The 2016 biennial Commission meeting of the IWC will be held at the Grand Hotel Bernardin, Portoroz, Slovenia.
Today the IWC Plenary began with discussions on the difficult issue of commercial whaling. It is thirty years since a commercial whaling moratorium was introduced. There remains disagreement on the moratorium and how the Commission should handle this issue in the future. A paper will be drawn up for discussion tomorrow which proposes some ways of moving the debate forward.
Cetacean status, health and habitat were also on today's agenda. A range of subjects were covered, including climate change, ocean noise and pollution. There was also wide support for a new bycatch initiative. Governments and a wide range of international, regional and non-governmental organisations agreed that collaboration was vital to developing an effective response to bycatch, which is believed to kill around 300,000 marine mammals each year.
The new initiative will learn from the success of the Global Whale Entanglement Response Network which was established in 2012 to build global response capability and has since trained over 700 people across four continents. Taking a similar approach, an Expert Panel on Bycatch will be established and a dedicated co-ordinator appointed to lead a long-term work programme. A number of non-governmental organisations donated over £6000 in support of this initiative, in addition to a donation of £15,000 towards bycatch and whale watching initiatives from the UK Government, announced on Monday.
The Small Cetaceans Conservation Research Fund also reported significant progress with £76,000 received during the intersessional period from the Governments of Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and a group of five non-governmental organisations. During this period, a review panel selected seven varied projects for funding in the next round of projects which focus on some of the most endangered marine mammal species and populations. Today, additional contributions to this fund were welcomed from non-governmental organisations and the Governments of Italy and the Netherlands. These totalled more than £22,000.
A range of welfare issues were also discussed, including a long-term programme to improve the efficiency and therefore humaneness of Aboriginal Subsistence Hunts, and a Welfare Action Plan for non-whaling welfare issues, such as stranding and entanglement. Again learning from the blueprint of the Global Entanglement Response Network, an Expert Panel on Strandings and dedicated co-ordinator post were proposed. The UK Government and non-governmental organisations made generous donations totalling more than £17,000 to develop this work in the next intersessional period.