International Whale Commission UPSC

International Whale Commission | UPSC


How much is a whale worth?

      WHY IN NEWS:

One whale is worth thousands of trees — and about two million dollars. It stores about 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Conservation of Biodiversity


For PRELIMS we have covered all the aspects of IWC . Role , aim , membership , convention etc .

For MAINS do you think it is important to device a framework at national level too ?


One whale is worth thousands of trees and about two million dollars — International Monetary Fund.

But how do we calculate the value of a whale?



  • Whales can help fight climate change and provide an ecosystem service worth millions of dollars.
  • Whales combat carbon naturally.
  • Big whales such as filter-feeding baleen and sperm whales help sequester carbon.
  • They hoard carbon in their bodies, stockpiling tonnes of it, like trees (if they could swim).

A single whale, with an average lifespan of 60 years, stores about 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide and a mature tree absorbs up to 22 kilograms of carbon each year.

  • This means one whale can do the job of 1,500 trees.


  • When a whale dies, its carcass sinks to the bottom of the sea.

The carbon stored in it circulates in the atmospheric cycle for hundreds of years.

  • It becomes a literal carbon sink.


  • They provide a special eco-service called the ‘whale pump’.

In the depths of the ocean, whales feed on tiny marine organisms such as krill or plankton and return to the surface to release huge faecal plumes.

  • These plumes are floating masses of faeces rich in iron, phosphorus and nitrogen.
  • These are exactly the substances that plankton needs to grow.
  • Plankton captures about 40 per cent of all carbon dioxide produced worldwide !
  • According to the International Whale Commission, several species are now in the process of recovering.
International Whale Commission

A one per cent recovery of the population could increase plankton that could help capture millions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide each year.


Whales, dolphins and porpoises are a group of marine mammals collectively known as cetaceans.

  • Scientists estimate that there are over 80 species of cetacean.
  • This distinctive and charismatic group includes the largest animal that ever lived and the longest-lived mammal. 
  • Some cetacean species demonstrate highly developed methods of communication including long and complex ‘songs’.

Others navigate and locate their prey via echo-location, generating their own sound waves.



  • The International Whaling Commission is an Inter-governmental Organisation whose purpose is the conservation of whales and the management of whaling.

The legal framework of the IWC is the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

  • This Convention was established in 1946, making it one of the first pieces of international environmental legislation.
  • All member countries of the IWC are signatories to this Convention.
  • The IWC has a current membership of 88 Governments from countries all over the world.


  • The IWC is the global body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. 
  • The IWC currently has 88 member governments from countries all over the world.


  • The Commission’s role has expanded since its establishment in 1946. 

IWC works to address a wide range of conservation issues including bycatch and entanglement, ocean noise, pollution and debris, collision between whales and ships, and sustainable whale watching.


  • Membership of the IWC is open to any country in the world that formally adheres to the 1946 Convention.
  • Each member country is known as a Contracting Government and represented by a Commissioner, who is assisted by experts and advisers.
  • The Chair and Vice-chair are elected from among the Commissioners.

They usually serve for four years, first as Vice-chair for two years, and then as Chair.


  • The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946. 
  • The preamble to the Convention states that its purpose is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks .
  • Thus it make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. 


The work of the Commission is divided across six committees which in turn are comprised of a series of sub-groups.   

  • Some of these sub-groups are long term, standing committees and some are established to complete a specific piece of work.
  • The groups are chaired by Commissioners, other members of national delegations or subject matter experts from within the wider IWC community.


The IWC has a full-time Secretariat with headquarters located near the City of Cambridge, United Kingdom.


  • The IWC is committed to robust and transparent financial management.

Annual financial contributions are calculated for all IWC member governments. 

The size of contribution varies between governments depending on three factors:

  • The size of their delegation at the most recent biennial Commission meeting.
  • Any whaling activity that they may have undertaken;
  • The government’s capacity to pay.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • There are more than one million whales in our oceans.
  • The question is, can they return to their pre-whaling numbers? 5  million  ?
  • The appropriate way to move ahead would be to first double that number, which will take approximately 30 years.

Small steps are the key.

  • IMF was able to quantify whales in the language of economics, making them an international public good.
  • This is a way through which we can save the whales. If we save them, they can save us.

Humpback whales have recovered strongly in the western South Atlantic and their current population is close to around 25,000.

     SOURCES:DownToEarth | International Whale Commission |


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