Regionalization of International Whale Management: The Case of the North Atlantic Marine Mammals Commission


  • Alf Häkon Hoel



Economic conditions, Environmental impacts, International Whaling Commission, Law, Offshore seismic surveys, Pollution, Public opinion, Sustainable economic development, Treaties, Whales, Whaling, Wildlife management, Greenland, Iceland, Norway


This article reviews the evolution of the North Atlantic Marine Mammals Commission (NAMMCO) and considers its relations with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and other international institutions concerned with marine resource management. Starting out in 1988 with a conference to address their common concerns, the four parties of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland and Norway in 1990 set up a North Atlantic Committee for Coordination of Marine Mammals Research (NAC), thereby institutionalizing the information function crucial to management. The regulation function was attended to when NAMMCO was established with a scientific committee and a council in 1992. With a management committee and the scientific committee being operative in 1993, the regime appears to have been steadily evolving towards a prominent role in North Atlantic marine mammals management. The preservationist inclination of most IWC members is identified as a major driving force, but also important are the development of a multispecies perspective in fisheries science and the coastal states' fear of creeping jurisdiction on the part of an international organization. Problems of compatibility with the IWC are found to be minor at this stage, while NAMMCO rests firmly on the legal bases provided by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and the Agenda 21 adopted by UNCED in 1992. The real threats to marine mammals are impacts from pollution, seismic survey shooting, and nuclear test explosions, rather than harvest. A relevant future policy area for the IWC is therefore the task of informing its member governments of the effects of environmental degradation on whales, while the management issues could be shifted to appropriate regional organizations that can manage whales on a sustainable basis in relation to their role in the ecosystem.

Key words: resource management, whales, regionalization, NAMMCO, WC