Wednesday, July 20, 2011

IWC - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

IWC Blog 2011Tweets

Plenary opens w UK reform document being presented. This doc supported by entire 27 member EU and USA, Latin America et al

Main issue is requirement that payment of dues be made by wire transfer only. This designed to prevent vote buying corruption.

Left out of reform is expansion of NGO speaking rights, which are far below what prevails in other international fora.

USA delegation chief "disappointed" expanded NGO participation eliminated. Ms Medina also supported financial reforms.

Sandra Bessudo of Colombia spoke in favor of reforms. Brazil and all Latin American nations emerging as strong 4 the whales.

Nevis-St Kitts put on a comical show badgering minute point after minute point to delay proceedings. Lunch Break til 330p.

Why do certain Caribbean nations attempt to prevent passage of regulations that prohibit cash transactions? Answer is: You got it.

All parties committing to adopt UK reforms by consensus. Japan, USA, St. Kitts-Nevis, UK. Main reform is payment be by wire.

UK reforms adopted by consensus. What's missing is allowing added input from civil society or NGOs which have vast expertise.

Session began more than 1/2 hour late. Japan has introduced measure calling it safety on the high seas but aimed at Sea Shepherd.

Brazil offering proposal for South Atlantic whale sanctuary.

Costa Rica speaking in support of sanctuary - also Colombia, USA , Australia.

Ecuador supports sanctuary. UK supports. Remember passage requires 3/4 majority.

India proposes a name change to this organization to “International Whales Commission”. GO INDIA

Russia asking Brazil and Argentia to withdraw sanctuary proposal to save IWC from self destruction. Huh? So voting would destroy the organization??

Iceland opposes but Denmark says it will vote 4 sanctuary. Israel supports. Monaco too. Switzerland wants 2 put vote off

Nevis (surprise) opposes. Calls sanctuary emotional and calls for more study. Portugal and Spain support sanctuary.

Argentina NGO speaking in favor of sanctuary - one of the rare cases where NGOs allowed to speak.

India states indigenous whaling goal should be to reduce quotas systematically & take into account alternative “food resources”. India putting forth great ideas at this IWC.

Big question is if Latin Americans will demand a vote. Facing this conundrum chair, w Brazil assent adjourned 4 coffee.

Back in session. During coffee only 5 nations opposed sanctuary. Russia opposed but said they would favor vote.

There is no consensus. Brazil speaking now. Delegate says no other way but to vote. Latin Americans will not get trampled as they have in past years.

Argentina asks Iceland, St Kitts, Cameroon, Norway 2 respect will of vast majority + agree to consensus on S Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

Japan threatens to “break quorum” if a vote is brought on the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

Breaking quorum wud be outrageous and block vote on the sanctuary. This again shows the despicable nature of Japans whalers.

Ecuador says breaking quorum wud end this years IWC.

Colombia speaking with energy and anger against machinations to defeat ability to vote.

Monaco says breaking quorum to defeat a vote would be a disgrace on the IWC. USA silent on this.

Chairman asks for a vote. Nations opposed to sanctuary walking out of room. Will it break quorum?

Japan leads walk out from the IWC meeting in Isle of Jersey. Broke quorum to avoid vote on sanctuary proposed by Latin Americans

After hours discussing whether 2 vote or not on S American proposal 4 a whale sanctuary we are told we must wait another 90 min

Awaiting return of delegates with the text that'll spell out how IWC will proceed on S Atlantic whale sanctuary.

How can St Vincent and Nevis-St Kitts betray their tourist industry by selling out the whales beloved by tourists. Answer has to do with those suitcases of money that have just been banned.

Commission decided to kick the can down the road and have an intersessional meeting to determine rules governing quorums.

Next IWC to be held in Panama. 2012. South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary will be first item on agenda.

IWC is a totally dysfunctional organization. It has 85 member nations, many of which do not attend the meetings or pay their dues. But a quorum is still based on 85 members, so it takes only a small group to break quorum. Reforms are desperately needed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

International Whaling Commission 2011 Sunday 7/10

IWC Blog

IWC 2011 – Why BlueVoice is Here.

The International Whaling Commission is where the fate of thousands of whales will be decided. There are many interests atending vying to determine the policies that will prevail here. The IWC is taking place on the Isle of Jersey, a “separate possession of the Crown”, not part of the UK. Only 12 miles from France.
There are Inuit from Alaska and Greenland, whalers from Japan, members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (though they are not allowed in the meeting venue), pro-whale groups of all stripes and delegates from scores of nations.
The message Blue Voice will deliver is that whales are not for killing – not only because they are endangered, though this is true – but because they are sentient, intelligent, magnificent and both curious and friendly to humankind. We have brought films and research papers to prove that point. You wouldn’t need to prove it to anyone who’d ever been in the water with a whale. Those who have done so know it intuitively. But most people, and it’s probably just as well, have never had that direct contact.
Many of the pro-whale groups base their arguments on science and that is vitally important and effective. But most seem to shy away from saying “we should not kill whales on moral grounds.” That is the very message we will emphasize.

