Subject: Whaling

Kim Marshall (
Wed, 12 May 1999 19:54:40 -0400 (EDT)

>Hello Jenae,
The following is some general information about whaling.  I suggest you
also search WhaleNet for additional information on whaling and search for
an organization called High North as well.  To learn how to find
information on the WhaleNet pages go to
Thank you and good luck!

>I'm doing a report on whales.  I read some where that they use whales for
>soap and shampoo etc.  It said that we don't need to use them, that there
>are substitutions.  But they didn't name any substitutes.  So I was
>wondering if you know what they do use.  I need this info as soon as
>possible so if you could help me out I would appreciate it.  Thanks so

=85 Whaling Begins
	The earliest recorded whaling activities were among the Arctic
Inuit people around 2000 BCE.  The stone age inhabitants of Norway were
also known to practice whaling.  These early whalers probably first
targeted only those whales they found stranded on the coasts.  Increased
technology later enabled them to use boats and harpoons to hunt slow moving
species like the bowhead and right whales, which were frequently sighted
close to shore.  In time, the early societies became dependent upon
whaling, and their cultures began to reflect that dependence.  In the early
days of whaling, the whales provided food and raw materials for clothing
and tools.  At the time, hunters killed only a fairly small number of
whales each year and the whale populations did not face the severe
depletion that they would in later centuries as whaling became

=85 Commercial Whaling
	The French Basques began to engage in commercial whaling in the Bay
of Biscay by the 12th century.  The Basques hunted right whales and were so
successful that they eventually depleted the population in the Bay of
Biscay and were forced to extend their activities to other northern
coastlines.  Other nations soon became involved in whaling as well, and by
the 17th century the English, Dutch, French and Germans were all
participating in the industry.  The first record of a Japanese whaling
industry is from 1606, suggesting that whaling was becoming a global
pursuit.  In time, the Dutch became the leaders, establishing
"blubber-towns" on the islands around Greenland and Newfoundland.  The
whalers killed mainly bowhead and right whales, using their oil for lamps
and soap and their baleen for umbrellas, whips, corsets and other articles
of clothing.

=85 Commercial Whaling in North America
	Commercial whaling crossed the Atlantic with the Pilgrims and other
early European arrivals.  Early records show that the Mayflower may have
been used as a whaling ship.  Whaling communities soon sprung up along the
East Coast.  By the mid 17th century, commercial whaling was established on
Long Island.  The early American whalers targeted right whales and
humpbacks in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.  Within less than
one-hundred years, whaling had noticeably depleted the whale stocks in
these areas.
	In 1712 American Whalers encountered deep water sperm whales in
southern waters.  By this time technological improvements allowed the
whalers to journey further south in search of the sperm whales, which were
valued for their high-quality oil.  The American whalers soon hunted their
way to the top of the industry and by the mid 19th century New England sent
out four ships for every one launched elsewhere.
	The discovery of petroleum in the second half of the 19th century
led to the rapid collapse of the American whaling industry.  Business
suffered as petroleum decreased the demand for whale oil.  At the same
time, the industry suffered during the Civil War as ships were stolen and

=85 20th Century Whaling
	Technological advances once again gave whaling a boost at the turn
of the century.  Steam powered ships as well as improvements in the
high-powered cannon harpoon invented in 1863 by Norwegian Svend Foyn
enabled whalers to hunt the fast-moving blue, humpback, fin and sei whales.
Whale oil was once again in global demand as it was used in the manufacture
of soaps and margarine.  Whales were hunted unprecedented numbers.  Between
1930 and 1960 whale catches in the Antarctic alone averaged around 30,000.
	Whaling at such an immense scale made the depletion of global
stocks seem inevitable.  This risk did not go unnoticed.  In 1938 the
League of Nations advanced an international agreement to regulate whaling
to protect right and bowhead whales.  The International Whaling Commission
(IWC) was created in 1946 to protect the whales as well as the whaling
industry.  Until the 1970s, however, the IWC placed most of its emphasis
upon protecting the whaling industry and not the whales.
	In the early 1970s, public outcry and pressure from the United
Nations about the depletion of whale stocks forced the IWC to change its
focus and work to protect the whales.  In 1982 the IWC called for a total
moratorium on commercial whaling of all large whales beginning in 1986.
While the moratorium is a positive start, much remains to be done.  For
instance, some nations, including Japan and Norway, continue to hunt minke
whales.  Japan has also begun to kill dolphins to compensate for the loss
of whale meat.

Source: High North Alliance publication

Kim Marshall-Tilas
Whale Conservation Institute/Ocean Alliance
191 Weston Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
(781) 259-0423
fax: 259-0288