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Summary report, 10–14 September 2018

67th Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC67)

The sixty-seventh meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC-67) was held from 10-14 September 2018 in Florianópolis, Brazil. The Commission meeting was preceded by meetings of the Committees, Sub-Committees and Working Groups on Science, Conservation, Finance and Administration, Budget, Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, Infractions, and Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues. Participants included: 75 of the 89 IWC contracting parties; one non-member government, four intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and 80 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Key issues before the Commission included: a Schedule amendment for the four IWC countries with aboriginal subsistence whaling to allow unused portions of annual strike quota blocks to be carried forward, and a limited automatic renewal of quotas, on a six-year basis, with safeguards to protect whale stocks. The presence of aboriginal whale hunters at the meeting provided moving and compelling statements. Adoption of the amendment, which required a three-fourths majority, was viewed by many delegates as an example of the IWC’s ability to find a balance between the pro-whaling forces and those strongly opposed.

Other IWC-67 decisions fell squarely along traditional divides. The perennial effort to establish a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary was once again defeated. But the Florianópolis Declaration, which required only a simple majority, passed. Its provisions affirming the continued moratorium against commercial whaling brought heated charges from pro-whaling members. Similarly, the defeat of Japan’s “Way Forward” package proposal, which many characterized as an effort to return to commercial whaling, albeit only for stocks determined to be healthy by the IWC Scientific Committee, fed the flames. Statements made by Japan following the vote hinted that the conclusion to this story is yet to be told.

Despite sometimes stark differences, IWC-67 worked steadily through a packed agenda under the balanced and professional leadership of outgoing Chair Joji Morishita and found opportunities for both humor and camaraderie.

A Brief History of the IWC

Once widely abundant across the earth’s oceans, some whale populations now teeter on the brink of extinction. The primary cause of this decline is commercial whaling, which started in the early Middle Ages and officially ended in 1986, when the moratorium on commercial whaling, adopted by the International Whaling Commission in 1982, entered into force. The intense whaling efforts in the 1960s, when nearly 70,000 whales were caught annually, amounting to an estimated 2.9 million whales in the 20th century, are thought to have been particularly critical for many species. Whaling is still happening today, either as aboriginal subsistence whaling, scientific whaling, under official objection to the 1982 moratorium, or by non-IWC members.

The 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) currently regulates whaling. Its purpose is to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” In 1949, upon its entry into force, the Convention established the IWC, whose main duty is to keep under review and revise as necessary its legally binding Schedule to the Convention, which specifies measures to regulate whaling. These measures, inter alia:

  • provide for the complete protection of certain species or stocks;
  • designate specified areas as whale sanctuaries;
  • set limits on the numbers and size of whales that may be taken;
  • prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; and
  • prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by calves.

Today, the Commission also works to understand and address a wide range of non-whaling threats to cetaceans including entanglement, ship strikes, marine debris, climate change, and other environmental concerns. This work includes:

  • coordinating and, in several cases, funding conservation work on many species of cetaceans;
  • building an international entanglement response capacity;
  • working to prevent ship strikes; and
  • establishing Conservation Management Plans for key species and populations.

The Commission has also adopted a Strategic Plan for Whale Watching to facilitate the further development of this activity in a way that is responsible and consistent with international best practice.

Membership in the IWC is open to any country that formally adheres to the ICRW, and currently stands at 89. Each member state is represented by a Commissioner, who is assisted by experts and advisers. Since its inception, the IWC has had three main committees: Scientific, Technical, and Finance and Administration. The Technical Committee has fallen out of use, but a Conservation Committee first met in 2004. Thirteen sub-committees have been established to address a variety of issues, including setting catch limits, aboriginal subsistence whaling, and bycatch and other anthropogenic removals. The IWC met annually until 2012, when the Commission agreed to move from annual to biennial meetings. The Scientific Committee continues to meet annually. This Committee comprises up to 200 of the world’s leading whale biologists, many of whom are nominated by parties.

The information and advice of the Scientific Committee form the basis on which the Commission develops the whaling regulations in the Schedule. Schedule amendments require a three-fourths majority vote, in contrast with resolutions, which require a simple majority. The outcomes adopted by the Commission are implemented through the national legislation of the parties.

Key Turning Points

Moratorium on Commercial Whaling: The IWC decided at its meeting in 1982 to establish a moratorium on commercial whaling of all whale stocks. Japan, Peru, Norway, and the USSR lodged objections to the moratorium, rendering it not binding on them. Japan later withdrew its objection. Iceland did not lodge an objection, but withdrew from the IWC in 1992. It rejoined in 2002, with a retroactive objection to the moratorium, and resumed its whaling programme in 2006. Today, only Norway, Iceland, and Japan are considered whaling nations, with Norway and Iceland referring to their respective objections, and Japan undertaking scientific whaling, which is allowed under the Convention as “special permit” whaling. In addition, some aboriginal communities in Denmark (Greenland), the Russian Federation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the US (Alaska) engage in subsistence whaling.

In addition to the moratorium, two whale sanctuaries have been created: in the Indian Ocean (1979) and in the Southern Ocean (1994).

Revised Management Procedure: Between 1994 and 2007, the Scientific Committee concentrated on a comprehensive assessment of whale stocks. This resulted in the development of the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), which would be used in setting catch limits for different whale populations in case the moratorium were to be lifted. The RMP was accepted and endorsed by the IWC in 1994, but has not yet been implemented, pending the negotiation of a Revised Management Scheme (RMS). This RMS would set out a framework for inspection and observation to ensure compliance with the RMP. These negotiations proved challenging and in 2007 the Commission recognized that it had reached an impasse and the moratorium has remained in place.

IWC-57: At IWC-57 in June 2005, the IWC rejected proposals by Japan to broaden the option of voting by secret ballot, revise the RMS so as to lift the moratorium, remove the existing Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and allow the yearly taking of 150 minke whales by coastal communities. A proposal by Brazil and Argentina for a South Atlantic Sanctuary did not obtain the required three-fourths majority. However, a resolution was passed that strongly urged the Government of Japan to withdraw or revise its proposal on catches for scientific purposes in the Antarctic.

IWC-58: At IWC-58 in June 2006, delegates recognized that the issue of advancing the RMS had reached an impasse. A proposal by Brazil and Argentina for a South Atlantic Sanctuary was not put to a vote. Japan’s proposals to allow the yearly taking of 150 minke whales by coastal communities and to abolish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary were again defeated. The Commission adopted the St. Kitts and Nevis Declaration proposed by Japan and several other countries, which declared a commitment to “normalizing the functions of the IWC.”

Conference for the Normalization of the IWC: A “Conference for the Normalization of the IWC” was held in Tokyo, Japan, in February 2007. The meeting aimed to “put forward specific measures to resume the function of the IWC as a resource management organization.” Although Japan had invited all IWC members, only 35 countries attended the meeting, which was not officially sanctioned by the IWC. The meeting resulted in a series of recommendations to the IWC at its 2007 meeting, including a request for secret ballots and Japan’s proposal on coastal takes of minke whales. However, differences remained at the sessions held in 2007 and 2008.

IWC-59 and IWC-60: At IWC-59 in 2007, the proposal by Brazil and Argentina for a South Atlantic Sanctuary was again put to a vote, but failed to obtain the required three-fourths majority. At IWC-60 in 2008, delegates established a number of additional sub-committees to address various issues. The meeting also established by consensus a Small Working Group to facilitate further discussions or negotiations on the future of the IWC.

IWC-62: The “Future of the IWC” process ended in 2010 and resulted in a number of recommendations to IWC-62, which was held in Agadir, Morocco, in 2010. At this meeting, delegates were unable to reach consensus on a number of important issues, including: continuation of the moratorium; special permit whaling; catch limits; sanctuaries; aboriginal subsistence whaling; and trade. Japan indicated that a main stumbling block was the demand that Japan end its Antarctic whaling programme within a set timeframe, when Japan had already agreed to reduce its quota from 935 whales in 2010 to 200 whales in 2020. 

IWC-63: At IWC-63 in 2011, delegates agreed on measures to improve the effectiveness of operations within the IWC, and on a new experimental procedure relating to the participation of NGOs in its plenary sessions. It made no changes to the present limits regarding aboriginal subsistence whaling. The meeting reached an impasse on the creation of a South Atlantic Sanctuary.

IWC-64: At IWC-64 in 2012, among other things, delegates endorsed a significant list of recommendations about whale welfare, rejected Japan’s proposal to allow coastal takes of minke whales, and approved increased quotas for several aboriginal subsistence hunts, except Greenland’s. The proposal for a South Atlantic Sanctuary was once again rejected.

IWC-65: IWC-65, held in 2014, adopted increased four-year catch limits for Greenland aboriginal subsistence whaling. It also adopted resolutions on, inter alia: improving the process for aboriginal subsistence whaling in the future through a more consistent and long-term approach; enhancing collaboration on the conservation of migratory cetaceans with other relevant intergovernmental organizations; and civil society participation and transparency. Proposals to create a South Atlantic Sanctuary and to permit the coastal take of minke whales by small-type whaling vessels in Japan were not adopted.

IWC-65 also passed a resolution on special permits that included instructions to the Scientific Committee and a request on the conditions that must be met and the steps that must be taken before special permits are issued. This latter resolution had been proposed in reaction to the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling of 2014. This ruling was in response to a case Australia brought against Japan in 2010, alleging that Japan’s continued pursuit of a large-scale whaling programme under special permit in the Antarctic is a breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the ICRW, as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment. In 2014, the ICJ ruled against Japan, arguing that Japan’s scientific objectives do not justify the large numbers taken. The ICJ ordered a temporary halt to the activities around Antarctica. Shortly thereafter, Japan announced that it would resume its scientific whaling programme in the Northwest Pacific, and in 2015, announced it would launch a new scientific programme in the Antarctic.

IWC-66: IWC-66, held in 2016, passed resolutions on, inter alia:

  • initiating a comprehensive independent review of IWC’s institutional and governance mechanisms;
  • establishing a Standing Working Group to consider reports and recommendations of the Scientific Committee regarding special permit programmes;
  • establishing a fund to strengthen the capacity of governments with limited means;
  • collaborating with the Minamata Convention; and
  • urging action to protect the highly endangered vaquita dolphin.

IWC-66 also considered cooperation with other organizations and, for the first time, allowed NGOs to attend some intersessional meetings and speak during meetings. Other topics included: aboriginal subsistence whaling; cetacean status and health; cetacean habitat; unintended anthropogenic impacts; whale killing methods and welfare issues; special permits; and other issues. Japan introduced an agenda item on the IWC in the future, proposing intersessional work to explore how to address the interests of all members in an equal manner, despite longstanding and divergent perspectives. A proposal to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed to pass.

IWC-67 Report

On Monday, 10 September, IWC Chair Joji Morishita (Japan) opened the meeting.

Edson Duarte, Minister of the Environment, Brazil, said the IWC should present a joint vision for conservation and management of the marine environment, noting it is time for progress, not setbacks. He underscored Brazil’s fundamental role in addressing challenges in the marine environment, highlighting the importance of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources). Stressing the need for conservation and harnessing the non-lethal use of whales, he called for support for proposals on the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) and the Florianópolis Declaration.

Chair Morishita invited the two new IWC members to make opening statements.

