48th Annual General Meeting

Aberdeen, Scotland


The 48th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was held from 24 - 28 June 1996 in Aberdeen, Scotland. The proceedings were conducted by the Chairman, Dr. Peter Bridgewater (Australia) and the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Michael Canny (Ireland).

Catch limits for commercial whaling

In 1982, the Commission took a decision, which came into force for the 1986 and 1985/86 seasons, that catch limits for all commercial whaling would be set to zero.

That decision also stated that by 1990 at the latest, the Commission will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effect of the decision on whale stocks and consider modification of the provision and establishment of other catch limits.

As in previous years, the Commission did not adopt a proposal by Japan for an interim relief allocation of 50 minke whales to be taken by coastal community-based whaling. It however agreed to hold a workshop to consider community-based whaling in the four small coastal communities in Japan, to review and identify commercial aspects and socio-economic and cultural needs.

As Norway has lodged objections to the relevant items in the Schedule, it has exercised its right to set national catch limits for its coastal whaling operations for minke whales. The Commission passed a Resolution calling on Norway to halt all whaling activities under its jurisdiction.

Revised Management Scheme

Although the Commission has accepted and endorsed the Revised Management Procedure for commercial whaling, it has noted that work on a number of issues, including specification of an inspection and observer system must be completed before the Commission will consider establishing catch limits other than zero. This year the Commission adopted the revised Requirements and Guidelines for Conducting Surveys and Analysing Data proposed by the Scientific Committee.

Catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling

In 1994, the Scientific Committee and the Commission undertook a major review of stocks subject to aboriginal subsistence whaling and their associated catch limits. The following limits were agreed at that meeting:

  • Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales taken by Alaskan Eskimos - The total number of landed whales for the years 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 shall not exceed 204 whales. Restrictions are also placed on the number of strikes that can be made.
  • Eastern North Pacific gray whales taken by native peoples of Chukotka - An annual catch of 140 whales is allowed for the years 1995, 1996 and 1997.
  • West Greenland fin whales taken by Greenlanders - An annual catch of 19 whales is allowed for the years 1995, 1996 and 1997.
  • West Greenland minke whales taken by Greenlanders - The total number of whales struck for the years 1995, 1996 and 1997 shall not exceed 465, with a maximum number of 165 in any one year.
  • East Greenland minke whales taken by Greenlanders - An annual catch of 12 whales is allowed for the years 1995, 1996 and 1997.
  • Humpback whales taken by St Vincent and The Grenadines - for the seasons 1996/97 to 1998/99, the annual catch shall not exceed two whales.

The Commission also considered two requests for additional catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.

  • One concerned a request for a take of 5 gray whales by the Makah Indian Tribe on the western coasts of the USA. This was deferred for further consideration next year.
  • The other concerned a request for a take of 5 bowhead whales by native peoples of Chukotka, on the northeastern coast of the Russian Federation. Consensus was not reached on this request.

Finally the Commission passed a Resolution encouraging Canada, a non-member nation, not to issue a license for an aboriginal subsistence bowhead whale catch.

The Scientific Committee continued its investigation of potential new management regimes for aboriginal subsistence whaling.

Scientific permit catches

Two proposed permits by Japan were considered.

  • One was an extension of its continuing programme in the Southern Hemisphere (now 400 plus/minus 10% minke whales from the Antarctic).
  • The second was for the continuing programme to take 100 minke whales in the western North Pacific.

An issuance of such permits is a sovereign right under the Convention. However the Commission adopted a Resolution calling on the Government of Japan to refrain from issuing these permits.

Humane killing

The Commission continues to consider this matter and has agreed to hold a special workshop on whale killing methods next year.

Small cetaceans

Notwithstanding the different views of member countries over the legal competence of the IWC to manage small cetaceans, the Commission continues to co-operate in its considerations of small cetaceans, particularly with respect to the work of the Scientific Committee.

The environment and whale stocks

The Scientific Committee has examined this issue in the context of the Revised Management Procedure and agreed the RMP adequately addressed such concerns. However, it has noted that the most vulnerable species to such threats might well be those reduced to levels at which the RMP, even if applied, would result in zero catches. The Committee held a workshop on the effects of chemical pollutants on cetaceans in 1995 in Norway, and held one on the effects of climate change and cetaceans in 1996 in the USA. The Commission adopted a Resolution endorsing the recommendations of these Workshops for future work, particularly with respect to designing a research programmes and co-operation with other relevant organisations.


The Commission continues to address this issue. It agreed with the Scientific Committee's proposed general principles for the management of whalewatching and will draw these to the attention of coastal states.

Southern Ocean

The Commission has agreed to provide financial support for two cruises in the Southern Hemisphere as part of a newly designated IWC-SOWER programme (Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research). One is aimed at providing information on blue whales and the other is aimed at providing information on minke, blue and other whales. The Government of Japan is generously providing the vessels for these cruises.

The Scientific Committee will continue to address matters relating to research in the Sanctuary.

Date and place of next meeting

The Commission will meet in Monaco in October 1997.

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