(from "Chairman's Report of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Meeting")

The Commission had five proposals, from the Seychelles, UK, USA, France and Australia, seeking an end to commercial whaling. In the Technical Committee the Seychelles' proposal in the form of a new clause to paragraph 10 of the Schedule which had the effect of introducing a three-year period for the industry to accommodate to zero catch limits, was discussed extensively. Topics covered included the need for rational management and sustained utilisation, the scientific uncertainty and lack of data in assessments, past over-exploitation and the decline in the whale stocks, the large size of some whale stocks at present, the humaneness of whaling, compatibility of the proposal with the intents and purposes of the Convention, the distinction drawn between commercial and aboriginal whaling, coastal state sovereignty in 200 mile exclusive economic zones, and the present situation in the Law of the Sea. An amendment for a two year phasing-out period was put forward and the proposal as amended was approved by a majority vote.

In the Commission, the Technical Committee recommendation was seconded by the UK but was then amended by the Seychelles, and seconded by Sweden, St Lucia, Australia, New Zealand and Oman to restore the three year period before implementation, to allow for the setting of catch limits other than zero under scientific advice, and with provision for a full review of the effects of the decision within five years.

Japan recalled that the Scientific Committee had stated in the past that there is no scientific justification for a blanket moratorium. There are large numbers in some whale stocks, and the Commission is prepared to allow aboriginal catching of very small stocks. Japan believes that this proposal violates the Convention as well as infringing sovereign rights in coastal waters.

Norway commented that in the absence of a scientific recommendation for the proposal, it believes its adoption would entail the effective abdication of management responsibilities by the IWC. It queried the distinction created between various types of whaling operation, which it believes is not compatible with the Convention. Norway would prefer to negotiate a revision of the present management procedures, and reserved its rights under the Convention.

Spain spoke of the need for careful management and a uniform approach for all types of whaling, while Iceland and the Republic of Korea both opposed the proposal because of the lack of a scientific basis as required under the Convention.

Uruguay, whilst supporting the proposal, expressed its concerns with respect to the sovereign rights of coastal states to the resources within their 200 mile exclusive economic zones. Similar views were shared by Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica.

Antigua and Barbuda, and the UK both indicated their concern over the lack of humane killing methods in the whaling industry. Further support for the proposal was also voiced by St Lucia, which noted the strength of world public opinion on the issue and the ecological uncertainties outlined in the World Conservation Strategy. Australia believed that the proposal was a good solution to the various interests of the whaling industry and the conservation of whales.

Before the vote was taken, Switzerland explained that it would abstain because it believed the proposal did not fulfil the Convention requirement of being based on scientific findings.

The amendment to the Schedule was then adopted by 25 votes in favour, with 7 against and 5 abstentions, so that the following new paragraph is added to paragraph 10:

Notwithstanding the other provisions of paragraph 10, catch limits for the killing for commercial purposes of whales from all stocks for the 1986 coastal and the 1985/86 pelagic seasons and thereafter shall be zero. This provision will be kept under review, based upon the best scientific advice, and by 1990 at the latest the Commission will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effects of this decision on whale stocks and consider modification of this provision and the establishment of other catch limits.