International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling

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States-parties to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (in blue). [1]

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is an international environmental agreement signed in 1946 in order to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry".[2] It governs the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of eighty-nine member nations.

It was signed by 15 nations in Washington, D.C. on 2 December 1946[3] and took effect on 10 November 1948. Its protocol (which represented the first substantial revision of the convention and extended the definition of a "whale-catcher" to include helicopters as well as ships) was signed in Washington on 19 November 1956. The convention is a successor to the International Agreement for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in London on 8 June 1937, and the protocols for that agreement signed in London on 24 June 1938, and 26 November 1945.

The objectives of the agreement are the protection of all whale species from overhunting, the establishment of a system of international regulation for the whale fisheries to ensure proper conservation and development of whale stocks, and safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by whale stocks. The primary instrument for the realization of these aims is the International Whaling Commission which was established pursuant to this convention. The commission has made many revisions to the schedule that makes up the bulk of the convention. The Commission process has also reserved for governments the right to carry out scientific research which involves killing of whales.

There have been consistent disagreement over the scope of the convention. According to the IWC:

The 1946 Convention does not define a 'whale', although a list of names in a number of languages was annexed to the Final Act of the Convention. Some Governments take the view that the IWC has the legal competence to regulate catches of only these named great whales (the baleen whales and the sperm whale). Others believe that all cetaceans, including the smaller dolphins and porpoises, also fall within IWC jurisdiction.[4][5]

Signatories and membership[edit]

As of January 2014, membership consists of 89 states of the world.[6] The initial signatory states were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Although Norway is a party to the convention, it maintains an objection to paragraph 10(e) of the convention (the section referring to the 1986 moratorium). Therefore, that provision is not binding upon Norway and the 1986 IWC global moratorium does not apply to it.[7]


As of January 2014, eight states that were formerly parties to the convention have withdrawn by denouncing it. These states are Canada (which withdrew on 30 June 1982), Egypt, Greece, Jamaica, Mauritius, Philippines, the Seychelles and Venezuela.[8] Belize, Brazil, Dominica, Ecuador, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and Panama have all withdrawn from the convention for a period of time after ratification but subsequently have ratified it a second time.[8] The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden have all withdrawn from the convention twice, only to have accepted it a third time.[8]

Japan withdrew from the convention in January 2019.


  1. ^ Membership Archived 26 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  2. ^ "International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling" (PDF). Washington. 2 December 1946. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  3. ^ Key Documents Archived 21 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  4. ^ International Whaling Commission. "Cetacea". Archived from the original on 27 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Cetacea".
  6. ^ International Whaling Commission. "Membership".
  7. ^ "IWC | International Whaling Commission". Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  8. ^ a b c "INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR THE REGULATION OF WHALING" (PDF). Government of the United States. 2 December 1946. Retrieved 5 July 2015.

External links[edit]