IWC65: Change versus more of the same

Watch this brief update from the IFAW team, working for whales in Portoroz, Slovenia


“Life is change,” the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said. It sometimes feels I’ve spent much of my life in and around the International Whaling Commission (IWC). 

Year in, year out, for more than six decades, a familial gypsy band of government delegates, non-governmental observers, media reps and cheery Commission staff unpacks its bags in this country or that for week-long IWC plenary meetings.

And for the decade and a half I’ve been attending with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), this aging forum has – like Brigadoon, or Groundhog Day - seemed strangely immune to change.

See also – IWC65: Wheels up for the International Whaling Commission meeting!

All going down? IFAW's bottom line at IWC65 is conservation over whale killing. c. IFAW/Patrick

But as the IWC prepares to open its 65th full Commission meeting tomorrow here in Portoroz, Slovenia, some things are palpably different. Here’s one whale-hugger’s review of change versus more of the same:

Change: Not perennial, biennial

Portoroz, (or “Port of Roses”) is the first biennial meeting for the 68-year-old IWC, a body that used to meet each year. Tight government budgets were cited as the reason for this shift. In truth the change was part of a conscious effort to “cool off” the forum which had devolved into annual donnybrooks and food-fights over whaling.

More of the Same:  Usual suspects

The gang’s all here.

Familiar faces from the pro and anti-whaling camps greet each other in the palatial foyer of the Grand Hotel Bernardin.

Some of us are grayer, some fatter, but except for the sad passing of one or two colleagues, and a few others who have somehow managed to escape (Heraclitus’ homeland of Greece has left the IWC), all the inhabitants of this inter-governmental backwater seem to be back.

Pro-whaling firebrand Ambassador Daven Joseph has traded in his St. Kitts and Nevis flag to represent Antigua & Barbuda this year. “We are all one Caribbean,” he proudly explains as we greet one another in the lobby. But his pyrotechnic interventions will surely be much the same. 

Change: Online Registration and Payment!

There were a few hiccoughs, but the hardworking IWC Secretariat have finally migrated this outmoded forum into the information age. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, IFAW staff and other NGO delegates from around the world could actually register and pay our hefty fees online. Conference documents and updates are now distributed via the web. Each participant’s badge features a fresh photo and QR code, which is scanned as we enter the meeting.

New technology in play at the 65th International Whaling Commission meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia. c. IFAW/Patrick Ramage

Will wonders never cease!

More of the Same: Sidney

The father of modern fisheries science, whale conservation giant and long-time IFAW collaborator Dr. Sidney Holt, is in the building, having attended and influenced more than 50 IWC meetings and ready to take part in his 52nd!

Change: The sea-change for whale conservation since the IWC last met is the verdict handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March of this year, which ruled Japan’s so-called “Scientific Whaling” in Antarctica illegal and ordered it to stop.

In the wake of that hard-won, historic judgment, Team IFAW is working closely with conservation-minded governments and other committed NGOs here to ensure that the world doesn’t go wobbly on whaling. The government of New Zealand has put forward a resolution here in Portoroz to maintain the momentum and implement the ICJ judgment.

The government of Japan, eager to ignore or circumvent the ICJ decision, is trying to bluff its way back into Antarctic whaling, preparing a new plan for “scientific” slaughter of whales in the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary as early as next year.

More of the Same: IFAW leading the way

You can count on IFAW to stay in the fight to protect whales from whaling for commercial purposes and the many other threats they face – sadly more today than ever before in history.

At this week’s important IWC meeting, across our worldwide offices, through positive projects inside Japan, Iceland and Norway, and in critical whale habitats around the world, IFAW is working to protect whales for future generations.

Together we can set a course for conservation, instead of whale killing in the 21st Century. 

Check back for updates from the Portoroz IWC meeting throughout the week.


Find out more about IFAW’s work to protect whales and how you can help

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime