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Members of the IWC Scientific Committee are meeting in Copenhagen to assess new information on specific whale populations and consider whether this requires the group to conduct further work, specifically new computer simulation trials.

Computer modelling allows scientists to test the effects of different potential scenarios, using all the information available and crucially, factoring in levels of uncertainty which are inevitable in our understanding of whales, their behaviour, habitat and possible future changes.

Implementation Reviews are a key component of the process developed by the IWC to estimate sustainable catch limits.  The process has not been used for commercial whaling but the reviews are integral to the rigorous management procedure used to ensure sustainable quotas for aboriginal subsistence whaling, a distinct category of hunting undertaken by indigenous communities, not for profit but to meet nutritional and cultural needs.

Usually conducted every six years, an Implementation Review assesses all new information available on all populations of a single species within a specific region, usually an ocean basin.  The information examined includes biological data, abundance estimates and population structure, including overlaps between different sub-populations (known as stocks) within the same area.  The review process also assesses the nature and impact of threats to the population, for example mortality due to bycatch in fishing gear or collisions with ships. 

Significant new information in any of the categories may instigate a new series of computer simulation trials, to ensure that that robust and risk-averse scientific advice is maintained and the conservation objectives of the IWC are met.

The three-day workshop that begins today will undertake Implementation Reviews for North Atlantic common minkes and West Greenland bowhead whales.  It will also prepare to begin a new review for North Atlantic fin whales.  The workshops conclusions will be incorporated into the report of the Scientific Committee annual meeting which will be published shortly and available here.