Global meeting delivers mixed blessings for whales

Greenland now has permission to kill 27 humpbacks

After a week of debate the 64th annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting has concluded with both successes and disappointments for those committed to protecting marine mammals. WSPA was in Panama throughout, lobbying delegates from around the world for better whale welfare and protection. We report back here.

The good news…

WSPA is delighted that the IWC’s conservation and welfare agenda – which tackles issues that can harm whales including pollution, ship strikes and entanglements – is continuing to expand, exactly as recommended in the WSPA briefing prepared for this meeting: Time to Refocus 2012.

Claire Bass, WSPA Oceans Campaign Leader, said: “This year the IWC spent more of its time and money on conservation and welfare work than ever before, helping frame and affirm its shift away from whaling and towards whale protection. The majority of member nations are now clear that the IWC’s future lies in protecting whales, not whaling.”

A world first for whale welfare!

A second great success was the IWC’s endorsement of a series of animal welfare recommendations. Put forward by the UK government, the recommendations originated from a joint workshop held by WSPA and UK government earlier this year, attended by 10 of the 89 IWC member countries.

The endorsement is both a renewed formal commitment from the IWC to invest in and develop its animal welfare work and the first-ever formal recognition that animal welfare is a relevant and important science across the whole spectrum of the Commission’s work.

This bodes well for a future in which the IWC consistently views whales as thinking, feeling animals – not catch quotas – and focuses firmly on their wellbeing.

The bad news…

Following Korea’s extremely worrying announcement about ‘scientific’ whaling was a second disappointment: the vetoing of proposals by nations including Brazil for a South Atlantic whale sanctuary. Despite 65 per cent of member nations being in favour, their voices fell short of the 75 per cent required to vote a proposal through.

Predictably, those opposing the sanctuary included Iceland, Japan and Norway – countries that defy the worldwide commercial whaling ban.

A way forward for whale protection

As WSPA’s work to protect marine mammals develops to respond to the threats they face, we continue to urge the IWC to use Time to Refocus 2012 as a blueprint for transition from a whaling talking shop to the a powerful global body for marine animal protection.

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