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The Commission proposes that the European Union and its Member States adopt a coordinated approach at international level to guarantee effective protection of whales, mainly by opposing commercial whaling.


Proposal of 19 December 2007 for a Council Decision establishing the position to be adopted on behalf of the European Community with regard to proposals for amendments to the Schedule of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.

Communication of 19 December 2007 from the European Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council, on Community action in relation to whaling [COM(2007) 823 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The European Union (EU) adopted measures to protect cetaceans (whales, dolphins, etc.) against hunting, capture and captivity, and also against deliberate disturbance or trading, including cetacean products originating from third countries.

The protection of cetaceans is provided at European level by several legislative acts and strategies, such as:

However, whales are migratory and can therefore only be effectively protected if equivalent conservation measures are adopted globally.

Whaling has been globally prohibited since the 1985/1986 season. This moratorium was declared by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), mainly owing to uncertainties in the scientific information on global whale stocks.

The IWC is the competent international organisation regarding the conservation and management of whale stocks and was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling signed in 1946. In November 2011, it has 89 members and the EU has observer status.

There are many exceptions that make it possible for some countries not to comply with the IWC's moratorium on whaling. For example, Iceland and Norway are not bound by the moratorium because of the objections or reservations they have lodged under the 1946 Convention. In addition, whaling is permitted under special permits granted by national authorities for scientific research purposes. Japan, for instance, carries out “scientific programmes” and can market the meat of the whales captured under these programmes. Lastly, aboriginal subsistence whaling is still authorised.

The IWC's mandate covers both the management of whaling and the conservation of whales. This dual mandate has led to extremely polarised positions between pro-whaling and anti-whaling states, which is jeopardising international cooperation and hindering progress towards the effective protection of all whale species.

In order to strengthen the position in favour of the protection of whales, the EU invites all Member States that have not yet signed the 1946 Convention to do so. The EU and its Member States will work together with other countries and will strive to convince them to oppose whaling.

The Commission proposes that the Member States present a common position for the EU in the IWC to ensure an effective international regulatory framework for the protection of whales. Based on this position, the Member States should particularly oppose the partial or total lifting of the moratorium on whaling and the broadening of the scope of secret ballots in the IWC. They should also support:

  • the creation of whale sanctuaries;
  • aboriginal subsistence whaling, as long as it does not jeopardise whale stocks;
  • the implementation of globally applicable whaling regulations, particularly as regards whaling for scientific research purposes;
  • proposals which are consistent with the EU's position in relation to the CITES Convention and other international agreements to which the European Community is a party;
  • activities of the Conservation Committee and proposals to address the conservation concerns on small cetaceans;
  • the collection of scientific data using non-destructive methods that do not harm whales, and research on the conservation of whale populations.

References and procedure


Official Journal


COM(2007) 821



Last updated: 09.11.2011