Whaling is a notorious practise concerning the killing of whales, and should be strictly prohibited, in order to benefit from its products such as beef, oil and baleen, among others. This is a tradition in areas such as Korea, Norway, Japan, and Iceland, among others, dating back to around 5000 years ago (Healy 25). These areas are believed to have little potential to sustain agriculture, so people had to look for an alternative means of subsistence and whaling proved to be the most adequate. Whales were in abundance at this period, and while it is still considered to have been barbaric, this practise did not pose a major danger to the whale population as it was only carried out at the level of survival. In addition, there were no specialised facilities to allow large-scale whaling. Instead, fishermen used primitive techniques and machinery such as canoes, which subjected them to hazards associated with this practise, such as sinking as a result of canoes capsizing while trying to capture whales or even experiencing attacks from oceanic mammoth animals. In attempt to persuade it to change its direction to swim to the shore, the whalers used the canoes to encircle the intended whale, where it would end up on the beach and helplessly make it easier to capture (James et al 36).
It is estimated that this practise killed a considerably large amount between the years 1700 and 1900, i.e. more than 50,000 bowhead whales, contributing to their near extinction, despite the fact that this was mostly on the eastern coast of Greenland. The threat of these species, however, started in the early 1900s, when technical developments encouraged the construction of large ships and cannons, whose success rate enhanced large-scale whaling and, in turn, the creation of whale processing industries (Healy 38). According to estimates, more than 2 million whales of various species were killed in the time between 1910 and 1969, and worse yet, recent reports suggest that the world’s population of blue whales is about 3500, which is significantly poor given the fact that approximately 29000 blue whales were captured and slaughtered in 1931 alone (Freeman 148). The remaining blue whale population is, in fact, considered to be smaller than or equal to 1% of its initial population. This illustrates that there is a significant and real danger to whales, which must be worked out in the same way before other animals are harmed. Other figures suggest that over 27000 whales were killed between 1986 and 2001, despite the fact that a ban was imposed in 1986 to shield whales from commercial whaling firms. It should be remembered, however, that this ban did not prohibit whaling for scientific reasons and was used by countries such as Japan as a justification for continuing to partake in commercial whaling under the pretext of carrying out scientific research (Gillespie 67).
The extent of this danger to whales can be open to contradiction, which suggests that it may also be greater than the available estimates and evidence. This is attributed to the fact that occasionally the International Whaling Commission (IWC) depends on estimates that independent experts have challenged on several occasions. The IWC, for instance, once created estimates showing that the initial number of Humpback whales was around 100,000. On the contrary, data produced by DNA sampling in 2003 revealed that the initial number of humpback whales was around 1.5 million, i.e. before the start of commercial whaling (Gillespie 73). With fewer than 20000 humpback whales left, depending on the evidence one chooses to draw on, the amount of harm suffered may be overestimated or underestimated. Likewise, after the IWC disowned its estimation of 760,000 whales after resurveying and arriving at a new hypothesis that they might have been less than this, the original numbers of Minke whales in the Antarctic have never been identified (Healy 87). Overestimating the original estimates makes it possible for those in the whaling industry to pressure the IWC to end the ban, claiming that ample supply is available to finance their operations.
Whaling is an activity, which has continued to elicit negative emotions in the international community for more than 25 years since the introduction of a ban on industrial whaling in 1986. This was informed by the need to slow down the killing of whales, in order to conduct a research on the available stocks of different species of whales, so as to determine whether there was enough to sustain their existence (Gillespie 90). As discussed earlier, this exempted whaling activities that were dedicated to scientific research, a loophole which countries such as Japan have continued to utilize as defense for their whaling activities. Whales are oceanic creatures, which take a long time to reproduce i.e. for example 3 years in blue whales and more than 6 years for the calves to reach sexual maturity. This is an indication that whales have the potential to reach extinction at an alarming rate especially in the current prevailing conditions, where more than 1000 whales are killed on yearly basis. This is not withstanding the fact that other environmental degradation activities, such as water pollution by effluents from industries and factors such as climate change, are also posing a major threat to the survival of the already existing whales (James et al 77). This is one of the significant reasons why, all the governments including Japan and Norway, should embrace the spirit of the 1986 moratorium and abide by the regulations of the IWC, in order to preserve these endangered species for the sake of our future generations.
Whaling should be banned completely on the basis that it is a significant economic blow to the tourism industry. Whale watching is an economic activity, which has continued to gain popularity over time since its inception in 1950. In the year 2008, statistics indicate that this activity attracted more than 13 million people globally and it raises annual revenue of approximately $2 billion not forgetting that it has employed a labor force of more than 13000 people worldwide (Friedheim 42). This is a sustainable business owing to the fact that more and more people in all generations are willing to spend in recreational activities and if whaling is not stopped, the future of this industry hangs in the balance. The economic aspect of this fact is that once a whale is killed, it is impossible to find its replacement but one whale can be watched as many times as possible, which is directly proportional to the amount of revenue collected every time one goes to watch. This amount does not include the indirect revenues collected from services offered to whale watchers such as accommodation, transport, food among others. Ironically, Japan, which is a major threat to their survival, is one of the beneficiaries of whale watching yet it continues to advocate for the lifting of the moratorium to allow commercial whaling (Morikawa 21).
