Whales hunting is a serious and disputable issue that concerns all countries around the world. Even though the IWC has issued the moratorium for whaling in 1982, the issue is still relevant due to the refusal of several countries and Japan in particular to adhere to the new rules. Nevertheless, there are still some doubts regarding the current situation with the quantity of whales population worldwide and the actual threat for them. The current paper analyzes the situation with whales from the historical and scientific perspective. It emphasizes their crucial role in the ecosystem balance together with the function of regulating the fish population and the plankton growth and consequently contributing to the air quality of the Earth. Even though there is evidence that the situation with the whales is not so serious anymore and their population has already been restored, it is necessary to encourage the countries to increase the number of whales or at least sustain on the same level. Whales’ watching is probably the best economic alternative aimed to contribute to the state treasury without killing these mammals.
Nevertheless, raising the worldwide awareness of the whales’ role in the environment is an important way to keep the balance in the Earth ecosystem.
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The entire ecosystem of the planet is strongly interconnected at all levels. Therefore, whaling cannot be ignored and should be regarded as having a significantly negative impact not only on various processes that take place in the ocean, but also the misbalance on the Earth. Even though whaling was one of the greatest benefits for various countries and one of the most serous problems for the ocean ecosystem until the twentieth century, nowadays, it is a problem only in Japan, Norway and Iceland failed to stick to the moratorium and stop killing these creatures.
Some other countries have found another way to gain economic benefits from whales and have promoted whale watching as a unique and non-harming tourist industry. Regardless of the fact that Japan and other whaling countries may have serious economic explanations for the whaling-related choice, it is necessary to consider the role of whales in the ecosystem and review the history of these ocean creatures’ mass extermination to understand how human activities cause a serious damage to the environment of the Earth. The major underlying reason for such vital importance of whales for the proper balance in the world ecosystem is its crucial role in the food chain and stabilization of the healthy ocean ecosystem. These marine representatives play a considerable role in the regulation of the food and energy flow in the ocean. Be it the alive being or the dead body of the whale, it is a key source of the nutrients or energy that is part of the ocean ecosystem.
At the same time, whales contribute to carbon cycling in the water, which consequently influences carbon regulation in the air and ensures the healthy atmosphere for the terrestrial beings including plants, animals and people. Failure to ensure the balanced carbon level can lead to serious problems and is currently analyzed in the context of the global climate change. Moreover, the regulation of the population of different species in the marine environment is also under the careful surveillance on behalf of whales that excludes the possibility of overpopulation of some species and ensures the food supply for others. The current paper is aimed to analyze the significant role played by whales in the ecosystem of the planet to prove that no economic benefits can justify whaling and moratorium so that killing these mammals must not become universal and forced.
The opposition of the humans to nature has been observed since the early times of the human development. Even though the same opposition can be observed among some representatives of the wildlife in nature, their distinctive feature from the impact of the humanity is to support the natural balance in the ecosystem. In contrast, the industrial and commercial activities of people are particularly harmful for the environment. Among such, it is necessary to consider whaling from the perspective of the negative interference of the humans into the marine life and overall natural ecosystem of the Earth.
Since the 4th century, industrial killing of whales has been getting more and more widely spread in many countries (Epstein, 2008). Approximately a million of whales was killed globally only in 17-20 centuries (Australian Government, 2010). Evidently, this has greatly contributed to humans’ prosperity. However, the effects of whaling vary at different levels. For the individuals, the main benefits can be the meat, insulin or vitamin A production. For the private organizations, it is obviously the business and profit oriented choice as well as for the countries that use whaling in order to fill the state treasury (Epstein, 2008). However, for the nature, it is a real crisis and catastrophe.
In the twentieth century, industrial whaling has become such a serious problem that it has led to international anti-whaling discourse in 1965-1980 (Epstein, 2008). The UN Conference in 1972 was the first attempt to raise the issue of the whales’ killing as a real environmental problem (Morishita, 2006). Regardless of the cultural differences, sovereignty and other factors, the international discourse has come to a conclusion that the material benefits brought about by whaling are weak in comparison to the damage to the nature and environment. This evidence has mainly led to the issue of the moratorium to kill whales for industrial purposes. However, in 1982, the decision was supported not by all countries, but by the majority, which equals to three quarters (Epstein, 2008).
