Whaling ended its popularity in the U.S., for the most part, by the early 1900s, so some are surprised to find out it still occurs in the world. One of the biggest proponents of whaling is Japan, which has permission to conduct whaling as “scientific research” under a permit issued by the International Whaling Commission. Japan catches several hundred whales each year, mostly non-endangered minke whales. While the whales are caught to learn more about them, the meat is actually used for human consumption.
International Whaling Commission:
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) put a pause in whaling, or a moratorium, in place in 1982, and it became effective in 1985-86. The IWC was formed in 1946 and its purpose is “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry” (Source: IWC Web Site.) So, if a country wants to hunt whales these days, there are three ways it can do so:
- Aboriginal subsistence whaling – allows for whaling by small populations where whaling has traditionally been a part of their culture. Whales are not sold commercially. Examples: Greenland (fin and minke whales), Russia (gray and bowhead whales), St. Vincent and The Grenadines (humpback whales) and the USA (bowhead and gray whales hunted in Alaska).
- Scientific permit whaling – a country obtains a permit to hunt whales for scientific purposes. Since 1986, Japan, Norway and Iceland have issued permits for this purpose.
Does the International Whaling Commission Have "Teeth?":
The IWC meets each year to review the status of whales and whaling. Because governments can “object” to any decisions made by the IWC, the organization is thought by some not to have a lot of power. At the very least, it provides a clearinghouse for some of the most updated information on whale populations and whaling information across the world.
Culture and Controversy:
Whaling is a very controversial issue. Many countries have historically and culturally depended on whales, but many species were hunted to near extinction (with the U.S. playing a part in this in our Yankee whaling days.) On the other hand, some of these same countries have developed booming tourist industries around their marine environment, allowing them to benefit from whales without killing them.