Whaling: Crime or Circle of Life

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Amber Daigneault

World U


Whaling: Crime or Circle of Life

Whaling has occurred for hundreds of years although the whaling specifically in Japan is relatively new. There are ongoing “battles” between whaling fleets and conservation groups. By 2001, Japan had exempted themselves from the rules of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Whaling should be stopped completely in the world, especially in Japan, because even though their population has started to rise, it does not mean people should start hunting and killing them again.

Whaling around the world dates back hundreds of years. Organized and strategized whaling started around the 1600s. First, people would wait for a whale to be beached on the shore so they could boil down their blubber and make oil for lighting, candles, and lubricants. But then it progressed to sailors would go along the shore in boats and herd them to shore. Finally whaling was done by going deep into the ocean, so sailors could harpoon the whales and boil down their blubber right on their ships. The blubber from whales started out being mildly used which meant that there was no need to kill so many whales that the population would decrease. It started out being used for oil, lighting, and lubricants, but now in modern times it is used for oil, lubricants, food, makeup, and wax.1 These uses make the demand for whales much higher. Once the demand for whales went up, everyone around the world tried to make a living by killing the whales and selling different products the whale blubber provided thus killing an unnecessary amount of whales. By the mid 1930s, there was about 50,000 whales being killed annually making the population rapidly decrease.2 Also as the whales kept being killed, there was not enough time for them to reproduce quick enough. This is just the start of the problem for the whales.

Since the rest of the world was whaling, Japan started too. Japan has a long history of hunting whales, but it was not until the 1900s when it really took off for them. In the start of the 20th century, Japanese coastal whaling received a boost with the introduction of steam ships and grenade-tipped harpoon guns. However, it was not until 1934 that Japan expanded its whaling to Antarctica. Whales helped keep Japanese citizens fed both during and after World War II. In 1947, whale meat made up almost half of all animal protein consumed by the country. Eating whale meat is tradition in Japan so by telling them they can no longer hunt and eat whales; they felt that their culture was threatened, not to mention one of their main sources of meat.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was founded in December 1946 in compliance with the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The IWC is dedicated to keeping the population of endangered whales in check. The IWC was started because people were becoming concerned by the over hunting of whales and other sea wild life. Some countries felt no need to stop hunting whales because they assumed that the populations would rise again and it did not matter how much they hunted them but whale stocks eventually fell to such a low level that nations had to agree to stop hunting them. In 1946, representatives from the major whaling nations of the world signed two agreements after attending the first official meeting of the IWC. Essentially, these two agreements stated that the practice of whaling had to be closely monitored if the species was going to be saved from extinction. Although the IWC's initial whaling quotas for each nation were high, they were substantially lowered beginning in the 1960s as concerns regarding overhunting grew more intense. 3

Although nations around the world signed these agreements, some did not keep their promises. For example, countries like Norway, Iceland, and especially Japan kept hunting whales as though their supply was unlimited. 4They did this through loopholes in the IWC's laws. They would catch whales by "accident" when the whales are caught in fishing nets. This is harder to do than harpooning whales but it is still effective in decreasing the whale’s populations. By using these loopholes the IWC cannot punish the Japanese sailors for killing the whales. Another loophole being used by the Japanese is that they are killing the whales for scientific research.5 Each nation gets a certain number of whales they are allowed to kill for scientific research; the Japanese use this number to kill their whales for food and other non-science related things. The IWC suggested that there are ways to do research without actually killing any whales but they do not take their advice because they do not really use their number for scientific research.

Before Japan exempted themselves from the IWC's laws, the whale populations started to rise again.6 In the 1930s the population of whales almost depleted altogether, but then in 1946 when nations around the world agreed to stop hunting the whales, their numbers started to rise again. Although they started to get back to normal where it would be okay for them to be hunted at a regulated amount, it did not make it okay for Norway, Iceland, or Japan to go back to hunting them. Before the IWC made the laws saying that no one was allowed to kill whales, unless it was for scientific research, everyone in the world would hunt and kill as many whales as they could because they would make a profit on them because of all the variety of things you could get from whale blubber and meat, thus making every whale a target so they were slowly becoming endangered. The whales were hunted so much that ones like the Fin, Sei, and Humpback whales were and still are on the verge of becoming extinct.

The whaling moratorium is a ban placed so that no one can kill whales without the permission of the IWC. This moratorium was set in 1986 and since then there has been about 31,984 whale’s killed.7 This increase has mainly been made by Japan because each year they increase their quota of whales that they are allowed to kill.8 The ban has been put on commercial whaling so when a country requests their quota for the year they say it is for "scientific" research. Although some countries do does scientific research with the few whales they kill, countries like Japan keep pushing their limits with the IWC and try to get as many whales as they can. The countries that are doing real scientific research usually have a small quota, because they try and kill the least amount of whales as possible. There has been a rise in scientific whaling since the moratorium in 1986, for instance, in 1985 when there was no ban on whaling, there was almost no scientific research going on but then in 1987, just one year after the ban, there was almost 400 whales being killed for scientific research. In 2006 the scientific research reached an all time high with around 1,300 whales being killed.9

Every time Japan gets a higher quota, the whale population decreases a little more. The main whale that they like to kill is the minke whale. Although the minke was not always a popular whale to hunt because of their relatively small size but once the larger whales because more scarce from overhunting, the minke seemed easier to catch. This whale grows to be about 24 feet in length and reproduces once every 2 years.10 Japan has a quota of 400 minke whales from around Antarctica and 100 from the North Pacific Ocean. This is much larger than other countries quotas. For example, Iceland has a quota of 38 minke whales per year. Some argue that Japan is using "scientific research" as an excuse to get a higher quota. This is concluded by comparing the quotas between Japan and Iceland.

