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International Whaling Commission

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling on December 2, 1946 with a headquarters in Cambridge, England. The role of the inter-governmental commission is to periodically review and revise the Schedule to the Convention, controlling the conduct of whaling by setting the protection of certain species; designating areas as whale sanctuaries; setting limits on the numbers and size of catches; prescriing open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; controlling aboriginal subsistence whaling; and other measures.

Each signatory state of the convention is represented by a Commissioner at the IWC. There are currently 45 members. The IWC has three main committees - Scientific, Technical, and Finance and Administration. Meetings are held annually in May or June and are generally extremely divisive - demonstrating a complete split on all major issues between the pro-Whaling nations and their supporters and the anti-Whaling nations.

The IWC introduced an open ended moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986. However the Convention grants special permits to allow whale killing for scientific purposes. Since 1986 only Norway, Iceland and especially Japan have been issued with permits, with Japan being the sole permit holder since 1995 as part of their 16-year programme. Norway lodged a protest to the zero catch limits in 1992 and is not bound by them.

The IWC has attempted to expand its purview to cover the smaller members of the order Cetacea, with little success.

Current (2002) members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Chile, People's Republic of China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominica, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA.

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