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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



IWC 2006: Pre-plenary meeting build-up

It's the 10th of June, and around half of the proceedings have been concluded.
This includes the IWC Scientific Committee meeting, and the preparation of it's report, as well as the anti-whaling member "Conservation Committee" talkfest.

Surprisingly to me, anti-whaling NGO groups have not obtained any leaks from their sympathizers on the IWC Scientific Committee.

On the other hand, maybe the leaks have been reigned in this year, as last year they were criticised heavily for breaching the IWC rules of maintaining confidentiality of documents until the commencement of the plenary session.

Or perhaps, there was not much news that they wished to leak this year. On the Scientific Committee agenda was the completion of new current estimates for the Southern Hemisphere Minke and Humpback stocks. Regardless of what the numbers are, the fact that the Scientific Committee can produce estimates at all supports the pro-conservation & sustainable use nations, and disturbs anti-whaling nations. Without knowledge of current whale abundance, catch limits can not be set (A good article on how scientists go about estimating abundance of whales via sightings surveys is available here).

The IWC "Conservation Committee" was a recent anti-whaling bloc construction to try to cement the IWC's focus away from conservation and management of whale resources, to their protection. Open up document "Voluntary National Cetacean Conservation Report 2006 (Australia)" from the IWC 58 documents page, and what you see is a skimpy 3 page document of which the first section begins:
All cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are protected in Australian waters.
Well, whipdee-doo for Australia. The "Conservation Committee" is nothing but a talkfest amongst those anti-whaling nations who wish that there be no consumptive use of whale resources. The group would have been more aptly named the "Protection Committee", and given their desires, there is no need for them to come together at the IWC to discuss their whale protectionism ideals.

Out in the media, the Sydney Morning Herald has some coverage with comments from Ian Campbell.
The Japanese Government has foreshadowed that it will try to "normalise" the commission; in other words, to treat whales like fish or any other marine resource.
Indeed - this is what the IWC was set up to do.
"This confirms our worst fears," Senator Campbell said, as he conceded that the numbers appeared to be slipping away from the pro-conservation lobby in the commission. He said several countries could still join, right up to the eve of the meeting, which opens in the West Indian nation of St Kitts and Nevis on Friday. Israel has said publicly it will join the anti-whaling side but is yet to do so.
As always, there is better information here on my blog than in the mainstream media. Israel has already joined, as I noted two days ago.
"It appears we could be faced with the prospect that the conservation majority could be lost to countries with no interest in whales, and no chance to get across the issues," Senator Campbell said.
Leaving aside Campbell's confusion between the difference of conservationism and protectionism, 7 landlocked European nations have consistently voted with Australia at the IWC meetings. What interest do those 7 nations have in whales that developing coastal nations in Africa, Central America, South East Asia and the Pacific (who support sustainable use) do not?
The number of humpbacks seen off the east coast is booming, a far cry from the 1960s, when numbers fell to as few as 300 animals because of indiscriminate and illegal whaling by the then Soviet Union. A University of Queensland whale specialist, Mike Noad, said he expected about 8500 to migrate up the coast this winter.
And it's fantastic news. Today it is 2006. Four decades have past since the 1960's. Whale stocks are rebounding, and providing whaling is appropriately regulated under the IWC, there is no reason to rule out all whaling, as is Australia's desire.

So, there are 6 days to go before the politics really starts. Here is the provisional meeting agenda. Items to look out for:

... Japan intends to draw the attention of the Commission to what it considers to be the very dangerous nature of the recent protest actvities against Japan's whale research vessels in the Antarctic. It will seek the adoption of a Resolution or recommendation for the Commission that discourages such activities.
This item might get a mention under #6 "Whale killing methods and associated welfare issues", as the obstruction by these groups may have led to increased Time-To-Death and reduced Instantaneous Death Ratio statistics this year.


This proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure would allow all nations to vote solely in accordance with their sovereign desires, free of political and economic influence from more powerful nations. Small developing nations have often been threatened by foreign NGO groups in powerful nations in the past. For example, Dominica was threatened with a boycott in 2003.


Important findings from the Scientific Committee will be discussed here.


I believe that a review of the original JARPA programme was to be undertaken at the completed Scientific Committee meeting just concluded. While there was likely heavy division amongst the Scientific Committee on the issue, it will be interesting to see what was said, and what agreement, if any, the SC was able to reach. At any rate, there will be a resolution one way or another supporting or denouncing the research, depending on who has the most votes - a political statement either way, so not of great interest, although the media will probably report this topic very widely.


Although the pro-conservation & sustainable use nations of the IWC may this year have a majority, there is still only the slimest of chances that a resumption in commercial whaling could happen in the hear future. How nations in favour propose to work towards this objective should become clearer here.

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