Hunting Whales

Many people consider that while hunting whales, the method of slaughtering whales is extremely cruel

Although whaling fleets may be highly sophisticated, equipped with sonar, helicopters, long-range explosive harpoons and factory ships, the actual kill is barbaric. The whale is killed by a 90kg, 2 meter-long iron harpoon, shot from a 90mm cannon. The harpoon head contains a time-fuse grenade which, literally, blows the whale’s insides apart seconds after impact.

The killing is barbaric because in most cases such an explosion does not usually kill the whale immediately and it may suffer for hours before finally dying.

Evidence is growing that industrial chemicals and pesticide run-offs are potentially one of the gravest threats to the whales’ survival. According to the latest research, baleen whales are increasingly affected by chemicals accumulating in their blubber, which slowly release into their milk when they migrate to winter calving grounds. Recent studies are finding high contents of mercury in the whales hunted off the Faroe islands.

These often invisible risks are becoming apparent at a time when whales are still struggling to recover from the years of overhunting that drove many species to the brink of extinction. The Atlantic population of gray whales actually became extinct, and the Eastern North Atlantic right whale population was so severely depleted that it is on the verge of disappearing from the planet. Scientists estimate the critically endangered Western North Pacific gray whale numbers at between 100 to 200 animals. Other cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises, have also dropped to critically low levels.

Truthfully there is no actual count of these creatures and what is an acceptable norm for the species to survive

Whale hunting is still continuing despite the declaration of a moratorium on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1985-86. “If whaling cannot be ended or brought under very tight international regulation, it remains a potentially serious danger for the remaining whales, together with all the other mounting threats,” said Cassandra Phillips, WWF’s Senior Policy Adviser on whales and Antarctica and co-author of the report. Each year over 1,000 whales are still being hunted for the commercial market, and since the moratorium came into effect, some 21,573 whales have been killed as of April this year.

Here is some essential knowledge about how the IWC works, which whales are hunted, and the countries that hunt them:

INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION (IWC)

Set up in 1946, the IWC’s 88 members are roughly divided between those that back whaling nations Japan, Iceland and Norway (hunting whales and dolphins is O.K.), and countries whose main priority is the conservation (hunting whales is not O.K.).

Pro-whaling nations include most of Asia, a number of Caribbean and African states, and Russia. Countries hostile to whaling led by Australia include the European Union (except Denmark), most English-speaking nations (including South Africa, Kenya and India), and all of South America.

The Moratorium on Hunting Whales – Is it really happening?

In 1982 the IWC voted to implement a moratorium — what it called a “pause” — in the commercial hunting of whales.

The ban went into effect in 1986. Three countries — Japan, Norway and Iceland — have used loopholes in its wording to unilaterally resume hunting of several whale species. The way that this is done is that these countries are not hunting whales, but capturing them for ‘scientific research”.

The fact is, whales that are captured/killed are then sold into the Japanese food marketplace. In an in-depth article, written in 2008, a BBC reporter went to an actual whaling village. There he was told by the town’s whaler that:

This is whale caught in the oceans off Antarctica by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research. Mr. Shoji buys the meat from them. The proceeds of the sales are used to help fund the Japanese research programme.

“We use it for sashimi,” he says.

So the real truth is that it is not ‘scientific research’ in Japan’s case

The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, sells whale meat to a village who then sells the meat as sashimi. The money paid to Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research takes that money and pays their staff and ships to hunt more whales.

For “research”.

How much “research” could any organization do on a whale year after year?  How many ‘experiements’ would you really need to do? But you see, the word “research” can be used in many different ways. As it can be deemed a neutral word, it carries no real meaning until one actually discovers exactly HOW the word is really being used. Good Public Relations people then leave out the details.

What is the real legal framework regarding hunting whales with the countries that want to hunt them?

  • Any IWC member can object to the moratorium, declaring itself exempt. Invoking this provision, Iceland killed 38 whales in the 2008-2009 season, and Norway killed 539.
  • A country can also set its own “scientific permits” for whaling, ostensibly to further research on conservation. Under this rule, Japan harvested 1,004 whales in 2008-2009.
  • The IWC grants permits to indigenous peoples to carry out traditional and subsistence whaling. Native peoples in Russia, Alaska and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all have quotas.

Another loophole: “BY-CATCH” Whaling

Every year whales get caught in fishing nets and die, especially minke in coastal waters off of Japan and South Korea. Since 1996 both countries have reported these ostensibly accidental catches which, in the case of Japan, have steadily increased.

Over the 12 year up through 2008, each country has acknowledged more than 1000 whales lost to ‘by-catch’. Products from these whales are sold openly in both countries, and DNA analysis suggests that the actual number killed may be twice as high.

Now, if the countries were really DOING something about nets – which just happen to be floating around in the ocean – you would think that the numbers of whales and dolphins killed by these nets would decrease, wouldn’t you?

Specific Whale species are hunted yearly

The IWC regulates hunting of a dozen large whale species, including filter feeders and a few deep-diving “toothed” whales.

The global stocks for many, and how far they have declined, are simply not known, making it nearly impossible to set scientifically-based catch quotas.

In recent years, the three whaling countries have mainly hunted six species in different waters around the world: Antarctic minke whales, up to 10 meters (32 feet); Northern Hemisphere minke whales, up to 9 meters (30 feet); Fin whales, up to 24 meters (78 feet), 70 tonnes; Bryde’s whale, up to 14 meters (46 feet); Sei whales, up to 16 meters (53 feet); Sperm whales, up to 15 meters (49 feet).

Do Whale sanctuaries exist?

  • There are currently two major whale sanctuaries. One covering most of the Indian Ocean was created in 1979 following an initiative by The Seychelles, and is a breeding ground for many southern hemisphere cetaceans.
  • The Southern Ocean sanctuary, surrounding the continent of Antarctica, was proposed by France and set up in 1994. Its waters, teeming with marine life, serve as a feeding ground for more than a dozen whales species.

Japan has harvested nearly 10,000 whales there in the name of scientific research since 1982. A proposal on the table in Agadir would reopen the area to commercial hunting.

What do we do after we have depleted the whale population by hunting whales?

Paleontologists point to the fact that over geologic history, massive races of animals suffered extinction due to overpopulation, depletion of natural resources or predation. To me it seems that although whales, if not saved from extinction, is only a precursor to our own plight.

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