Humane Society International Addresses International Whaling Commission

Madeira, Portugal (RPRN) 6/26/2009–As representatives of almost 80 nations gather in Portugal to determine the fate of the world’s whale populations, Humane Society International has a rare opportunity to address the assembled policy makers. The organization’s Patricia Forkan, who has attended International Whaling Commission meetings since 1973, spoke to the delegates and urged them to focus on whale conservation.

“Whale populations face threats from habitat destruction, climate change and from nations that continue to kill them, either under the IWC’s authority or, increasingly, by flouting any international regulations,” said Forkan. “If our descendants are to live on a planet that sustains any whale populations, the delegates gathered in Madeira must resolve to save these magnificent animals.”

While non-governmental organizations were once permitted to address IWC delegates to express the views of the citizens whose interests they represent, in recent years the meeting has curtailed such participation. Public pressure to allow more openness resulted in the opportunity for representatives of NGOs to address the meeting. This year, the pro-whale conservation organizations elected Forkan to represent them.

The IWC meets this year as concerns continue to mount that the international ban on commercial whaling implemented more than 20 years ago may be overturned. The most recent threat to the ban stems from a dubious compromise plan, negotiated largely behind closed doors. Some member countries involved in these negotiations are considering yielding to the demands of pro-whaling countries to resume coastal commercial whaling.

In the face of significant and growing dangers to whale populations including habitat degradation and climate change, the IWC should phase out all forms of commercial whaling. Instead, the IWC has directed its efforts to proposing deals to legalize coastal commercial whaling and legitimize whaling conducted on a commercial scale under the guise of scientific research. HSI favors the creation of a global whale sanctuary and an end to commercial whaling, which is inhumane, outdated and unnecessary.


  • Forkan has been participating in IWC meetings since the early 1970s. Her areas of expertise include international trade and capacity building, marine mammal protection and United Nations and international treaties.
  • She represents The Humane Society of the United States and HSI at the annual International Whaling Commission meetings and has also served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the IWC. Forkan has worked tirelessly to end the slaughter of whales for commercial gain, which continues today despite a ban on commercial whaling enacted by the IWC in 1982.
  • From 1979 to 1983 Forkan served on the public advisory committee to the International Law of the Sea Negotiations. She directed the HSI European office in its landmark efforts to stop the importation of dolphin-deadly tuna into the European market.


Humane Society International and its affiliate organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. HSI is creating a better future for animals and people through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at

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