Whales on the Net - WDCS Report on IWC Special Meeting 14 Oct'02

Notes from the IWC Special Meeting in Cambridge

From the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society - October, 2002

Iceland joins the IWC,
exempts itself from the ban on commercial whaling
and an aboriginal whaling proposal is granted

At a 'special meeting' of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) held in Cambridge on Monday 14 October, Iceland joined the Commission, but with a 'reservation' exempting it from the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Following a defeat at the hands of Japan of the USA and Russia's application for a bowhead quota - for their aboriginal whalers - at the 54th IWC meeting in May 2002, the USA called for a special meeting to be convened to reconsider the quota application. This meeting, with a single agenda item and scheduled to last only two hours, was held in Cambridge on Monday, 14 October.

Following its failed attempts at the last two annual meetings to join the Commission, Iceland predictably attended this meeting. Even before the agenda was adopted, Iceland claimed to be a member with full voting rights - having submitted a document of accession to the treaty that established the IWC just the previous week. The likelihood of concluding the meeting in two hours soon evaporated, with debate on Iceland's status raging until well into the afternoon when it finally claimed victory after a series of procedural votes and successful challenges to the Chairman's rulings.

Attention finally turned to the first official agenda item - the bowhead quota. The US government had claimed to have received assurances from Japan that it would not block allocation of the quota again, but few shared their trust in such promises. In the end, Japan refused to join the consensus that awarded the quota and, in the meantime, let its puppets do the dirty work - proposing amendments to the language of the quota. WDCS is concerned that these add up to a dangerous precedent that could justify countries awarding themselves quotas in the future that are not endorsed by the Commission.

Furthermore, although the UK and other countries protested at the loophole it created, Antigua and Barbuda proposed additional language that would effectively require hunters to increase their quota if the Scientific Committee advised that higher quotas could be sustainable. The US Inuit met this inference with a thumbs-up and the US Commissioner announced that he was happy to accept the amendments - despite the implications it has for the bowhead and other hunts.

As attention then turned to the next agenda item, added at the last minute by Japan, it became clear how much of a deal the US had struck to get its bowhead quota. Japan introduced a cleverly worded resolution that not only endorsed a new category of whaling that would overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling, but also prejudiced the outcome of future meetings of the IWC. Many concerns were raised by a range of delegations and the resolution was eventually defeated, but the language and implications were acceptable to the US it and it was the only anti-whaling country that voted in support.

So even though Japan failed to join consensus on the US/Russia bowhead vote and even though its puppets wrought havoc with the legal text agreed, the US still met its end of the bargain and supported Japan's coastal whalers.

Despite the low profile of this special meeting, WDCS believes that it has grave implications for the future work of the IWC and is disappointed in the role played by the USA.

Source: WDCS http://www.wdcs.org

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