Hopes for whale sanctuary in South Atlantic dashed by pro-whaling countries

26 October 2016

World Animal Protection is deeply saddened that the creation of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, proposed by multiple governments, was voted down at the International Whaling Commission’s 66th annual meeting in Slovenia

The South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal sought to prohibit commercial whaling in its waters. It also aimed to co-ordinate an approach to the problems whales face: being hunted, entanglement in lost or discarded fishing gear, and collision with ships and noise pollution.

The plan was originally proposed in the late 1990s, and attempted once again at this week’s IWC66 meeting by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay.

A majority vote of three quarters in favour was needed for the sanctuary to get the go ahead. It was blocked by the 24 votes of pro-whaling countries and the countries that align with them.

A sad day for whales

Ingrid Giskes, Head of the Sea Change campaign at World Animal Protection said: "Today, is a sad day for whales, as countries who support commercial whaling voted against the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary."

World Animal Protection is at the meeting in Slovenia and congratulates the 38 countries that did vote for the sanctuary, and commiserate with those countries bordering the proposed sanctuary, and desperately wanted it to go ahead.

Not giving up

We will continue to push for other positive changes for whales at this week’s IWC66 meeting, including:

  • advocating for increased collaboration between the IWC and our Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) on the issue of marine litter to end the problem of marine mammal entanglement in ghost gear,
  • asking the IWC to become more formally engaged with the GGGI and to continue to collaborate with other multilateral platforms such as FAO and UNEP; and
  • urging the IWC’s Scientific Committee to gather global, standardised data on whale entanglements in a way that means it can be shared with the new GGGI data portal.

Continuing our work with the IWC

In 2015 World Animal Protection founded the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), a multi-stakeholder alliance that brings together the private sector, the fishing industry, scientific researchers, government agencies and NGOs, to combat the issue of lost and abandoned fishing gear (also known as ghost gear).

The IWC explores a wide range of threats to whales, including entanglement in ghost gear. A staggering 640,000 tonnes of gear is left in our oceans each year, which traps, injures, mutilates and kills hundreds of thousands of whales and other marine animals annually.

Our mutual objectives make the GGGI’s collaboration with the IWC very important for the future livelihood of whales.

Find out more about the work we do to protect sea life from the threat of ghost gear.

"Today, is a sad day for whales, as countries who support commercial whaling voted against the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary." - Ingrid Giskes, Head of the Sea Change campaign, World Animal Protection

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