We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the International Whaling Commission?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 05, 2024
Our promise to you
AllThingsNature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllThingsNature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is a voluntary organization designed to maintain sustainable whale populations and govern prices of whaling related products. Created in the wake of serious fears of whale extinction due to overhunting, the IWC was originally signed by 42 nations. Although its membership has risen to 79 participating countries, recent rebounds in whale populations have caused controversy between member nations, unable to agree whether the IWC should be primarily a conservation effort or an active supporter of sustainable whaling practices.

In 1946, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling created the IWC as a regulatory body charged with conserving whale populations and developing the whaling industry. The International Whaling Commission was granted permission to list endangered populations as protected, create whale sanctuaries safe from hunting, set hunting limits and hunting seasons. These standards were adopted by members on a purely voluntary basis, reflecting the member nations’ concern for whale species.

In the first 20 years of the IWC, the commission supported active whaling, which led to further population drops in some whale species. There is evidence that many nations significantly under-reported their whale catch. Some estimates suggest that in the Soviet Union alone killed over 46,000 more Humpback Whales than it reported to the International Whaling Commission.

In the 1970s, Save-the-Whales movements gained tremendous global attention, as whale species populations continued to plummet toward extinction. Pressure was put on the IWC to declare a moratorium on all commercial whaling. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission declared a ban on all commercial whaling to begin in 1986, excepting some scientific and subsistence or cultural whaling practices. Although the ban remains in effect as of 2008, several nations, including Iceland and Norway, have resumed whaling activities.

The International Whaling Commission holds a conference once a year, usually in May or June. The location rotates between member nations. Conference meetings are held by four subcommittees, Scientific, Technical, Finance and Administration, and Conservation. These conferences set regulations for the following year, as well as review the latest information available about whale population and management.

In 1992, in reaction to the extension of the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium, several nations formed an alternative organization, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO.) This group of nations objects to the ban on whaling, and several members have resumed whaling operations since the formation of NAMMCO. Evidence is not conclusive as to whether or not the hunts of NAMMCO nations are severely depleting populations; therefore they are not in direct conflict with IWC regulations and permitted to remain as members.

Since the 1990s, accusations of dirty politicking have plagued the IWC. The United States, a largely anti-whaling nation, has passed federal laws making it acceptable to ban imports from whaling nations, if there is evidence that they are causing severe harm to the population. This legislation has been received with outrage by some nations, accusing the US of bullying to enforce anti-whaling policy. In contrast, the largely pro-whaling nation of Japan has offered foreign aid to some countries in return for them joining the IWC and supporting Japanese positions. Anti-whaling nations have found this contemptible, and compared it to buying votes.

As the purpose of the IWC is to maintain whale stocks at sustainable levels, they are not primarily a conservation agency. Regulations are decided by votes, so it is the position of the member nations that determine International Whaling Commission guidelines. As whale populations rebound, the possibility of the ending of the IWC moratorium on whaling leads to great concern among whale conservation agencies, and leads to increasing strife within the yearly meetings of the organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)?

The International Whaling Commission was established to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. It aims to ensure that whale populations are not overexploited, promoting sustainable practices while also addressing a range of related marine conservation issues.

When was the International Whaling Commission founded?

The International Whaling Commission was founded in 1946 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The convention was a response to the significant decline in whale populations due to unregulated commercial whaling during the early 20th century.

How does the IWC contribute to whale conservation?

The IWC contributes to whale conservation by setting catch limits for commercial whaling, creating whale sanctuaries, and conducting scientific research. Since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, the IWC has played a crucial role in the recovery of several whale species, although challenges remain due to some countries objecting to the moratorium.

Which countries are members of the IWC, and how do they participate?

As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, the IWC has 88 member countries. Members participate by attending annual meetings, contributing to scientific research, and voting on measures related to whale conservation. Each member country has an equal vote, and decisions often require a three-quarters majority to pass.

What is the IWC's stance on indigenous whaling?

The IWC recognizes the cultural and subsistence needs of indigenous peoples and allows for aboriginal subsistence whaling. This practice is subject to strict regulations and quotas to ensure that it is sustainable and does not threaten whale populations. The IWC works to balance conservation efforts with the rights of indigenous communities.

Has the IWC been successful in its conservation efforts?

According to various reports, the IWC has seen successes, such as the recovery of certain whale populations like the humpback and blue whales since the implementation of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. However, the effectiveness of the IWC is sometimes debated due to non-compliance by certain countries and ongoing threats to whales such as entanglement and ship strikes.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for AllThingsNature. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Mar 25, 2014

Whether you are in favor of whaling or against the hunting of whales, if you feel passionately about the subject then there is a show on one of the pay stations that follows the activities of activists attempting to interfere with whaling ships as they search for whales.

The show is interesting, a study in the passion humans have for saving these great creatures. The film crew is following the activists, so the whalers point of view is not as well outlined and explored, but the show is still worth a look if this subject interests you. Check your local TV guide and I'm sure you can locate the program.

By Feryll — On Mar 25, 2014

@Laotionne - When you consider that man has been killing and consuming whales since prehistoric times, isn't it more unbelievable that the International Whaling Commission was able to get even a temporary ban on the killing of the animals, and understandable that some nations want to go back to hunting whales?

Whether we think the practice is wrong or right, many people depend on whale meat and whale products. A permanent end to whaling is not a realistic goal. It will never happen.

By Laotionne — On Mar 24, 2014

What the International Whaling Commission was able to do to prevent the whale population from becoming extinct is great. I find it unbelievable that countries are now looking to go back to the old practices that led to the decline in whale populations in the first place just because the whales have made a comeback and are thriving.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Read more
AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.