Subject: Whaling

Tori (
Tue, 3 Jun 1997 23:17:19 -1000

Hi, Dr. Cullin.

I have a couple of questions about whaling.

1)When did commercial whaling become illegal in countries
like the US and Britain? And, what whale was being most
hunted at this time? Was it the sperm whale?

2)What do you think of the Japanese claim that their whaling
is for scientific purposes? Are the Rusian's and the Japanese
really the bad guy in whaling now? 

3)What are, in your opinion, the most important
events in this century's whaling history? 

I'm a (sort of) physist and so ignorant, but curious, 
about these issues.


Christina Johnson
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Physical Oceanography Research Division

phone: 619-534-4986

Aloha Christina,

You are at one of the best schools for research material on your
interests. I am jealous, a little. I must say I've been working on your
letter for a few days now. Your questions are worthy of a thesis. My
original reply was so complicated I finally erased and am now starting

1) I thought this was an easy one, but it turns out that whaling has been
regulated since the 1930's. The International Whaling Commission took over
this job in 1946. To my understanding, an international moratorium on
whaling was entered in the early 80's. The information I have conflicts
for some reason, or perhaps I am looking in the wrong places. Humpback
whaling was banned in 1966. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and
Endangered Species Act of 1973 gave further protection to humpbacks, other
whales and marine mammals. Not all countries entered into the moratorium,
such as Norway, who had stopped whaling on their own and then resumed. The
Untied Kingdom also stopped whaling by their own choice. These events were
in 1969 and 1964 respectively. Russia entered the moratorium (I'm
pretty sure) and whales anyhow.                                                                                          1) This is your easiest question. I will give you some background info
Here are the years other countries ceased coastal whaling Australia
(1979), Canada (1972), New Zealand (1964), South Africa (1976) and the
United States (1961). As you can see, this is not an easy question.

The species of whales were typically hunted by a progression from most
valuable or more easily caught whales to less attractive ones as stocks
were depleted. Whaling in the North Atlantic had collapsed by the late
1700's as stocks of right and bowhead whales were depleted. Right whales
stocks in the southern hemisphere were depleted by the middle 1800's with
North Pacific right and bowhead whales rapidly following this pattern.
Sperm whaling came to a virtual halt by about 1860. But this was also
influenced by the replacement of sperm oil lighting by the recently
discovered mineral oil. As whaling technology became modernized, whaling
took on a new surge as the blue whale became economically attractive. Blue
whales dominated catches until the 1930's (when quotas began) and became
legally protected in the 1965. Attention turned tot he fin whale from the
mid 30's to the early 60's. Already enacted conservation methods kept them
from becoming as depleted as the popular whales before them. From 1940 to
the '70's it appears the most hunted whales were the blue's, fin's sei's
and humpbacks. This is depressing stuff.

2) Please remember that is my opinion and does not reflect that of
WhaleNet. I think Japanese scientific whaling is total **** and the data
that they are gathering by killing whales can be replaced by non-invasive
DNA testing. DNA can be gathered from the skin of whales that is sloughed
when diving.    

Personally I don't feel that the Russian and Japanese are the BAD guys of
whaling. They receive a lot more publicity then most. The United States
engages in aboriginal whaling, at a much smaller scale, of course. The
Japanese and Russians (are they still called that?) seem to be, how should
I say, not up front with what is really going down. I suppose I just lost
any honorary citizenships there. There is a lot of information out there
to be had on this hotly debated subject, if you care to become more
informed and form your opinion, which I would encourage.

3) I kinda answered this in #1. There was so much information that I
choose to relay to you what I found significant. Other than this I would
have to put some heavy thought before putting into writing what I felt was
MOST important. The moratorium seems like the obvious answer, but I feel
hesitant to jump on it, for some reason.

I must say for a self-proclaimed ignorant person, you have asked some very
intelligent and thought provoking questions. I can't say I really feel as
if I have given them the time, thought and research they deserve. But then
I don't want to keep you waiting and wondering either. Let me know if I
can assist you further or give you some reference leads if you are still

A hui hou!