International Whaling Commission

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is the international body with management responsibility for the world's great whales, such as the blue, fin, sei, Bryde's, minke, right, pygmy right, humpback, bowhead, gray and sperm whale.

New Zealand and many other IWC members believe that the commission should have responsibility for the management of all whales and dolphins.

The IWC meets annually, usually for about one month. The first two weeks of the meeting are taken up by the deliberations of the Scientific Committee, which usually consists of around 200 scientists. All substantive decisions of the Commission should be based on scientific advice, although it is not always possible to achieve a consensus on all issues.

The Scientific Committee considers a broad range of issues, including:

Southern right whale. Photo: Paul Salvador.
Southern right whale

  • status and trends of populations of great whales
  • development of a Revised Management Procedure
  • environmental Threats to whales and other cetaceans
  • small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and small whales)
  • whale watching
  • Aboriginal / subsistence whaling
  • review of 'Special Permits' for 'Scientific Whaling'.

The report of the Scientific Committee is generally fundamental to the deliberations of the Commission itself, especially on contentious issues such as the establishment of whale sanctuaries and scientific whaling under special permit.

Who represents New Zealand at the IWC?

The New Zealand Commissioner to the IWC is Gerard van Bohemen, Deputy Secretary Multilateral and Legal Affairs Group. The selection of such a senior Government official as Commissioner sends a strong signal that the Government regards the IWC as a very important forum, in which New Zealand's views need to be clearly articulated to the international community.

The Commissioner is supported by two government departments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Conservation. Broadly speaking, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade takes the lead role in diplomatic matters while the Department of Conservation is responsible for providing scientific advice. 

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