From 12 to 24 May the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) met in Bled, Slovenia. This is the only IWC Committee that meets annually after the Commission agreed to in 2012 to conduct their plenary assemblies every two years, showing the importance and influence of this committee on the decisions adopted by the Commission.
This is one of the reasons it is concerning that the chair of the IWC – the Commissioner of St. Lucia (Eastern Caribbean), Jeannine Compton- Antoine – unilaterally decided to ignore the historic ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by instructing the Scientific Committee to continue reviewing the so-called Japanese “scientific” whaling program in Antarctica (JARPA II ) during its meeting in Bled.
The interpretation of Compton-Antoine – whose country has been associated with vote buying policies of Japan in the IWC – to proceed with the review of the results of JARPA II ignores the ruling of the highest UN Court that categorically stated that these whaling operations violate both the global moratorium on commercial whaling and the whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean, as JARPA II does not comply with the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to be considered a scientific whale research program.
Under the ICRW countries can grant “special permits” to conduct lethal whale research programs. The results of these programs are later presented during the annual meeting of the Scientific Committee of the IWC. However on March 31st, the highest international Court of the United Nations determined that special permits issued by Japan to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean “are not for scientific purposes” in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. As a result the International Court of Justice sentenced the Japanese government to revoke all granted permits and suspend the issuing of further permits in the future. Following the ruling of the Court, the Commission (including its Scientific Committee) ceased to have authority to review the results JARPA II since, as the Court clearly established “is not a scientific research program under the provisions establish by the Convention.”
However on 6 May, the Chair of the IWC issued a communication addressed to the Chair of the Scientific Committee, the Japanese Toshihide Kitakado, ordering the review of the results of JARPA II. In her letter Compton-Antoine argues that under the statutes of the IWC “Preliminary results of any research resulting from the special permits (scientific whaling) should be available at the next annual meeting of the Scientific Committee” and that the rules of procedure include that “the Scientific Committee shall review the current scientific research programs by governments.”
Pro Whaling Agenda of Compton-Antoine?
This is not the first time that the Chair of the IWC unilaterally favors the interests of the whaling nations that are members of the Commission. In November 2013 Compton -Antoine informed through a circular published in the IWC website that she and personnel of its secretariat would travel to Greenland to participate in a seminar on aboriginal whaling and the IWC in order to “find long-term solution to aboriginal subsistence whaling issues”.
The announcement sparked the immediate reaction of Latin American countries that are part of the IWC, known as Buenos Aires Group. In an official statement to the IWC the Group expressed, among others, their concern for the trip without previous consultation to IWC Parties, and requested that the results and conclusions of this meeting are not considered as part of the work done by the Commission. This because in 2012 the Commission rejected the renewal of aboriginal whaling quotas requested by Denmark (that represents Greenland in the IWC), because some meat and products – including humpback whales that migrate to the Caribbean where they are used in whale watching – end up being illegally sold in restaurants, hotels and even luxury tourism cruises.
However Denmark openly infringed the decision of the IWC, by continuing the killing of whales while threatening to abandon the IWC. In response, in December 2013 the Buenos Aires Group published a joint statement affirming that “the actions taken by Denmark violate the obligations assumed” and emphasized that “catches made during the 2012-2013 season are illegal and involve an infraction”, since IWC rejected Denmark’s subsistence whaling quota.
Under this scenario and without any consultation to the Commission, the Chair and several members of the Secretariat traveled to Greenland with funds from annual membership fees, or taxpayer’s money.
Next Annual Meeting of the IWC: Scientific and Aboriginal Whaling Deceits
The unilateral decisions that Compton-Antoine has taken in relation to Japan’s “scientific” whaling in Antarctica and the increasing violations of the global moratorium under the pretense of aboriginal subsistence whaling suggest that the next annual meeting of the IWC to be conducted in Slovenia next September could become once again the scenario for Japan and other pro- whaling nations to attempt to impose their commercial and geopolitical interests through negotiations that apparently don´t consider the interests of all members of the Commission. Therefore non-governmental organizations in Latin America are encouraging the Buenos Aires Group to impulse all the necessary actions to implement the decision of the International Court of Justice during the next biannual meeting of the IWC.