Don't Lift the International Ban on Whaling

The sooner we ban whale slaughter entirely and impose economic embargoes on whale-hunting nations, the better chance we will have to see whales thriving in international waters.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets later this month in Morocco to consider lifting a long-standing ban on commercial whaling. 

The idea sounds positively loony on its face (and it is). But the hope by some anti-whaling countries is that by allowing the three nations that slaughter whales commercially to whale commercially, they can save more whales by persuading those nations to whale in lower numbers. The argument against lifting the ban is that those three nations, Japan, Iceland and Norway, are not trustworthy anyway and won’t lower, but will actually increase, their slaughter of these intelligent mammals.

A former Japanese IWC negotiator admitted as much in a recent interview with the Asahi news agency. Masayuki Komatsu, who represented Japan in past IWC negotiations was asked by an Asahi reporter why it was so critical to continue commercial whaling when as of the end of 2009,

as much as 4,000 tons of whale meat was in stock. It appears consumers are turning the other way. Why aren't they buying whale meat?

Answer: The meat does not sell because it is expensive and of poor quality. When you look at whale meat sold in the market, you notice a red, blood-like juice oozing from it. The juice that makes the meat tasty drained because cell membranes were broken when the meat was frozen. This is because the temperature can only be lowered to 30 degrees below zero on whaling ships. Since tuna is quick-frozen to minus 70 degrees, cell membranes remain intact. In whaling, too, new ships should be built so that the meat can be quick-frozen for better quality. I am sure it would drastically change the awareness of consumers. Whale meat could be used as a sushi ingredient in place of tuna.

Personally, I do not believe any of these countries, nor the Native Americans or First Nations people who are allowed to “subsistence” hunt, will ever adhere to any quotas. Instead of trying to negotiate with whaling countries, non-whaling countries should impose economic embargoes. Let’s hit them where it hurts: in the pocketbook.

Meanwhile, international public opinion is turning further in favor of the whales. A BBC blog entry lists all that’s gone on recently showing people worldwide want an end to whale slaughter.

The Cove--a documentary investigating the annual slaughter of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises around Japan--unexpectedly received the Academy Award for Best Documentary 2010, mainstreaming another example of our need to confront our relationship with these species.

By the end of March, a Los Angeles restaurant was closing its doors as a self-imposed penalty for serving whale meat. In late April, an unprecedented U.S. congressional oversight hearing was held to review the education and conservation value of keeping marine mammals in captivity.

Scientists are also finding whales and dolphins are incredibly intelligent creatures who live in family and community units and have fairly sophisticated cultural attributes as well. What never ceases to amaze me is that an anti-whaling country will point to a figure of several thousand remaining whales and claim they are not close to extinction. Several thousand versus more than 6 billion human beings? This is crazy:

…there are only about 1,000 blues whales left. Protected right whales also have declined from 300,000 to 3,000, while humpback whale populations have fallen from 120,000 to 10,000. Illegal hunting is a major problem.

Human slaughter of whales is not their only enemy. Pollution, collisions with ships, climate change, and its ensuing kill off of certain fish and algae that whales eat are also causing whale populations to die off. The sooner we ban whale slaughter entirely and impose economic embargoes on whale-hunting nations, the better chance we will have to see whales thriving in international waters in a generation or two.