Subject: International Whaling Commission

Michael Wiliamson (
Mon, 08 Sep 1997 12:22:42 -0400

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     J. Michael Williamson
 Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
 Associate Professor-Science
 Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 508.468.0073

     "Wrinkles only go where smiles have been"
                  Jimmy Buffett

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International Whaling Commission

International Whaling Co= mmission

The Red House, 135 Station Road, Histon, Cambridge, UK CB4 4= NP

Tel: +44 (0)1223 233971; Fax: +44 (0)1223 232876; e-mail= :


History and Purpose

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up under the= International Convention for the Regulation of W= haling which was signed in Washington DC on 2 December 1946. The purp= ose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale = stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling indu= stry.

The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as = necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule = to the Convention which govern the conduct of w= haling throughout the world. These measures, among other things, provide = for the complete protection of certain species; designate specified areas= as whale sanctuaries; set limits on the numbers = and size of whales which may be taken; prescribe open and closed seas= ons and areas for whaling; and prohibit the capture of suckling calves an= d female whales accompanied by calves. The compilation of catch reports a= nd other statistical and biological records is also required.

In addition, the Commission encourages, co-ordinates and funds whale r= esearch, publishes the results of scientific res= earch and promotes studies into related matters= such as the humaneness of the killing operations.

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Membership<= FONT SIZE=3D6>

Membership of th= e IWC is open to any country in the world that formally adheres to the 19= 46 Convention. Each member country is represented by a Commissioner, who = is assisted by experts and advisers. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman are e= lected from among the Commissioners and usually serve for three years.

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The IWC has a full-time Secretariat with headquarters in Cambri= dge, England. The personnel include the Secretary (Dr Ray Gambell OBE), E= xecutive Officer, Scientific Editor, Computing Manager and supporting sta= ff.

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Meetings and Procedures<= /A>

Each year, usually in May or June, the Annual Meeting of the Co= mmission is held, either by invitation in any member country, or in the U= K - the Secretariat's base. In 1997, however, the = meetings will be held in the autumn.

The Commission has three main committees - Scientific, Technical, and = Finance and Administration. There are also sub-committees which deal with= aboriginal subsistence whaling , Infractions (breaking of regulations) and other = ad hoc Working Groups to deal with a wide range of issues. Commission= ers may opt for their countries to be represented in any or all of these = activities and most choose to do so.

The Scientific Committee meets in the two weeks immediately before the= main Commission meeting and it may also hold special meetings during the= year to consider particular subjects. The information and advice it prov= ides on the status of the whale stocks form the basis on which the Commis= sion develops the regulations for the control of whaling. These are conta= ined in the Schedule and require a three-quar= ters majority of the Commissioners voting. Any changes become effective 9= 0 days later unless a member state has lodged an objection, in which case the new regulation is not binding on tha= t country. This procedure may be used when a government considers its nat= ional interests or sovereignty are unduly affected.

The regulations adopted by the Commission are implemented through the = national legislation of the member states, who appoint inspectors to over= see their whaling operations and may also receive international observers= appointed by the IWC.

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Conservation and Man= agement

There are many stocks or populations of the twelve species of <= A HREF=3D"lives.htm">'great whales'. Many of these have been depleted= by over-exploitation, some seriously, both in recent times and in earlie= r centuries. Fortunately, several of these are showing signs of increase = since their protection. [Click HERE for curr= ent population estimates]

Whales, like any other animal population, have a natural capacity for = increase and a natural rate of mortality. A stock remains more or less in= equilibrium at its initial level because these two factors balance one a= nother. If the number of whales in a stock is reduced then recruitment in= creases, possibly as a result of greater food availability, by higher pre= gnancy rates, earlier maturation, increased survival rates or a combinati= on of these factors.

In 1975, a new management policy for whales was adopted by the IWC bas= ed on these characteristics. This was designed to bring all stocks to the= levels providing the greatest long-term harvests, by setting catch limit= s for individual stocks below their sustainable yields.

However, because of uncertainties in the scientific analyses and there= fore the precise status of the various whale stocks, the IWC decided at i= ts meeting in 1982 that there should be a pause in commercial whaling on all whale st= ocks from 1985/86.

