Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Call for the EU to reject whaling proposals at the IWC in June

The International Whaling Commission meets in June for its annual meeting. The EU now provides a further complication to the IWC decision making process.

85 countries are members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). 24 of these members are also members of the European Union (EU).

IWC decisions are reached in two ways – either by consensus or by voting. For the passage of a resolution a simple majority of those voting is required. For a change to the Schedule of the IWC - its governing document - a ¾ majority of those voting is required.

The decisions of EU members are therefore critical at the IWC, since they represent more than one-quarter of the votes. The European Commission has recently ruled that EU members of the IWC must have a common position at IWC meetings. Their collective vote can therefore make a difference to whether whales live or die.

Within the EU there is some diversity of views, with the UK leading the pro-conservation and welfare agenda and others considering that some whaling may be necessary to solve the problems in the IWC.

EIA is concerned that the Common Position agreed by the European Commission is open to wide interpretation which could potentially allow some resumption of commercial whaling, including in the coastal waters of Japan. In addition, EIA is also extremely concerned that if the EU IWC members are unable to agree a common position they may be forced to abstain on key votes and this, by default, could result in decisions that are unfavourable to the conservation of whales.

The process of arriving at an EU common position lacks transparency and engagement of civil society. It allows national representatives to “hide behind” the Common Position and ignore their citizens’ opinions on IWC matters. This at a time when whales, dolphins and porpoises need greater protection than ever before from the growing threats to them and their habitats.

Please write to the EU commissioner :

Stavros Dimas.
European Commissioner for the Environment,
European Commission,
200, Rue de la Loi,
(BERL 11/112),
1049 – Brussels,

Write to the EU commissioner :


Dear Commissioner Dimas,

I am writing to express my concern about matters relating to EU members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

I understand that the European Commission has decided upon a common position for EU members of the IWC. With a diversity of views amongst EU IWC members, I am concerned that trying to achieve a common position may result in weak common positions that could be detrimental to the conservation and welfare of whales, dolphins and porpoises. This might include EU abstentions on crucial votes.

Although the EU IWC members are provided with a Common Position it seems open to wide interpretation that could include allowing the resumption of some commercial whaling including in the coastal waters of Japan.

I am concerned about the lack of transparency and engagement of civil society in the EU’s decision making process in reaching the Common Position for EU IWC members. It is essential that the millions of European citizens who demand effective protection for whales, dolphins and porpoises are satisfactorily represented by the decision makers at IWC meetings. There must therefore be a process of transparency that ensures these representatives are accountable to and effectively represent the views of their citizens.

Please can you ensure that EU IWC members understand that interpretation of their Common Position means actively rejecting any initiatives that would allow the resumption of whaling including in the coastal waters of Japan.

It is essential that this group of IWC members is seen to play a leadership role in enhancing the conservation and welfare of all whales, dolphins and porpoises at a time of growing threats to them and their habitats.

Yours sincerely,

Hans Lak

Aldendriel 61
5653 PH Eindhoven
The Netherlands

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