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Whaling countries derail plans for Southern Atlantic Sanctuary

Jul 15, 2011

IWC 2011

Latin American proposals for a sanctuary to protect whales in their South Atlantic waters was derailed on the final day of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) annual meet by Japan and its allies.

After the proposal, tabled by the 11-nation block known as the Buenos Aires Group (BAG) and led by Brazil and Argentina, didn’t reach consensus on July 14, Japan and its IWC allies threatened to walk out if a vote was imposed.

The firm position maintained by the Latin American nations left the IWC Chair, Herman Osterhausen, no option but to call for a vote which prompted Japan and 20 other nations to leave the room. The other nations included Norway and Iceland, several African nations and small Caribbean nations, as well as land-locked Mongolia. 

Walk out causes outrage

Commissioners and participants in the meeting were astounded:  “The attitude of the whaling nations and its allies is absolutely outrageous,” said Marcela Vargas, from WSPA Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. “To break the quorum of the Convention in order to block the vote for this sanctuary to protect whales in Latin American waters demonstrates a complete disrespect for the most essential democratic tool to achieve agreements in the world.”

After confirmation that it was impossible to reach quorum for a vote, the delegates entered a closed-door gathering for more than four hours, but did not reach consensus. Members of BAG said that the topic remained on the table and that the sanctuary proposal will be discussed in the next IWC meeting, to be held in Panama in 2012.

Hope held out for next IWC

Lorenzo Rojas, Commissioner for Mexico, said that the whaling countries’ attitude was very unfortunate and was unacceptable in international conventions such as the IWC. However, he was encouraged that the proposal will be discussed next year, against the wishes of whaling nations.

“I think the fact that the text that will be in the final report of the Chair is very good, because it will show all the efforts we made to maintain consensus, that we are a majority, and all the countries’ names who couldn’t respect the democratic procedures of this international body will be written there,” he said.

The Southern Atlantic Sanctuary proposal has now been under negotiation for more than 10 years, and during this, the 63rd meeting of the IWC, received the support of almost all European countries, and others such as India and New Zealand.

This IWC meeting also saw the rejection of joint recommendations by the UK government and WSPA to advance the protection of whales.

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