News Bulletin

February 2022

Welcome to the first IWC News Bulletin of 2022.  I am sure you all share my hope that this year brings a little more joy than we have experienced recently.  We continue to monitor the global situation regarding Covid-19, and of course we will continue to respond flexibly and cautiously to any new developments, but as the situation appears now, I am optimistic that we will be able to gather in person in Slovenia in October.  After an unprecedented intersessional period of four years, we certainly have a lot to discuss.  

I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those whose efforts have maintained the momentum of our work programme during these difficult times.  The success of the IWC has always depended on the willingness of so many people to give both their time and their expertise to the Commission.  Even greater levels of commitment and generosity were called upon to overcome the many obstacles created by Covid-19 and these efforts are sincerely appreciated. 

I would like to make special mention of the Working Group on Operational Effectiveness and Budgetary Sub-Committee who have not been diverted from the difficult tasks set by the Commission to develop proposals for a structurally robust and financially secure IWC into the future.  I would also like to thank the Conservation Committee who have maintained a sharp focus, prioritising time-critical programmes including the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative and Conservation Management Plans.  Finally, I express huge gratitude to the Scientific Committee who have been our pioneers in the virtual world.  As you may remember, the SC was just weeks away from its long-planned annual meeting when the global impact of Covid-19 became clear and the world changed.  Their resilience and initiative led to record meeting attendances and increased awareness of their work at an international level.  I know this was not easily achieved and I reiterate to all those involved that their hard work is respected and appreciated.  This is a message  of thanks that  I very much hope I will be able to repeat to many of you in person, later in the year.     

Andrej Bibič

IWC Chair


Bureau maintains focus on budget reform
and operational effectiveness 

The Bureau met on 24th January.  Agenda items included updates from the Budgetary Sub-Committee (BSC) and Working Group on Operational Effectiveness (WG-OE).

The BSC is continuing work to correct the budget deficit and bring IWC financial management in-line with international best practice.  If we continue on the current path, the budget deficit is predicted to total £352,000 for the 2023-24 period. The BSC has been examining the three basic options to address this:

1) reduce spending
2) increase income
3) combination of options 1 and 2

The BSC will continue to develop proposals and will be collaborating closely with the Bureau to encourage engagement and feedback from all IWC members and observers as part of preparations for IWC68.  

On another budgetary matter, the Secretariat reported that the Commission's Accounts for 2021 will be available shortly, and published via Circular Communication.   

Progressing in parallel to financial reforms are proposals from the WG-OE to improve the IWC’s governance structure and processes. The Bureau also received an update on this work.  The WG-OE has received amendments to the four proposals circulated previously.  Revised versions of these documents will be circulated at the end of March. 

The WG-OE is also conducting a review of voting rights at the IWC, and taking forward work to develop a new IWC Code of Conduct.  A review of voting rights was requested by the Commission at the Virtual Special Meeting last September, following discussions on the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on payment schedules, arrears and voting status, particularly in developing countries.  A new IWC Code of Conduct has been under consideration for some years. At the Bureau meeting this issue was referred to the WG-OE who will prepare a draft Code of Conduct for discussion at IWC68. 

The WG-OE reiterated the importance of engagement in these processes.  They will be seeking feedback on the documents and, subject to Covid-19, plan to meet in-person this Spring.

Read the Bureau Minutes

IWC68: provisional timetable

The Bureau also took the opportunity for preliminary discussions regarding IWC68, including the timetable of pre-meetings and plenary sessions. The 100 day deadline was confirmed as 9th July and the draft agenda will be posted prior to this date. Further details were provided shortly after the Bureau meeting via Circular Communication.  

Fri 14 Oct 09:00-13:00

Budgetary Sub-Committee (BSC)


Conservation Committee part 1 (CC)

Sat 15 Oct 09:00-13:00

Conservation Committee part 2 (CC)


Whale Killing Methods & Welfare Issues WG (WKM&WI)


Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-Committee (ASW)

Sun 16 Oct 09:00-15:00

Finance and Administration Committee (F&A)

  16:00-18:00 Private Commissioners’ Meeting
Mon 17 - Fri 21 Oct 09:00-18:00

IWC Plenary, including Infractions Sub-Committee (INF)



Virtual format for this year's
Scientific Committee meeting 

The Bureau was also informed that this year's Scientific Committee meeting will be virtual.  The Chair of the Scientific Committee reported that the original plan was to hold a hybrid event, but increasing rates of Covid-19 and uncertainty regarding travel, testing and quarantine had forced the Committee and the Secretariat to re-consider.  This will be the third virtual meeting of the Scientific Committee.  Whilst the virtual format has proved successful in many respects, including record-breaking attendances, there are some topics that cannot be fully addressed in a virtual format and the agenda of the meeting will be revised to reflect this. 

The previously agreed meeting dates will not change but may be expanded slightly as weekend working is not practical for a virtual event across so many time zones.  The provisional dates are 25 April to 13 May.  These will be confirmed shortly via the IWC website and an SC Circular Communication. 


Image: NOAA 

Climate Change Workshop report is published

In December, the Scientific Committee held the fifth in a series of workshops on climate change.  An expert group gathered virtually to review the latest scientific research and assess both observed and predicted effects of climate change on cetaceans, including on their prey and habitats.

