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July 2, 2012

Day One at IWC 64

The annual meeting opens in Panama

Humane Society International

  • Whale advocates gathered to show support for the sanctuary proposal. HSI

  • Hundreds of Panamanians and members of the International Community gathered along the Panama Canal and formed a giant human whale with the message “Santuario” (sanctuary) to call for the creation of the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. © Jeff Pantukhoff/Spectral Q/Whaleman Foundation

  • HSI's Rebecca Regnery (right) and Grettel Delgadillo joined the crowd to form the aerial shot of the whale. HSI

by Bernie Unti

On Day One at IWC 64 in Panama City, despite the intense efforts of many conservation-minded nations, a vote to support the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed to achieve the three-quarters majority necessary to secure passage. One of the proponents of the sanctuary, Brazil, vowed to continue to fight the good fight and reintroduce the sanctuary in subsequent years until it passes. The vote went 38 to 21 in favor, with two nations abstaining.

HSI has supported the South Atlantic sanctuary proposal since it was first introduced in 2001, because establishing sanctuaries is one of the best ways to extend and reinforce the IWC’s role in preserving whales and whale habitat.

You can help! Take action now to save whales.

IWC 64 opened amidst political and technical differences over quorums, bundled Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Proposals, as well as the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Tensions notwithstanding, all parties signaled their readiness to accept the likelihood of substantive votes on the sanctuary, strongly pushed by the member nations of the Latin American bloc, and the aboriginal subsistence whaling quotas involving the United States, Russia, Greenland, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Outspoken advocates

For days, Panama City’s streets have been dotted with whale conservation posters, and everyone seems to know about the “Comisión Ballenera Internacional” occurring this week. A marvelous aerial whale art display staged on Sunday morning near the Miraflores lock of the Panama Canal drew together hundreds of Panamanians and sympathetic conference participants whose bodies formed the outline of a humpback whale, as well as the word “santuario” (sanctuary).

Read HSI's opening statement for IWC 64.

The session on Day One also saw the selection of Switzerland as chair of IWC 64. Given the rancor that broke apart IWC 63 in Jersey just a year ago, the appointment of a chair from a nation known for its equanimity and neutrality in diplomatic negotiations may prove to be the wisest decision the IWC makes this year.

Down the road

Later in the week, the IWC is likely to consider a proposal from Monaco to encourage greater involvement on the part of the United Nations in ocean governance as it relates to whaling on the high seas. HSI is supportive of efforts to encourage other international bodies to uphold and strengthen IWC conservation measures. Donate and take action today.

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.

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