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Whaling industry

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) position on Whaling

At present, populations of almost all large whales have been in a depressed state as a result of unsustainable whaling practices for the last two centuries. For animals with such long-living with a slow reproduction cycle as whales, it will inevitably take several decades (and more) to restore the damage caused to populations. Some groups still contain only a few hundred individuals and remain on the verge of extinction, whereas it is generally assumed that other populations have recovered to a more favorable level; in almost all cases, assessments of the number of cetaceans are characterized by a significant amount of inaccuracy.

WWF sees its task as to ensure the existence of viable populations of cetaceans throughout the entire area of their historical ranges and to preserve the role of these species in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystems of the World Ocean. Recognizing the enormous diversity of cultural approaches to the conservation and management of cetacean populations, WWF continues to oppose commercial whaling — both at present and until the whale herds are fully restored, and until governments around the world provide full international control based on proactive approaches to management. Such, which will be based on the priority of species conservation, enforcement of environmental principles and a complete mutual correspondence of management systems adopted by all countries using cetacean resource.

The World Wide Fund for Nature seeks cooperation with all states involved in whaling and whaling activities. WWF supports the resolution on the current state of affairs in this field in the IWC, noting that actions that are urgently needed for the protection of whales at present are not resolved, and hopes that the IWC member countries will be able to find common approaches to ensure a safe and sustainable future for whales in the world.


WWF supports the inclusion of cetacean conservation issues in the IWC agenda, considering this work to be an essential component of the Commission’s work. WWF urges the IWC to take urgent measures to reduce global threats to cetacean populations, in particular as a result of bycatch, collisions with vessels, exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources, climate change and habitat degradation, through continued support of programs to reduce the impact of these threats.

Climate change. At present, there is irrefutable evidence that the climate is changing, and the pace of change is accelerated mainly as a result of human activities. It is assumed that the impact of climate change on cetaceans is multifaceted, and in general it is not understood enough. However, for all endangered species from the IUCN list, for which any assumptions may be made, the reduction in range is predicted. We draw attention to the special document «Whales in Hot Water», presented at the 60th IWC meeting by experts from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Whales and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The IWC Scientific Committee also discussed climate change issues at its meetings. At the moment, it is extremely important that the IWC and participating States recognize the priority of climate change issues for further research and to financially and by other means support global workshop on the impact of climate change on cetacean populations.

By-catch: the greatest threat to cetacean of the world. Threat to cetaceans as a result of by-catch is increasing rapidly. Modern research has shown that more than 300,000 whales and dolphins die annually in fishing nets. WWF encourages IWC member countries to follow the decisions taken to reduce by-catch. We also propose to support additional concrete actions — including financial support for a series of scientific and practical training seminars in those developing countries where the by-catch rates are greatest. Preservation of cetaceans that are currently in critical condition is possible only as a result of urgent international actions to reduce by-catch with efforts of all cooperating parties. Additionally, we encourage the Scientific Committee members and all other interested parties to cooperate in the international competition for innovative fishing methods «Smart Gear Competition», which already annually awards from $10,000 to $30,000 US dollars for the most practical and innovative technological solutions to reduce by-catch (www.smartgear.org).


Despite the fact that the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling contains a definition according to which states have the right to independently issue whale permits for scientific purposes, this provision was written more than 60 years ago, when there were no other practical alternatives. At that time, whaling was the only way to obtain basic biological information, appropriately used to determine catch quotas. At present, technologies of intravital scientific research are perfect and allow one to obtain such modern data for population management that cannot be provided by the whale program of Japan.

WWF urges the Government of Japan to stop violations of the special provisions on the scientific fishery of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and to stop commercial fishing conducted under the disguise of a scientific one. We urge the Government of Japan to promote the use of latest technologies of the 21st century for the intravital study of cetaceans. WWF is confident that the IWC member states are ready to ensure full compliance of research activities with the recognized modern scientific technologies, and that the IWC will retain its authority in this field. The continued neglect of these issues by Japan is damaging to wholesome science.


WWF also calls on IWC to take action to completely stop any whaling within the boundaries of whale protected areas. Such marine reserves were created by the IWC itself in order to enable scientists to conduct research beyond the impact of fisheries. The fact that Japan, in violation of the provisions of the Convention on Scientific Fisheries, carries out whaling within the boundaries of the South Ocean Whale Reserve, we consider unacceptable. Moreover, WWF is convinced that for the IWC Member States it is time to take all the necessary actions to completely stop the whaling in the Southern Ocean, and ban all types of fishing without exception for all countries.


WWF is confident that IWC plays an important role in the conservation of cetaceans. Nevertheless, in current IAC activity such elements of modern environmental management as a proactive approach, ecosystem approaches, integrated management, and a number of other management mechanisms critical for a successful implementation of cooperation schemes have been neglected. The current IWC meeting between the official Meetings of the Parties recognizes that IWC itself is in the process of change. It is time for direct dialogue between states on future priorities for the conservation of whales. WWF understands that IWC faces a choice: to continue discussions in the same style as before, which can lead to devastating consequences for whales, or to show the world community that the organization is capable of developing.

On the one hand, the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling is now an obsolete instrument formed at a time when the world still had a very limited understanding of the complex network of interconnections in marine communities and their impact on cetaceans, and at the same time when the world was completely a different political climate, different from the order in which we live now. Discussion of the positions of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling occurred at a time when diverse threats to cetacean populations were unknown, and even before we became aware of some of the new threats that have emerged, such as climate change, collisions with vessels, discharges of harmful substances into the ocean. The IWC itself has achieved many successes. However, after 60 years from the adoption of the text of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling, it becomes impossible to separate threats to cetaceans due to whaling from other threats related to marine pollution, commercial by-catch or exceeding fishing quotas. It would not only be preferable, but potentially more effective for the conservation of whales, for all the diverse threats to cetacean populations to be regarded in an integrated, comprehensive and broad context.

The IWC is currently faced with the question of whether it can become a mechanism that meets such complex environmental requirements, or whether it will remain in the past. Can some states stop the unregulated commercial fishing, or will they continue it, thus becoming an obstacle to further interstate efforts to reduce threats to cetaceans. Whether the commercial whaling be stopped or not, which has become a sad legacy of the past in the 21st century of scientific progress. And whether or not the IWC member states will be able to take advantage of this opportunity and turn IWC into a meaningful environmental instrument. This is the opportunity that you have now.


We are well aware that there are differences in positions within the IWC, in particular between countries conducting whaling and their supporters and states that do not carry out such fishing activities. Instead of discussing these discrepancies, WWF encourages all states to seek common approaches and positions and to work to conserve whales and other species of cetaceans. The actions of IWC and the direction in which the organization is developing are monitored by the whole world. WWF wishes all participants a productive and productive meeting.