Arzemiro Dos Prazeres, Director-General, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, São Tomé and Príncipe, emphasized his country’s economic dependence on marine resources. He presented a new initiative, São Tomé and Príncipe Vision 2030, to pursue a blue-economy approach to achieving the SDGs, and highlighted sustainable and coherent management of fisheries and the marine environment.

Emma Metieh-Glassco, Director-General, National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, Liberia, said the IWC should demonstrate its ability to ensure biodiversity and food security for future generations. She stressed having clear scientific evidence regarding commercial whaling, and ensuring IWC cooperation for more sustainable practices.

Morishita reported that the IWC-67 participants include: 75 of 89 IWC contracting parties, one non-member government, four intergovernmental organizations, and 80 NGOs.

Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Australia, stressed the moratorium’s relevance. Recognizing the link between healthy whale populations and healthy oceans, she emphasized the IWC’s continuing contributions to conservation and science in relation to 21st century threats, including bycatch and ship strikes. She said the IWC’s existing voting arrangements work well and that Australia cannot support Japan’s proposal for IWC reform.

Masaaki Taniai, Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, highlighted IWC-67’s importance for addressing the IWC’s longstanding challenges, which he described as counterproductive for global management of whale resources. He called for restoring the original role of the IWC in implementing the “orderly development” of the whaling industry. He stressed Japan had sincerely engaged in discussions for 30 years on the Revised Management Schedule and the future of the IWC, but said the IWC had not been able to take necessary decisions on whale conservation and management.

Mitsunari Okamoto, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan, emphasized that Japan’s 2018 proposal represents its “unprecedented determination” to achieve IWC reform to allow the co-existence of diverse views on whaling. He stressed the proposal is mindful of the interests of all contracting parties. Noting that other governments had expressed support for whale management based on science, he expressed hope that this meeting would represent a turning point for the IWC.

Delegates then reviewed the list of IWC-67 documents (IWC/67/GEN/02) and adopted the meeting agenda (IWC/67/GEN/01 Rev1), agreeing to a request from Chile to replace reference to “scientific permits” with “special permits.” Recalling that voting rights at IWC meetings are dependent on payments of IWC contributions, IWC Executive Secretary Rebecca Lent stated that the voting rights of 16 member states had been suspended.

Scientific Committee Presentation

On Monday, Scientific Committee (SC) Chair Caterina Fortuna (Italy) presented the report on the SC’s work over the last biennium (IWC/67/REP/01, 2017 and 2018). She stressed the need for more scientists to join the SC and the importance of collaborations with other organizations. She highlighted, inter alia:

  • general assessment- and implementation-related matters, including the RMP approach;
  • evaluation of special permit catches’ effect on stocks, and information needed to show improved management;
  • the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Management Procedure;
  • stocks that are or have been suggested to be the subject of Conservation Management Plans (CMPs);
  • work on stock definition and DNA testing, bycatch and entanglements, and ship strikes, accompanied by mitigation measures;
  • environmental concerns as emerging threats to cetaceans that include mercury, heavy fuel oils, anthropogenic noise, strandings and mortality events, harmful algal blooms, and climate change;
  • ecosystem modelling;
  • work on small cetaceans;
  • work on whale watching, including impact assessment;
  • work on special permits, including updating Annex P to the Convention (Process for the Review of Special Permit Proposals and Research Results from Existing and Completed Permits);
  • whale sanctuaries, including review of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary Management Plan;
  • IWC lists of recognized species, databases and catalogues, and multinational research programmes and national research cruises;
  • IWC international collaboration programmes, including IWC-POWER (Pacific Ocean and Whale and Ecosystem Research Programme) cruises in the North Pacific and non-hazard Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP); and
  • the SC budget for the bienniums 2017-2018 and 2019-2020.

Austria, on behalf of the European Union (EU), stressed the importance of maintaining the integrity of research used to underpin IWC decisions and noted with concern the potential for the IWC’s difficult financial situation to impact on the SC’s work. He urged a balanced approach to any IWC budget cuts.

Conservation Committee Presentation

Conservation Committee (CC) Chair Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho (Mexico) introduced the CC’s report (IWC/67/REP/05) on its intersessional work since IWC-66. He highlighted: development of a whale watching handbook; reviewing conservation management plans; and updating the CC’s Strategic Plan and associated working methods. He further pointed to joint work with the SC on a web-accessible database of IWC recommendations, which will enable monitoring of the status of implementation and noted a proposal to move to annual CC meetings.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, New Zealand, Argentina, and Monaco expressed support for the CC’s work. Austria, on behalf of the EU, supported the move to annual meetings, while New Zealand stressed that the CC’s expert technical work could guide other international organizations with regulatory responsibilities, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

IWC Governance Review

On Monday, Fabio Hazin, IWC Governance Review panel member (Brazil), presented the IWC governance review report (IWC/67/18), noting the report reflected input from over 100 stakeholders. Among other recommendations in the report, he highlighted the need to, inter alia:

  • improve communication within the IWC and strengthen intersessional meetings, the Bureau, and subsidiary bodies by creating a joint working group among scientists and IWC representatives;
  • increase participation of developing countries, provide capacity building, enhance conflict resolution, and increase involvement of NGOs;
  • ensure continuity in Bureau membership to improve decision making;
  • strengthen the SC, including through clarification of SC recommendations and streamlining sub-SC groups;
  • focus more on the CC work with an associated increase in resources;
  • develop a mechanism to strengthen the intersessional work of the Finance and Administration (F&A) Committee;
  • move away from a business-as-usual approach on finance, given current IWC challenges; and
  • have the IWC Secretariat develop a human resources policy and fundraising efforts targeted at IWC priorities.

He also noted: strengthening outreach activities; cooperation with Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), and the FAO; and increasing IWC involvement in global ocean cooperation linking to SDG14.

A further recommendation was for the IWC Working Group on Operational Effectiveness (WGOE) and the Secretariat to develop an implementation plan and performance indicators to monitor progress.

The Chairs of the SC, CC, and F&A Committee Chair Ryan Wulff (US), provided input based on their respective reports (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/REP/05, and IWC/67/REP/06), highlighting, inter alia: opportunities for the IWC to extend its outreach.

Costa Rica noted the need to continue strengthening ties with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Biodiversity Liaison Group.

Kenya urged Commissioners to help popularize the activities of IWC in their countries.

Following review of the report, delegates considered a draft resolution on the response to the independent review of the IWC (IWC/67/14 Rev2).

 On behalf of the co-sponsors of the draft resolution, Austria stressed the need to adopt best practices, saying the resolution will allow constructive discussions to take place. The IWC adopted the resolution by consensus.

Final Outcome:In Resolution 2018-1 (IWC/67/14 Rev2), the IWC:

  • acknowledges the independent review panel’s report, which provides a basis for reform of the Commission’s institutional and governance arrangements;
  • directs the WGOE to develop a plan to implement reforms to be presented at IWC-68;
  • requests subsidiary bodies, contracting governments, and accredited observers to continue working with the WGOE for development of the implementation plan;
  • agrees to Terms of Reference for the WGOE to continue its work and mechanisms for implementation, as outlined in Annex A; and
  • agrees to support continuation of existing work of the Secretariat, Bureau or other relevant subsidiary bodies, as identified in Annex B. 

Proposals to Amend the Schedule

Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) Schedule Amendment: On Monday, Chair Morishita invited delegations to introduce the proposed amendment to the ICRW’s Schedule on ASW (IWC/67/01).

The US, on behalf of the four ASW member states, provided further detail about the three elements common to each of the four states’ proposed catch limit requests:

  • a one-time seven-year extension, to 2025, to create a buffer year in advance of subsequent six-year catch limit periods;
  • updated carryover limits to encourage more efficient hunting, which would affect only the timing, not the quantity of catches; and
  • an automatic renewal of catch limit quotas where the SC advises that circumstances have not changed significantly, and that hunting would not harm the stock of whales.

On Tuesday afternoon, ASW Sub-Committee Chair Bruno Mainini (Switzerland) noted that the Sub-Committee did not reach consensus on the proposal and invited the four ASW countries to present their request in detail.

The US highlighted the importance of hearing from affected native communities and hunters. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC) stressed: whaling captains’ role as stewards of bowhead whales; an annual increase of 4% in the bowhead whale population; the need for flexibility to allocate whales between villages and seasons; and the IWC’s 1994 commitment to allow their communities to harvest whales “in perpetuity” so long as stocks remain healthy. The Makah Tribe noted: his tribe’s legal right to whale; the recovery of grey whales; and the centrality of whaling to the Makah Tribe’s spiritual, traditional, and cultural needs.

Delegates heard a presentation by a representative of the Chukchi people from the Russian Federation. He outlined Chukotka village rituals on whale catching and how whales represent essential nutrition for his people.

Denmark stressed that the proposed ASW Schedule amendment represents the conclusion of a lengthy work programme on the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme and should depoliticize the issue in the IWC. A representative from Greenland communities outlined how Greenland’s isolation means they depend heavily on marine resources, especially mammals. A Greenland government representative then described Greenland’s hunting license regulatory regime, including on catch limits, methods of hunting, training, and reporting.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines presented on cultural hunting of humpback whales by the Bequians in his country, noting that meat and products of such whales are used exclusively for local consumption. He stressed that the Bequians have sustainably managed their resources for centuries. He called for adoption of the proposal by consensus.

Ghana, Guinea, Japan, Austria on behalf of the EU, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Senegal, Antigua and Barbuda, Iceland, Monaco, Norway, Cambodia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Cameroon, St. Lucia, and Kenya supported the proposal, noting its scientific basis as reported by the SC and ASW Sub-Committee. Guinea and Senegal said the proposal addresses food security considerations, which contribute to meeting the rights and physical needs of indigenous peoples.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, underscored the importance of the IWC serving as a decision-making body to safeguard sustainable use of ASW. Iceland stressed that what matters is not assessing the needs of indigenous peoples, but ensuring whale catches are sustainable.

Norway said the SC had concluded unambiguously that the proposed ASW revised approach is consistent with ICRW objectives. New Zealand acknowledged the importance of whaling quotas to indigenous communities and said it is encouraged by ongoing improvements to descriptions of the hunt and the greater flexibility the proposed changes would bring.

Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, and Ecuador opposed the proposal.

Chile highlighted the need to: clarify different needs on whale resources by different indigenous groups; justify the level of subsistence in addition to scientific considerations, noting Greenland’s commercial hunting activities under the name of ASW; consider the rights of other communities that use whale stocks; request proposing member states to update information on their ASW activities; and create a compliance mechanism within the IWC. For these reasons, she said her country cannot accept the clause on “automatic renewal” of catch limits and called for removing it from the proposal. Costa Rica and Argentina, reiterating Chile’s concern on “automatic renewal,” stressed the importance of protecting marine biodiversity for future generations.

Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico, and Colombia reserved their positions, saying there were too many changes to the existing ASW regime being proposed at once.

 The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) said it shared the same goal with IWC, namely sustainable management decisions based on the best available science.

Whaleman Foundation, also on behalf of Animal Welfare Institute, legaSeas, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said the US should not seek an ASW quota for the Makah people when it has yet to complete its domestic legal processes.

IWMC World Conservation Trust, also on behalf of Livelihood International, Global Guardian Trust, and Japan Small-type Coastal Whaling Association, called for contracted parties to support the ASW proposals and said it was inappropriate, in light of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for indigenous peoples to have to seek permission to hunt for food.

George Noongwook, AEWC, said no people should ever be forced to beg for food.

