Tag Archives: Whaling

IWC Meets Behind Closed Doors

Give Whaling A Chance?

Of all the practices that gets reviled on the planet, one imagines whaling comes in at o.1% ahead of child molesting, hiding child-molesting priests and lying about weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq. Still, there are people who want to do this stuff in spite of all the opposition. If it were up to me I would have walked away from the messy discussions (and quit too) except the opposition managed to make it a matter of principle – which means they’re not going to back down.

Which is in a roundabout way why these IWC meetings have become more and more acrimonious and the tone of discussion more inflammatory from both sides.

It only took an hour before talks were shut down at the IWC meeting in Morocco.

Representatives from more than 80 nations had gathered for the annual IWC meeting, set to be the most controversial in years.

But the deputy chair of the IWC has called for private talks to break the deadlock.

Australia is concerned by the development and says it “shuts down the official process which has been underway for two years”.

The sticking point remains over a proposal to overturn a 24-year ban on commercial whaling.

Here’s the SMH story on this stoppage.

A key negotiator said of the meeting’s suspension: “This is one last attempt to see if there is any common ground. We will be split up into small groups, and we won’t be coming back until Wednesday.”

Patrick Ramage, the global whale program director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said Mr Liverpool had ordered the closed-door meetings with a view to fast-tracking the proposal when the formal session reopens on Wednesday.

“Whatever one’s view on the proposal, its adoption under the present circumstances will destroy any remaining credibility for the whaling commission,”  Mr Ramage said.

I love how if people don’t get their way in negotiations it means the the credibility of the process gets shot. If the whaling nation used this excuse and left the IWC to do as they liked I imagine there would be a furor. Anyway, they’re having an argy-bargy.

Here’s an interesting article from the UK.

Despite becoming a pariah, Japan insists it has right on its side – and not without justification. The moratorium was originally imposed while new methods of estimating whale populations and setting quotas were developed; though both were done, a conservationist majority kept the ban in place. And until recently, Japan killed only minke whales, whose numbers – if much reduced – are still plentiful.

Next week’s proposal has been brewing for the past three years, as governments and environmentalists have been meeting in secret to see if a deal could be struck. As it stands, it would give formal blessing to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, even though the IWC declared the area to be a “whale sanctuary” in 1994, and allow official quotas to
be set. It was heavily pushed by America, and – though Barack Obama has now modified its stance – it still wants a deal.

The sticking point is likely to be in the chilly waters around Antarctica. Greenpeace, WWF and some anti-whaling nations would accept a general lifting of the ban, so long as it stayed in place there, and other safeguards were adopted, such as banning trade in whale meat. But these conditions may be too much for the whalers.

“It is very delicately poised,” one delegate told me yesterday. Much depends on whether EU countries are allowed to vote individually or have to act as a block, in which case, since they are divided, they would all have to abstain. But whatever way it goes, a week of high drama and much emotion lies ahead. I wonder if Agadir has a lifeboat.

In a nusthell, it’s time everybody made a deal about it instead of continue all the rancor and name-calling, and in turn behaved like mature adults instead of squabbling kids in a schoolyard. Of course Australia is playing up its role as teacher’s pet by going to the Hague with this stuff where it hopes the international juridical community share in its prejudices.

Let’s look at the deal as it was leaked. In exchange for abolishing the scientific whaling regimen, the commercial ban would get lifted. However, the number of whales taken would fall from 850 to 200. the sticking point for the whaling nations is that the drop in numbers is too much while the in principle resumption of commercial whaling  is too far against the principles of the anti-whaling nations. I am guessing that the Anti-whaling nations would walk away from the negotiating table sooner than the whaling nations because they have to sacrifice their own principles and go home and explain why. If they do, the whaling nations will most likely say, “we knew you couldn’t live up to a deal, see you next year.” and prepare for next year’s hunt.

But that’s just my guess. Peter Garrett has ‘ambitions’:

“A compromise … had been supported by some countries on the basis that some compromise was better than nothing,” Mr Garrett said.

“Australia doesn’t take that view, we have more ambition in relation to this matter, and I’m really confident that there’ll be some support around the table for our views.”

In other words, it’s my-way-or-the-highway, same as before, so I imagine my guess is going to turn out right.

It’s interesting that the discourse is so strained that on the one hand the whaling nations such as Norway and Iceland are ready to walk out of the IWC and join Canada as a whaling nation operating outside of the IWC. The Minister for Agriculture of Japan, Masahiko Yamada has indicated that Japan is willing to cut numbers for a deal. They have categorically ruled out that they would walk out of the IWC.

