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Scientific Committee Review of Special Permits 

When the Scientific Committee receives a proposal or report relating to a special permit whaling programme, a review is conducted following an approach developed in 2009. Based on Commission instructions, the review focuses on whether:

(1)     the permit adequately specifies its aims, methodology and the samples to be taken;

(2)     the research is essential for rational management, the work of the Scientific Committee or other critically important research needs;

(3)     methodology and sample size are likely to provide reliable answers to the questions being asked;

(4)     the questions can be answered using non-lethal research methods;

(5)     the catches will have an adverse effect on the stock;

(6)     the potential for scientists from other nations to join the research is adequate.
Scientific Permit Whaling.

The Scientific Committee comprises around 200 scientists (including some proposing the permit). As one might expect in such a large group of scientists, the review of any permits rarely results in unanimity either in favour or against the scientific merit of the proposal. In addition to questions surrounding whether some or all of the data data can be obtained using non-lethal means, difficulties arise over the interpretation of whether the answers one obtains using such data are ‘essential’, ‘reliable enough’ or ‘critical’? This involves a degree of value judgement outside the purely scientific sphere and there is no consensus on the answers to these either within the Commission or the Scientific Committee.

The published reports of the Scientific Committee reflect the agreements and disagreements over reviews of both new and continuing permits. In 2009, the Committee and the Commission adopted a new method of reviewing permits that has subsequently been modified in the light of experience.


The post-2009 Scientific Committee review process

To improve the review process, in 2009, the Committee proposed a new approach that was accepted by the Commission. This new approach is referred to colloquially as the ‘Annex P procedure’ and applies to new permit proposals, as well as interim, periodic and final programme reviews.

The main change was the introduction of initial review by a small, specialist workshop.  The ‘Panel’ comprises a ‘limited but adequate’ number of invited experts who may or may not be present members of the Scientific Committee, but there is an emphasis on the latter. In addition to the Panel, a limited number of scientists associated with the proposal can attend the workshop in an advisory role, primarily to present the proposal and answer points of clarification in open sessions but not to participate in the private discussion of the Panel when it develops its report. Similarly, there is provision for a number of Scientific Committee observers to attend the open sessions of the Panel, submit papers and make short presentations at the invitation of the Panel Chair.

The detailed guidance document, ‘Annex P’ can be found here.

There have been three expert panel workshop reports completed to date; these can be found below:

The report of the expert panel workshop on JARPN II, 2009.

The report of the expert panel workshop on the Icelandic Special Permit Research Programme, 2013.

The report of the expert panel workshop on JARPA II, 2014.



An expert panel review of a new proposal by Japan for a special permit programme in the Antarctic (‘NEWREP-A’) took place in early February 2014.  The Annex P procedure states that the report of the expert panel must be circulated to Scientific Committee members no later than 40 days before the subsequent Scientific Committee meeting and the report was published on Monday 13 April 2015.  To read the report of the Expert Panel click here.  Annex  P also invites the proponents of a proposal to respond to the Expert Panel Review.  You can read the proponent's response to the expert panel review click here, and their addendum here.