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Conservation and Management

There are thirteen species of ‘great whales’, many of which exist as separate populations in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Hemisphere oceans.  In the past, all species were targeted by commercial whaling and many of their populations were very seriously depleted.  Fortunately no species were driven to extinction, and several populations are now increasing since protection measures were established.  However, other populations remain at critically low levels.

The IWC’s work includes the regulation of whaling and also the promotion of conservation initiatives.  The only whaling quotas currently set by the IWC are to support the needs of indigenous peoples.  This is termed Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, and more information can be found here.

The IWC is also responsible for setting quotas for commercial whaling.  Since 1985 commercial quotas have been set at zero following the adoption of the moratorium decision.  More information on commercial whaling and the moratorium can be found here, including on current catches taken under reservation or objection.

Information on whales taken through special permit (scientific) whaling is available here

Conservation Initiatives

The IWC promotes a wide range of conservation initiatives which are either aimed at severely depleted populations (e.g. the western North Pacific population of gray whales or the North Atlantic population of right whales), or alternatively target causes of whale mortality.  Causes of mortality include collisions with ships, entanglements in fishing gear or the investigation of deaths arising from disease, pollution or habitat loss (see the IWC’s work on Environmental Concerns).