The International Whaling Commission
On December 2nd, 1946, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was signed in the United States by representatives from many of the world's whaling nations. The mandate of the ICRW was, through regulation, to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry".
The Convention led to the creation of the International Whaling Commission which first conviened in 1949. However, regulations established by the IWC have historically been regarded as optional by whaling nations and failed to protect whales from over-exploitation.
In its early years IWC policies seemed to facilitate the worst business practices of the whaling industry leading some environmental organizations to refer to it as the "International Whalers Club". As whale populations around the world were decimated, many whale fisheries predictably declined and collapsed as well.
Without any mechanism for enforcement of IWC regulations, most large whale species were hunted to the brink of extinction. However, increased public awareness in environmental issues and activism during the 1970s and 80s helped to pressure governments to give up whaling in favor of whale conservation. This "Save the Whales" effort culminated in the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling which officially set all commercial whaling quotas to zero.
Unfortunately, Japan, Iceland, and Norway continue to violate the moratorium through official objection and regulatory loopholes. For example, Japan has heavily abused Article VIII of the ICRW which permits a nation to take any number of whales with a self-determined quota for scientific research. Japan has also used its economic influence to bribe developing nations for pro-whaling votes. As a result, the IWC remains divided between pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations.