Saturday, March 07, 2009

The White House to The Red House

I am on my way to Rome tomorrow where I am attending an intersessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The offices of the IWC have been located for decades in Cambridge, UK in a place called The Red House.

Last night, The White House sent a message to The Red House.

Less than three days before the Rome meeting, the Chair of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Nancy Sutley issued a Statement in Advance of the IWC Meting in Rome.

This is the first statement of the Obama admnistration on the on-going debate on the future of the international whale conservation regime. So whalelogists of all kinds will pull out their magnifiying lenses to read what it says [explicitly as well as implicitly]:

"The Obama Administration is committed to continuance of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as the premiere international forum to resolve current whale conservation issues, coordinate critical research, and develop an international agreement".

[This can be seen as a response to the proposal by Japan and other pro-whaling countries to set up another international whale management organization where pro-whaling countries would do their business alone, as described in the "Safety net paper" presented by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) at the recent Pew Whales Commission meeting in Lisbon]

"The United States continues to view the commercial whaling moratorium as a necessary conservation measure and believes that lethal scientific whaling is unnecessary in modern whale conservation management".

[The renewed commitment to the continuation of the commercial whaling moratorium is welcome. So is the recognition that lethal scientific whaling as currently conducted unilaterally has no place in today's world]

"The United States also continues to have significant concerns over the recent resumption of international trade of whale meat".

[This is in response to the on-going attempts by Japan, Iceland and Norway to resume their international whale meat trade, and to undermine the current ban on international trade in whale products maintained by the Parties to the CITES Convention, the treaty regulating the international trade in endangered species]

"The Administration is fully committed to furthering discussions of critical issues within the IWC, including the future of the organization. While we reserve judgment on various proposals until discussions are completed, it is our view that any package, to be acceptable, must result in a significant improvement in the conservation status of whales".

[The second sentence should reassure those who've expressed concerns in recent weeks about an alleged sell out.]

"We recognize some of these issues facing the IWC may require a longer view toward resolution. However, the failure to resolve these issues is not an acceptable outcome to the United States".

[Business as usual is not an option. Although the moratorium on commercial whaling adopted in 1982 has been a success, the reality is that unless the IWC treaty is modernized, any country may unilaterally, now and in the future, decide to conduct whaling activities under the guise of scientific research. Things are unlikely to get any better in the future if the international regime is not reinforced]

"We encourage all participants to stay engaged and continue the discussion on the future of the IWC".

[Among "all participants", Japan is at the forefront (but also Norway and Iceland, and the countries which Japan has brought to the table in support of their position)]

"We look forward to hearing the views of governments and the non-government community at the Rome meeting and in future discussions."

[The reference to NGOs is good, I think, because the IWC attitude to NGOs is at odds with current international practice. Moreover, a solution which does not involve NGOs would be a tough sell]

Yes, we can.

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