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Special Permit Programmes

New proposals

In November 2014, The Government of Japan circulated formal proposals for a new special permit programme in the Antarctic, NEWREP-A (New Scientific Research Programme in the Antarctic Ocean).  The proposal has been received by the Scientific Committee and will be reviewed according to the established procedures.  The whaling is scheduled to begin in the 2015/16 Antarctic season.  Click here to read the NEWREP-A proposal.

Existing permits


After completion of a six year JARPN programme in the North Pacific in 1999, Japan initiated a JARPN II programme, initially as a two year feasibility study in 2000, for 100 common minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales and 10 sperm whales in the western North Pacific.  The JARPN II programme is ongoing.

Click here for more information on JARPN and JARPN II

Recent Closed permits


The 2004/05 Antarctic season was the final year of the 16-year 'JARPA' programme, following a 2-year feasibility study. After completion of the JARPA programme, Japan initiated a JARPA II programme, initially as a 2-year feasibility study, for 850±10% and 10 fin whales in the Antarctic. In 2009/10, the full JARPA II programme commenced and the current permit has been for 850±10% Antarctic minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales although Japan refrained from taking humpback whales. The programme ceased after the 2013/14 season following the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision. Click here to read the ICJ Ruling.



JARPA (1987/88 - 2004/05)


The stated objectives of the 16-year 'JARPA' programme were:


1.     estimation of biological parameters (especially the natural mortality rate) to improve management;


2.     elucidation of stock structure to improve management;


3.     examination of the role of whales in the Antarctic ecosystem;


4.     examination of the effect of environmental changes on cetaceans.


Research activity combined a randomised lethal catch (400±10% minke whales each year) with concurrent line-transect sighting surveys. Operations alternated each year between Area IV + Area IIIE (35°E-130°E) and Area V + Area VIW (130°E-145°W). At that time the most recently agreed population estimates from independent surveys undertaken by the IWC were for Area IV in 1988/89 (74,700; 95% confidence interval 45,000 – 123,000) and Area V in 1985/86 (294,600; 95% CI 225,000 – 386,000).


A major reassessment of the abundance of the Antarctic minke whale is underway and the Committee agrees that while it does not have current best estimates, in some areas (Areas I, II and V) the estimates are considerably lower. Reasons for this are being investigated.


The Scientific Committee reviewed the results of the JARPA programme annually but carried out two major reviews, a mid-term review in 1997 (Rep.int.Whal.Commn 48, pp.95-105) and a final review in2006/2007 (J.Cetacean Res.Manage. 10 (Supp.), pp.58-59).


Click here to read more about the final review in 2006/2007


JARPA II (2005/06 – 2013/14)


A new large-scale Antarctic programme (called JARPA II) commenced during the austral summer of 2005/06 and ceased in 2013/14. The first two seasons were feasibility studies. The objectives for JARPA II differed from those for JARPA and were defined by Japan as:


(1)     monitoring of the Antarctic ecosystem;


(2)     modelling competition among whale species and developing future management objectives;


(3)     elucidation of temporal and spatial changes in stock structure;


(4)     improving the management procedure for Antarctic minke whale stocks.

 Click here to read more about JARPA II


JARPA II was focused on Antarctic minke, humpback and fin whales and possibly other species in the Antarctic ecosystem that are major predators of Antarctic krill. Annual sample sizes for the proposed full-scale research (lethal sampling) were 850 (with 10% allowance) Antarctic minke whales (Eastern Indian Ocean and Western South Pacific stocks), 50 humpback whales (D and E stocks) and 50 fin whales (Indian Ocean and the Western South Pacific stocks). The research methods for cetaceans for JARPA II were similar to those for JARPA. The programme also included non-lethal research components such as sighting surveys, biopsy sampling, acoustic surveys for prey species and the collection of oceanographic data.


Reviews of JARPA II


There remains considerable disagreement over the value of this research both within the Scientific Committee and the Commission. Disagreement within the Committee focused on a number of issues, including: the relevance of the proposed research to management, appropriate sample sizes and applicability of alternate (non-lethal) research methods.


The major review of the proposal by the Committee at the 2005 Annual Meeting (J.Cetacean. Res.Manage. 8 (Supp.), pp.48-52) can be found here.  The first six years of the study were reviewed using the ‘new’ procedure (see separate page on Scientific Committee Review of Special Permits) in the latter half of 2013.  The report of the expert panel can be found here.


The Commission has passed a number of resolutions by majority vote asking Japan to refrain from issuing permits for the JARPA II programme. Resolutions can be found here.


