United Nations
Conservation and Management of Cetaceans
by International Whaling Commission (Intergovernmental organization)
The IWC is an inter-governmental organisation with 88 Contracting Governments. It was established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946) to provide for the conservation of whale stocks and has undertaken efforts over time to address all issues affecting the conservation and sustainable management of whale populations.

The IWCs Conservation Committee and Scientific Committee collaborate closely to understand and address a range of threats to cetaceans and their habitats such as bycatch; pollution; ship strikes; anthropogenic noise and climate change.

At the 2016 Commission meeting, a new Strategic Plan was adopted for the Conservation Committee. This establishes a long-term vision for healthy and well-managed populations and recovered cetacean populations worldwide. It sets out a number of objectives related to:

The delivery of effective and relevant cetacean conservation and management advice
Identifying and promoting best practice and collaborative management to address priority global threats facing cetaceans
Coordinating and delivering the IWCs conservation agenda in partnership with relevant organisations
Securing financial support for conservation efforts

A varied work programme currently includes:

(1) A new Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (Voluntary Commitments #19333 and #19111).
(2) Advice and support to the whale watching industry, including development of an online Whale Watching Handbook (Voluntary Commitment #20144).
(3) Development and implementation of Conservation Management Plans, for effective coordination of conservation work between local, national, regional and international stakeholders.
(4) Joint work with the Scientific Committee to consider and address the impacts of pollution, including marine debris, chemical pollution and anthropogenic noise, on Cetaceans.
(5) A Ship Strikes Strategy to understand and minimise the threat of collisions between whales and vessels (https://iwc.int/ship-strikes).

The IWC will seek to strengthen and to build upon collaboration with other organisations including other intergovernmental organisations; regional organisations; non-governmental organisations and the private sector, in order to share knowledge identify synergies and maximise effectiveness.

Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Abandoned, Lost and Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear
  • Plastics recovery/recycling/reuse:
OTHER POLLUTANTS (please specify)
  • Other (please specify): Underwater noise
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Community or Locally Managed Marine Areas
  • Other (please specify): Conservation Management Plans
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Reduction and elimination fishing practices and gear that destroy/degrade marine habitat
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable fisheries
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Data access and sharing
  • Training and professional development
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Transfer of fishing technology
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
Implementation of the IWC Conservation Committee Strategic Plan
Financing (in USD)
490,000 USD
Other, please specify
Further voluntary donations from Contracting Government members
In-kind contribution
In-contribution through the expertise of the Scientific and Conservation Committees; staff and expertise of the IWC Secretariat and from a range of other stakeholders
Other, please specify
The IWC will seek to leverage additional funding for cetacean conservation in liaison with the IWC Finance and Administration Committee and relevant subcomittees
Basic information
Time-frame: October 2016 - 2026
IWC Contracting Member countries and other Partners
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Fishing communities; Local communities; Whale watching operators
Contact information
Sarah Smith, Head of Programme Development, sarah.smith@iwc.int, +44 (0)1223 232876
Cambridge, UK
Other SDGs
United Nations