Pew Seeks Landmark Conservation Solutions at Historic International Whaling Commission Meeting

Pew Seeks Landmark Conservation Solutions at Historic International Whaling Commission Meeting

Efforts to finally bring an end to the impasse between pro-whaling and anti-whaling countries in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will be the focus of the IWC's Annual Meeting, opening in Agadir, Morocco, on Monday, June 21.

Listen to a recording of a teleconference held to discuss this release.

The “Save the Whales” campaign of the 1970s and 1980s mobilized governments and the public around the world behind the moratorium on commercial whaling, which was enacted by the IWC in 1982 and implemented in 1986. Twenty-four years later, however, three countries—Japan, Norway and Iceland—continue to kill whales for commercial purposes. Japan hunts under the guise of “scientific whaling,” and Norway and Iceland have filed official objections that allow them to ignore the moratorium.

In 2007, the IWC launched a process to find consensus between diametrically opposed views of whale conservation and whaling among its member states. That process is expected to end at this 62nd meeting of the IWC. It is unclear what direction the Commission will take: whether it will agree on a way forward that will improve long-term whale conservation, continue with the status quo or worse.

“The member governments of the IWC have a real chance at this meeting to step forward and forge a solution that will ensure the conservation and protection of whales in our oceans for years to come,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group. “Right now, the whaling countries hold the key to a ‘peace treaty' for whales. We call upon Japan to agree to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the fragile waters off of Antarctica, and for all countries to agree to meaningful conservation efforts to protect whales. We call upon all governments to show the world that there truly will be a future for whales in our oceans in the 21st century.”

In May, Pew, Greenpeace and WWF issued a joint statement highlighting six fundamental elements that need to be included in the final outcome of the IWC negotiations in order for it to be effective:

  • All whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary should end;
  • If any whaling is authorized, then the trade of whale products should be limited to domestic markets only, with no international trade;
  • If any whaling is authorized then science should prevail, and the IWC's agreed “Revised Management Procedure” should be formally adopted and used by the IWC's Scientific Committee as the basis for calculating catch limits; 
  • No killing of vulnerable, threatened or endangered species or populations should be allowed; 
  • Scientific research should not be used as a cover for commercial whaling; and
  • All governments should agree to adhere to any agreement adopted by the IWC.

“This October, in the International Year of Biodiversity, Japan will host the meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity,” said Lieberman. “In bringing the global community together to address an array of conservation issues the Japanese Government has a unique opportunity to show leadership in supporting marine biodiversity conservation.  A decision by Japan to phase out its whaling program in the Southern Ocean would be one of the most inspiring and useful contributions that Japan could make on the world stage to demonstrate its commitment to global biodiversity.”