Save the blue whale: in which countries are whales still being killed and why do they do it

Cetaceans are an amazing order of aquatic mammals, which includes two large suborders: Mysticeti and

Odontoceti.Whales can be monsters like Moby Dick, or mysterious friends like the nameless character from Finding Nemo. They, good or evil, become embodiments of the power of the ocean. But humans turn out to be a greater threat to these ocean creatures.

Whales are still in the area of ​​man-made risk. Animals get entangled in fishing nets and permanently suffer from the effects of industrial pollution of sea water. These are indirect threats to which cetaceans have to adapt. In some parts of the oceans, they are still threatened by a harpoon and a cleaver.

Blue whale

Japan, Norway and Iceland annually minedabout 1,500 whales, despite the ban on commercial fishing for these species. Explosive grenades appear in the bodies of minke whales emerging from the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Harpoons still fall into the carcasses of southern whales, whose fishing is strictly prohibited because of the small livestock. Continuing to kill whales today, people become like past generations, completely without thinking that soon these giants may simply disappear.

How did a man hunt whales?

Whaling has existed for thousands of years: One of the first images of the whale hunting process was created 4 thousand years ago in Norway. Residents of modern Japan may have been fishing for these animals before. Speeches about whaling ships are not coming, but the first harpoons with which the whales could be finished in the shallow waters appeared before our era.

Hunting traditions vary from people to people: differently hunted whales in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Whales were both a source of food and part of cultural rituals. Extraction served as an analogue of the vitamin complex: people used meat, skin, subcutaneous fat and organs as important resources of proteins, fats and minerals. The mustache of the Mysticeti individuals went to fishing lines and baskets for storing food. The bones that could not be eaten were cleansed and became ceremonial attributes, most often ritual masks.

The Scandinavians began regularly slaughtering whales inapproximately 800–900 AD. Later, in the 12th century, whaling became stronger in the Bay of Biscay, located south of the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Over the next six centuries, Europeans found it more difficult to find whales close to shore. By the 18th century, the North Atlantic had lost its entire population of gray whales.

European trapping technology remained quiteprimitive: the animal was driven on fast sailing ships, thrown over the usual harpoons to which the ropes were tied. The whale carcass was quickly towed to land or cut straight into the sea: the lungs of the whale fill up with water and pull the animal to the bottom. At the same time hunting with harpoons is not the only possible option for catching whales. In Japan, for example, animals became entangled in nets, which were then pulled to the shore.

Gray whale stranded

Industrialization has increased marketing figures. Whalers on steamboats were able to go further into the ocean, to track deeper-water species. Began to catch sperm whales. In 1868, Norwegian Sven Foyn created a mechanical harpoon gun. There are no "invulnerable" whales left in the world: man overtook the beast both in speed and maneuverability.

The slaughter of whales became widespread, and populations soon begandecrease. This biological order lives in all the salty waters of the planet, and therefore hunters for it were found everywhere. Gradually, whaling ships left South Africa and the Seychelles, the Atlantic and Antarctica. Whale catching began in new territories: in the 20s of the 20th century, the fishery developed in Antarctica, where approximately 46 thousand individuals were caught per season. There were still no catch restrictions at that time.

1946 was the turning year for all whaling.industry. Then the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was formed. Zones in the Indian Ocean and around Antarctica were closed to whalers. Later, in 1982, IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling throughout the world.

By the time IWC was created, whale catch leaderswere Great Britain and Norway, followed by the USA and Holland. Then, when the Americans initiated the creation of the Commission, the rating was headed by the USSR and Japan. At the same time, before the adoption of the moratorium for the period 1961-1962, more than 66 thousand individuals were caught worldwide. Subsequently, Japan, Norway and the USSR withdrew from the IWC, having filed objections to the moratorium: countries re-joined the ban later, in the 1990s.

Southern Ocean Whale Reserve - a zone inwhich includes the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, washing the coast of Antarctica. In it on the territory of more than 50 million square meters. km there is a gradual recovery of whale populations.

