Whales are hunted for their meat, skin, blubber and oil. Whaling is regulated by the International Whaling Commission. Established in 1946, it is responsible for the conservation of whales. Today it also deals with bycatch and entanglement, ship strikes, marine noise and pollution. It also monitors the sustainability of whale watching.
There are three types of whaling: commercial, aboriginal subsistence and scientific. However, it is still legal in three countries.
Whale hunting, a long tradition
Japan, a member of the International Whaling Commission, is one of them. It hunts Antarctic whales every year for scientific research. But the International Court of Justice (IJC) ruled in 2014 that it was not doing so for research purposes. The ICJ ordered Japan to stop hunting under its permit.
The second is Norway. It is the number one whaling country for commercial reasons. It has twice withdrawn from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Third time’s a charm, they finally accepted it with reservations. Whale hunting is a cultural tradition. It goes back to the Vikings in the 9th century. Today, Norway restricts hunting to the minke whale, which is not classified as an endangered species.
An end to whaling ?
The last is Iceland. The country left the International Whaling Commission in 1992 and has since resumed commercial whaling.
However, following a report on animal welfare, Icelandic Food Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir suspended the whaling season until 31 August. The report indicates that 41 % of the whales targeted do not die immediately. They suffer after being harpooned. It can take up to two hours for them to die. Moreover, explosives could be used. This allows the whale to be killed more quickly byallowing it to bleed to death.
The harpoon used to be hooked inside the whale. The whale would then pull the line to exhaustion, allowing the fishermen to kill it.
The end of fin whale hunting is being supported by tourism. In fact, whale-watching tourism is on the rise. Income from tourism is greater than that from the sale and export of meat.
The marine mammal also plays a key role in marine life. Their excrement stimulates the growth of plankton. This in turn can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Plankton is also an important food source for small marine animals and fish. Ending whaling means preserving an entire marine ecosystem.