IFAW: Significant victory for whale conservation as UK achieves consensus on reforming IWC

(St Helier, Jersey – 13 July 2011) – A UK proposal aimed at cleaning up the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was adopted by consensus today (Wed) at the forum’s 63rd annual meeting in Jersey.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which backed the paper as a vital measure to secure the IWC’s future credibility and effectiveness, believes the final resolution is a step in the right direction for the forum, despite some of its initial proposals being dropped to achieve vital backing from all member countries.

In recent years the IWC has been stung by widely reported accusations of corruption. In light of this, the UK submitted proposals aimed at reducing secrecy in the IWC, outlawing last minute cash payment of dues and ensuring improved governance and proper and timely reporting of Commission decisions within 14 days of meetings having taken place.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “We are heartened that all IWC member countries took seriously the need for urgent measures to rescue the credibility of the IWC. We always rejected the notion that this Commission could not pull itself together and adopt much-needed reforms.

“They are modest rule changes, and while we would have preferred the reforms to have gone further, we nevertheless welcome these initial steps. While the focus of this meeting has been on necessary procedural changes, we must not forget the overriding issue. “IFAW will continue the global campaign to protect our planet’s great whales which face more threats today than ever before, particularly from the cruelty of commercial whaling. The IWC’s task moving forward is to advance whale conservation, not whale killing.”

Following lengthy debate between many of the IWC’s 89 member countries over the last two days, proposals on NGO participation were dropped from the final UK resolution, but the proposal on banning cash payments, which had divided many, was retained.

Early attempts to achieve consensus initially failed on the issue of payment of dues, with the UK sticking firmly to its resolve to replace cash payments with bank transfers from recognised Government or State institution accounts and refusing to compromise and accept banker’s drafts as a suggested alternative.

After more negotiation, a slight amendment was made to payment regulations. Countries whose payments were received late by the IWC but who could show their payments had been made properly by bank transfer would be counted as received in special circumstances if delays were beyond their control. The amended package was accepted by the forum on consensus.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “IFAW acknowledges the fantastic efforts and determination of the UK delegation in putting this proposal together and ensuring its success. They and the countries which backed it are responsible for achieving progress for the IWC and for whales.”

In addition to whaling, whales face a daily struggle against many other threats including man-made ocean noise, entanglements in fishing gear and marine debris, ship strikes, pollution and climate change.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary. There is no humane way to kill a whale and with little appetite for whale meat these days, meat from slaughtered whales frequently lies unused in frozen storage. IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.


For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW’s IWC team in Jersey throughout the meeting please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Notes to Editors –

Actor John Nettles is backing IFAW’s work to protect whales at the IWC. The stage and screen star, known to millions as DCI Tom Barnaby in ITV’s long-running
Midsomer Murders, which he starred in until earlier this year, also has a long association with Jersey, which was the location for BBC’s Bergerac, another hit series in which he played a detective.

He said: “I’m proud to support IFAW’s campaign to protect whales. It is vital that the International Whaling Commission meeting in Jersey adopts the strongest possible level of protection for whales across the world.”

In 1982, the IWC voted to establish an indefinite worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling. The moratorium came into effect with the 1985-86 Antarctic and 1986 Northern Hemisphere seasons.

Japan initially lodged a formal objection to the moratorium decision, which it later dropped, but continued whaling without interruption by abusing a loophole in the IWC Convention which permits ‘scientific research’. IFAW believes this is sham science, and that so-called scientific whaling is merely commercial whaling by another name. Under pressure from many fronts, Japan called an early halt to its whaling activities in Antarctica earlier this year (February 2011), heading back to port early from the Southern Ocean Sanctuary having taken well below half of its projected quota of around 1,000 whales.

Norway has maintained its objection, and continues to conduct commercial whaling in the North Atlantic. There is a shrinking domestic market for whale meat and in recent years Norway has normally caught 400-500 whales (which is around half its self-allocated catch limit).

Initially, Iceland did not object to the moratorium, but hunted whales for ‘science’ until 1989. In 1992, Iceland left the IWC, but rejoined in 2002 with a retroactive reservation to the moratorium. Iceland resumed whaling in 2003 for ‘scientific research’ and resumed commercial whaling in 2006, although polling has revealed only around 5% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly (Gallup, 2010). In 2011, Iceland continues to hunt minke whales but this season’s fin whaling is currently on hold with whaling station employees laid off due to lack of market for the meat.