At the other end of the spectrum, Australia is trying to couch the IWC as corrupt and possibly trying to get out of any IWC agreement that might include a compromise. I don’t think there’s a middle ground and the last decade has shown that therewon’t ever be a middle ground. So maybe it is time that people start drawing up plans for a post-IWC kind of world where nations set their own quotas and go whaling.

For instance, South Korea (remember how they go ‘accidental’-whaling?) want to be dealt into to the deal if commercial whaling is going to resume. Russia will want a piece too, though they’ve been very quiet.

The best argument against whaling is that eating whale gives you mercury poisoning. The world’s seas are so polluted with mercury thanks to coal fire emissions now, that most whales of any species are too high in mercury to eat. The arguments for the whalers to stop is never going to be successfully couched in terms of ethics of animal cruelty – as traditionally done – when there are any number of cruel industries around. And it’s hard to mount an attack on the cultural argument for whaling when you have loopholes for such things already. If you can’t give up the beef industry, why should they give up their whale industry on account of your sensitivities?

The worst arguments are the ones mounted by Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace. If you really want to save whales, then make real cuts to carbon emissions and abandon coal fire stations. Really, the rest of it is literally showboating. The drop in krill population due to climate change will decimate the whales – much more so than a bunch of whaling boats from Japan, Iceland and Norway combined.

BTW, where’s the Sea Shepherd crew protesting BP over the oil spill? They’re not? Gee why doesn’t that surprise me?


The latest news seems to be that everybody has agreed to disagree. There’s no deal.




According to the Japanese source, they’ve agree with the anti-whaling nations to “keep working towards a compromise”. That means there will be another research hunt pretty soon. Jesus. Nobody compromised this year, nobody compromised last year, nor the year before that nor the year before that; what makes them think there will be a compromise next year?

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IWC Is Corrupt Now?

Only When It Suits The Argument

The annual IWC stoush happens next week in Morocco and there’s already signs that people want to take pole position in beating up on their favorite bit of the discourse. The Coalition’s environment spokesperson Greg Hunt – he of the original architect of the Emissions Trading Scheme – is now accusing Peter Garrett of turning a blind eye to the corruption in the IWC.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has accused Mr Garrett of using IWC forums to push for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean as a way of distracting attention from the government’s election commitment to take Japan to the ICJ.

Mr Hunt on Monday told AAP that under Mr Garrett’s watch “the government has been turning a blind eye,” to the alleged corruption in the IWC.

“The prime minister (Kevin Rudd) should indicate whether it was Mr Garrett’s call to go to the IWC or whether it was his call.

“They were looking for an excuse not to take Japan to the ICJ and they ignored (allegations of) corruption in the IWC and wasted time on the IWC after everyone knew it was corrupt.”

Mr Hunt labelled IWC consultations a sham.

Undercover reporters from the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper say they had some success when they tried to buy the votes of representatives from poor countries at IWC.

The representatives told the reporters they would have to pay more than Japan, which gave generous aid and travel allowances in exchange for support at the IWC.

Japan has denied it hands out bribes.

There will be a showdown over whaling at a critical IWC summit in Morocco next week. The number of votes mustered will determine whether whaling continues.

Mr Garrett, who will attend the summit, said the media report showed it was time to change the IWC.

“The fact is that for decades the IWC has been riven by these types of claims and gridlock on key issues,” a spokesman told AAP on Monday.

Which is funnier? The notion that Greg Hunt can be a spokesperson for the environment for a party that is willfully out to ignore global warming, or the fact that he can call the International Whaling Commission a corrupt organ without any supporting evidence, all so that he can score points against Peter Garrett, a lame duck Minister?

The problem is that the Australian polity believe that the International Whaling Commission is a body put in place to ban whaling, when it’s not; and the fact that they can’t get their way means the IWC must be corrupt. Certainly it’s been good enough to attend for years up until this year when there’s been a rumble that there might be a compromise deal to allow commercial whaling.

A better explanation might be that not everybody agrees with Australia’s position. I’m sure that both Mr. Hunt and Mr. Garrett would feel like the IWC was a perfectly great international organ if it managed to secure a 100% comprehensive ban on all whaling.

