Report of the 48th Annual General Meeting
of the International Whaling Commission

by Paul Hodda (President, Australian Whale Conservation Society)

"The Whaling Nations are not Backing Down"

Some of the outcomes of the 48th Annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) are now known. The meeting seems to have gone much as [I had ] expected with Japan and Norway giving notice of their intentions to continue their whaling activities despite opposition from the majority of IWC members.

The following is an overview of the main issues:

Commercial and Scientific Whaling

There was no change in the Commission's decision of 1982 to set all commercial whaling quotas at zero.

Despite this, Norway continues to allocate its whaling fleet with quotas to take in excess of 400 Minke whales annually in local waters. This year the Commission once again called upon Norway to reconsider its decision.

Japan announced that it would continue its Antarctic whaling program, taking at least 400 (±10%) Minke whales under a self-issued "scientific permit". A further 100 Minkes will be taken in the western North Pacific under a similar permit.

As with Norway, the Commission called upon Japan to reconsider its position on scientific whaling.

Review of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

The Commission reviewed the quotas in this category, set at the 1994 meeting. The quotas remain unchanged, as follows:

  • Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas Bowhead Whales: A four year total quota for 1995 to 1998 is 204. This includes strike limits of 68 in 1995; 67 in 1996; 66 in 1997 and 65 in 1998. A maximum carry-over of 10 unused strikes from one year to the next is permitted.
  • Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales: The Chukotka (Russian nationals) have annual quotas for 1995, 1996 and 1997 of 140 grays.
  • East Greenland Minke Whales: Greenlanders may take 12 Minke whales in the waters of East Greenland each year in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
  • West Greenland Minke Whales: Greenlanders may take up to 465 Minke whales in the waters of West Greenland for the three years 1995, 1996 and 1997, however the maximum number of whales permitted to be struck in any one year is 165.
  • West Greenland Fin Whales: Greenlanders may take 19 Fin whales per year in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
  • Caribbean Humpback Whales: For the past three years, the small island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had been issued an annual quota of two humpbacks. This year the same quota was granted for an additional three years, to 1998/99.

Requests for additional Aboriginal Subsistence Quotas

This year the Russian Federation requested a quota of five Bowhead whales for the Chukotka in addition to their existing Gray whale quota. The proposal did not gain the necessary support and a quota was not granted.

The application for a quota of five Gray whales for the Mukah Indian tribe in the north-western United States was considered by the Commission. Although the quota was not granted, the issue was only deferred and will be reconsidered next year.

Humane Killing

This issue was discussed at length once again and it has been decided to convene a special workshop next year to review killing methods. No doubt the electric lance will feature prominently.

Small Type Whaling

Japan continues to press for an "interim relief quota" of 50 Minke whales for four of its coastal communities. This was opposed by Australia and the proposal was defeated.

In response to Japan's unrelenting pursuit of this quota the Commission decided it will conduct a workshop to review the small type whaling issue, highlighting commercial implications as well as cultural and socio-economic ones.

Whale Watching

The Scientific Committee has proposed general principles for the management of whale-watching and coastal states will be encouraged to consider these in the development of whale-watching in waters under their jurisdictions.

Environmental Issues

In March this year the Commission convened a workshop in Hawaii to investigate the effects of climate change on cetaceans. This complimented an earlier workshop on the effects of chemical pollutants on cetaceans, held in Norway the previous year.

Initially intended to factor environmental impacts into development of the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), the workshops have highlighted the potentially greater threats to those species whose numbers are so low that they would not be considered in the context of the RMP.

The recommendations of both workshops were endorsed, with an emphasis on future research and co-operation with other relevant organisations.

Revised Management Scheme (RMS)

The Working Groups on 'Supervision and Control' and 'Abundance Surveys and Implementation' reported to the Commission.

The 'Requirements and Guidelines for Conducting Surveys and Analysing Data', proposed by the Scientific Committee, was adopted. Many more issues such as supervision, inspection and control systems remain to be resolved. Australia has made clear its position that involvement in the process of developing a conservative and robust RMS in no way commits us to supporting a resumption of commercial whaling or issuing commercial quotas.

Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

The IWC has commenced a 'Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research program (SOWER) and will help to fund two research cruises, one dedicated to blue whales and the other to minke, blue and other species. The vessels will be provided by Japan.

IWC 49

The next meeting of the International Whaling Commission will be held in Monaco in October, 1997.

(The information provided in this article was obtained from the official IWC press release)

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