Wednesday, July 13, 2011

IWC 2011: Make or Break?

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is currently holding its 63rd annual meeting on the Channel island of Jersey.
The UK has a proposal to stop alleged graft and boost transparency, by ending annual subscription payments by cash or cheque. Fees would have to be paid by bank transfer from the govt concerned, to reduce the risk of bribery [UK is submitting this alone, rather than the 27-member European Union, because Denmark refuses to back it. Denmark aligns itself with pro-whaling nations because two of its territories, the Faroes and Greenland, have deeply-rooted whaling traditions]. Last year's IWC was rocked by news that Japan "bought" votes from Caribbean and African nations with cash and aid. Japan still does so: in April 2011, it “offered” Palau a patrol boat and funding for its shark sanctuary, in exchange for Palau declining a similar offer from Sea Shepherd!
Japan (which denied the charges even in the face of proof) is one of three countries along with Norway and Iceland practicing large-scale whaling despite a 1986 moratorium (Japan calls it "research").
Also tabled are measures to boost the integrity and authority of the IWC's scientific committee, provide greater voice and access for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and report more quickly and fully on Commission proceedings.
Japan has yet to formally comment on these proposals, but Glenn Inwood (“Ginza Glenn” – the NZ turncoat who’s the mouthpiece for the Institute of Cetacean Research, lobbying on behalf of the nasty Nippon whalers) expressed scepticism on how much progress could be made...
It's ironic that Sea Shepherd, the only organisation banned from attending the IWC, fielded the most representatives: more than all the other attending NGOs combined. Supporters came at their own expense (from France, UK, US, Oz, NZ, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, even Japan): more than 60, including the crew of SS’s Brigitte Bardot. Outdated currency from Russia, Iraq, Zimbabwe and former Soviet bloc nations was tossed into the air to symbolise the bribery that Japan's been practicing for years, and to support the UK's anti-bribery plan.
There’s no question that the Japanese are the ones to watch: as the big boys in the pro-whaling lobby, their decisions will play a key role in how the IWC pans out. But after their tragic year, how strong a role can they play? Can Japan still afford to pay the fees and expenses of the many countries whose support it’s bought? (Even before the tsunami, the Nippon government was reviewing its whaling viability.)
The Conservation Committee is also meeting in Jersey. A pressing issue is marine debris. Not enough is known of the damage it causes to cetaceans, but a large number die annually due to entanglement or ingestion of marine debris. Animals also suffer longer term affects due to the toxicity.
The politics surrounding Japanese actions, in addition to the fallout from last year's meeting, could either make this year's IWC meeting an historic one…or another wash-out.
PS: 14 July 2011 - Australia reject Japanese demand for special treatment.
PS: 15 July 2011 - UK's anti-bribery plan is accepted, and scientific evidence used to support arguments now must rely on peer-reviewed work...but Sthrn.Ocean whaling talks go into the "too hard" basket as Japan struggles with its many domestic problems...all in all, it seems the whales were ignored by the IWC this year!!!
PS: 16 July 2011 - Delegates from Japan, Iceland and Norway walked out of an IWC meeting (along with other pro-whaling states), to prevent a quorum. A vote on the Latin American whale reserve suggestion was about to start. For IWC meetings to be legally constituted for a proposal like this, at least half of all IWC states have to be present, and 75% must vote in favour. More manipulation by the nasty Nippons!

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