As it is, it can’t and it hasn’t, and so these wild accusations of corruption are bandied about. If the deal that’s being proposed by certain parties is agreed upon and Australia is left out of the deal, I’m sure we’ll hear even more accusations that the IWC is corrupt because it didn’t deliver what Australia wanted. It’s a bit like blaming the ump of unfair bias before the game even starts.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the alleged corruption of the IWC is going to be part of Australia’s case against Japanese whaling at the International Court. In order for the Australia’s case to make sense they have to abandon the IWC, because the IWC rules do allow for research whaling. However for Australia to abandon the IWC one imagines it has to create its own legitimacy by accusing the IWC of corruption, and thus present itself as the only pure-hearted, interested party on behalf of whales. It’s a bit rich, but I guess this is how politics is played. I just wish people won’t behave like it’s otherwise. It’s just pathetic that there are so many votes in it for both sides of politics.

They may as well be wearing tee-shirts declaring “Save the whales, fuck the climate.”

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Today’s Whaling Guff 28/05/2010

See You In Court, Slanty-Eyes!

Australia is pressing ahead with its International Court case.

The Federal Government will initiate legal action against Japan early next week over its “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The legal application will be lodged with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced this morning.

In a statement Mr Garrett, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the decision had not been taken lightly and had come after the government tried to reach a compromise with the Japanese Government through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and bilateral talks.

The ministers’ statement says the legal action is about one dispute with Japan in an otherwise “comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership”.

“Both Australia and Japan have agreed that, whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship,” the statement said.

Mr Garrett said: “We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean.”

They – as in the anti-waling lobby – are saying this fulfills an ALP election promise and so this is a good thing. It’s questionable politics at best. The SMH analysis on the move is here.

By committing to a Hague case — but only if significant progress has not been made in diplomatic efforts — the ALP politically trumped the Howard government on the one environmental cause that almost all Australians support.

But would they really go so far as to upset a country who is a crucial economic and diplomatic partner over a few whales?

Instead of rushing to the lawyers when they first came to power, Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith sensibly attempted to first hammer out a compromise with the Japanese.

For three years Smith and Garrett tried different avenues. They flirted with a small working group within the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is trying to break the impasse between whaling and anti-whaling nations. They held bilateral meetings with Japanese officials. And they held out hope that the change of government in Japan last year would present new opportunities to cut a deal.

But in the end the compromises on the table from Japan weren’t enough. Left with no option Smith informed the Japanese Government last night that papers would be lodged in The Hague early next week.

The timing of the case is not accidental. Next month the IWC will meet in Agadir to discuss a compromise deal put forward by the IWC chair that allows Japan limited commercial whaling rights in the Southern Ocean.

If that deal passes Australia will no longer be able to take Japan to the International Court of Justice. Japan would have a legal right to continue its commercial whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, says Australia’s case will likely centre around “abuse of rights”.

Those “rights” are a loophole in the 1949 Whaling Convention that allows member countries to kill protected whale species for scientific purposes. Australia will allege Japan has been abusing this loophole for commercial gain.

I’m sort of worried by how they’re glossing over the clause at the IWC which allows scientific whaling, and calling it a loophole. I’m also worried about the fact that they don’t mention that it is agreed at the IWC that any whale taken for research purposes can’t just be thrown back into the sea, it has to be sent to the market. So the Australian case that the research whaling is a front for a commercial whaling industry is going to have a hard time proving their case given that the Japanese whaling fleets are abiding IWC rules to the letter.

Australia sure has its work cut out. And oh look, emissions are up.

Anyway… the response in Japan is pretty mature.



The minister for Agriculture Hirotaka Akamatsu said they disagree with it, that they’ll fight it at the IWC meet and also words to the effects of “look the Labor Party over there have a tough election coming up later this year so they have to do what they have to do.”

Here’s some differing perspective from New Zealand.

New Zealand says it won’t consider joining Australia’s international legal action to stop Japanese whaling until diplomatic efforts fail, because going to court is a risky move.

The Australian government announced on Friday that it will initiate action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague next week.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters that New Zealand would stick to a “diplomatic route” with Japan over the issue.

“The legal opinion we’ve had is that court action may or may not be successful, but it’s certainly far from a sure bet,” Mr Key said on Friday.

“The reason we’ve gone down a diplomatic solution is not because we’re afraid of a court case but because the advice we’ve had is that it’s more likely to be successful.

“In the end, if that diplomatic route is unsuccessful then New Zealand will make a decision about whether it’s going to join Australia in the international court of justice.

“It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t join Australia if the diplomatic solution has been extinguished.”

Mr Key said the court process could take years and would be a risky move.

“If they go to court and they lose there are real risks here so that is the whole point,” he said.

“That’s why if we find a diplomatic solution it might be a lot better than a court case that we could lose.

“If we thought a court case was clear cut and easy to win then obviously that might be the fastest way to do that.”

It’s interesting that New Zealand is taking this position given that it is one of their citizens and not an Australian citizen sitting for trial in Tokyo over the recent Sea Shepherd actions and altercations with the research whaling fleet.

Meanwhile, here’s more from the IWC itself.

Monica Medina, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC, told reporters at a briefing that the Obama administration cannot accept the commission’s current proposal, which allows the hunting of too many whales. But Washington is willing to continue talks to see if a stronger accord to protect whales can be settled at the IWC meeting in Morocco, she said.

Medina, who’s also a principal deputy undersecretary in the Commerce Department, said: “The IWC is fundamentally broken and must be fixed.” Negotiators recognize that whaling continues despite a moratorium.

“The idea would be to cap that whaling and to get it under the IWC’s control so that it can be monitored,” she said.

The chairman of the IWC, Cristian Maquieira, said at the briefing a successful deal next month could bring international whaling under IWC control — something that’s not happening now.

“The negotiations will be very, very complicated and very, I suspect, intense, but I do look forward to a positive outcome,” Maquieira said. “I’m optimistic that we will arrive at some understanding.”

He was careful to note that the IWC proposal is only meant to spur negotiations — not to be a final agreement. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Maquieira said.

I think they’re being coy. Whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland during the last 25 years has always been under IWC control as such. What’s really being negotiated is numbers and really, at the end of the day, that’s what the commission is supposed to do: broker numbers. If talks at the IWC fail again, I guess the world will be watching the trial in the Hague. Joys of joys.

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The Mercury Wrinkle

Commercial Whaling Will Drive Some Crazy

A better argument against whaling, rather than anything the current Australian government is mounting might be mercury poisoning. This report says that people hailing from a town that thrives on the whale harvest had mercury counts at 63ppm which is in excess of the WHO’s own line of 50ppm.

Some people were even found with mercury counts as high as 139ppm, and the Health Department in Japan has issued a warning against eating dolphin more than twice a month. Mind you this is a widespread problem through out the fisheries world. A lot of carnivorous fish such as shark, marlin and swordfish have high concentrations of mercury, as do things such s killer whales.

Most of the mercury in the ocean actually comes from coal fire. And Australia’s main export is coal. So maybe Australia should continue exporting coal to add mercury to the sea so that the whales are too poisonous to eat. Go Australia!

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Whaling To Go To International Court

May As Well Have A Showdown

Here’s an article in the SMH that says the Rudd Government is going to make good on its election promise and sue Japan in the International Court over whaling.
Wordle: Whaling Controversy

Sources said the government decided to make good on its election promise in 2007 to take Japan to court.

The government has come under intense attack for putting its centrepiece environment policy – the emissions trading scheme – on hold until at least 2013, and for reneging on other election promises.

The Coalition and the Greens have demanded the government act on its consistent threats to take the legal action after Tokyo also rejected the ”peace deal” put forward by the IWC on the basis that the cuts it proposed to Japan’s ”scientific” whaling program in the Antarctic were ”too drastic”.

The legal action would not stop Australia taking part in the international diplomacy before the IWC meeting in Morocco next month, where the ”peace plan” to legitimise strictly limited whaling quotas will be debated.

In February the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said Australia would take legal action in time to halt the start of the annual hunt in November. But if the ”peace plan” succeeds and legitimises Japanese whaling, the basis of the court case would be undermined.

I’m wondering if the government really thinks it can win, or whether it’s a kind of brinkmanship to see if Japan bends on a point it says it will not bend; and further to that if they should win, then Australia can claim whatever it likes about whaling but should it lose, it will have the option of ratcheting down the rhetoric. It seems to me if it is the latter then the Australian Government is sending delegates to the IWC in bad faith.

Just to go over some old bits and pieces, here are some things that Australia’s going to have to argue in court.

