What will 2020 bring for the future of whaling?
Updated: Mar 5
"In the Antarctic Ocean, a majestic minke whale comes up for air. As she breaches the surface, an explosive crack sounds, and then a thud as the harpoon slams into her head, penetrating half a metre deep. As the defenceless whale tries to pull away, terrified and in agony, the grenade inside the harpoon explodes, blasting shrapnel into her body. If she is lucky, she dies quickly, but often it takes up to an hour or more. This awful scenario is repeated in all the oceans of the world where whales are hunted. It has to stop.”
Whaling is a practice we are all too familiar with. It became a central part of our lives when it provided the Industrial Revolution with the fuel it needed, supplying the booming technological advancements with oil extracted from whale meat and blabber. It has been practised as a commercial industry since as early as 875 AD, however, once it became clear that many whale species were depleting, many countries banned whaling practices in 1969.
But things still haven’t changed, countries such as Japan and Iceland are still out hunting. They believe that they have the right to kill, claiming it’s for “scientific research”. Exploiting the bodies of whales for money is illegal in many countries but why are we still allowing it to continue in others?
Studies have shown that the impact whales have on the ocean ecosystem goes beyond the food chain. Researchers have found that. Wait for it… Whale poop! Actually assists in offsetting the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The nutrients in whale poop help to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which act as carbon sinks and pull carbon straight from the atmosphere.
Now, after a 32-year moratorium, Japan has resumed commercial whaling. Back in July of 2019, the revised law was passed through Japanese parliament. The new law states that the industry must include measures to avoid illegal trade of whale meat.
With Japan reinstating laws to allow the hunting and consumption of whale meat, many people are bringing forth their interest in other countries legalising whale hunting again. An Indigenous tribe, named the Makah, in North America want to be the first US tribe to resume whale hunting, in response to this an administrative trial in Washington state was initiated to determine the result of the
case. After the case, hunting could start back up as early as the end of this year for many tribes.
Where does that put us now? Well, not really in a good place. Whales are one of the most important animals in the food web, and watching them deplete once again will only see further accelerations on the effects of climate change on the environment. With the Makah tribe close to resuming their whaling practices, we can only hope that other tribes and countries realise the impact their actions could make on the environment if they decide to resume hunting. The whaling industry might be too guarded to be affected by people like us intervening with their operation, but we have to do as much as we can to fight for these magnificent animals. We must use our voices to make a difference, no matter how long it takes because these creatures have graced our oceans and held together our ecosystems for so long!