Plenary Day One: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

September 15, 2014

The plenary session began with a welcome address, adoption of the agenda, and... a coffee break. We don't want to burn out too soon, you know.

Next up was Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling...

Switzerland gave opening comments on the report of the respective Ad-hoc working group. However, the U.S. asked to leave the agenda item open until further review was conducted on the newly revised document that was uploaded only the previous evening. Madam Chair agrees and decides to leave it open for discussion later in the week, so we move on.

Denmark and Greenland laid out their schedule amendment, need statement, and resolution for the years 2015-2018, which includes previous and new whale take quotas to total 799 metric tons of whale meat. Greenland tried to make the case for the coexisting modern and traditional worlds, that they have hunted for thousands of years, and said it was a food security issue. Interestingly, their new needs assessment is based on the whole population of Greenland rather than just the small aboriginal population.

The floor opened to discussion and it became quite obvious that some commissioners really enjoy hearing themselves talk-on both sides of the aisle. The following countries or groups made original position statements, some of which I will delve into further:

Did I mention that Civil Society Participation is allowed this year (more on that in a later post)?

You may be wondering why the EU is not only ensuring that all member states vote the same, but also that they are in favor of Greenland/ Denmark's proposals when the EU has such a robust anti-whaling stance. From the information I gathered, Greenland is rife with natural resources-those that make for possible exploitation by countries that vote favorably for Greenland. Plenty of member states do not wish to support Greenland, but the European Commission has made it clear that there will be ramifications if they don't since there is some legal authority with treaties signed by these countries once they entered the EU.

Several discussions occurred amongst the NGOs with the U.S. delegation and commissioner regarding the U.S. stance in favor of Greenland. Most NGOs sided with the Buenos Aires Group, believing that the proposals will set a precedent for resumption of commercial whaling. The U.S. however, is stuck because their subsistence hunts for Alaskan tribes is grouped with Greenland, St. Vincent and Grenadine, and the Russian Federation. In order to attain the quotas for our country, we have to vote with Greenland.

Though consensus was not achieved on Greenland's amendment or resolution, Denmark/Greenland wanted it to go to vote anyways. Madame Chair made it clear that she was disappointed that no consensus could be reached, so the Buenos Aires Group (spoken for by Argentina) asked for the vote to be delayed. A five-minute break was granted for Italy (talking on behalf of EU) to talk with Denmark and other EU countries to see if other resolutions or consensus could be reached. However, it seemed unlikely that they could resolve their differences in five minutes, and it was true-each section (schedule amendment and resolution) went to vote unchanged.

Schedule Amendment vote (3/4 majority needed): motion passed.
Resolution vote (simple majority needed): motion passed.

Surprisingly, Iceland and Russia voted 'no' on the resolution even though they voted 'yes' on the schedule amendment. Russia explained their vote, saying that since this resolution only pertains to Greenland, they will not follow and could not support the resolution.

Many NGOs and countries, including the Buenos Aires Group, see this as the support for commercialization of aboriginal subsistence hunts and is not good news for the whales.

Vote 1: ASW Schedule Amendment (IWC/65/16)

Vote 2: Resolution on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (AWS) (IWC/65/15)


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A special thank you to...

Ken SextonDivya SivaramanLynette Koftinow
Betty and Terry BorgJanet and Joe Faina
Brenda HemkenNicolas BorgDivya Sivaraman

...and everyone else that contributed to make my attendance at the IWC possible