In 1986 commercial whaling was deemed illegal by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The commission, however, lacks the capacity to enforce the ban.
Japan, Norway, and Iceland, have killed over 25,000 whales since this moratorium was established.
Japan’s pointless and unethical addiction to whaling is a perfect example of how ridiculous this practice is.
After the moratorium on whaling in the 80’s, Japan decided to continue whaling under the guise of “scientific research.” Japan stated that the purpose of the research was to establish the size and dynamics of whale populations.
Many researchers have established that killing whales is not necessary for this kind of research. Opponents of Japan have called their claim of research nothing more that a disguise for commercial whaling.
Most of Japan’s whaling is carried out in The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary; an area near Antarctica that was established for the protection of whales.
In 2014, the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s whaling in Antarctica was not for “scientific research”, and revoked their authorization for whaling.
Although Japan seemed compliant at first, within months of the ruling, Japan stated that they wish to continue whaling and will amp-up their research claims.
Japanese whalers are always trying to create new markets for their abundance of whale meat, which is sold commercially in Japan.
In 2012, the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research revealed that nearly 900 tons of whale meat in Japanese markets remained unsold.
This means that commercial whaling in Japan doesn’t have consumer demand for anywhere close to the amount of whales that are being killed.
Whaling in Japan is not only a wasteful practice, but it is a costly one.
The Japanese government has been subsidizing the industry with tax money, and even international relief funds.
Tax subsidies given to whaling in Japan average around $10 million annually.
Remember the horrible earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011? If you gave a donation to a relief fund, chances are that your money went directly to Japan’s whaling industry.
That year, Japan announced that they would increase their whaling budget by close to 600%. $29 million from tsunami relief funds were redirected to fund the whaling hunt in Antarctica.
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Whaling and Shark Finning
Humans kill 100 million sharks every year.
Shark finning is the process of removing a shark’s fins, and dumping the rest of the body back into the ocean.
Investigators have documented 1,000 pound hammerhead sharks being hauled onto a boat, their fins sawed off, and the rest of their body dumped over the side.
This senseless killing is done to support the demand for shark fin soup in Chinese culture. Shark fin soup has been described as gelatinous and tasteless.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey has been quoted as saying, “It’s really bizarre, it tastes of nothing” in his documentary special about shark fining (watch the documentary in Resources and Further Learning).
Costing upwards of $300 a bowl, shark fin soup is a luxury item that is eaten purely for status.
Currently, one third of shark species are on the red list of threatened species.
In the last 15 years, some shark populations have declined by more than 98%.
While sharks sometimes get a bad rap with humans, these apex predators are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem.
Areas that have lost shark populations have suffered serious consequences. Without larger shark species, the smaller sharks and rays become overpopulated; depleting the fish and shellfish that humans rely on for food.
Shark fining is illegal in US waters, and several states have banned the sale or distribution of shark fins.
In 2013, China banned shark fin soup from all government banquets. Although this is a great step in the right direction, this ruling did not stem from concern for sharks, but from the desire to cut back on extravagant official events.
Both shark finning and whaling are extremely unethical because they threaten endangered species and the delicate ecosystem of our oceans. These practices are wasteful, since most of the animals are not eaten.
Even though whaling and shark fining is illegal in US waters, more can be done. Our oceans belong to all of us, and once they are depleted, there is no going back.