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Introduction to Whaling
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 50,000 whales have been killed since the ban came into effect because of loopholes that have allowed some countries to carry on whaling. The IWC currently allows Norway to hunt under an ‘objection’ to the ban, Iceland claims it is allowed to break the ban also because it left the Commission in 1992 but was 'allowed' to re-join 10 years later under a 'reservation’. Iceland's 'reservation' is contested by many other Commission member states.
Japan uses a loophole which allows countries to hunt whales for ‘research purposes’. However, in 2014 after a court case brought by the governments of Australia and New Zealand, the International Court ruled that Japan's activities in Antarctica were illegal and ordered whaling there to be stopped. Having initially complied with the ruling, in December 2015 Japan announced it would be resuming its whaling activities in Antarctica. Japan also carries out operations in the North Pacific.
The IWC also allows Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) in some countries.
We think whaling should stop. We can’t be certain that whale populations can survive large-scale hunting as well as the other daily threats they face. 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 from a moving vessel which sits on a moving sea. Grenade harpoons are often used to kill whales subjecting them 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.
Whaling also takes place in the Faroe Islands 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. Japan has been recruiting countries with no obvious interest in whaling to join the International Whaling Commission (which currently has 88 members) 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.