What happened at the International Whaling Commission 2016 meeting

Posted by Willie — 28 October 2016 at 4:48pm - Comments
Image of a whale's fluke (tail)
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

The International Whaling Commission meeting 2016 has just come to a close. Delegates from 64 countries spent a week discussing and debating whales, in Potoroz, Slovenia.
Greenpeace’s international team was there, and here’s a quick roundup of what happened.

 The Good

Overall, this was a good meeting for the whales. The majority of governments voted in favour of more conservation, and the moratorium on commercial whaling remains intact for now!

Scientific whaling

A resolution was passed to tighten up the current loophole that allows countries (most notably the Government of Japan) to issue self-appointed quotas for ‘scientific whaling’. Two years ago Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ in the Southern Ocean was found by the UN’s International Court of Justice to be in breach of the commercial whaling ban. This new measure should mean that any lethal whale science needs the approval of the IWC, not just the country who wants to do it..

Eco-friendly whale poo

We saw an IWC first: the overall benefits that whales bring to the oceans were formally recognised. If you didn’t already know, whales help mix nutrients, fertilise the oceans, and fight climate change – so healthy oceans need lots of healthy whales!


For a change, a tiny marine mammal got centre stage at IWC. All countries agreed to a call for urgent international action and to work with Mexico to protect its critically-endangered vaquita porpoise.

The Bad


No Sanctuary
Sadly, yet again, the proposal to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary was not successful. Despite getting a majority, it didn’t get the three-quarters ‘super majority’ it needed. This is massively disappointing for all of the countries championing the sanctuary, and the hundreds of thousands of citizens around the world who called for it too. 


The (potentially) Ugly

Financial assistance

A measure was passed to set up a central fund to help assist governments ‘of limited means’ attend and participate in the IWC in future. In theory of course this is perfectly sensible and a great idea. However the devil is in the detail. There are worries that if it’s not fairly and transparently administered, the measures could be abused politically, and allow a return to dodgy ‘vote buying’ accusations that we hoped were a thing of the past.

So the IWC is over for another two years. Lots to be grateful for, and lots still to do to tackle the many threats to the world’s whales.

One of the last agreements in the meeting was that Brazil will be host of the 2018 IWC meeting. You can certainly bet that the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary will be a big issue in a South Atlantic venue!


About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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