Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whaling Down to a Science

Ahh, what a relief to be back home! Relaxation at its finest, people. I can actually go a couple minutes without thinking about my next calculus test or literature paper. Now that's saying something. Of course, all good things must come to an end. This good thing will come to an end in the next 24 hours, sadly. Then back to school for another couple of weeks. Oh, the life of a college student.
Currently I'm in a communications class and I'm working on a small speech due this upcoming week. I get the amazing chance to talk about something I care about! Guess what it is? Whales! And how whales are being negatively affected by humans! Yeah, bleak. It truly is a sad story of decline and ruin in the whale populations. Let me tell you about what I'm going to say! This could be good practice for me, even though I'm not standing in front of all of you and speaking it aloud. Just imagine it. I'm supposed to talk for a maximum of 2 minutes; I don't think my teacher understands the magnitude of fascination I have with this subject. He may have to give me like 20 minutes to talk about it, at least! 

Diver and Humpback whale.
Whales. We all have come to know them as the biggest mammals in the world. This is correct. Actually, the biggest animal in the history of the world is the blue whale, which still roams the planet's seas today. Most people don't know more than that about them, though. Hopefully I can help change that today. 
These amazing animals are extremely intelligent. In fact, the sperm whale is known to have the largest brain in the animal kingdom. They have a beautiful, other-worldly form of communication that can echo through the ocean deep for literally hundreds of miles. People comment that their audible communication sounds lyrical or like that of singing a song. They don't only communicate verbally; they can also communicate through gestures such as tail-slapping or breaching. Socially, their ways of hunting and migrating are incredibly complex. Some species hunt alone, like sperm whales, but many will hunt in groups called pods. It is essential that they communicate with each other to obtain food for themselves. Also, touching on their intelligence, they can learn very quickly. Their "cousins," shall I say, the smaller cetaceans such as dolphins and porpoises, have been known to learn and be easily trained for entertainment purposes for the masses. As humans, we don't have a clue how truly intelligent these marine mammals are.
Throughout history, whales have been hunted. They have been hunted by many different people groups for many different reasons. Some hunted for whale blubber or oil. Others hunted for the bones or just purely the meat itself. They would use these whale parts for oil in lamps, clothing, food, and tools and other crafts. So, why have whales been in decline just recently if they have been hunted for centuries? It all comes down to traditional whaling technique versus commercial.
Killing pilot whales is tradition in the Faroe Islands. (1981)
Traditionally, small groups of people would go out on a small boat and wrangle in a whale to beach itself. Some hunters even learned how to use certain weapons, like handmade harpoons and knives, against the mammals while in the sea to successfully kill them. Obviously through these types of whale slaughter, the populations of whales species didn't drastically decline.
Commercial whaling is a much different and wilder mutation of traditional whaling. Technological advances over the years have pushed the envelope. Pretty much, the act of killing is put down to a science. Quotas are estimated. Ways of killing are perfected. Mass killing by sending out fleets of ships is formulated. Over the recent decades, certain countries have developed their killing methods to perfection, so much so that the whales are on the brink of endangerment and extinction. Ecological damage is much more prevalent with modern-day whaling compared to traditional.
The IWC, or International Whaling Commission, has been in existence since the 1940s. This organization brings countries together to meetings based on the subject of preserving whale populations. In 1986, the IWC made a moratorium (temporary prohibiting of something) on commercial whaling. Here's the catch: if the whale hunting is used for research purposes, then it is permissible. That's the "loop hole" that certain countries took advantage of, specifically Iceland, Norway, and Japan.
Japan is now the big name in whaling. It's been getting huge amounts of press on the subject lately. They still have a government funded operation that sends a fleet of ships down to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales annually. Usually their quota is about 900 to 1,000 whales, just recently including 50 of the endangered humpback whales. They claim this is for scientific research. They are taking blood samples. They are checking their stomach contents. However, they're packing up and shipping off the whale meat to be sold in Japanese markets for profit. How does that make any sense?
Packaged whale meat in Japan.
Anyway, no one should be eating whale meat in the first place. It's toxic. Yeah, it's toxic. Whales and other big marine predators of the ocean, like sharks and tuna, have large amounts of mercury in their bodies. This is because of the smaller creatures they eat that contain mercury as well. The amount of mercury will get larger and larger as the animal is a bigger predator. So, if you eat whale meat, just remember that you're deliberately putting toxic levels of mercury in your body.
Thankfully there are activists and organizations out there that say enough is enough. These intelligent creatures are being murdered and eaten, and for who to benefit? Certainly not them. And certainly not us as consumers because of their meat's toxicity. 
Be sure to check out the Causes tab and learn about the some organizations that combat issues like these. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and GreenPeace are the big ones. Thanks for letting me practice my whole speech on you guys! I have a feeling this will need to be trimmed down a lot for my 2 minute boundary...


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger