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Whale Gifts

Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale is sometimes used to refer to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which are also cetaceans but belong to the suborder Odontoceti. This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga whale. The suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales), are filter feeders that feed on small organisms caught by straining seawater through a comblike structure found in the mouth called baleen. This suborder includes the blue whale, the humpback whale the bowhead whale and the minke whales. All Cetacea have forelimbs modified as fins, a tail with horizontal flukes, and nasal openings on top of the head.

Stop Whaling

In 2006, the Saint Kitts and Nevis Declaration opened doors for whaling in countries where whaling was previously prohibited. The Saint Kitts and Nevis Declaration was adopted by the slimmest possible margin by the IWC (International Whaling Commission) and is expected to pave the way for commercial whaling. Already, countries like Japan are killing more than 1300 whales every year, the 1300 whales killed every year are ‘taken’ under special permit and Japan still holds that it is hunting whales for purely ‘scientific’ purposes. Although Japan initially started by allowing only hunting of Minke whales; the Fin whale, Sei whale and Sperm whale is also hunted under special permit today.

Every year the number of whales being ‘taken’ (the term signifies that the whales are not being hunted since commercial whaling is still prohibited) is on the rise. The Inuit (Alaskan and Canadian natives) gather for a yearly hunting of the Narwhal. Hundreds of Narwhals are systematically slaughtered for food and ivory. The yearly slaughter of Narwhals is allowed because the Narwhal supposedly plays a vital role in the Inuit’s lives. The Narwhal is supposed to make up for ingredients (namely fresh vegetables) that would be otherwise expensive to fly into Alaska and parts of Canada. Surprisingly, the IWC’s moratorium is voluntary and it is up to a country if they wish to join the IWC or not. Countries like Canada and Norway are no longer members of the IWC, and the Inuit and other hunters are free to hunt whales of their choice.
Conservation groups the world over have vehemently protested the rampant hunting and slaughter of whales by the Japanese and Inuit. However, each government has chosen to ignore and in some cases justify the killing of whales. Surprisingly, whalers believe they are doing humans a service by ‘culling’ thousands of whales each year. Whalers argue that since a common whale like the Minke whale consumes nearly 10kgs of fish every year they are depleting the stock of commercial fish. The truth is that whale feeding grounds and commercial fishing grounds rarely overlap. In addition, it has been established that whales feed on fish and ocean life that is usually present at the bottom of the ocean (whales usually consume animals like squids which humans do not consume).

A recent BBC report established that humans and marine life can co-exist, and whales pose no economical or health hazard whatsoever. Unfortunately, it will take more than a ban on whaling to stop countries like Japan and Canada from systematically slaughtering different whale species. Japan has recently put in a request for commencement of commercial hunting of Minke whales; ironically, all Minke whales ‘taken’ today are listed as non-commercial. Sadly, countries like Japan can choose to leave the IWC and join other organizations that suit their requirements or like Canada enforce no moratorium at all. It is up to the leaders of the world to come together and stop the killing of whales and pressurise countries that are killing whales to stop doing so.

What can people do to stop whaling?
In Japan, both whale meat and whale bone are in great demand. Whale meat especially is considered a delicacy and Japanese are willing to pay exorbitant amounts for a dish made from whale meat. The only way whalers will stop killing whales is if the demand for whale products like whale meat and whale bones stop. Organizations like Greenpeace have reported that they have closed down some private operators by protesting and increasing awareness among people. As is the case with all endangered wild life, whalers will stop killing whales if they are no longer of any commercial value to them. It is important for people to take the onus on themselves to stop whaling of any kind.

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