(from "Chairman's Report of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Meeting")
As a result the Steering Committee commended the report of the ad hoc Working Group to the Technical Committee together with the comments upon it.
The Steering Committee emphasised the need to act immediately to implement an aboriginal/subsistence management regime. It recommended that, as recommended by the Technical Committee Working Group, a Technical Committee Standing Sub-committee or Working Group be established to consider the cultural and nutritional requirements of indigenous (aboriginal) people engaged in aboriginal/subsistence whaling and to provide advice to the Technical Committee on relevant matters.
The USA believed that this is an excellent report and proposed a Resolution to accept the report; to agree to management according to the proposals set forth; and to establish a Standing Sub-Committee.
The Netherlands, Norway, the UK and Japan all expressed some reservations in Technical Committee , and the USSR preferred an ad hoc group, but after discussion and attempts to amend the wording in order to reach consensus and clarification of intent, the Resolution was adopted for recommendation by majority vote.
The USA seconded the Resolution in the Commission, where it was approved by consensus, and is shown in Appendix 3.
14.1.2 Action arising
Denmark introduced a proposal on management in Technical Committee in the form of a Schedule amendment. It believes that this is close to one of the proposals put forward last year and commented upon by the Scientific Committee this year. This was amended by the addition of a footnote to one sub-paragraph designed to set a minimum stock level below which no whaling may occur, as well as a rate of increase for stocks.
The Chairman of the Scientific Committee commented on his Committee's discussion and indicated that its preferred procedure is not close to the Danish proposal.
The UK believed that the Technical Committee was rushing ahead, and the full implications were not clear, especially how the proposal would work in practice. The USA while sharing this concern believed that considerable effort had been devoted to these management schemes.
The Technical Committee, by a majority vote, recommended the proposal, and it was seconded in Plenary Session by the USA.
The Netherlands proposed an amendment, as an improvement of its earlier footnote in Technical Committee, while the UK, seconded by New Zealand and Norway, proposed wording to ensure that the text should run for three years in order that its performance would be reconsidered of necessity. Norway welcomed this start to revision of the Commission's management procedures, but had some doubts if aboriginal catch levels can be established in the absence of any minimum level approved by the Commission. After further discussion and clarification of the amendments under consideration, Denmark, seconded by the Netherlands, proposed a new clause as an amendment to the UK proposal. It believes it important to establish the scheme on a longer time scale than three years, and suggested instead review by 1990.
Before the vote, Spain explained that it believes the same management regime should be applied to all whaling operations and therefore opposed this proposal. The amended text (shown in Appendix 6, Item 6) was then adopted as an amendment to the Schedule by 12 votes in favour, to 2 against, with 17 abstentions.
14.2 Documentation of the utilisation of the meat and products of whales taken for aboriginal/subsistence purposes
No data were presented by member governments, but St Vincent reported that last winter three whales were taken at Bequia. Oman commented that the data should be sent to the BIWS.
14.3 Report of the Scientific Committee
14.3.1 Bering Sea stock of bowhead whales
The Scientific Committee noted the latest harvest figures and the available research data. The sightings estimates are rather higher now due to improved corrections incorporated and the 1982 estimate is regarded as the most accurate. This estimates a present stock size of 3,857 (range 3,390 to 4,325). This is 21.4% to 42.9% of the initial population.
Conclusions could not be made conclusively on whether the population had increased or decreased since 1915. There is a contradiction between the low gross recruitment rates observed from calf counts, suggesting no positive net recruitment and the historical record results, suggesting a small positive net recruitment rate for 1915 to 1978. In these circumstances the Scientific Committee recommended that the safest course for the recovery of the stock is for the take to be zero.
The Technical Committee considered whether a block quota could be changed, and reviewed the Commission's actions on this stock before adopting, by a majority vote, a recommendation for a zero catch limit.
Research recommendations on aerial photographic work; photographs of harvested whales; correction factor for missed whales; extended surveys; model predictions; and research on migration routes and the effects of offshore oil and gas developments were endorsed by the Technical Committee.
In the Commission, Spain seconded the proposed zero catch limit, but the USA indicated that it wished to honour the block quota adopted two years ago. Norway, seconded by Denmark and Sweden, proposed that the matter should not be dealt with at this meeting. Uruguay commented on the changes in attitudes in the Commission, and St Vincent remarked that while the bowhead is the rarest whale in the world, it was sympathetic to the Eskimo needs. Spain indicated that it was ready to postpone the matter until next year, which the Commission agreed to do.
Finally, the Netherlands spoke on a report by the USA on the preservation of the habitat of whales in their marine environment, with particular reference to oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea, and expressed its concerns for the possible harm to the bowhead stock.
14.3.2 Eastern Pacific stock of gray whales
The Scientific Committee was concerned that only a small proportion of the catch of 135 animals was examined in 1981 and that females again predominated. Model predictions suggest continuing increase of the stock and the Technical Committee endorsed and the Commission accepted the recommendation of continuing classification as SMS with the same catch limit as last year - 179.
The Technical Committee and the Commission supported the view of the Scientific Committee that the Soviet authorities should be urged to continue investigating means by which the sex ratio of the catch could be adjusted towards parity, although the inherent difficulties of the situation are recognised.
The Scientific Committee also recommended that Mexico's research should continue and be reported next year and strongly recommended resumption of periodic systematic counts.
Mexico expressed surprise that the Scientific Committee had not recommended the USA to continue its research along its own coastal waters, since it ended bilateral activity last year. It emphasised that it will continue to encourage and support its own research activity.
14.3.3 West Greenland stock of humpback whales
Photo-identification has shown links between the populations off West Greenland and the Caribbean breeding grounds. Current estimates of stock size, 2,300 - 4,100, suggest the population is now at 52% of its initial level. The situation is not as serious as believed last year, but the whales off Greenland may be a separate feeding stock so removals have more impact.
The Scientific Committee recommended continuation of net entanglement studies and removal of the exemption for a Greenland catch of 10 whales as the safest course in the face of uncertainties.
Denmark emphasised that the stock situation is not so serious as previously believed. Research is proceeding and the Greenlanders have special needs.
Following discussion of the Bequia situation the Technical Committee agreed to put forward these recommendations, which were noted by the Commission.