Thursday, 7 November 2013

Dateline Tangier 4

ACCOBAMS Day 3 part two: Tomato ketchup is discussed.

Just after lunch, one of the two noise resolution arrives but the other (focused on beaked whales) is missing…. Other resolutions are passed expeditiously under the guidance of the acting chair who today is His Excellency Ambassador Patrick van Klaveren of Monaco. There is a little hesitation over the resolution that deals with the composition of the Scientific Committee but after some small (but meaningful) modifications it is passed – subject to the names of committee members being added after the various relevant bodies have established them. In due course this leads to some little huddles of delegates representing different regions.

Eventually, even though the relevant resolution has still not arrived, the distinguished cetologist Giuseppe Notabartolo di Sciara is brought to the microphone to explain the work on Cuvier’s beaked whales done by the ACCOBAMS scientific committee that underpins this resolution. (The background to this is that this species has been shown to be particularly sensitive to loud noise and a number of stranding events have been linked to loud noise sources.) He shows a map where sensitive areas for this species of beaked whale have been charted through a comprehensive modelling process.

The map in question
[Whilst he is speaking, copies of the relevant resolution finally reach the room…. At least in English.]

The Chair of the late night drafting group explains that the resolutions have been modified from their original texts for various scientific and political reasons.

The Chair of the Meeting then tries to open the discussion but some delegates still do not have the resolution and the French version is not available. Morocco says that he would like to wait for the French version and notes that there have been some strandings of this species on his coast-line that are not shown.

The Tethys Institute explains that the strandings shown on the map are only ‘atypical ones’ featuring more than one species. This will probably explain why the Moroccan strandings have not been shown.

Cyprus noted that the working group discussed the map extensively last night and notes that it is not included in the resolution and urges that we should not reopen this matter.

Croatia finds the map very useful however. It will help those working in nature conservation agencies and she notes that she has new data that can be added to future modelling.

France has comments on the map. He notes that these kinds of maps can be useful and they commend that such work should be carried out but the work done to generate them needs to be well described. France would never accept that such maps would forbid sonar use.  They must be management and planning tools.

NRDC and OceanCare speaking with one voice commend the work of the Scientific Committee on beaked whale protection and recalls that the Scientific Committee was specifically asked to do this work. He understands the problems that parties might have with this but we should remind ourselves there is an urgent need to act and protect the species. He also strongly supports the Spanish government’s move to sponsor the including of this species in the annex of the Convention for Migratory Species.

The OceanCare observer continues: We have an obligation to act to protect this species. [The Chair asks him to slow down.] It’s the passion, he replies! Nature will not wait.

Giuseppe agrees that this [controversial] map was asked for. It was not produced to stop navies or any elements of sovereignty. I see with regret that the map will not be adopted – I understand the mechanisms for this – but I insist that this is high in the recommendations that the scientific committee now reacts to. In the resolution that now speaks to this we are encouraging a workshop for space-based conservation of beaked whales involving all stakeholders. We must act to conserve this species.

Greece noted that he worked in the drafting group and he also recalls the stakeholder collaboration but he is concerned that the previous relevant resolution [resolution 4.17 passed at the last meeting of parties] has not been tested. As soon as it is clear that 4.17 has not worked, then it may be possible to bring further actions.

A few further comments follow and some small editorial changes are made.

Then France comments that there is a joint noise task-force between ACCOBAMS and CMS and urges that this task force needs to be involved more before the meetings.

Finally the generic noise resolution [5.15] is adopted. The French version of the other noise-focused resolution about beaked whales is still not in the room in sufficiency and so we move on to other matters and, by the time a group-photograph and coffee have come and gone, we are back in the room with adequate copies.

France has comments: Cuvier’s beaked whales are important to him and further discussions should continue. He adds some recommended changes including that some definition of protected areas should be added. An NGO suggests some ways of allowing such points to be incorporated and adds that there are many definitions of marine protected area and here this matter has clearly been left open for the interpretation of parties.

The resolution is almost adopted when a debate about whether or not the map of sensitive areas presented by Giuseppe earlier and derived from the work of the Scientific Committee should be included. Some oppose this – others would like to see it included because it would be helpful in terms of explaining what was discussed. This continues for about 30 minutes. In the end the Chair proposes a hyper-link from the minutes to a text where the map can be found… and it is done.

We move on to another resolution…. But no, we come back to the previous one, France says that there are some issues with the French translation which he will pass to the Secretariat…

Father Entrup takes confession.
We move on. A resolution on whale watching arises… an NGO challenges the use of the term whale watching ‘label’ (noting that a label is something that is put on a bottle of tomato sauce). The chair says that if it is a good quality bottle of tomato sauce this is OK, and after some discussion it is agreed that ‘certificate’ may be a better word.

A resolution ‘in homage to ACCOBAMS’s first Executive Secretary follows. After 13 years, the first executive secretary of the Agreement, Madame Marie-Christine Grillo is retiring. She is presented with gifts and a standing ovation.   

The meeting closes but will resume on Friday afternoon to agree the minutes.

The Chair and Executive Secretary

The Executive Secretary tries to hide

A gift is revealed
Saying goodbye.
I have known Marie-Christine, since we first meet in the earliest days of the agreement, at least thirteen years ago and it has been my privilege to have worked with her on many things in support of cetacean conservation in the ACCOBAMS region. , 

She has been the 'backbone of the agreement and it is difficult to think of ACCOBAMS without her. A resolution was passed by the parties that was an accolade to her outstanding contribution and the standing ovation that she received was very well deserved.

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