Number 4, 27 June 1996
Coverage of the
International Whaling Commission's
1996 Annual Meeting
June 23-28, Aberdeen, Scotland
About ECO

 

What the Eye Doesn't See


From the Workshop on Whale Killing Methods, held in Dublin, through the
Internet and to Grindabod, the Faroese are extolling the virtues of their
new whaling hook--the blunt son of the sharp traditional whaling hook, as
can be seen from the picture of its proud owner in Grindabod. It is claimed
no damage is done by sticking this hook into the blowhole and jamming it
into the air sacs so that the whales can be dragged up the shore for the
slaughter.

The Faroese are not best known for grieving about what they do see in the
internationally condemned and grossly cruel pilot whale hunt. So why should
they grieve about what they don't see?

It took little research to discover that the area beneath the blowhole
consists of a complicated system of sacs, muscular plugs and air passages
and is the source of the whales' sound. Anything inserted into this area
will rupture tissue and cause bleeding. It is likely to disrupt the ability
of the whale to produce sound. The pain and stress of the already very
stressed whale will be greatly increased. And this is all before the hefty
animal is dragged by the blowhole up the beach.

The question has to be asked, just because there is no external damage
inflicted by the new hook, has any one involved in the trial had a look
down the blowhole to see what damage has been done? Are the whales in
danger of drowning in their own blood as opposed to having it drained from
them as they are slaughtered with the knife?

There is no doubt that the traditional hook is unacceptably cruel but
replacing it with another just as cruel ...? Blunt or sharp--both should be
banned.


U.S. Congress Condemns Clinton's Makah Policy


In a devastating blow to the anti-whale policy being pushed by the
Clinton/Gore Administration, the U.S. Congress took unanimous action
yesterday to oppose the Makah gray whale quota.

The Resources Committee of the House of Representatives declared that "the
gray whale should be protected," in a resolution supported by all
Republicans and Democrats. The authors of the resolution, Rep. Jack Metcalf
(R - Washington) and Rep. George Miller (D - California), were seeking to
take the resolution to the floor of the entire House for a vote. Speaker
Newt Gingrich authorized the vote, but limited floor time could delay it.

The 50-member Resources Committee oversees U.S. policy on wildlife,
fisheries and Indian affairs. The unanimous, bipartisan support for the
resolution demonstrates that there is virtually no public support in
America for the gray whale kill, which has been orchestrated by a secretive
cabal in the Makah Tribal Council and pro-whaling foreign interests.

Rep. Metcalf, whose district includes the Makah Reservation along the coast
of Washington State, is calling for a Congressional hearing into "the
Clinton Administration's support for renewing commercial whaling under the
guise of Native American hunting rights. We know that the Makah Tribe have
been seeking the counsel of whalers from Japan and Norway," he stated.

The blistering attacks from Congress and sharp criticisms from the U.S.
environmental community are forcing crisis meetings at the White House and
desperation tactics in the hardline faction of the U.S. delegation at the
IWC meeting.


How To Wreck The Moratorium In Three Easy Steps


Step One: A simple majority vote.

Step Two: Watch the fallout.

The IWC fax machine was overwhelmed last night with applications to join
the IWC, after it became apparent that the USA and the lemmings were
willing to sacrifice the future of the whaling moratorium and the
Commission. They plan to do this with one great leap over the "cliff" of a
new definition and procedure for aboriginal subsistence whaling.

Under this scenario, Japan is calling all around the globe to encourage
pro-whaling countries to join up. Now, by a simple majority (if the US
definition and procedure are accepted), whaling can resume worldwide.
Countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and other developing
nations will rush in with claims. They are presently scouring their museums
for the all-important reference to historic whaling. A simple majority at
the IWC will give them the right to whale, overwhelming the current
moratorium.

Watch those whale stocks fall as the new members pass majority resolution
after majority resolution!

The cracks in the moratorium begin here, and it was the US that stripped
off the wall paper with all their hot air yesterday, creating the breach
that allows the tide of whalers to flood through. Who needs a moratorium
based on a three-quarters majority decision when a simple majority decision
allows the whale steaks to pile high?

This is so simple even the NGOs could work it out.

Step Three: Well, that depends on the USA. If the US simple majority
resolution proceeds, we will explain step-by-step tomorrow how Japan and
others will follow in the footsteps of the United States and overturn the
moratorium.


Double Standards in the High North?


While trying to find some reason for disbelieving the Macah Tribal Elder
Alberta Thompson, who is here in Aberdeen to fight for those in the Makah
Tribe unable to speak out against the Tribal Council, Georg Blichtfeld of
the High North Alliance pressed her on the grounds that she should always
abide by "majority" decisions--even though the majority of the tribe did
not actually vote.

One onlooker to this spectacle inquired whether Norway was going to follow
Georg's advice and abide by the decision of the majority of the IWC in
voting for the moratorium.

Mr. Blichtfeld remained remarkably silent..



What Do the Norwegians Want,
and Will They Get It?



Not so long ago, when scientists believed that catch per unit of effort was
a valid index of whale abundance, Norway's Lars Walle recruited Dr. Tore
Schweder to "prove" that the great decline in the number of minke whales in
the Northeast Atlantic, which had led to the 1983 decision of the IWC to
class them as "protected," was merely a prolonged down-swing in a natural
cycle.

