What Went Down: International Whaling Conference 2014 – The 65th Meeting

The meeting took place recently in Slovenia with over 60 member countries in attendance. Here are some of the issues and resolutions that came up for discussion and vote at the meeting.

International Court of Justice Ruling

The previous ruling by International Court of Justice (ICJ) earlier this year that Japan’s “scientific whaling” is illegal still stands and therefore no further permits for “scientific whaling” to be issued. Further to this a vote (35 yes, 20 no, 5 abstentions) was passed to allow the IWC Scientific Coommittee to implement various provisions which should make “scientific whaling permits” aka Special Permits Programmes more difficult to secure in the future under Article VIII.

The judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the session at which the court delivered its judgment in Whaling Case: Australia v. Japan. (Image: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ)

Cross Boarder Protection

There has been moves to provide greater protection across international boarders for cetaceans. As highly migratory species cetaceans need protection that crosses boarders and oceans. If a species is protected in one country and then not in another then the protection will not be as effective as it could be because it will only cover a small amount of their range. This proposal was put forward by Monaco to allow for greater co-operation between the IWC and the United Nations and would be to allow for enhanced collaboration in the conservation of migratory cetaceans. This was passed by a vote of: 37 yes, 15 no, 7 abstentions.

Humpback whale and its calf (Credit: NOAA).

Whale Welfare


The WA Shark Cull Has To End

It was all over the news for a while and Facebook and probably your Twitter feed too. The Western Australia (WA) shark cull.

It all started because of a high number of shark attacks in quick succession in WA, causing the government to act quickly and rashly, imposing a trial lethal drum-line programme. Now after the end of the trial period (January 25th – April 30th 2014) the WA government are proposing to extend it to a 3-year lethal drum line programme. This time however they need to pass a federal environmental assessment unlike the trial which was granted temporary exemption under national environmental law because it was apparently deemed in the “national interest” of protecting public safety.

The outcomes from a similar 16 year lethal long-line programme operated in Hawaii (1959-1976) were ignored. At the end of the Hawaiian cull scientist concluded that it made no difference to shark attacks. It didn’t matter though as the Australian government decided to go ahead with the 13 week trial despite all the facts stacked against them. Using baited drum lines there were horrific scenes as sharks were baited and hooked then dragged out to sea alive and killed.

Over the 13 week trail 172 sharks were killed 163 of these were tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) while zero were white sharks (Carcharodon carchariasthe species believed to be those involved in the recent attacks.


Spreading The Word – Oceans Initiative

As I mentioned last week, in this post I am going to talk about the amazing guys at Oceans Initiative. They are a team of scientists who’s aim is to research marine life in order to increase our understanding and protect it in an ever changing world. They work in Canada and beyond looking at all kinds of marine life from whales and dolphins all the way to sharks and seabirds.

Oceans Initiative - Science for the sea. (Image from: http://www.oceansinitiative.org)

Oceans Initiative – Science for the sea. (Image from: http://www.oceansinitiative.org)

I was lucky enough to get to know and work with the scientists at Oceans Initiative during my masters degree when I contacted Dr. Rob Williams one of the co-founders and he happily agreed to share one of their vast data sets with me and also to co-supervise my thesis on vessel noise in Haro Strait, BC. Contacting Rob about Oceans Initiative’s research and thesis potential was one of the best decisions I have ever made and led me to where I am today as a scientist. As I said in my previous post, make the leap and contact those interesting researchers.