Wednesday, November 01, 2006

IWC: time for a heart transplant?

The presentation and public release in Reykjavik today, by 25 countries, of a Joint Demarche protesting for the recent resumption of commercial whaling should remind to the pro-whaling group of IWC member nations that they are unlikely to ever regain the three-quarters majority that would be required under the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to allow a resumption of commercial whaling.

The governments of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US as well as the European Commission, who have all signed this Demarche are right to say that Iceland is undermining the international whaling regime which they pretend to support.

The current situation whereby Japan, Norway and Iceland are acting almost as if there was no moratorium on commercial whaling under international law is bad news for anyone concerned about good stewardship of the global commons.

In a recent statement, the French Government calls for "a true debate within the IWC on which changes to its convention are needed so that it becomes a modern international instrument for the conservation of cetaceans."

France is right to call for such a debate. But whether it should and could take place within the IWC remains to be seen. Maybe it is from outside the IWC, at least in an initial phase, that the debate should be triggered, if the goal is to break the current impasse the IWC is locked into.

The ICRW to which the French government refers was adopted in 1946. It reached the age of 60 this year. During this time it was amended only once. This was fifty years ago, when new provisions for the exchange of observers on board factory ships and a new definition of "whale catcher" including helicopters, were adopted in 1956.

In 2009, the IWC which came into being when the Convention entered into force (in 1949) will also reach the age of 60.

Perhaps a good age for a heart transplant.

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