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High North Alliance: End in sight for the IWC?

High North Alliance: End in sight for the IWC?

End in sight for the IWC?

High North News (19.06.03): At the closure of one more acrimonious meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Berlin today, one third of its members stated that it is time to seriously consider managing whaling outside of the organisation.

"We are deeply concerned that adoption of the Berlin Initiative which establishes a conservation committee will essentially destroy the already polarized and dysfunctional IWC," said the statement by 17 member countries of the Whaling Commission. They consider this "an attempt to change the fundamental objectives" and "an attempt to subvert the purpose" of the organisation.

"The 'Berlin Initiative', together with the lack of progress in completing the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) for the resumption of sustainable whaling, has provoked an increased interest in examination of alternatives that would provide for the sustainable use of abundant whale resources," concludes the statement.

The statement was signed by the Commissioners from Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Dominica, Gabon, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Mongolia, Norway, Palau, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal and Solomon Islands.

In blunt language the statement suggests that whaling nations may choose to manage whaling through other organisations than the IWC. One alternative is to establish regional organisations, such as that which already exists with the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), of which the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland and Norway are members.

Japan "unhappy at the attitude of the US"

Referring to the disappointing developments in the IWC, Japan's Whaling Commissioner said in a press release issued today: "We are particularly unhappy at the attitude of the US delegation. After receiving their quota for bowhead whales at the special meeting of the Commission last October they have resumed an excessively strong position against Japan's reasonable proposal for whaling to satisfy the needs of our coastal communities and our research programmes that continue to provide valuable scientific information."

Germany recruiting new members?

Matthias Berninger, Germany's deputy minister of consumer protection, food and agriculture, told a press briefing today that Germany was more than pleased with the outcome of the meeting. He also informed that Germany will attempt to recruit new members into the IWC, in particular the Eastern European countries that are joining the European Union next year. The deputy minister thus hopes to maintain the anti-whaling majority of nations in the organisation.

New chair

As is the practice, the current vice-chair, Mr Henrik Fischer of Denmark, was elected to take over as Chair after Bo Fernholm of Sweden. Mr Carlos Domingez of Spain was elected new vice chair.

Italy next

The next annual meeting will be held in Sorrento, in southern Italy. Provisional dates are 27 June to 22 July, with the plenary session 19-22 July. In 2005, the meeting will be held in Ulsan, Korea. In the corridors, it is said that France may host the meeting in 2006.

Some wise words

The meeting expressed its great appreciation for the 27 years Martin Harvey has served in the IWC Secretariat as Executive Officer. Mr Harvey said he had "extremely mixed feelings" now that he is leaving the position. He said that there are many things he will be "happy to leave behind", but certainly at this time next year "I will feel that something is missing."

Mr Harvey said that he is happy to see how well people from different cultures and with different viewpoints get together outside the meeting. He expressed the hope that one day this will also be the case inside the meeting between governments.

While the prospects do not look too good, only time will tell if his hope will become a reality.


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