The 88 member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have been urged to adopt a new 50-Year Vision to save whales, dolphins and porpoises from extinction in the face of increasing ocean threats.
As the IWC celebrates its 75th anniversary, EIA and many of the world’s leading animal protection and conservation organisations participated in an online event to lay out a strategy for the organisation over the next half-century.
Many cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) species are facing increased threats from chemical, plastic and noise pollution, fisheries bycatch, marine debris, ship strikes, habitat loss and climate change as well as continued direct persecution from commercial killing and dolphin drive hunts.
Originally established in 1946 to conserve whales in order to maximise hunting quotas, the IWC has since evolved to address other human-driven threats that pose an immediate danger for many populations of cetaceans.
Of the 90 species, 12 subspecies and 28 subpopulations of cetaceans identified and assessed to date, 22 are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 22 as ‘Endangered’ and 16 as ‘Vulnerable’. Without globally co-ordinated conservation actions, many species and populations will go extinct within our lifetimes.
Celebrated primatologist and environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall DBE, a UN Messenger of Peace, gave the keynote speech at today’s virtual event, warning: “Some 80 per cent of the world’s oxygen comes from the ocean. Our seas, along with our forests, are literally the lungs of our planet.
“Tragically, the vast marine habitat is increasingly threatened by our human actions. We are polluting it with toxic substances, large areas become acidified, the water is warming, commercial fishing has endangered many species and its biggest and so-loved residents – whales, dolphins and porpoises – are suffering.
“Unbelievably, despite a 40-year ban, many species still suffer the cruelty of commercial whaling. Then around 300,000 cetaceans die when they’re accidentally captured in fishing gear. They drown. A number of species and some populations are now facing extinction. There are solutions, but our governments must prioritise them and also recognise and support the International Whaling Commission as the organisation to coordinate these global priorities.”
EIA Ocean Campaigns Leader Clare Perry told the event: “Threats to the marine environment, including from plastic pollution and climate change, are increasing alarmingly.
“It is vital that the IWC has the vision to use its unique scientific expertise gained over 75 years to implement an internationally collaborative 50-Year Strategy to ensure that cetacean populations are afforded the highest protection so they can thrive and contribute to ocean recovery.”
As well as EIA, the coalition of more than 50 NGOs worldwide includes the Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free Foundation, Fundación Cethus, Humane Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, ORCA, OceanCare, Selskab til Bevarelse af Havpattedyr/GSM and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Several celebrities also supported the 50-Year Vision at its launch event, with video messages from naturalist and campaigner Chris Packham, actress Dame Judi Dench, singer Leona Lewis and world-renowned sailor Tracy Edwards MBE.
The coalition believes the IWC’s 75th anniversary provides the perfect opportunity ahead of its 68th meeting in October 2022 to define a clear 50-Year Vision that goes beyond managing whaling and establishes the IWC at the centre of global efforts to conserve all cetaceans.