International Whaling Commission Accomplishes Little at Intersessional

 Cousteau’s observer at the intersessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is disappointed by the lack of serious movement toward conservation or transparency.

 The IWC held an intersessional meeting in Rome, March 9-11, to consider proposals for the Future of the IWC issued by a Small Working Group under the leadership of Chair William Hogarth of the U.S. and independent facilitator Ambassador Alvaro de Soto.

The “templates” for resolving what has been characterized as issues “requiring immediate action” included proposals for a five-year plan to allow Japan’s long-iterated request for Small-Type Coastal Whaling to relieve the economic distress of four communities, to reduce Japan’s Antarctic and North Pacific whaling under special permit purportedly for scientific research and to establish a South Atlantic Sanctuary.

Comments from Commissioners, comprising more than half the membership of the IWC, were generally muted, withholding judgment until details are added. Major sticking points include ongoing objections to large-scale scientific whaling, increasing trade in whale products, whaling under reservations, lack of oversight and enforcement mechanisms and, of particular interest to organizations like Cousteau, lack of transparency. On the other hand, whaling proponents put forth intransigent statements that flatly rejected “closing the door on whaling.”

Dr. Hogarth issued a press release at the end of the meeting expressing his delight with “the spirit in which discussion were held at this meeting.” Cousteau and other environmental NGOs were less than delighted with the lack of productive discussion in this public venue and the retreat to closed meetings for negotiation of the conservation and management of whales. The Small Working Group will convene again behind closed doors in May to finalize proposals for consideration by the Commission at its 61st meeting in June in Madeira, Portugal.