Norway has increased the numbers of whales who can be killed each year by the country’s whaling fleets. While this is tragic news, it hides a deeper, more hopeful truth: that this antiquated industry could be heading towards taking its final breaths, and final whale lives.
Oslo announced the 28% increase in the annual whaling quotas amid some very telling statistics for the industry. In 2017, there were only 11 whaling vessels operating - down by nearly half from the year before, and down from 350 in 1950. Whaling quotas, which were set at 999 last year, have been far from filled in recent years: 2015 saw 660 murdered, and in last year only 432 succumbed to the harpoons.
Much of the world agrees that even one whale killed is too many. Whales have the intrinsic right to be alive and to not be harmed by human beings; yet Norway’s whalers violate these rights, since the Norwegian government does not choose to recognize whale protections invoked by the International Whaling Commission. The global moratorium on whaling, which went into effect in 1985-86 Antarctic season, was an important step towards recognizing and respecting whales’ rights. But more is needed.
Norway filed an objection to the global moratorium and is one of two countries that allows commercial whaling, along with Iceland. Japan doesn’t openly conduct commercial whaling, the meat from Japan’s phony “research” hunts still ends up on the commercial market. Japan further imports whale meat from Norway and Iceland.
Norway claims that there are large enough populations of whales to sustain commercial hunts. So why are the quotas not being filled? Whalers cite high fuel prices and a lack of capacity at whale meat processing facilities, as well as climate change, which appears to be compelling whales further and further away from Norwegian hunting waters. We are starting to see the whaling nations claim that climate change is depleting whales and dolphins, not the hunts themselves. Others point out that fewer people want to eat whale, period.
Whaling is cruel, and violates the intrinsic rights of whales. They do not deserve the often slow and agonizing deaths at the hands of whalers who are motivated by profit.
Photo by John Cunningham/AFP/Getty Images.