That argument was abandoned when the Scientific Committee began developing
what came to be known as the Catch Limit Algorithm of a Revised Management
Procedure (CLA/RMP) for commercial baleen whaling. The eventual winner of
an intense competition to devise the best CLA was the "infamous" Justin Cooke,
whose work was described this year by Tim Smith of the US delegation as
"fraudulent [expletive deleted]" from the Committee's records.

Cooke's procedure would--if implemented--have come out with a catch limit
of somewhere between zero and two hundred whales for Norway, given stock
estimates believed in the early 1990s. So Norway had a long-term challenge:
how to get back to the 1500-2000 ballpark and still appear to the world and
to the domestic population as honest and responsible.

This is a tricky path. One trick is to ignore the large, unreported
historical catches taken in the 1980s. Another is to massage the method of
analyzing survey data. A third is to carry out new surveys in such a way as
to give higher numbers. A fourth is to retune the CLA so as to be less
conservative. A fifth gambit is to re-open international trade in minke
meat, since the domestic market in Norway cannot fully absorb more than
about 200 whales and, anyway, the Japanese market would be far more
profitable.

"Free Trade"

Norwegian authorities have used the first three tricks, talked seriously
about the fourth, and are actively pursuing trade liberalization,
especially through CITES, which next meets in Zimbabwe in June 1997.

This year the Commission has seen some consequences of tricks two and
three. "Revising" the RMP (trick four) is predictably the next stage. It is
made easier by the fact that the Commission has not inserted the approved
RMP, as tuned, in the Schedule. The Norwegians say the tuning is political,
not scientific, and Walle, Schweder and the Norwegian Computing Center
have been looking at the tuning level options.

A few of the "like minded" countries do not really want an RMS finalized,
because that could in one more step - implementation- lead to the
legitimization of resumed commercial whaling. But the whaling countries,
especially Norway, also do not want an RMS. They are doing very well, thank
you, with their "self-regulated" whaling under objections; with their
home-grown "science"; without international inspection; and without anyone
fussing about cruelty.

The Bad Old Days

Thus the IWC is fast reverting to its character of the 1950-60s. Whaling
industries and their governments do as they like, virtually unchecked,
while telling the world that their actions are true to the spirit of the
1946 Convention, unlike those of the non-whalers.

Norway, unlike the governments of the main non-whaling countries, has put
its money where its mouth is, spending vast sums on public relations
worldwide, on lobbying in Washington, DC, on its own surveys and scientific
fiddling. The defense of an orderly conservation of whale resources, as
expected by the UN Stockholm Conference of 1972, the Law of the Sea
negotiations, and the UN Rio Conference of 1972, has been left almost
entirely to concerned non-governmental organizations commanding very
limited resources.
It is amazing what they have achieved, but they cannot succeed alone.

Can the IWC be reformed? Everyone knows how difficult it would be to
rewrite the 1946 Convention so as to put the lid on objections and
scientific whaling. But Justin Cooke's powerful statement N1, annexed to
the Scientific Committee Report, brings to mind one thing that might
usefully be done, within the present Convention. Cooke pointed out that the
Norwegian Computing Center had "... proved unwilling to take on board any
aspects of the estimation process developed by others ...". He finished by
observing that a "... policy of using only home-grown methodology ...
should have been announced earlier so that the time and expenses of others
would not be wasted".

The Commission should, at least, grab back from the whaling nations full
control of the scientific and monitoring processes, removing at a stroke
one serious flaw in the Scientific Committee's current activities. If it
does not do this, then self-regulation by the whalers will continue. And
self-regulation has always led to uncontrolled growth of whaling.

Unsound Science, Take Two

Norway, with the assistance of the US, once again pushed through the IWC
Scientific Committee a very high estimate - 112,000 - of the number of
whales in the Northeast Atlantic. A month before the Committee met, Norway
announced a large increase in its national whaling quota, claiming that its
new figure had already been agreed by the Scientific Committee.

Norway and the US used the same tactics as in 1992, when they pushed the
Committee into accepting an estimate of over 85,000 whales, despite
concerns by some scientists that the figure had not been checked. That
figure was subsequently found to be wrong, due to mistakes in the
calculations, and should have been much lower. Last year the Committee
expressed its determination not to repeat the mistake of accepting an
estimate without checking it. But unfortunately it has done just that.

The new figure of 112,000 is based on a new survey carried out by Norwegian
ships in 1995. Scientists have expressed grave doubts about the
plausibility of the new figure, and suspect that it may be based on further
errors.

According to the Norwegian figures, there are over 20,000 minke whales in
the North Sea alone. An international survey sponsored by the European
Community found only 4,000 whales in this area.


The End of the IWC?


While everyone else has been doing the daily business of the 48th IWC,
others have been thinking ahead to the 50th Anniversary of the Commission -
and considering a proposal that could make the 50th gathering the
Commission's last.

Some countries are pushing a secret intersessional meeting of the
Commissioners early next year - excluding all observers! Scuttlebutt has it
that this meeting would be the first in a series aimed at crafting a "grand
solution" to the "whaling problem" to be unveiled at the 50th IWC in 1998.

Grand solution possibilities: end all whaling, including all aboriginal
whaling. Unlikely. How about a new small-type commercial whaling regime and
the end of the moratorium? Hmmm...The end of public participation and the
beginning of new commercial slaughter? Most probable. Looks like the "grand
solution" could be the final solution.



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