The International Whaling Commission (IWC)
was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in Washington DC on 2 December 1946. Over recent decades, WWF believes the IWC has taken some encouraging steps in changing its emphasis from the orderly development of the whaling industry towards conserving and studying whales.
However, the whaling nations of Japan, Norway and Iceland retain politically influential whaling industries that wish to carry on whaling on as large a scale as possible. All three countries are exploiting loopholes in the Whaling Convention in order to kill more than 1200 whales each year in spite of the IWC's moratorium on whaling. Norway hunts whales under its objection to the moratorium, and Japan has been whaling under the guise of "scientific research."
Most recently, Iceland joined the IWC with a formal objection to the moratorium and, although claiming they would not undertake commercial whaling before 2006, immediately began a “scientific whaling” programme.
The current membership of the IWC is approximately evenly divided between whaling and non-whaling nations, resulting in a political deadlock which makes it impossible to secure the three-quarters majority of votes needed to make major changes.
All in all, whaling is taking place and increasing yearly without any international control. While the debate has raged over how best to manage commercial whaling, emerging threats to the future of all cetacean populations have begun to be addressed by the IWC.
Time to address all of the threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises?
WWF believes it preferable, and of greater potential conservation to cetaceans, to now address all of the threats to cetacean populations, particularly that of bycatch.
In 2003 scientists from the U.S. and the U.K. estimated global cetacean bycatch
(the entanglement of cetaceans in fishing gear) at more than 300,000 mortalities annually.
Although it has sometimes been difficult to draw attention to the magnitude of the problem, there is no intrinsic difference between bycatch and whaling. Both remove animals permanently from the wild population, and both require international action. For some populations that were the subject of whaling in the past, bycatch has simply replaced whaling as a mortality factor.