The order Cetacea includes the whales, dolphins and porpoises and comprise the mammals most fully adapted to aquatic life. It contains 81 known species organized in two suborders: Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales, which includes dolphins and porpoises). The order contains several record breaking species, with the Blue Whale being the largest animal known, and the Orca being the most widely distributed animal.
Cetaceans evolved from land mammals that adapted to marine life about 50 million years ago. Over a period of a few millions of years during the Eocene, the cetaceans returned to the sea. Their body is fusiform (spindle-shaped), the forelimbs are modified into flippers, the tiny hindlimbs are vestigial and the tail has horizontal flukes. Cetaceans are nearly hairless, and are insulated by a thick layer of blubber.
Cetaceans inhabit all of the world's oceans, as well as some rivers in South America and Asia. Some species can be found across the globe.
Cetology is the branch of marine science associated with the study of cetaceans.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) on December 2, 1946 to promote and maintain whale fishery stocks. The structural design of the IWC rested on the hope that states in their long-term self-interest would adopt cooperative policies suggested by expert scientific management of a common resource.See Protocol to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 19 November 1956, 10 UST 952, 338 UNTS 366; Circular Communication to All Contracting Governments, 30 June 1972, 23 UST 2820. Since the 1980s the IWC has become the primary mechanism for the protection of all species of whale.Patricia Birnie, International Regulation of Whaling: From Conservation of Whaling to Conservation of Whales and Regulation of Whale-watching (New York: Oceana Publications, 1985) The change in the IWC's institutional mission began in the early 1970s, and is often linked with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972. The result of this shift is most evident in the IWC's adoption of a five-year moratorium on commercial whaling, which commenced in 1986 and has been extended to the present, and in the IWC's recent designation of an Antarctic sanctuary for whales.
The current IWC Commissioners meeting is taking place from 16-20 June 2006 in St. Kitts and Nevis where pro-whaling countries plan to challenge the 1982 moratorium.
26 August - Findings from the controversial Japanese whaling research program suggest that a loss of Antarctic sea ice due to increased temperatures has lowered whales' food supply, causing an overall decline in blubber. Read more...
Whaling in Norway is a centuries long tradition in Northern Norway. Only Minke whaling is permitted, from a population of 110,000 animals in the North east Atlantic and is argued by proponents and government officials to be sustainable.