The first thing they’ll argue is that whales are endangered. Well, who has the numbers on that? Japan still does the most cetacean research in situ and it tables the findings each year at the IWC. They have a better track of numbers than most countries at the IWC when it comes to the Pacific Ocean, so it would be incumbent upon Australia to produce better data on the numbers to prove the species the Japanese are hunting are on immediate brink of extinction. The Japanese will be able to show they’ve been catching the minimum allowed by the agreement, so Australia’s claim that it is “too drastic” is going to be a hard sell.

Australia will most likely argue the line about scientific research whaling being a disguise for commercial whaling on the basis that the whale meat ends up on the market. Except the scientific research whaling is sanctioned under the current regime. All whale captured for such research must be sent to the market under IWC rules. So by the rules of the IWC, it’s both acceptable for Japan to conduct its research and sell the whale meat at its markets. It’s going to be interesting to see which part of this rule and its applications with which Australia is going to take issue.

Then there’s the territorial waters claim. Australia’s case is going to the International Court on the basis of Australia’s territorial claims to the oceans near the Antarctic. This is not a territorial claim that is not recognised by other nations, but it is this claim that will also get tested in the International Court. I imagine the average Australia likes to think of it is ‘our’ waters, in the same way the Tom Cruise was ‘our Tom’ during his decade long marriage to Nicole Kidman, but it’s really more projection than fact.

Australia can also argue damages to its whale-watching tourism trade but they’d have to then prove the Japanese were hunting those particular whales. This one is going to be more of a red herring because the argument against Japanese whaling isn’t a damages claim sort of thing; it’s about the principle of it and all that metaphysical arguments to do with how whales are exceptional and therefore should not be hunted. It’s going to interesting when Australia is going to get asked to produce the evidence that whales are indeed exceptional. Or even intelligent as claimed.

In contrast to the primates, cetaceans are particularly far-removed from humans in evolutionary time. Therefore, cognitive abilities generally cannot be claimed to derive from a common ancestor, whereas such claims are sometimes made by researchers studying primate cognition. Though cetaceans and humans (in common with all mammals) had a common ancestor in the distant past, it was almost certainly of distinctly inferior cognitive abilities compared to its modern descendants. The early divergence of the human—dolphin ancestry line creates a problem in what cognitive tasks to test for because human/dolphin brains have been naturally selected so differently, with completely different cognitive abilities favoring their very different environments. Therefore, an anthropomorphic problem is raised with exactly what cognitive abilities to test for, and how to test for them, because of the completely different evolutionary line and environment human and cetaceans have.

Australia is also likely to argue a line about environmentalism. It could walk into a minefield with that one. Australia’s beef cattle industry isn’t exactly the most environment friendly business, on top of which Australia’s a major exporter of coal which is a major source of mercury poisoning in the world’s marine life. So Australia would be getting up to argue a case against whaling on grounds of the environment when it could be on the receiving end of such a lawsuit. And need we remind ourselves that Australia didn’t sign on to Kyoto and was a notable hold out for along time under the previous government. The world of international opinion may look at Australia’s record on the environment rather differently to what Australia likes to think of itself.

So all in all, Australia’s got its work cut out for it. But you never know. It would be interesting to see if Australia wins; and if it does, then if events leads to the gutting of the IWC because the International Court of Justice would essentially be overruling the IWC’s own rules. If IWC rules aren’t worth the paper they’re written on then why would all the other whaling nations stick around to talk about it at the IWC? In a sense Australia is arguing to the International Court to invalidate another international institution.

It’s ugly business but I’m going to enjoy how this all unfolds. It can only get worse for Japan and Australia’s diplomatic relationship from here on in. It’s amazing there’s not a dissenting voice in either side of parliament.

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New Zealand Opts To Deal

Who Would Have Guessed?

What do you know? New Zealand is willing to deal and back the compromise plan to reduce the absolute number of whales that are killed.

New Zealand has backed the compromise pact, which would lift the current ban on commercial whaling while reducing the number of whales killed by Japan under the guise of “research”.

NZ had been one of Australia’s staunchest allies in the fight against Antarctic whaling.

But now the country’s whaling commissioner, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, says he’ll support the compromise proposal at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June, the ABC reports.

Currently, commercial whaling is banned but countries can hunt whales in the name of science. Up to 1900 are killed each year.

Australia wants Japan to stop whaling, but Japan insists that it has the right to hunt whales.

The issue has been stuck in diplomatic limbo and there is an increasing push to find a compromise, alarming conservation groups.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett spoke out against NZ’s support for the compromise proposal.

“I am alarmed and very concerned that NZ would support a proposal that is flawed and represents a huge compromise to pro-whaling nations,” he said.

