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  1. Introduction
  2. Mandate
  3. History
  4. Legal framework
  5. Area of competence
  6. Species and stocks coverage
  7. Members
  8. Structure
  9. EIMS Publications Database
  10. Media materials
  11. Contact

The International Whaling Commission is a regional fisheries management organization established by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946 to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks. The convention applies to factory ships, land stations and whale catchers under the jurisdiction of the contracting governments, and to all waters in which they carry out whaling. The Commission reviews and revises as necessary measures governing the conduct of commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling throughout the world. In this framework, in 1994 the Commission endorsed a Revised Management Procedure applicable to commercial whaling, which balances the somewhat conflicting requirements to ensure that the risk to individual stocks is not seriously increased while the highest yield is maintained.

Mandate The Mandate of the IWC is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. Under the commercial moratorium in effect since 1986, whaling quotas are currently agreed only for aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW). The IWC also addresses other anthropogenic threats to healthy cetacean populations such as bycatch and entanglement, ship strikes underwater noise, and whale watching. This mandate is carried out based on the recommendations of the Commission, as supported by subsidiary bodies such as the Scientific and Conservation Committees. History

IThe IWC was established in 1946. Earlier attempts had been made to regulate the whaling industry but were unsuccessful. In a post-war climate of food shortage and rationing, many populations faced a real risk of starvation and there was an urgent need to secure long-term supplies of dietary fats and protein, including whale meat. The mandate of the IWC was agreed by 15 signatory nations as providing for the proper conservation of whale stocks and making possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

An integral part of the Convention is its legally binding 'Schedule.' The Schedule sets out specific measures that the IWC has collectively decided are necessary in order to regulate whaling and conserve whale stocks. These measures include catch limits (which may be zero as it the case for commercial whaling) by species and area, designating specified areas as whale sanctuaries, protection of calves and females accompanied by calves, and restrictions on hunting methods. With a 75-year history, the IWC has an extensive collection of current and historical information along with catch and data, transcripts and audio recordings.

Legal framework Area of competence

The area of competence of the IWC is global. The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling also applies to factory ships, land stations, and whale catchers under the jurisdiction of the Contracting Governments and to all waters in which whaling is prosecuted by such factory ships, land stations, and whale catchers.

IWC area of competence
The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. Dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement.
Species and stocks coverage

Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus); bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus); Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni, B. brydei); fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus); gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus); humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae); minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata, B. bonaerensis); pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata); right whale (Eubalaena glacialis, E. australis); sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis); Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris); Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi); bottlenose whale or Baird’s beaked whale (Berardius bairdii); Arnoux’s whale (Berardius arnuxii); southern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon planifrons); northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus); killer whale (Orcinus orca); long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melaena); short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus); sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus).

LanguagesEnglish, French and Spanish Members

Member: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lao People's Dem. Rep., Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent/Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States of America, United Rep. of Tanzania, Uruguay.


The Commission: consist of a membership of 88 Contracting Governments as at 02 October 2019 and it meets every two years.

Bureau: The Commission constituted the Bureau through Rule of Procedure M.9 for administrative support during the intersessional period. Reports of Bureau meetings are publicly available but the sessions themselves are not open to observers.

Working Group reporting directly to the Commission: Standing Working Group (SWG) to support the review process for whaling under special permit. The Commission established this SWG through Resolution 2016-2. Membership remains open. Members: Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Norway and USA.

Committees (6):
Finance and Administration Committee (F&A): is responsible for budget, efficiency, effectiveness and governance of the organisation. It works through three working groups on budget, operational effectiveness and cost savings measures and strengthening IWC Financing.

Conservation Committee (CC): collaborates closely with the Scientific Committee to understand and address a range of threats to whales and their habitats. It operates through five working groups ship strikes, whale watching, conservation management plans, bycatch and planning matters.

Scientific Committee (SC): deals with scientific and technical aspects of whaling. It meets annually. The Committee operates 14 Sub groups (Sub-committee on Implementation Reviews and Simulation Trials, on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, on In-Depth Assessments, on Northern Hemisphere whale stocks, other Southern Hemisphere Whale Stocks, on Stock Definition and DNA techniques, on Non-Deliberate Human Induced Mortality of Cetaceans, on Environmental Concerns, on Ecosystem Modelling Approaches, on Small Cetaceans, on Whale Watching, on Conservation Management Plans, on Abundance Estimates, Stock Status and International Cruises and on Sanctuaries).

Joint Working Group between the Conservation and Scientific Committees (CC/SC WG):
The Commission established this Working Group to propose a procedure to facilitate the implementation and follow up of conservation recommendations. It usually meets annually.

Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-committee (ASW): considers information from both the Scientific Committee and from the aboriginal subsistence whaling communities, in order to advise the Commission on issues of sustainability and the dependence of aboriginal communities on specific whale stocks.

Infractions Sub-committee: considers matters and documents relating to the monitoring of compliance of member governments with the Schedule to the 1946 Convention, and penalties for infractions.

Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Welfare Issues (WG on WKM&WI): was established to ensure that hunts are as humane as possible for the whale, and as safe as possible for the hunters.  It operates through two working groups that works on welfare and global whale entanglement response network.

EIMS Publications Database Media materials Social network
  • Twitter: @iwc_int.
Web sources


Rebecca Lent (Executive Secretary)

International Whaling Commission

The Red House135 Station RoadImpington, Cambridge, UK CB24 9NP

Telephone: +44 (0) 1223 233971

Email: Rebecca Lent

Email: Secretariat

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