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The IWC Small Cetaceans Conservation Research Fund supports high priority research that improves conservation outcomes for populations of small cetaceans, particularly those that are threatened or especially vulnerable to human activities.  

Since 2009, a number of generous donations from several Governments, supplemented by valuable contributions from several NGOs, have made it possible for the Commission to establish periodic calls for new small cetacean conservation proposals.  Large or small, each of these contributions has helped launch the proposals listed below.  Click here for a table of donors. 

News on successful proposals

Successful proposals are listed in the table below.  Click here to watch a video, summarising one of the most recent research projects and follow the links below for more information on particular projects. 

List of funded projects (2010, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2022 calls)

Year (duration) Principal investigator Project title Area

2022 (1 year)

Alfaro Shigueto

Assessing the conservation status of Burmeister's porpoises in Peru: trialling tools

for estimating abundance and bycatch of this cryptic and poorly known species


2022 (1 year)


Rapid assessment of the occurrence and conservation status of Guiana dolphins

at the northern periphery of their range in Central America

Costa Rice and Nicaragua

2022 (3 years)


Population assessment and dynamics or Lahille's bottlenose dolphins in Argentina


2022 (1 year)


More knowledge, less mortality: education for the conservation of Guiana dolphins, 

Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela


2022 (1 year)


Understanding the effects of trans-boundary barrage operations on the Nepal-India border for 

Ganges river dolphin habitat and population dynamics 

Nepal and India

2016 (4 years)

Heinrich/YaquPacha Chile (CECEM) First region-wide estimates of population size and status of endemic Chilean dolphins in southern Chile. Chile

2017 (2 years)

Sanjurjo Business model to save vaquita from extinction while improving fishermen's livelihoods in the Upper Gulf of California Mexico

2018 (1 year)

Lai Assessment of online information as a tool to improve the documentation of the availability of marine mammals for consumption and other uses in southern China  China and Vietnam

2017 (1 year) 

Khan Abundance Survey for Indus River Dolphin Pakistan


(1 year)

Rajamani Capacity building in conducting cetacean abundance surveys in southeast Asia through a training workshop and actual surveys. Southeast Asia (multi-country)


(1 year)

Wakid Investigating the distribution and abundance of dolphins in Indian Sudarban. India


(1 year)

Kelkar Strengthening the meaning of a freshwater protected area for the Ganges River dolphin: looking within and beyond the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, Bihar, India. India


(1 year)

Mustika A pilot study to identify the extent of small cetacean bycatch in Indonesia using fisher interview and stranding data proxies.  Indonesia

2013-14 (1 year)

Chen Defining the units of conservation and historic population dynamics for two small cetacean species affected by directed and incidental catches in the North Pacific. Taiwan

2012-14 (2 years)

Wang Photo-identification monitoring of the eastern Taiwan Strait population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Taiwan


(1 year)

Aguilar-Ramirez Supporting the assessment of alternative fishing gears for replacing gillnets that cause bycatch of vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico. Mexico

2012-13 (1.5 years)

Minton/Peter Monitoring and threat assessment of coastal cetacean populations in Sarawak, Malayisa. Malaysia


(3 years)

Cerchio Ecology, status, fisheries interactions and conservation of coastal Indo-Pacific humpback and bottlenose dolphins on the west coast of Madagascar. Madagascar

2011-14 (3 years)

Smith Investigation on the population identity of Indo-Pacific humpback in the northern Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, and implications for population-level conservation and taxonomy of the species. Bangladesh


(2.5 years)

Oremus Genetic and demographic assessment of dolphins taken in live-capture and traditional drive-hunt in the Solomon Islands. Solomon Islands


(2 years)

Collins Abundance and distribution of the Atlantic humpback dolphin in Gabon and Congo, with a focus on improving field-survey methods and monitoring protocols. East Africa (multi-country)


(1 year)

Danilewicz Estimating abundance of an isolated population of the threatened Franciscana: moving towards conservation action. Brazil


(1 year)

Zerbini Threatened franciscanas: Improving estimates of abundance to guide conservation actions. Brazil

Calls For Funding Proposals

The Small Cetaceans Fund is replenished on a voluntary basis thanks to generous donations from Governments and NGOs.  If sufficient funding is available, calls for proposals will normally be announced in years when the Commission meeting is held.

In years where sufficient funds are gathered the following deadlines will be applied:

  • Calls for projects will be announced two months prior to the Scientific Committee meeting
  • Proposal submissions must be received one month prior to the Scientific Committee meeting
  • Proposal evaluations are made the month preceding the Scientific Committee meeting 
  • Funding recipients pre-proclamation are made at the end of Scientific Committee meeting
  • Final decision on recipients are made following approval at the Commission meeting 
  • Contract definition and signature: October-November
  • Payment of first instalment: December-January

The small cetacean research funding must follow the necessary procedures of the IWC.  Applications can only be accepted via the online platform. All information for the 2024 Call for Proposals can be found here.

The closing date for receiving proposals is midnight UTC, Thursday 29 February 2024. 

Preference will be given to projects in-line with the previously established priority topics and recommendations of the IWC sub-committee on small cetaceans.  During some years, calls for proposals may highlight certain priority topics on which the Small Cetacean sub-committee is particularly keen to receive proposals.

In order to maximise the number of projects supported by this fund, proposals shall be considered on two tiers; budgets of GBP 5000 or less and budgets of GBP 20,000 or less.  Maximum funding is GBP 20,000 per project. Proposals for partially funded projects will also be considered, only if sufficient additional funding to complete the proposed project is confirmed prior to contract signing with IWC.

Frequently asked questions on the application process can be found here.

Read more about the funding proposal selection process...


The Small Cetacean Research Fund Review Panel comprises the Chair and Vice-chair of the Scientific Committee (SC), the IWC Science Lead, the convenor and co-convenor of the Small Cetacean Sub-committee and five other members of the SC with appropriate expertise and broad geographical representation.


The projects recommended by the Review Panel are provided to the Sub-committee on Small Cetaceans and then to the full Scientific Committee. Recommended proposals will be included in the Scientific Committee’s budget, as given in its report to the Commission under the heading of a specific request to the Voluntary Research Fund for Small Cetaceans. Projects will be awarded after final approval by the Commission.




For 2021-22, the Review Panel consists of Robert Sudyam and Alex Zerbini (SC Chair and Vice-chair), Lindsay Porter and Fernando Trujilo (Convenor and Co-convenor of the Sub-committee on Small Cetaceans), Iain Staniland, IWC Lead for Science, Debra Palka (ex Chair of the SC),  Arne Bjørge (ex-chair of the SC and of the Sub-committee on Small Cetaceans), Randall Reeves (Chair of the IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group), Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho (member of the IWC Scientific Committee and Chair of the IWC Conservation Committee), Mike Double (member of the SC).


This group may suggest improvements to proposals where appropriate and can solicit the assistance of other researchers in the review process if necessary.