Madness in Morocco: Day 5
Today, Friday 25th June, the last day of this year’s stormy meeting in Agadir, the IWC will try to resolve the hugely contentious issues still left on the agenda for this year’s meeting. These are Greenland’s request for an increased quota of 10 humpback whales each year and the slaughter of tens of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises in Japan and elsewhere that are not protected by the IWC ban on commercial whaling.
This morning, it was clear that the EU had agreed a compromise deal with Denmark to permit Greenlandic whalers to kill 9 humpback whales instead of the 10 they had requested. Many countries are extremely unhappy with this, because Greenland has failed to convince them that there is any need for this increase. However, at least the compromise has come at a price: Greenland has agreed to reduce their fin whale quota from 19 to 10 animals, as well taking 22 less minke whales each year. This means that 93 less whales will die in agony over the next three years.
Many NGOs here, including Campaign Whale made it very clear we are very upset at this kind of political dealing, especially when indigenous hunting is supposedly strictly non-commercial yet whale meat has been found on sale in Greenlandic supermarkets. Campaign Whale is also fearful that the deal will mean an increase in the killing of small whales that are not protected, such as the Arctic beluga and narwhals that are already threatened by over-hunting with their populations falling alarmingly.
All week long Campaign Whale has worked tirelessly, lobbying delegates to support our campaign to press Japan over its annual hunts of 20,000 dolphins and porpoises. However, this is an extremely difficult issue to raise with Japan refusing to accept that the IWC has any jurisdiction over dolphin hunting. A staggering half-million small whales, dolphins and porpoises have been slaughtered by Japanese fishermen since commercial whaling was banned in 1986. This afternoon, despite our best efforts, not a single delegation, not even the UK, was prepared to speak out on the issue.
This is hugely disappointing for us, especially as small cetaceans have been identified as a priority issue to be resolved by the IWC. However, we were able to persuade several Government delegations to agree to approach Japan outside of the IWC on this issue over the next few weeks. We will certainly be pressing these countries, including the UK to go through with their promises.
Once again, this year’s IWC has proven the usual mix of highs and lows for all of us here trying so hard to protect these wonderful animals. At least we have stopped a compromise deal that would have legitimised the cruel, outdated and unnecessary whaling industry and condemned 13,000 whales to an agonising death.
Although Greenland was granted a quota of 9 humpback whales through a political deal with the European Union, at least 31 fewer whales will die each year over the next three years.
The threats to whales and dolphins from climate change, toxic pollution, over-fishing, entanglement in fishing gear, ship-strikes, habitat loss and noise pollution are being given serious and increasing attention by IWC scientists. Addressing these threats is vital when you consider an estimated 300,000 whales are killed in fishing nets alone each year. Combined, these threats present a powerful argument against any resumption of commercial whaling for the foreseeable future.
Once again the appalling cruelty of whaling was raised this week and the IWC has even agreed to a hold a workshop on this issue. Campaign Whale believes there is no humane way to kill these animals and the case is growing ever stronger to stop commercial whaling forever.
The slaughter of tens of thousands of dolphins and porpoises in Japan alone each year is coming under increasing scrutiny and political pressure. Public opposition is growing to end these appalling hunts, including within Japan itself. Campaign Whale will never give up until all whales and dolphins receive the protection they need and deserve.
Lastly, as evidence mounts of the health threats to people that eat whale and dolphin products so demand is falling and whale-watching is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to whaling, even within the whaling countries themselves.
Our thanks to all our supporters and colleagues that have made it possible for us to be here in Morocco and achieve so much, and in so many ways, for the whales and dolphins.
Madness in Morocco: Day 4
It’s Thursday 24th June and day four of IWC 62 here in Agadir. There are some very important and extremely contentious issues to be discussed again today. Campaign Whale is trying to stop Greenland from being awarded an increase in its ‘subsistence’ whaling quota by 10 humpback whales each year on top of the hundreds of whales they already kill. Campaign Whale is also working with a coalition of groups to raise the serious health risks to people that eat whale and dolphin products which are increasingly contaminated with toxic pollutants. Our coalition has produced a briefing paper on this topic which calls for the IWC to take positive and urgent action when this subject is discussed at today’s meeting.
