IFAW: Working to steer whales meeting into calmer waters

On the eve of the annual meeting of the conservation body set up to protect whales – the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – there are fears this year’s meeting could be over before it begins.

As delegates from around the world gather in Panama City, Panama for the opening of the 64th IWC meeting on Monday, there is concern that this year’s meeting could be sabotaged from the outset by Japan and the rest of the pro-whaling bloc.

Last year’s meeting of the forum in Jersey ended in chaotic scenes after a walkout led by Japan removed the quorum and stopped progress on important conservation issues such as a proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been urging conservation-minded countries to attend and participate in this year’s five-day meeting (July 2-6) and ensure that it can continue to produce positive results for whales.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whales Programme, said: “Whales face more threats today than at any other time in history and we have the opportunity to make real progress for whales at this year’s IWC. This will only happen if pro-conservation countries act now to ensure this important forum can use its powers to protect whales for future generations.”

Last year’s IWC meeting in Jersey saw the UK Government successfully push through a raft of measures to improve the forum’s effectiveness and address corruption problems which have previously dogged the organisation. Most significantly, the cash payment of membership dues was banned.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, added: “Getting the cash out of the IWC was a critical step, but now procedural tactics are being used in an attempt to kill conservation progress. Those of us working to protect whales are doing all we can to ensure this does not happen.”

Depending how the quorum issue stands on Monday, last year’s shelved proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary is expected to be discussed early in the agenda. IFAW is backing proposals for the sanctuary to provide important protection for whales in the region and has produced a new report on the issue which can be viewed or downloaded from www.ifaw.org

This year’s IWC meeting could be a watershed in many ways with every controversial issue to do with whales in the last two decades potentially on the table, from Japanese coastal whaling to a proposal for possible UN intervention on whaling.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Responsible whale watching offers a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.


Notes to Editors –

For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW’s team at IWC please contact Clare Sterling in Panama on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org.

IFAW’s team in Panama will be providing regular video blogs from the meeting. To keep up to date with the latest updates visit www.ifaw.org

This year’s meeting of the IWC will be historic in several ways – it is 30 years since the adoption of the moratorium on commercial whaling and 25 years since Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ programme began. It is likely to be the last time that delegates meet for a full annual meeting before moving to biennial meetings.

IFAW urges all conservation-minded countries to turn up and speak out for whales and to encourage other member countries to do the same. The countries from Europe that have missed meetings in the last couple of years are Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia and Slovenia. In addition, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru have missed meetings. If they all attend, Japan could not break the quorum.

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.