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International Whaling Commission meeting – May 2014

IWC Conference location and conference in action Wildbase staff Louise Chilvers recently attended the 65th annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Bled, Slovenia, as head of delegation for New Zealand’s science team.

The Scientific committee of IWC meets every year for two weeks. IWC was set up in 1946 to regulate whaling.  It is the global intergovernmental body charged the management of whaling and in more recent times the conservation of whales. IWC currently has membership of 88 governments from countries around the world. 

In 1986, IWC introduced zero catch limits for commercial whaling. This provision is still in place today, although the IWC continues to set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.  As well as keeping whale catch limits under review, IWC works to promote the recovery of depleted whale populations by addressing a range of specific issues. These include ship strikes, entanglement events, environmental concerns and establishing protocols for whale watching. 

A special part of IWC is the small cetacean committee which was only established in 1979 (as the original IWC convention was only set up for the “great” whales) which keep a watch brief on threats including bycatch in fishing gear, hunting, pollution (including oil spills), habitat degradation, coastal and offshore developments and climate change.

The work undertaken by the scientific committee each year is forward on to the IWC Commission (which will meet in Portorosa, Slovenia in September) to enable the setting of aboriginal whaling catch limits and other management roles the commission oversees. Louise will be attending the IWC commission as the NZ Science advisor. 

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