Thanks to a great effort twelve countries have spoken out on this issue this morning: Switzerland, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Finland and Costa Rica.
Monaco reminded delegates of two previous resolutions passed by the IWC in 1994 and again in 1998, more than 10 years ago, urging the whaling nations to inform their public about the health risks associated with consuming whale and dolphin products because they are increasingly contaminated with toxic pollutants such as mercury, and for the IWC to cooperate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on this important issue.
The Netherlands expressed concern about the impact of toxic pollution on the whales, as well as the people that eat them, and the Czech Republic called on the IWC to create a working group or workshop on the issue.
Not surprisingly, the whalers had a different view: Norway said although it was true that some whales and dolphins contained high levels of mercury and other toxic pollutants, delegates should not forget the ‘health benefits’ from eating whale products. They also said that mercury was equally high in other seafood, such as tuna, and so it was unfair to single out whale products.
Japan said that their government was ‘quite serious’ about the issue of food safety; they had ‘strengthened’ food safety regulations and information regarding dolphins and porpoises, which contain much higher levels of dangerous pollutants and was available on the Institute of Cetacean Research’s website – hardly a place where the vast majority of Japanese people visit when surfing the web!
Campaign Whale is working to end the slaughter of 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively called small cetaceans, in Japan every year. It is a core part of our strategy to highlight the toxic compounds that people consume when eating whale and dolphin meat, blubber and other organs, and so reduce market demand for these products.
This afternoon various scientific reports were presented and discussions took place on the threats to whales posed by oil and gas exploration; collisions with shipping and sound pollution. In particular, the Western-North Pacific population of Grey Whales was highlighted because it is critically endangered with only around 120 animals left. These whales are threatened by oil and gas development in their vital feeding and breeding grounds off Sakhalin Island. All delegates supported the Scientific Committee’s recommendations that seismic testing planned for this year should be suspended until measures are in place to protect these critically endangered whales from more pollution and disturbance.
Following on, whale-watching was then discussed. Around 13 million people in 119 countries spent US $2 billion dollars watching whales last year. Campaign Whale believes that responsibly run whale-watching operations is the only truly sustainable, humane and ethical use of whales and an economically viable alternative to whaling for coastal communities. We take every opportunity to remind delegates at IWC, especially the pro-whaling countries, that ‘sustainable use’ does not require killing these wonderful animals.
Finally today, the highly contentious issue of indigenous subsistence whaling was raised, with Greenland’s request (and Denmark’s demand) for an increase in their quota by 10 humpback whales. Greenlandic hunters are already permitted to kill 212 minke, 19 fin and 2 bowhead whales. They also kill large numbers of beluga and narwhals, but these are not included in the calculations of meat needed for the communities there. We then had to endure 1.5 hours of presentations by Greenlandic hunters until the meeting was finally adjourned for the day.
It’s almost 8 pm and intense negotiations will continue this evening and overnight between the Commissioners to try and resolve an issue causing deep divisions amongst members, not least the European Union Member States.
A report on the final day of IWC Morocco will follow.
Madness in Morocco: Days 2 and 3
It has been a very long two days here in Morocco. We have had an agonising wait for the IWC meeting to resume after it was adjourned on Monday morning for behind-closed-doors talks to try and reach agreement on a compromise deal that would legitimise commercial whaling for ten years.
Campaign Whale arrived here in Agadir a week ago determined to do everything we could to stop the deal and save the 24 year old ban on commercial whaling. So we were delighted when this morning (Wednesday) the IWC Chairman solemnly announced that the ‘deal’ was dead – no agreement had been made, at least for now.
The Campaign Whale team here at the IWC have worked tirelessly to persuade the anti-whaling countries that although this was a good deal for politicians, it was a very bad deal for whales. Thanks to all our efforts before and during this meeting, the EU member countries were not prepared to agree to a deal that would have condemned 13,000 whales over the next ten years to a cruel death. However, the deal may be dead, but whaling certainly is not. Iceland, Norway and Japan will continue to kill whales in defiance of the IWC, but at least this brutal and unnecessary industry has not been given any legitimacy by the international community. If that should happen, the battle to end whaling would be lost.
