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Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

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We won for whales at the International Whaling Commission

We did it! We kept the whaling ban in place.

Our team has just returned from the 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC, the body that regulates whaling).

We went with very clear goals. Now, after a week of heated discussions, it’s time to take stock and look at what we´ve achieved – I am pleased to say, quite a lot. I also wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to all our wonderful supporters – we wouldn’t have won this victory without you!

First of all, Japan failed with its proposal to lift the international ban on whaling. A majority of IWC members confirmed that they believe in protecting whales, not killing them for profit. So the Japanese delegation had to return home empty handed. It was wonderful to see the counter initiative to this proposal was adopted with the support of many of the government delegates present. The ‘Florianopolis declaration’, named after the Brazilian city that hosted the meeting, was brought forward by the host country Brazil.

The Declaration highlights the key role of the IWC as a conservation body, the importance of whales for healthy oceans and the lack of need for lethal whale research and commercial whaling. It is the logical move and an important step in the right direction: This new Declaration aims to transform the IWC away from being a body that regulates whaling to one that conserves and protects whale populations.

However, it was still frightening to see how many supporters Japan was able to muster. It was this support that led to the failure to adopt the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, a proposal that has been tabled at IWC meetings since 1998.

Three proposals to increase the conservation mandate of the IWC succeeded. A resolution was passed agreeing the need for the IWC to advancing the understanding of the role whales play in maintaining healthy oceans. Another resolution agreed that the IWC should tackle the problem of human-made underwater noise, and a third resolved to take on the huge problem of ghost gear – discarded and abandoned fishing gear that causes suffering and death for many whales and dolphins.

All things considered, this was definitely a positive outcome for whales and a good sign of progress towards better protection. Given the many threats that whales and dolphins face (most of them caused by us humans, like pollution, habitat loss and entanglement in fishing gear) the last thing they need is for large-scale legal hunting to return.

But despite all this good news, there is still much left to do. Iceland and Norway were very vocal in their support for Japan and the issue of Japan´s ‘scientific’ whaling is yet to be resolved. More control was given to countries that kill whales for ‘cultural and nutritional needs’ – this will no doubt come back to bite us at future meetings and will be exploited by the proponents of commercial whaling quotas. We do have our work cut out for us and we need your continued help.

Around 2,000 whales are slaughtered every year and we need to make it stop. The remaining IWC loopholes must be closed and all commercial whaling must end for good. Thank you again for your support.

Please make a donation if you are able to –  without the kindness of our supporters we would not be able to continue our fight for a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

About Julia Pix

Communications manager - Public Engagement