Whale fishing by indigenous people is not prohibitedresidents of several coasts: Chukchi, Greenland, Grenadine and Alaska. Local residents catch whales in small quantities, using the same mechanisms that existed before the invention of harpoon guns. Such fishing does not harm populations that were once endangered, the IWC believes.

Fat, meat and other options to recoup whaling

Whales are amazing animals that can communicate,experience primitive emotions and live in a very simple “society”. For example, humpback whales sing similar songs that can change over time - just like our everyday speech. But whalers past and present do not hunt for “a rich inner world.”

Humpback whale cub and his mom

Cetaceans are the only mammalswhich move in cold water throughout the oceans. They have large reserves of dense fat, concentrated throughout the body and warming the animal when traveling. Fat was the main reason for hunting whales.

Until the mid-19th century, whale oil wasnecessary for lighting, chemical industry, haberdashery production. It was gradually replaced by kerosene, but soap production was still supported by whaling.

Blubber- the result of processing the fat of baleen whales. It is obtained from the fat layer, bones, tissues and meat of all types of Mysticeti.

Nowadays the fatty parts of a whale carcass do not go toeveryday life. Fat is a fatty acid glyceride that is included in some creams, cosmetics and even colored pencils. Blubber can be the basis for both nail polish and edible margarine - over hundreds of years, people have learned to make anything from whales.

Remains of a giant cauldron for dumping near the old Dutch settlement of the XVII century Smerenburg in Svalbard, Norway

Whaling was especially profitable in the XIXcentury, when from strong and elastic whalebone made luxury items: crinolines, umbrellas, whips, corsets. Today, these nets are made of steel.

Most whaling products can bereplace, but no surrogate can be passed off as whale meat. For centuries it formed the basis of the diet of the Japanese, who began to switch to chicken and other high-protein meat only in the 60s of the 20th century. In the West, whale meat is almost never eaten - it is a restaurant delicacy that has never been an essential food.

The red meat of whales is longitudinal muscles.Tender when young, it contains 21% protein and 8% fat. There is more protein in meat from under the abdominal grooves - 41 g and 400 kcal, respectively. For comparison, 100 g of beef accounts for 20.1 g and 133 kcal, respectively.

Today, the annual consumption rate of whale meat per year is 50 g per Japanese adult.

Which whales and where to go hunting?

A group of anonymous hackers in 2015 brought downservers for five Icelandic government websites. The goal of the hacker attack is to stop whale production. The video, posted publicly, broadcasts: “Whales have no voice. We will be a voice for them. It's time to remind us: extinction awaits us. It's time to tell Iceland: we will not stand by."

But Iceland is not the only country officiallypermitting whale hunting. The practice is supported by Norway and Japan, through whose waters schools of some species pass. The population of these states considers catching animals barbaric, but ships continue to go to sea for huge catches.

In Iceland they hunt minke whales andfin whales, the latter being a vulnerable species with VU status. In the same year, 2015, 229 minke whales and 154 fin whales were caught, exactly according to the quota established by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.

Meat caught in Antarctic watersDelivered to Japan, where the dishes from the whales - part of the traditional cuisine. In Iceland, only tourists consume such food: about 40% order whales from restaurants. Their fishing is practically useless for Icelanders: neither whales nor finwhales do not threaten fish that Icelanders actually consume as food. But the sale will be profitable: the carcass minke is worth $ 85 thousand

Minke whales are not endangereddisappearance. More than 100 thousand individuals live in the waters of both hemispheres. They reproduce well and quickly make up for losses. At the same time, fin whales are under threat of extinction, and the main reason for possible death is the unreasonably large catch of fin whales in the 19th-20th centuries.


