Panama Whales Meeting: Fork In the Road for Future of Whales

Press release - 2 July, 2012
Panama, July 2, 2012 - As the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) opens in Panama City, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner John Frizell said: “We have come to a fork in the road for the future of whales and international cooperation for their protection: we can either return to previous centuries of unnecessary whaling or a future of conservation and recovery."

“To move into a conservation future, countries must back the plan to create a whale sanctuary in the Southern Atlantic. The very same proposal that led to Japan walking out of last year's meeting bringing the meeting to a halt. The world’s whales need new sanctuaries - procedural delays must no longer prevent the IWC from protecting whales."

“Once a supporter of whaling, Panama now supports the creation of whale sanctuaries, is home to an expanding whale-watching industry and has plans to design a new ship traffic system in the Gulf of Panama to reduce ship-strikes. Panama is an example of what is possible. This year we hope for real change for whales - not whaling nations. Only then can both whale populations and the IWC’s reputation begin to recover.”

The major issues at IWC 64:

  • South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary: The proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would protect whales from the equator to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Whales in the South Atlantic could live their entire lives within a sanctuary, from their Antarctic feeding grounds to their warm water calving and breeding grounds. It has strong support from Latin American nations but is opposed by Japan and its supporters, including Caribbean and Pacific island states with fisheries ties to Japan.
  • Quorum: At last year’s meeting in Jersey, Japan led an 18 nation walkout- depriving the meeting of a quorum and preventing a vote on the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
  • Southern Ocean Sanctuary: A resolution will be presented inviting the UN to consider the fact that massive unregulated catches of cetaceans are occurring within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. These are conducted by Japan under a loophole in the IWC’s regulations that allow fraudulent “scientific” whaling. It would be hard for Japan to ignore UN disapproval.
  • Aboriginal Subsistence Quotas: The IWC will considers the issue of the so-called ‘aboriginal subsistence’ quotas, reserved for indigenous communities whose hunts date back hundreds or even thousands of years. These quotas are considered every five years, and here in Panama. Greenpeace has never campaigned against these quotas - it is industrialized commercial whaling which has wiped out whale populations, not indigenous hunts.


Steve Smith, Greenpeace International communications +31 643 787 359 or or
John Frizell, Greenpeace International whales campaign, +44 7801 212999 or