What Went Down: International Whaling Conference 2014 – The 65th Meeting

The meeting took place recently in Slovenia with over 60 member countries in attendance. Here are some of the issues and resolutions that came up for discussion and vote at the meeting.

International Court of Justice Ruling

The previous ruling by International Court of Justice (ICJ) earlier this year that Japan’s “scientific whaling” is illegal still stands and therefore no further permits for “scientific whaling” to be issued. Further to this a vote (35 yes, 20 no, 5 abstentions) was passed to allow the IWC Scientific Coommittee to implement various provisions which should make “scientific whaling permits” aka Special Permits Programmes more difficult to secure in the future under Article VIII.

The judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the session at which the court delivered its judgment in Whaling Case: Australia v. Japan. (Image: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ)

Cross Boarder Protection

There has been moves to provide greater protection across international boarders for cetaceans. As highly migratory species cetaceans need protection that crosses boarders and oceans. If a species is protected in one country and then not in another then the protection will not be as effective as it could be because it will only cover a small amount of their range. This proposal was put forward by Monaco to allow for greater co-operation between the IWC and the United Nations and would be to allow for enhanced collaboration in the conservation of migratory cetaceans. This was passed by a vote of: 37 yes, 15 no, 7 abstentions.

Humpback whale and its calf (Credit: NOAA).

Whale Welfare

Amazingly whale welfare came up. I think this is brilliant as many of the methods used in whaling are not humane and may cause much suffering before death. This proposal was put forward but the UK by their DEFRA team. It was met with much reservation particularly by Norway and Japan which is unfortunate as the team were looking at not just whaling but also strandings, ship strikes and entanglement. Lets hope they can continue to work on this and maybe opinions can be changed and whaling nations can be pushed to be more involved.

Icelandic Whalers. Image: WDC/ROB LOTT

Food Security

Another interesting (one word for it?) proposal that was submitted by Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Republic of Guinea, and Benin was that whale meat should be an important food source for world food security and that the IWC should support ‘utilising whales as a means of reducing poverty and hunger’. Ghana wants the IWC to show united support for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) quest for sustainable ocean use and food and nutrition security for the worlds growing population. Pro-waling countries were all unsurprisingly in favour of the resolution. Gabon made some commendable comments on this including that it would support it if the proposal was more in reference to indigenous coastal communities which actually depend on whale stocks for food while noting the importance of whales for the health of marine ecosystems. The EU did not support the revolution and neither did the USA in its current form. The proposal was withdrawn to be brought back in 2016 after more dialogue to take place to allow a consensus to be reached.

Whale Products (Image: http://www.theenvironmentalblog.org)

 So that is that for a short round up of some of the important events at the 65th International Whaling Conference.

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