Humane Society International, on behalf of American Cetacean Society, WWF, Animal Welfare Institute, the Whaleman Foundation, legaSeas, Fundación Cethus, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, underscored that the proposal does not safeguard the appropriate scrutiny and decision-making powers intrinsic to the IWC mandate.

Lacking consensus, the US, joined by the Russian Federation, Denmark, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, consulted overnight and on Wednesday, the US presented a revised proposal (IWC/67/01 Rev1), highlighting: a strengthened Commission review of all information to be submitted, including provisions for carryover hunts; and strengthened safeguards associated with the limited automatic renewal process, including the importance of improving the welfare outcomes of ASW hunts.

Australia, Austria on behalf of the EU, South Africa, Grenada, Japan, Antigua and Barbuda, India, Monaco, Iceland, St. Lucia, and Ghana supported the revisions made by the ASW countries and many urged adoption of the revised amendment by consensus.

Australia said the IWC’s greater review power provided a more balanced approach. Austria on behalf of the EU, along with Iceland, South Africa, and Japan welcomed the flexibility member states had shown in finding ways to resolve divergent views. Iceland highlighted that the agreement meant that renewals of quotas would now be made on the basis of scientific evidence on stock abundance and indigenous peoples would not have to demonstrate repeatedly why they need to hunt whales.

Costa Rica opposed the proposed Schedule amendment, noting it still had concerns about the carryover provisions and the approach to formulating quotas. Gabon expressed reservations about the measure and, supported by India, encouraged member states to move toward non-lethal use of whales.

Humane Society International welcomed strengthened commitments to providing data on hunts and the Russian Federation’s commitments on improving animal welfare, including through training workshops.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said some delegates’ concerns about the renewal provision meant it should be excised, for later consideration, to allow consensus support for the catch limits and carryover provisions.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation, also on behalf of Cetacean Society International, urged countries to support non-lethal use of whales, citing the success of whale watching promotion in enhancing tourism in the Dominican Republic.

South Africa emphasized the importance of cooperation achieved between ASW countries, the SC, and ASW Sub-Committee, and welcomed inclusion of text on whale welfare.

After determining that consensus was not feasible, Chair Morishita called for a vote. Delegates approved the proposed Schedule amendment, with 58 member states supporting, seven opposing, and five abstaining.

Calling the approval a great achievement for ASW management, Denmark noted that the scientific basis involved two decades of work. Speaking for the US, a native whaler from Alaska said his community can now provide for its people without anxiety. St. Vincent and the Grenadines said the decision suggested the IWC had turned a new page. The Russian Federation said word of the news had already reached the hunters, who offered their thanks.

Several countries explained their votes. Argentina clarified it had no problem with the Alaskan subsistence catch, but remaining concerns prevented its full support. On its abstention, Brazil highlighted: the richness of the debate as revealing the functionality of IWC; and remaining uncertainty regarding possible consequences for certain whale stocks.

The UK announced it was providing £10,000 to support work on improving welfare outcomes of ASW. Luxembourg said it plans to provide assistance on the “stinky whale” problem, affecting ASW in the Russian Federation, where the meat of some gray whales has a distinctive chemical-like smell, making the whales unsuitable for consumption.

Final Outcome:In the Schedule amendment (IWC/67/01 Rev1), the IWC:

  • updates carryover provisions related to the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme (AWS) to allow for variability in environmental conditions affecting the hunts by enabling unused portions of annual strike quota blocks to be carried forward, provided no more than 50 percent of the annual strike limit is added to the strike quota for any one year;
  • alleviates the chronic political challenges surrounding the renewal of ASW catch limits through a one-time seven-year extension and limited automatic renewal, on a six-year basis, with safeguards to protect whale stocks;
  • adjusts Schedule paragraphs 5 and 15(b), which were originally intended to apply to commercial hunts by setting limits on hunting season length and minimum size of catch, so that they do not apply to ASW hunts;
  • increases the annual strike limit for common minke whales off East Greenland to 20 in order to satisfy ASW need in that area;
  • increases the annual strike limit for Eastern North Pacific gray whales to 140 in order to address the “stinky” whale problem and to satisfy ASW need; and
  • makes a technical adjustment to Schedule paragraph 13(a) to include an overarching provision for Commission review of catch/strike limits in light of the advice of the Scientific Committee.

South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary: On Monday, Chair Morishita invited relevant delegations to introduce the proposed amendment to the ICRW’s Schedule on creation of a SAWS (IWC/67/09). Brazil, also on behalf of Argentina, Gabon, South Africa, and Uruguay, reminded delegates that a SAWS proposal has been on the IWC’s agenda for 20 years. He stressed that a SAWS would address a range of 21st century threats to whales, including ship strikes, underwater noise, climate change, and entanglement. He noted that the SC had positively reviewed the SAWS proposal and management plan in 2016, and he called on all states to support the proposed sanctuary.

On Tuesday morning, Brazil introduced a revised proposal (IWC/67/09 Rev1), emphasizing the SAWS would deal only with whales, not other fisheries sectors, and said it represented an opportunity to show the world the IWC’s collective spirit on whale conservation.

The US, Austria on behalf of the EU, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, India, Gabon, Colombia, Peru, and Argentina supported the proposal.

The US highlighted opportunities to conduct non-lethal whaling activities and advance whale conservation, and benefits for local communities including whale watching. Austria, on behalf of the EU, along with Mexico and Colombia, pointed to the strengthened scientific rationale as a result of the SC’s and CC’s consideration of the proposal. Monaco said whales, increasingly affected by anthropogenic threats, need a large sanctuary because they migrate over extensive areas, noting that small marine protected areas (MPAs) would provide insufficient protection. New Zealand noted that the IWC has a mandate to establish whale sanctuaries with positive impacts for local communities, but no mandate for creating MPAs.

Japan, Guinea, Antigua and Barbuda, Norway, Cambodia, Benin, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, the Russian Federation, and Iceland opposed the proposal.

Japan stressed: the absence of scientific evidence on the need for a SAWS, supported by Cambodia, Benin, Liberia, Guinea, and the Russian Federation; and the requirement that Schedule amendments be consistent with IWC objectives, in particular regarding orderly development of whale resources, supported by Guinea, Senegal, and Togo.

Antigua and Barbuda said it was not clear that a SAWS would enhance the strong recovery of whale populations already under way and pointed to the need for a mechanism to revisit existing sanctuaries in light of recovering populations. Norway noted that MPAs offer a more suitable approach to sustainable management, compared with narrowly focused sanctuaries. Iceland said adopting the resolution would not be legally consistent with ICRW Article V (on amending provisions of the Convention) and so would have no legal relevance.

At the close of interventions by member states, Brazil said the proposal sought to foster cooperation among marine states, had no “hidden agenda,” and had robust support from the scientific report.

Speaking on behalf of numerous NGOs, the Institute for the Conservation of Whales, highlighted, inter alia: positive impacts for the whale-watching industry; inadequate stock level recovery from declines caused by large-scale whaling; the importance of whales to the functioning of global marine ecosystems, including carbon cycles; the associated management plan; and benefits of non-lethal research.

Brazil then requested a vote: 39 voted in favor, 25 opposed, 3 abstained, and 2 were non-participants. With less than a three-fourths majority, the proposal failed.

Edson Duarte, Minister of the Environment, Brazil, thanked those countries who supported the proposal, expressed respect for the IWC’s democratic process, and stated Brazil’s resolve to continue to work for the proposed sanctuary.

Final Outcome: IWC-67 rejected the proposal to establish a SAWS.

Japan’s Way Forward Package Proposal: On Monday, Japan outlined its package of proposals (IWC/67/08), including:

  • amending the schedule to set sustainable use whaling catch limits;
  • a vision for the IWC to play a role for both conservation and sustainable use of whales; and
  • recognizing that a fundamental divergence of views within the IWC has prevented decisions being made on the ICRW’s primary objective, the orderly management of whales.

He explained that the package involved establishing a Sustainable Whaling Committee to propose catch limits, and Schedule amendments to give effect to the limits, provided the SC had already determined a particular whale population was sufficiently healthy. He also noted the proposal sought to amend the ICRW to change the requirements for any Schedule amendment from a three-fourths voting requirement to a simple majority. He further indicated that Japan is looking for unanimous support for its package proposal, which includes an accompanying resolution.

On Thursday, Japan highlighted: the proposal’s effort to describe the IWC’s future based on the analysis of comments submitted by member states prior to IWC-67; and that paragraph 10(e) of the ICRW Schedule does not provide for a commercial whaling ban. He stated that the proposal is the only way to bring together the divergent views within the IWC.

F&A Committee Chair Wulff addressed the potential establishment of a SWC to be funded by the IWC core fund or potentially by voluntary funds, noting that it would not impose additional financial and administrative burdens. 

Australia, Austria on behalf of the EU, Argentina, on behalf of the Buenos Aires Group (a bloc of Latin American countries dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans), Brazil, Monaco, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand, the US, Panama, Peru, and India opposed the package proposal. Dolphin and Whale Action Network also spoke in opposition.

Statement highlights included:

  • the IWC has been and continues to be a legitimate decision-making body, with adoption of the ASW proposal as a clear example;
  • progress made by the sub-committees;
  • proposed modification of catch limits represents a resumption of commercial whaling;
  • establishment of an SWC would not address divergent views on whaling but would entrench differences and add procedural burdens; and
  • the proposed reform seeking a simple majority vote runs counter to the highly democratic nature of the multilateral negotiation regime.

Australia, noting his country’s policy against commercial whaling, underscored that the proposal was only circulated for member states’ review three months prior to IWC-67, yet was seeking adoption by consensus, which demonstrated an unwillingness to engage in dialogue.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, highlighted concerns on tasking the SC to provide advice on sustainable catch limits for any stocks intended for commercial whaling, noting the remaining unresolved discrepancies on Antarctic minke whale counts.

Brazil and Argentina, on behalf of the Buenos Aires Group, echoed by Chile and Ecuador, reiterated commitment to the moratorium.

Costa Rica opposed reintroduction of commercial whaling since many species have barely recovered their stocks and are still considered threatened by a number of international organizations, including IUCN and CITES. She said an SWC would add costs at a time the IWC has financial difficulties. Uruguay said the IWC is making progress and that effective dialogue takes place under the existing rules.

Mexico said conservation has appropriately dominated IWC discussion in recent years and also noted that consumption of whale meat is small and declining. He said Japan’s proposal is exacerbating division.

New Zealand said the proposal puts forward a narrative that the IWC is dysfunctional because there are no catch limits on commercial take but the IWC has set limits—they are zero. She said the IWC reflects the views of its member states and yesterday’s ASW vote shows the IWC is functional.

The US noted the proposal’s silence on the adequacy of supervision and control schedules but suggested some elements of the proposal could help facilitate discussion on governance reform.

India suggested, as a compromise approach, to change the voting requirement to a two-thirds majority.

Support for the proposal came from Togo, Nicaragua, Guinea, Senegal, Norway, Antigua and Barbuda, Iceland, Liberia, Colombia, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Kenya, St. Kitts and Nevis, Ghana, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Nicaragua stressed that the SC catch quotas are based on the best available scientific information and urged member states to respect the SC’s work showing some whales stocks are now abundant.

Norway, echoed by Cambodia and Ghana, said the IWC is dysfunctional because it ignores the ICRW’s fundamental purpose and is at a crossroads, suggesting a need to rethink how to manage these marine mammals.