Our new film Singing Whales Under the Gun is at

BV board member arrived at the venue hotel in the same cab as U.S Chief of Delegation Monica Medina. He was able to give her a copy of our new film which demands the withdrawal of the quota to Greenland for hunting humpback whales.

First meeting of U.S. Delegation and NGOs (non-Governmental Organizations) took place Sunday morning. Very cordial and perhaps a bit promising.

For background information on previous IWC meetings check out The Voice of the Dolphins, available on in print and Kindle format.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Evidence of Humpback Whale Intelligence and Culture

BlueVoice Press Release for IWC 2011

Contact: Hardy Jones –
During the IWC: Hotel de France +44 1534 614000

The official opinion posted on the Japan Whaling Association website is that whales are no more intelligent or special than cows. That is beyond a falsehood. It is an absurdity; but an absurdity based on self-interest.
THE TRUTH: Whales are now documented to share the same kind of intelligence possessed by humans, according to researchers after discovering brain cells in humpback whales previously found only in humans, other primates and elephants.(4)
Recent studies have found a certain type of neuron cell in humpback whales thought to be involved in higher mental processes. These brain structures were previously believed to be the thing that made humans unique in the animal kingdom based on the fact that they’re involved with the processes of emotion and social interaction. These cells occur in parts of the human brain thought to be responsible for social organization, empathy, speech, and intuition about the feelings of others.
These so-called spindle cells are credited with allowing us to feel love and to suffer emotionally. To repeat, they were touted as the brain cells that set humans and the other great apes apart from all other mammals with the possible exception of elephants. Now it has been discovered that several species of whale also have spindle neurons.
Humpbacks, other whales and dolphins exhibit complex social patterns that include intricate communication skills, coalition-formation, cooperation and cultural transmission of information.
The cells, known as spindle neurons, are found in two very restricted regions in the brains of hominids - the family of species comprising humans and other great apes – the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) and the fronto-insular cortex (FI). Recently they have been discovered in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of human as well.(1) Spindle cells are also found in the brains of humpback whales, fin whales, killer whales, sperm whales(2)(3), bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, beluga whales, and African and Asian Elephants(5).

These discoveries raise profound questions on the ethics of hunting such sentient creatures.

Examples Of Culture In Whales(6)
Within a given humpback population, male whales (only the males sing) adopt the same mating song, with only minor variations. These songs can be enormously complex, made up of numerous themes that are repeated in the same order. From 1998 to 2008, the researchers identified 11 distinct songs.
“Humpback whale song is unique because intense conformism to the current (song) norm is coupled with high plasticity in the trait,” the authors write.
Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have a highly stereotyped, repetitive, and progressively evolving vocal sexual display or “song” that functions in sexual selection (through mate attraction and/or male social sorting). All males within a population conform to the current version of the display (song type), and similarities may exist among the songs of populations within an ocean basin. Here we present a striking pattern of horizontal transmission: multiple song types spread rapidly and repeatedly in a unidirectional manner, like cultural ripples, eastward through the populations in the western and central South Pacific over an 11-year period. This is the first documentation of a repeated, dynamic cultural change occurring across multiple populations at such a large geographic scale.

The information in this paper is drawn from the sources cited below and is used under The Fair Use Act.
(1) Fajardo et. al.; Escobar, M.I.; Buritic√°, E.; Arteaga, G.; Umbarila, J.; Casanova, M.F.; Pimienta, H. (4 March 2008). "Von Economo neurons are present in the dorsolateral (dysgranular) prefrontal cortex of humans." Neuroscience Letters 435 (3): 215–218
(2) Coghlan, A. (27 November 2006). “Whales boast the brain cells that make us human.” New Scientist.
(3) Hof, P. R., Van der Gucht, E. (Jan 2007). "Structure of the cerebral cortex of the humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae (Cetacea, Mysticeti, Balaenopteridae)". Anat Rec (Hoboken) 290 (1): 1–31.
(4)Butti C, Sherwood CC, Hakeem AY, Allman JM, Hof PR (July 2009). "Total number and volume of Von Economo neurons in the cerebral cortex of cetaceans.". The Journal of comparative neurology 515 (2): 243–59. (5) Hakeem, A. Y.; Sherwood, C. C.; Bonar, C. J.; Butti, C.; Hof, P. R.; Allman, J. M. (2009). "Von Economo neurons in the elephant brain". The Anatomical Record (Hoboken) 292 (2): 242–8. (6)Dynamic Horizontal Cultural Transmission of Humpback Whale Song at the Ocean Basin Scale,Ellen C. Garland, Michael J. Noad, Anne W. Goldizen, and seven other authors, Current Biology (April 26, 2011)

General References
Nimchinsky EA, Gilissen E, Allman JM, Perl DP, Erwin JM, Hof PR (Apr 1999). “A neuronal morphologic type unique to humans and great apes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 96 (9): 5268–73.
Allman J, Hakeem A, Watson K (Aug 2002). “Two phylogenic specializations in the human brain. Neuroscientist 8 (4): 335–46.