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Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues (WK-WI)

Chair: Herman Oosthuizen, South Africa

This group was established to ensure that hunts are as humane as possible for the whale, and as safe as possible for the hunters.  In recent years this remit has broadened, and the group now works on a comprehensive range of welfare issues, for example response to whales entangled in fishing gear or debris, and euthanasia of terminally stranded whales.

Collaboration amongst hunting communities helps to share information, improving the speed and accuracy of hunt techniques.  This makes the process quicker for the whale, and more reliable for subsistence hunters, for whom unsuccessful hunting in summer can bring serious food shortages in winter.  

Member governments are asked to provide the WK-WI Working Group with data on killing methods and time to death for whales that are hunted or euthanised.  A programme is also ongoing to provide aboriginal subsistence hunters with training, equipment and education.  Accurate anatomical knowledge, weapons maintenance regimes and marksmanship training all help increase precision and therefore minimise suffering.

The IWC is increasingly involved in non-hunting welfare issues.  In recognition of this broadening welfare remit, an intersessional group was formed in 2012. Its mandate was to review the Terms of Reference for the Working Group, and consider how the IWC might formalise and structure the ad hoc welfare work already being undertaken, and take a more strategic approach to welfare issues.  This group reported back to the Commission meeting in 2014, proposing new Terms of Reference and a Welfare Action Plan, both of which were endorsed by the Commission.  The action plan is a living and evolving document which aims to organise, articulate and embed a full range of welfare issues within the IWC.  

To read the most recent report of the WK-WI Working Group click here.

To read the WK-WI Working Group Action Plan click here.