The Latin American countries and especially Australia made very clear their opposition to the proposed deal. However, the position of the European Union was far from certain. A good deal of lobbying from Campaign Whale and our anti-whaling colleagues here in Agadir was necessary to ensure that the EU did not adopt a common position in favour of the deal. In the end all this work paid off as the EU took a strong position and rejected the proposal at the very last, leaving Sweden and Denmark isolated in their support for a compromise on whaling.
However, our job is far from done here in Morocco. The meeting continues until Friday and there are other very important issues yet to be discussed. Campaign Whale is also trying to stop Greenland from being awarded an increase in its ‘subsistence’ whaling quota of 10 humpback whales each year. Undercover investigations have exposed that whale meat in Greenland is being sold for profit and Greenland has yet to demonstrate there is any justification for an increase in their already considerable whaling quota.
Last, but by no means least, we are determined that the appalling slaughter of 20,000 dolphins and porpoises in Japan every year will be raised and roundly condemned. Campaign Whale is part of the Save Japan Dolphins campaign which exposed the horrific slaughter of dolphins in Japan with the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove. While commercial whaling on large whales has been banned, some half-million dolphins and porpoises have been slaughtered for profit by Japanese fishermen. Japan says these hunts are none of the IWC’s business, but we will never stop our campaign until these appalling hunts are ended once and for all.
More from IWC 62 in Morocco tomorrow…
Madness in Morocco: Day 1
A hard-working team from Campaign Whale is here in Agadir, Morocco for the most important meeting for whales in the 24 years since we won the hard fought ban on commercial whaling in 1986.
It’s Monday 21st June and here at the 62nd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) the tension is growing unbearable as we take our seats for the opening session of this crucial meeting. On the table is a compromise deal that would see the legitimisation of commercial whaling for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. What is being heralded as a great deal by the politicians is a very bad deal indeed for the whales. If it goes through over 10,000 whales will be cruelly slaughtered by Icelandic, Norwegian and Japanese whalers over the next ten years. Make no mistake about it – this is a deal to save whaling, not the whales!
Most surprising and worrying of all is the fact that the deal is being supported by some of the biggest and well known conservation and anti-whaling organisations: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace and the Pew Environment Group are lobbying hard for a deal to be struck, a deal that will legitimise commercial whaling after a 35 year long campaign to end it. However they try to spin this, the fact is that these three organisations are completely isolated amongst the hundreds of organisations around the world fighting to end this cruel and outdated industry forever.
We are also very worried about the 25 European Union members of the IWC that are required to adopt a common position on the deal by the EU, and then vote together. Sweden, Denmark and Finland are backing whaling in support of Norway and Iceland as well as Greenland and the Faroe islands. That means that EU members, including the UK, could be forced to support and pay the costs of renewed whaling. And that means taxpayers in anti-whaling countries will pay for the cruel slaughter of whales!
Campaign Whale is totally opposed to any deal except one that ends commercial whaling forever. We are doing all we can to stop the deal. Today Andy Ottaway spoke to BBC online about the deal and you can read the whole article here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10362015.stm
Andy also met with UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon this morning, here in Agadir to demonstrate the strength of the British Government’s support for this issue. Andy explained to the Minister the reasons for our total opposition to the deal. He also called on the Minister to ensure the UK Government strongly supports our campaign to stop the appalling slaughter of 20,000 dolphins and porpoises by Japanese fishermen every year. These ‘forgotten’ little whales are victims to large scale whaling that is not even being discussed here, and is set to continue whether a deal is struck on whaling for larger whales, or not.
At midday today, our fears the meeting might be suspended so that negotiations on the deal might continue behind closed doors were confirmed. The Chair announced the meeting would be closed to observers until Wednesday morning. However, we will take every opportunity to remind the Commissioners that the world is watching events in Morocco whether they close the doors or not. The world is on the whales’ side, not the whalers.