The 65th International Whaling Conference meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia – which saw the attendance of more than 60 member countries – was something of an emotional roller-coaster for those involved, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), with victory and defeat on both sides of the table.
Pivotal milestones were achieved toward the conservation and preservation of whales, with a resolution being passed to provide increased protection and support to whales, and a further ruling that Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ in Antarctica was illegal, with no further permits to be issued in the future.
The resolution by Monaco on Highly Migratory Species aims to provide greater global protection for whales, allowing international bodies such as the UN to become involved. This victory was made despite pro-whaling countries opposing it. Japan prevented the resolution being passed by consensus, forcing a vote to take place, which went through 37 to 15, with seven abstentions.
IFAW Whales Programme Director Patrick Ramage said: “We are delighted that this important conservation measure for whales has been passed, showing that small countries can make big waves for whales at the IWC. We were pleased to see the pro-conservation countries stand together to adopt a common position and give it safe passage. We were also relieved to see that the EU was able to get its act together and support it as a bloc.”
There was further victory for whales as Japan’s so-called scientific whaling in Antarctica was ruled illegal, with no further permits to be issued. This news was of course not welcomed by Japan, who recently sent an email out to scientists around the world asking for international help to review its plans for a new ‘scientific whaling’ programme.
Ramage commented on the result, saying: “We are delighted by this crucial victory for whales. After the recent historic World Court ruling it begged the question of whether the IWC would be up to the challenge of imposing court-ordered standards for scientific whaling or content to stand on the sidelines while Japan continued commercial whaling by another name.
“This measure goes a long way in securing the full promise of the ICJ judgment which gives whales in Antarctica protection against slaughter for the first time in more than a century. We now urge Japan to call a permanent end to its illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.”
Although the two victories were greatly welcomed by IFAW and pro-conservationists, there was dismay as plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed due to opposition from pro-whaling nations.
The proposal – which was put forward by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and South Africa, and new sponsor Gabon – aimed to provide a comprehensive approach to cetacean conservation, managing all threats to whales in the region.
After the resolution was pushed to vote by pro-whaling countries, it failed to achieve the three-quarters majority needed for adoption (40-18 against and two abstentions).
A proposal for this sanctuary has been tabled at nearly every IWC meeting since 1999, but has stalled every time. A small consolation is that this year was the closest that a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary had come to adoption, according to the Brazilian Commissioner.
“This valuable conservation proposal has sadly failed once again because of the influence of countries outside the relevant South Atlantic region,” said Ramage. “Non-lethal research on whales in this particular area, as elsewhere, has provided much more reliable and precise information than has ever been achieved by so-called ‘scientific whaling’ or other lethal methods.
“It is very disappointing that such a positive opportunity for whales has been harpooned again by Japan and her allies.”
To read the IFAW CEO Azzedine T Downes’ column on the whaling conference click here.
Main Photo: (Isaac Kohane, Flickr Creative Commons)