Whale Blood

Iceland Disregards Ban,
Steps Up Illegal Whaling

Word by word, you could have read this headline in the 1970s and the 1980s: Commercial Whaling Will Drive Whales to Extinction. Thirty years have passed and the story hasn’t changed much. Despite an official, global, U.N.-sanctioned ban on whaling first established in 1986, the practice of hunting, killing and profiting from the slaughtering of whales continues as bloody and senseless as ever.
Iceland now, as then, leads the nations breaking the law (yes, it’s still in place), followed closely by Norway, Japan and a few Pacific island-countries, which still do it as part of ancient traditions. But they are not considered a threat to the survival of the species. Give or take a few, nowhere else but in those three nations, the slaughtering of whales is disguised as ‘scientific research,’ though one would be at loss to find any published in the last 50 years.
Without euphemisms, the killing of whales by Iceland, Japan and Norway feeds only a tiny, negligible demand for its meat, considered as much a delicacy as tiger bones and rare monkey’s parts, equally commercialized in black markets of Asia and Europe. There’s absolutely no proven need for it to even being consumed by humans and animals, except for the unbound vanity of wealthy consumers.
Plus, no other food industry in the world today is allowed to operate at such wasteful levels: of an average 80 ton whale, only a few kilos of flesh is actually processed. Everything else is simply discarded, as it used to be a thousand years ago. Aren’t we supposed to know better? Apparently, Icelandic, Norwegian and Japanese officials don’t care either way; such countries spend a staggering amount of money trying to protect its small but high-heeled industry.
While the Obama administration, along with global conservation groups, are seeking to double efforts to enforce a moratorium on the slaughtering of whales through trade sanctions, Iceland’s been escalating its hunting and trading of fin whales (and other whale species). In 2010, it landed 60 times more edible whale meat (including both minke and fin whales) than it did in 2004, and it shipped an estimated 800 tons of whale products, almost 10 times as much as in 2008, the next highest year for exports.
Estimated threats of extinction to each whale species vary widely, with fin, right and minke whales topping the list of most endangered. But scientific research supports the general view that, in average, commercial whaling, human population expansion and environmental pollution may cause a devastating loss within 100 years, one that would be virtually impossible to recover from.
Other factors that may compound this grim prospect include our general ignorance about the most basic facts about whales, their evolution and relevance to marine life, and survival of other ocean species. Above all, we may be running out of time to learn more about their complex social life and interactions, and what goes on in their gigantic brains. Whaling, illegal or otherwise, is the first step toward whale extinction that, unfortunately, has already being taken.

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