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The IWC is the decision-making body of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that was agreed in 1946.

The various governments that are members of the IWC make their decisions through its various meetings and committees, using the IWC secretariat to help manage their discussions and decision making.

The IWC website states that, "The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world."

The formal decisions of the IWC are contained within the Schedule to the ICRW.

How does WDC work within the IWC?

WDC attends the meeting to provide scientific, legal and conservation expertise to government delegates. We work with member nations to equip them with the knowledge and evidence they need to make informed decisions.

The IWC - facts

  • Main meeting takes place every two years
  • Working groups and sub-committees meet as needed
  • Currently has c. 90 members
  • Japan has announced it will leave in July 2019
  • WDC scientists involved in IWC-led research in Antarctica

Which countries are members of the IWC?

The full list of member countries can be found on the IWC website.

The IWC does allow observers to attend most of its meetings. These observers can be made up of countries that are not members of the IWC, the press and non-governmental organisations and charities such as WDC.

When does the International Whaling Commission meet?

Until 2012, the full IWC met annually, but since 2012 it meets every two years. Its subcommittees and working groups can meet more regularly as required.

How does the Commission work?

The Commission has four main committees - Scientific, Technical, Finance and Administration and its most recent committee, the Conservation Committee which was created in 2004.

There are also Commission subcommittees that deal with aboriginal subsistence whaling, infractions (breaking of regulations) and other ad hoc working groups to deal with a wide range of issues.

What is the scientific committee?

The Scientific Committee comprises around 200 whale biologists and scientists, many of whom are nominated by member governments. For example, the pro-whaling countries tend to send large delegations of government sponsored scientists to put forward their government's position.

In recent years the Scientific Committee has invited other scientists to supplement its expertise in various areas. The work of the Scientific Committee is largely determined by the scientific needs of the Commission. The pro-whaling interests regularly attempt to narrow this down to only delivering recommendations on whaling quotas, but the wider pro-conservation membership often seeks to ensure that the Scientific Committee is looking at issues that affect the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins.

For example, whilst Iceland, Japan, Norway and their allies claim that the IWC has no competency to discuss small whales and dolphins, the IWC Scientific Committee has been able to do some remarkably useful work in this area.

How do I get in touch with the IWC?

International Whaling Commission
The Red House
135 Station Road
CB24 9NP

Telephone: (+44)(0)1223 233971
Fax: (+44)(0)1223 232876
Email: [email protected]
Web site:

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