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Bloody waters in Antarctica, a troublesome history of whaling

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Whaling in Antarctica

During the austral summer a giant selection of phytoplankton blooms bringing billions upon billions of krill to the Southern Ocean, which also attracts many whales. Whalers in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s relished this season, coming and catching as many whales as they could find. Today’s whalers hunt the whales in moderation and hunt the whales for research as well as the bones, oil/blubber and meat they were hunter for when whaling first began.

When whaling first began all whaling was done from land, so in 1868 when Svend Foyn of Norway invented the first exploding harpoon, which made it easier to hunt whales. They were hunted for their bones, oil and meat. Whale bones were used in the way we use plastic today, the oil for use in oil lamps and for heating and the meat was eaten.

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From the 1900’s onwards the prime target was the Blue Whale for its oil (a single 90-foot whale could contain 120 barrels of it!), bone and meat. When Blue Whales seemed to be dying out, whalers targeted smaller species like the Fin, followed by the Sei and finally the Minke in the 1980’s.

Today, Japan is one of the biggest whaling countries, each year they kill at least 300 whales for research, and the meat from these whales is often sold to Japanese Eateries to fund further research. Whale meat is a highly prized meat in Japanese eateries. In 1966, Blue Whales almost went extinct, and they were given worldwide protection. Just before Blue Whales began to be a prime target there were around 200,000 – 300,000 of them, but in 1966 numbers had plummeted right down to around 1200. For around ten years after this protection was introduced, Blue Whales were still hunted widely because apparently a large Blue Whale was ‘too tempting to ignore’.

There are many nature conservation groups trying to put a stop to whaling, one of the main ones is Greenpeace. Unlike myself, Greenpeace are against all whaling, including whaling for scientific research. Many fish food companies including Gorton’s, Sealord and Nissui once supported the Japanese scientific whaling, but now due to Greenpeace they have withdrawn their support for the whaling.

From the Greenpeace.org Website:

Update April, 2006: “After months of pressure from Ocean Defenders everywhere, our friends at seafood suppliers Gorton’s, Sealord and parent company Nissui have withdrawn their active support for Japanese whaling. This does not mean an end to the so-called scientific whaling program, but it does mean we’ve driven home a very important point: whaling is bad for business.”

I think that most whales should be protected, because if they aren’t, eventually they will fall down the path of the thylacine and become extinct. Some countries hunt whales because it is a traditional food for their culture (e.g. Japan), and it would almost like saying that Australians can’t have their good old lamb anymore, or that the Italians can no longer cook pasta. However, the occasional few whales for research is okay by me, because if they discover a disease spreading through one of the major whale colonies it can most likely be prevented from destroying the whole colony. Overall I think that Whaling in Antarctica is an issue, and should be stopped, except for research.

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