Pro-whaling countries once again harpoon plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016
Portoroz, Slovenia

During day two of the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Portoroz, Slovenia, plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed once again due to opposition from pro-whaling nations.

The proposal, put forward by Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay, aimed to provide a comprehensive approach to conservation for cetaceans, involving the management of all threats to whales in the region, not just the threat of whaling.

Despite strong support from conservationists, the resolution, which could have been passed by consensus, was pushed to a vote, and failed to achieve the three-quarters majority needed for adoption (38 for, 24 against and 2 abstentions). A proposal for a sanctuary in the region has been tabled at almost every IWC meeting since 1999 but has always stalled. However, this was the first such proposal to include a comprehensive management plan to address other threats to whales including ship strikes and ocean noise pollution, and it had garnered wide support ahead of the meeting.

Matt Collis, IFAW’s IWC Team Leader, said: “It is very disappointing that once again, a proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary has been harpooned. A sanctuary in this region would have provided strong protection to a wide range of whale and dolphin species. A victory for this proposal would have sent a clear signal that the IWC is capable of becoming a truly modern day conservation body for whales instead of an old whalers’ club.

“Non-lethal whale research in this area has already provided valuable data on whales and a sanctuary would have built on this further, giving us far more useful and precise information than has ever been gained from so-called scientific whaling.”

The proposal had earlier this year been reviewed by the IWC’s Scientific Committee where even Japanese scientists did not make an objection. At its meeting last month, the IUCN World Congress also supported the establishment of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

As well as affording greater protection to whales, a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would have brought real benefit to coastal communities with the promotion and management of responsible whale watching. The failure of this proposal is therefore a blow to the region and development of this sustainable industry.

Cetaceans found in the South Atlantic include blue, humpback, fin, minke, sperm, sei and southern right whales.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Responsible whale watching offers a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.


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