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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 60 preview

The IWC's home page has been updated with various documents ahead of the IWC 60 annual meeting to be held in Santiago, Chile.

The big issue this year is whether the IWC has a future, or not.

The annotated agenda document for the plenary can be obtained here.

Comments received from Japan officials (page 6) suggest that they are hoping for a non-confrontational, co-operative meeting, and will refrain from putting forth proposals that will obviously be controversial. They have urged other IWC Contracting Governments to also take such an approach.

Under the agenda item regarding Japan's "Small-type whaling" (page 9), Japan notes that it is prepared not to request a vote or even put forth it's usual proposal regarding a small quota for small-type coastal whaling "providing that substantial or concrete progress on discussions concerning the future of the IWC is being made", in order to "allow more time for plenary discussions on the future of the IWC".

Nonetheless, Brazil has indicated (page 9) that it will put forth a schedule amendment proposal for the creation of a South Atlantic Sanctuary. Ironically, the annotations at the top of the "Sanctuaries" agenda item (page 8) include further comments from Japan urging other Contracting Governments to refrain from submitting proposals for Sanctuaries. Brazil may not have had Japan's comments available when they submitted their own, or they may have and chose to ignore them. Whether the proposal for the Sanctuary does get put to the meeting or not seems likely to be indicative of what happens at the meeting as a whole.

Additionally, under the "The IWC in the future" agenda item itself, Australia has advised that it would submit it's "Whale Conservation and Management: a Future for the IWC" paper for information. Australia introduced this document at the March intersessional meeting, noting that what underpinned it was "recognition of the need for IWC to move toward a contemporary international conservation and management function focused on the conservation of whale populations and embracing the non-consumptive use of whales" (page 12 of the meeting report).

Outside of the IWC, New Zealand has talked of teaming up with Australia for "one big hit" on Japan with respect to it's whaling activities.

With this context, Japan's comments from the IWC Future agenda item are worth quoting in full:
In commenting on the Draft Agenda, Japan noted that it believes that the Commission must devote as much time as possible to [The IWC in the Future] agenda item and that there is urgency to this matter. Noting the current conflicting opinions among Commission members that make it difficult to reach consensus decisions or to hold normal discussions, Japan stressed that unless this situation is changed soon, the collapse of IWC will be unavoidable. Japan considers that the process initiated by the Chair to resolve IWC's problems cannot continue indefinitely and wished, therefore, to remind other members of its statement made at IWC/59 last year concerning the real possibility that Japan would have to review the way it engages with the IWC at a fundamental level. It believes that a clear direction for the future of IWC should be determined and the procedures reformed by the end of the 61st Annual Meeting at the latest. Japan expressed the strong hope that other members will share its view and co-operate to advance the discussions concerning IWC's future.
If the indications and language from Brazil, Australia and New Zealand are anything to go by, it seems likely that Japan and other like-minded nations are to be disappointed at IWC 60, without having to wait until IWC 61 for the big let-down. While it may be that others in the anti-whaling camp are more inclined to take a responsible approach towards this international organization (or persuaded to do so by the Chair), it is doubtful whether the threat of the IWC becoming irrelevant as a whaling regulation organization is of such a serious concern to the anti-whaling nations. The political risks for these nations associated with any possible compromise on their symbolic anti-whaling stance appear likely to outweigh any genuine concerns that they may have about present and future whaling activities.

At the March intersessional meeting, an outside expert who participated talked of the notion of the "ripeness" of the issue for negotiation:
'Ripeness' has been defined by the existence of a mutually-hurting stalemate, i.e. a situation in which the hurt which parties are enduring is greater that the hurt of solving it. Settlement then becomes a matter of 'how' and not 'whether'. He further noted that while 'ripeness' is not a pre-requisite, the likelihood of success is higher if it is present.
Delegates from some of the contracting governments spoke to this later:

It was noted that for this to be the case there must be recognition that the current stalemate is mutually hurting. Some doubt was expressed as to whether this is in fact the case.
As per my suggestion above, I concur with this. The hard-core anti-whaling nations do not appear to be hurting significantly or perhaps even at all because of the current situation at the IWC. On the contrary, many seem to benefit from it. Australia is the best example, with it's national elections last year seeing whaling become a prominent campaign issue. The hurt that does seem present is that that would be coupled with any compromise at a time when their new Prime Minister Rudd has been talking very big talk about bringing about an end to whaling full-stop. It does not seem politically feasible that Australian policy makers could opt to agree to any kind of compromise instead of remaining on the course that they are.

