Most people on this planet will never see a whale. They might see one on the internet, but that’s not the same as seeing one in the flesh. That might be a bit similar to watching a roller coaster compared to being on the roller coaster. So why the fuss over animals most people will never see or encounter?
There are, remarkably, many people who feel their lives have been changed by their very first encounter with a whale in the wild. Once seen in the wild, seeing a whale in captivity is indescribably, deeply disturbing.
In 2018 I followed the IWC Convention (International Whaling Commission) very closely that was held in Brazil. According to the IWC, the purpose of the organization is to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” The IWC is composed of 89 member governments from all over the world. It was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on December 2, 1946.
One of the major accomplishments of the IWC has been the effort to control, and eliminate, whaling. The group recognizes three type of whaling: aboriginal subsistence whaling, commercial whaling, and there is a special permit for “scientific whaling.” Most nations respect the moratorium that was placed on commercial whaling in 1986. There are others who have defied the IWC’s regulations and have continued the inhumane, merciless slaughter of whales. Norway is one such country. Iceland and the Faroe Islands do likewise.
Unfortunately, Japan is one of these nations also even though they signed the moratorium. Japan, however, uses the “scientific permit” allowed for research as a reason for their slaughter, which is quite a stretch, having slaughtered over 333 minke whales this past year, including many juveniles and pregnant whales (some say 90%), along with whales living in a protected area of Antarctica. In the 2018 IWC meeting in Brazil, it was reported that Japan came highly prepared to present their argument to do away with the moratorium on commercial whaling. Many warn that lifting the ban could lead to the resumption of the practice of commercial whaling.
“The International Whaling Commission established the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1994. The sanctuary surrounds Antarctica and bans all types of commercial whaling in the area. There has been dispute over the legality of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, with Japan completely disregarding the outline and hunting under the false pretense of scientific research. It’s not at all surprising that there is little trust for the Japanese proposal of “self-policing and honest reporting” should the IWC overturn the moratorium on killing whales. Further, there is no way the Japanese can justify slaughtering 333 minke whales for “scientific research.” It’s no secret that much of the meat from the slaughtered mammals is offered on restaurant menus.
Kate O’Connell, AWI marine wildlife consultant, summed it up nicely when she said, “This cruel and unnecessary industry is a relic of the past that has no place in modern society.” Yet Japanese officials claim that hunting and eating whales is part of their cultural heritage. This seems a bit far-fetched for a country that prides itself on its “massaged, beer-fed Kobi beef.” There are no samurais running about the Japanese countryside anymore. Whaling is an activity of the past that caused several species to become extinct. Fortunately, Japan’s bid for ending the whaling moratorium was voted down by the required majority of the IWC members. Sadly, they will still continue the hunt under the guise of “scientific research.”
Although preservation of whales is currently a priority, several countries continue to harpoon hundreds of whales a year.
From Chapter 4 Saving Our Oceans. Release date: May 2019