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2018 International Whaling Commission Meeting, Florianopolis, Brazil

The 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the body that regulates whaling) is now taking place in Brazil (from 10th to 14th September). Governments that are members of the IWC make their decisions through its various meetings and committees.

WDC will be at the meeting once again, representing whales and fighting to protect them against many threats, including hunting.


  • Whalers in Iceland continue with their current hunt season (over 100  fin whales killed already including, controversially, two blue whale/fin whale hybrids)
  • Only days ago, news emerged of the killing of a pregnant whale and the horrific sight of a foetus being dragged away by Icelandic whaling station staff has provoked international outrage 
  • Japanese whalers have also just returned from their latest hunts after killing 177 whales for so-called research purposes 

Whale being harpooned by Japanese hunters
Whale being harpooned by Japanese hunters

What are the main issues at IWC this year?
Many issues will be discussed at the meeting Brazil but there are two main points on the IWC meeting agenda that are key.

1. Japan's proposal to bring back commercial whaling

In a nutshell, Japan wants to overthrow the current commercial whaling ban and bring back whale slaughter for profit. In 1982, IWC members jointly agreed to put in place the global ban on commercial whaling - one of the biggest successes in conservation history. Today, some populations have partly recovered but many are still far away from their pre-whaling numbers and some populations might even never recover. So, the ban needs to remain.

- Japan wants to establish a “Sustainable Whaling Committee (SWC)” at the meeting that will then set number quotas for whales that can once again be killed to make commercial profits.
- Japan also wants to make it possible for decisions at IWC to be made by a simple majority vote (instead of the current three-quarter majority vote) so that it might be easier to pass new regulations like the allocation of new limits for numbers of whales that can be killed.

2. The Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) proposal

The ASW countries are those who seek to kill whales to meet nutritional and cultural needs.  What do the ASW countries want at this year’s IWC meeting?

In a nutshell, the “bundle proposal” submitted jointly Denmark (on behalf of Greenland), the Russian Federation, St Vincent and the US, aims to loosen regulations for subsistence whaling and give more decision making power to the individual countries themselves and away from the IWC. Some parts of the proposal are particularly dangerous and involve:

  • increasing numbers of whales to be killed
  • allowing an increase in whale kill numbers to be ‘carried over’ to a following year
  • and automatically renewing the number of whales for slaughter each year


- Given all the other man-made threats facing whales, there really isn't any whale species or population that can be considered "abundant enough" to sustain whaling.
- History has shown - and this is especially the case for Japan - that commercial whaling was not, is not and will never be sustainably managed.
- Whaling is inherently cruel, there is no international market and not international demand. Japan is trying to create an industry without any need for it.

WDC will advise governments on the dangers of both, the Japanese and ASW proposal. We will fight to ensure that any attempts by Japan to reverse the ban on commercial whaling or relax current regulations do not happen. And we will voice our concerns regarding the ASW proposal to ensure that the regulations are not loosened but tightened.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates from the meeting. Please donate to help WDC fight for whales.