Created in 1949 pursuant to the entry into force of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will turn 60 in 2009. The moratorium on commercial whaling was adopted by the IWC 27 years ago, in 1982, and it has been in force since 1986 – nearly a quarter of a century. The controversy over commercial whaling stems back even further, to the Stockholm Environment Conference of 1972 where a call for a moratorium on commercial whaling was first aired.
It is thus a daunting challenge for anyone not familiar with the details and intricacies of whaling politics to fully understand why such a protracted battle has been fought over this single issue given the scale of other threats to the natural environment. Likewise, it is very difficult for anyone caught up in the minute details and fierce emotions of the whaling controversy to find the distance necessary to consider practical ways out of the current policy impasse whereby a moratorium exists in name only, with several countries continuing to hunt whales and sell them in the marketplace, including limited international trade. There are no international controls on the catch limits they assign themselves.
For these reasons the Pew Environment Group has assembled an international group of eminent persons - all committed to conservation but not directly involved (at least currently) in the politics of the IWC – to take a fresh look at the issue. They will come together in Lisbon, Portugal in February 2009, informed and assisted by the presence of several whaling debate insiders (both pro- and anti-whaling). The work of the Pew Commission will contribute to the IWC's ongoing discussions on the Future of the IWC.