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Report of the IWC Expert Workshop on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

The report of the September Expert Workshop on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) is now available and contains a series of expert recommendations to support the work of the IWC. The Commission will discuss the recommendations at its next meeting in Slovenia in 2016.

The workshop was attended by experts in cultural and nutritional anthropology, social science, biology and human rights law from more than 12 countries. In addition, hunters from each of the IWC’s ASW hunts shared information on their culture and hunting practices. The agenda was complex and wide-ranging, and the overall aim was to support a Commission initiative to improve procedures for considering ASW catch limits.

An important discussion focused on developments in international law and attitudes to indigenous rights over the past twenty years. A number of conventions and treaties work recognise the status and protect the rights of indigenous societies, and the workshop considered the need for the IWC to understand and align its ASW management practices with this wider global context.

The experts also considered the evolution of traditional societies in the modern world and the inevitability of change in any society, aboriginal or otherwise. This has been a regular factor in debates within and outside the IWC, where commentators have sought to establish an appropriate balance between traditional and modern, efficient and humane killing methods.

A key issue for the workshop was ‘Needs Statements.' Member governments provide these documents on behalf of their ASW communities to explain the need for the hunts. The workshop recognised that flexibility is essential to accommodate the very different circumstances of each hunt, but also agreed that some consistency across the documents would assist the Commission in their consideration of catch limit requests.  A clearer timetable and process was also discussed, as a means of adding both clarity and transparency to management of ASW.

The full report of this workshop is available here. It will be presented to the ASW Sub-Committee that will, in turn, report its analysis to the Commission at its meeting in October 2016.

To read more about Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling click here.

To read about the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-Committee of the IWC click here.