Thursday, July 16, 2009

Notes from the International Whaling Commission Meeting in Madeira, June 22-26, 2009

By Mark J. Palmer

Associate Director

International Marine Mammal Project

Earth Island Institute

In the end, the IWC did nothing, and that was good.

The major issues before the International Whaling Commission at the recent meeting in Madeira, Portugal, were basically put off for more discussion.

One major issue was a pending deal between Japan and the United States’ representative, William Hogarth (also Chairman of the IWC). For two long years, Chairman Hogarth and the Japanese and a few other countries had been in secret negotiations to “break the impasse” at the IWC between the whaling and anti-whaling nations.

However, these negotiations really boiled down to getting Japan off the hook for its illegal whaling activity – issuing itself “scientific permits” to kill thousands of whales annually in the Antarctic and North Pacific Oceans. The crux of the deal was that Japan would reduce the number of whales killed under scientific permit if they were granted commercial whaling in their own waters of minke whales (currently killed under scientific permit), effectively ending the 25-year-old moratorium in commercial whaling.

But, as several of us predicted, Japan in fact had no intention of reducing the number of whales they are currently killing and made it clear just before the IWC meeting that they would go on killing whales any way they could.

So, Chairman Hogarth did not get his deal, which was supposed to be finalized at this meeting. Instead, he got to bow out, making way for the Obama Administration to take over the US IWC delegation. While the Obama Administration continues to state it is opposed to commercial whaling and scientific permits, it also states it supports continued negotiations with Japan. It remains to be seen if President Obama changes his mind to confront the Japan Fisheries Agency, which continues to kill dolphins and whales more than any other country.

Environmentalists are deeply concerned about the continuation of these negotiations with Japan, which threaten to bring back commercial whaling. We will be watching further negotiations and urging the public to contact the Obama Administration to resist a compromise that harms whales and dolphins.

In addition to putting out a daily newsletter ECO at the IWC meeting, I also helped Charles Hambleton of the Oceanic Preservation Society to screen “The Cove” movie six times during the IWC meeting to representatives of environmental and animal welfare organizations from around the world. The response was excellent, and many groups pledged to help promote “The Cove” in theaters around the world this summer and fall.

To read the daily ECO for the IWC and past meetings, go to:

It is our hope that President Obama and his staff understand that the public strongly supports efforts to end Japan’s rapacious killing of dolphins and whales. You can help by going to our Save Japan Dolphins Action Page:

You can also help by supporting our Campaign. In addition to promoting “The Cove” around the world, we need funds to go back to Japan, to ensure that the people of Japan learn the truth about the cove and the dolphin slaughter. Please go to:


The island of Madeira, where the International Whaling Commission met in June 2009.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

Opening ceremonies for the IWC. The sour looking gentleman sitting second from the left is IWC Chairman and Bush-appointee William Hogarth.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

Whale specialist Dr. Roger Payne makes a point about the harm of whaling during a press conference at the IWC.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

The Japanese Delegation at the IWC meeting. "The Cove" movie includes a blistering indictment of the delegation’s machinations at IWC meetings.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

Environmental and animal welfare leaders meet at the IWC to discuss strategy, led by the Animal Welfare Institute’s DJ Schubert.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

Charles Hambleton of Oceanic Preservation Society screens “The Cove” for environmental and animal welfare organization leaders during the IWC meeting.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer

A bottlenose dolphin breaks the surface during a whale-watching cruise off Madeira. The company is owned and run by the grandson of a former whaler.

Photo © Mark J. Palmer