Norway continues to hunt the minke whale.
07 June 2011 12:00 AM

Whaling

07 June 2011

What is whaling?

Whaling is the hunting and killing of whales for commercial, recreational or scientific purposes. Once a large industry providing materials for a range of industrial processes, whaling today is confined to a handful of countries.

In 1946, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.

Measures adopted by the commission included hunting bans on certain species and females accompanied by calves, the designation of whale sanctuaries, defining set hunting seasons, and imposing limits on the number and size of whales to be hunted.

Norway continues to hunt the minke whale.

Despite these regulations, the 1970s marked the rise of fervent anti-poaching movements and pro-animal welfare campaigns. Reports published by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1977 and 1981 identified several whale species as being in danger of extinction.

Amidst growing international concern for hunted species, members of the International Whaling Commission voted in favour of implementing a moratorium on commercial whaling for an initial period of ten years. The IWC moratorium came into effect in 1986 and remains in place today.

Among International Whaling Commission members, there is speculation that Iceland and Norway continue to hunt commercially. Whaling is also prevalent in several other countries not a party to the Commission, including Canada, Indonesia and South Korea. Some traditional communities also hunt whales for subsistence purposes, specifically Inuit populations in Canada, Greenland and Alaska.

Opposition to whaling

Conservationists and animal rights activists argue that whaling is unacceptable on two counts: firstly because of the suffering endured by the animals, and secondly because it threatens the extinction of the species.

Whales are generally killed by grenade-tipped harpoons, designed to explode inside the animal. However, as fast-moving creatures living in rough seas, whales are often subject to repeated blows before they are killed. Alternatively, the traditional two-flue harpoon penetrates no deeper than the whale’s blubber, leaving the animal to escape seriously wounded and in significant pain.

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