Subject: Case Study: Resumption of Whaling Unlikely (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 08:50:32 -0400 (EDT)

Why might whaling be necessary in the future?
Are the whale stocks increasing?  Why/Why not?
How do we get data to make these assumptions?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 96 11:28:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Resumption of Whaling Unlikely

Resumption of Whaling Unlikely to Pose Threat, ...

   NEW YORK, June 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by the
Japan Whaling Association:
   In 1961, there was good reason to be alarmed at the plight of the whales.
great blue whale, the world's largest mammal, appeared to be hunted to the
verge of extinction, like the right, gray and bowhead whales before it.  An
outpouring of public concern became the basis of the environmental movement,
prompting a flood of contributions and pressure to save the whales.
   Today, 35 years later, the call to save the whales still echoes. But a
check would leave most thoughtful people wondering why the concern persists.
Consider: No one has hunted the great blue whale since the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) banned its catch 30 years ago. Commerical catches of
right, grey and bowhead whales were banned sixty five years ago.  Commercial
catches of humpback whales were stopped 30 years ago.
   Commercial catches of Pacific fin whales were prohibited in 1976, pelagic
stocks of sperm whales in 1979 and coastal sperm whale stocks in 1986; All
other commercial whale catches, even those from non- endangered stocks such as
the abundant minke whales, ceased in the 1987-1988 season.
   Since 1972, the commercial catch of whales was reduced from 32,000 per year
the 215 taken last year from a nonendangered Atlantic minke stock by Norway.
   That is not to say that depleted whales are no longer hunted.  But the
taken are too small to impair the stocks' recovery. Traditional native whalers
take almost 400 whales each year for subsistence, with American Inuits allowed
67 bowheads, Greenlanders 19 fin whales and 167 minkes, Russians 140 gray
whales and St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2 humpback whales.  This year the
U.S. will ask the IWC for 5 gray whales for the Makah tribe of Washington
   Under the provisions of the IWC's convention, member nations also can take
whales for research purposes. Japan is conducting a 16-year research study of
minke whales. The research requires the catch of 400 minke whales from a
760,000 minke population in Antarctic waters and 100 minkes from a 25,000
nonendangered population off its Pacific coast. The catches constitute less
than one half of one percent of the populations.
   Almost all of the whale species appear to be increasing steadily in all of
world's waters. There are sightings of increased numbers of blue whales off
the California coast and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Australia noted a 12
percent increase in the number of humpback whales off its coasts. The rare
north Atlantic right whale rebounded from only 30 whales off the coast of the
U.S. in the 1950's to 500 today. And the Pacific gray whale, once thought
extinct, has recovered to original population size. It was recently removed
from the U.S. endangered species list.
   Only the great blue whale of the Antarctic appears to be lagging in its
recovery. A number of scientists attribute this to substantial increases in
species competing for the same food supply, such as minke whales and crabeater
seals. The culling back of some minkes and seals may help the blue whale
   Blue whales and other depleted whale species will not be targeted even if
commercial whaling is allowed to resume. Strict application of a well-tested
procedure to calculate catch quotas does not permit the taking of any stocks
which are at 54 percent or less of their original population sizes. Only one
half of one percent of the more abundant populations will be permitted to be
taken, a number well below the annual rate of population increase for whales,
which ranges from 4 percent to 14 percent.
   It is unlikely, too, that whales will ever be hunted as relentlessly as they
were in previous times. Since the mid 1960's, the whole character of whaling
has changed. Nations no longer need whale oil, the resource that led to
earlier overexploitation.  Now, whales are taken solely for food, by countries
that traditionally consumed it in their food cultures.