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Meeting of the Conservation Committee: six work plans, 150 participants
and over £125,000 of voluntary contributions

The Conservation Committee of the IWC has concluded a very productive virtual meeting and their report is now available.  Sessions were attended by more than 150 participants from 30 countries including policy makers, regulators and scientists, representing member governments and a wide range of observer organisations.  

Meetings of the IWC’s Conservation Committee usually take place just before the plenary session of the Commission.  The postponement of the scheduled biennial meeting risked causing delays to progress on some important and time-critical conservation programmes, and  the main  task of the virtual meeting was to ensure these key programmes were updated and work can continue into the coming year. Even with this tight focus, the agenda was wide-ranging.  A combination of virtual discussions and correspondence covered topics including bycatch, marine debris, whale watching, underwater noise and collisions between whales and vessels.

The urgency of some of these initiatives was underpinned by discussions on a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for South American river dolphins.  CMPs provide frameworks for countries within the range of a vulnerable population to address the problem collaboratively and with other stakeholders.  The proposed CMP for South American river dolphins involves five governments and proposes tailored and specific action plans for nine different regions within the animals’ known range.  Objectives of the proposed CMP include improving connectivity between different habitats, improving knowledge of genetics, health and taxonomy and, perhaps most crucially, mitigating the effects of human activities, especially fishing.  

Accidental bycatch in fishing gear is the single biggest threat to cetaceans, estimated to kill over 300,000 every year.  The Conservation Committee meeting received an update on the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative, which was one of the six initiatives putting forward a new work plan, part of a longer-term and ambitious Strategic Plan adopted by the Commission in 2018.  The four-year work plan focuses on projects to pilot new mitigation measures including innovative fishing technologies and improving and streamlining bycatch reporting. The work plan was welcomed by the Committee who also strongly commended the progress already made under the 2018-2020 work plan.

The Bycatch Mitigation Initiative is also one of the main beneficiaries of generous voluntary contributions provided by member governments and non-governmental organisations.  Over £80,000 of the £150,000 was given in support of work on cetacean bycatch.

Click here to read the report of the Conservation Committee Virtual Meeting 2020.

Click here to read more about the Conservation Committee.