International Whaling Commission - Outcomes and Setbacks
Last week’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission saw some much-needed modernisation of the rules of the 60-year old Convention, but achieving new tangible measures to conserve whales remains fraught.
The new rules mean that at future IWC meetings delegates will no longer be able to turn up with cash payments for the dues that allow their country to vote, a practice that can facilitate corruption. Countries will have to pay their own dues from their Government’s accounts ahead of the meeting.
“It is hoped the rule changes will make it harder for vote buying to occur, a practice suspected to have thwarted whale conservation efforts at the Commission over the past decade,” said Humane Society International’s Nicola Beynon.
Yet, just as our hopes are raised for more credible voting processes, this meeting saw the pro-whaling bloc resort to unprecedented tactics to stymie conservation measures. When Brazil and Argentina called for a vote on their proposal to declare the South Atlantic a sanctuary for whales, pro-whaling countries staged a walk out so that the room was left without the necessary quorum of countries for a vote to even take place!
“There have been walkouts at the IWC before, but never any to break a quorum. This was a new low for the Commission,” said Ms Beynon - a veteran of many IWC meetings.
“The tactics used at the IWC meeting this year should remove any doubt that conservation countries can afford to let down their guard when it comes to defending and advancing whale conservation at this important forum,” said Ms Beynon.
In contrast, the establishment of a small cetacean fund, to which HSI contributed, is an example of the progress that can be made to increase protection for whales and dolphins when organisations and nations work together at the IWC.