• Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution.
  • The depletion of some whale species to near extinction led to the banning of whaling in many countries.
  • In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.
  • Japan, Norway and Iceland are the major whaling countries.
Whale meat:
  • Whale meat was an affordable source of protein during the lean times after World War II, with consumption peaking at 223,000 tons in 1962.
  • But whale was quickly replaced by other meats.
  • Whale meat consumption was down to 6,000 tons in 1986, by the time commercial whaling moratorium was imposed by the IWC.
News Summary:
  • Resumption of whaling has been a long-cherished goal of traditionalists in Japan. Like other whaling nations, Japan argues hunting and eating whales are part of its culture.
  • Japan tried to convince the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to allow whaling under sustainable quotas, but failed.
  • Japan now withdrew from the IWC, and its whaling boats set out on their first commercial hunts since 1988.
Limited whaling for meat:
  • The commercial whaling will be restricted to the Japan’s exclusive economic waters.
  • The Fisheries Agency of Japan said the catch quota through the end of this year is set at 227 minkeBryde‘s and sei whales.
  • Note: According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, minke and Bryde’s whale are not endangered. Sei whale are classified as endangered, but their numbers are increasing.
Research whaling:
  • In 1988, Japan stopped commercial whaling, restricting itself only to research whaling, and even now Japan will continue it.
  • Since 1987, Japan has killed thousands of whales each year under an exemption to the ban allowing scientific research – which Japan said aimed to gather population data.
  • At its peak, Japan caught as many as 1,200 whales but has drastically cut back on its catch in recent years after international protests escalated and whale meat consumption slumped at home.
  • Japan hunted about 333 whales near the Antarctic in recent years under its scientific programme.
  • Critics say this was just a cover so Japan could hunt whales for food, as the meat from the whales killed for research usually did end up for sale.
Way ahead:
  • The fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it won’t be getting as much subsidies as it used to get.
International Whaling Commission (IWC):
  • The International Whaling Commission is an Inter-governmental Organisation whose purpose is the conservation of whales, the management of whaling, and the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  • The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC in 1946.
    • The Convention includes a legally binding Schedule which, amongst other things, sets out catch limits for commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling.
  • The IWC is responsible for setting catch limits for commercial whaling.
  • The IWC has a current membership of 89 Governments from countries all over the world.
Commercial whaling moratorium:
  • In 1982, the IWC decided that there should be a pause in commercial whaling on all whale species and populations (known as ‘whale stocks’) from the 1985/1986 season onwards.
  • This pause is often referred to as the commercial whaling moratorium, and it remains in place today.
  • The moratorium is binding on all other members of the IWC.
Exceptions to moratorium:
  • The only exception to commercial whaling are the exception of catches set by countries under objection or reservation to the current moratorium.
  • Norway and Iceland take whales commercially at present, either under objection to the moratorium decision, or under reservation to it.
  • These countries establish their own catch limits but must provide information on their catches and associated scientific data to the Commission.
    • Norway takes North Atlantic common minke whales within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
    • Iceland takes North Atlantic common minke whales and also North Atlantic fin whales, again within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
  • The Russian Federation has also registered an objection to the moratorium decision but does not exercise it.
Section : Environment & Ecology