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Conservation Management Plans

Over-exploitation severely reduced many populations of the world’s great whales, some to near extinction.  Although the cessation of large-scale industrial whaling has resulted in a number of whale populations starting a slow recovery, some remain severely depleted.

Cetaceans face an array of existing and emerging threats which include fishing bycatch, entanglement, marine debris, ship strikes, habitat loss, pollution, climate change and acoustic disturbance.  Considerable efforts on understanding and mitigating these threats are undertaken by the IWC's Scientific Committee and individual range state governments.  However, many cetacean populations face multiple threats which are more effectively addressed through coordinated efforts to conserve and recover these populations.

The IWC has adopted Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) as a practical tool for improving the conservation status of the most at risk populations of whales and other cetaceans.  CMPs are conservation strategies that consolidate the best available science and management expertise into a single point of reference.  The Plans guide and complement management efforts to protect and rebuild vulnerable cetacean populations.

Within the IWC, the Standing Working Group on CMPs (CMP Working Group) oversees development and implementation of the Plans. Terms of Reference for the CMP Working Group can be found here.

The IWC's work on CMPs forms part of the wider, on-going programme of the IWC's Conservation Committee and is supported by advice from the IWC's Scientific Committee.  The CMP planning process involves a number of interrelated stages - CMP nomination work; plan development; plan implementation, monitoring and review.  Click here for a map outlining all the stages of the CMP process.

The latest report of the CMP Working Group is available here.

Three CMPs have been endorsed by the IWC.  These cover the gray whale population in the western North Pacific and two populations of southern right whales along the eastern and western coasts of South America.  More details on these plans can be found here.

Further Plans are under consideration and the Commission has agreed a set of guidelines to assist in their development.  A Commission-approved CMP template and funding principles have also been agreed.

The CMP guidelines and templates are available here .

The CMP Working Group has developed a work plan to identify and prioritise the IWC's work on CMPs.  The current work plan is available here.

Towards a Global Inventory of Cetacean Conservation Measures

Effective Conservation Management Plans complement existing international conventions and agreements, as well as national legislation and conservation measures undertaken by participating range states.

To assist this process the IWC is developing inventories that map the broad range of regional cetacean conservation measures that complement the CMPs.  The first of these inventories, for the South Pacific, was presented to the Commission at its 64th Annual Meeting in 2012.  The inventory can be downloaded here.