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June 18, 2010

Bernard Unti Speech to IWC 2010

Humane Society International

Merci Monsieur le Président,

Je m’appelle BERNARD UNTI, et

au nom de mon ONG je tiens à exprimer notre gratitude au Royaume du Maroc pour l’accueil chaleureux qu’ils nous ont réservé, ainsi que pour l’excellente organisation de cet événement.

Je vous félicite aussi, Monsieur le Président pour votre disposition à assurer cette tâche. Et enfin je tiens à remercier la CBI pour nous permettre à nous les ONGs de prendre la parole.

I am speaking today on behalf of Humane Society International, its parent organization The Humane Society of the United States, and our more than 11 million members and supporters.

The disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, among numerous threats facing marine mammals and other sea creatures, looms as a reminder that the IWC as a body has important work, now and in the years ahead, that go far beyond the question of whaling. Whales are under pressure from entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, ship strike, chemical and noise pollution, emerging diseases, and climate change. It is these concerns and how the IWC addresses them, that promise to define the future of the IWC. If it rises to the occasion, it can fulfill the great legacy of the past quarter century—the legacy of the moratorium itself—and further protect the world’s whales.

There has been much discussion about the numbers in table 4 these last days, and there has been much discussion about easing the dysfunction within the IWC. However, there has been too little emphasis placed on what the landscape will look like after ten years if the proposal is adopted. What effect will ten years of legitimized commercial whaling have on the whaling industry? The whales?

What happens long-term is key to any proposal. Yet the operative provisions of the package are conspicuously silent on this front. Currently, there are no incentives built into the proposal that would encourage whaling nations to renegotiate the ICRW within the ten year period. There are no penalties built in if progress is obstructed. Under the proposition advanced by by the US delegation yesterday, to extend the interim period if we do not achieve our objectives by 2020, the proposal—and the quotas it authorizes—could continue indefinitely with no incentive for whaling nations who benefit from the new status quo to agree to the reforms we so urgently require, such as an amendment to the ICRW to remove Articles V and VII.

Such an outcome is neither precautionary nor acceptable and it is—candidly—unfair to expect non-whaling countries to literally pay the price of the whaling nations whaling industries.

Returning to the status quo is also not an option—because the status quo will have changed. Ten years of commercial whaling may be all it takes for new industries based on whale products to grow and find new applications and new markets. We cannot permit this.

The commercial whaling moratorium is the most significant and effective measure adopted to protect the worlds' whales. In the 1960s the world killed nearly 70,000 whales. Why would conservation countries agree to effectively lift the moratorium without requiring binding provisions mandating a renegotiation of the Convention to deal with Articles V, VIII and Reservations?

The moratorium according to some delegations is retained in the proposal. And yes technically it sits there. But under this proposal it does nothing more than just sit there. It is no longer in effect. The zero’s set out by 10e will now be filled in with numbers of whales to be killed for commercial purposes. The moratorium was not responsible for the deaths of well over 30,000 whales. The blame for this lies elsewhere. Rather the moratorium has been responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of whales. We thank those countries that honored the moratorium and closed down their industries. Responsibility for the 30 thousand plus whales killed lies with those countries that continued whaling despite the moratorium, and that continue to whale. To address the escalation of whaling, the IWC should work to amend the ICRW first rather than suspend the moratorium for ten years while commercial whaling resumes.

I say with regret, sincere regret, that we are deeply concerned at the reliance on good faith in the implementation of the proposal. We cannot take on faith what we feel obliged to require. For this reason we question why the proposal does not explicitly require contracting governments to agree not to exercise their rights under Article V as well as Article VIII in paragraph 34.

I thank you for your attention and the opportunity to represent the concerns of millions of citizens worldwide who care about the whales of this world, and who look to you for leadership in their protection.

Bernard Unti, Ph.D, is senior policy advisor and special assistant to the CEO/president of The Humane Society of the United States, and a Humane Society International delegate to the IWC.