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In 2016 the Commission endorsed a dedicated funding stream for cetacean welfare. 

The Voluntary Welfare Fund supports work to assess and mitigate non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare and work to-date has focused on entanglement and strandings. 

Entanglement in fishing gear can lead to drowning as trapped animals cannot reach the surface to breathe. It can also lead to longer-term and serious welfare concerns including laceration and infection as heavy ropes bite through skin, and starvation as animals towing heavy fishing gear cannot feed effectively.  Disentangling a large, distressed animal in open water is clearly dangerous.

Stranded animals are unable to regulate body temperature and the unnatural weight and pressure on an animal’s organs can cause severe internal injury or death.  Even when the terrain and sea conditions seem suitable for re-floating, an animal may have unseen internal injuries that would result in a prolonged, possibly painful death at sea.  Euthanasia of stranded cetaceans is therefore often the most humane option.

Responding safely and effectively to both entanglement and stranding requires training.  The IWC has convened Expert Panels to develop best practice protocols, and recruited experienced programme coordinators to conduct capacity building workshops, sharing expertise and building professional entanglement and strandings response networks in coastal regions all over the world.  This work relies on support from the Voluntary Welfare Fund.

In 2022 the Commission endorsed a new governance structure for the Welfare Fund including categorisation, allocation and evaluation criteria for funding requests.

If you are interested in donating to the Voluntary Welfare Fund please refer to the  Guidelines on Acceptance of Funds and contact the IWC at secretariat@iwc.int.