The purveyors of consensus for a nebulous vision of the IWC's future moved quickly on Day Two at IWC 61 in Madeira, determined to avoid contentious votes, ward off debate over how to remedy the body's inadequacies, and set the stage for an early conclusion to the proceedings later this week.
The principal actor in this year's tableau, IWC Chair William Hogarth, led the way, pushing through a consensus resolution extending the time frame for the Small Working Group charged last year to search out “a way forward” for the IWC. During the last year, the SWG had been working on a deal to authorize Japan's commercial coastal whaling in exchange for a reduction in that nation's “scientific whaling.”
Back to the Future, Again and Again and Again
Between the long coffee and lunch breaks, a steady diet of platitudes about consensus, collegiality and challenge, and the methodical restatement of known facts concerning the past year's SWG mandate, there was little time left to get any real work done on behalf of whales. No discussion of climate change, seismic disturbance, toxic pollution, or even the price of krill.
A resolution calling for another year of the SWG, IWC/61/10, was drafted in a private commissioners' meeting and shepherded to passage a day before Wednesday's morning session, at which non-governmental organizations are to have an opportunity to express their views about the future of the IWC and the activity of the SWG.
This was merely the latest rebuff of civil society by the stewards of the SWG, faithfully replicating the prejudice of Alvaro de Soto, the IWC consultant who has championed “miniaturization,” a narrowing of participation in IWC deliberations that among other things has minimized the access and input of non-profit organizations including HSI.
There were no dissenters from the delegation pack, although a few nations gamely identified the most conspicuous deficiencies of the Small Working Group. Without naming names, Mexico scored those nations it judged to have been operating in bad faith, while expressing regret at the exclusion of non-governmental organizations from the process that had unfolded over the past year
Temperatures in the volcano-shaped Casino Pestana conference center got a lot warmer in the afternoon session when the Greenland proposal for ten humpbacks, rejected last year in Santiago, was reintroduced. The debate centers on Greenland's declaration that it doesn't have enough whale meat to meet nutritional needs, an assertion bedeviled by arguments over formulas, commercial sale, the survival claims of aboriginals, and the question of who should be counted as an aboriginal. Greenland's representatives gave a slide presentation, and benefited from numerous expressions of solidarity from Japan and her client states.
Japanese delegate Joji Morishita's strong affirmation of Greenland's proposal reflected Japan's consistent desire to blur the lines between whaling for aboriginal substance needs and the coastal commercial whaling his nation is so determined to commence.
No one from the Japanese delegation had anything to say about the prior day's request from Sir Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand that Nippon forgo further hunting of humpbacks in the South Pacific on account of new evidence of the species' vulnerability in Oceania.
A vote on the Greenland proposal, an incendiary matter in past years, is likely to be one of the last acts of business undertaken by the IWC this year.
Where are the friendlies?
Among the like-minded nations that oppose whaling, Australia continued to show leadership. Environment Minister Peter Garrett spoke for his nation's delegation today, emphasizing Australia's desire to see the IWC directly address the problem of scientific whaling. Not long ago, Australia announced that it would commit 32 million Australian dollars over six years toward a positive conservation agenda for whales.
In a shift of position that pleased non-profit organizations that had been applying pressure on the matter, the U.S. delegation expressed its support for Australia's proposal that the IWC address scientific whaling. It was a rare moment of spine for the delegation, harnessed as it is to Chairman Hogarth and the SWG process.