IWC workshop

Riki Gunn presenting the work of GNA to representatives from ten countries at the International Whaling Commission workshop in Hawaii 2014.

International Whaling Commission Workshop

In August this year GNA attended an International Whaling Commission workshop aimed at finding some global solutions to entanglement of whales from marine debris. The primary focus of this workshop was how to mitigate the impact of ghost gear (nets, pots, traps and lines) on all cetaceans, not just whales.

Thirty-four participants from ten countries attended (see photo and list of participants below), including several from the Pacific region. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme and its Convention for Migratory Species were all represented, as were relevant industry bodies and a number of non-governmental organisations concerned with marine debris.

The primary objectives of the workshop were to: (i) explore how the IWC can engage with the existing international and regional mitigation efforts concerning the management of marine debris; (ii) determine how best to ensure those efforts are informed by the growing understanding of the cetacean-specific impacts of marine debris; and (iii) advise on how best the IWC can lead/engage with action in regions where marine debris has the greatest potential impacts on cetacean populations.

The workshop reviewed initiatives from across the world to address marine debris in general and entanglement of cetaceans in particular, which was viewed as the greatest threat to these animals. These initiatives ranged from high-level agreements between countries to address the issue, to efforts in the field to remove materials directly from the seas and recycle or burn it for energy, to efforts to disentangle whales and other cetaceans snared in netting. The IWC is already highly active in this field and held a workshop on the assessment of marine debris impacts on cetaceans in May 2013 at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and also has a programme of work focused on responding to entangled whales. This initiative was begun by Norway, in partnership with Australia and the USA, and has included workshops in Maui in 2010 and Provincetown in 2011.

A summary with recommendations,, was presented to the 65th general meeting of the Commission in September 2014 in Slovenia. This most important summary will be discussed, with hopefully some resolutions that can be enacted upon, at the next full assembly of the Commission in March 2015.

It was an incredible experience contributing and working alongside such a prestigious science and conservation organisations.

gn142_large.jpgList of Participants

Front Row: Mark Simmonds (School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol and Humane Society Int, UK); Claire Bass (World Animal Protection, UK); Eric Gilman (FAO Consultant, Hawaii, USA); Bill Gilmartin (Hawaii Wildlife Fund, USA); Chris Wilcox (CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Australia); David Mattila (IWC Secretariat); John Kieser (Plastics/SA, South Africa); Naomi McIntosh (NOAA, PIFSC, Hawaii, USA).

Back Row: Francis Chopin (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Italy); David Schofield (NOAA); Andrea Cooke (IWC Secretariat); Denise Hardesty (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Australia); Lauren Saez (Ocean Associates, Inc. with NOAA Protected Resources Division, NOAA, USA); Joan Drinkwin (Northwest Straits Foundation, USA); Nancy Wallace (NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, USA); Heidi Ruud (Norsk Fiskeriretur, Norway); Sarah Baulch (Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), UK); Riki Gunn (GhostNets Australia); Monika Thiele (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), USA); Keith Christman (American Chemistry Council, USA); Kirsten Gilardi (UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, USA); Heidi Savelli (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kenya); Elizabeth Hogan (World Animal Protection, USA); David Haynes (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Samoa); Greg Donovan (IWC Secretariat); Michelle Evans (Department of the Environment, Australia).

Absent from Photo: Michael Donoghue (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Samoa); Gail Godenzi (Covanta Honolulu R.R.V.); Kyle Koyanagi (NOAA, PIFSC, Hawaii, USA); Donna Kwan (UNEP/CMS Office, Abu Dhabi, UAE); David Laist (Marine Mammal Commission, USA); Megan Lamson (Hawaii Wildlife Fund, USA); Ed Lyman (Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, USA); Jamison Smith (NOAA, USA).