The whale populations around the world have plummeted since the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of these great animals have become extinct while others are in great danger of becoming extinct. The main culprit in their demise is man. Mankind, knowingly and unknowingly, have single handedly put this beautiful creatures at death’s door. This being the case, humans are also the only hope these animals have in being saved; in doing so, we will in turn save the oceans as well as ourselves. In this articles it will be argued that unless whaling is restricted, all whaling stocks will ultimately be depleted.
Whales were hunted because they were easy prey and they were very slow moving. They also had very high commercial value because from each creature the whalers obtained large quantities of products. These included whale oil, used for fuel, cooking, lanterns, soap and candles; baleen – a fingernail-like substance, which was used before plastic for corsets, umbrellas, buggy whips, fishing rods and hair brushes, and whale bones which were ground down for fertiliser and fine bone-china. In fact, some of the first goods to be exported from South Australia were whale products, and the whaling industry played an important part in the development of this State by providing many employment opportunities.
There are many reasons why these mammals should be saved. Humans have caused this problem and through humans it can be solved. The whaling industry needs to have one of two things done in order to protect these animals. One is to tighten the restrictions on the number of whales that can be taken from the oceans. The types of whales of which can be hunted have already been laid out and these restraints need to have stricter supervisions. If the whaling countries and tribes can not follow these restrictions, then all the whaling industries need to be completely shut down.
The depletion of the whaling stocks began with the commercial whaling industry, which began in the 12th century. The first whale species that were hunted were the right and bowhead whales. This family of whales was ideal for the early hunters. Their bodies contained large amounts of blubber and baleen, they were slower swimmers and resided near the coastline, also when dead their bodies would float. The whale oils were used for many different things. Lighting, heating and lubrication are just a few of its uses. The baleen also had many uses, such as fishing rods, buggy whips, and brushes to name a few. After carelessly over hunting this particular species of whales, the population had a dramatic decline. Because of this the whaling industries sought our more numerous species to harvest. In the late 19th and early 20th century whaling was a large industry that employed large numbers of people. Throughout this time there were generations of whaling families. This was a way of life and these people knew of no other way to support their families. Whaling was in full bloom by the 20th century. Due to technological advances, such as faster boats and improved harpoons, the whalers were able to go further out to sea and hunt the larger and faster whales like the blue and humpback whales. Like the slower whales these whales were soon hunted to the brink of extinction. Because of the carelessness of the whaling industries in the past, our whales are in the predicament that haunts them today.
The strongest argument against whaling is simply the pain the whale has to through. Anti-whalers say that the whale feels pain the same way humans do, and when a harpoon hits a whale, it might take up to 10 minutes before it is dead. If the whale is dead 10 seconds after impact with the harpoon, the whale is killed instantly, they claim, but this is rare. ?Every form of life is unique, warranting respect regardless of its worth to man and, to accord other organisms such recognition, man must be guided by a moral code of action.? (Jones, 1989: 67)
In 1996, whaling-inspectors reported that the average time the whale had to suffer rated from 4-6 minutes. But that is just the killing process. Before you can shoot the whale, you have to find the whale, and because the whale is only up to breath a couple of seconds the shooter has 2-3 seconds to fire. Anti-whalers say that the hunting, which may take up to several hours, must scare the whale, and they want us to imagine the fright the whale must feel when being hunted. Whaling destroys social and family bonds within a whale pod.
“A growing number of people around the world are aware of the remarkable qualities of whales.” (Mitchell et al. 1986). Today the whaling problem is not as large as it once was but still exists. To date, there are two countries that continue to commercial hunt. These two countries are Norway and Japan. Many of these hunts are done illegally and nothing is being done about it. There are regulations which these countries are supposed to follow. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) needs to crack down on these two countries. Stiffer penalties are one way to stop the illegal slaughtering. By stiffer penalties we need to raise tariffs on items imported from the different countries around the world. Another step is to involve the United Nations. The U.N is the collection of the powerhouses of the world. If the U. N. leads by example in regulating the whaling industries then the smaller countries will follow. If this still does not deter the actions of the whaling countries then serious action needs to be taken. A mandatory shut down of whale processing plants. This will cause the unemployment rates to go up but the whaling will start to lower. If they agree to the existing regulations then the whale processing plant can then be reopened
Another reason to preserve these animals is that they control the ecological balance of the marine world. Baleen whales are filter feeders. This is where an organism cleans an area when they eat. Baleen whales can filter out large amounts of krill, phytoplankton, fish, and many other animals in a single feeding. This helps keep these animals from becoming over populated. If an organism were to become overpopulated, they would become their own worst enemy. An overpopulated area can run out of food extremely fast.
“Even if the International whaling committee (IWC) could guarantee that whaling was only carried out on a truly sustainable basis, Worldwide fund for nature (WWF) would remain opposed to the resumption of whaling” (WWF 1992: 1). A growing number of people in many countries are coming to believe that the killing of whales for commerce is unethical and that therefore the present indefinite moratorium on that activity should be made permanent. Their reasons for holding this belief are varied but are mostly based on two general perceptions: first that whaling is intrinsically inhumane or cruel; and second that whales are ?special? animals, having evolved, over tens of millions of years in the ocean, modes of life, forms of society and high intelligence which are vastly different from those of, for example, the apes (including us) and elephants on land. Their great size, their beauty at rest and in motion, their play and prolonged care of their young, their apparently benign attitude towards humans who contact them, and their extraordinary means of communication among themselves, of navigating vast distances, and of sensing their environment acoustically and perhaps magnetically, are all also cited as evidence of ?specialness?. Butterworth argues that whales cannot be hunted humanely, that whales are uniquely special creatures, and that they have intrinsic value. (1992:532)
Whales act as a marker of the health of the ocean. If we continue to kill off our only link to the health of our oceans then how will be able to monitor our oceans’ health. Whales supply the link needed to preserve our oceans and we need to take full advantage of that link. Saving the whales, not destroying them can do this. By keeping the whale populations high, this indicates the health of our oceans is high. In order to do this we need to crack down on the whaling industries. Unless whaling is restricted, all whaling stocks will ultimately be depleted.
Estimates of whale populations and their status.
Species Original level Latest Level Year Protected
Blue 228 000 11 700 1967
Bowhead 30 000 7 800 1935
Bryde?s 90 000 43 000 1986
Fin 548 000 110 000 1986
Gray +20 000 18 000 1935
Humpback 115 000 10 000 1966
Minke +490 000 880 000 1986
Right +100 000 3 200 1935
Sei 256 000 54 000 1986
Sperm 2 400 000 1 950 000 1985
2) Endangered Species Web Page. Endangered Species. http://www.hcrhs.hunterdon.k12.nj.us/social_studies/evn1/geninfo.htm
3) The Antarctica Project Web Page. Fisheries. http://www.asoc.org
5) World Wildlife Fund Web Page. Endangered Species. http://www.wwf.orgnless
6) Funk, Edward. (1973). ?Whaling?. Funk and Wagnells Encyclopaedia. Vol. 25, pp. 9172-9175.
7) Save the whales (1997). Available: http://www.bigvolcanoe.com.au/human/whaling.htm
8) History of commercial whaling (1998). Available: http://www.animalliberation.org.au/whalehist.html