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IWC68: An International Whaling Commission in Crisis

The IWC68 financial crisis highlights the IWC's reduced priority for scientific decision making and raises concerns among pro-sustainable use nations.

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Humpback whales (drone image) © Institute of Cetacean Research

In October 2022, the 68th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was held in Portorož, Slovenia. IWC68 was also the first meeting in which Japan, which withdrew from the IWC in 2019, participated as an observer. 

This first session in four years brought attention to the IWC's changing priorities, including several points of significance that deserve discussion. These are examined in a four part series, continuing below in Part 2.

First Part: IWC68: Reflections on the Future of the International Whaling Commission

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The IWC is facing a difficult financial situation. (© Institute of Cetacean Research)

Second of 4 parts

Cascading Financial Woes

The most important issue for the 68th IWC in 2022 was its financial problems. This problem had been recognized even before Japan's withdrawal from the IWC. However, no effective measures have been taken to address it. 

If the current situation continues, the IWC will go bankrupt in 2025. There is also a possibility that the bankruptcy could come even earlier. To stave off this possibility, the IWC needed to agree on some decisive measures at this meeting.

Why did the IWC find itself on the brink of financial collapse? 

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The causes are complex. But the biggest cause is that the IWC has launched a series of new programs without increasing its income. And all of these are so-called conservation programs for whale protection. 

For example, new whale watching guidelines and whale rescue programs for whales entangled in nets and ropes are recent achievements of the IWC. 

The IWC receives large contributions from anti-whaling countries and NGOs. But new conservation programs also place a heavy burden on the IWC's budget in terms of increased administrative and personnel costs.

Income Needed to Take On Expenses

If income does not increase, but households continue to make new purchases one after another, their finances will naturally become more difficult. In the case of IWC, the income comes from contributions from member countries, which have not increased. 

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The IWC also receives voluntary donations from governments, NGOs and industry to support specific programs. (© Institute of Cetacean Research)

Proposals to increase the contributions have been made many times. Nevertheless, they have failed to materialize due to opposition from member countries. 

On the other hand, in order to implement new programs, expenditures have always exceeded revenues, a deficit budget. The shortfall has been paid out of the general fund, the household savings fund, which is expected to run out by 2025.

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Developed Countries vs Developing Countries

The debate over the IWC's financial crisis has highlighted another issue. It is the conflict between developed and developing countries, or developing countries' distrust of developed countries, especially those that support sustainable use. This is a point of view that can also be linked to the criticism of environmental imperialism and environmental colonialism against anti-whaling nations. 

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(You can read the rest of the article on Whaling Today for deeper and unique insights into Japanese whaling culture, whale conservation efforts and sustainable whaling.)

Continues in Part 3: IWC68: New Contested Issues Emerging from the South 

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This article is published in cooperation with the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan. Let us hear your thoughts in our comments section.

Author: Joji Morishita, PhD

Professor, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology

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