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At the IWC today, work to improve cetacean welfare takes place through the Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues. The Working Group’s most recent report, from the Commission’s 67th Annual Meeting in 2018, is available here.

The Commission and its advisory bodies increasingly address a wide range of issues that have the potential to affect the conservation and welfare status of cetaceans. These include entanglements, ship strikes, mass strandings, whale watching, and pollution.

At its 65th meeting in 2014, the Commission agreed to reflect the full scope of the IWC’s consideration of welfare within the Terms of Reference of the Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Group.  An Action Plan was developed, directing a programme of work to address some of the key human activities with the potential to adversely affect cetacean welfare. A Welfare Workshop was then held in 2016.  This brought together animal welfare specialists, veterinarians, pathologists, biologists and academics to progress the welfare work programme.  Most recently, the Group has been developing a Cetacean Welfare Assessment Tool and this will be presented to the next Commission, scheduled to take place in 2022. 

  • You can read the report of the welfare workshop here.

The Action Plan agreed at the 65th meeting of the IWC in 2014 also includes support for further intersessional work to address the very serious animal welfare concerns that arise through large whales becoming entangled in fishing gear or other marine debris.

A key function of the Working Group is to receive reports from Contracting Governments on the methods used to kill whales and the effectiveness of those methods.  Some Contracting Governments also report the effectiveness of euthanasia operations to the Working Group.  The Secretariat has developed a Summary Reporting Form which Contracting Governments can use to guide their reports.  It is available as a PDF and Word document. Completion of this form is not compulsory nor is it intended to replace the submission of detailed reports where appropriate.

The form is based upon relevant Commission Resolutions (1997-1, 1999-1, 2001-2 and 2004-3) and the revised action plan on whale killing methods developed at an IWC workshop in 2003. Contracting Governments may also wish to use the form to provide information on times to death and methods used to euthanize stranded or trapped whales.

  • To read more about entanglement, click here.
  • To read more about ship strikes, click here.
  • To read more about strandings, click here.
  • To read more about whale watching, click here.
  • To read more about pollution and other environmental concerns, click here.