The Best Report – IWC decisions taken over by politics
The INTERNATIONAL Whaling Commission, the body set up more than 50 years ago to manage the world's whale stocks, has lost its way and isn't carrying out its key role.
And so, Ray Gambell who headed the IWC's secretariat for at least two decades has concluded that the global organisation which is due to meet in St Kitts-Nevis next month has become largely dysfunctional.
"That is true to the extent that it was established in 1946 to regulate commercial whaling and it is not doing that," he said in an interview from his home in England. "It is not carrying out its primary function."
Gambell, a British marine scientist who stepped down as IWC secretary about five years ago, said that unfortunately politics rather than science has hobbled the commission, preventing many of its members from harvesting some whale stocks which were in abundance, according to the findings of the commission's own Scientific Committee.
"The original people and nations were trying to regulate a high-seas fishery but in more recent times the attitude in the world has been not too much to the utilisation of a natural resource, but the preservation of it," he complained. "So, they are using a piece of fisheries legislation to prohibit capture of stocks of whales, some of which are capable of being utilised on a sustainable basis."
Gambell – who, like commissioners from Caribbean member-states Antigua, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent, supports sustainable utilisation of the world's marine resources – was awarded a British national honour, membership in the Order of the British Empire, OBE, by Queen Elizabeth for his work with the Commission.
He charged that some nations backed by strong NGOs had wrongfully changed the use of the fisheries legislation "from regulating and catching to prohibition of catching".
It's an approach he opposed on scientific grounds.
Little wonder, then, that Gambell said he was enjoying his retirement while not missing the IWC.
"I am having a very nice time in retirement and I don't miss the International Whaling Commission at all," he said. "It was very hard work and, particularly towards the end, there was very little movement or very little action in what the Commission was doing in the last few years, which was very frustrating."
Interestingly, when the IWC held its first meeting in the Caribbean, Gambell was head of the Secretariat; now that it is returning to the region, he would follow its proceedings from afar.
If Gambell has a major regret, it is the drift away from science-based decisions to actions which are prompted by politics, particularly when it comes to preventing any stocks from being utilised as food.
"As I understand the current estimates of certain stocks, the numbers and their capacities to sustain catches, it is true that there are stocks which could support a regulated catch at a level which could ensure that there is no depletion of the stock," he said. "I think there is a great deal of politics involved. A country which has a powerful economic position is able to use that strength to encourage other people to think the same way."
The IWC's annual plenary meeting is to be held June 15 to 20 in Basseterre, St Kitts.
June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 January 2010 February 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 February 2011 March 2011 May 2013 June 2013