IWC: Final press release from IWC meeting (fwd)

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Date: Sat Aug 11 2001 - 17:06:16 EDT

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    Final Press Release IWC 53rd Annual Meeting

    The Annual Meeting took place from 23-27 July 2001 at the Novotel London
    West, Hammersmith International Centre, London, under the Chairmanship of
    Prof. Bo Fernholm (Sweden).

    The associated meetings of the Scientific Committee and Commission
    Committees and Working Groups were held at the same venue in the period
    2-25 July.

    Icelandic membership

    The major item discussed on the first morning concerned the adherence of
    Iceland to the Convention with a reservation to Paragraph 10(e). That
    paragraph refers to what is popularly termed the moratorium on commercial
    whaling. There was a difference of views as to whether the Commission
    should accept Icelands reservation, and indeed whether the Commission has
    the competence to decide. On the latter point, the Commission voted by 19
    votes to 18 votes (1 country was absent for the vote) that it had the
    competence to determine the legal status of Icelands reservation. After
    that vote, the Commission voted on a motion that:

    The Commission does not accept Icelands reservation regarding paragraph
    10(e) of the Schedule (i.e. that Iceland is not bound by paragraph 10(e)
    of the Schedule, as reflected in its instrument of adherence dated 8 June

    Sixteen member nations refused to participate in the vote, believing it to
    be illegal. The motion was then carried with 19 votes in favour, 0 votes
    against and 3 abstentions.

    After consultation with Commissioners, the Chairman then ruled that
    Iceland should `assist in the meeting as an observer.` This ruling was
    challenged. In the subsequent vote, the Chairmans ruling was upheld by 18
    votes to 16 votes with 3 abstentions (1 country was absent for the vote).

    Catch limits for commercial whaling

    In 1982, the Commission took a decision, which came into force from the
    1986 and 1985/86 seasons, that catch limits for all commercial whaling
    would be set to zero.

    Norway has lodged objections to the ban and has exercised its right to set
    national catch limits for its coastal whaling operations for minke whales.
    The Commission passed a Resolution urging Norway to reconsider exercising
    this right and to reconsider granting export permits for whale products.

    As in previous years, the Commission did not adopt a proposal by Japan for
    an interim relief allocation of 50 minke whales to be taken by coastal
    community-based whaling. However, the Commission did pass by majority a
    Resolution reaffirming the Commissions commitment to work expeditiously to
    alleviate the distress caused by the cessation of minke whaling to the
    communities of Abashiri, Ayukawa, Wadaura and Taiji.

    Revised Management Scheme

    Although the Commission has accepted and endorsed the Revised Management
    Procedure (RMP) for commercial whaling, it has noted that work on a number
    of issues, including specification of an inspection and observer system
    must be completed before the Commission will consider establishing catch
    limits other than zero. This work is ongoing. The Commission had held an
    intersessional Working Group meeting in February 2001 which made some
    progress. At this year's meeting it was agreed to establish an
    intersessional 'Expert Drafting Group' that will try to develop final text
    for the inspection and observation scheme.

    Catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling

    The Commission has agreed to the following catch limits for several stocks
    subject to aboriginal subsistence whaling.

    Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales (taken by Alaskan
    Eskimos and native peoples of Chukotka) - The total number of landed
    whales for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 shall not exceed 280
    whales, with no more than 67 whales struck in any year (up to 15 unused
    strikes may be carried over each year).

    Eastern North Pacific gray whales (taken by those whose "traditional,
    aboriginal and subsistence needs have been recognised") - A total catch
    of 620 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002
    with a maximum of 140 in any one year.

    West Greenland fin whales (taken by Greenlanders) - An annual catch of
    19 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

    West Greenland minke whales (taken by Greenlanders) - The annual number
    of whales struck for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, shall not
    exceed 175 (up to 15 unused strikes may be carried over each year).

    East Greenland minke whales (taken by Greenlanders) - An annual catch of
    12 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 (up to
    3 unused strikes may be carried over each year).

    Humpback whales (taken by St Vincent and The Grenadines) - for the
    seasons 2000 to 2002, the annual catch shall not exceed two whales.

    The taking of calves or females accompanied by calves is forbidden.

    The Scientific Committee has continued to make progress towards
    developing new management regimes for aboriginal subsistence whaling; this
    work has been given high priority by the Commission. The catch limits for
    aboriginal subsistence whaling will need to be renewed next year and the
    Scientific Committee will be recommending a new method of establishing
    catch limits for bowhead whales at that time.

    Status of whales

    Despite a long period of protection, several populations of great whales
    remain highly endangered and number 500 or less. These include all bowhead
    whale stocks apart from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock that
    numbers over 7,000; gray whales in the western Pacific (those in the
    eastern Pacific, by contrast, number over 20,000); all stocks of northern
    right whales; and various stocks of blue whales. Some of these small
    Arctic bowhead populations are subjected to direct catches outside IWC
    regulations (a bowhead was taken in 2000 by Canadian Eskimos), or are
    killed by ship strikes or are bycaught in fishing gear. The Commission has
    attached great importance to trying to improve the survivorship of these
    stocks. This year it passed two Resolutions, one on western Pacific gray
    whales and the other on incidental catches.

    Scientific Permits

    Two proposed permits by Japan were considered. One is an extension of its
    continuing programme in the Southern Hemisphere (now 40010% minke whales
    from the Antarctic). The second is for the final year of a two-year
    feasibility study primarily aimed at feeding ecology in the context of
    contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of marine living
    resources in the western North Pacific, especially within Japans EEZ. The
    programme proposes the taking of 100 minke whales, 50 Brydes whales and 10
    sperm whales in the western North Pacific. The issuance of such permits is
    a sovereign right under the Convention. The Commission adopted Resolutions
    by majority calling on the Government of Japan to refrain from issuing
    these permits and reiterated that in reviewing scientific permits, the
    Scientific Committee should examine whether the research is required for
    management or could be carried out using non-lethal means.

    Whale killing methods and associated welfare issues

    In 1998, the Commission had passed a Resolution that encouraged nations to
    supply relevant data on killing times and related issues in future years
    and also to provide technical assistance to reduce time to unconsciousness
    and death in aboriginal subsistence fisheries. This year, the Commission
    reviewed progress in the context of the revised Action Plan developed by
    the Commission in 1998 and passed a Resolution detailing plans to hold an
    expert workshop on this issue in 2003 and encouraging member countries to
    submit relevant data and expertise to help reduce times to unconsciousness
    and death in all whaling operations.

    Environmental Research

    In recent years, the Commission has strengthened its commitment to
    research on environmental changes and the effects on cetaceans. In
    particular, last year, it has provided some seed funding for two major
    collaborative research initiatives made by its Scientific Committee with
    respect to (1) chemical pollutants (POLLUTION 2000+) and (2)ibaleen whale
    habitat and prey studies in co-operation with CCAMLR and Southern Ocean
    GLOBEC (SOWER 2000). However, these programmes require considerably more
    funding if they are to succeed. Although the Commission has provided more
    money for the coming year, Governments and others are requested to provide
    additional funding. The Commission has also passed a Resolution endorsing
    the Scientific Committee's plans to hold a workshop to begin to look at
    interactions between fisheries and cetaceans.

    The Commission passed a Resolution by consensus with some reservations
    encouraging governments to sign, ratify and adhere to the 2001 Stockholm
    Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. It also passed a Resolution
    on the importance of habitat protection and integrated coastal zone

    Small Cetaceans

     Notwithstanding the different views of member countries over the legal
    competence of the IWC to manage small cetaceans, Contracting Governments
    continue to co-operate in consideration of small cetaceans, particularly
    with respect to the work of the Scientific Committee. This year the
    Commission passed two Resolutions on small cetaceans

    Financial contributions

    At last year's meeting, the Commission established a Task Force charged
    with working intersessionally to identify a set of principles with a view
    to developing a more equitable scheme for financial contributions.
    Specifically, a new scheme should reduce the financial burden of
    membership of small developing countries. At the Meeting, the Commission
    (1) endorsed the 'guiding principles' recommended by the Task Force -
    Openness, stability, fairness and 'user pays' (2) noted that it had made
    considerable progress and (3) instructed the Task Force to undertake
    further work at another intersessional meeting before the 2002 Annual
    Meeting to try to reach consensus.

    Future Annual Meetings

    The 2002 Annual Meeting will take place in Shimonoseki, Japan in May.

    The 2003 meeting will take place in Germany.

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