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July 9, 2012

International Whaling Commission Timeline

Humane Society International

2012 – Panama City, Panama

Key outcomes

  • The proposal to establish a South Atlantic whale sanctuary received the support of the majority of countries and more support than the last time it was considered, but still not the three-quarters majority needed for adoption.
  • Greenland requested an increased quota which did not receive enough votes to be adopted.
  • A resolution to examine human and whale health issues due to contaminations in the oceans was adopted by consensus.
  • A joint IWC Scientific Committee and Conservation Committee workshop on marine debris was approved.
  • The IWC will move from annual to biennial meetings.

Setbacks

  • South Korea announced its intent to start a scientific whale hunt in its waters.
  • The subsistence quota for St. Vincent and the Grenadines was renewed in spite of concerns that it did not meet the criteria for a subsistence quota.

2011 – St. Helier, Jersey Island

Key outcomes

  • A proposal introduced by the UK with backing from the rest of the EU member countries to improve the functioning of the IWC was weakened a bit to appease the pro-whaling countries, but eventually adopted by consensus, eliminating cash payments of dues which helped facilitate vote buying.
  • Japan decided not to introduce its usual proposal for starting a commercial whale hunt on its coast.
  • The United States and New Zealand withdrew their proposal on the future of the IWC, but urged the continuation of discussions on how to end the deadlock between pro-whaling and pro-conservation countries.
  • A working group was established to transition from annual to biennial Commission meetings starting after the 2012 annual meeting.

Setbacks

  • The Latin American bloc’s proposal to establish a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean was deferred to 2012 after the pro-whaling countries staged a walkout in order to prevent a vote on the issue.
  • Key conservation issues on the agenda were never discussed due to delay tactics used by pro-whaling countries.
  • The UK’s proposal to establish a working group to examine whale killing methods, a recommendation from the Whale Welfare and Ethics workshop [PDF] held in March 2011, was rejected.
  • Efforts to increase observer participation were rejected and conservation groups had the opportunity to make only one relatively short intervention during the meeting.

2010 – Agadir, Morocco

Key outcomes

  • A compromise proposal that would have reopened commercial whaling was defeated, or at least put off until the next meeting.
  • The U.S. withdrew a proposal to lock in a quota for indigenous whalers in Alaska.

     

Setbacks

  • Greenland’s proposal to add humpback whales to their Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) quota was agreed to, on the condition that they reduce their catch of fin whales from 16 to 10 for the next three years. The new quota allows Greenland to take nine humpback whales each year for the next three years.

     

2009 – Madeira, Portugal

Key outcomes

  • Japan’s scientific whaling program continued to draw criticism, especially following new reports that nearly one third of the minke whales killed were pregnant.
  • Greenland’s proposal for permission to add humpback whales to its annual hunt was deferred to an intersessional meeting later in the year.
  • The small working group focused on attempting to find a compromise between the pro-whaling and pro-conservation nations seemed to have reached an impasse.
  • Australia’s request for the IWC to address the problem of scientific whaling was supported by the United States.
  • Delegates passed a consensus resolution concerning the effects of climate and environmental changes upon cetaceans.

Setbacks

  • The IWC did not take a single action to regulate whaling worldwide during IWC 61. Instead, delegates sought to avoid having to deal with the most controversial subjects, and tried to set the stage for another round of intersessional work focusing on the future of the IWC.

2008 – Santiago, Chile

Key outcomes

  • Chile’s president declared a permanent ban on whaling in Chile and announced the establishment of a new marine sanctuary along the country’s 2500 mile-long coast.
  • Closed session meetings among the delegates produced a seven-page document that proposed changes in rules of procedures directed toward the goals of comity and consensus-based decision-making. The most striking was a proposal that all resolutions be submitted to the IWC at least 60 days before its meeting.
  • Greenland’s proposal for an increased aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) catch take involving humpback whales did not receive the three-quarter majority necessary for passage.

2007 – Anchorage, Alaska

Key outcomes

  • The non-whaling countries took back the simple majority of votes.
  • Japan again introduced a type of whaling referred to as small type coastal whaling. In the end, rather than submit to a losing vote, Japan withdrew this proposal, which in various forms the IWC has rejected for a number of years.
  • Delegates approved a resolution that affirmed the continuing significance of the IWC's commercial whaling moratorium to the protection of whales.
  • Member nations committed to an intercessional meeting devoted to the future of the IWC—a fitting legacy for IWC 59, where efforts at dialogue and compromise brought some tangible results.
  • A proposal that the IWC Scientific Committee begin a serious investigation of the impacts of climate change on cetacean populations received the go-ahead and a modest amount of funding.

Setbacks

  • Greenland secured an increased quota of minke whales, up 25 per year for five years. Greenland will also be permitted to hunt two bowheads per year, but only if the Scientific Committee gives approval.
  • Japan planned to begin killing the iconic humpback whale in December.

