25 June 2010

Whaling - back on the agenda

As I write, the delegates of the IWC (International Whaling Commission ) are behind closed doors discussing the future of whaling; specifically whether Japan should be allowed to carry out small-scale commercial whaling. Not surprisingly, this has divided delegates and there have been numerous meetings prior to this annual meeting to thrash out the terms. Japan has offered the tempting concession of no whaling in the Southern Ocean which has put New Zealand in the firing line. New Zealand may opt for this concession in exchange for limited whaling, so has been accused of selling out.

One matter which has inflammed the meeting is the suggestion that the endangered fin whale (see above)  may be included in Japan's commercial quota.  These magnificant animals ~ the second largest animal  in the world ~ are often nicknmaed the greyhound of the sea because of their speed.  Their speed saved them from whaling during the 19th century but as whaling boats got faster, the whalers turned their attention to the fin whale, decimating the population by 70 % between 1904 and 1979. Despite protection from the moratorium on commercial whaling their numbers have been slow to recover and  in 1996 its status was moved from vulnerable to endangered.

Other matters have been discussed this week and the IWC received reports regarding the status of several whale populations. While some populations of humpback, southern right and blue whales in the Southern hemisphere were increasing, there was still concerns regarding the survival of the western North Pacific gray whale with just 130 individuals and the western North Atlantic right whale with 300 individuals.For these populations, anthropogenic mortality was the biggest killer, including collisions with shipping and entanglement in nets.

This entangled sperm whale was fortunate that there were divers nearby and it was successfully dis-entangled and swam away unharmed.


  1. Further to this post, no decision was agreed on the Japanese whaling issue - postponed for a year, while on the last day of talks the delegates discussed the issue of quotas for indigenous peoples. The North American Inuits were allowed to take some humpback, while Denmark (on behalf of Greenland) agreed to reduce their fin whale catch to 10 animals a year in exchange for being able to take 9 humpback. The rules state that the meat is for indigenous use only, but sadly much will end up in restaurants so its commercial whaling in all but name. Now is the humpback's turn to end up on the dinner plate. Whaling nations 1 Whales 0

  2. I have my daily morning coffee overlooking the sea and today watched Humpback Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. What is remarkable is that 20 years ago we saw no whales, now we see them every day. Proof that conservation efforts helped but it seems that we cannot stop whaling and it will continue under various guises, the one that irritates me most is "research."

  3. Must be lovely to sit and watch whales every day!
    Hopefully the younger generations of Japanese will have less of a taste for whalemeat and demand will fall.