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Review of the IWC’s Pacific Ocean Whale
and Ecosystem Research Programme (IWC-POWER)


Cetacean scientists are meeting in Tokyo to discuss the IWC-POWER research cruise programme.

The 10th annual cruise was successfully completed between July and September 2019.  Its findings will be reviewed by an expert group who will then agree objectives and a plan for the 11th cruise, due to embark in July 2020.

IWC-POWER is a long-term programme to determine the status of populations of large whales found in North Pacific Waters, many of which have not been studied for several decades.  The information obtained by the cruises helps scientists to understand whether conservation threats exist for particular species and locations and if so, what measures might address these threats.

The programme is an international collaboration involving scientists from several different countries, acoustic sonobuoys provided by the US Government, and a research vessel and crew provided by the Government of Japan.  The Government of Japan left the IWC in June but co-operation continues in a number of research areas, including this one.    

The 2019 cruise reported some impressive numbers including over 2000 nautical miles covered in formal sightings surveys,  14 different cetacean species observed and 75 biopsy samples obtained.  The research team also recorded other types of information potentially relevant to cetacean health and behaviour, including on marine debris and earthquake activity. 

Scientists at the Tokyo meeting will provide detailed assessment of these cruise findings which will then be reported to the Scientific Committee of the IWC at its next meeting in Cambridge, UK, in May.  The Scientific Committee will also have an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed objectives and plan for the 2020 research cruise.

The IWC-POWER meetings run from 18 – 22 January 2020.


To read more about the IWC-POWER programme click here.

Click here to be taken to the IWC-POWER image gallery.