An attempt by riparian states to implement a whale sanctuary in the Southern Atlantic Ocean failed. Read the presse release issued by OceanCare on 25 October 2016:

The proposal, which was brought forward by Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay on the second day of the 66th conference of parties of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Portorož received a clear majority (38 yes vs. 24 no votes with 2 abstentions), but not the three-fourths majority required. This is particularly due to a block of Caribbean and West African countries orchestrated by Japan, which blocked the wish of all riparian states to have a large cetacean sanctuary in the Southern Atlantic.

“This is not only a setback for whale conservation, but also means discrediting the IWC’s own Scientific Committee, which assessed the proposal in detail and clearly welcomed it”, says OceanCare’s Fabienne McLellan. She assumes that the opponents are motivated by naked political calculation: “It’s not about data on the health of whale populations or about threats the animals are facing, but just about opposing an initiative by those countries, which see whale protection, not whaling, as the future of the IWC”, explains McLellan.

The proposed area should span the Atlantic Ocean between South America and Africa south of the equator. It would have connected the Antarctic and Indian Ocean sanctuaries. The proposal also for the first time included a detailed management plan addressing all the threats to cetaceans and aiming at both protecting the whales’ feeding and nursing grounds and migration corridors, and fostering research and cooperation among riparian states.

The proposal had been approved by the IWC’s Scientific Committee and was backed by African IWC members Gabon and South Africa. “The decision is an act of disrespect against a whole region working together. We hope that the proponents will nonetheless hold on to their plan in the long term”, says McLellan.

South American countries try to introduce a whale sanctuary within the IWC already since 1998. However, all the proposals have been defeated by those countries which regard whale meat as a contribution to human food security. There are 51 whale species living in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Some baleen whales pass this area on their migration between the Antarctic and tropical waters. Particularly the Southern right whale as well as humpback, fin and blue whales are endangered in this region.

The proposal had been backed by the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Brazil’s environment minister travelled to Slovenia to send a strong signal in the run-up to the vote. OceanCare supported the sanctuary in a joint statement with EIA, Greenpeace, IFAW, NRDC, Pro Wildlife, and WWF.

OceanCare is represented at the IWC conference in Slovenia by Nicolas Entrup and Fabienne McLellan, who frequently blog their experiences at the conference at

Media contacts
Nicolas Entrup, consultant to OceanCare: M: (+43) 660 211 9963,, Skype: ledzep2878 (in Slovenia 19-28 October 2016)

Fabienne McLellan, deputy head international cooperation, OceanCare: M: (+41) 79 456 77 07,, Skype: fabienne.boller1 (in Slovenia 19-28 October 2016)

Sigrid Lüber, president and head international cooperation, OceanCare, Wädenswil: T: (+41) 44 780 66 88, M: (+41) 79 475 26 87,

Further information:
IWC documents:

About OceanCare
OceanCare has been working for marine wildlife and ocean protection since 1989. In July 2011 the organisation has been granted the Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. OceanCare has been an observer at the IWC since 1992 and is represented in the IWC Scientific Committee since 2015. This year in Slovenia, OceanCare will once again strive to achieve optimum protection for cetaceans.