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The work of the Commission is divided between a number of Committees, Sub-committees and Working Groups. Representatives from the Member Governments of the Commission can elect to join some or all of these groups. Intersessionally, the groups operate using a combination of correspondence, workshops and meetings. Each group reports progress and makes recommendations to the biennial meeting of the full Commission.


The Scientific Committee.  An important feature of the Convention is the emphasis it places on scientific advice and the Scientific Committee is the oldest, largest and most developed of the IWC Sub-Groups.  It comprises around 200 leading cetacean scientists from many countries (both national delegates and invited experts), the majority of whom attend the Scientific Committee's main, annual meeting.  In addition, each year a number of intersessional workshops and working groups are established, dealing with specific issues.  Click here to read more about the Scientific Committee.

The Conservation Committee works closely with the Scientific Committee on environmental and conservation issues.  Its work includes initiatives to reduce the frequency of ship strikes and advise on the strategic development of the whalewatching industry, as well as developing Conservation Management Plans.  It also receives proposals for new whale sanctuaries, and national reports on cetacean conservation.  Click here to read more about the Conservation Committee.

The Finance and Administration Committee advises the Commission on expenditure, budgets, scale of contributions, financial regulations and staffing.  This Committee has recently reviewed the Commission’s governance arrangements and introduced new measures to increase transparency, ensure cost savings and establish other efficiencies in the way the Commission works.  Click here to read more about the Finance and Administration Committee.

The Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-committee considers information from both the Scientific Committee and from the aboriginal subsistence whaling communities, in order to advise the Commission on issues of sustainability and the dependence of aboriginal communities on specific whale stocks.  This information is the basis for Commission discussions on appropriate management measures.  Click here to read more about the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-committee.  

The Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues was formally established in 2000 to advise the Commission on the humaneness of whale killing methods, although the Commission has worked on this topic since the 1950s. Its role has developed to look at other welfare issues including euthanasia of stranded whales and entanglement in debris and fishing gear.  Click here to read more about the Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues.

The Infractions Sub-committee considers matters and documents relating to the monitoring of compliance of member governments with the Schedule to the 1946 Convention, and penalties for infractions.  Click here to read more about the Infractions Sub-Committee.