IWC Talks Marred by Conflict
Talks deteriorated Thursday at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Jersey between pro-whaling nations and those advocating for whale conservation.
Tension between opposing parties culminated with the push for a vote on the creation of a whaling sanctuary in the southern Atlantic oceanic basin.
Representatives from pro-whaling nations – Japan, Iceland, and other Caribbean and African countries – walked out of the discussion.
Although they returned before the close of the last day’s meetings, an agreement was not reached on the issue, and the vote will be postponed until next year.
“The turmoil on the last day of the talks underscored the discord between nations that oppose hunting whales and whaling nations led by Japan,” reported The Associated Press.
Several environmental groups along with IWC delegates from the U.S. have spoken out in frustration over a lack of progress made at the meeting.
“As long as we choose to continue fighting, all of the IWC’s members will lose; and the world’s whales deserve better,” said U.S. delegate Monica Medina.
In particular, discussions regarding conservation issues and the health of the world’s cetaceans made no headway.
Notably unaddressed were major points of concern for whale conservationist states. U.S. delegates hoped to discuss a range of topics, from ocean debris and destructive noise pollution to whale collisions with ships.
“Acrimony is often the enemy of conservation – in this case, it meant that a critical meeting on whales failed to address the greatest threats they face,” Wendy Elliott, head of the WWF’s delegation told BBC News.
“Several whale and dolphin species are in crisis – teetering on the brink of extinction – and conservation must be front and foremost at next year’s IWC meeting, for the sake of the whales and the commission.”
Despite a bitter ending note, the commission did reach a few agreements earlier in the meeting.
In response to allegations of “cash for votes,” the commission agreed to make some fiscal reforms.
Japan was previously accused of paying for developing nations’ membership dues in exchange for support on certain pro-whaling issues.
Despite denial by the Japanese, commissioners elected to avoid further scandal by banning future payments in the form of cash or check. Traceable bank transfers will now be the only accepted forms of payment.
Additionally, several countries pledged money to support research on smaller, severely threatened whale species.
Delegates also agreed upon censuring the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for risky and unsafe policies in their efforts to thwart Japanese whaling ships in Antarctic waters.
Although commercial whaling was banned in 1986, countries like Japan continue to fund whaling operations under the guise of “scientific research,” despite intense media scrutiny and scandal.
South American countries led the charge against such pro-whaling nations at the talks, driving hard for a vote on the proposal for a new whale sanctuary.
As these countries rely upon a healthy whale population to market whale watching for their eco-tourism industry, they are not expected to deviate from their anti-whaling stance.
Representatives from all countries have been encouraged to compromise over the coming months so that the issue can be put to a vote in 2012 when the IWC reconvenes in Panama.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/52786697@N00/5159560621/sizes/m/in/photostream/