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Last Few Hours of Whaling Commission Meeting – blow by blow

Final Report from the IWC Team at WDCS 64

 Things get a little messy but much applause follows as we draw to a close.

(Pictured here are the Commissioners of the UK and Monaco: Nigel Gooding and Frederick Briand.)

After lunch, a few amendments are noted to the administrative document which will define how the IWC will function in the future. There is some discussion about the four commissioners who will form the Bureau and who will represent a range of views and interests.

 In fact in total, the Chair Bruno, clarifies, the Bureau will be comprised of the Chair of the Commission, the Vice Chair of the Commission, and four commissioners representing a ‘range of views and interests’. Commissioners will be appointed to the Bureau for a period of 2 year at each biennial meeting of the Commission. In addition the Commissioner who will be hosting the next meeting will also attend the Bureau meetings in an ex-officio capacity.

 Bruno calls on the congregation to agree the document but Ghana wants the concept of regional representation included.

South Africa says we need to define ‘regional’.

Chairman Bruno says that what we have in front of us is the most important decision that we have had to make for ‘many many years’. If we cannot conclude this we will need to meet again next year. We made great progress here and I wish us to have a positive outcome, so I will leave 5 minutes for talks and then come back to this.

But St Lucia jumps up to speak and she notes that some commissioners may have missed some changes in the document. And the changes are read for, in fact, a third time by Donna. Then we have a short break… no, in fact, it is a long break and many people are now roving the halls taking pictures of each other and the vatious impromyu coordinations breaking out all over the Great Meeting Hall. Is that the EU over there in the corner coordinating?

The Groupo Buenos Aires meets in a different part of the room. They burst into applause (will we ever known why?) St Kitts and Nevisis is surrounded by some other delegates including the distinguished UK lawyer, Jolyon Thompson, who seems to be counting out options on his fingers. Japan is represented in this group too, along with Commissioners from other countries. 

After much movement around the floor, Chair Bruno clarifies again that there are seven people in this Bureau.

Many delegates start to leave and many other delegates are still busy photographing each other

Can we adopt this packages of measures now enquires the Chairman hopefully? St Kitts and Nevisraises his flag. Are we adopting the whole document or just the changes to the Bureau, he asks.

St Kitts and Nevis says when the Chair of Finance and Administrtation read out the changes she read a version that ‘I accepted’ and he details payment issues, as he sees them. He partcularlt does not like the portion that reads ‘2% above the base-rate quoted by the Commission’s bankers on the day’. His government cannot accept this vagueness.  He has asked many questions about this … and he makes a lengthy intervention but at this point the blog scribe drops some cream from a particularly nice choux pasty onto this keyboard and has to try to clean it up – which is distracting.

European nations are now glancing at each other and at the Commission officials mixed in with the NGO ranks on the south side of the hall.

I see your point says Chairman Bruno but time is moving on and we need to take a decision. Can we make a decision?

But St Kitts and Nevisis seeking the sympathies of all here, this is all. He agrees with all the other aspects of the proposal.

Australia says that the 2% is the existing rule, we are not asking for anything new.

Panama says let us arrive at a consensus – the BAG agrees with the text.

Ghana or Guinea says he agrees with St Kitts and Nevis.

New Zealand has been moved to intervene because he cannot see why we would use a different rule here. This has not been put to us before today and should not be used as leverage here.

Guinea or Ghana  (apologies – cream problem ongoing] then speaks of the constraints that affect countries.

After a little while, some more coordination’s and much photography, the Chair suggests that we may have to vote.

Cyprus says that the unpredictably here is based on people not paying on time

Thanks says the Chair and asks Simon to go for a vote

Point of clarification shoutsSwitzerlandand then apologises for interrupting the vote – is this a vote on the whole document or only the point of St Kitts and Nevis.

St Kitts and Nevisadds that this is not in keeping with our procedure – an amendment is proposed as I read out.

Simon Brockington, the Executive Secretary now clearly and carefully clarifies the amendment fromSt Kitts and Nevis.

(Can the EU come to a position on this in time?)

