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Commercial and Scientific Whaling
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Commercial and Scientific Whaling

"Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures." - The Dalai Lama

The world's oceans are opening up to a bloody and cruel slaughter. After hundreds of years of exploitation, whale populations remain at risk from hunting, ship strikes, by-catch, entanglements, marine pollution, underwater noise and global warming. Given all of these threats, whale populations cannot withstand the resurgence of commercial whaling.

Both commercial whaling and international trade in whale products are currently banned. However a growing number of governments are pushing hard for these restrictions to be lifted.

Some Facts about Whaling

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) enacted a moratorium on all commercial whaling. Yet Japan, Iceland and Norway continue firing harpoons into these gentle creatures for products that nobody needs. More than 30,000 whales have been killed and brutally slaughtered for commercial purposes since the ban in 1986. The IWC does not have the capacity to enforce the moratorium.

Many of these whaling operations are carried out under the guise of "scientific research", despite the fact that there has been evidence to the contrary. For instance, recently, Greenpeace exposed evidence of widespread embezzlement of whale meat occurring right under the noses of the public officials who run the Japanese whaling program. More than a ton of whale meat was snuck from the whaling ship this year alone, and it wasnt for "scientific research".

The best cuts of whale meat, used to make whale bacon, are smuggled into crew cabins, preserved in salt, and then shipped home in boxes marked "cardboard" or "salted stuff" to be sold on the black market. Greenpeace intercepted one such box -- worth up to US $3,000 -- and presented it to the Tokyo Prosecutor's office as evidence on May 15th, 2008.

In order to defend it's whaling program, for years Japan has been "recruiting" countries with no obvious interest in whaling to join the IWC and vote in its favour, by using development aid as an incentive. As the number of pro-whaling IWC members grows, the ban on commercial whaling becomes increasingly threatened.

Whaling in Norway

Whaling is a centuries old tradition in Northern Norway. Only Minke whaling is permitted and government officials argue that it is sustainable because Minke whales enjoy (suffer ?) non-endangered status.

The Myth

Whaling supporters from Norway argue that whaling is a green industry (!!) and while its macroeconomic importance is negligible, the livelihood (greed ?) of individuals and small businesses depend on it, and that it is an important part of culture in coastal areas.

They try to fortify their position by claiming that the use of equipment that enables selective catching of marine fish and mammals is an "environmentally-sound" means of producing food for human consumption today, as the environment remains unaffected, energy use is low in relation to yield, and there is no pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals.

The Fact

Norway's whaling operations is by no means crucial to the survival of Norway's coastal communities, which depend on the state of Norway's fisheries. Also, given Norway's sound economic position, it is paradoxical that this is one of a very small number of countries actively engaged in, and favoring the continuation of, commercial whaling, despite opposition from around the world.

Brochures published by the Norwegian government claim that whale meat is sold in Norway where it is a traditional part of the Norwegian diet. The reality is that there is little market for the meat in Norway - the real goal of Norway's whalers is export to Japan where prices paid for whale meat are several times higher than in Norway, generating as much as 4 billion yen in sales annually!

Norwegian whale hunts cause immense and unnecessary suffering for the commercial production of meat.

Whales are speared by harpoons with explosive grenade heads, designed to detonate inside them causing maximum internal damage. At the same time, the head of the harpoon, which remains attached to a boat by a cord, expands like a clawed wall plug under their skin, causing drag from the whalers' boat behind them. In contrast to the strict regulations for commercial meat production in Norwegian slaughterhouses, whales are not stunned or humanely secured before they are killed. Instead, when the harpoon is unsuccessful, a rifle is often used to finish them off.

Whaling in Japan

Large-scale, industrial whaling in Japan started after World War II when protein was in short supply. Japan continues to kill whales and sell the meat from its hunts, despite the ban on commercial whaling. To do this it exploits a loophole in the founding treaty of the International Whaling Commission, which allows whaling for scientific research.

Some Facts about Whaling in Japan

Commercial whaling of humpbacks officially stopped in 1966, after eliminating 95 percent of the population.

At an IWC meeting in 2006, a resolution calling for the eventual return of commercial whaling was passed by a majority of just one vote. There has been a failure to lift the ban on commercial whale hunting and Japan has since threatened to pull out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Currently, Japan allocates its whalers annual "research quotas" for 10 sperm, 100 sei, 120 minke whales in the North Pacific, and up to 935 minkes and 10 fin whales in Antarctica. A total of 1225 whales a year.

The Myth

Japan defends its whaling program, saying it meets International Whaling Commission (IWC) "scientific whaling" criteria.

It maintains that certain populations are strong enough to sustain a managed hunt. The last IWC estimate put the Southern Hemisphere Minke whale population at 761,000 approximately.

The Fact

Greenpeace argues that whales are endangered and must be protected. They also recently exposed the Japanese lie that their whaling program is essentially scientific.

