IWC Discusses Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, Environmental and Health Matters

6 July 2012: The 64th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the associated meetings of its Scientific Committee and other sub-groups took place in Panama City, Panama, from 11 June - 6 July 2012. The Commission addressed administrative and substantive matters, including aboriginal subsistence whaling, animal welfare, and climate change and cetaceans.

On the first day of the Commission Plenary, 2 July 2012, participants discussed the proposal to establish a South Atlantic Sanctuary, which was put to a vote, but did not achieve the required majority. The Commission also heard the report of its Scientific Committee (IWC/64/Rep1) on the status of a number of whale stocks. The second day focused on aboriginal subsistence whaling, with discussion of a proposal for renewed limits at the same level as before for the hunts of Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas bowhead whales (by the US and the Russian Federation), eastern North Pacific gray whales (by the Russian Federation and the US) and western North Atlantic humpback whales (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). After lengthy discussions on the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines hunt, the proposal was adopted. No decision was adopted on the proposal by Denmark/Greenland for its hunts of common minke whales, fin whales, humpback whales and bowhead whales. The Commission also considered: the report of the Conservation Committee, ship strikes, and threats to cetaceans from marine debris.

On the third day, participants: discussed the report of the Whale Killing Methods and Associated Animal Welfare Issues; and agreed on future collaborative steps promoting good animal welfare including a future expert workshop on euthanasia. They failed to reach agreement on a proposed schedule amendment introduced by Japan to permit the catching of minke whales from the Okhotsk Sea-West Pacific Stock by small-type whaling vessels. A number of countries reiterated their objections to the whaling carried out under "scientific permits," while the Republic of Korea announced its intention to undertake this kind of whaling. It said it will put forward a proposal for consideration by the Scientific Committee, later in 2012.

On the fourth day, the Commission received the report of the Scientific Committee (IWC/64/Rep1) on progress with issues related to climate change and cetaceans and ecosystem modelling, and agreed to hold a workshop on Anthropogenic Impacts of Cetaceans in the Arctic in spring 2013. It also discussed issues relating to critically endangered species and river dolphins. On the fifth and last day of the plenary, 6 July 2012, the Commission could not reach consensus on: a draft resolution proposed by Monaco relating to cooperation with the UN; and a proposal by Japan to form a working group to discuss matters related to small-type whaling. On administrative matters, the Commission decided to move to biennial meetings, with the Scientific Committee meeting annually. The next meeting of the Commission, therefore, will occur in 2014. [Meeting Website] [Day 1 Press Release] [Day 2 Press Release] [Day 3 Press Release] [Day 4 Press Release] [Day 5 Press Release]