Re: Products from the ocean

From: Merel Dalebout (
Date: Tue Jan 25 2000 - 20:44:42 EST

>I am reseaching to find out products that come ocean resources that >we use
>in our every day lives. Any information or sources would help >me with
>this project.

Hey there Natalie,

Thanks for your message. I was asked a very similar question a few days ago
by what was perhaps one of your class mates (Katie Shields?).

Anyway, I enclose here the reply I gave her regarding products we obtained
from whales (this being Whalenet not Oceannet, ha ha) at least historically
when they were hunted in large numbers. Other things we get from the oceans
of course are food (fish, shellfish, seaweed) also other seaweed products
like setting agents, and oil, gas and minerals from mining the ocean floor.
If you do a few searches or even if you look up "ocean" in a general
encylopedia I am sure you will fill a few more things to add to this list.
Also don't forget things like the weather, which we get from the ocean, and
also life in general. If the world had no oceans, nothing could live here.

Good luck and my bit on whales follows below.



Thanks for your message. Historically, when whales were hunted in large
numbers around the world, we obtained many products from them. The most
important whaling product was whale-oil which was used in the manufacture of
soap and margarine. Inferior grades of oil were also used to tan leather.
Sperm whale oil, which is very waxy and quite different from other whale
oil, was used in the manufacture of candles, and later to make cosmetics
such as lipstick and skin cream. It was also used as a lubricant for
airplane and submarine engines and even to make detergent. Baleen plates
from some whales were used as stays in corsets and petticoats worn by women
in the 19th Century to make them stiff and rigid. Teeth from sperm whales
were carved (scrimshaw) as art, and the bones of whales were used for making
glue and gelatine (for making jello), and also for fertilizer. Ambergris, a
wax-like product that sperm whales make in their intestines, was used to
make perfume

In some countries such as Norway, Iceland and Japan, the meat and sometimes
blubber from the whales was also eaten, and in others it was often used for
pet food. Today, whales are in general are protected from hunting under a
worldwide ban, although a small number are still taken for traditional
native subsistence (food for survival), for example by the Inuit eskimos in
Alaska and also in Russia.

What we get from whales and dolphins now that we dont really hunt them
anymore, is mostly enjoyment. The beauty of seeing these animals in the
wild, for example when you go whalewatching, is something really
spectacular. Scientists can also learn a lot about the ocean environment
from whales and dolphins; about how they communicate and travel such long
distances in the oceans, how they find food and what they feed on (and so
know more about the ecological relationships between different species in
different areas), about how they evolved, as mammals like you and I that
returned to the sea and now are as at home there as fish, and we can learn
how they are affected by the harmful things we do to the oceans, like
causing pollution, overfishing, changing the ocean floor via mining and
dredging, creating very loud sounds from boats and noise tests, and so
perhaps try to modify these behaviours so the whales, and so other animals,
and ultimately ourselves, are not hurt.

I hope this helps your project. Remember though that animals and plants
dont need to be "useful" to us to be valuable. All life on Earth should be
respected and allowed to live free and happy, regardless. The beauty of the
natural world alone should be enough reason to protect it. In terms of the
ocean, the most important thing we get from it overall is life. Without the
oceans the world would be a barren place with no living things at all.

Good luck!


Merel Dalebout
PhD student
School of Biological Sciences
Thomas Building, L2
University of Auckland.
Private Bag 92019
New Zealand
Ph: 64-9-373-7599 x4588
Fax: 64-9-373-7417
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