Whales, dolphins and porpoises are a group of marine mammals collectively known as cetaceans. During the 19th and 20th centuries many types due to over-hunting, many cetacean populations had collapsed. A moratorium on commercial hunting of whales was introduced in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in late 1986. The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

The recovery of some populations, such as humpback whales, from near-extinction, is considered a major conservation success story. However, some populations remain critically endangered like the North Atlantic Right Whales.

Despite the 1986 moratorium some counties such as Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, and United States continue to hunt whales. There are several reasons why countries allow whale hunting, from respecting traditional indigenous practices to commercial and scientific reasons. In February 2022 Iceland signalled that it aims to ban commercial whaling by 2024.

Beyond whaling, there are several human-made hazards, such as ocean noise, bycatch, ship collision, pollution, climate change and other forms of habitat degradation, which threaten marine mammal populations. Furthermore, there have been reports that the number of cetacean strandings is on the rise. The causes of these strandings are unknown, including the role of human-activity.

Other types of marine mammals populations such as seals, manatees, dugongs are also thought to be affected by these human-made hazards.

The Committee is seeking views in the following areas:

  1. What is the status of marine mammal populations?
  2. How, and for what purpose, are marine mammals being killed?
  3. Beyond whaling, what human behaviours are affecting whale populations and how?
  4. How effective are the global protections of marine mammals?
  5. How can the UK better protect marine mammals? What role can the UK Government play to protect and promote the conservation of marine mammals internationally?

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