Seen from the observer seats in this huge echoing hall, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting in Panama was like a tug of war in slow motion as the voting blocs surged back and forth.
The struggle was for the future of the IWC with one bloc trying to drag the commission into the present day as the other dug in to stop that and drag it back to the days of whaling. Continue reading →
Humpback whale feeding amongst a colony of seabirds, seen from onboard the Esperanza in the Unimak Pass, Alaska. Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac
The crew of the Esperanza scrambled to grab cameras and binoculars this morning to get a glimpse of so many humpback whales, maybe 40 of them blowing and diving by us, as we made our way through Unimak Pass crossing from the Gulf of Alaska into the Bering Sea.
Serendipitously, as we snapped pictures of these majestic giants swimming through water peppered with hundreds of seabird’s scouting for leftovers, an took in the rich and peaceful sounds of their massive exhaling blows, other Greenpeace activists in Panama at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) were trying to end to whaling, for good.
Between climate change, the industrialization of our seas and continued whaling, whales need saving today more than ever. Continue reading →
Yesterday we learned that once again Japan’s whaling fleet has left port and is heading to the International Whale Sanctuary in the Southern Ocean to continue its annual whale slaughter. With Japan still reeling from their recent earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disasters — to spend more taxpayer money to support their whaling program is nothing short of shameful. My Japanese colleague, Junichi Sato (Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan) had this to say as the fleet departed –
“Not only is the whaling industry unable to survive without large increases in government handouts, now it’s siphoning money away from the victims of the March 11 triple disaster, at a time when they need it most. This is a new low for the shameful whaling industry and the callous politicians that support it. Japan’s whaling program is already a black mark on the country’s international reputation; the government should focus on recovery at home rather than continuing this shameful Antarctic whale hunt. It is time for the Japanese government to do the right thing by its people, the international community and the environment by committing to drop its financial support for the whaling industry for once and for all.”
I fail to see how wasting taxpayer money on hunting whales in an International Whale Sanctuary can be seen as anything other than an international embarrassment.
Japan’s politicians that again supported increased subsidies to fund yet another year of needless whale slaughter have turned their backs on their own citizens and their ability to recovery from multiple disasters – their behavior is nothing short of shameful.
Photo: The Nisshin Maru factory ship, of the Japanese whaling fleet, departs Japan to head to the Southern Ocean to begin the whaling season of 2010-2011.
Wow! After two days of intense negotiations, the IWC steps into the 21st century!
Vote buying at the IWC is history, making the process more fair and giving whale conservation a real fighting chance.
Thanks to the valiant efforts of the UK government, the IWC has joined other international forums in encouraging basic transparency and financial accountability. Paying membership fees with cash is no longer allowed.
We hope this modest change will help bring the Commission into the light and into a new era in which the IWC will finally focus on protecting whales, not perpetuating corrupt whaling industries.
While this decision might not save any whales today, it should lay the foundation for the IWC to be able to work more effectively for conservation in years to come.
Next week I will be traveling to the Isle of Jersey for the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Whales, whale conservation, and whale hunting will once again be on the world stage.
At last year’s IWC meeting we successfully defeated a proposal that would have restarted commercial whaling with the IWC’s blessing. My thanks to all of you who took action last year. Prior to last year’s IWC meeting President Obama was contacted by 1.5 million US citizens asking him to direct our U.S. delegation to change course and oppose all commercial whaling – the long held U.S. position. President Obama heard your voices with the U.S. once again opposing all commercial whaling.
Also at the time of last year’s IWC meeting The London Sunday Times, reveled from an undercover sting they orchestrated, what many of us had suspected for a long time – Japan has routinely bribed commissioners for their votes to support Japan’s long term agenda of restarting commercial whaling. Read more or watch videos of IWC delegates entering into negotiations for their votes.
I’ve only mentioned last year’s history to put in context what we expect will be on the table at next week’s meeting. As illustrated by the vote buying scandal it is obvious to everyone that the IWC is dysfunctional, morally bankrupt and in need of serious reform.
The needed reforms go way beyond just the vote buying issue but also include allowing civil society (NGOs) meaningful participation in IWC meetings, along with the timely release of scientific documents. The United Kingdom (UK) has put forth a proposal that would change the IWC’s Rules of Procedure fixing these systemic problems.
Last week our U.S. IWC delegation held a public listening session to discuss the U.S. positions for the upcoming IWC meeting. Ms. Monica Medina (NOAA) our current IWC commissioner led this meeting. Commissioner Medina told everyone that the U.S. will work hard to recapture our long tradition of the U.S. being a whale conservation world leader. She also said that reforming the IWC is a priority for the U.S. and that the U.S. will support the UK’s proposal to reform the IWC.
As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” This year, I hope that Greenpeace will be able to work with our U.S. delegation along with other whale conservation minded countries to move these much needed reforms forward. I’ll let you know next week from the Isle of Jersey what our U.S. delegation is doing (or not) for the conservation of the world’s whales.