Thus the outcome of IWC 60 seems to be a predictable failure - unless Chair Hogarth is able to wield the USA's considerable influence and put the organization on a different course.

What happens in the aftermath of this year's meeting seems as if it will be more interesting than what happens at it.

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Some contries that are IWC members, don't even a shoreline.

It's kinda like a circus, I think
Good posting David.
I pretty much agree with your analysis. The current stalemate works to the advantage of the anti-whale eaters and referencing the previous comment, the IWC gives them a circus ring and an audience to propagandize to.

In my estimation, Japan needs to think hard about leaving the IWC (with an open door to return-if allowed) if only to throw a rock in the pond and upset a status quo that does not work to their advantage.
Most of the controversy is pretty well media created and the media have settled into well worn reflexive furrows on this issue.
If Japan leaves and handles it's PR well, it could out-communicate the antis at least initially and break through with their side of things a little more.

That said, I don't get the impression that the Japanese whalers much care about the Western PR aspect.
Hi samhaldfestarin,

Indeed. Under the Law of the Sea Convention even land-locked nations have rights to high seas resources, so I don't have a problem with them being a part of the IWC.

That said, I doubt any land-locked nations would ever have joined the organization had it not become such a shambles in the first place. The first land-locked nation (Switzerland) joined in 1980... almost 30 years ago.

Hi iceclass, indeed many in Japan (including many politicians and academics) think that Japan should quit the IWC, but some officials have publicly stated that they don't favour the option, as Japan's position is compatible with the convention, and even quitting the IWC would not free Japan up to hunt as it pleases, as under UNCLOS it has obligations to cooperate with other nations through appropriate international organizations, etc.

Japan's position is certainly compatible with the ICRW convention, but the IWC Schedule is not compatible with the ICRW convention today in 2008, and on that basis quitting the IWC seems like not only a completely respectable thing to do, but perhaps an obligatory thing to do if one values good faith international agreements. The consequences of abusing international agreements (in the way the ICRW has been) need to be illustrated. But that's another issue really.

I think Japan now needs to take appropriate actions to have the debate reframed around the matter of sustainability. At the moment the debate in the west is fuzzied by arguments such as regarding adherance to agreements such as the moratorium and southern ocean sanctuary, both which are aritifacts of the IWC's inability to function, rather than things that were agreed in good faith. The anti-whaling nations' purported concerns about scientific permit whaling fail to recognise the fact that with a commercial whaling moratorium, scientific permit whaling is the only option available to a nation which does not maintain an objection to the moratorium rule to pursue the goals of the convention. The frustration of the anti-whaling nations is therefore of their own-making. International agreements may be abused, but it's hard to abuse one so much so as to force nations to do exactly the opposite of what they had adhered to the convention for in the first place.

However Japan goes about this, it should be clear and concise about it (and being flexible with regards to cooperation, such as you suggest by leaving the door open for an IWC return). But it should not allow it's sovereign rights be infringed upon in the way they have for any longer. I think this will happen, it's just a matter of the timing now. Political considerations will dictate that, I believe. PM Fukuda's support ratings have plummeted from 60% to 20%. The opposition DPJ party here are fully in support of whaling (despite what has been reported in the western media - I hope to post something about that in more detail sometime), so I am curious as to what approach they would take if given the reins.
"The consequences of abusing international agreements (in the way the ICRW has been) need to be illustrated. But that's another issue really."

For me, David, that is *the* issue.
The manner in which folks do things is usually very telling.
Dominica, has decided not to support Japans position, of course we shall see what happens at the meeting itself.
Hi Martin,

Dominica is free to participate in whatever way it sees fit. You wouldn't happen to be in Dominica now would you?

Voting, however, is supposedly to become less of a feature at IWC 60, based on what we read in the "Future of the IWC" papers. Of course, what we read in such papers may also be entirely different from what happens at the IWC meeting, as seems to possibly be the case based on various statements in the media by some nations, not to mention indications from the IWC meeting agenda.
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