“Australia cannot support the compromise package now being discussed in the IWC.”

That package was loaded in favour of the whalers, Mr Garrett said.

Well Peter Garrett would say that. In a trade off between numbers and principles, the Australian government wants to hold on to the principles and not trade away anything at all AND have their way. I don’t think that’s how deals work Mr. Garrett.

Of course that being said, this is April Fools day, so who knows if the New Zealand government is really considering this move.

UPDATE: here is an article with a better explanation of the NZ position on the issue.

Former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, who chairs an International Whaling Commission (IWC) group trying to negotiate a deal, said the IWC could fall apart.

“I think there is a big risk of that and I don’t relish it,” Palmer told reporters in Wellington.

“We cannot afford to see the end of the International Whaling Commission because if it comes to an end, there will be no international instrument for protecting the whales.”

It raises the question what happens to the issue of controlling whaling if the IWC were to fold. After years of fruitless wrangling, it may actually be getting to the point where Japan, Norway, Iceland and Russia walk out o the IWC and there would be no agreement whatsoever.

Palmer said he was not confident the opposing sides of the whaling argument could agree on a workable deal, but said it was important they were still talking.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully also described a deal as “a long shot” but said it was worth trying.

“All the alternatives to holding these discussions are truly awful,” he said.

Australia has taken a harder line, saying it will take Japan to the International Court of Justice if it does not agree by November to stop hunting in Antarctic waters.

New Zealand said it there was a good chance court action would fail, leaving controls on hunting weaker than ever.

That can’t be good. Here’s another article with some interesting points:

Since there seems to be no way to stop Japan from killing cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), the Obama Administration is poised to compromise on commercial whaling in order to secure broader, more effective regulation by the IWC. If Japan chooses to cooperate, that is. Its recent success at thwarting protection for depleted, sashimi-bound Atlantic bluefin tuna during a UN wildlife session does not augur well.

IWC meetings are rancorous affairs at which neither side wins the three-quarters majority needed to change anything. Founded by whaling nations, the IWC was taken over by whaling opponents in the 1980s, since which time Japan has used foreign aid to recruit support from Caribbean and Asian countries. (Dominica dramatically reversed its pro-whaling position last year.)

A three-year effort to reorder the IWC (read the talking points from a recent working session) would create a South Atlantic Sanctuary and beef up conservation efforts to help the world’s biggest mammals cope with oceanic pollution, ship strikes, climate change, and sonic disruption. In an historic compromise, countries that hunt whales could do so along their coasts–and Japan could continue to exploit Antarctic waters–but only under an enforceable legal agreement that the U.S. official said must unquestionably cap whaling “at a significant decrease” below the current fatality rate. “Numbers are key.”

So that means Mr. Obama AND NZ are both on board with the compromise plan. This is interesting because it means it’s up to the UK and Australia to continue with the strident antics at the IWC, but neither seem to have taken into account just what happens after the IWC falls apart.

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Commercial Whaling Proposal

Negotiating An End To Scientific Whaling

The long standing bone of contention between Australia and Japan might shift into a new gear as of this proposal.

The draft deal would lift the ban on commercial whaling, while reducing the total number of whales killed each year by ending so-called “scientific” whaling.

There are indications key nations support the deal and it could succeed.

Conservation groups are angry and want Australia to use its position to fight against the proposal.

The deal has been issued by a “small working group” of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which includes Australia and Japan.

It is a draft deal which has not yet been approved; it is understood Australia will not support it.

Currently, commercial whaling is banned but countries can hunt whales in the name of science. Up to 1900 whales are killed each year.

The proposal would lift the commercial ban. Japan would legally be able to hunt whales without relying on the “science” justification.

The pay-off is that the proposal says the number of whales hunted would be significantly reduced from current levels.

The new deal would appear to allow for the hunting of minke whales, fin and humpback whales in the southern hemisphere.

It would come into force on November 1 this year.

Last week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his government would take international legal action against Japan if it did not agree, by November, to end whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The federal government appears to have left open the option of a deal which would see Japan phase out whaling, which could see the practice continue for some years.

Sources say the proposal is gaining support internationally, with the US and New Zealand disposed to support it.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett met conservation groups in Canberra on Tuesday to discuss the issue. Australia is due to make an alternative proposal to the IWC within days.

One dreads to think what Australia is going to offer in exchange.

Here’s a more detailed article.

