News

September 18, 2018

IWC-67 Amends Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Schedule, Reaffirms Moratorium on Commercial Whaling

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub
Author: Catherine Benson Wahlén

17 September 2018: The 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC-67) adopted the Florianópolis Declaration, which affirms the continued moratorium against commercial whaling, and a Schedule amendment on aboriginal subsistence whaling. IWC-67 did not pass a proposed decision on establishing a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary or Japan’s “Way Forward” package proposal.

IWC-67 convened from 10-14 September 2018 in Florianópolis, Brazil. The Commission meeting was preceded by meetings of the Committees, Sub-Committees and Working Groups on Science, Conservation, Finance and Administration, Budget, Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, Infractions, and Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues.

In the Florianópolis Declaration, the IWC agrees that the Commission’s role in the 21st century includes its responsibility to ensure the recovery of cetacean populations to their preindustrial levels, and reaffirms the importance of maintaining the moratorium on commercial whaling. The Declaration acknowledges the abundance of contemporary non-lethal cetacean research methods and that the use of lethal research methods is unnecessary, and seeks to ensure that aboriginal subsistence whaling for the benefit of indigenous communities meets the Commission’s management and conservation objectives, taking into account the safety of hunters and the welfare of cetaceans.

"Schedule amendment relating to the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme was seen as according greater respect to indigenous peoples’ rights to obtain traditional food."

According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), adoption of a Schedule amendment for the four IWC countries with aboriginal subsistence whaling (Denmark (Greenland), the US, the Russian Federation and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) to allow unused portions of annual strike quota blocks to be carried forward was viewed by many delegates as an example of the IWC’s ability to find a balance between the pro-whaling forces and those strongly opposing it. The Schedule amendment, inter alia: updates carryover provisions related to the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme (AWS) to account for variability in environmental conditions affecting the hunts by enabling unused portions of annual strike quota blocks to be carried forward, provided no more than 50 percent of the annual strike limit is added to the strike quota for any one year; alleviates the chronic political challenges surrounding the renewal of AWS catch limits through a one-time seven-year extension and limited automatic renewal, on a six-year basis, with safeguards to protect whale stocks; increases the annual strike limit for common minke whales off East Greenland to 20 in order to satisfy ASW need in that area; and increases the annual strike limit for Eastern North Pacific gray whales to 140 in order to address the “stinky” whale problem and to satisfy ASW need. The ENB observed that many delegates considered the passage of Schedule amendments on ASW as a huge, even “historic” achievement. The amendments were also seen as according greater respect to indigenous peoples’ rights to obtain traditional food, even in extreme environments.

During discussions on the proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS), Brazil, also on behalf of Argentina, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay, reminded delegates that a SAWS proposal has been on the IWC’s agenda for 20 years. He stressed that a SAWS would address a range of 21st century threats to whales, including ship strikes, underwater noise, climate change and entanglement. He noted that the IWC Scientific Committee (SC) had positively reviewed the SAWS proposal and management plan in 2016, and called on all States to support the proposed sanctuary. The US, Austria on behalf of the EU, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, India, Gabon, Colombia, Peru and Argentina supported the proposal. Japan, Guinea, Antigua and Barbuda, Norway, Cambodia, Benin, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, the Russian Federation and Iceland opposed it. Brazil then requested a vote. Thirty-nine voted in favor, 25 opposed, three abstained, and two were non-participants. With less than a three-fourths majority, the proposal failed.

Japan outlined its package of proposals, including: amending the schedule to set sustainable use whaling catch limits; establishing a Sustainable Whaling Committee (SWC) to propose catch limits; a vision for the IWC to play a role for both conservation and sustainable use of whales; and recognizing that a fundamental divergence of views within the IWC has prevented decisions being made on the primary objective of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), the orderly management of whales. Australia, Austria on behalf of the EU, Argentina on behalf of the Buenos Aires Group (a bloc of Latin American countries dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans), Brazil, Monaco, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand, the US, Panama, Peru and India opposed the package proposal. Their statements underscored, inter alia, that: the IWC has been and continues to be a legitimate decision-making body, with adoption of the ASW proposal as a clear example; proposed modification of catch limits represents a resumption of commercial whaling; establishment of an SWC would not address divergent views on whaling but would entrench differences and add procedural burdens; and the proposed reform seeking a simple majority vote runs counter to the highly democratic nature of the multilateral negotiation regime. Support for the proposal came from Togo, Nicaragua, Guinea, Senegal, Norway, Antigua and Barbuda, Iceland, Liberia, Colombia, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Kenya, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ghana, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A vote on the package proceeded with 27 member States voting in support, 41 against and two abstaining.

IWC-67 adopted a number of resolutions by consensus, including ones on anthropogenic noise, and ghost gear entanglement. IWC-67 adopted, by vote, a resolution on advancing the Commission’s work on the role of cetaceans in the ecosystem functioning. Proposed resolutions on food security and on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were withdrawn. In explaining the decision to withdraw the proposal on the 2030 Agenda, Brazil said the sponsors determined it not appropriate to propose a vote on a document related to the SDGs, which have universal consensus. [IISD RS Summary of IWC-67] [IWC Press Release on Future Direction of IWC] [IWC Press Release on Catch Limits for Indigenous Whaling] [IWC Press Release on Discussions on Subsistence Whaling] [IWC Press Release on Meeting Opening]