Inspection and Observation Scheme for the Hunting of Marine Mammals

NAMMCO appoints international observers to monitor sealing and whaling activities in selected areas in NAMMCO member countries under the Provisions of the NAMMCO Inspection and Observation Scheme for the Hunting of Marine Mammals in member countries.

The Observation Scheme was reviewed in 2018 and 2019, and a new Scheme came into force in April 2019. During the review period no observers were active. The 2020 observation priority was Norwegian sealing in the pack ice, however due to the coronavirus pandemic all activity is cancelled in 2020.

For a list of yearly scope of the observation Scheme 1998 – 2017 click here.  More detailed information on which hunts have been observed in which years can be found here.

Ringed seal, netting, Greenland
Greenland, ringed seal © Fernando Ugarte
Pilot whales ©Dorete Bloch
Pilot whales © Dorete Bloch
Flensing, minke whale, Norway
Flensing of minke whale, Norwegian vessel (1994) © B.T. Forberg, Institute of Marine Research, Norway
Icelandic minke whaling ©Marine Research Institute, Iceland.
Icelandic minke whaling © Marine Research Institute, Iceland.

The NAMMCO Observation Scheme is  administered by the NAMMCO Secretariat. Every year observers are contracted and travel to one or several of the NAMMCO member countries. The focus of the observation activities have included the pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands and sealing and whaling activities in Iceland, Greenland and Norway. Observations take place on board vessels and on shore, in connection with flensing, storage and landing/delivering of the catch.

The purpose of the Inspection and Observation Scheme is to provide a mechanism to collect reliable information on all kinds of marine mammal hunting activities in the member countries.  The Scheme shall provide a mechanism to oversee whether NAMMCO recommendations are implemented and national regulations are followed. Furthermore, the Scheme shall provide a foundation for member states to evaluate whether a recommendation is serving its purpose or not, and in general contribute to the improvement of the national regulations.

The Scheme also contributes to ensuring transparency in whaling and sealing operations in the region.

NAMMCO observers have no authority (of jurisdiction) and consequently cannot intervene in the hunting or other activities connected with the hunting.

National inspectors are approved by national authorities to exercise control and if necessary, to intervene in the hunting or other activities connected with the hunting. This authority is enshrined in the national legislation.

The observers are formally appointed by NAMMCO and are selected according to their qualifications from a list of candidates nominated by member countries. As a general rule, NAMMCO observers are required to have at least the same level of qualifications and training as national inspectors and must be familiar with all relevant regulations in relation to the activities they observe. Observers are trained before going out into the field. For information on the most recent course click here.

The role of the observer is to oversee hunting activities and national inspection of these, in order to observe whether or not these are carried out in accordance with national legislation and decisions made through NAMMCO. Thus the observers must be given access to all objects of importance for the task at hand such as hunting permits, vessel logbooks, reports of catch, hunting equipment etc. NAMMCO observers are employed by, and responsible to, NAMMCO alone. They submit a written report to the NAMMCO Secretariat at the end of their assignment but are otherwise required to maintain the confidentiality of their observations. Observers are required to report on adherence of the national regulations but have no authority to intervene in hunting activities in any way. Actions with respect to possible infringements are the responsibility of the national control authorities. The Secretariat compiles an overview of observation activities each year for the annual review of the NAMMCO Council.

The Observation Scheme was approved by NAMMCO Council in 1996, with the adoption of guidelines to Section B in 1997.  A revision of the text was carried out in 2009 to incorporate new developments like electronic monitoring. In 2018 and 2019 the Observation Scheme went through an internal review, and a revised Scheme came into force in April 2019. During the review period no observers were active and 2020 will be the first season under the revised Scheme.

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