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This article was received by email from Humane Society International on Friday 24th June 2005

Humane Society International Sums Up Divisive IWC Meeting in Korea

HSI Press Release Friday 24th June 2005

Summing up events in Korea, Patricia Forkan, President of Humane Society International said: "This meeting highlighted the fact that despite the deep divisions within the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan and friends were not able to topple the IWC along with the whales' best hope for survival." Forkan further, stated, "Today conservation and welfare prevailed, next year however, Japan made it clear by words and deeds that it will continue unfettered whaling whatever the diplomatic price is in the long run."

In a week which began with the very real fear that Japan had turned the tide and gained the simple majority, Japan leaves Korea today still far short of its goal to take command of the IWC.

Almost as soon as the IWC opened on Monday, Japan began losing traction on what they had been claiming publicly and privately would be their renaissance at the IWC with four new member countries: Togo, Nauru, Cameroon and Gambia.

Only Cameroon showed up to vote the first day and it was not enough firepower for Japan to gut the Commission's agenda. Japan had planned to wipe out discussions of humane killing, whale sanctuaries, human health concerns, environmental threats and to abolish the Conservation Committee - taking the life blood out of conservation issues at the IWC.

Instead, after strong legal arguments from New Zealand, focusing on whether to keep the sanctuary issue on the agenda, the body politic voted to keep it and all the other conservation issues in place and the full agenda moved forward. Japan was defeated 24-31 with two countries abstaining. By Wednesday Nauru had shown up but two of the other anticipated new supporters of the Japanese position never materialized.

New pro-conservation IWC member countries Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, and Hungary voted solidly during the week to keep whale protection measures in place. As did Panama when in previous years they have voted with the whalers.

The long shadow of a secret ballot system being put in place also loomed over the first day of the meeting with Japan warning that "it is quite regrettable that the IWC small countries are subjected to intimidation on voting behaviour.

UK quickly reminded those gathered that, "we've heard these arguments before against accountability and transparency". This was followed by strong intervention from Australia's Minister for Environment, Senator Ian Campbell and a warning from New Zealand's Minister of Conservation Chris Carter: "If you wish to show you have something to hide, then cast your vote for secret ballots...If you want to stand up for accountability vote against secret ballots". Ultimately Japan was beaten 27 to 30.

Tensions were also high during discussions of Japan's plans to hunt humpback and fin whales. In an effort to ramp up its quota on minkes in Antarctica by more than double, "JARPA 2", as it is called, would pump an additional 495 minke and 50 each of fin and humpback whales every year into an already glutted whale meat market - some 340 percent increase to a whopping 5,350 tons of meat that no one really wants.

The scientific research Japan uses to try and justify the hunt took a battering at this year's meeting. Many Commissioners deplore the fact that Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has a few pitiful papers published in peer reviewed scientific journals to show for 18 years worth of lethal 'research' in JARPA 1 and the death of more than 6,500 minke whales. In a stinging intervention the Government of Brazil suggested Japan had invented a new category of whaling, 'political' whaling, and rightly called it an abuse of Japan's rights under the Convention. Austria's scientist reminded the body that "63 members of the scientific committee have put in the strongest terms their concerns over JARPA 2."

After a heated debate, Australia's resolution condemning JARPA 2 plans (which had 25 co-sponsors) was voted upon with Japan again suffering a defeat of 30 for Australia's resolution, 27 against and 1 abstaining. Not even pro-whaling countries China and Korea gave it their support.

While an important and essential protest, it was a bitter sweet victory since it is a non-binding resolution and Japan has already indicated it will proceed with the hunt regardless. Nicola Beynon, Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager, at Humane Society International's Australian office commented that: "Japan is proving impervious to this level of diplomatic pressure. Australia and other conservation countries will need to elevate their protests over Japan's abuses of the scientific whaling loophole to a higher platform that includes economic and legal sanctions."

Angry over the outcome of the vote on scientific whaling, one Japanese official announced to the delegates that next year they would be back with more countries and "The reversal of history is soon to come for Japan." With that warning, the country lowered its head politically and withdrew its own JARPA resolution, which would have sung the praises and supported the planned JARPA 2 hunt

Next up was Japan's attempt to lift the commercial whaling moratorium and put in place their insulting Revised Management Scheme (RMS) with only scant rules and guidelines. The vote needed a majority. They failed with 23 in favour, 29 opposed and 5 abstentions.

'Small type coastal whaling' did not fair much better for Japan, with delegates again cutting through Japanese rhetoric and preventing a Schedule change (which would have needed a majority) to allow a quota of 150 minkes whales for a commercial hunt for Japan's 'coastal villages'. This quota is already satisfied twice over with Japan's scientific research program in the North Pacific and the many whales caught as 'bycatch' in fisheries, which Japan allows to be sold on the commercial market. Japan lost this vote 26-29-1. Again, Japan retreated by withdrawing its request for another quota of Brydes whales.

But Japan levelled its own salvo when once again it marshalled its supporters to defeat a three year effort, put forth by Brazil and other conservation minded governments for a South Atlantic Sanctuary. That failed by garnering a simple majority of 29 in favour, 26 against and 2 abstentions but not enough for a majority.

On the last day, the main game of the IWC played out the negotiations for a compromise on the Revised Management Scheme. The Danes and Koreans proposed a resolution setting out the process for a seriously compromised RMS to be adopted next year. Despite being pitched as a balanced compromise, their resolution sought to narrow the negotiations to only non-binding voluntary guidelines to stop the abuses of scientific whaling, and with pitiful compliance measures for commercial whaling and no penalties to enforce the weakest of regulations. It also aimed to downgrade any consideration of animal welfare and disregarded sanctuaries.

The Danish and Korean resolution started out with 6 co-sponsors when it was tabled on Thursday but overnight, after strong lobbying from the conservation countries and NGOs, Finland, The Netherlands, Oman, Sweden and Switzerland withdrew their support from this controversial and divisive resolution, some even ended up voting against it. The resolution failed spectacularly with only the two sponsors voting in favour of it.

Instead a neutral resolution from Ireland, Germany and South Africa passed which sought to keep the RMS negotiations going but with all the options on the table, including considering measures that are best practice in fisheries agreements. Significantly, this resolution recognizes that the abuses of scientific whaling and reservations must be taken to a higher level that has the power to amend the Convention itself. This resolution passed 25 in favour, 3 opposed and 28 abstaining. Humane Society International now anticipates a diplomatic or ministerial conference to deal with the Convention's fundamental loopholes. "It is clear that the abuses of scientific whaling and opt-out provisions cannot be dealt with in an RMS. It is time to address the real problems of this Commission by amending the Convention that allows Japan, Iceland, and Norway to circumvent the moratorium" said Kitty Block, Director Treaty Law, Oceans and Wildlife Protection at Humane Society International.

Japan abstained on both RMS resolutions. This is significant because they have been claiming for decades that they want an RMS in place to regulate whaling. The truth of the matter is that they really don't want an RMS because they don't want the IWC to control their whaling in any form. In a candid moment, Japan also sought to remove language from a newly formed Compliance working group, that included looking at international best practices regarding compliance and enforcement. "One can only assume from their actions, that Japan would rather seek a whaling regime on par or below the worst international practices", said Kitty Block.

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