Time to Ditch the Harpoon: Why Commercial Whaling Should Be Banned

Whaling is a hunting activity that has been done by humans for centuries. Much like any other hunting activity, the main purpose of whaling is to extract the body parts of the mammal which can be useful in human’s everyday life, such as its meat and blubber. Today, whaling still exists – some people do it as a part of their tradition, whereas some do it for commercial profit. I believe that commercial whaling should be banned because it harms the population of whales, ruins the ecosystem, and is unnecessary.

Before proceeding into my arguments, I would like to give a disclaimer that I will only be focusing on commercial whaling. Despite its similarities, commercial and indigenous whaling differs in its purpose. While indeed indigenous whaling also aims to fulfill the daily needs, it limits its extent to the indigenous people, unlike commercial whaling which is done to gain as much profit as possible. It should also be noted that indigenous whaling holds cultural significance to the indigenous people, so it would be rude for an outsider to comment on a cultural practice that does not belong to them.

First of all, the primary concern of why whaling is controversial is due to the population status of the animal itself. The whale is not an animal we commonly see or consume in our day-to-day lives. In fact, according to WWF (n.d.), there are at least six whale species stated as endangered. The reason why the whale is considered an endangered animal is because of whaling. Although whaling has been an ancient practice in so many cultures, it became popular particularly in the colonial era and Industrial Revolution, as the demand for whale byproducts rises and the technology to catch whales effectively have improved (Ocean Alliance, n.d., para. 1-3). 

A lot of scientists have agreed that the rise of whaling during that era is what caused the whale population to flunk significantly. For example, the right whale or black whale was one of the most commonly hunted whales, as it is one of the large whales that are easy to catch. However, as its population quickly depleted, right whaling was banned, and now a lot of its species are stated as either endangered or critically endangered. North Atlantic right whale, the species with the least extinction risk, was estimated to consist of only 411 individuals left as of 2017 (Pettis et al., 2018, p. 4). 

Although some efforts have been made to maintain the population of the whales, there are still a lot of cases where a country would undercount their annual whale catch, or keeps a questionable stance regarding commercial whaling. For instance, Russia reported to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that the Soviet Union had killed 48,477 humpback whales from 1948 to 1973, which is a sharp rise to the modest number officially reported to the organization, 2,710 whales (Angier, 1994, para. 12). Whereas Japan has allowed whaling only for scientific research purposes since 1982, which stirred controversy as it is highly suspected the policy was a mere sham to disguise commercial whaling – most whale-related researches are just as conductible with non-lethal means. Japan is responsible for 95% of the 14,410 whales killed for research purposes since 1982, yet despite the large number it only has two peer-reviewed papers related to the hunted whale (Plumer, 2016, para. 6).

These are exactly why the status quo is severe and commercial whaling should be banned worldwide. Without strict regulation, there will always be some parties who exploit the available loophole to keep whaling for profit and/or undercount their catch. However, if commercial whaling becomes illegal worldwide, these stakeholders are legally bound to comply with the regulation, and precisely report their annual catch. When this happens, it means that scientists have more concrete data about the population of whales, which helps the conservation effort to become more effective. Thus, due to the urgency of whale conservation, commercial whaling should be banned.

Another important point that supports the importance of banning commercial whaling is the animal’s role in the ecosystem itself. Just like any other living being on this planet, whales play a huge role in maintaining the food chain balance, especially in keeping away planktons and small fishes from overpopulation. One might question the significance of the whale as it seems like the animal is only significant in the marine ecosystem, but whales also make a huge impact on the overall well-being of the environment. During their entire life span, whales accumulate up to 33 tons of carbon dioxide – multiple times higher than trees – and when they die, they sink to the ocean floor and take away all of the carbon from the atmosphere (Chami et al., 2019, p. 35). This shows just how significant whales’ role is in preventing the planet from global warming, which is a threat we all have been trying to prevent. By making commercial whaling illegal, it will significantly reduce the number of whales killed, making the amount of population more secure, and hopefully, flourish. Thus, due to the significant role whales play in maintaining the ecological balance, it is important for commercial whaling to be banned.

Lastly, commercial whaling should be banned due to its obsolete significance. Throughout history, humans have been practicing whaling mainly for food. However, as humans learn how to effectively farm, we shift our animal protein to cattle and poultry meats and byproducts. And thanks to the advancement in agricultural technology, these foods are more accessible. For example, in Japan, due to the damage the lands suffered from the Second World War, meats were difficult to come by. Japanese people had to resort to whale meat, and whale quickly became a popular meat option. However, as the situation of the soil gets better, and Japan has managed to recover post-war, Japanese people no longer eat whale meat other than for nostalgia purposes. This shows how whales have no important place in our diet, as there are more accessible, sustainable, yet affordable options that we have. Thus, there really is no need for whalers to keep on hunting whales for their meat to be sold.

As for whale oil, the development of petroleum has significantly impacted its commercial usage. Most of the things that required whale oil are either obsolete or replaceable with petroleum and/or vegetable oil, such as oil lamps, margarine, and soap. The lack of knowledge we generally have of what is the use of whale oil and meat shows just how small of a role whale byproducts plays in our day to day lives, which means that the ban of commercial whaling will not significantly bother our lives. With how scientists are still attempting to provide more sustainable alternatives of just about anything, it is not impossible for us to stop using any whale byproducts in any aspect of our lives anytime soon. When commercial whaling becomes illegal, it mutually benefits both the environment and humans, as the population state of whales becomes better, and we will have left one more unsustainable practice that benefits only us humans. Thus, due to the lack of importance whale byproducts hold in our lives, I believe that commercial whaling should be made illegal.

In conclusion, due to the urgency of whale conservation, the significance whales hold in maintaining the balance in our environment, as well as the obsolete importance of whale byproducts in our day to day lives, I believed that commercial whaling should be banned.

 

References:

Angier, N. (1994, September 13). DNA Tests Find Meat of Endangered Whales for Sale in Japan. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/13/science/dna-tests-find-meat-of-endangered-whales-for-sale-in-japan.html 

Chami, Ralph, Thomas Cosimano, Connel Fullenkamp, and Sena Oztosun. (2019). Nature’s Solution to Climate Change: A Strategy to Protect Whales Can Limit Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming. Finance & Development 56 no. 4. 

Ocean Alliance. (n.d.). A Brief History of Whaling. Ocean Alliance. https://whale.org/a-brief-history-of-whales/

Pettis, H.M., Pace, R. M. III, Hamilton, P. K.. (2018). North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium 2018 Annual Report Card. https://www.narwc.org/uploads/1/1/6/6/116623219/2018report_cardfinal.pdf 

Plumer, B. (2016, March 28). Japan’s excuse for killing 333 whales in Antarctica is ridiculous. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2016/3/28/11318512/japan-kill-minke-whales 

WWF. (n.d.). Species List | Endangered, Vulnerable, and Threatened Animals. WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/directory?direction=desc&sort=extinction_status

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