The 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the global body tasked with looking after the world’s whale populations, has just wrapped up in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Over the years we have become used to polarisation between countries in these meetings, and this meeting was no different. Greenpeace, along with other conservation and environmental groups were there as observers. Here’s what we saw:

The Florianopolis Declaration was agreed.

Supported by a clear majority of countries, the Florianopolis Declaration both enshrines the importance of whales in the global ecosystem, and the IWC as a conservation body. For decades Greenpeace has tirelessly campaigned for this to be the focus for the IWC. This year’s declaration is a welcome and necessary move forward in a world where threats to whales — like climate change, plastic pollution, seismic blasting and industrial fishing — are increasing year after year.

IWC conference 1981. Brighton, UK. © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

IWC conference 1981. Brighton, UK. © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

Attempts to undermine the ban on commercial whaling were rejected.

The Government of Japan and its pro-whaling allies tried to get an agreement to undermine the existing ban on commercial whaling. Their ‘Way Forward’ proposal attempted to establish a working group to look at re-establishing commercial hunts. After a heated debate this was roundly rejected by a clear majority of countries. Commercial whaling, which has now been banned for over 30 years, is the one threat we can immediately control. It’s great to see this clearly consigned to history by the assembled global delegations.

© Greenpeace / Hiroto Kiryu

Greenpeace activists with large banner in front of the IWC (International Whaling Commission) convention centre during the 54th annual meeting. © Greenpeace / Hiroto Kiryu

No South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, again.

Despite best efforts and high hopes from key supporter and host nation Brazil, there was again not enough support to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Though it had clear majority support, it didn’t have the super-majority it needed.

Humpback Whale in the Indian Ocean. © Paul Hilton

A Humpback whale breaks the surface as it heads south to Antarctica for the summer. © Paul Hilton

The good news is that the role of the IWC as a conservation-focused organisation has been reaffirmed, and that’s what the world’s remaining whales need it to be. The conservation measures that exist — many thanks to this body — are still being challenged, however. That’s why it’s so important that we keep momentum in the right direction for our oceans and the fantastic and fragile life that depends on them.

You can be a part of the global work to create large, fully-protected ocean sanctuaries for marine life like whales to survive and thrive for generations to come. We need you now more than ever – whether in the iconic Antarctic or Arctic Oceans, in national waters, or on the global High Seas.