Iceland stressed the robustness of IWC’s calculations for sustainable catch quotas and objected to any comparison between commercial whaling today with the terrible practices of the past. He questioned opposition based on the commercial aspect, which he called “whale exceptionalism,” noting the proposal treats whales the same as any other animal.

Liberia said blind adherence to what was supposed to be a temporary cessation of whaling was unsustainable and was bringing the IWC to its knees.

Kenya highlighted the lack of trust, and said the increased understanding of living marine resources should be used to keep the IWC together.

Grenada, supporting the proposal, said a moratorium could apply to stocks that are low.

Three NGOs commented in support of the proposal. The IMWC World Conservation Trust said the proposal establishes a clear distinction between past and current whaling, which could be defined as sustainable use whaling. Opus Oceani said the proposal felt like a final attempt to resolve issues that have dogged the IWC for decades, and Global Guardian Trust stressed it was the last opportunity to avoid the organization’s demise.

Antigua and Barbuda said it has withdrawn its invitation to discuss further its resolution on food security, despite the US, the EU, and NGO interest in the resolution, as it believed it could not negotiate in an atmosphere of mistrust.

On Friday, Japan explained that its revised version of the proposal (IWC/67/08 Rev1) included a simple amendment to the draft resolution to ensure that it would only go forward in the event the Schedule-amendment portion of the package was adopted, requiring a three-fourths majority for passage of both elements. Japan asked for a vote on the package.

The vote proceeded with 27 member states voting in support, 41 against, and two abstaining.

Explaining its vote, Australia encouraged Japan to accept the result and to continue sharing its views within the IWC.

At the invitation of Denmark, a Faroe Islands official indicated that the Faroe Islands and Greenland support conservation and sustainable use of national resources, including marine mammals, on the basis of scientific advice, and expressed strong support for Japan’s proposal.

The Russian Federation linked his country’s abstention to the resolution’s effect of sharply dividing members and urged all members to spend more time striving for consensus.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, said the EU stood ready to reopen dialogue with Japan.

Masaaki Taniai, Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, said the process begun at IWC-66 built on 30 years of Japan’s work in this area, not just in the last few months. He expressed disappointment that no counter-proposal had come forward and said the result was equivalent to denying the possibility of coexistence of sustainable use and conservation advocates, while saying Japan wished to continue engaging with the IWC. He stated that Japan would undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position in the IWC, with every option to be scrutinized. He requested his statement be attached to the meeting report.

Chair Morishita noted the statement.

Final Outcome: IWC-67 rejected Japan’s “Way Forward” package proposal.


Anthropogenic Noise: On Monday, Austria, on behalf of the EU, introduced the draft resolution on anthropogenic underwater noise (IWC/67/05). He highlighted that the draft resolution incorporates the precautionary approach to address anthropogenic noise and marine pollution, noting scientific evidence regarding negative effects, both short-term and long-term, on cetaceans. He said the resolution urges member states to: engage with industry to support the development and implementation of mitigation strategies and best practices to protect cetaceans; and raise a collective voice to address the issue in the IWC and other international fora. Switzerland and Monaco offered to cosponsor.

On Wednesday, Chair Morishita invited the SC and CC Chairs to provide background on relevant work related to anthropogenic noise.

On the SC’s report (IWC/67/20), SC Chair Fortuna highlighted: IWC’s engagement with other organizations, including IMO, CMS, the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Seas, Mediterranean and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS); relevant CMS Guidelines; explicit consideration of anthropogenic noise in MPA management; and efforts by multiple bodies to develop guidance on noise strategies.

CC Chair Rojas-Bracho reported that the CC endorsed continued cooperation with other organizations and supported the draft resolution. Referencing the CC report (IWC/67/CC/14), Rojas-Bracho reported establishment of an intersessional working group to consider and propose initial steps on addressing noise under the CC’s Strategic Plan and Work Plan.

The IWC endorsed the relevant portions of the SC and CC reports on anthropogenic noise.

Following informal consultations, delegates considered a revised draft resolution (IWC/67/05 Rev2). Austria, on behalf of the EU, explained the revised text aimed to: provide greater focus on the objectives; include a commitment to working with all parties in the ICRW; and clarify that provisions in the resolution would not duplicate work of other organizations.

Argentina highlighted: the broad range of impacts from underwater noise; development of measures to address the problem; and the need for relevant capacity-building measures and technology transfer.

The US, Republic of Korea, Norway, Gabon, and Costa Rica supported the resolution, highlighting, inter alia: potential benefits for sustainable use of cetaceans and other marine resources; cetaceans’ dependence on sound for prey detection and reproduction; and the importance of working with the CBD.

Iceland said text referencing noise traveling across and beyond areas of national jurisdiction is: outside the competence of the IWC; prejudges the negotiations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) and should be removed.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines said the proposed resolution was somewhat outside the purview of the IWC, but had merit.

Monaco highlighted: a 40-fold increase in underwater noise; the value of IWC input; and the potential for IWC parties to engage industry in constructive dialogue.

OceanCare, on behalf of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, American Cetacean Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Brazilian Right Whale Project, and others, stressed: the value of IWC engagement and contributions; and retention of the preambular text referencing the BBNJ negotiation process.

Final Outcome: IWC-67 adopted the resolution on anthropogenic noise by consensus. In Resolution 2018-4 (IWC/67/05 Rev2), the IWC:

  • agrees that considering anthropogenic noise will contribute towards achieving SDG 14;
  • further agrees the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to address the effects of anthropogenic underwater noise;
  • recommends member states to: consider establishing national and regional anthropogenic noise registers and monitoring programmes; and engage with relevant stakeholders to support development and implementation of mitigation strategies and best practices in line with an ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach;
  • instructs the SC to continue its work on evaluating the degree of cetacean exposure to different types of noise, and implications of impacts on cetacean prey;
  • instructs the CC to develop advice on priority actions; and
  • requests the IWC Secretariat to encourage actions by and promote cooperation between the CBD, CMS, IMO, FAO and other UN organizations.

Food Security: On Monday, Ghana introduced the draft resolution on food security (IWC/67/07), proposed by Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Ghana, and Guinea. He explained the draft resolution urges member states to consider the blue economy in relation to food security for optimizing benefits from the marine ecosystem. He highlighted: responsible and sustainable management of the fisheries sector as a critical objective to strengthen food and nutrition strategies within developing countries; the relevance of SDG 14; the FAO mandate; and the right of every person to an adequate standard of living, including food, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Delegates met in informal groups throughout the week to address issues related to the proposed resolution. On Thursday, the proposal was withdrawn. Antigua and Barbuda said the proposal lacked whole-hearted support, but could be retabled at IWC-68.

Final Outcome: The proposed resolution on food security was withdrawn.

Ghost Gear Entanglement Among Cetaceans: On Monday, Brazil presented the draft resolution on ghost gear entanglement among cetaceans (IWC/67/11), cosponsored by Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Chile, Panama, and New Zealand. He stressed the draft resolution highlights that abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is recognized as a major anthropogenic global problem that causes economic losses, environmental damage and harm to marine wildlife, especially cetaceans. He said the resolution also reinforces measures to reduce the entanglement of whales and dolphins in ghost fishing gear, including through development of techniques to locate ALDFG and clean up what is already accumulated in the ocean.

Following informal consultations, on Wednesday delegates considered a revised draft resolution (IWC/67/11 Rev2). Brazil highlighted: consultations with other groups; co-sponsorship by other members of the Buenos Aires Group and New Zealand; and explained that the revised resolution now better aligned with other IWC initiatives on this issue and with other international organizations. F&A Committee Chair Wulff reported F&A’s perspective that the resolution would have no budgetary implications.

Austria on behalf of the EU, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Mexico, the US, Grenada, Monaco, Peru, and Guinea supported the resolution. Austria, on behalf of the EU, supported continuation of work in disentangling captured animals, but stressed prevention as the long-term goal. Republic of Korea described its national policies on ghost gear, including training for the fishing industry. Norway outlined efforts on disentangling whales trapped in its northern fjords. Mexico pointed to several UN General Assembly resolutions that provide the IWC with a mandate for reduction of ghost gear and marine debris. The US noted that the IWC is well-placed to contribute to FAO work on this issue.

Japan, Iceland, Antigua and Barbuda, and Togo expressed reservations about potential financial implications of the resolution and about going beyond the IWC’s remit but, in the spirit of flexibility, were prepared to support it, subject to clarification there would be no duplication of other international organizations’ work. Iceland also lamented the CC’s past unpreparedness to draw on the expertise of sustainable-use practitioners.

World Animal Protection, on behalf of WWF, Humane Society International, Greenpeace, Whaleman Foundation, and Global Ghost Gear Initiative, highlighted that ghost gear represented the deadliest form of marine debris. Global Ghost Gear Initiative offered to work with member states on efforts to address this issue and urged the SC and CC to collect more data on which species are most affected.

The AEWC outlined initiatives in the West Arctic to address ghost gear and marine plastic debris, including a campaign to reduce plastics in its communities and beyond.

Delegates endorsed the resolution with the inclusion of the following language: “Agrees that any provision of this resolution should not duplicate work of other organizations in this regard.”

Final Outcome: IWC-67 adopted the resolution on ghost gear entanglement by consensus. In Resolution 2018-3 (IWC/67/11 Rev2), the IWC, inter alia

  • encourages the IWC Secretariat in conjunction with IWC governments, other IGOs, and NGOs to continue work toward development of best practices, location techniques, and removing what has already accumulated in the ocean; 
  • directs the CC and SC to continue work on ghost gear and impacts to cetaceans, including assessing the risk of each gear’s propensity to become ALDFG, and which species or regions are most affected;
  • urges contracting governments to report relevant information on ghost gear in their voluntary conservation report; and
  • recognizes the transboundary nature of the ALDFG problem and agrees to increase collaboration and cooperation with governmental, regional, and other international organizations and NGOs, including cross-sectoral coalitions, such as the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and the Global Partnership on Marine Litter; and
  • invites parties to join the IWC Global Whale Entanglement Response Network.

2030 Agenda: On Monday, Brazil presented the draft resolution on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (IWC/67/12), cosponsored by Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru. He explained that the draft resolution focuses on actions and measures that the IWC can foster to achieve SDG 14 in the context of protection of oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. He said it is vital that the IWC enhances its cooperation with other conventions so that conservation and management of whales is further highlighted in the global agenda.

On Thursday afternoon, resolution sponsors withdrew the proposed resolution. In explaining the decision, Brazil said that while the perspectives of many countries and groups had been incorporated into revised text, the sponsors determined it not appropriate to propose a vote on a document related to SDGs, which have universal consensus.

Final Outcome: The proposed resolution on the 2030 Agenda was withdrawn.

Advancing Work on the Role of Cetaceans in the Ecosystem Functioning: On Monday, Chile presented the draft resolution on advancing the Commission’s work on the role of cetaceans in the ecosystem functioning (IWC/67/17), cosponsored by Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru. She stressed the draft resolution focuses on highlighting the IWC’s recognition of: Resolution 2016-3 on cetaceans and their contribution to ecosystem functioning; and the need to integrate into the decision making of the IWC and other fora the contributions made by live cetaceans and carcasses present in the ocean. She said the resolution encourages IWC to: further collaborate with CMS; seek greater synergies between the SC and CC; and consider the benefits of cetacean conservation.

On Wednesday, Chile explained that reformatting was the only change made to the revised proposal (IWC/67/17 Rev1) and that Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia had joined as cosponsors.

Australia, Austria, Mexico, Monaco, Costa Rica, Gabon, and New Zealand favored adoption of the proposed resolution. Australia also offered to cosponsor the proposal. Mexico and Monaco noted the importance of completing a gap analysis on the direct and indirect roles of cetaceans in ecosystem functioning. Costa Rica called for creating synergies with other international organizations, including CMS.

Japan, Norway, Iceland, the Russian Federation, and Guinea opposed adopting the resolution in its current form, noting that they understood the importance of an ecosystem approach. Japan, supported by Norway, Iceland, the Russia Federation, and Guinea, also noted that the draft resolution overstates the role of cetaceans on ecosystem functioning, which undermines the IWC objective on sustainable use of whales.

New Zealand, in favor of adoption by consensus, requested clarification on Japan’s position on why this is a contentious issue.

Lacking consensus, delegates voted on the proposed resolution, 40 in favor, 23 opposing, and seven abstentions.

Chair Morishita then invited delegates to explain their votes. Antigua and Barbuda said a “golden opportunity” had been missed to show the IWC can work together, had more time been available to work toward consensus.

Japan said it seeks to address the two main objectives of the ICRW, conservation and sustainable use, and that it is clear under Japan’s New Scientific Whale Research Programme in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) that sustainable use in the Antarctic Ocean is not limited to whales, while the proposed resolution only highlights conservation; therefore, its position is not inconsistent with NEWREP-A.

Final Outcome:In Resolution 2018-2 (IWC/67/17 Rev1), the IWC:

  • commends the SC and CC for their efforts to increase understanding of the contribution of cetaceans to ecosystem functioning;
  • encourages the SC and CC to seek synergies and advance cooperation and coordination regarding their complementary work streams on this issue;
  • encourages member states to integrate the value of cetaceans’ ecological roles into local, regional, and global organizations on biodiversity and environment, including climate change; and
  • requests the IWC Secretariat to convey this resolution to the CMS Secretariat and other relevant fora.

Florianópolis Declaration: On Monday, Brazil presented the draft resolution, the “Florianópolis Declaration on the role of the IWC in the Conservation and Management of Whales in the 21st Century” (IWC/67/13), cosponsored by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru. He highlighted: the commercial whaling moratorium’s contribution to the recovery of some cetacean populations and its essential role in promotion of non-lethal uses in many countries; the draft resolution’s focus on renewing member states’ commitments to the mandate of the IWC in the 21st Century, including its responsibility to ensure longer-term conservation of whales, cetaceans’ role in ecological and nutrient cycling on the world’s oceans, and providing maximum benefit from non-lethal uses to coastal communities.

Following informal discussion, on Wednesday delegates considered a revised draft resolution (IWC/67/13 Rev1).

Fifteen countries spoke in favor of adopting the resolution: Brazil, Austria on behalf of the EU, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Monaco, Chile, the US, India, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Switzerland, and Panama. Statements in support covered: the future of whaling requires a deep commitment to non-lethal use of whales through tourism and research; and humane treatment of animals is important. 

Member states speaking in opposition to the resolution included: Japan, the Russian Federation, Antigua and Barbuda, Guinea, Iceland, Liberia, Norway, Senegal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, Ghana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Solomon Islands. Statements in opposition to the draft declaration included: failure to encompass the concept of sustainable use; the proposal’s intent is to be divisive; and it is time to revise the ICRW to make clear that sustainable use, including commercial whaling, is acceptable where the science indicates abundant stock levels. 

A large group of NGOs also said the nature of the IWC’s work had changed significantly since 1946, including to an emphasis on non-lethal use of whales, with whale watching constituting a major global industry worth over US$2 billion per year.

On Thursday, delegates resumed discussion on the draft Florianópolis Declaration. Brazil, stating it had conducted extensive consultations overnight, requested a vote. Delegates adopted the resolution, with 40 in favor, 27 opposed, and four abstentions.

Brazil said that the declaration: represented a multi-faceted and profound vision, signals the IWC is alive and well, and will lead internationally on cetaceans.

Several delegates explained their votes. Antigua and Barbuda said proponents of the declaration had not consulted in good faith about a far-reaching statement, which should have been widely discussed. He suggested the time has come to form an organization that will truly manage these species and added that the IWC would not survive.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines said the spirit of compromise evident in the ASW discussions had vanished and if the IWC continues in this direction, its death-knell is imminent.

Grenada saw merits on both sides but could not support a declaration that did not include limited whale harvests from healthy stocks. He made a plea for finding compromise where everyone could win.

Final Outcome:In Resolution 2018-5 (IWC/67/13 Rev1), the IWC, inter alia

  • agrees that the IWC’s role in the 21st century includes its responsibility to ensure the recovery of cetacean populations to their pre-industrial levels;
  • reaffirms the importance of maintaining the moratorium on commercial whaling;
  • acknowledges the abundance of contemporary non-lethal cetacean research methods;
  • agrees that the use of lethal research methods is unnecessary; and
  • seeks to ensure that aboriginal subsistence whaling for the benefit of indigenous communities should meet the Commission’s management and conservation objectives, taking into account the safety of hunters and the welfare of cetaceans.

Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

Report of the Ad Hoc ASW Working Group: On Tuesday, ASW Sub-Committee Chair Bruno Mainini (Switzerland) introduced the report of the ASW Sub-Committee (IWC/67/REP/02). He explained the Sub-Committee endorsed the ASW Working Group report (IWC/67/ASW/REP/01) and its recommendations on seven long-term issues, including:

  • standardized need statements;
  • removing ASW catch limits from political discussions;
  • changing the term “aboriginal” in ASW;
  • obtaining adequate information for ASW catch limits;
  • ensuring “local consumption” versus “commercialism”; and
  • improving operational efficiencies and the welfare of the hunt.

He stressed that the ASW Sub-Committee recommended a revised seven-year timeline process to help facilitate a consensus decision-making process on ASW catch and strike limits and avoid last-minute requests for changes to catch limits (IWC/67/REP/02 Appendix 5).

Guinea and Senegal supported endorsing the report and emphasized the importance of food and nutritional security provided by whale resources.

ASW Management Procedure: Mainini introduced the parts of the report (IWC/67/REP/02) on the ASW management procedure. He explained that the ASW Sub-Committee endorsed the report (IWC/67/ASW/10) on: Strike Limit Algorithms for West Greenland fin whales and common minke whales; the new management plan for the Makah hunt of gray whales; and the Implementation Review of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales.

Kenya supported endorsing the report and emphasized the importance of capacity development for whale biologists and scientists from his region.

Aboriginal Whaling Scheme: Mainini introduced the report on the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme (AWS) (IWC/67/REP/02, IWC/67/ASW/GEN/05). He explained that the ASW Sub-Committee endorsed the report and its recommendations on the AWS and provided details, including on the carryover and block quota provisions. He noted that IWC conservation objectives would remain the same with no increase in the numbers of whale catches, but there would be greater flexibility on the timing of when whales are taken.

ASW Catch Limits: Mainini presented the Sub-Committee’s report on ASW catch limits for various regions (IWC/67/REP/02, IWC/67/ASW/GEN/06), noting the findings were based on recommendations by the SC. On North Atlantic humpback whales off St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Argentina requested further detail on photographs and DNA testing procedures.

Status of the Voluntary Fund for ASW: Mainini reported on the status of the voluntary fund (IWC/67/REP/02), noting that donations from the US and Switzerland totaled around £96,000 with a balance of £7,577. He welcomed additional contributions.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the outcomes of the ASW Sub-Committee, which, inter alia

  • endorsed the report of the ASW Working Group and its recommendations on the revised timeline process for future use;
  • endorsed the report of the SC and its recommendations on: Strike Limit Algorithms for West Greenland fin whales and common minke whales; the Makah Management Plan; and the Implementation Review of Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales;
  • endorsed the report of the SC and its recommendations on the scientific components of the AWS (carryover, block quotas, interim relief allocations, guidelines for implementation reviews, guidelines for surveys and other data); and
  • endorsed the report of the SC and its management advice on all of the hunts, noting the proposed catch/strike limits and carryover provisions all met the conservation objectives of the Commission as did proposals to remove the minimum length limit for West Greenland fin whales and the nine-month season limit for common minke whales off Greenland.

Cetacean Status and Health

On Wednesday, the IWC considered and addressed all topics related to cetacean status and health.

Whale Stocks: SC Chair Fortuna presented the Committee’s work on whale stocks (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20).

She stressed that it is the first time that a comprehensive assessment of whale stocks not subject to directed takes was carried out, which helped identify conservation and management needs and ways to reduce uncertainty at the next assessment. Among other recommendations, she highlighted, inter alia:

  • the need for a study examining the status of Southern Hemisphere fin whales, in particular for B. physalus patachonica;
  • serious concern over the western North Atlantic stock of right whales, noting that entanglements have replaced ship strikes as the primary cause of deaths;
  • the importance of updating and communicating information regarding the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales and providing the greatest possible level of protection; and
  • the SC’s 2018 agreement on designing and implementing a new survey to obtain a reliable estimate of absolute abundance of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales, in particular on Breeding Stock D.

Small Cetaceans: Fortuna presented elements from the Committee’s report pertaining to small cetaceans (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20) and highlighted recommendations on, inter alia:

  • the need to restore and maintain sustainable habitat for the Yangtze finless porpoise in China;
  • gillnets as primary threats to Mekong dolphins and urgent measures needed;
  • the importance of continuing to address increased use of dolphins from the Amazon river (botos and tucuxis) as bait for the piracatinga fishery in the Amazon Basin; and
  • use of a precautionary approach when installing windfarms within critical cetacean habitat for species such as the critically endangered Taiwanese humpback dolphin.

She said, despite the SC’s grave concerns expressed in past years, vaquita remains at risk of immediate extinction, with a population of 20 individuals, and that the continued decline raises fundamental questions on how the SC recommendations can be best communicated, recommended, and strengthened. She underscored that the SC urged the Government of Mexico to implement past SC recommendations on this issue.

Monaco, Switzerland, Austria on behalf the EU, the UK, and Brazil urged member states to implement the SC’s recommended measures to address the very critical situation of several small cetacean species, including the vaquita, Māui, South Asian River, and Franciscana dolphins. They said bycatch and illegal fishing represent major threats, with risk of extinction if left unaddressed, as occurred with the Yangtze River dolphin. Monaco, supported by Kenya, urged the IWC to use the SC’s excellent work to take lead responsibility among international organizations for all small cetaceans’ welfare. The UK announced it would donate £10,000 to the IWC’s small cetacean fund to assist with these efforts. Brazil also urged the IWC, in its enhanced dialogue with international organizations, to reach out to regional organizations such as the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).

India outlined its programmes for addressing threats to three species of river dolphin, including training fisherman in improved fishing practices. Mexico pointed to the complexity of taking action on illegal totoaba fishing, which affects vaquita through bycatch, because illegal sales of totoaba fish bladders fetch extremely high prices.

Argentina outlined its actions, since 2016, to implement the first CMP to reduce bycatch of Franciscana dolphins.

New Zealand highlighted efforts to review and strengthen its management plan for preserving the Māui dolphin, involving regulation of fishing, seismic surveys, and seabed mining.

Sandra Altherr, on behalf of Pro Wildlife, OceanCare, WWF and other NGOs, underscored that as many as 100,000 small cetaceans globally are affected by unregulated and illegal hunts. She announced that a number of NGOs, including Cetacean Society International and the Whaleman Foundation, were contributing US$10,000 to the voluntary fund on the work of small cetaceans.

