Whales, dolphins and porpoises

Ocean

If you think the whales have been saved, guess again. The international moratorium on commercial whaling is one of the greatest conservation successes of the 20th century but some countries have defied it to continue the practice. We campaign to keep the ban in place, to expose the exploitation of those species it does not cover and to drive action to address other threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises such plastic, chemical and noise pollution as well as industrial-scale fishing.

The problem

As ocean sentinels, whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively terms ‘cetaceans’) face unprecedented and growing threats from human activities including marine debris and plastic pollution, climate change, noise, chemical pollution and industrial fishing.

The whaling industry killed 2.9 million whales in the 20th century. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed a moratorium on commercial whaling from 1986, a momentous decision that undoubtedly saved several species from extinction.

Despite the success of the moratorium, Japan, Norway and Iceland have continued commercial whaling and international trade in whale products – and continue to mount pressure to overturn the whaling ban at the IWC.

The difference we’ve made

It was concern over the status of the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises that first brought our founders together and led to our formation.

We have a long history of campaigning for greater protection for the ‘forgotten whales’ – the 70 or so smaller whale, dolphin and porpoise species which were not protected by the 1986 moratorium. We campaigned to stop the unsustainable Dall’s porpoise hand harpoon hunt and dolphin drive hunts in Japan, investigating and exposing the large-scale slaughter of small cetaceans and the sale of toxic small cetacean food products.

Our campaigning has significantly reduced market demand for whale, dolphin and porpoise products in Japan by persuading more than 2,500 supermarkets and the key online marketplaces of Amazon Japan, Google and Rakuten to stop selling and marketing cetacean products.

We have also consistently campaigned at the IWC to maintain and strengthen the moratorium on commercial whaling. Through scientific research, multiple technical and policy reports and advocacy over more than 30 years, our work has highlighted the grave threats from human activities to the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises and has been instrumental in expanding the organisation’s work to address these threats.

We have also carried out several investigations into Icelandic whaling, exposing the scale of the hunts and overseas trade as well as the financial and logistical links between the whalers and some of Iceland’s largest seafood companies.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises

Bottlenose Dolpin © EIA Sarah Baulch

Moving forward

We are campaigning to maintain and strengthen the moratorium on commercial whaling and broaden action within the IWC to address the severe threats posed by human activities.

As a number of African countries support Japan’s pro-whaling position at the IWC, we are engaging with civil society and government authorities in those countries to promote the benefits of supporting the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises and the establishment of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

Bycatch remains one of the foremost threats to cetaceans and other marine mammal species, with hundreds of thousands of animals dying every year in fishing gear. In addition to our work on the vaquita, we are campaigning to strengthen EU and UK measures to address bycatch and are participating in a new bycatch initiative under the IWC.

How you can help

Support us to continue our work to keep the ban on whaling and improve protection for whales, dolphins and porpoises by donating – any amount helps!

Header image © Sue Flood