Yes. The EU block opposes the amendment, so does the US and the BAG. Antigua and Barbudais absent. Iceland opposes as does Gabon.Italy is absent .Japan supports. There is a nice clear no from the distinguished delegate forLuxembourg. Most developing nations vote yes. St Vincent and the Grenadinesis apparently absent.

There are 15 yes votes, 41 oppose, 2 abstentions and 4 absent.St Kitts and Nevis’s amendment fails.

We move to a vote on the main document,

But Point of Order is called again. We can accept this as a consensus says the alternate commissioner for Switzerland who is obvioulsy on something of a roll.  

But St Kitts and Nevis now makes another speech which includes a comment made to him in a break by a rich country: ‘if you cannot afford to be here you should leave’. For the record we feel disadvantaged, he notes, and we have been taken advantage of. He has a dismal view on the future of this organisation and we all need to wake up. There is a lot of discrimination here.

Thank you says the Chair. St Vincent and the Grenadines (now back in the room identifies with St Kitts and Nevis and speaks of disparity between the weak and the poor) At this point I am sorry to have to admit that the blog scribe wonders from the room to get coffee and another choux pasty and returns to find that the whole Finance and Administration bundle has been passed, despite the protests and so – for the first time in 64 years, the IWC will not meet next year and instead a bureau has been established to manage its business.

Another break breaks out and there are many more very nice little cream cakes. In fact it is worth pausing here and celebrating the fact thatPanamahas been feeding some of us since even before the Scientific Committee began, many weeks ago.

Donna now tells us more about financial matters and how much money we are lacking in unpaid country fees. But it seems that the Commission will be OK, because we are putting up the NGO yet fees again. There is some vague grumbling in the NGO ranks but no one hears them as there is no microphine any where near them.

The funding for the Conservation Management Plans for various species are noted by Mexicoand he also thanks those who have donated to the small cetacean fund.

We move on to a proposal from a number of small developing countries for the funding of small developing countries. It is introduced by St Lucia and supported by many other small developing nations and Japan and Korea,

Cyprus on the behalf of the remaining countries of the EU suggests some fundamental amendments. Russia does too.

After a while, St Vincent and the Grenadines tells us that the resolution will not be agreed by consensus and quietly removes it.

Finally, we come to the report of the group that has been looking at strengthening conservation funding at the IWC – led by the UK and in particular the alternate UK Commissioner Nicola Clarke. The work of the group is proposed to continue. The floor is open for comment.

There is a tangible pause. Some static and tropical tumble weed pass through. There are sirens outside and then we move on and this important initiative is allowed to continue.

Donna agrees to continue as the Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee and this is welcomed by warm applause.

Are there any nominations to be Chair or Vice Chair of the Commission.St Lucia is proposed and there is applause and it is so agreed.

Janine Compton-Antoine ofSt Lucia that says this is a historic day, I am I think the first woman Chair. There is more applause. [CLare Perry of EIA is pictured here]

Are there proposals for the Vice Chair? Fredrick of Belgium is nominated by Cyprusand he thanks us for the honour and he apologies for being 52 and not a woman and he mentions his predecessor who we miss. Some applause follows. 

 We move to trying to identify members of the new Bureau.

The US wishes to join, so does Panama. Ghana and Japan also wave and thereby join the team.

We move to consider where all the meetings over the next two year may occur.

Firstly, who would like to host the Scientific Committee next year. South Korea offers and there is applause. Anyone want it the year after? – Apparently not.

Simon Brockington, the sprightly Executive Secretary, tells us he has been putting up press releases at the end of each day and he will file a full report of the meeting shortly. [So why are we bothering with all this blogging – perhaps it is to inform Simon’s press releases.].

As we move to the end. Thanks are given by theUS to the last Chair Herman and the current Chair Bruno for great leadership and allowing us to make good progress. Very warm applause follows.Russia associates with theUS and appreciates Panamafor their excellent hosting and cuisine. He appreciates having a lady as the next chair. We have many difficulties here he adds cheerily– due to the fact that men are always ready to attack, whereas women keep the peace at home and he hopes to be in the good hands of a woman who will keep the peace and lead us to a peaceful future. Regretfully he adds I don’t have a song today and there is gentle laughter. And a pause. [The Russian Commissioner is famous for his singing skills and once serenades the previous Executive Secretary.]