Cetacean Health and Disease: On the SC’s Cumulative Effects Workshop, SC Chair Fortuna reported the SC highlighted: giving consideration to developing a widely applicable approach for providing precautionary advice for populations in which cumulative effects are of concern (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20).

Regarding new information on unusual mortality events, Fortuna highlighted: rapid and comprehensive response to the cetacean morbillivirus outbreak in Brazilian Guiana dolphins; recommendations on immediate actions to protect affected populations; and drawing attention to increased Guiana dolphin deaths in São Paulo and Espírito Santo.

On harmful algal blooms, Fortuna reported: the SC’s agreement that the blooms’ global distribution, increasing ubiquity, and toxins creates an increasing risk to cetacean health at both individual and population levels; and advised member governments to support relevant efforts.

On cetacean diseases of concern, she highlighted: the SC’s receipt of excellent information on monitoring of health and disease agents in large whales in the Arctic; discussion of new techniques for health-related studies; standardization for cross-comparison of studies and techniques; and agreement to hold a session on the pathology and epidemiology of morbillivirus and Brucella. Monaco suggested the SC and CC work together to include molecular biologists and epidemiologists in upcoming workshops.

Stock Analysis and DNA Testing: On stock definition and DNA testing, Fortuna reported on: the SC’s concern regarding future comparability of registers, given that mitochondrial DNA analysis on Norwegian samples for the common minke whale DNA register had been discontinued with microsatellite typing to be replaced by SNP analysis; and the SC’s encouragement for coordination of DNA registers to be based on comparable genetic markers.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the elements on cetacean status and health contained in the SC’s report.

Cetacean Habitat

State of the Cetacean Environment/Arctic Ocean/Climate Change: On Wednesday, SC Chair Fortuna presented elements from the Committee’s report related to State of the Cetacean Environment (SOCER), the Arctic Ocean, and climate change (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20).

She noted that SOCER is the result of several IWC resolutions, including Resolutions 1997-7, 1998-5, and 2000-7, and that a five-year compendium has been completed. On the Arctic Ocean, she said work on developing papers is ongoing as agreed by the SC in 2017. Fortuna explained that the SC highlighted climate change as an overarching issue, including for potential threats and stressors impacting cetacean populations, noting a potential specific activity related to future climate change.

Austria urged member states to look at the compendium report. Austria, on behalf of the EU, stressed: the importance of addressing climate change in the IWC; and strengthened collaboration with other international organizations, including CMS and IUCN.

Ecosystem Functioning: On Wednesday, CC Chair Rojas-Bracho presented on the report sections on cetaceans and ecosystem functioning (IWC/67/REP/05). He noted a gap analysis is underway to identify knowledge gaps on the potential effect of cetaceans on ecosystem functioning. He also said the CC endorsed in principle the proposals for future work outlined in IWC/67/CC/16, subject to budget considerations.

Animal Welfare Institute stressed the need for an ecosystem approach to ensure environmental and human wellbeing.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the elements on cetacean habitat contained in the SC and CC reports.

Unintended Anthropogenic Impacts

On Wednesday, the IWC considered and addressed all agenda items related to unintended anthropogenic impacts, with the exception of noise, the subject of a resolution and reported on above.

Pollution: SC Chair Fortuna presented the SC’s report on pollution (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20), including on: the need for member states to enhance data collection on impacts of heavy fuel oil spills; and on monitoring mercury levels in whales, as required under the Minamata Convention. 

Marine debris: CC Chair Rojas-Bracho presented the CC’s work on marine debris, highlighting early planning for a 2019 workshop and a paper on the impacts of marine debris on cetaceans (IWC/67/CC/13 Rev1).

Austria, on behalf of the EU, highlighted the clear threat marine debris poses to a wide range of marine animals and particularly cetaceans. He pointed to increasing quantities of plastics entering the oceans, and the resulting entanglement of marine species and microplastics becoming part of the marine food chain.

Cetacean Bycatch and Ship Strikes: On cetacean bycatch, CC Chair Rojas-Bracho presented the report on bycatch (IWC/67/20, IWC/67/REP/05). He underscored:

  • formation of a Standing Working Group on Bycatch (SWG-Bycatch) in 2017 with representatives from 15 member states and seven observer organizations;
  • a Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI); and
  • a BMI Strategic Plan.

Rojas-Bracho said the CC endorsed all recommendations of the SWG-Bycatch including: the Strategic Plan for Bycatch; the BMI workplan; and continuation of the Bycatch Coordinator position with funding from the voluntary conservation fund. He noted that the Committee urged member states to support the BMI through development of appropriate national legislation and plans to tackle bycatch; and reporting of experiences and plans on bycatch into the BMI and through Conservation Committee Reports.

On ship strikes, Rojas-Bracho reported on progress of the Ship Strikes Working Group (IWC/67/20, IWC/67/REP/05), including:

  • completion in March 2017 of the Strategic Plan to Mitigate the Impacts of Ship Strikes on Cetacean Populations: 2017-20;
  • a joint IWC-IUCN Marine Mammals Protected Areas Task Force workshop proposed to examine how the data and process are used to identify Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs); and
  • the proposal that funds be sought from the voluntary conservation fund.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, along with Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Belgium, the UK, and France supported the work and progress made by the working groups on bycatch and ship strikes.

On bycatch, Austria, on behalf of the EU, and Mexico suggested conducting pilot programmes as a next step.

Belgium, the UK, and France announced contributions of €18,000, £18,000, and €10,000, respectively, to the voluntary conservation fund to support the BMI work.

NAMMCO stressed strengthening IWC scientific work on bycatch and ship strikes.

WWF, on behalf of the NGO coalition, announced US$85,000 collectively to the voluntary fund to support the BMI work.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the elements on unintended anthropogenic impacts contained in the SC and CC reports.

Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues

On Thursday, the IWC addressed on topics under this agenda item. Amy Laurenson (New Zealand), Chair, Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues (WKMWI) Working Group, presented the report (IWC/67/REP/04) on the working group’s work. She noted: review of data on whales killed and on improving the humaneness of whaling operations; endorsement of the further development of the Cetacean Welfare Assessment Tool; and endorsed recommendations from the report of the fourth IWC Working Group meeting on Large Whale Entanglement Issues and the SC recommendations on strandings.

Austria, on behalf of  the EU, and supported by Mexico, New Zealand, Monaco, Argentina, and Costa Rica, commended work on the Cetacean Welfare Assessment Tool, saying it will enable a more rigorous assessment of whale welfare. He stressed the group’s work on entanglements and strandings is producing tangible results and a better understanding of causes. He called on Japan, Norway, and Iceland to submit data as requested in IWC resolution 1999/1.

Japan said it previously submitted data to the SC but the data were used to criticize its research activities. He noted that endorsement of Japan’s proposed reform package would enable Japan to resume providing this data.

NAMMCO outlined substantial efforts to improve safety of the hunt and time to death, notably in the Icelandic fin whale hunt.

Whaleman Foundation, on behalf of a number of NGOs, congratulated the IWC on efforts to improve animal welfare, but noted whaling nations had yet to achieve immediate insensibility or death in all strikes.

The AEWC said it continues to improve equipment for improving the efficiency and humaneness of killings, now averaging between 75 and 80% efficiency.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the Working Group’s report.

Special Permits

On Thursday, the IWC began consideration of topics related special permits.

SC Chair Fortuna presented the SC’s report on Japan’s New Scientific Whale Research Programme in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A), Japan’s Whale Research Programme in the North Pacific (JARPN II), and Japan’s New Scientific Whale Research Programme in the North Pacific (NEWREP-NP) (IWC/67/20, IWC/67/REP/01).

Nick Gales, Chair, Standing Working Group on Special Permit Programmes (SWG-SPP) presented the report (IWC/67/16 Rev2). He outlined that the SWG-SPP recommended Japan: implement recommendations necessary to justify lethal sampling and associated sample sizes before issuing further permits under NEWREP-A and NEWREP-NP; and provide the SC with unrestricted and continuing access to all data used in the development and ongoing reviews of JARPN II and NEWREP-NP, in accordance with Resolution 2016-2 (paragraph 5).

Japan, opposing the 2016 establishment of SWG-SPP and the endorsement of its report, said the Commission is not an appropriate venue for discussion of its special permit programmes, which should be reviewed from scientific, not political, points of view. He proposed to attach the summary of the SWG-SPP report and a Japanese statement to the Chair’s summary.

The US, New Zealand, Austria on behalf of the EU, Argentina, Mexico, Monaco, and Costa Rica supported the recommendations of the SWG-SPP, highlighting it is no longer necessary for research to be conducted using lethal means.

The US stressed that SWG-SPP allows the Commission to make non-binding recommendations on Japan’s special permit programmes. New Zealand stressed the importance of the SWG-SPP on understanding whether lethal sampling is scientifically justified.

Austria supported the SWG-SPP being reconvened for mid- and final-term reviews of the special permit programmes.

Iceland said ICRW Article 8 clearly allows killing of whales for scientific research and lethal animal research is conducted in all countries. Senegal stressed the debate should be conducted only by the scientists, without a political overlay.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, on behalf Eco Benin, Fondacion Conservare, Greenpeace, and OceanCare, welcomed the SWG-SPP’s report, and asked Japan to cease its research programmes immediately, particularly in designated MPAs such as the Ross Sea.

Japan responded, saying when the Ross Sea MPA was established, Japan had flagged that its special permit programme would continue.

SC Chair Fortuna presented on the SC’s discussions on the special permit programmes, including in relation to proposed strengthening of the special permit programme evaluation process, set out in Annex P to its 2018 report to the IWC.

On Friday, delegates revisited Japan’s request on inclusions of the SWG-SPP report and Japan’s opposing statement in the Chair’s summary.

SWG-SPP Chair Nick Gales (Australia) said, based on discussion with Japan, the revised text was added to the SWG-SPP report on Japan’s disagreement with the SWG-SPP’s report and Japan’s statement would be included. Japan urged the proponents of this revision to be listed in the revised report. Norway, Marshall Islands, St. Lucia, Iceland, Nicaragua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Kiribati, Côte d’Ivoire, Tuvalu, Suriname, Togo, Palau, Antigua and Barbuda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Cambodia, Liberia, and Laos joined Japan.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the SWG-SPP report, as revised, to be included in the Chair’s summary. 

Other Conservation Issues

On Thursday, the IWC considered and addressed all topics related to other conservation issues.

Conservation Management Plans: CC Chair Rojas-Bracho presented the CC and SC reports on CMP (IWC/67/REP/05, IWC/67/CC/08, IWC/67/REP/01) and highlighted the CC endorsed the revised CMP Work Plan 2014-2020, and recommendations of the Standing Working Group (SWG-CMP). The CC also agreed the SWG-CMP should develop a thematic strategic plan for CMPs during the next intersessional period, to be submitted to the Commission for endorsement.

Brazil invited member states to join ongoing discussions on addressing the issue of South Pacific Southern right whales. India supported the CMP on humpback whales and urged range countries, especially Oman, to be part of implementing it. Centro de Conservación Cetacea stressed that South Pacific Southern right whales are at extreme risk of extinction.

Whale watching: CC Chair Rojas-Bracho presented the CC and SC reports on whale watching, including progress by the Whale Watching Standing Working Group, the Whale Watching Handbook launched online, and the Whale Watching Strategic Plan (IWC/67/REP/05, IWC/67/CC/08, IWC/67/REP/01). He highlighted that the Whale Watching Handbook is a comprehensive, scientifically substantive, user-friendly, and well-designed living document, and noted the need to plan for its long-term maintenance.

