Report from the Aboriginal Subsistence Working Group
Thursday 12th June Berlin


This working group met yesterday (Wednesday) and among other things
discussed extracts from the Scientific Committee's report on
Aboriginal Whaling, which is confidential until the opening of Plenary
next Monday the 16th.

A brief summary is as follows:

The SC is continuing its work on developing a Strike Limit Algorithm (
SLA) for eastern north Pacific Gray whales. Simply put this is the
aboriginal whaling equivalent of the RMP for commercial whaling and is
an integral part of the Aboriginal Whaling Management Scheme (AWMS).
Last year the SC recommended a SLA for the Bowhead hunt to the
Commission.

The Committee then discussed various catch limits concluding that:

Bowhead population surveys give an estimate of 10,000 whales with a 3%
increase per annum. The SC concluded that the aboriginal hunt will not
affect the stock. The US welcomed this assessment.

East Pacific gray whales are estimated to have declined by 35% from 27,
958 in 97/8 to 18,246 in 00/01. The decline was attributed to either
an unusual number of whales not migrating south or 'high
mortality rates observed in '99 and 2000'. The SC has not
changes its management advice that a take up to 463 whales each year is
sustainable. 131 whales were reported taken by Russia last year.

Minke whales and fin whales off Greenland - The SC repeated its &#
8216;great concern' over the west Greenland stock of minke, and
especially fin whales, and strongly urged that an abundance survey is
carried out. The WG minkes have not been surveyed since 1993 and the
best estimate then was 8,371 (2,400-16,900). Meanwhile the fin
population estimate dates from 87/8 and then was only 1,096 (520-2,100).

In 2002, Denmark reported catches of 13 fin and 139 minkes off west
Greenland and 10 minkes off the east coast. A high proportion of these
catches were female (which are larger) causing extra concern.

Denmark said weather conditions made surveys and sexual identification
difficult but a number of delegations said that the SC recommendations
could not have been put in stronger language and that action was vital.


St Vincent and the Grenadines were not present and did not supply a
progress report to the SC. The S/C discussed photographic evidence of
yet another calf having been killed in St Vincent and asked for genetic
samples to be provided in future so that stock identification can be
determined. The IWC awarded St V. a block quota in Shimonoseki of 20
Humpbacks between 2003-2007. The Committee felt this would not harm the
stock.

There were no further comments although delegations raised the issue of
St Vincent failing to introduce whaling legislation as directed last
year and as a pre-condition of getting this quota. No doubt, there
will be arguments in plenary about revoking this quota in response to
St Vincent's repeated violations (killing cows with calves) and
non-compliance regarding the implementation of whaling regulations in
accordance with IWC rules.

Russia than raised the issue of 'discriminatory' language
associated with the gray whale joint quota with the US that was agreed
at the special meeting in Cambridge last year, after agreement was not
reached in Shimonoseki. Russia seeks IWC permission to allow the
presenting of cultural 'gifts' of whale products and said
it wanted to remove part of the sentence containing the 'whose
needs have been recognised' qualification against the quota.
This was inserted by delegations that dispute the Makah have a
legitimate aboriginal 'need' for resuming whaling and
objected to the US combining the quota application with Russia's
in order to get it agreed. The US argued that the sale of cultural
gifts was legitimate because it 'furthered cultural practices ".
Others see it as the creeping commercialisation of aboriginal
whaling. Russia said it would seek a Schedule Amendment in plenary to
change the language. However, there is great concern that this is an
attempt to 'legitimise' the Makah hunt by the US for
domestic legal purposes.

Denmark was criticised for the export of meat from Greenland
to Denmark. Denmark said there was no commercial sale and this was
strictly for 'sick' people in hospitals for traditional
consumption. Denmark was also challenged with regard to reports of
trade in whale bones and sperm whale teeth (from Indonesia) in Denmark.
They denied any knowledge of this and asked for the information to be
provided. Norway said that this was a CITES matter and not for the IWC
to discuss. The UK said this was an issue 'fundamental' to
the Committee and, of course, it is.

Finally, IFAW were featured in a BBC News report on the web by Alex
Kirby. The report was headlined 'Whaling may never be stopped";
and quoted IFAW representative Vassili Papastavrou as saying "
Conservation includes limiting and regulating whaling, though not
necessarily so the industry can continue' and 'It means
regulating the exploitation of populations'. IFAW have
subsequently issued a denial saying they were 'misrepresented".
However, many NGOs know that IFAW strongly supports the
adoption of the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) for the resumption of
regulated commercial whaling and that this report is not as misleading
as they claim.

The Global Whale Alliance has expressed our concern that the so-called
'Berlin Initiative', that has been tabled and co-sponsored
by 19 countries in Berlin and calls for the establishment of a
Conservation Committee at the IWC, is not used as a trade-off for
progress on the RMS. The GWA believes that above all else the
moratorium on commercial whaling is sacrosanct. However, a link
between the 'Berlin Initiative' and the RMS is something
that some compromise-minded delegations would be happy to see. We urge
GWA members that have not already done so to contact their Governments
and seek assurances that they will not support any compromise over the
resumption of commercial whaling.

Andy Ottaway
for Campaign Whale and the Global Whale Alliance