The EnvironmentaLIST: 7 Facts You Need to Know About Whaling

by Cassady Craighill

September 4, 2013

The first fin whale catch of the 2013 season by Icelandic whaling vessel Hvalur 8, in Hvalfjordur port, signaling a resumption of commercial whaling by Icelandic whaler Kristján Loftsson. Loftsson's company Hvalur plans to hunt up to 180 fin whales in the 2013 season in an operation backed by the Icelandic government. Greenpeace is opposed to the commercial hunt, stressing that the operation is being carried out despite a ban on commercial whaling introduced by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The fin whale is also listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

© Greenpeace

Whaling remains, unfortunately, an active campaign for Greenpeace. One of the organization’s first, the battle is still not won. After a two-year hiatus, Iceland has recently resumed its whaling practices.

Whaling is not only a cruel industry, it is a failing one.

7) Only three countries participate in whaling

Iceland, Japan and Norway continue to whale despite an international moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland recently resumed whaling, Japan declares its whaling for “scientific reasons” and Norway claims that minke whale is an important part of the national diet.

6)There is no market for whale meat.

Despite claims from the whaling industry that whale meat is in demand for nutritional, traditional and cultural reasons, the demand for whale meat is relatively nonexistent. More than 95 percent of Japanese citizens claim to never eat whale meat, and Japan currently holds 4,000 tons of unwanted frozen whale meat.

In addition, one of the last remaining markets left for Icelandic whale meatis luxury dog snacks in Japan.

5) Blue whales of Antarctic of at one percent of their original abundance

Whaling had a particularly bloody heyday in the 20th century, and its an uphill battle for species to rebound, particularly the majestic blue whale. The largest animal in the world, the endangered blue whale critically maintains the balance of the marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, blue whales in the Antarctic have only rebounded by one percent compared with original numbers.

4) Tremendous whaling after World War II could have made climate change worse

A killer whale or orca breaches to breathe in the Bering Sea

A killer whale or orca breaches to breathe in the Bering Sea

Orcas used to primarily eat baleen whales. Unfortunately, an rapid rise in whaling after World War II largely depleted that food source. So orcas had to keep munching down the food chain until they got to sea otters.

Sea otters surprisingly do a lot to slow down climate change. Why? By feeding on sea urchin, otters maintain the health of kelp forests, a critical carbon sink, according to a recent study by the University of California in Santa Cruz. When otters disappear, sea urchin run wild eating kelp.

By altering the natural food chain of the ocean, whaling might have made climate change a lot worse.

3) The Japanese whaling program in the Southern Ocean actually costs the taxpayer $12 million US dollars although they don’t eat whale meat.

That $12 million actually only includes direct subsidies. In addition, the Japaneses whaling industry spends funds on lobbying other countries to join the International Whaling Commission as well as marketing and promotion for whale meat.

2) Iceland decided increasing whaling would save their economy

After widespread protests of mishandling the country’s financial crisis, the Icelandic government resigned in 2009, but not without leaving an inhumane whaling legacy. Outgoing Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson announced an astounding increase in Icelandic whaling quota from 30 minke whales a year to 100 and from 9 fin whales to 150.

Gudfinnsson claimed the quote increase would reviliatize the economy and create much-needed Icelandic jobs. Whale watching would actually do more for the Icelandic economy than whaling. You can have them both, Iceland.

1) Most of the whale meat is wasted

Perhaps the most tragic reality, these animals are often slaughtered for nothing. 75 percent of Japan’s whale meat goes unsold, and much of that 75 percent is what Norway and Iceland export to Japan.

Take action for whales by asking President Obama’s administration to step up the pressure against Iceland’s pointless and bloody whaling industry.

Iceland’s government has ignored diplomatic sanctions from the U.S. so President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell must target Icelandic companies with ties to the whaling industry for tough economic sanctions.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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