2006 – St. Kitts and Nevis, Caribbean

Key outcomes

  • Japan and pro-whaling nations tried unsuccessfully to turn the tide on whale conservation.
  • Japan's proposal to remove small cetaceans from the agenda was dismissed, allowing the IWC to maintain competency over the world's small whales and dolphins, the most endangered marine mammals.
  • Japan's proposal to adopt secret ballot voting was also voted down in a 33 to 30 vote, with one abstention.
  • An annual attempt to gut the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was once again defeated, though its margin of safety in votes is starting to decline with the ranks of pro-whaling countries swollen by Japan's recruitment campaign.

Setbacks

  • For the first time in nearly 30 years, Japan and its allies narrowly secured a simple majority of votes at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St. Kitts (33:32 with 1 abstention).
  • The pro-whaling simple majority passed a declaration attacking the moratorium on commercial whaling and whale protection efforts by non-governmental organizations.

2005 – Ulsan, South Korea

Key outcomes

  • Japan didn't secure the majority vote, as many had feared, so lost control of the meeting agenda. As such, Japan failed to remove any conservation topics from the agenda: humane killing, whale sanctuaries, environmental threats, and the Conservation Committee.
  • IWC members passed a neutral resolution from Ireland, Germany and South Africa, one that sought to keep the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) negotiations going, but with all options on the table, including measures that are "best practice" in fisheries agreements. This resolution passed and HSI anticipated a diplomatic or ministerial conference to deal with the convention's fundamental loopholes. The United States and the United Kingdom voted in favor, while Australia abstained, upholding its uncompromising opposition to the resumption of commercial whaling. Notably, Japan abstained on the RMS, as did Norway and Iceland.
  • Japan's bid to abolish the decade-old Southern Ocean Sanctuary was rejected.
  • Japan’s proposal to add a new whaling category, called "small type coastal whaling" was rejected.
  • IWC members officially passed another resolution condemning Japan's research whaling. While important, these are non-binding resolutions, and Japan indicated it will proceed with its hunts regardless.

Setbacks

  • Japan proposed a Revised Management Scheme (RMS) that combined a lifting of the moratorium with no effective controls for preventing whaling nations from once again hunting whales to the brink of extinction. This bid fell well short of its needed three-quarters majority to pass: The vote was 23 in favor, 29 opposed, and five abstentions.
  • Denmark and Korea proposed a resolution which set out a process for adopting a seriously compromised RMS the following year. The resolution failed spectacularly, with only the two sponsors voting in favor.
  • Japan once again threatened to bring more pro-whaling allies to the next meeting, with every intention of overturning the moratorium on commercial whaling.
  • Japan’s so-called scientific whaling program was greatly expanded for that year's hunt under its JARPA 2 plan.
  • Japan and its allies were able to defeat, once again, a proposal to create a South Atlantic Sanctuary.

2004 – Sorrento, Italy

Key outcomes

  • A new study was released at the meeting, sponsored in part by The HSUS, that refutes Japan's argument that whales compete with human beings for fish, a misconception the island nation has used to call for lifting the worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling.
  • A resolution declaring current methods of whaling inhumane was developed.
  • A fast-track proposal that could have led to a limited resumption of commercial whaling was dropped.

2003 – Berlin, Germany

Key outcomes

  • Japan mobilized anti-conservation and anti-whale sanctuary votes from its allies.
  • Adoption of the Berlin Initiative, a groundbreaking whale conservation measure that promised to set the organization on a more humane course, struck a promising note.

Setbacks

  • In October, Iceland resumed hunting whales, to the consternation of the Bush Administration, and worldwide outcry.

2002 – Japan

Key outcomes

  • Japan made little progress on its pro-whaling agenda as commissioners blocked the country's request for a coastal whaling quota.
  • Japan and its allies were successful in a last-minute attempt to get a subsistence whaling quota for Russian and Alaska aboriginal communities.

Setbacks

  • The commission reconvened briefly in October, resulting in Iceland's rejoining the IWC with a reservation on the moratorium on commercial whaling

2001 – London, England

Key outcomes

  • Iceland failed in an attempt to rejoin the IWC as a whaling nation
  • Japan and Norway moved to allow the Russian Federation, another whaling nation, to vote at the IWC despite its failure to pay IWC dues. Russia lost in a 15–22 vote.
  • Japan and Norway proposed that secret ballots be used for voting—a move that would eliminate much of the transparency that many nations and non-governmental organizations feel is essential to the integrity of the IWC. The motion was defeated in a 14–22 vote.

Setbacks

  • New Zealand and Australia's second bid to create a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary couldn't draw the necessary three-quarters majority (though two more nations voted for it than had at the previous IWC meeting). As expected, the Japanese-Caribbean block was unanimous in its opposition to the sanctuary.