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Catch limits for indigenous whaling, consensus on ocean noise and ghost gear, and £50,000 for the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative

Day Three began with catch limits established for Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW).  A vote was required and the proposed catch limits were adopted by 58 votes to 7, with 5 abstentions.  The Chair thanked everyone involved in the discussion, irrespective of their position, for the extensive efforts to share information, and for the spirit of constructive cooperation. The indigenous hunting communities were also thanked for their patience and willingness to engage with the IWC process, and it was recognised that IWC discussions on this issue have a profound impact on their communities.

The Government of the UK made a voluntary contribution of £10,000 to support collaboration with ASW hunters on welfare issues, and investigate the phenomenon of stinky whales in Russia.  A number of the whales caught by the Chukchi hunters prove inedible after they are landed and scientists are working to understand the cause.  The Government of Luxembourg also made a formal offer to assist with this research.  

The Commission then heard from the Chairs of the Scientific and Conservation Committees regarding intersessional work on cetacean status, health and habitat.  Recognising the particular threats to some species of dolphins and porpoises, the Government of the UK made a contribution of £10,000 to support the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetaceans.  

Two Resolutions addressing habitat concerns were passed by consensus.  The first focuses on Ghost Gear: abandoned or lost fishing gear which continues to catch and kill many marine species.  Managing this threat, as well as the threat posed by active fishing gear, is also the focus of the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI).  The BMI was endorsed at the last meeting of the Commission in 2016.  Since then, a Bycatch Co-ordinator has been recruited and a 10 year strategy has been developed, and was submitted to this meeting.  The strategy was endorsed and the importance of this work underscored by voluntary contributions totalling over £50,000 made by the Governments of Belgium and the UK, and by non-governmental organisations supportive of this work. 

The second Resolution on habitat addresses anthropogenic noise.  Sound is the primary sense for many cetacean species and noise from sources including shipping, industry, seismic surveys and sonar is an increasing concern.  This Resolution introduces a range of measures and facilitates increased cooperation, outreach and collaboration with other organisations working on related issues.

A Resolution on ecosystem functioning was also adopted during today's session.  A vote was required and passed with 40 votes in support, 23 against and 7 abstentions.

The final item discussed on Day Three was a Resolution called 'The Florianopolis Declaration on the role of the IWC in the Conservation and Management of Whales in the 21st century.'  This Resolution, proposed by the Government of Brazil, sets out a vision for IWC going forward, and is one of two proposals looking at the future of the organisation. 

The proponents explained that discussions had been held to explore the scope for common ground with the Government of Japan's 'Way Forward for the IWC' package of proposals.  The Government of Brazil  thanked their Japanese colleagues for the open and constructive exchange but reported that, regrettably, it had not been possible to reconcile the two proposals.  A number of member governments made interventions making it clear that there was no consensus on the Florianopolis Declaration proposal and it was agreed to adjourn for the further consideration overnight.


Click here to read more about Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling.

Click here to read more about the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative and here to read more about entanglement of cetaceans.

Click here to read more about anthropogenic noise.


Meeting documents are publicly available by registering on the meeting portal here.

You can watch live coverage of the meeting between 9am and 5.30pm local time here.