Create an Antarctic sanctuary

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Delegates from global governments, and NGO representatives are in Brazil for a very special meeting that happens only once every two years: the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). For a bit of context on the IWC, have a peek at this brief history that includes Greenpeace’s activities. For IWC2018, here’s our quick overview of what’s at stake:

Whaling: This year’s IWC meeting is likely to be a polarised debate, with ‘pro-whaling’ governments keen to undermine the ban on commercial whaling in any way possible, and ‘pro-whales’ governments keen to defend it. The meeting also happens very soon after huge controversy from Iceland, when images emerged of hybrid blue whales which had been killed.

Delivery of 800,000 Signatures for South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary in Brazil © Eduardo Zappia / Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists deliver over 800,000 signatures to the Brazilian Minister of Environment, 2016 © Eduardo Zappia / Greenpeace

Where now for the IWC?: There are two competing visions for the future of the IWC. The Japanese government’s ‘Way Forward’ proposal would like to undermine the existing ban on commercial whaling, and attempt to legitimise commercial whaling and reduce the existing protections. On the other hand the ‘Florianopolis Declaration’ promoted by host country Brazil and others wants to commit the IWC to moving forward as a conservation-focused organisation – recognising whales’ crucial role in healthy oceans as well as the many threats they face.

Sanctuaries: Another big issue to be decided at this year’s IWC meeting is whether to establish a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. This is backed by many nations, particularly around the South Atlantic, including host nation Brazil, and has lots of popular support too, but has been resisted before for political reasons as it puts areas of ocean further off limits to hypothetical future whaling.

Greenpeace has a delegation of whales experts at the IWC meeting. We will continue to defend the ban on commercial whaling, support large scale marine protection such as the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, and to transform the IWC into the conservation-focused body that the world’s remaining whale populations so desperately need.

Willie Mackenzie is an Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace International