The 68th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting has concluded in Slovenia, with some good progress and some backwards steps for the protection of the world’s whales.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the IWC’s agreement of a critical resolution to tackle the threat of ocean plastic pollution and the failure of attempts by pro-whaling nations to undermine the global moratorium on whaling.
The IWC’s precarious financial situation has also been addressed for now, but many other commitments were postponed for consideration over the next two years before the next meeting of the IWC in Peru in 2024.
Particularly disappointing was the manner in which pro-whaling countries chose to walk out of a key session so the proposal to establish a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, led by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, could not be voted on, a proposal that has been before the Commission for more than a decade.
“The tactics used by pro-whaling countries at the meeting to block a vital whale conservation measure were shameful,” said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of AMCS.
“With the world’s whales and dolphins facing a wider range of threats today than ever before, we need nations to work together to ensure their future. Instead, this demonstrates the lengths to which some countries will go to ensure sanctuaries for whales and dolphins are not established. Many of those same countries were also trying to push for the global commercial whaling moratorium to be lifted at this meeting, a push that thankfully was once again not successful at this meeting.
“Nevertheless, important decisions for the ongoing operation of IWC were agreed in Slovenia, which will be fundamental to putting the organisation back on an even keel, and allowing the important conservation initiatives agreed to at this meeting to continue.
“From bycatch in fisheries to the impacts of plastic pollution, there is now a huge body of work underway by the IWC to ensure efforts to tackle ongoing threats to the world’s whales and dolphins.
“But the challenges for the IWC remain real. Over the next two years countries need to come together to put the future of the world’s cetaceans first and ensure the outrageous tactics deployed by some pro-whaling nations to block votes and progress for conservation does not continue to be a feature of this vital international body.
“We commend the Australian government for its ongoing leadership role in ensuring the IWC continues to focus efforts on essential conservation initiatives.
“We also applaud Australia for stepping up and taking on the position of Vice-Chair of the Commission, an influential position in ensuring a healthy and conservation focused future for the IWC” Mr Kindleysides said.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in 1946 as the global body responsible for management of whaling and conservation of whales. It is an inter-governmental organisation with a current membership of 88 governments from all over the world, including Australia.
Australia has been a global leader in whale conservation since the Fraser government banned whaling in 1979. Australia took and won the landmark International Court of Justice legal case against Japan over its whaling program in 2014.