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International Whaling Commission

Published on June 23, 2010
Communiqué issued by the Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Marine Affairs, responsible for Green Technology and Climate Negotiations¹

Paris, June 21, 2010

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) which oversees the conservation of whale species, will meet in Agadir from 21 to 25 June 2010.

Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed in 1982, various types of whaling are still practised: hunts for scientific purposes, hunts "under objection" (commercial hunts) and aboriginal hunting. Only the latter type is subject to IWC quotas.

In a bid to put an end to years of confrontation between pro- and anti-whaling nations, the IWC Chairman has proposed a compromise document that aims to subject all whaling operations to IWC control, reinforce the agency’s authority and give its work an increased focus on conservation.

Jean-Louis Borloo, France’s Ministre d’Etat, Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Marine Affairs, welcomes the constructive spirit of this compromise proposal and its objectives, but cannot hide some concerns: "as it stands, the IWC’s proposal does not provide for restricting trade in whale products, stopping hunts in sanctuaries or eliminating scientific whaling. It does not end the regime of objections or exemptions that has enabled countries not to implement parts of the agreement."

Since in mid-June the European Union had not yet adopted a common position, Jean-Louis Borloo got personally involved and wrote to the Spanish Minister who holds the European Union presidency as well as to the Danish Minister (Denmark supports the continuation of whaling) saying the European Union should develop a single, strong and ambitious position.

The Ministre d’Etat believes that "the IWC’s compromise proposal will be acceptable only if it allows for: effective protection of whales, prohibition of trade in whale products, restriction of whaling to subsistence hunts by indigenous peoples, and adoption of a timetable for putting an end to all whaling."

As a result of the work in which France has taken an active role, the European Union positions itself:

- in favour of maintaining the central role of the scientific committee and a scientific basis for setting any quotas (in line with the latest published version of the Revised Management Procedure);

- against the opening of any new hunting categories, except for strictly local consumption and for restricting consumption of whale products to local consumption (consistent with our commitments under CITES);

- for a reduction in catches, "going towards" the ultimate goal of a total prohibition of whaling operations that do not comply with the ban on commercial whaling in the northern hemisphere, within an agreed timetable;

- for a reduction and ultimately, within an agreed timetable, a discontinuation of any whale hunting in the Southern Ocean, since sanctuaries are to be fully preserved;

- against any proposal to ease rules on endangered species in the Southern Hemisphere Sanctuary;

- in favour of maintaining rules that apply to aboriginal fisheries;
- in support of a mechanism and timetable for revising the IWC, so as to ensure that all activities, including scientific whaling and whaling under “reservations or objections”, is subject to IWC control;

- in support of including a provision which would make the compromise decision null and void if any government raised objections.

"I feel that the European position is not as strong as I personally would have wished for, although the Spanish Presidency has done much to accommodate the concerns of, in particular, the United Kingdom, Germany and France" the Ministre d’Etat said.

During a telephone call this morning between Jean-Louis Borloo and Caroline Spelman, British Minister of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who paid tribute to France’s decisive involvement, both ministers agreed to continue to put pressure on those EU nations which are least keen to strengthen whale conservation (especially Sweden and Denmark). As for timetable discussions, both ministers said they wanted clarifications on the whaling ban’s timing.

In addition, the Ministre d’Etat believes the moratorium on commercial whaling should be fully confirmed and areas that serve as sanctuaries should be fully respected. Appropriate monitoring and control mechanisms should be established, and objection as well as reservation regimes should be avoided.

"The IWC must evolve into a tool for conservation of endangered species. These should be fully protected ", he concluded./.

¹ Source of English text: Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Marine Affairs website.

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