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The Whales Working Group works to ensure better protection of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) through the reform of the International Whaling Commission into a conservation body, and by addressing other issues relating to cetacean conservation and welfare both in the UK and globally, such as marine contaminants, bycatch and disturbance.

Chair: Mark Simmonds, Humane Society International-UK
Vice Chair: Lucy Babey, ORCA
Link: Cecily Spelling, Marine Policy and Campaigns Manager

Update from the Group

The Whales Group is one of the longest standing Groups at Link.

Whales Group members have successfully campaigned for a moratorium on commercial whaling and supported the UK Government to establish and maintain a strong stance focused on cetacean welfare at the International Whaling Commission. The Group has set up two sub-groups. One focused on the issue of bycatch of endangered, threatened and protected species. The other on the impact of chemical pollutants such as Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) on marine wildlife. The Group also monitor the issue of offshore energy developments and its impact on marine wildlife.

In June, Japan left the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to resume commercial whaling. Their exit coincided with the G20 summit in Osaka. For this, the Group wrote a letter to G20 leaders asking them to condemn Japan’s return to commercial whaling. This letter was supported by celebrities including Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Liz Bonnin, Steve Backshall, Dr Jane Goodall and more. The letter also received global support from NGOs in 18 G20 countries and was featured in The Guardian, Reuters and other international media including Japanese news outlet Asahi. To coincide with the Rugby World Cup hosted in Japan, some members of the group developed a guide on how to avoid eating whale meat for fans attending the competition, which has been shared on social media.

Representatives from the Whales Group continue to hold a strong relationship with both the IWC secretariat and the UK delegation to the IWC, meeting regularly. In March members of the Group attended the IWC Scientific Committee meeting and had a productive meeting with the IWC secretariat. Discussion covered updates on some of the IWC’s conservation efforts including bycatch, small cetacean conservation and broader whaling issues relating to Japan’s exit from the IWC, and Iceland’s new whaling quotas.

Link’s Bycatch sub-group have been engaging with Defra’s plans to develop both a cetacean bycatch strategy and a seabird bycatch action plan. The Group are also awaiting the return of the Fisheries Bill to work with colleagues at Greener UK to ensure a commitment to document all catches is made. This will improve understanding of bycatch and ultimately help to reduce it. In July the Group also supported a complaint to the European Commission submitted by Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Client Earth. The complaint calls on the EC to take legal action actions 15 EU states, including the UK, that are failing to implement measures to tackle bycatch of dolphins and porpoises.

The Group is progressing activities to support wider appreciation and mitigation of the effects of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination on marine mammals. In March the Group made contact with the International POPs Elimination Network and will now work together to further this work globally and in the UK.

For further information, contact Cecily Spelling, Link’s Marine Policy and Campaigns Manager.

Last updated: 19 December 2019