65th International Whaling Commission meeting
WWF acknowledges the widely varied cultural attitudes toward the conservation and management of whales, but continues to oppose commercial whaling - now and until whale stocks have fully recovered, and the governments of the world have brought whaling fully under international control with a precautionary and conservation-based enforceable management and compliance system adhered to by all whaling nations.
So-called "scientific" whalingUnder a treaty loophole, member countries can issue permits nationally for whale hunts claiming they are for scientific research purposes. Japan's scientific whaling was challenged by Australia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled in May that Japan's hunt was actually commercial and therefore illegal under international law.
At this year's commission meeting, New Zealand has proposed that IWC incorporates the ICJ ruling into its procedures, a move WWF supports. Meanwhile, Japan has indicated that it will issue itself a new permit in early 2015 to hunt within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary where all whaling, scientific or otherwise, is banned.
It is WWF's view that there is no need to kill whales in the name of science. The data necessary for their conservation and management can be obtained by non-lethal means. Scientific whaling needs more rigorous oversight by the commission and its scientific committee to ensure that no permits are issued by national governments unless the strict ICJ criteria is met.
ConservationThe marine environment has never before been under such heavy cumulative pressures. Bycatch, ocean noise, chemical pollution, habitat destruction, unsustainable fishing, oil and gas exploration and development, shipping, aquaculture, marine debris and climate change are all taking their toll on cetaceans and their habitats, and in turn, are threatening the local communities which depend on coastal environments for their livelihoods and survival.
IWC has a role in tackling these growing pressures to cetaceans and their habitats. This will be a challenge, but also presents an opportunity for the IWC to become a world leading body in marine conservation.
Small and endangeredThe vaquita is the world’s most critically endangered marine cetacean species. It is only found in a small area of the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico. Despite government efforts vaquita population is still declining and now likely consists of fewer than 100 individuals. The goverment established a Vaquita Refuge to protect the animals from gillnet bycatch, but illegal fishing is still happening.
Maui’s dolphins, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins, are only found on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. They are critically endangered with only around 55 animals over the age of 1 year left. The Maui's population has declined since the 1970s largely because of animals becoming caught in fishing gillnets and trawl fisheries. WWF is calling on New Zealand to ban the use of all nets inside Maui’s dolphin habitat and to guarantee compliance of all vessels.
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