Iceland (2003-2007)

The stated overall objective of the research programme was to increase understanding of the biology and feeding ecology of important cetacean species in Icelandic waters for improved management of living marine resources based on an ecosystem approach. While Iceland stated that its programme was intended to strengthen the basis for conservation and sustainable use of cetaceans, it noted that it was equally intended to form a contribution to multi-species management of living resources in Icelandic waters.

The original research programme had multiple specific objectives among which the order of priority differs between the whale species. For common minke whales the primary specific objective was to increase the knowledge of the species' feeding ecology in Icelandic waters. For fin and sei whales, the primary specific objective was the study of biological parameters during the apparent increase in population size in recent decades. These objectives were the basis for the proposed sample sizes. Other research objectives include studies of population structure, pollutants, parasites and pathogens, and the applicability of non-lethal methods.

The Commission adopted by vote a Resolution relevant to this programme in 2003.

In practice, the Government of Iceland only issued permits for the common minke whale segment of the original proposal.  A total of 200 common minke whales were caught from 2003-2007 as originally proposed, although the initial proposal expected 100 per year for two years. Again, as in the past, different views on the value of this research were expressed in the Scientific Committee. 

Click here for more information on Iceland

Scientific review of the original proposal


With respect to the objectives of the programme, some Scientific Committee members maintained that the proposal addressed two research areas that have been identified by the Committee. One is the need for research on fisheries-cetaceans interactions and some members believed that in this area the research would be useful. Other members maintained that such research has no bearing on the IWC’s management of whale stocks. A second area is the need for research on pollutant loads. While some members believed that the proposed work would help to address this research area, others noted that the Committee had not recommended lethal sampling for pollutant studies. Further, it had also not given high priority to pollution studies for baleen whales generally. While not necessary for the application of the RMP, stock definition has proved to be important in the development of an Implementation of the RMP. The proposed research addresses this issue, although some members believed that more appropriate and effective non-lethal methods are available to address the question.


It was noted that the proposal did not provide a scientific justification for the proposed sample sizes, arguing that they were sufficient for the planning purposes of a feasibility study. Some members argued that the proposal should not be taken as a feasibility study because in many aspects it was an extension of the 1986-1989 research programme, and as such, evaluation of the sufficiency of sample sizes was appropriate. In contrast, the proponents argued that the proposal was primarily to determine the feasibility of sampling of common minke whales, and to a degree, fin whales in areas where they had not previously been sampled.


With respect to methodology, some members considered the sampling regime to be insufficient to meet the stated objectives. Spatial and temporal elements of the feeding ecology sampling, in particular, were considered unlikely by some to yield data suitable for the planned multi-species modelling. The proponents countered that this is a feasibility study in which sample sizes may not be large enough to fully address the feeding ecology objectives in two years. However, sample sizes should be both temporally and spatially sufficient to guide the design of a future study. Furthermore, they argued that the scale of prey monitoring both in time and space is always a difficult question and might be adjusted in future years of the project. Some members also felt that the proposed study of parasites and pathology would benefit from a more clearly identified hypothesis.


With respect to non-lethal methods, some members recommended new techniques for pregnancy testing. However, the proponents noted that neither age nor sexual maturity could be determined solely by non-lethal methods. Other members also noted that the objectives of the pollutant research could be satisfactorily addressed with standard biopsy sampling. The proponents, however, noted the importance of obtaining pollutant samples from internal organs, because the relationship between contaminant loads in skin and organs has not yet been assessed. With respect to the high priority given to lethal sampling to identify differences in fin whale diet, some members noted that this could initially be explored using stable isotope analyses of non-lethal samples (skin, faeces).


With respect to the effects of catches on the stocks, the Committee agreed that it is unlikely that the proposed take of 100 common minke whales per year will have a significant impact on the Central North Atlantic stock of common minke whales. Some members expressed agreement with the proponents that the proposed takes would be highly unlikely to have any detectable effect on the stock of fin whales. However, the Committee could not agree on the effects of the proposed take on the conservation status of fin whales, referring mainly to previous disagreements on stock structure. For sei whales, the Committee could not agree whether the proposed take should be considered in relation to an abundance estimate relating to an area extending well beyond the whaling grounds and possibly covering more than one stock, or whether it should be considered solely in relation to estimates from the intended whaling area. This disagreement prevented any consensus about the possible effects on the conservation status of the stock concerned.


Final scientific review of the completed proposal

 Review of the results of the proposal under the new guidelines took place in early 2013. The report of the Expert Panel review can be found here and the comments of the Scientific Committee can be found here.