The IWC has co-ordinated work to improve the humaneness of whaling operations since 1959. Today, work to improve cetacean animal welfare takes place through the operations of the IWC’s Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Associated Welfare Issues.
A key function of the Working Group is to receive reports from Contracting Governments on the methods used to kill whales and the effectiveness of those methods. Some Contracting Governments also report the effectiveness of euthanasia operations to the Working Group.
|A summary of the IWC’s most recent workshop on welfare issues, held in 2003, is available here
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO THE COMMISSION ON THE WORKSHOP ON WHALE KILLING METHODS AND ASSOCIATED WELFARE ISSUES
Dr J. Geraci (Chair) and Dr N. Gales (Vice-Chair)
The Workshop was conducted in Berlin from the 7-9 June 2003. Twenty five working papers from nine Contracting Governments were presented and discussed in the context of the Workshop Agenda Items (description of killing methods in use and under development, assessment of methods including review of time to death, hunter safety and associated problems, evaluation of criteria for death, collection of animal welfare data, and development of a revised action plan).
While there are still areas in which improvements can be made, there can be little doubt that the papers and discussions at this workshop represent substantial progress in the development and application of killing methods, and these are reflected in a general trend of improved data on time to death and instantaneous death rate. There have also been encouraging improvements in the provision of relevant data on whale killing methods from Contracting Governments, and it is hoped that this trend will continue.
Many of the advances that are detailed in the full report from the Workshop can be attributed to the excellent work of Norwegian scientists, veterinarians and technicians. Their improvements in penthrite grenades, harpoon delivery systems, secondary killing efficiency and post-mortem determination of the effectiveness of the aforementioned have advanced the application of whale killing methods not only in Norway, but also in the several countries to which Norway has provided equipment or technical advice.
It is reasonable to surmise from this Workshop that the use of appropriately powerful penthrite grenades, fired from improved delivery systems represents the current state of ‘best practice’ for a primary killing method. Similarly, several important papers on the ballistics, technical characteristics and field application of guns used as secondary killing methods can now allow users of this technology to make informed decisions on the most appropriate calibre and power choices for their weapons. Moves to incorporate these current ‘best practice’ methods will lead (and have led) to better and safer outcomes for the hunters, and more humane outcomes for the whales.
Discussions at the workshop highlighted the important practical, logistic and fiscal differences that exist between Commercial Whaling and Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, particularly in the manner and extent in which data are collected, and the degree to which effort can be invested in the development and application of improved killing methods. Contracting Governments representing Aboriginal Subsistence Whalers were keen to ensure that workshop participants understood these difficulties and the degree to which they contributed to the differences in whale killing techniques and performance between the different types of whaling.
The Workshop participants also agreed to some minor revisions in the Action Plan, which specifies a continued, cooperative approach to further improvements in data collection and reporting, technical development of killing methods, and criteria and methods to determine death (both operationally and from post-mortem approaches). A further workshop in 3-5 years is recommended, and it is hoped that the improvements represented at this Workshop will continue and be a feature of the next meeting.
The Working Group also receives reports from Contracting Governments who have introduced new technologies to improve the humaneness of both commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling operations. The Working Group’s most recent report, from the Commission’s 63rd Annual Meeting in 2011 is available here
Recently the Working Group has recognised the very serious animal welfare concerns that arise through large whales becoming entangled in fishing gear or other marine debris. Full details of the Commission’s emerging work to tackle this problem can be found here.