Genevine Desport from the North Atlantic CommissionFishery says: "There is no reason to worry about the population in Iceland - everything is stable in the long term." How is this possible against the background of the global status of the Finval?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimatesglobal population of each specific species. The local population may turn out to be quite healthy and numerous, which makes it possible to catch its representatives within the quota. Today there are approximately 22 thousand individuals in the waters of Iceland and Greenland. That's roughly how many goals were scored in one season in 1938.

The Icelandic government finds no reasonprohibit whaling, which serves to maintain cultural traditions and supports exports. Japan adheres to the same position. The country continues to harvest whales “for scientific research purposes,” which is permitted by the IWC.

Japanese studies are inconclusive:a total of 152 publications in peer-reviewed journals since 1994. At the same time, less than half are in international resources. The rest are messages or articles in local publications in Japanese. Whales harvested for “research” end up on restaurant plates. Moreover, a 2013 report showed that whaling is not profitable and is subsidized by the Japanese government.

Japan is the most volatile member of the IWC.The moratorium was first appealed by the state in 1982, immediately after its adoption, and then commercial whaling stopped and then started again. The last withdrawal from the organization took place at the end of 2018: in July 2019, Japan will openly resume whaling.

Today, 60% of Japanese are in favor of continuingwhale production, their consumption and sale of meat for export. At the same time, whale forms the basis of the diet of only 4% of the population, and 37% have never tried whale meat.

The Japanese hunt humpback whales, smallminke whales, sperm whales and gray California whales. These species are not threatened with extinction: they are classified as the least likely to become extinct class LC. In the Pacific Ocean, the already vulnerable fin whales and Japanese whales, members of the genus of southern right whales (Eubalaena), are hunted.

Close relatives of Eubalaena are consideredbowhead whales living in northern waters. They are considered an endangered species in the Russian Red Book because their population in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk is constantly declining—scientists know of about 400 individuals. At the same time, bowhead whales once lived in the waters of record-breaking whalers, Norway and Holland. Today the species is completely relegated to the Pacific Ocean.

Third country to allow whalingfishing - Norway. Today its fleet includes 11 whaling ships: in 1950 there were 350. At the same time, the maximum quota for catching whales is 999 individuals of any species. Whalers don't do half the job.

Having a large quota and a small catchexplained by the decline in popularity of whale meat and the complication of the extraction process. Minke whales move to more northern latitudes, where whaling ships cannot penetrate because of the ice. Previously, animals could not reach the Arctic territories, but today, thanks to global warming, whales can be found in the once icy waters.

The total number of whales caught after the introduction of the moratorium is 55 thousand individuals. Of these, 26 thousand were sold as part of the commercial catch, and Norway leads in sales - 13 thousand individuals.

Why is a fishery supported not by demand, butgovernment subsidies continues to exist? This is an attempt to preserve traditions that the local residents themselves abandon. Whaling is no longer profitable: analogues of goods that were once obtained only from whales appear on the market. Truls Glovsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, said: “It is worth accepting the logical conclusions of the IWC moratorium. There is no local market, no export - it is an unnecessary and outdated industry belonging to the past. There is lobbying for it, but no rational explanation for the killing of whales can be found.”

Can whales, whose hunting has already stopped, disappear?

It is not certain that after the cessation of huntingendangered species, their populations will recover. In Russian waters, in the Bering and Okhotsk seas, approximately 400–500 Japanese whales feed, and such a population cannot be considered large. The threat of final extinction appears at the moment when the number of females drops below 50. The problem is that establishing the exact number of individuals and their sex is technically, and therefore financially, difficult.

Scientists are guided by rough estimatespopulations, but existing forecasts can be called positive. The number of sperm whales has already returned to the level of the 17th century, the restoration of the fin whale population will take another 20-40 years, and sei whales, which once replaced blue whales and fin whales, will leave the EN class in 20-25 years.

Fading threatens the rarest and most precious blueWhales, whose minimum number of 650 individuals was recorded in 1964. Today, it is forbidden to kill them in any waters, regardless of their attitude to the IWC moratorium. Whale advocates hope that a strict ban will be extended to all cetaceans.