The draft, released by International Whaling Commission support group chairman Cristian Maquieira, said: “This effort represents a paradigm shift in the way the Commission will carry out its mandate. The commission will establish caps of takes that are within sustainable levels for a 10-year period.”

The IWC proposal said its aim was to reduce the number of whales culled under the scientific loophole which it admits has led to an increase rather than a reduction in the number of whales killed since the moratorium was put into place in 1986.


The draft proposals, drawn up by an IWC working group that included Japan and Iceland describes as “critical” the quota limits for commercial hunting.

“Since the imposition of the commercial whaling moratorium in 1985/86, over 33,000 whales have been killed by whaling under objection, reservation and special permit – whaling over which IWC has no control,” it said.

“These takes have been increasing each year. In 1990, just over 300 whales were taken; in 1995 there were around 750 whales taken; in 2000 they were around 1,000 whales; and over the last five years takes have been between 1,700 and 1,900 whales,” it said.

The proposal will go next month to an IWC working group meeting in Florida and, if approved, will be voted on at the annual meeting in June. If it is passed with at least a 75 percent majority, the proposals will becothe regime for over-seeing whaling and whale conservation.

So in other words, the IWC is going back to its proper mission of brokering numbers.

Basically, you have 2 groups with mutually exclusive ends, fighting it out on the IWC each year. The Anti-Whaling lobby has taken the agenda to the extreme and basically won’t let any commercial whaling resume, so nations interested in whaling have to come up with legitimate excuses to go whaling. South Korea says each year it plans on having more accidents where they hit whales. Iceland is threatening to leave the IWC, as is Norway. Russia is quiet but still goes on campaigns for whaling. And then there’s Japan, the nation that seems to attract the most vitriol because clearly its claims of scientific whaling’ seem the most unlikely – Although I don’t see how it’s any less unscientific than planning to have more accidents, but nobody gets on South Korea’s case about their accidental whaling program.

Hence you have the crazy folks of Sea Shpherd chasing the Japanese scientific whaling fleet and throwing smoke bombs and stink bombs and getting hosed and getting run over by whaling boats and what have you. It’s pretty unomcompromising on the anti-whaling lobby side. They’re saying zero and nothing else, and they’re staked to that as a moral position.

Then the whaling nations ave their claims too – mainly on the basis of cultural practice, but also because the International Whaling Commission has effectively turned itself into the International Anti-Whaling Commission that nothing can get negotiated beyond whether it’s possible to even contemplate commercial whaling.

It’s getting mightily sticky as a diplomatic topic too because now Kevin Rudd is saying he will sue Japan in some international court over the scientific whaling, although on the basis of just what international law remains to be seen. The Japanese are doing ‘scientific’ whaling under the provisions for such things under the IWC agreement so they’re not exactly breaking rules there. Australia’s insistence that the whaling is happening in Australia’s territorial waters is just as dodgy because Australia’s claim over the territorial waters is just a claim.

Meanwhile the popular claims that whaling is bad because it’s cruel is fraught with problems. I doubt Australia’s beef industry would like it if say, India came in hard with claims that cows are sacred and therefore should not be eaten. You can see just how far that argument would fly in Australia, so people really ought to get off the cruelty-to-animals line as the basis of anti-whaling arguments. If you think that’s spurious, then let me tell you the Japanese think the anti-whaling arguments are just as spurious.  Maybe that’s what the Japanese should do: Pay India to complain about the beef industry in Australia. God knows they have a few *ahem* beefs with Australia already.

At this point in time it’s clear that the 4-6 nations that want to undertake commercial whaling:

  • will seek to undertake whaling no matter what
  • don’t care how anti-whalers feel about it
  • are not persuaded by moral/ethical/fluffy-emotional arguments
  • have their own data and stats to support their case for whaling
  • but will abide by proper agreements.

Unless Australia’s really going to war with these countries over whaling, then maybe it should negotiate *something*. So what could that something be? It seems that it’s a plan to let whaling go back to being legit in exchange for strictly controlled numbers. In other words, both parties give up something. The anti-whalers have to give up their demand for zero as the number, and the whalers have to reduce the number towards zero.

People who are not willing to make any compromises won’t like it, but there’s enough political realism to the notion that allows all the nations involved to come to a detente. It’s certainly better than the stupid annual stoush that is the IWC meeting in May each year. Ideals are fine, but if there are people who are diametrically opposed to your ideals, then it’s time to get a little real.

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