IWC Meeting Brief: The Southern Ocean Research Partnership

Matt Collis, speaking at the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (or SORP) event at the 66th International Whaling Commission meeting in Portorož, Slovenia, noted the Partnership had produced 85 peer reviewed scientific papers since its inception in 2009.
This week, at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, Australia held an event to celebrate and promote the IWC’s Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP), at which IFAW was privileged to give a presentation. The aim of this consortium is to better understand the whales of the Antarctic through non-lethal research in order to improve their conservation. For this reason, IFAW has been a long-time supporter of the SORP initiative.
The research carried out by SORP focuses on increasing our understanding of whale distribution, feeding and habitat use in the Southern Ocean. As blue, fin and humpback whales were hunted to near extinction in these waters during the industrial whaling era, SORP also aims to establish estimates for the number of these whale species in the Antarctic. 
To answer these questions, the scientific team has developed unique acoustic methods to track and locate whales via their calls, and has found that acoustics and other non-lethal research techniques are highly effective for whale research in this region.
There was great news at the SORP event as it was announced that Belgium will join existing partners Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the United States as part of this exciting initiative.
Research work from SORP has so far generated 85 peer-reviewed scientific publications - a remarkable number in the seven years the initiative has been active, and 83 more than Japan has produced through killing whales in the same waters.
It is clear to see the value of the research carried out by SORP, demonstrating that there is absolutely no reason to kill whales in order to study them. What a huge step into the 21st Century it would be to see Japan join this multi-country collaboration and leave the harpoons at home this coming Austral summer.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation