Promoting sanctuaries

IFAW is committed to establishing, protecting, and in some cases expanding whale sanctuaries around the world.

  • In 2012, the Australian Government established the new Commonwealth marine reserves network, ensuring that the regions around the continent are now legally binding protected areas, safeguarding much of Australia’s waters and marine life for years to come.
  • The IWC has established sanctuaries in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. (With the ICJ ruling in March 2014, IFAW helped end scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean sanctuary.)
  • IFAW made a case for securing the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary for the 2012 annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission.
  • A group of environmental organisations, including IFAW, have come together to form the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), campaigning for the world's largest network of fully protected marine reserves and marine protected areas in the ocean around Antarctica
  • In what the media hailed as “the most important environmental victory in a generation,” IFAW, our honorary board members Pierce and Keeley Brosnan, the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of Mexican partners led a multi-year campaign to protect one of the last pristine birthing habitats of the California Gray Whale. Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico had been designated to be developed into the world’s largest industrial salt facility. But thanks to our efforts, the Government of Mexico and Mitsubishi Corporation instead designated this rare habitat as a protected area under Mexican law.
  • IFAW is also working to secure long term protection for a beluga whale “nursery” on the coast of the White Sea at Russia’s Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. With years of research and advocacy work on mother and calf beluga whales and their habitat, IFAW is working with the Ministry of Natural Resources to establish a protected habitat area at Solovetsky Archipelago in connection with a nearby terrestrial nature reserve.

The European Union’s 7th Environmental Action Plan was approved including language drafted by IFAW focusing additional attention on marine issues caused by human-induced threats emphasizing the need to fully integrate environmental issues into other policies like international trade, development, foreign affairs and security. Passage of this Action Plan is a step in the right direction moving towards improved implementation of EU policies to achieve their 2020 conservation targets.

Our research

IFAW funds or participates in a diverse set of research on a wide range of different whale species in different parts of the world. IFAW’s world class team of whale experts are leading the way in conservation science, research and policy advocacy across relevant international forums.

  • Since 1996, we have participated in numerous research projects in the Southern Ocean, pioneering new techniques in non-invasive research methods.
  • In 2013, IFAW research off the coast of Kangaroo Island, South Australia found a pod of one of the rarest of all the whales, the Shepherd’s beaked whale. This species has been seen fewer than ten times in the wild, but as this is the second sighting in this area, the waters off South Australia appear to be an important habitat for this and other whale species. IFAW’s research has been important for the campaign to protect this area from proposed seismic surveys.
  • Each year, IFAW sends a team of researchers to Sakhalin Island off the coast of Russia to monitor and photo-ID the gray whale population. Data is used to protect whales from the effects of noise from shipping and oil and gas development.
  • IFAW partners with Marine Conservation Research, a UK-based research group, to use the state-of-the-art sailing vessel, Song of the Whale, originally built for IFAW to conduct non-invasive research. It has pioneered work on population assessments, surveying techniques and developing technologies that may help save whale species from extinction. The Song of the Whale team members have a wealth of expertise and experience in marine conservation and are available to work with researchers or industry to facilitate their own conservation research requirements.

Climate change

IFAW researchers have already documented the early impact of climate change on whale populations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres and we have grave concerns that the dangers to whales will grow. IFAW scientists contributed to a paper on how global climate drives southern right whale population dynamics and we produced a report on the state of Arctic marine mammals in the United States due to global warming titled On Thin Ice.

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