Whale of a fight in Brazil: Will Whaling Commission harpoon whaling ban?

67th Conference of the IWC to start September 10th in Florianópolis, Brazil

Florianópolis, Brazil, 5th September 2018. “Will the International Whaling Commission become grown-up”, “will the status quo be cemented” or will the body make “two steps back to the future?” This is how Nicolas Entrup, head of the delegation of marine conservation organisation OceanCare, sums up the challenges of the 67th conference of parties to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which will begin on the 10th of September in Florianópolis, Brazil. The IWC is the body which will rule on global whaling activities for the next years. OceanCare is an observer to the IWC and will be represented in Brazil by three experts, who will regularly report from the conference.

The Japanese government, an advocate of whaling ever since, presented an extensive reform package to the IWC, including the future provision of quotas for commercial whaling. The only criterion: whaling quotas have to be “sustainable”. Further, such decisions shall no longer need a three-quarters majority, but may be determined by simple majority. This would overthrow the global ban on commercial whaling which is in force since 1986.

“Commercial whaling is not sustainable and will never be. On the contrary. In the 20th century alone, an estimated three million large whales were killed and many populations went commercially extinct. This testifies a fatal practice which slowly reproducing marine mammals cannot withstand”, says Nicolas Entrup of OceanCare.

Brazil as the host country counters these desires by presenting the “Florianópolis Declaration”. This declaration regards whale watching as the only legitimate commercial use of whale populations in the 21st century. It aims at transforming the IWC from a whaling commission to a modern whale conservation body, which works to allow all whale populations to recover to the level that existed in the world’s oceans prior to industrial whaling.


Background information

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) was negotiated by 15 countries in 1946 and entered in force in 1948. Today, there are 88 member states to the International Whaling Commission, the body which executes the convention. In 1982, after decades of intensive industrial whaling, the IWC decided to ban commercial whaling. This so-called moratorium, probably the greatest achievement in international species conservation, entered into force in 1986, saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of whales, but is currently rejected by Norway, Iceland and Russia.

OceanCare will be represented at the IWC conference in Florianópolis by Nicolas Entrup, Thomas Schweiger and Fabienne McLellan, who will regularly blog about their experiences at the conference at oceancare.org/blog.