Tempers flared at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on Thursday as it voted to back a Brazilian proposal which would safeguard whales in perpetuity, after a bitter debate. The biennial meeting of the 89-nation body passed the host country's “Florianopolis Declaration” which sees whaling as no longer being a necessary economic activity.
The non-binding agreement was backed by 40 countries, with 27 pro-whaling states voting against. We now have an important instrument to guide our path, said Brazil's commissioner Hermano Ribiero.
Welcome to the future, said Nicolas Entrup of Swiss-based NGO OceanCare, calling the vote a historical reorientation of the organization away from the lethal exploitation of whales.
The declaration—meant to enshrine a common vision for the 72-year old body—was rejected by pro-whaling states. They are instead backing a proposal put forward by Japan which envisages a co-existence between conservation and commercial whaling.
Antigua and Barbuda Commissioner Deven Joseph angrily dismissed the host country's resolution as a non-binding, irresponsible, abnormal, inconsistent, deceptive and downright wrong resolution.
We will never reach any sort of consensus, he told the meeting, decrying the lack of consultations which he said should have taken into account the views of pro-hunt states.
They can take this organization and send it to the abyss where whales go when they die!
The IWC immediately began debating Japan's counter-proposal for the organization. Entitled The Way Forward, it envisages a twin-track future of conservation and commercial whaling which would be managed by a new Sustainable Whaling Committee.
Science is clear: there are certain species of whales whose population is healthy enough to be harvested sustainably, according to the Japanese proposal put forward by its acting commissioner Hideki Moronuki. Its commissioner Joji Morishita is currently the IWC chairman.
Japan currently observes an international moratorium on commercial whaling but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales every year for scientific purposes as well as to sell the meat. Norway and Iceland ignore the moratorium and are key supporters of Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling.
Countries on both sides of the whaling divide on Wednesday voted to renew quotas for limited whale hunts for indigenous communities in Alaska, Russia, Greenland and the Caribbean—taking into account their cultural and subsistence needs.
Patrick Ramage, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said Thursday's declaration was a big win for whales and a clear signal of intent; the majority of government members recognize that conservation and whale protection is the 'way forward', not unnecessary and cruel whale killing.