IWC Scientific Committee Advances Cetacean Conservation

Since 2000, Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI’s marine mammal biology senior scientist, has attended meetings of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee as an invited participant. At this year’s meeting—held in Bled, Slovenia, in late April/early May—she will be joined by AWI senior policy advisor Sue Fisher and AWI wildlife biology senior scientist D.J. Schubert. 

The IWC Scientific Committee comprises some of the most respected cetacean field researchers and conservation biologists in the world, and the recommendations this body makes influence policy decisions in all member nations. The AWI team will be working to ensure the committee focuses its attention on key cetacean conservation initiatives, including protecting their habitat from pollution, marine debris, and human-caused noise; reducing bycatch in fisheries; and managing whale watching operations to minimize impact. 

The AWI team will present a paper at the meeting on deep-sea mining and its potential impacts on cetaceans, as well as a review of the scientific literature on threats to the marine environment of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Naomi attended a workshop in February in Madrid on the much-publicized interactions between orcas and yachts in the waters off Spain and Portugal, for which she is preparing a final report to present at the meeting. The team will also be working to strengthen the advice from the committee on the perilous state of at least two small cetacean species: the vaquita in Mexico and the Maui dolphin (a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin) in New Zealand.

Starting this year, the Scientific Committee will be switching to biennial meetings, after over seven decades of annual meetings. AWI will work hard to ensure this transition does not diminish the value of the committee’s work to cetacean conservation.

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