IFAW: Whales forum overcomes deadlock but whalers harpoon sanctuary proposal

As the first day of the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) drew to a close in Panama today, fears that dirty tactics by pro-whalers might sabotage it from the outset were overcome, but an opportunity to provide lasting protection for whales was rejected.

Last year’s meeting of the body set up to protect whales ended in chaos after Japan led the rest of the pro-whaling bloc in a dramatic walkout, removing the quorum needed for decisions to be taken and stopping progress on important conservation issues.

As delegates gathered in Panama City under stormy skies ahead of the meeting’s opening, there was much speculation as to whether the IWC could be guided into calmer waters, or whether this year’s meeting would be over before it even started.

The first substantive agenda point was consideration of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) proposal, which had been forcibly shelved last year.

The SAWS plan, which was first suggested in 1999, had promised a management plan to address threats to whales in the region and would also have acknowledged the importance of whale watching as opposed to the cruelty of commercial whaling still carried out by Japan, Norway and Iceland.

However the proposal, which had failed to achieve consensus, was then put to the vote. Although it gained a simple majority among countries present, (38 yes, 21 no and two abstentions) it did not reach the required three quarters majority.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whales Programme, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the whaling bloc has harpooned the Sanctuary proposal despite support of a clear majority of IWC member countries voting here. IFAW has long supported proposals for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary to provide much-needed protection to whales in this region at a time when our planet’s great whales face more threats than at any other time in history. The result shows that the majority of member countries here wanted to see this important resolution go through. However, it failed to do so because of opposition led by Japan – a country not even in this region.”

Despite a working group on the quorum issue failing to find an accepted solution in the months since the Jersey meltdown, Japan’s pro-whaling bloc did not walk out this time and participated in the vote.

Ramage added: “A successful vote ¾ vote for the SAWS would have provided a positive start to the meeting but moving on, now that the quorum issue has been resolved we hope that the conservation majority here will go on to use its powers to protect whales for future generations.”

To view IFAW’s new report on the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal visit http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/resource-centre/south-atlantic-whale-sanctuary

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Responsible whale watching offers a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.


Notes to Editors –

For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW’s team at IWC please contact Clare Sterling in Panama on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org.

IFAW’s team in Panama is providing regular video blogs from the meeting. To view blogs and keep up with the latest updates visit www.ifaw.org and for whales images register with www.ifawimages.com

This year’s meeting of the IWC is historic in several ways – it is 30 years since the adoption of the moratorium on commercial whaling and 25 years since Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ programme began. It is likely to be the last time that delegates meet for a full annual meeting before moving to biennial meetings.

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.