Sea Shepherd has also contested that Japan, as well as Iceland and Norway, is in violation of the IWC moratorium on all commercial whaling.

An international panel of independent legal experts came together in 2006 to examine the issue as it relates to international law. The panel found that Japanese scientific whaling is in fact unlawful under international law, and contravenes key international conventions.

Whaling in Iceland

Modern whaling in Iceland began in 1883, although whaling has been a part of the Icelandic culture since the 9th century. By 1915, 17,000 whales had been taken from Icelandic waters, mostly due to excessive whaling by Norwegian fishermen. The Icelandic Government banned whaling in its waters to allow time for population recovery, but the law was repealed in 1928. By 1935, Icelanders had set up their own commercial whaling operation for the first time. They hunted mostly Sei, Fin, and Minke Whales.

Beginning in 1990, Iceland abided by the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling. Following the 1991 refusal of the IWC to accept its Scientific Committee's recommendation to allow sustainable commercial whaling, Iceland left the IWC in 1992.

Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002 with a reservation to the moratorium, which was not recognized by a number of anti-whaling countries. In 2003, Iceland resumed "scientific whaling". Iceland presented a feasibility study to the 2003 IWC meeting to take 100 Minke, 100 Fin, and 50 Sei in each of 2003 and 2004. They claimed the primary aim of the study was to deepen the understanding of fish-whale interactions; the strongest advocates for a resumed hunt are fisherman concerned that whales are taking too many fish. The hunt was supported by three-quarters of the Icelandic population.

In 2007 Iceland "ended" its commercial whaling programme citing low demands for whale meat and lack of profitability. The Iceland fisheries' minister said he will not issue a new quota until the market conditions for whale meat improve and permission to export whale products to Japan is secured! So, this is not a permanent ban on whaling in Iceland, and they could resume whaling the moment they can hook up some financial arrangement with Japan or some other country.

Tagged Photos

Most Noteworthy Organization

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd is one of the foremost organizations worldwide dedicated to the eradication of pirate whaling, poaching, and violations of established laws in the World's oceans.

Visit their website and their Campaign page

Sea Shepherd's Pilot Whale Defense Campaign in the Faeroe Islands.

What you can do

Write to Companies that sell whale meat products.

Nippon Suisan, Maruha and Kyokuyo are the Japanese seafood conglomerates who for the past 20 years, even after a global moratorium on the killing of whales, wholeheartedly supported the government of Japan's "scientific" whale hunt by purchasing, canning and selling whale products. Yet they now claim their hands are clean (!) possibly because of fear of boycott!

Please urge the CEOs of these companies and their wholly-owned subsidiaries to tell the Government of Japan the world doesnt need to kill whales in the twenty-first century to study them.

Here is some information about these companies:

Nippon Suisan Kaisha

This company is the second-largest marine products firm in Japan. The company owns Gorton's, a US frozen seafood company. Nippon Suisan Kaisha has operations in Canada, Chile, Denmark, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, and the US.

Address: Nippon Bldg, 2-6-2 Otemachi, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-8686, Japan

Phone: +81-3-3244-7101

Fax: +81-3-3244-7426

Website: http://www.nissui.co.jp/english/index.html (English version)

Key people: President and CEO: Naoya Kakizoe

The Maruha Group

As Japan's top seafood producer, this company is the big tuna on Japan's sushi tray. Maruha gets some 75% of its sales from its marine products division.

Address: 1-2, 1-chome Ohtemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0004, Japan

Phone: +81-3-3216-0821

Fax: +81-3-3216-0342

Website: http://www.maruha-nichiro.co.jp/english/ (English Version)

Key people: President: Yuji Igarashi

Kyokuyo Co., Ltd.

Japan's #4 marine products company, Kyokuyo has operations that catch, process, can, and wholesale fresh, salted, and frozen seafood.

Address: Kokusai Sanno Bldg., 3-5, 3-chome, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052, Japan

Phone: +81-3-5545-0701

Fax: +81-3-5545-0751

Website: http://www.kyokuyo.co.jp/en/

Key People: President: Kiyokazu Fukui

Stop Commercial Whaling in Iceland!

Sponsored by: Save the Whales

Target: U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Hjalmar W. Hannesson

Stop Norway From Hunting and Killing 1,286 Minke Whales

Sponsored by: Peta UK

Target: Prime Minister of Norway

Online Resources

Here are some resources from around the web: 

Wikipedia page on anti-whaling.

Greenpeace's anti-whaling campaign.

Pacific Whale Foundation's anti-whaling page.

International Whale Protection Organization's page on "Whaling on trial: The International Court of Justice rules against Japan".

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation's page on whaling.

Whale hunting must be stopped - an essay

Essays on Whaling.

Arguments against Whaling.

In defense of whales worldwide - Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling campaign page.

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