International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling

image description >

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was signed in 1946 for the reasons below (cited from the text of the Convention) :

Recognizing the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks;
Considering that the history of whaling has seen overfishing of one area after another and of one species of whale after another to such a degree that it is essential to protect all species of whales from further over-fishing;
Recognizing that the whale stocks are susceptible of natural increases if whaling is properly regulated, and that increases in the size of whale stocks will permit increases in the number of whales which may be captured without endangering these natural resources;
Recognizing that it is in the common interest to achieve the optimum level of whale stocks as rapidly as possible without causing widespread economic and nutritional distress;
Recognizing that in the course of achieving these objectives, whaling operations should be confined to those species best able to sustain exploitation in order to give an interval for recovery to certain species of whales now depleted in numbers;

The Convention includes a legally binding Schedule which, amongst other things, sets out catch limits for commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling. The Schedule is an integral part of the Convention, but its provisions, for example catch limits, may be amended by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In practice, amendments to the Schedule are almost always agreed at the biennial meetings of the IWC.

The International Whaling Commission was established in 1946 as the global body responsible for management of whaling and conservation of whales. It is an inter-governmental organisation with a current membership of 88 governments from all over the world.

The legal framework of the IWC is the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. This Convention established the Commission and is one of the first pieces of international legislation to include a conservation mandate. All member governments of the IWC are signatories to this Convention. 

About whaling:

The Convention recognises three different types of whaling: commercial, aboriginal subsistence and special permit (also known as scientific) whaling. Following considerable debate, a commercial whaling moratorium was adopted in 1982 and came into full force in 1986. The Commission continues to regulate Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling which is conducted by indigenous communities, often in remote parts of the world. Regulation of aboriginal whaling has always been a core responsibility of the Commission and remains so today. It recognises nutritional and cultural needs, and is underpinned by a rigorous scientific process. The Convention contains a separate category of special permit whaling for scientific research purposes. Special permit whaling is not regulated by the Commission but by national governments, although none currently undertake this type of whaling.


The second half of the Commission's mandate is to conserve whales. This work has evolved in response to the changing and growing threats to cetaceans and other marine species. Today, the Commission is engaged in a wide range of programmes to understand and address threats including bycatch and entanglement, ship strikes, ocean noise, debris and pollution, disease and climate change. The Commission also holds international training workshops on safe and effective responses to entanglement and stranding.

Official website of IWC: