International Whaling Commission: Patricia Forkan Collection

History and Purpose

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed December 2, 1946. The purpose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. The main focus the IWC is to keep under review and revise the measures found in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling worldwide. These measures provide for the complete protection of certain species; designate specified areas as whale sanctuaries; set limits on the numbers and size of whales which may be taken; prescribes whaling areas and seasons; and prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by calves. The IWC also encourages, co-ordinates and provides funds for whale research, publishes the results of scientific research and promotes studies into related matters such as the humaneness of whale killing operations.


The IWC is one of many groups concerned about the plight of whales. An important ally of the IWC is the Humane Society International (HSI). The HSI began the “Save Whales – Not Whaling!” campaign. The campaign’s aim is to help politicians and the public better understand the damage commercial whaling inflicts upon the whale population. Each year, representatives from the Humane Society go to the IWC annual meeting to show their support. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the country’s principal animal protection organization, is closely tied to HSI. Established in the mid 1950’s, HSUS has a long legacy of protecting wild and domesticated animals. One of the HSUS’s most invaluable leaders has been Patricia Forkan. Ms. Forkan graduated from Pennsylvania State University and worked for the Fund for Animals in New York and Florida prior to becoming a program coordinator at the HSUS. During her time with HSUS, Forkan helped to convince the U.S. Congress to promote enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. Similarly, she worked tirelessly to empower individuals interested in animal rights. Currently, Forkan is HSUS’s Senior Envoy to the Obama administration and is in charge of “Change Agenda for Animals.”

Scope and Content

The papers of Senior Vice President of the Humane Society of the United States, Patricia Forkan, this collection consists of approximately fifteen linear feet of materials that document the creation and business practices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In date, this collection ranges from approximately 1971 to 2004 and is primarily composed of records relating the IWC’s annual meetings. Materials relating to annual meetings include agendas, voting records, resolutions opening statements, reports, and schedules, as well as documents relating to the Commission’s three main committees - Scientific, Technical, and Finance and Administration. Technical and Scientific sub-committees including reports and meeting agendas and guidelines also comprise the collection. A large portion of this collection also includes correspondence, memos and other communications from the International Whaling Commission, the Humane Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and other agencies, as well as press releases and clippings pertaining to the whaling industry, whaling agencies, and whale sanctuaries. Reports, clippings and other documentation relating to the Makah tribe and other ethnic groups are also contained within the collection.

Digital Collection

Included in this collection are digitized copies of the International Whaling Commission agendas and scientific reports from yearly meetings dating from 1974-2006. Over 80 scientists from around the world attend the annual IWC scientific meeting each year. Reports include details of all management decisions taken by the commission; the yearly reports of the Scientific Committee and its Sub-Committees; papers written by biologists from over twenty countries covering aspects of cetaceans biology, population dynamics, ecology and behavior, stock assessment, age determination and genetics of whales and smaller cetaceans.