On the final day of the International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia, pro-conservation countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, and Mexico united in calling for an urgent review of voting rules to prevent pro-whaling countries holding votes to ransom with their non-attendance, thereby breaking the quorum required for votes to take place.
At yesterday’s meeting, Antigua & Barbuda, Cambodia, Iceland, Kiribati, Laos, Morocco, and St. Lucia amongst others, failed to be present in the room to prevent a vote on the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Negotiations earlier in the week had suggested that a sufficient number of countries had intended to vote in favour of the sanctuary had it gone ahead. A summary of country views expressed today can be found below.
Rebecca Regnery, senior director for wildlife at Humane Society International, said from the meeting: “Countries are justifiably angry and frustrated by the disruptive and disrespectful behaviour of pro-whaling nations at this IWC. The world’s only international whale protection organisation is being held to ransom by a handful of countries that merely need to step outside of the room in order to stand in the way of progress. Clearly a shake-up of IWC rules is needed. The need to protect whales is far too urgent for these kind of games. The Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay that proposed the Sanctuary, are palpably furious here at IWC at the use of such undemocratic tactics and vow to continue fighting for the whales. Although the sanctuary was not approved, we remain hopeful because efforts to undermine the ban on commercial whaling were unsuccessful and a resolution to address the issue of plastics in the oceans was adopted by consensus.”
The Buenos Aires Group countries from Latin America called for the IWC to take a firmer stance to stop what is “an offense to our countries.” They said the IWC was being held hostage with its hands tied, and that kicking the can down the road is what pro-whaling countries do every time they disagree with something they don’t want. The Buenos Aires Group noted that the proposal most likely would have been adopted if countries had not left the room and stressed that it remains committed to the conservation of whales and the marine environment and pursuit of a sanctuary to protect whales in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Australia expressed its deep disappointment and said that events directly undermined the good faith governance of the IWC and that the “poor behaviour” was exploiting the uncertainty in the rules of procedure. Australia called on the IWC to ensure that this undermining cannot happen again, and to agree a new ROP on this as an order of first business at the next IWC in Peru in 2024 to ensure that proper governance can be maintained. In addition to Australia, support for the sanctuary proposal was also expressed on the floor by India and the United Kingdom amongst others.
In spite of multiple attempts—some blatant and some subtle— to undermine the moratorium on commercial whaling, it remains intact at the end of this meeting. The adoption by consensus of the Marine Plastics Resolution to provide IWC support for international negotiations on a global plastics treaty, is further proof that the IWC continues to focus on conservation of whales rather than returning to its whaling roots.