My very first report in school was about whales—I think I was like 7 or 8. I don’t know what it is, I have always thought they were magical creatures.
My friends, on the other hand, loved dolphins and it’s easy to understand why. They are frisky, lovable, and one can actually touch them up close.
Whales, however, are different. They’re huge, dark behemoths of the deep and yet, they’re gentle creatures. The closest that I have ever come to touching them was during the summer of 2013, when a pod of whales dropped by the California coast.
They had arrived during a week when the surf had been flat. Having nothing better else to do, my friend and I got our longboards our and paddled slowly towards them because we wanted to take photos up close.
We picked out the nearest one and carefully approached her. I wasn’t scared at all.
At first, it slowly moved away from us. But when we finally caught up to her, she turned towards us and began approaching us. It got as close as 15 feet away from us before she decided to move on.
It was the experience of a lifetime. It left me awed and stoked for days after. All that primal energy in that giant body, held back only by its gentle nature. Whales are harmless. Whales are good.
That’s why it’s heartbreaking to learn that Japan has recently resumed its commercial whaling industry. Last July 1, the first victim of Japanese whalers was offloaded into the pier where it was expected to be carved up and sold to local wet markets.
This is only the first of a 277 quota of whales that will be allowed by the Japanese government to be hunted by whalers this year.
It is a senseless death because there’s no real benefits towards hunting a species that was once on the brink of extinction. Here are five important reasons why we shouldn’t be hunting whales.
No Demand for Whale Meat
Whale meat has been described as steak with a fish-like flavor. It’s certainly an acquired taste but even among Nordic countries which have a tradition of hunting whales for food, there’s no longer widespread demand for it.
In Iceland, only 3.2% of the population eat whale meat six times or more each year. Even fewer, some 1.7% eat whale meat at least once a month. Most of the catch is actually exported to countries like Japan or else dumped in a landfill.
If there’s whale meat on the menu in local restos, it’s usually being marketed to tourists who are often misled into thinking that whale meat dishes are a must-try culinary delicacy.
In Japan, a similar situation is happening. Despite official government statements, demand for whale meat is actually declining. This is good.
Whale meat production for the Japanese market peaked 50 years ago, with a catch of 226,000 tons. These days, the so-called consumer demand is supplied by the Icelandic and Norwegian imports but a lot of these actually end up in cold storage.
So basically, the Japanese are simply no longer eating the stuff.
It’s for this reason that whales should no longer be hunted. It’s simply a wasteful use of resources. If no one is going to eat it, why go through all the trouble of hiring expensive manpower to crew a whaling ship and spend significant time and resources to kill a mammal that no one really wants to eat?
Whale meat is also toxic.
Widespread chemical pollution in our oceans have resulted to marine animals feeding on toxic wastes. When whales feed on smaller prey which have ingested toxic pollutants, these chemicals accumulate in their bodies, causing their meat to be hazardous for consumption.
One more reason to clean up the oceans.
Whales Sustain the Ocean Against Climate Change
Believe it or not, but whale poo reverses the effects of climate change.
Whales help mix and distribute nutrients in the ocean. When they feed, they go down the depths but when they need to take a dump, they have to come up to the surface.
In doing so, they bring the nutrients from the deep where there is no sunlight for photosynthesis into the surface waters where the plant plankton, which needs those nutrients, are. When they release their whale poo, these fertilize the plant plankton making it a rich source of food for the krill and fish, higher above the food chain.
When there are large quantities of plankton, there are more plants to absorb carbon. When these die and they sink slowly into the depths, the carbon remains captured by their dead cells, essentially functioning as another source of carbon sink. This biochemical cycle is likely one of the ways the ocean copes with increased carbon in its waters.
Whales Might be Sapient
It’s hard not to think of them as intelligent creatures especially when it’s been established that some species are able to pass on a rudimentary form of culture within their pods.
The humpback’s songs and orcas’ feeding strategies have been studied and proven by marine scientists to be passed on to younger generations to ensure the survival of their species.
When you’ve got observed behavior like a whale saving a biologist from a sharkand a humpback whale interfering with this orca's attack on a crabeater seal, you can’t help but think that on some level, these are intelligent animals. Perhaps even more intelligent than most humans.
And when you think about how whale-hunting is an inhumane and gruesome practice, how can any decent person justify its behavior.
To push an analogy further, I always think of whales and cetaceans as a surfer's best friend. I spend lots of time with these creatures and they have always been good to me. Now, putting this in a terrestrial context: Would you condone killing a dog so that you can eat its meat for food?
We need to change the way we think about these species and help them thrive on this planet and support their populations through conservation and global protection.
— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder
Wild and Free Whales Bring in the Cash
All over the world, the tourism created by watching cetaceans in their habitats has provided a more sustainable livelihood for the coastal communities.
And it’s just not just about the local communities.
Other than income and job generation, whale watching also provides opportunities for environmental education and research.
When seen and appreciated in the wild, it reinforces the need to conserve these species because not only do they bring joy and wonder to ourselves, but they also serve a function in maintaining the ocean ecosystem.
They are an Endangered Species
Whales are part of the cetacean species in which there are 90 species all over the world. Not all of them are endangered but in general, cetaceans have been facing threats to their species. As a result some of them are near extinction.
Until the turn of the century, whales have been pursued for its meat and that’s why most of the large whales have been nearly extinct as a result. It was only in this decade that populations have begun to recover.
Recover is not enough.
We need to change the way we think about these species and help them thrive on this planet and support their populations though conservation and global protection.
Japan’s return to commercial whaling might set off a chain reaction where other nations might decide to resume their whaling industries. In fact, Norway has already jumped on the whale killing deathwagon.
Thriving populations of whales and dolphins might be again put at risk. We might actually kill them off this time.
Heal the Oceans
Here at Wave Tribe, we support conservation efforts to protect cetaceans and other marine creatures. In fact, we have a campaign called Heal the Oceans where we list every environmental non-profit or project to make it easy for volunteers and donors who would like to contribute their time and resources into marine conservation.
Taking risks also means standing up for who and what we are. It means recognizing that we are not alone and that our actions impact the world around us. Those actions also impact the ocean in a profound way.
This is why here at Wave Tribe, we create eco-friendly surfing gears and products. Surfing need not be a toxic sport. We can enjoy surfing the ocean without causing it harm.
In creating these products, we’re also educating the present and future generations of surfers about ocean ecology and sustainability. This is part of the reason Wave Tribe was created. If, after reading this post, you’re moved to do something for the whales, then join us in this journey.
Together we can help make the ocean a better place for everyone.
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