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22 June 2009 - HSI's Opening Statement at Whaling Commission      

Humane Society International Calls for Whale Protection as Worldwide Meeting Convenes

22 June 2009                                                          

Humane Society International’s opening statement at the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting in Portugal underscores the increasing threats to whales. Those threats include habitat degradation, pollution, overfishing of prey species and climate change.

An HSI petition calling for a global whale sanctuary is being sent to leaders of IWC member countries to promote sanctuaries and whale watching as a more humane and scientifically sound alternative to slaughter.

HSI representatives will be at the meeting in Madeira and available for comment during the proceedings.


Statement by Patricia Forkan to IWC 61

Patricia Forkan, former president of Humane Society International and current Senior Envoy to the Obama Administration for The Humane Society of the United States, has been attending the IWC since 1973. This year, she was one of three persons elected by nongovernmental organizations to make a statement to IWC delegates on their behalf.

Mr. Chairman, Delegates, Observers, my name is Patricia Forkan.  The first time I had the opportunity to speak to the Commission was in 1973. At that time, NGO’s were offered the option of an opening or a closing statement; we were free to comment on any subject or any country of our choosing. It was also a time when tens of thousands of whales were killed with limited scientific information and -- as we now know --limited enforcement of those quotas.  

For three decades I have not been able to directly address this commission. My voice was silenced. So today, I proudly speak not only on behalf of my organization, Humane Society International, but on behalf of my NGOs colleagues representing tens of million members of civil society.   I will address the future of the IWC and a way forward from here.

The undersigned NGOs are deeply concerned about the ongoing “Future of the International Whaling Commission” process on which the Chair reported on 18 May 2009.  While we respect the Chair’s motivation in seeking a consensus package to bring whaling back under the IWC’s control and address the 33 issues identified as priorities by members of the IWC, it is clear that the process has failed.   

The Chair asserts that “the real impediments to consensus are the issues of coastal whaling, research under special permit and sanctuaries” and seeks another year for deliberation so that recommendations can be put to the Commission for a decision in 2010.  

We disagree with his assessment of why the process has failed and do not support his request for more time.  

Over the last ten years, two other major negotiations within the IWC – the Irish Proposal and the RMS – have shown that the real impediment to compromise is the unwillingness of Japan and other whaling countries to make concessions. For example, since the current process began in 2008 with the Chair’s plea for all sides to act in good faith, Japan has failed to make a single concession towards ending, or even substantially reducing, its whaling programmes and Iceland has resumed commercial whaling.. Moreover, more whale meat has been traded internationally under reservations to the CITES ban in the last year than in the whole previous decade.  

These actions undermine the effectiveness of the IWC and the SWG process and are not signs of good faith.  

In contrast to the intransigence of the whaling nations, other members of the Commission were willing to contemplate a proposal tabled by the Small Working Group in March 2009 that would establish a new category of whaling and effectively lift the commercial whaling moratorium, give new rights to Japan to kill whales, and condone scientific whaling; all with no safeguards in place to ensure compliance with international regulations, no mechanism to address commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium by Norway and Iceland, nothing to prevent other nations from starting whaling under the new category, and nothing to stop the international trade that is continuing despite the ban on all commercial trade in whale products under CITES. Some governments are even considering using an ad-hoc method to calculate catch limits for a new category of whaling, rather than using the Revised Management Procedure accepted by the Commission in 1994.

Without significant concessions from the whaling nations, the SWG process is not a negotiation, and is unlikely to deliver the Chair's objective of bringing whaling under control and improving the conservation status of whales.  Therefore, without a commitment from all nations to eliminate all whaling outside international control, we urge the Commission and its contracting government not to allocate more scarce resources to the continuation of these negotiations.   Instead we, believe the IWC should become an effective organisation dedicated to the conservation and protection of cetaceans.  


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