations and it encouraged further similar studies to be undertaken on large whales.
The Commission then turned to the issue of small cetaceans. 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 small cetaceans in the small cetaceans in the Caribbean and western tropical Atlantic, as well as reviewing progress on its previous recommendations on species such as the critically-endangered vaquita and baiji.
Before adopting the Report of the Scientific Committee, the Commission reviewed and agreed its Workplan for the coming year.
As a result of certain incidents that happened at sea last year, the Commission passed a resolution by consensus dealing with the safety of vessels engaged in whaling and whale-related research.
The Commission then discussed the Report of the Conservation Committee. Although there was some disagreement over the establishment and terms of reference for this Committee, the Commission agreed that it had made good progress in addressing issues surrounding 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.
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 3 - SUNDAY 18 JUNE
The primary item of business in the morning concerned the question of Sanctuaries. A proposal by Brazil and Argentina for a South Atlantic Sanctuary was again presented to the Commission. Such a proposal would have required a three-quarters majority to have been adopted. In the event, after considerable discussion, the matter was not put to the vote. A proposal to abolish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was again presented to the Commission by Japan. It would also have required a three-quarters majority to pass but was defeated by 28 votes to 33 with 4 abstentions.
The Commission then turned its attention to the question of special permit whaling. Last year, Japan began the first year of a two-year feasibility study for a research programme in the Antarctic. Under the lethal component of the programme, 853 Antarctic minke whales and 10 fin whales were caught. Japan also has a North Pacific programme under which a total of 220 common minke, 50 Bryde's, 100 Sei and 5 Sperm whales were caught. As part of itsprogramme, Iceland took 39 common minke whales.
The issue of special permit whaling is controversial within the Commission and, as in previous years, strong statements were made both for and against special permit whaling.
The Commission then returned to its discussion of the agenda item 'Normalising the IWC' that had been left over from the previous day. The primary document considered was called the 'St Kitts and Nevis Declaration'. The document declared a commitment to 'normalising the functions of the IWC based on: the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and other relevant international law; respect for cultural diversity and traditions of coastal peoples and the fundamental principles of sustainable use of resources; and the need for science-based policy and rulemaking that are accepted as the world standard for the management of marine resources.' After a ruling from the Chair, the document was voted upon as a draft Resolution. It was accepted by 33 votes to 32 with 1 abstention and can be found HERE. Several of the countries voting 'no' formally disassociated themselves from the declaration after the result was declared.
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 2 - SATURDAY 17 JUNE
Today, the Commission first considered the question of aboriginal subsistence whaling. The report of its Sub-Committee on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling can be found HERE. The Commission was pleased to received new abundance estimates for the common minke whale (3,500, 95%CI 1,500-7,700) and fin whale (1,700 95%CI 840-3,500) off West Greenland, an area where recent estimates had been lacking. After reviewing the available information, the Commission agreed to retain the present catch limits. These can be found HERE.
The Commission then went on to discuss progress with the Revised Management Scheme. This year there had been an intersessional working group meeting in Cambridge and a follow up session prior to the Annual Meeting. The reports of the Working Group can be found HERE. Despite considerable discussion, it was agreed that talks had reached an impasse. While individual governments or groups of governments may work together on ways forward, at the end of today's discussions, there is no formal Commission activity identified for the coming year. The Commission then began consideration of an item placed on the Agenda by Japan entitled 'Normalising the IWC'. There was considerable discussion about what this might mean for the IWC, including suggestions that the word 'normalisation' might be replaced by 'modernisation' or 'harmonisation'. Considerably different views were put forward but no agreement was reached. The item was left open until Day 3.
The primary item of business in the afternoon 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 Taiji Declaration on Traditional Whaling. In 2004, 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 30 votes in favour, 31 votes against and 4 abstentions. Japan decided not to present a similar proposal for a take of up to 150 Bryde's whales.
PRESS RELEASE - DAY 1 - FRIDAY 16 JUNE
Proceedings began on the first day with an opening ceremony organised by Dr Hermia Morton-Anthony, Chair of the local organising committee. The Ceremony included music, prayers, poetry and speeches of welcome from the Chair of the Commission, Henrik Fisher from Denmark and the Honourable Dr Timothy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs for St Kitts and Nevis. There are four new members to the Commission bringing the total to 70, of which 66 are present. The full list of countries can be found HERE.
On the opening morning, the main items were business item and the adoption of the Agenda. Japan had requested deletion of one of the items related to small cetaceans, that referring to Commission discussions of the report of the Scientific Committee on that item. After some discussion, the matter was put to the vote and the proposal to delete the item was defeated by 32 votes to 30 with 1 abstention.
As in previous years, the Commission considered whether to include an option for secret ballots as part of its Rules of Procedure. A proposal to this end was defeated by 33 votes to 30 with 1 abstention.
Finally, the Commission was pleased to accept Chile's offer to host the 2008 Annual Meeting.
In the afternoon, the Commission turned to the report of the Scientific Committee on the status of a number of large 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. There was some positive evidence of increases in abundance for several of the stocks of humpback, blue and right whales in the Southern Hemisphere, although they 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 122 animals and although there is evidence that it has been increasing at perhaps 3% per year over the last decade, any additional deaths, for example in fishing gear as has recently occurred, put the survival of the population in doubt.
Source: IWC Press Releases