Presentation on behalf of Sidney Holt to the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas. Maui, Hawaii, March 30 – April 3, 2009 ( provided by Guiseppe Nortobartolo di Sciara)

Sidney Holt, the author of a contribution entitled “Opportunity: Needs meet Possibilities: Negotiating Sanctuaries for Whales” that has already been distributed in hard-copy, has asked me to make a short statement about it on his behalf. His paper is far too long to be presented here as a whole.

Sidney writes that he feels he may now be too ancient to survive the stress of the long journey from Central Italy to Hawaii. He is sorry not to be seeing old and new friends, and wishes us all and our meeting well. He had hoped that a little illustrated book about whale sanctuaries that he has written for the International Fund for Animal Welfare would be published in time for this conference, but that could not be done. Copies of that booklet, entitled “Sanctuary for Whales: An Unfinished History” will surely be available at the forthcoming meeting of the IWC in Madeira, Portugal.  Those of you who will not be going to Madeira may ask Vassili Papastavrou of IFAW to send you a copy after that.

Sidney’s substantive  message to our meeting is as follows:

My contribution to this conference is dedicated to the loving memory of three comrades, now deceased, and to one still with us, whose skills and persistence provided the foundations for the successful actions I have described:  Sir Peter Scott, 1909-1989; Dr Lyall Watson, 1939-2008; Mr. David McTaggart, 1932-2001; and  Ms Leslie Busby.

This year marks a triple anniversary. It is the thirtieth of the designation by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) of the Indian Ocean as a whale sanctuary. It is the fifteenth Anniversary of a corresponding designation of practically the entire Southern Ocean as a sanctuary, which, incidentally, completed the original intention, in 1979, of extending the Indian Ocean sanctuary area down to the Antarctic ice-edge and the Continent. And it is the eightieth Anniversary of the first suggestion to the League of Nations, by the eminent Argentine lawyer José Leon Suárez, that a sanctuary for whales be designated in the Antarctic.

The existing and envisaged sanctuaries to which I refer in my contribution are those that include substantial portions of the High Seas and the establishment of which requires action by intergovernmental organizations that have been endowed with the power to take the relevant actions

I have given a very personal account of the two international whale sanctuary designations in which I was directly involved – the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. I have also described the origin of the international sanctuary idea in the League of Nations and ICES, and in the negotiations that led to the establishment of the International Whaling Commission. I have also described, more briefly, some of the other sanctuary proposals that did not come to fruition in the IWC and those that have not yet done so.

In the introductory material of my contribution I have tried to explain its somewhat cryptic title.  Here, to end this little presentation, is my explanation:

The Title – an Explanation

My purpose was to provide a short history of efforts throughout the period of “Modern Whaling” to establish protected areas for whales through international legal instruments. Such areas, called Sanctuaries in the language of the management of whaling, in which whaling – or specified types of whaling – are prohibited, are specifically authorized by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 in its Article V.1 (c). The Convention also authorizes, in its Article I.2, such actions to be applicable to “all waters” and hence – in the modern era – to Territorial Seas, Exclusive Economic Zones and other special zones legally designated by states, the High Seas, and even to Internal Waters (i.e. waters on the landward side of the baselines from which the various maritime zones are measured). Additionally, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS 1982, in force from 1994) classes all cetaceans except true porpoises and freshwater dolphins as Highly Migratory Species to which special conditions apply for conservation through appropriate international organizations, particularly the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as far as whales are concerned. UNCLOS also provides that management authorities may “prohibit, limit or regulate the exploitation of marine mammals more strictly than provided for [with respect to other living marine resources]” and that “States shall cooperate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and in the case of cetaceans shall in particular work through the appropriate international organizations for their conservation, management and study.”

What is a “whale” is not defined in the ICRW and there is no consensus among Parties to the Convention regarding an operational definition of the term. For the moment it can only be said that the IWC’s mandate for the conservation of whales and the management of whaling extends to all species of baleen whales (the rorquals, the humpback, the grey whales and the right whales), the sperm whale, the North Atlantic bottlenose whale (not to be confused with the bottlenose dolphin) and the orca or killer whale.

I chose my title to indicate that whale sanctuaries have not been designated simply because they were thought to be a good idea within a suite of conservation measures and regulations. Each sanctuary described has been created, or proposed, for a specific purpose in particular circumstances. Those circumstances include, of course, the wishes of governments at the time, the hopes of other stakeholders, the past and then current types and intensity of whaling operations and the presumed states of the populations of whales breeding and/or feeding in the prescribed ocean region or particular area. The relevant circumstances also naturally include the specifics of international law at the time and in some cases of national law. But, as the reader will see, the acts of designating whale sanctuaries have also been conditioned by concurrent international actions and instruments concerning multifarious uses of ocean resources and the protection of ocean space and, in the case of the Southern Ocean, international actions and attitudes to the entire Antarctic Continent and its surrounding seas.

I cannot resist asking whoever reads this to read the little quote from the Manager-owner of the world’s biggest ever whaling company – Salvesen of Leith – said in the IWC session of 1951, when the abolition of The Sanctuary for baleen whales in the Southeast Pacific sector of the Antarctic was first mooted:

I do not like to think of the number of aged whales dying there without our people being able to have a shot at them.

Harold. K. Salvesen,

Industry representative on the

UK delegation to the 1951 meeting

of the IWC, during discussion

of the future of The Sanctuary

Have a good meeting.

Sidney Holt, 14 March, 2009.