International Whaling Commission
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and orderly development of the whaling industry. The IWC meets this mandate in part through the review, and revision as necessary, of the measures outlined in the Schedule to the Convention . The IWC also conducts a number of activities related to cetacean conservation. The IWC normally meets every other year to review the condition of whale stocks and to modify conservation measures, as appropriate. Currently, there are 88 member nations . The United States has been an active member of the IWC since its establishment in 1948.
U.S. Commissioner (Acting)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NMFS West Coast Region
Regulation of Whaling under the International Whaling Commission
There are generally three types of whaling: commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling. In 1986, a global moratorium on commercial whaling was adopted due to over exploitation of whale stocks. In addition, the IWC has designated sanctuary areas in the Indian and Southern Oceans where commercial whaling may not occur. Despite the fact that the moratorium is still in place, some countries still engage in commercial whaling. Norway and Iceland engage in commercial whaling activities under an objection to the moratorium, and reservation to the Convention, respectively. Japan conducts lethal scientific research in the North Pacific and Southern Oceans, under special permit provisions of Article VIII of the Convention.
The IWC also regulates aboriginal subsistence whaling . Currently, the IWC permits this activity on certain whale stocks harvested by aboriginals from Denmark (Greenland), the Russian Federation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States. Subject to domestic legal requirements, the U.S. works with the indigenous communities in Alaska and Washington State to ensure that IWC established catch limits meet their cultural and subsistence needs.
The Role of Science in the IWC
The Convention places a strong emphasis on scientific advice. To this end, the IWC has established a Scientific Committee , which is comprised of approximately 200 of the world’s leading whale biologists, including invited experts. The Scientific Committee meets annually, and has produced catch limit algorithms to provide for catch limits for commercial and subsistence whaling that are sustainable and appropriately precautionary. In addition, the Scientific Committee responds to IWC questions regarding conservation issues facing cetaceans. Learn more about the status of whale species.
- Memorandum of Cooperation Concerning Conservation Measures for the Western Gray Whale Population
- Cooperative Agreement between NOAA and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, 2013-2018
- 2015 Amendment to the AEWC-NOAA Cooperative Agreement
- U.S.-Russian Federation 2015 Bowhead and Gray whale ASW Monitoring Agreements
- U.S. 2014 Voluntary Cetacean Conservation Report to IWC
For more information on the IWC, please contact Carolyn Doherty (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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