Once it became apparent that the numbers of whales being killed were putting whale populations under threat, a ban on commercial whaling (hunting for commercial profit) was introduced in 1986 by the body that regulates whaling – the International Whaling Commission (IWC ).
However, over 30,000 whales have been killed since the ban came into effect because of loopholes that have allowed some countries to carry on hunting. The IWC currently allows Norway to hunt under an ‘objection’ to the ban, and Japan uses a loophole which allows countries to hunt for ‘research purposes’. Iceland claims it is allowed to break the ban also because it left the IWC in 1992 but was 'allowed' to re-join 10 years later under a ‘reservation’. Iceland's 'reservation' is contested by many IWC member states.
Between them, these countries kill around 2,000 whales a year – mainly fin, minke, Bryde’s, sei, humpback and sperm whales.
We think this should stop. Ban or no ban, whaling remains inhumane and whales are unsuitable for use by humans in this way (they are long living and slow to reproduce). There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. The hunting process can never be an exact exercise - whales are a moving target, shot at on a moving vessel which sits on a moving sea. Grenade harpoons are often used to kill whales forcing them to be subjected to a long, slow and painful death. Monitoring and regulating whaling to keep kills to a certain number is also very difficult.
The whaling industry is in decline and the demand for meat is falling. Substantial government funding helps to keep it going in many places but the demand for the meat is not big enough so much of the meat is stored in huge frozen stockpiles. There is also the issue of whale product use in cosmetics and health supplements, and whale meal feed. We already suspect that pigs may have been fed ‘whale meal’ in Denmark.
Whaling also takes place in the Faroes in what is called a drive hunt, and some communities around the world are allowed to hunt small numbers of whales for cultural reasons and to sustain the needs of their communities (rather than hunting just for profit).
We have to keep the ban on commercial whaling in place. Over 88 governments make up the IWC and for years Japan has been recruiting countries with no obvious interest in whaling to join the IWC and vote in its favour, using money for development aid as an incentive. In addition, many countries that were once against commercial whaling have felt pressured to make a compromise.
If the ban were lifted, the floodgates would open with more countries joining the hunts and that would be dangerous for whale conservation. We need your help to STOP whaling.