Before the moratorium was established in 1986, there was already a set of rules and agreements signed by many countries. This agreement is called the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. It is in order by "articles" and each article is confronting the different issues having to do with the over-hunting of whales around the world. The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was signed by Chile, Peru, Spain, Argentina, Denmark, Australia, France, Soviet Union, The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Brazil, The Netherlands, The United States of America, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and The Union of South Africa.11

Each article had a different purpose or reason why the whales should stop being hunted. Each one of these articles had subsections too, referring to more specific problems or rules for whaling. Articles II and III stated that no ships or boats of any kind were allowed to kill any type of whale whatsoever. In subsection 3 of Article III, it said that the Commission could elect there own staff for who they thought could protect the whales the most. In subsection 2 of Article III, it stated that for new rules to become part of the Convention, it must be voted upon and three-fourths of the votes had to be for the new rule.12 As of 2006 Japan has been trying to get rid of the Convention and moratorium altogether but they still need seventy-five percent of the votes thus making it impossible for them to convince that many nations to start whaling and maybe putting more whales on the verge of extinction again. They are not likely to pass this rule because most of the countries in the Convention believe that whaling should be stopped altogether and Japan should not have as high of a quota as they do because they are most likely not using it for scientific research anyway.

Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling states that anyone who decides to go whaling must have a special permit saying that they are hunting these whales for scientific reasons only. They must present their case to the Convention and then as a group they will decide if that country can have their desired quota. The Convention then gives a permit that says they are allowed to hunt a specific number of whales. “Any whales taken under these special permits shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government by which the permit was granted.”13 This means that each government is supposed to monitor how many whales are caught and killed under their jurisdiction and permits and report it back to the Convention. Although most governments do this, Japan has had many illegal killing of whales, and not many punishments. In 2000 there were Japanese whalers cleaning an illegally killed whale off the coast of Tokyo, disobeying all rules and regulations.14 The Japanese government did not seem to do anything to these rule breakers.

Although the Japanese government does not seem to find a problem with their citizens illegally hunting whales, the public has a different opinion. The public feel that they are generalized as a country that supports whaling whether it is legal or illegal.15 Although not all of the public cares for the situation, some will always be for it and some will always be against it. In 2006 and 2008 there was a poll taken to see exactly what the public felt. Not everyone was given the test but there was a wide rage of ages. About 1,000, randomly selected people between the ages of 15 and 60 were questioned about what they thought about the whaling situation. In 2006, about 35% of the chosen were in favor of whaling, 26% were against whaling, and about 39% had no opinion at all. Then in 2008 the same test was given to a different group of people and the results shifted slightly, but the results were about the same. This time about 31% favored whaling, 25% were against whaling, and 44% had no opinion.16 These results show that not everyone in the country is against or for whaling, but almost the rest of the world is against Japan being able to hunt for whales, because they know the whales are endangered and feel that if using their resources sparingly will keep them alive forever. This is like the oil resources, although, this is a little different because whales are living animals, not something you dig out of the ground.

The whales around the world are in danger of being over hunted, even though there are many rules and laws to try and keep their populations in check. Some fishermen do not care that they might go extinct and their resources could be lost forever, and some just do not think that they are doing any real harm to the environment. Thus causing the problem of overhunting; even though their numbers have risen slightly since the IWC has been created they still do not have a capacity of enough whales where they can be hunted freely and not have any worry that they will go extinct. So no one should be whaling, especially Japan because they already have the highest quota for "scientific research" and they do not need to be killing as many whales as they can because if the rest of the world can get along without whaling then so can Japan.

Works Cited

  1. "Gale Cengage Product Failure." GaleNet. Web. 23 May 2010. .

  1. "Japanese Opinion Poll | Greenpeace Australia Pacific." Greenpeace | Greenpeace USA. Web. 24 May 2010. .

  1. "Minke Whales - Whaling for Minke Whales." Minke Whales - Project Minke. Web. 24 May 2010. .

  1. "WWF - Whales Killed by Whaling since Moratorium." WWF - WWF. Web. 24 May 2010. .

  1. "Gale Cengage Product Failure." GaleNet. Web. 24 May 2010. .

  1. "Gale Cengage Product Failure." GaleNet. Web. 25 May 2010. .

  1. "Gale Cengage Product Failure." GaleNet. Web. 27 May 2010. .

  1. "Greenpeace." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 27 May 2010. .

  1. "International Whaling Commission." World History: The Modern Era.

ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 27 May 2010.


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4 Derr, Mark. "To whale or not to whale: a controversy over subsistence and commercial hunting threatens to tear apart the International Whaling Commission." The Atlantic Oct. 1997: 22,24+. General OneFile. Web. 25 May 2010.

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8 Palmer, Mark J. "Japan versus whales." Earth Island Journal Wntr 2007: 14. General OneFile. Web. 26 May 2010.

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10 "Minke Whales - Whaling for Minke Whales." Minke Whales - Project Minke. Web. 24 May 2010. <http://www.projectminke.com/threats.htm>.

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15 "Greenpeace." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO. http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com (accessed May 27, 2010).

16 "Japanese Opinion Poll | Greenpeace Australia Pacific." Greenpeace | Greenpeace USA. Web. 24 May 2010. <http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/issues/whales/our-work/japanese-opinion-poll>.

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