The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has carried out a number of reviews and activities in advance of its 66th Scientific Committee (SC 66) meeting, which will convene in June, in Bled, Slovenia.
These activities include: implementation reviews of two whale species; research on whale and vessel collisions; promotion of whale and dolphin watching; and collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
April 2016: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has carried out a number of reviews and activities in advance of its 66th Scientific Committee (SC 66) meeting, which will convene in June, in Bled, Slovenia. These activities include: implementation reviews of two whale species; research on whale and vessel collisions; promotion of whale and dolphin watching; and collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
IWC held a joint workshop on the ‘Implementation Reviews’ on the North Atlantic common minke and North Atlantic fin whales, a process that involves reviewing all available information on a species within a specific region at a particular time. The Review will be completed for SC 66.
To address problems caused by whale and vessel collisions, the IWC’s Conservation and Scientific Committees are working to improve understanding of the numbers of collisions and the circumstances surrounding them, estimate the number of whales killed from ship strikes and develop a global strikes database. IWC will use this information to prioritize areas and species for targeted mitigation measures. For now, according to IWC, the most effective way to reduce collision risk is to keep ships and whales apart and for vessels to slow down and look for whales.
IWC is also collaborating with IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) to address ship strikes, including through collaboration on data collection and mitigation measures. IWC presented a paper on ship strikes at the MPEC’s April meeting.
To promote sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism, participants at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) ‘Whale and Dolphin Watching Workshop’ agreed on the establishment of a Whale and Dolphin Watching Tourism Network, including its terms of reference and appointment of representatives. The Network will share existing mechanisms and guidelines on whale and dolphin watching tourism and work to strengthen scientific, academic and technical cooperation. The workshop recognized that whale and dolphin watching tourism creates economic, social and ecological benefits, such as inclusive economic growth, promotion of local livelihoods and protection of marine species and habitats, while also recognizing threats faced by cetaceans from climate change, marine debris, chemical and noise pollution, ship strikes and other hazards. Within this context, participants identified community education and regulations as possible solutions to ensure compliance and enforcement. They also welcomed IWC’s work to develop a whalewatching handbook with flexible guidance for the whalewatching industry, policymakers and regulators. The workshop convened from 24-26 February 2016 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Also on whales, SPREP and partners, including IWC, have launched a two-year campaign, ‘Protect Pacific Whales: Ocean Voyagers,’ to promote whale conservation through a series of initiatives and activities. In 2015, IWC’s Scientific Committee completed a comprehensive assessment that estimated that the Pacific humpback whale population has recovered to approximately 14,000, or 50% of its pre-exploitation size. However, habitat degradation, entanglement and ship strikes still continue to threaten whales and dolphins in the Pacific. The ‘Protect Pacific Whales’ campaign will raise awareness on these issues and continue to build capacity to respond to whale entanglements in fishing gear or marine debris. It will continue scientific research and feature events celebrating the whale in Pacific culture.
Among other activities, IWC is expected to post the findings of the Expert Panel on the Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the North Pacific (JARPN) II program, which reviewed the program’s final results in April. IWC has also issued a call for tenders for the Small Cetaceans Voluntary Fund (SCVF) for research that supports improved conservation outcomes for small cetaceans, particularly threatened or vulnerable species. In May, IWC will host policy and technical workshops to discuss current knowledge of non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare, identify priority areas for management and further research, and develop a framework for handling cetacean stranding events. This workshop is expected to help advance IWC’s Welfare Action Plan and will result in reports for consideration by SC 66 and the IWC meeting in October 2016. [IWC News] [IWC Website on Ship Strikes] [IORA Workshop Website] [IORA Workshop Recommendations] [IORA Event Press Release] [IWC News Story on Whale Campaign] [IWC Welfare Action Plan Event Website] [SCVF Call for Proposals] [SC 66 Website] [IISD RS Story on IMO MEPC Meeting]