Last week, the 68th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC, the body that regulates whale hunting) took place in Portorož, Slovenia. WDC has sent experts to participate in this forum for more than 25 years.
For decades, whaling and whale conservation interests have clashed at the IWC and this year, once again, a motion was made to soften the whaling ban. The moratorium, which came into force in 1986, was established to stop commercial whaling worldwide after many whale populations were hunted to near extinction in the 20th century.
Antigua and Barbuda submitted an application to have the commercial whaling ban lifted. ‘Fortunately, the motion was eventually withdrawn as it was rejected by the decisive majority of governments,’ says Astrid Fuchs, Policy Lead at WDC Germany. ‘Commercial whaling is a threat to species conservation. Yet the governments of Norway, Iceland and Japan continue to allow commercial whaling. The industry is merely maintained by individuals hoping to profit financially from it again in the future.’
The planned whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic also came under debate. Like the whale sanctuary in the Antarctic, if agreed it would mean a ban the hunting of marine mammals in this region indefinitely and comprehensive protection for whales and their habitat. The proposal has been on the table at the IWC for 20 years and for it to be approved, the governments at the IWC would have to agree with a three-quarters majority. This year enough governments were convinced by the proposal but the delegates of the pro-whaling states blocked its success by staying away from the meeting on Thursday. ‘This organised boycott of the vote clearly shows how undemocratic the IWC can be - and what weaknesses the regulations, the so-called “rules of procedure” have.’ explains Astrid Fuchs. ‘We are therefore campaigning for the ongoing modernisation of the IWC procedures to be completed soon.’
There was positive news for whales and dolphins at the end of the voting day: the motion to soften the moratorium as well as a motion that sought to establish the commercial hunting of whales to ensure global food security were withdrawn and postponed to the next IWC in 2024. The adoption of the motion on protecting the ocean from increasing plastic pollution is also very welcome.
Whales and dolphins play an important role in the health of the ocean. They are vital for a healthy ecosystem and support us in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. WDC will continue to advocate at the IWC to give whales and dolphins a voice, to inform and advise governments, and to uphold the whaling ban.