Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mammals: Whales

by Dick Mac

In 1971, protesters around the world started demonstrating for the protection of whales and other sea mammals. The cry was heard by millions and most Westerners embraced the idea.

Like so many movements of the mid-20th Century, this movement was inspired by song.

In 1970, "Songs of the Humpback Whale" was released. The LP was a collection of recordings made by Roger Payne, Frank Watlington and other contributors. It sold well. We had the record in our collection at home.

The sounds of whales communicating with each other in our living rooms, and the flood of information that was spread through the media about the whales turned pretty much everyone into whale-lovers.

Eventually, a worldwide moratorium on whaling was enacted by the International Whaling Commission. The IWC had been formed in 1946 to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry" and is largely controlled by nations that oppose commercial whaling.

This is changing now, and the world's largest whaling nation, Japan, has spent billions of yen purchasing the support of developing and undeveloped nations to reverse the ban, or at least gut it beyond recognition (sort of like what they do to whales).

Nations are allowed to apply to the IWC for permission to harvest a certain number of whales each year, ostensibly for research. Japan was allotted just over a thousand whales during the last whale-hunting season.

Japan sends a whale-processing factory boat, three smaller whaling boats and a security boat to Antarctica to harvest their allotment.

The anti-whaling movement, however, is stronger than it's ever been and substantial funding has been provided to various non-government agencies over the past few decades. One of these agencies is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Among many other works, Sea Shepherd funds a fleet of boats that operate out of the South Pacific and make every effort to disrupt Japanese whaling in the waters around Antarctica. This work is the basis for the television series Whale Wars on Animal Planet.

Sea Shepherd's methods get more aggressive, their tactics more sophisticated, and their exploits more daring each year. During the last whaling season, the Sea Shepherds' interdiction kept Japan's harvest down to 528 animals, about half of that to which they were entitled.

It is hoped that this harassment will make whaling unprofitable, and the Japanese will turn away from the slaughter.

As I mentioned in yesterday's article about dolphins, I fear that Japan now sees whaling as a matter of honor and will stop at nothing to enlarge their testicular domination over Western ideas about protecting marine mammals. They know the slaughter of whales and dolphins is unsustainable and unprofitable, but they continue to do it as a matter of pride; which is sad, really.

Photo by Rolf Hicker

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