A Revised Management Procedure has be= en developed subsequently, which the Commission accepted and endorsed in = 1994 but has yet to implement. This balances the somewhat conflicting req= uirements to ensure that the risk to individual stocks is not seriously i= ncreased, while allowing the highest continuing yield. It is an important= step in the development of wildlife resource management in that it takes= into account the inevitable scientific uncertainty and requires relative= ly simple to obtain information (knowledge of po= pulation size, past and present catches, and stock identity).

The pause in commercial whaling does not affect aboriginal subsistence whaling whi= ch is permitted from Denmark (Greenland, fin and minke whales), the Russi= an Federation (Siberia, gray whales), St Vincent and The Grenadines (hump= back whales), and the USA (Alaska, bowhead and occasionally gray whales).=

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Scientific Research<= /FONT>

As part of their response to the decision for a pause in commer= cial whaling, some member governments have implemented major research pro= grammes which may include the sampling of whales caught under special permits which the C= onvention allows them to grant.

The Commission also sponsors and promotes international research. A ma= jor undertaking has been a series of ship surveys of the Antarctic minke = whale stocks. This has now been expanded into a new Southern Hemisphere r= esearch programme called SOWER. Other f= unded research includes work on developing and improving new techniques s= uch as photo-identification studies, acoustic and satellite/radio tracking of whales an= d genetic analysis of populations.

The Scientific Committee has been concentrating on a 'Comprehensive As= sessment' of whale stocks, defined as an in-depth evaluation of the statu= s of the stocks in the light of management objectives. It was this latter= emphasis that led to the development of the Revised Management Procedure= =2E The Committee is also working to assess the effects on cetaceans of <= A HREF=3D"Catches.htm#Environment">environmental change such as global warming and pollution, and whalewatching activities.

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Dolphins and Porpoises

The Commission has since its beginnings regulated the catches o= f the large whale species, but the smaller species of whales, dolphins an= d porpoises (commonly known as 'small ceta= ceans') are also members of the same zoological order of Cetacea. Member governments hold di= fferent views over the legal competence of the IWC to regulate direct and= incidental catches of small cetace= ans. However, they are working to promote cooperation between the coastal= and range states to conserve and manage these species also.

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Antigua and Barbuda






People's Republic of China

Costa Rica











Republic of Korea




New Zealand




Russian Federation

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and The Grenadines


Solomon Islands

South Africa







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1997 Meeting Dates



The 49th Annual Meet= ing of the IWC will be held in Sporting d=92Hiver, Monte C= arlo, Monaco, Monday 20 - Friday 24 October 1997.

It will be precede by a number of meetings to be hel= d in the Oceanographic Institute in Monaco:

Revised Management Procedures Working Group

Friday 17 October


Finance & Administration Committee

Friday 17 October


Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-Committee

Saturday 18 October


Infractions Sub-Committee

Saturday 18 October


Humane Killing Working Group

Sunday 19 October



The Scientific Committee will meet in the Moat House Hotel, Bournemouth, UK, Monday 29 Se= ptember - Saturday 11 October 1997. Its Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Ma= nagement Working Group will meet in the same venue Friday 26 - Sunday 28 = September 1997.



The Objection Procedure=

Any government can 'object' to any decision which it considers = to seriously affect its national interest, provided it is done within 90 = days of notification of the decision. Should this happen, further time is= allowed for other governments to object. The government or governments t= hat object are not then bound by that particular decision. This mechanism= has been strongly criticised as rendering the Commission 'toothless', bu= t without it the Convention would probably have never been signed. In add= ition, without such a right (common to many international agreements), a = government would still have been able to withdraw from the Convention and= thus not be bound by any of the regulations.


The Convention and the= Schedule

Copies of the Convention can be purchased from th= e Commission Office at a cost of =A32.50 (US$4) plus post and pack= ing.

Copies of the Schedule can be purchased from the Commiss= ion Office at a cost of =A32.50 (US$4) plus post and packin= g.

For information on other IWC publications and an order form click HERE

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Chairman and Vice-Chairman

Dr Peter Bridgewater


Mr Michael Canny



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