New Zealand said the Handbook demonstrates how the IWC’s scientific knowledge can be translated into practice, encouraging the Commission to circulate the Handbook to non-member states.

Panama noted that investigation on the whale killing incidence by ship strikes early this year is ongoing in collaboration with Argentina.

Iceland said the way the CC was formed, through a vote disregarding its concerns, hindered his country from joining the official whale-watching work, but highlighted Iceland’s ongoing whale watching industry.

legaSeas, on behalf of other NGOs, said ecotourism, including whale watching, is the way for industry and local communities to use whale resources sustainably.

IWMC World Conservation Trust noted that whale watching is offered as a substitute to provide economic incentives instead of whale hunting, stressing the need to justify economic benefits for local communities.

National reports on Cetacean Conservation: On the report (IWC/67/REP/05), the CC Chair thanked Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US for submitting voluntary national reports on cetacean conservation.

Regional research partnerships: SC Chair Fortuna outlined that IWC-SORP (Southern Ocean Research Programme) and IWC-POWER (Pacific Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research Programme) are longstanding IWC programmes delivering high quality research. Australia, speaking as SORP Chair, highlighted production of 126 peer-reviewed papers since 2009. Belgium, Argentina, and Japan stressed that SORP showcases how member states with different positions can collaborate effectively to produce high-quality research.

Southern Ocean Sanctuary Management Plan: CC Chair Rojas Bracho presented a CC report on the Southern Ocean Sanctuary management plan, thanking Australia for having developed a robust plan (IWC/67/REP/01, IWC/67/20).

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the CC report on CMP, whale watching, national reports on cetacean conservation, regional research partnerships, and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. 

Other Management Issues

On Thursday, IWC-67 considered and addressed the Revised Management Procedure, infractions, and catches by non-member nations.

Revised Management Procedure: SC Chair Fortuna presented a report on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) (IWC/67/REP/01), noting that Table 1 of the SC’s 2018 report provides a timetable for related research programmes.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, called on Iceland and Norway to calculate limits on their whaling activities by using the approved version of the RMP. Iceland disputed that it was using an unapproved version of the RMP, noting that the SC had presented a range of potential tuning approaches in its RMP method. He asserted that Iceland was not obliged to use the version that the EU had approved.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, on behalf of many NGOs, the American Cetacean Society, and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, reiterated concerns about Iceland’s reservation on blue whales under CITES and said Japan was breaching the moratorium by conducting commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research. In response, Japan sought an apology for what it regarded as an insulting falsehood. Monaco praised the benefits of participative democracy and encouraged delegates to show more tolerance. The Chair encouraged the parties to resolve their differences if possible by talking directly to each other.

Infractions: Infractions Sub-Committee Chair Hild Ynnesdal (Norway) presented on the Sub-Committee’s report (IWC/67/REP/03). She highlighted: the draft summary of infraction reports for 2016 and 2017; reports related to surveillance of whaling operations; and the summary of national legislation supplied to the IWC.

Austria, on behalf of the EU, highlighted the need to deal with infractions, noting that what constitutes an infraction remains unclear and that the IWC lacks a clear compliance mechanism. He drew attention to a recent blue whale/fin whale landing and the recent take of a Bryde’s whale, not minke, as examples of the potential for error in managing commercial whaling.

Catches by Non-member Nations: Commenting on the report on catches by non-member nations (IWC/67/REP/01, 2017 and 2018), Greg Donovan, IWC Secretariat, highlighted information Canada provided about bowhead whale abundance and stock structure.

Final Outcome: The IWC endorsed the SC report on other management issues.

Cooperation with Other Organizations

On Thursday, the Secretariat introduced the document on IWC cooperation with other organizations (IWC/67/19), highlighting strengthened engagement with: FAO; the SDGs process; CMS; Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs) on technical guidance and cetacean bycatch; CBD; CITES; IMO on ship strikes and underwater noise; NAMMCO; and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Australia stressed strategic engagement for leveraging IWC work and informing other organizations whose policies can impact whales. Austria, on behalf of the EU, underscored: cooperation and synergy for achieving IWC’s goals; avoiding duplication of work; and cementing the IWC’s reputation as the organization for cetaceans, large and small.

Côte d’Ivoire emphasized potential synergies for management of ocean resources.

Mexico, New Zealand, and Ghana supported endorsing the report.

On cooperation with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), Monaco expressed concern that Japan had taken more than 50 whales within the Ross Sea MPA, saying such activities were permissible only in an emergency. Japan replied that the consensus agreement was made with the understanding that its activities in the Ross Sea would not be prohibited.

Final Outcome: The IWC noted the Secretariat’s report on cooperation with other organizations.

Finance and Administration

On Thursday, delegates considered and addressed all IWC agenda items related to finance and administration.

Financial Situation: Chair Morishita opened discussion on finance and administration, noting that the Commission has a serious budget deficit.

Administrative Matters: F&A Committee Chair Wulff presented the F&A Committee report on administrative matters (IWC/67/REP/06). He said the F&A Committee report, inter alia:

  • highlighted current balances in the General and Meeting Funds;
  • endorsed the guidelines for allocation of funds outlined in IWC/67/FA/07;
  • endorsed the approach to producing an organizational risk management and currency strategy to be considered at IWC-68;
  • agreed the Secretariat should have flexibility to work on constructive partnerships that did not involve legally binding memoranda of understanding;
  • endorsed the Secretariat’s proposal for strengthening the use of social media;
  • directed the Secretariat to produce an options paper for the development of the Red House for presentation to IWC-68; and
  • reviewed the NGO code of conduct, which was sent to the Working Group on Operational Effectiveness (WGOE) for review.

Intersessional Working Groups: Wulff presented the F&A Committee report on intersessional working groups (IWC/67/REP/06), noting that the F&A Committee:

  • endorsed the WGOE report, which provides recommendations on institutional and governance reforms and a costed implementation plan for consideration at IWC-68;
  • recommended the Commission adopt the proposed changes to the SC Rules of Procedure, Commission Rules of Procedure, and Financial Regulations outlined in IWC/67/FA/02; and
  • endorsed document IWC/67/FA/04, including recommended changes to the Financial Regulations.

Wulff reported no consensus was reached on holding the CC meeting annually. On the CC meeting, the UK (CC Vice Chair) proposed recommendations in the F&A Committee report (IWC/67/FA/01), including: the SC meets annually, and other sub-committees meet biannually; and the CC may meet annually subject to the financial situation.

Monaco supported this proposal. Antigua and Barbuda opposed and said, given the divergent views on the IWC funding priorities, the Commission should defer this consideration.

The UK, expressing his disappointment for the lack of consensus, proposed to continue constructive discussion on the issue rather than holding a vote.

Financial Statements and Budget: F&A Committee Chair Wulff presented the F&A Committee report on the status of financial contributions (IWC/67/REP/06). He reported on: no inquires made by Finance and Committee members on the financial contributions formula; the 2016-2017 audited accounts, including the expected budget deficit for 2018; and on recommended actions to mitigate the overspending and a technical accounting solution proposed by the Secretariat, including a 30% reduction for SC work and a cut for NGO Observer fees. He highlighted the zero real growth option as a measure to address the deficit, which includes an increase to financial contributions of 2.3% in 2019 and 2.0% in 2020, and requires the SC to adjust its 2019-2020 work programme (IWC/67/FA/27). He also called for nominations for the open seats of related sub-committees.

Italy announced €15,000 contributions for the SC, and €5,000 to the work on small cetaceans.

The Netherlands announced a €25,000 contribution for the voluntary funds supporting work on small cetaceans and conservation.

Antigua and Barbuda and Norway objected to additional financial contributions, saying the budget approach should be comprehensive not through piecemeal funding.

Antigua and Barbuda expressed willingness to host the 2020 SC meeting.

Switzerland expressed willingness to continue serving for the remaining Budgetary Sub-Committee open seats.

Delegates endorsed the F&A Committee’s report on the 2016-2017 audited accounts and 2018 deficit.

Lacking consensus on the core-budget 2019-2020 cost-reduction measures, Chair Morishita proposed a zero increase in contributions while accepting a 30% reduction of the SC work, explaining the difficulty of cutting the budget for the Secretariat and meeting costs.

Final Outcome: Delegates adopted the F&A Committee’s report except for the proposal on frequency of committee meetings, and agreed to the Chair’s proposal on the core budget 2019-2020.

Closing Plenary

Adoption of Committee Reports: On Friday, IWC Chair Morishita invited comments on all Committee, Sub-Committee and Working Group reports.

Delegates adopted the reports of the Scientific, Conservation, and F&A Committees, the Infractions, Budgetary, ASW Sub-Committee, SWG-SPP, and the WKMWI Working Group without further comments.

Morishita noted that their smooth adoption reflects the hard work done.

Election of Officers: The IWC elected Andrej Bibič (Slovenia) as IWC Chair and Amadou Diallo (Guinea) as Vice-Chair. IWC also elected Robert Suydam (US) as SC Chair and Alexandre Zerbini (Brazil) as SC Vice-Chair. On the BSC, Morishita announced Australia as the new Budgetary Sub-Committee (BSC) Chair and Switzerland as the new Vice-Chair and welcomed a new representative, Poland. Morishita noted that the BSC meets face-to-face at the occasion of the biennial IWC meetings, in addition to exchanges through email.

Bureau Membership: Morishita said the Bureau’s main role is to advise the Chair, IWC Executive Secretary, and others involved in administrative matters, and is chaired by the IWC Chair. Delegates elected the UK to the Bureau, bringing total membership to seven. Morishita noted concerns expressed by member states about membership criteria and noted the WGOE’s ongoing review to address Bureau membership rules to be reported at IWC-68.

Future Meetings: Kenya announced his country’s offer to host the 2019 SC meeting in Nairobi. Delegates approved, noting the meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7-23 May 2019. Slovenia offered and was selected as the host for IWC-68, in Portorož, Slovenia, from 23 September - 2 October, 2020.

Other Matters: An unofficial intervention by Belgium and Luxembourg involved a contest for the best whale-themed jewelry, following a precedent set at IWC-66. IWC Executive Secretary Rebecca Lent tallied the vote and announced Haydée Rodriguez Romero (Costa Rica) as the winner.

Closing Statements: Chair Morishita then introduced the summary of main outcomes, decisions and required actions from IWC-67 (IWC/67/GEN/05 Rev1) and said the more detailed account of the meeting would be available within two months.

Numerous delegates expressed support and appreciation for Brazil as the IWC-67 host and for Chair Morishita’s professional handling of the meeting.

In closing comments, Brazil observed that differences of opinion are part and parcel of any modern multilateral organization and noted that active participation will be important for determining the future of the IWC. Ghana urged the IWC to work harder to bridge gaps between member states. A number of NGOs addressed the closing plenary, stressing the historic nature of its decisions and appreciation for opportunities to participate.

Chair Morishita praised members’ cooperative spirit through the week in working efficiently through the agenda and demonstrating a new preparedness to discuss issues together in a relatively open way. He closed IWC-67 at 12:41 pm.

