Washington , DC -
12/11/2008 - To help bring an end to a longstanding stalemate over whaling, the Pew Environment Group is establishing the Pew Whales Commission, an international panel of independent experts that will meet in Lisbon, Portugal, in two months to identify means for building consensus among the members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) (See Mandate of the Pew Whales Commission).
The Commission will be chaired by the Honorable Leon Panetta, who was White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton. A former California Congressman, Panetta is also Director of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.* (See update below.)
The IWC is at a critical juncture. Its Member States are deadlocked over several key issues, threatening to undermine permanently the international body’s authority. The IWC’s commercial whaling moratorium, which entered into force more than 20 years ago, has been undercut by a few nations’ use of loopholes to continue whaling activities outside of international oversight. In addition, the stalemate leaves the IWC unable to address other current and emerging threats affecting the world’s whale populations such as climate change, ship strikes, noise and pollution.
The Commission, meeting on February 9-10, 2009, will build upon two international gatherings Pew has convened previously – one in New York in 2007 and a follow-up in Tokyo earlier this year – that brought together stakeholders from across the government, business and NGO spectrum that are interested in finding creative solutions to whale conservation.
Working in collaboration with the Lisbon-based Luso-American Foundation, the Commission will synthesize those efforts and seek new input from both whaling experts and civil society . The Pew Commission will consider a series of options on key issues and forward its recommendations to the IWC well in advance of the IWC’s June 2009 Annual Meeting in Madeira, Portugal.
“Pew’s work on the whaling issue has always been centered on trying to get the right people to the table to create dialogue toward meaningful, measurable solutions that will endure,” said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. “We recognize that making progress on international whale conservation is a labor-intensive, incremental process. The Pew Whales Commission is both a product of and a commitment to our maintaining that course of action.”
The Commission will be made up of a select group of individuals drawn from diverse disciplines, including internationally respected specialists in such areas as maritime law, international dispute resolution, and environmental and marine science.
“We will solicit external input, evaluate diplomatic remedies and provide a series of specific recommendations to the IWC,” said Panetta. “We believe that workable solutions need to advance binding, international measures that build on the IWC’s conservation achievements, including reinforcing the effectiveness of the moratorium on commercial whaling. We further believe that successful solutions must respect IWC-established whale sanctuaries and the non- lethal use of cetaceans, such as whale-watching, as a viable management option that allows IWC member states to benefit economically without harming whales”.
Panetta added that whaling – with its complex history and deep emotional impact – is a bellwether issue in terms of international cooperation on a host of other environmental concerns, ranging from broader marine conservation to global warming.
“We see this effort as a potentially powerful and replicable model for solving similar international environmental issues through productive discourse and consensus-building,” he said.
*COMMISSION UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2009
We are currently evaluating the consequences of Mr. Panetta's expected nomination by President-elect Obama. The scope and timing of the Pew Whales Commission Lisbon meeting remain unchanged. This site will be regularly updated with the latest information. Thank you for your continued interest in the Commission's work.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Pew Whale Conservation Project campaign.