ECO thanks Chairman Bruno Mainini of Switzerland, sitting in this year to run the IWC meeting here in Panama City, for his support allowing NGO representatives to address specific topics on this year’s agenda before the full Commission.
This is a major step forward in transparency and in building civil society at the Commission.
During the Commission debate on proposed aboriginal subsistence quotas for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, environmental and animal welfare organizations fielded Ms. Louise Mitchell Joseph representing the Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness (ECCEA). She spoke with both passion and authority as a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and one of that country’s specialists on archeology and history. Mitchell Joseph stated there is no evidence that the local native people ever used whales along the coast and that historically people of European origin started the whaling operation. She noted there is no nutritional need on the islands for whale meat, being supplied with abundant chicken and fish that cost less than the whale meat.
During yesterday’s review of Whale Watching, Augusto Gomez, president of the whale watching boat owners association of Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic, spoke about the high value local fishermen were getting in taking people out to see the humpback whales of Silver Bank. Forty-three boats and eight separate companies participate in whale watching in the DR. Gomez stated what environmentalists have long advocated: live whales are worth more than dead ones!
It was a refreshing change to hear some good input to the Commission process by NGOs that have for so long been excluded. NGOs have considerable factual information and represent broad public opinion on the issues confronting the IWC. Hopefully, in the future, the Commission will not only hear NGOs, but also actually listen to them and vote accordingly. What a concept!