Stop Whaling Campaign
The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) (signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946) set out the establishment of a management body, the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
What does the IWC do?
The IWC is the decision making body of the ICRW. The various governments that are members of the IWC make their decisions through its various meetings and committees, using the IWC secretariat to help manage their discussions and decision making.
The IWC website states that, "The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world."
The formal decisions of the IWC are contained within the Schedule to the ICRW
Who make up the membership of the IWC?
There are currently 89 Member States (each a sovereign nation). The full list of member countries can be be found on the IWC website.
The IWC does allow observers to attend most of its meetings. These observers can be made up of countries that are not members of the IWC, the press and non-governmental organsiations and charities such as WDCS.
When does the Commission meet?
The full IWC currently meets annually, but its subcommittees and working groups can meet more regularly as required.
The last meeting of the IWC (the 63rd) was held in Jersey, 2011.
The 64th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission and the associated meetings of its Scientific Committee and other sub-groups will take place in Panama City, Panama from 11 June – 6 July 2012.
How does the Commission work?
The Commission has four main committees - Scientific, Technical, Finance and Administration and its most recent committee, the Conservation Committee which was created in 2004.
There are also Commission subcommittees that deal with aboriginal subsistence whaling, infractions (breaking of regulations) and other ad hoc working groups to deal with a wide range of issues.
What is the Scientific Committee?
The Scientific Committee comprises of some 200 whale biologists and scientists many of whom are nominated by member governments. For example the pro-whaling countries tend to send large delagtions of government sponsored scientists to put forward their government's position.
In recent years the Scientific Committee has invited other scientists to supplement its expertise in various areas. The work of the Scientific Committee is largely determined by the scientific needs of the Commission. The pro-whaling interests regularly attempt to narrow this down to only delivering recommendations on whaling quotas, but the wider pro-conservation membership often seeks to ensure that the Scientific Committee is looking at issues that affect the conservation and potection of whales and dolphins.
For example, whilst Iceland, Japan, Norway and their allies claim that the IWC has no competency to discuss small whales and dolphins, the IWC Sceientific Committee has been able to do some remarkablly useful work in the area of these small cetaceans.
I keep hearing that the IWC is dysfunctional?
The IWC is not dysfunctional. The only people who want you to believe its dysfunctional are the pro-whaling interests who are unahappy with the moratorium on commercial whaling.
For example for abororiginal whalers the IWC is still able to debate and allocate quotas. Indeed, the only real threat to the quota of the US Arctic Inupiat peoples comes from Japan and her allies who regularly threaten the quota on the grounds that Japan demand 'their' commercial quota in exchange. Yes, Japan and her allies are willing to deny aboriginal peoples access to whales for food in order to obtain a quota for their own commercial gain!
Despite the best efforts of the pro-whalers, the IWC has still been able to consider conservation issues in the last few years, including the impacts of marine debris and climate change on whales and dolphins.
The real threat to the effectiveness of the IWC comes from stunts by the pro-whaling nations. In 2011, Japan led her allies out of the meeting and claimed that the meeting could no longer proceed because not enough members were present. The walkout was in order to block a vote on a whaling sanctuary in the southern Atlantic proposed by Brasil and Argentina with the fully support from others Latin American countries.
Japan was willing to undermine the democracy of the IWC to ensure it gets its way.
How do I get in touch with the IWC?
International Whaling Commission
The Red House
135 Station Road