When the IWC first started to consider climate change, the availability of key information and predictive power were both limited. The situation has changed dramatically and the group received a report on the latest results from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which gave a stark assessment of the current situation.

The IWC’s knowledge of cetacean biology, and ability to model population trends are also much improved.  Research now shows strong evidence of distributional shifts in some species, which are likely to be the consequence of the changing climate.  Whilst this may suggest some ability to adapt, the extent is unknown and may be forcing cetaceans into new waters containing new threats, for example moving into shipping lanes or areas of concentrated fishing activity.  In related work, the IWC Scientific Committee of the IWC is also working to explore the ecosystems services that whales provide, including how they may trap and store carbon, and help in the distribution of nutrients.

Last December's workshop agreed a series of recommendations including a prioritisation of future research on regions experiencing intense climate change impacts, and which are also key cetacean habitats. The group also stressed the importance of sharing information and making best use of available resources, including through partnerships and collaboration, and improving methods to utilise results from detailed small-scale studies to make wider inferences.  

The workshop report will be presented to the Scientific Committee at its annual meeting in April-May (see dates above). 

Read more

Pollution 2025: Intersessional Workshop

At the end of 2021, the Scientific Committee also held a virtual workshop on the Pollution 2025 initiative, focusing on cumulative effects and multiple stressors.

The Scientific Committee has been concerned about the potential impact of chemical pollutants on cetaceans since the early 1980s and Pollution 2025 is the latest in a series of programmes seeking to understand the potential effects.  These initiatives have progressed from examining tissue concentrations for priority pollutants in individual animals, to developing a web-based computer model to estimate their effects at the population level.
The Pollution 2025 Workshop was held in November and assessed a range of new and improved methods and approaches as well as recent case studies.  The group agreed that whilst mitigation planning for individual pollutants is relatively straightforward, methods for mitigating cumulative stressors are much more difficult and more work is required. 

The workshop report will be available shortly and will be presented to the Scientific Committee at its annual meeting.

Read more

Image: Alexandros Frantzis, Pelagos Research Institute

Ship Strikes Mitigation: positive actions
to protect sperm whales in the Mediterranean 

The IWC has welcomed the decision of a major shipping and logistics company to re-route vessels away from critical sperm whale habitat off the west coast of Greece.

The global MSC Group announced new measures at the end of January, in response to research presented by a collaborative initiative involving the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, IFAW, OceanCare and WWF Greece.  Now estimated to comprise only 200-300 animals, the re-routing will take MSC ships away from this endangered subpopulation.  It's hoped other ocean freight companies will follow and adopt similar measures.

This is an excellent example of evidence-based and carefully targeted mitigation, which is the overall purpose of the IWC's Global Ship Strike Database.  The database aims to identify 'hotspots' where vulnerable whale populations are struggling to co-exist with busy shipping lanes, and pinpoint precise actions that maximise the conservation benefits for the whales whilst minimising the impact on shipping and other ocean-using industries.      

Read more about ship strikes.


Coming Soon!
New look for the IWC website

The IWC website is being updated and will be relaunched soon.  The new site will be easier to navigate, with a full screen layout that is better adapted for use on phones and tablets as well as desktop computer screens. 

The website aims to contain comprehensive information about all Commission-endorsed work programmes.  This update affects every page and is a major undertaking.  The Commission will be informed when the updated version is available.  Feedback will be welcomed and there will be an opportunity to refine the design before layouts are finalised.



Outreach opportunity - ECO: Environment, Coastal & Offshore. 

The IWC has an opportunity to raise awareness of the Commission and its work to several important audiences, via a special edition of ECO focused on marine mammals.  ECO is a print and digital publication with a readership that includes a wide range of ocean-related industries as well as policy makers, regulators and scientists.  ECO has a media partnership with Frontiers in Marine Science and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). It is published quarterly and supplemented by a special digital series which aims to ‘showcase solutions to the ocean’s most prevalent issues.’

The Marine Mammal special edition will be published in April.  The deadline for submissions is 14 March and members of the IWC community are encouraged to submit articles under one of the headings below. 

Section 1: Today’s Threats and Mitigations
Section 2: Latest Research
Section 3: Status
Section 4: Looking to the Future

Articles are grouped as either short (800-1000 words) or long (1000-1500) and should be written in non-technical language to reflect the diverse readership of ECO. 

Learn more or register interest in submitting an article

Staff changes at the IWC Secretariat 

Cherry Allison will be retiring from the Secretariat at the end of February.

Cherry has led the Modelling and Statistics function for nearly 38 years, serving both the Commission and the Scientific Committee.  

Please join us in wishing Cherry a long, healthy and happy retirement.


Dr Isidora Katara is the new lead for Modelling and Statistics.

Originally from Greece, Isidora is a marine biologist with twenty years of experience incorporating biostatistics, modelling and bioinformatics on a variety of multi-disciplinary research topics related to sustainable use, management and conservation of aquatic resources and ecosystems.  

Harriet Pinder joins the Secretariat as Projects Coordinator.

Harriet holds a Masters in International Development, and joins the IWC from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund in Cape Verde.  Previously she has worked on a range of environment-related programmes and as a fisheries observer in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation.   

The Secretariat's new Administrative Assistant is Shanmugakani Ramachandran, who prefers to be known as Shan.

Originally from Tamil Nadu, India, Shan holds a Masters in Human Resources and Marketing and has worked in recruitment and customer services in both India and the UK.
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