Conservation success for Whaling meeting

Posted: 8 July 2003

An historic conservation resolution has been agreed upon at this year's 55th International Whaling Commission. After 55 years, the member governments have voted to widen the IWC's remit to that of a conservation body, in addition to its role in the management of whaling. This means that the conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (cetaceans) has now moved to the very heart of the Commission's work.

The majority of member countries - including Mexico, Germany, Italy, South Africa, the US and UK - voted in favour (25-20) of this significant resolution, the Berlin Initiative. It will enable IWC member countries to tackle the full range of threats to cetaceans beyond commercial whaling. These include by-catch, marine pollution, climate change, noise pollution and ship-strikes. By-catch - entanglement in fishing nets - is the biggest threat of all, causing the death of around 300,000 cetaceans each year.

Japan, Iceland and Norway reserved the right not to participate in, nor fund, this new initiative. In addition to this breakthrough, efforts to undermine whale conservation were defeated. Japan had sought a radical expansion of its current whaling programme to catch 150 Bryde's whales and 150 minke whales each year for five years. Its proposal, put forward in defiance of the 1986 global whaling moratorium, was heavily defeated. Sharp criticism was also directed at Japan for their refusal to cease whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. Two resolutions were adopted, attacking Japan's so-called scientific whaling programme for the poor quality of its science, and a proposal on scientific whaling put forward by Iceland. Both resolutions passed although they are not binding.

"This week has reshaped the future of the IWC," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Head of WWF's Delegation at IWC. "The IWC is now positioned to act, not just on whaling, but on the full range of conservation threats to the world's whales, dolphins, and porpoises. WWF calls on Iceland to set aside its ill-considered plans to resume whaling, and focus instead on further developing its successful whale watching industry."

Source: WWF International, June 19 2003.

Related links:

The Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda of the International Whaling Commission, Draft Resolution

A whale of a tragedy (WWF article)

Japanese whale meat ‘contaminated with mercury’

The forgotten whales

Whaling moratorium in jeopardy New Project Will Tackle Whale Entanglement

North Atlantic right whales face extinction

Wanted Alive! Whales in the Wild

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society