Chairman Bruno now makes his closing comments. The only problem here was that there were too many nice little things to eat and he thanks the audio technicians and the Secretariat. The translators are lured out of their booths and applauded. He thanks now the ‘second most important person’ his colleague Martin from Switzerland who with his point of order avoided a vote. The most important person is the Executive Secretary and Bruno says that he did a wonderful job and gives him a swiss watch. There is warm and prolonged applause.

Bruno notes that the transport costs of the IWC gavel must be high and for the first and last time this meeting he brings it down and we are finished for this year (and next).

Finally some thanks from the WDCS away team here in Panama as it packs its bags: The blog scribe would like to thank new blog editor for help and good humour and also Mrs Lonsdale for helping the WDCS blog keep on track. He also thanks the other ‘chicas’ for their support. We thank our many allies and friends in the various IWC committees including inter alia all of AWI, Uncle Frank, HSI, EIA (and in particular Mrs Lonsdale). We would also like to congratulate Dr Dave Mattila on his find work leading the disentanglement and ship strikes work of the Commission via his secondment to the secretariat. We very much hope you can keep up the good work, Dave.

Chair Bruno you did a fine job. Secretariat your innovations have been spectacular – we especially enjoyed the sockets on the table legs (although a table would have been nice for the Commission meeting too). Thank you for all your help these last few weeks.

We thank the host for the nice meeting facilities and especially for feeding us so well – one of us for weeks!

We also thank all the local avi-fauna for enriching our time here, especially the variable seedeaters around the pool and the tovi parakeets, which reminds us…


By vast popular request we now bring you the third and final instalment of

Tales from the poolside:PART 3

So, we left Fernando entangled in some wool and drowning in the swimming pool in the El Panama hotel.

Some delegates going by notice the small bundle of feathers and wool floating in the pool. His little legs are kicking in the air as he struggles to break free but it is to no avail he is well and truly ensnared. The water is now entering his beak and heading for his lungs. Time is running out for our small confused, entangled avian chum. 

The passing delegates comment on the weird little scene.

‘I believe that may be bycatch’, says one and laughs.

 ‘Just as long as it is sustainable’, notes another.

 Is it within agreed confidence limits’ chortles a third.

Meanwhile a small flock of variable seedeaters are going quietly about their business in a near by flower bed, indifferent to the plight of one of their admirers.

But as many delegates pass by and Fernando’s life starts to finally flicker away, there is a disturbance in the water. Something is heading in his direction with some speed and determination. Is it the lithe form of the Luxembourg Commissioner taking his morning swim? No. Is it the European Union delegates heading for their final urgent coordination in the middle of the pool? No. Fortunately for Fernando, it is a crack team of Latin American whale disentanglement apprentices trained in the Mattila-method and funded by theUSA.

 n no time at all the now limp body of Fernando if retrieved from the pool, the wool is gently unwound from around his legs and wings and for a few seconds the prone body of this small sentient animal lies still in the palm of a delegate’s hand. Then Fernando suddenly sneezes. Sits upright, sneezes again, looks around in astonishment, shrikes loudly and takes to the air. He flies away from the pool out over the roof tops, along the busy road and back to where his flock is gathered on some twisted telegraph wires near their favourite feeding station.

Fernando shakes the remaining water from his feathers and, as if in some way, empowered by his near-death experience, sidles quietly over to where Eeleto sits in the middle of the flock preening (and thinking about his next intervention). Fernando bites him firmly on the rump. Eeleto squeaks and quickly cowers away.

And so it is that Fernando returns successfully to his rightful place as flock leader. His odd behaviour is soon forgiven and the parakeets find many other things to gossip about, but some days, when no other flock member can see, he still quietly flies to the pool side and watches his dear little indifferent variable seedeater.       

 WDCS Team at IWC 64

Here ends the blog.

Take care – it used to be a jungle out there.