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 Scientific advice on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

The IWC’s Scientific Committee provides advice on the sustainability of catch limits as specified by each of the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling countries.

The provision of this scientific advice requires knowledge of the status of the populations concerned.  This includes information on population structure, abundance and trends in abundance. 

Testing possible methods for determining catch limits that meet the Commission’s objectives is undertaken using computer simulations of whale populations in the face of hunting over a 100 year period.  These simulations take into account plausible levels of uncertainty regarding a large number of factors including our knowledge of whale population structure, abundance and trends, historic and future catch levels, reproduction, survivorship, and environmental conditions.

Not all whales struck by hunters are able to be brought ashore.  As a conservative approach, it is assumed that all struck whales die, although this might not be the case.  The method to calculate safe catches is called a Strike Limit Algorithm (SLA).  Over recent years, an extensive programme of work by the Scientific Committee has produced SLAs for each of the eight hunted whale populations. 

Although SLAs are intended for long-term use, regular (usually 5/6 year) reviews are undertaken to ensure that no new information has been obtained that suggests new scrutiny/testing is required.  These are called Implementation Reviews. 

The annual reports of the Scientific Committee meeting contains comprehensive information on the ASW work undertaken each year and you can read them here.