Posted on: March 20, 2014

PWF Executive Director Invited Presenter at Workshop in Brazil to Create Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary

Pacific Whale Foundation Founder and Executive Director Greg Kaufman traveled to Praia do Forte, Brazil in late March as an invited presenter at an International Whaling Commission (IWC) workshop to discuss a proposal to create a Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) where whale hunting would not be allowed. 
 
The workshop took place from March 19 through March 21 and was organized by the 
government of Brazil in co-operation with Instituto Baleia Jubarte (IBJ). Invitees to the workshop were members of the IWC’s Scientific Committee, of which Greg is a part, as well as all IWC Commissioners representing member nations. 
 
The sanctuary was initially proposed by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, South 
Africa and Uruguay to declare the southern Atlantic a no-kill zone for whales. The proposal to establish the SAWS has been presented repeatedly at International Whaling Commission meetings but has failed to pass.
 
At the 2012 IWC Biennial Meeting, the proposal drew support from more than half of the voting members, but not the three-quarters required for passage. The proposal will be reintroduced at the 2014 IWC Biennial Meeting to be held this fall. 
 
The workshop in Brazil was held in preparation for the 2014 IWC Biennial Meeting. It provides a venue to consider all political, legal and socioeconomic aspects involved in the possible establishment of the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
 
“The countries of Latin and South America are discovering the value of living whales in 
attracting tourism to their coastal areas,” says Kaufman. “They view it as a sovereign right to protect whales as a shared resource.” 
 
 “This year, there is a better chance than ever that the SAWS could become established,” says Kaufman. “The countries pushing for its passage are looking to Pacific Whale Foundation’s experience with using whalewatch vessels to help gather data about marine mammals in the proposed protected area.” 
 
Kaufman presented a workshop on “Whalewatching as a Platform of Opportunity” for gathering data about whales. 
 
Pacific Whale Foundation’s Whale and Dolphin Tracker software, a computer program that has been in use on Pacific Whale Foundation’s vessels off Maui for several years, has allowed the foundation to accumulate data on thousands of marine mammal sightings. “It allows all vessels to become what scientists call ‘Platforms of Opportunity’ to gather vast amounts of data about marine mammals,” he says. “It would be a valuable tool for the nations that border the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.” 
 
The public can view a snapshot of Whale and Dolphin Tracker data gathered by Pacific Whale Foundation vessels at http://www.pacificwhale.org/content/whale-and-dolphin-sightings. 
 
If created, the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would be the fourth sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission. It would adjoin the existing circumpolar Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary which was created in 1984 and the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary created in 1979. 
 
The new Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would include the South Atlantic bordered by the Equator to the North, the coast of South America to the west, the coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean Sanctuary to the east, and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the south. 
 
“The South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would protect rare and fragile ecosystems as well as the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of marine life,” said Greg Kaufman. “It would protect whales in this area in the event that the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling is overturned.” 
 
Kaufman will be attending the IWC Scientific Committee meeting in Slovenia in March and again at Glasgow, Scotland in August.
 
Kaufman’s participation in the IWC Scientific Committee and his attendance at IWC meetings,along with Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs, are made possible by funds raised through Pacific Whale Foundation’s whalewatches and ocean ecotours, sales at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Store and at Porto Mediterranean Grill and Pizzeria, as well as by donations from members and supporters worldwide. To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, please visit www.pacificwhale.org.