International legal framework

Numerous marine mammal species are protected by international conventions. The two principal conventions concerning marine mammals are the Bonn and Washington Conventions.

The Bonn Convention

The Bonn Convention, known as CMS, meaning the Conservation of Migratory Species, pertains to protecting migratory species of wild animals. It was adopted in 1979, entered into force in 1983 and was ratified by France in 1990.

The migratory species covered by the convention are grouped in two appendices.

Appendix I covers migratory species in danger of extinction. Parties that are a Range State for a migratory species listed in Appendix I shall endeavour:

  • To conserve and where appropriate restore their habitats, which are essentials in removing the species from the danger of extinction,
  • To prevent, remove or compensate or mitigate the negative effects of activities or obstacles to their migration and control other factors that might make migration impossible,
  • To prohibit the taking of animals belonging to such species.

Appendix II covers migratory species that have an unfavourable conservation status. Protection actions of these species may significantly benefit from international cooperation.

See the text of the Convention for further details.

The Washington Convention

The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, more commonly known as CITES, entered into force in 1975, aims at monitoring the international trade of specimens of wild animals and plants, so that the survival of the species it belongs to is not threatened.

The species listed in Appendix 1 of this convention are the most endangered among the animals and plants covered by CITES. Being endangered, CITES prohibits their international trade except when the import is not for commercial purposes but, for example, for scientific research. In these exceptional cases, transactions can take place provided they are authorised through the issuance of an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate).

See Appendix 1 of CITES for further details.

International Whaling Commission

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is a major player at the international level. Its objectives are the conservation of whale populations and the sustainable development of the whaling industry.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling at the end of the Second World War. In 1982, a ban on whaling was adopted by the majority of IWC members. Only baleen whales are covered by these regulations and international agreements relating to the exploitation of these species.

Learn more about the IWC.