Commercial whaling during the last century decimated most of the world's whale populations. Estimates suggest that between 1925, when the first whaling factory ship was introduced, and 1975, more than 1.5 million whales were killed in total. Whalers would hunt one whale population after another, moving from species to species as populations declined from exploitation. After repeated requests from the world community, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling that came into effect in 1986.
Today, we are perilously close to witnessing a return to large-scale commercial whaling. Norway continues its commercial whaling programme in the North Atlantic, openly flouting the IWC's moratorium. Japan hunts whales under the guise of "scientific" whaling, even though the whale meat is sold on the market for profit. In the past three years, both nations have increased the resources they devote to their whaling programmes, and both are aggressively pushing to lift the ban on commercial whaling.
Overturning the ban on whaling would be devastating to the world's whales, which are just beginning to recover from years of exploitation. Whales mature and breed slowly, thus populations are slow to recover. Furthermore, whales are already jeopardised by a number of human-induced environmental threats, such as toxic pollution and global warming.
Commercial whaling has never been carried out in a manner that is sustainable for whale populations and ocean ecosystems.
(with the kind permission of ©Greenpeace 2000)