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IWC Scientific Committee Meets in Bled

The annual meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee takes place from 23 April to 6 May in Bled, Slovenia. Approximately 200 of the world’s leading cetacean scientists will gather to review the latest research on a wide range of topics related to cetacean conservation and management information.

Following an opening plenary session, fifteen sub-committees will assemble and run concurrently. The discussions and recommendations of each group will be assessed at a second, concluding plenary session which will run over the final three days.

Sub-groups range from those focused on defining whale stocks and modelling long-term population changes, to those working on environmental concerns, whale watching and human-induced whale mortality.

Arguably the most important item on this year’s agenda is the conclusion of several strands of work to provide comprehensive scientific advice on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW). At its next biennial meeting in September, the Commission will consider the renewals of six-yearly catch quotas for aboriginal subsistence whaling, and a large amount of work has been undertaken by the Scientific Committee in preparation.

This includes finalising a complete set of long-term Strike Limit Algorithms to ensure that proposed ASW catches are sustainable, and work on the scientific processes and guidelines for the Aboriginal Whaling Scheme. The Scheme considers issues such as guidelines for obtaining high quality scientific information (e.g. on abundance), rules to take into account rare cases where environmental conditions prevent abundance surveys taking place on time, and ‘Carry Over Rules,’ to allow for flexibility within and between the six-yearly blocks when circumstances such as prolonged bad weather prevent a hunt from taking place.

Several other sub-groups of the Commission will use the opportunity to meet in the margins of the Scientific Committee in Bled. These include the Conservation Committee whose work programme has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the Operational Effectiveness Working Group which will be assessing the recent Governance Review Report in order to make proposals on the way forward at the Commission meeting in September. The Bureau of the Commission, a group of seven member countries whose role is administrative, will also meet to ensure that preparations are on track for the September’s Commission meeting.

To read reports from previous Scientific Committee meetings, click here.