A Brief Analysis of IWC-67

As delegates arrived in Florianópolis for the 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC-67), they knew the stakes were high. Japan had announced months earlier its proposal to reform the IWC’s voting process, which would effectively allow commercial harvests of whale stocks. Brazil, as the meeting’s host, and an unwavering proponent of establishing the perennially-rejected South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, had its own proposal―reaffirming the moratorium on commercial whaling. Into the fray stepped the native whalers, who came from Alaska, Greenland, the Russian Federation, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, seeking greater recognition of their hunting rights, by adding more flexibility to the aboriginal subsistence whaling quota process under the IWC. One way or another it was going to be a crucial meeting for a governing body that has had its shares of highs and lows over the years.

This brief analysis will examine how these and other events played out at IWC-67 and what the results indicate for the future of the IWC.

Whaling in Perpetuity

We have exceeded every request, mandate, and demand. We just want flexibility to manage our harvest. – Statement by a member of the Alaskan Whaling Commission

A major reform put forward at IWC-67 was proposed changes to the IWC’s oversight of aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) which is currently authorized under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) in four areas: Denmark (Greenland), Russia (Chukchi), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and in the United States (Alaska). These four countries co-sponsored a Schedule amendment encompassing key structural changes to the current ASW management scheme, such that: any shortfall in the number of whales killed under a country’s annual ASW quota can be carried forward into subsequent years within a six-year block of quotas (“carryover”), provided an annual quota in any given year is not increased by more than 50%; and the ability of whaling communities to roll over six-year block quotas to a subsequent six-year period (“automatic renewal”).

Indigenous whalers and their supporters argued that the changes would enhance efficiency of the hunts and improve food security. After years of demonstrating responsible harvests and their need to keep whaling, they asked for relief from ongoing uncertainty about whether they will be able to provide for their people, by whaling at an adequate level “in perpetuity” (which was declared as an IWC objective under Resolution 1994/4).

Some countries remained concerned that six-year quotas should not be renewed automatically, and whether the proposed structural changes meant the IWC was stepping back from sufficient oversight of ASW levels. It was not clear the three-fourths majority required for a Schedule amendment could be achieved. The issue did, however, bridge the interests of pro and anti-whaling forces, given the IWC’s longstanding commitment to aboriginal sustainable whaling. Delegates worked informally throughout the week to find a compromise that would address valid concerns on both sides. While IWC-67 was able to adopt the proposed amendment, consensus remained elusive. The resulting vote (58 in favor, 7 opposed, 5 abstained), demonstrated that compromises reached were insufficient to address the concerns of some members of the Buenos Aires Group (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay).

Many delegates considered the passage of Schedule amendments on ASW as a huge, even “historic” achievement. The amendments also were seen as according greater respect to indigenous peoples’ rights to obtain traditional food, even in extreme environments. Certainly, the fact that whaling captains were moved, almost to tears, by endorsement of the proposals was a powerful reminder that discussions within the IWC have real external impacts.

The spirit of compromise was, however, short lived.

The Cost of Victory

Votes on the proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary were almost identical to the vote at IWC-66, split along pro- and anti-lines. Opponents argued the scientific data provided insufficient justification for a sanctuary, and was fundamentally at odds with the ICRW’s mandate for sustainable management of the whaling industry, despite a positive review by the Scientific Committee and an accompanying management plan.

More controversial was adoption of the non-binding resolution proposing the Florianópolis Declaration. The Declaration reaffirms the importance of maintaining the moratorium on commercial whaling, and describes as “unnecessary” the use of lethal research methods. Since lethal research forms the basis of Japan’s whaling programme, the measure was vigorously opposed by pro-whaling countries, with St. Vincent and the Grenadines saying its passage revealed the “stark reality” of what the IWC is, and signaled the “death knell” of the Convention if it continues in this direction.

The Bridge to Nowhere?

Japan’s package proposal was offered as a way to bridge the divide. It sought to establish: a Sustainable Whaling Committee that would propose catch limits; and Schedule amendments to give effect to the limits, if the Scientific Committee determined a particular whale population was sufficiently healthy. The proposal also would amend the ICRW to change the voting requirements for any Schedule amendment from a three-fourths majority to a simple majority.

Opponents saw it as little more than a way to resume commercial whaling.

Supporters emphasized its consistency with SDG 14, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. They also cited agreement on the ASW Schedule amendment as an example of endorsing a sustainable use regime, suggesting the same algorithmic approach could be used for commercial whaling, without endangering whale populations.

The process had carried it with a sense of suspense, as decision making was deferred to the final day, with some wondering if stage crafting was part of an “escape” plan if the package failed. At the close of the vote (27 in favor, 41 opposed, and 2 abstained), Masaaki Taniai, Japan’s Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Japan would undertake a “fundamental reassessment” of its position in the IWC, “scrutinizing every option,” statements that signaled a potential withdrawal to many participants. Such speculation was countered by references to Japan’s long engagement with the IWC, including Japan’s outgoing IWC chairmanship, under the able and neutral leadership of Joji Morishita

While some opponents questioned Japan’s intent, others acknowledged Japan’s right to present the proposal, encouraged Japan to continue engaging, and saw merit for future discussion about potential governance reform.

Ties (and Jewelry) that Bind

Drama did not define the entire IWC-67 meeting. Chair Morishita moved delegates calmly and steadily through the process, keeping participants on task, encouraging frank dialogues, and accomplishing a list of other achievements, including consensus passage of resolutions on an independent review of the IWC, anthropogenic noise, and ghost gear entanglement among cetaceans. And in what may become a regular feature of the closing hour of IWC meetings, the whale-themed accessory contest offered a light-hearted end to the week, including an objection from Japan that the activity was beyond the “competence” of the IWC.

In the end, positions in the debate over whether the IWC is a functional and thriving organization (notwithstanding perennial budget challenges) seemed to depend largely on which side of the whaling chasm one stood. Like efforts to establish the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, Japan’s proposal may not have succeeded, this time, this year. But as Chair Morishita noted, in his closing remarks, to succeed as an international organization, the IWC will must address the needs of and benefits for all IWC members.

Upcoming Meetings

High level conference on sustainable small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea: The event represents the culmination of work carried out in recent years, seeking to elicit political will and concrete action to support small-scale fisheries in the region. dates: 25-26 September 2018  location: St. Julian’s, Malta  contact: General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (GFCM)/FAO Secretariat  phone: +61-3-6210-1111  email:  www:

24th Meeting of the Advisory Committee of ASCOBANS: The 24th meeting of the Advisory Committee of Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) will convene in both scientific and institutional segments. dates: 25-27 September 2019  location: Vilnius, Lithuania  contact: UNEP/ASCOBANS Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2416  email:  www:

70th meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES: The seventieth meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Standing Committee (SC70) will convene in advance of the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties.  dates: 1-5 October 2018 location: Sochi, Russian Federation  contact: CITES Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40  email:  www:

2nd Arctic Biodiversity Congress: The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity Working Group of the Arctic Council, and the Ministry of the Environment, Finland, will host the 2nd Arctic Biodiversity Congress. This Congress will build on the success of the first Congress, held in Trondheim, Norway, in 2014, and will discuss ways to promote the conservation and sustainable use of Arctic biodiversity. dates: 9-11 October 2018  location: Rovaniemi, Finland  contact: Arctic Council Secretariat  phone: + 47-77-75-01-40  email:  www:

2018 Arctic Circle Assembly: The Arctic Circle Assembly is the largest annual international gathering on the Arctic. dates: 19-21 October 2018  location: Reykjavik, Iceland  contact: Arctic Circle Secretariat  email:  www:

73rd Session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (MEPC 73): At its last session, the MEPC agreed to include a new output to address the issue of marine plastic litter from shipping in the context of SDG 14 (Life below Water). Member states and international organizations were invited to submit concrete proposals to MEPC 73 on the development of an action plan. dates: 22-26 October 2018  location: London, United Kingdom  contact: IMO Secretariat  phone: +44-20-77357611 email:  www:

 Thirty-seventh Meetings of the CCAMLR and its Scientific Committee: The thirty-seventh Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and its Scientific Committee will convene. CCAMLR was established by international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life. dates: 22-26 October 2018  location: Hobart, Australia  contact: CCAMLR Secretariat  phone: +61-3-6210-1111 fax: +61-3-6224-8744  email:  www:

Our Ocean Conference 2018: The fifth Our Ocean Conference will focus on the theme, “Our Ocean, Our Legacy,” with participants reflecting on choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve ocean health, as a heritage presented for our children and grandchildren. dates: 29-30 October 2018  location: Bali, Indonesia  contact: Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Republic of Indonesia  phone: +62-21-3519070 ext 7156  fax: +62-21-3864293  email:  www:

Fourth Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the GPA: The UNEP Global Programme of Action (UNEP/GPA) aims to prevent the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of states to preserve and protect the marine environment. The Fourth Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the GPA allows governments and other stakeholders to review the status of the implementation of the GPA and decide on action to be taken to strengthen its implementation. dates: 31 October – 1 November 2018  location: Bali, Indonesia  contact: UNEP GPA Coordination Office  email:  www:  

2018 UN Biodiversity Conference: The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 9th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (CBD COP 14, Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 9, and Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 3) are expected to address a series of issues related to implementation of the Convention and its Protocols. It will be preceded by a high-level segment on 14-15 November. dates: 17-29 November 2018  location: Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288 6588  email:  www:

Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in cooperation with the custodian agencies of the Communities of Ocean Action and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean will host an Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean. The event will bring together member states, UN agencies, civil society, businesses, and other ocean stakeholders to follow up on voluntary commitments for implementation of SDG 14 (life below water), build partnerships and engage in concerted regional action for a healthy ocean. date: 20 November 2018  location: Bangkok, Thailand  contact: ESCAP Environment and Development Division  phone: +66-2-288-1234  email:  www:

High-Level Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy: This Ministerial Conference will provide a forum to advance the global conversation on the sustainable development of the Blue Economy. The theme of the conference, Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will focus on new technologies and innovation for oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers, and on challenges, potential opportunities, priorities and partnerships. dates: 26-28 November 2018  location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: Kenya Conference Secretariat  phone: +254-20-331-8888  email:  www:

Third Meeting of the Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks: The third meeting of the Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOS3) will address amendment proposals, among other issues.  dates: 10-14 December 2018  location: Principality of Monaco  contact: Andrea Pauly, UNEP/CMS Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2401  fax: +49-228-815-2449  email:  www:

IWC Scientific Committee 68a: The next meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee (SC68a) will convene in 2019. dates: 7-23 May 2019 (TBC)  location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: IWC Secretariat  phone: +44-1223-232-971  fax: +44-1223-232-876  www:

CITES CoP18: The 18th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties will meet to review implementation of the Convention. dates: 23 May to 3 June 2019  location: Colombo, Sri Lanka  contact: CITES Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40  fax: +41-22-797-34-17  email:  www:

CMS COP13: The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals will convene to review implementation of the convention.  dates: 15-22 February 2020  location: Gandhinagar, India  contact: CMS Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2401  fax: +49- 28-815-2449  email:  www:

 IWC Scientific Committee 68b: The 2020 meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee (SC68b) will likely take place in May 2020. dates: May 2020 (TBC) location: TBC contact: IWC Secretariat  phone: +44-1223-232-971  fax: +44-1223-232-876  www:  

IWC-68: The 68th session of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will take place in 2020. dates: 23 September to 2 October 2020 (TBC)  location: Portoroz, Slovenia  contact: IWC Secretariat  phone: +44-1223-232-971 fax: +44-1223-232-876  www:

For additional meetings, see

Further information


Negotiating blocs
European Union
Non-state coalitions