Friday, May 15, 2009

IWC Update: Japan Ends Negotiations on Whaling

by Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute &
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

It appears that Japan has blown up negotiations over their whaling and that the “Hogarth Deal” is at an end. But we still need the new Obama Administration to stand up for whales and work with Japan to end its whale and dolphin killing.

Background: Secret Dirty Deals:

Almost two years ago, Bush appointee William Hogarth, head of the US National Marine Fisheries Service and voted in as Chairman of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), began secret talks with the Japan Fisheries Agency to “solve” the “impasse” at the IWC between whaling and anti-whaling nations.

To the consternation of environmental and animal welfare organizations, the Hogarth Deal was predicated on allowing Japan to legally kill whales in their home waters in the north Pacific (so-called Cultural Coastal Whaling), a long-term goal of Japan’s Fisheries Agency, in exchange for supposedly reducing Japan’s killing of whales under scientific permit in the Antarctic. Allowing Japan Coastal Whaling would mean an end to the 20-year international moratorium on commercial whaling. Furthermore, the Hogarth Deal did not do anything about other nations’ illegal whaling -- Iceland and Norway commercially kill whales in defiance of the moratorium, and South Korea expressed interest in resuming commercial whaling and getting their own deal with the IWC, as likely would some other nations. And Japan’s Fisheries Agency already issues annual permits to kill 23,000 dolphins in Japan’s waters.

As Ric O’Barry has often reminded us, size doesn’t matter -- killing dolphins IS coastal whaling!

This deal was totally unacceptable, but our groups were not in the room with the secret negotiators.

Rome Intersessional:

The “Hogarth Deal” was finally made public during an intersessional meeting of the IWC in March in Rome. But the deal had zero specificity. It stated that Japan would conduct coastal commercial whaling, but provided no numbers of whales that they would slaughter. Furthermore, there were no numbers at all on how many whales Japan would continue to slaughter in the Southern Ocean. Instead, two options were offered, one that stated scientific whaling would be reduced by an unspecified number in the Southern Ocean, and another that such scientific whaling would be phased out entirely. But Japan’s Fisheries Minister, before the Rome meeting even got started, came out stating that Japan would never end scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean. Reportedly, the IWC Small Working Group of nations doing the actual closed-door negotiations met right after the Rome meeting and could not reach any new decisions for more specificity.

Hogarth Deal Explodes in Secret:

Rumor is that just a few weeks ago, the Small Working Group of the IWC convened once again in San Francisco to finalize the Hogarth Deal, due to be made public on May 18th and voted into effect during the June 22-26 IWC meeting in Madeira, Portugal.

At the meeting, Japan, to participant’s amazement, brought out their list of numbers of whales they expected to kill under the Hogarth Deal. The other nations were astonished at the Japan Fisheries Agency’s audacity in the shear bloodshed they were contemplating. The Hogarth Deal could not be agreed to by anyone. (We are still chasing down details of Japan’s proposal in this secret meeting. Reportedly, Japan proposed to kill the same number of whales in the Southern Ocean as they had killed last season — no reduction at all!)

A few weeks ago, the European Union agreed to vote as a bloc at the IWC, pushing for an end to scientific whaling and maintaining the moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan, in retaliation, just completed a meeting of its (well paid) client countries, and announced they too would vote as a bloc at the IWC meeting. A total of 32 nations, some (Iceland and Norway) that are whaling now and many others that are paid millions of yen by the government of Japan to support its position at the IWC.

Voting in blocs will preclude the consensus to sell-out the whales sought by Chairman Hogarth for the past two years.

Japan’s Strategy:

It is very clear what Japan’s strategy is now.. Of course, they never intended to work out any compromise that would curtail their whaling efforts. Japan is intent on expanding its whaling, purely for ideological reasons. (Whale meat in Japan is not selling, and the entire “industry” is now completely subsidized by Japanese taxpayers.)

The Japan Fisheries Agency waited until the last minute to deliberately end the negotiations in secret. This will allow the Japanese Fisheries Agency, surrounded by their well-bribed client nations, to cry “poor me” at the upcoming public meeting of the IWC in Madeira in June, claiming rich countries are to blame for not supporting Japan and conducting cultural and racial discrimination against Japan.

Once again, the Bush Administration’s secret negotiations with other nations have completely and utterly back-fired, resulting in far more damage to the US than if we had been totally straight in the first place.

However, this is not the final end of the “Hogarth Deal.” William Hogarth, a Bush appointee, is still head of the US delegation, is still Chairman of the IWC, and still wants a deal — likely any deal at this point. Like Dr. Frankenstein, you can be sure negotiators are feverishly trying to revive the “Hogarth Deal” so it can be ready to pass in June regardless of how many whales are sacrificed.

What You Can Do:

There is still time to contact President Barack Obama and urge him to stop the US IWC delegation from selling out the whales and dolphins, thanking him for the recent CEQ policy statement in support of the moratorium, but also urging him to replace the Bush appointees on the US IWC delegation and take leadership to convince Japan to stop killing whales and dolphins. Go to:

Please consider a generous donation to the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, to help us get the word out, world-wide and especially in Japan, about the whale and dolphin killing sponsored by the Japan Fisheries Agency:

Earth Island, in conjunction with environmental and animal welfare organizations active on whale and dolphin issues, produced a special edition of ECO for the Rome meeting. You can read it at:

The Madeira meeting of the IWC will be an important show-down for this whaling issue. Please get your comments into the President as soon as you can.

At the same time, expect the new documentary The Cove, about Earth Island’s and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition’s efforts to halt the slaughter of thousands of dolphins authorized by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, to hit theaters in July and August. We believe this documentary will be a game-changer for Japan on dolphins and whales.

Thank you for your efforts for whales and dolphins!

Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Director, Wildlife Alive
Earth Island Institute
David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way, Suite 460
Berkeley, CA 94704
Mark P’s direct line: 510-859-9139
(530) 758-6022 (Davis Office)
IMMP fax: 510-859-9093

Read my Blog on the Sundance Film Festival and the world premiere of "The Cove", a documentary about our work to save dolphins:

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