In addition, the banning of whaling will protect those who consume whale meat from health complications arising from numerous bio toxins present in the meat. These toxins include, among other dangerous ones, organic mercury and Cadmium, which are poisonous substances that inhibits growth and development especially in children. Whale meat also contains high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and other toxic chemicals, which have the capacity to cause hormonal imbalances and impotence as well as cancer in those people who are regular consumers (James 156). In a society which is struggling to fight infections and conditions such as Cancer, HIV, Diabetes, obesity among others, no one surely wants to expose himself to risks associated with consumption of whale products. If whaling is allowed to continue at the commercial level, these products will find their way into the international markets, where uninformed buyers will subject their health to unnecessary risks. The IWC member states should therefore hold their ground and refuse to bow to pressure coming from selfish states, which want to benefit from the trade at the expense of others.
On the other hand the decision to ban whaling cannot be reached without considering the voices of those who disagree and who have various and credible reasons to do so. Whales are marine creatures, which are heavy feeders and whose main food consists of other smaller organisms in the oceans such as fish. It is estimated that some species of whales such as the gray whales can accommodate a meal containing more than 300 kg of its prey (Timothy 32). In this context, allowing whales to roam freely in the oceans in large numbers, as opponents advocate, poses a major threat to fish population, which in turn reflects on the lives of communities that depend on commercial fishing for survival. It may be true that whales are endangered not withstanding the fact that most of the data available on their rate of depletion may be exaggerated, but laws can be put in place to control harvesting. Banning this activity only creates an avenue for illegal harvesting, which makes it difficult to establish and maintain reliable records, essential for making informed decisions on whether and when to suspend whaling activities to allow restocking. Furthermore, the 1986 moratorium has been in place for all this time but whaling activities especially in Japan and Norway has been going on thereby raising questions on its effectiveness (Morikawa 40). Other nations too would want to benefit from commercial whaling but because of their membership to the ICW, they have continued to watch helplessly as defiant nations leap benefits without any course of action being taken.
In addition, proponents of the ban on whaling continue to forget that there are those societies, which traditionally depend on whaling as their source of livelihood. These are communities such as the Abashiri and Taiji of Japan among other Caribbean communities such as the grenadines and Dominicans (Timothy 89). Their participation in this activity is highly based on their day to day nutritional requirements, which are well taken care of by the availability of whales, which are huge enough and therefore satisfying. Most of the nations supporting the ban are ones which are self sufficient in terms of food supply and hence can survive without whale meat. Furthermore, it is unethical for any entity be it an individual or a nation to try to interfere with the way of life of other people by trying to impose their cultures, such as sympathy to animals, on them. The animals were created for a purpose and man was given the authority to do what they want with them. It is not therefore wrong for any given society to have their own perspective of dealing with animal issues. The Japanese are some of the people who are known to have depended on whaling more than 5000 years ago meaning that this is a culture which is entrenched in their way of living and therefore, others should learn to respect this and stay away from their politics as they are a sovereign nation with its own policies and regulations.
Furthermore, whaling is an activity which has created numerous job opportunities to people who would otherwise be a burden to the society if whaling is banned. Iceland and Norway are examples of countries which can testify to this as they have benefited highly by exporting whale meat to Japan. Iceland, in 2009, was forced to come up with a ‘controversial’ decision to increase the whaling quota, as a measure to solve the financial crisis it was going through, and which was creating tensions in the country as citizens had started to conduct mass protests (Healy 116). ‘Controversial’ in this case means that the locals did not see it as such but the international community opposed to whaling did. If whaling is legalized fully, more markets would open up thereby creating more jobs and attracting foreign exchange from countries that have no access to whales or where there is a higher demand than supply. Anti whaling campaigns have demonized the consumption of whaling products such that they have become unpopular in the society. Legalizing it would enhance marketing thereby creating more demand. Probably, the Americans should join the group of nations advocating for its legalization and maybe by so doing, the government would be able to reduce the rate of unemployment, which is proving to be a major problem.
Whaling is a controversial activity, which should be banned regardless of dissenting voices. This activity has been in progress for more than 5000 years, a period which has witnessed the near extinction of various whale species. From the information gathered, it is evident that the presence of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling has done little to protect the existence of whales, noting that in the year when it was introduced, more than 27000 whales were killed and the figures is even higher if statistics between then and now are compiled together. Japan and Norway have featured prominently alongside Iceland as the major countries, which are flouting the moratorium as they are still involved in commercial whaling. However, Japan has tried to conceal its defiance by saying that its involvement is only associated with scientific research, which is permitted by the moratorium, but the number of kills made every year portrays otherwise. In this discussion, advocates have listed whales as an endangered species that needs protection. They also claimed that whaling is a threat to the tourism industry, especially whale watching, which is a high-income sector. It has also come out clearly that whale meat is harmful to human health as it contains bio toxins such as mercury, Cadmium and polychlorinated biphenyls, which have adverse effects such as cancer and impotence. Opponents have identified the threats to commercial fishing, culture and loss of jobs and foreign exchange as their major basis of argument. However, these are not reasons enough to compel one to join their call for legalization of whaling.
- Freeman, Milton. “Whaling and Sustainability.” Journal of Political ecology 6 (1999): 140-161.
- Friedheim, Robert. Towards a Sustainable Whaling Regime. University of Washington Press, 2001
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- James, Estes, et al., eds. Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems. University of California Press, 2007
- Morikawa, Jun. Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics, and Diplomacy. Columbia University Press, 2009
- Timothy, Ragen, et al., eds. Marine Mammal Research: Conservation beyond Crisis. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005