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In particular, Japan, Norway and Iceland have remained the countries that acted against the moratorium for commercial purposes. Instead, the majority of world countries condemned such choice emphasizing the non-correspondence of whaling to the existing physical and social realities. In particular, the International Whaling Commission is the body that struggles for the whales’ protection worldwide (Epstein, 2008). The International Convention of 1946 has become the main document to regulate the whales’ treatment worldwide (Miller & Doslak, 2007). Even though it did not manage to cooperate effectively with some countries, its role is crucial for the conservation of these mammals. Moreover, Greenpeace, NGOs and a number of the other foundations investigate the whaling-related problems in order to find the best solutions to tackle them (Miller & Doslak, 2007). Evidently, these organizations are effective in raising the consciousness of people as only three countries nowadays continue using whaling as a means of gaining profit. According to IWC rules, the possible exceptions to whaling are aborigines’ hunting, scientific research and whaling under objections (Miller & Doslak, 2007). In regard to these points, killing of whales should not reach the large scales and should not damage the natural balance of the ecosystems that currently need to be restored.
Among the achievements of the NGOs and IWC is the widely spread whales’ watching. Interestingly, such type of using these mammals is both economically and environmentally friendly (Corkeron, 2006). Being primarily caused by the marine degradation, such touristic activity is not only profitable, but also shapes the different understanding of whales. Observing the considerable differences in the behavior of sea mammals in comparison with the fish makes people reflect on the erroneous equalization of the whaling to the common fish industry. However, the studies prove that such activities influence the behavior of whales and are “biologically significant” (Corkeron, 2006). Hence, the peculiar regulation of the periods and conditions of watching is necessary to make this activity harmless and responsible.
Even though it seems clear that whaling must be forbidden, the issue remains very disputable. Morishita points out that the problem of whaling ensures the emotional exchange between the pro- and anti-whaling countries (Morishita, 2006). Under various influences of IWC and international moratorium, Australia and other countries have implemented some special conservational policies to ensure the legal protection of the blue, southern right, sei, fin and humpback whales (Australian Government, 2010). In order to protect these species, the Australian government has issued the national environmental law, as well as ensured the division of the exclusive economic zones and introduced special sanctions to prevent private business from whaling (Australian Government, 2010). The similar steps were taken by other countries. Nowadays, a number of species are included in the Nature’s Red list for being under threat, hence demanding protection (Australian Government, 2010). However, the position of some other countries is different. Miller and Doslak (2007) emphasized that the moratorium of IWC must be analyzed from two perspectives, namely equaling the whales’ conservation and connotating the cultural imperialism.
An important example to consider is Japan that ignored the UN votes and continues to kill whales regardless of any existing taboos. Interpretation of the essential traditions is one of the means to justify such policies. While discussing this issue, Miller and Doslak (2007) pay attention to the following. The essential point is not only that Japan interprets whaling as an integral part of their life and cultural traditions, but that it has a different view on whales. Instead of considering whales as mammals like all other world countries, the Japanese view it just as fish that is not in any way distinctive from other species (Miller & Doslak, 2007). The Japan Whaling Association reports that because whales are brave and big, from the ancient times, their meat was specially served on the peculiar occasions and fests (Miller & Doslak, 2007). While each country may have their peculiar dishes that are culturally and historically added to the cuisine, whales’ meat has become an inseparable part of cuisine for the Japanese. However, such argument offered by the governments reflects the distinctive public opinion. The reports of the polls show that people do not view eating the whale meat as an essential ritual and are ready to refrain from eating this food (Miller & Doslak, 2007). In addition, only one third of the Japanese reported that they defend whaling and eating their meat, while 60 percent of the interviewed have never eaten it during the lifetime (Miller & Doslak, 2007). Hence, the situation is quite ambiguous and creates a number of disputes between the countries.
The scientific whaling is also widely spread in Japan, but again appears to be quite controversial. In 1987, the scholars considered it to be an alternative to the commercial whaling that was initiated by the Japanese government only due to the concerns about the negative US reaction and overall international Japanese image (Ishi&Okubo, 2007). Nevertheless, till nowadays, the whaling position of Japan has not changed and remains unacceptable for many countries. For instance, the US was initially absolutely dissatisfied with the position of Japan (Miller & Doslak, 2007). As a result, they have closed the Exclusive Economic zone to Japan and other foreign countries (Miller & Doslak, 2007). In addition, the whaling-related issues have led to some tension in the relations between two countries. While the economic interest is not fundamental for the choice of the Japanese to kill whales, their foreign environmental policy is strongly encouraging whaling and discouraging the IWC regulations. Therefore, the country’s policies are strongly interconnected with the non-material factors and are not influenced by the international concerns. Nevertheless, it is important that the position of Japan is also beneficial from the other perspective. Although it is denying the moratorium and the existing IWC norms, it is a bright example of manipulation of the public opinion in other countries (Ishii & Okubo, 2007). Quite often, such confrontations appear to be effective to legitimize the struggle and emphasize the importance of some issues like whaling.
Crucial Role of Whales in the Ecosystem
The harmful activities of the humans for the terrestrial and marine natural resources is not surprising. Human activities and environmental damage are the common problems of the scientific and governmental discussions. The basic studies of the IWC Scientific Committee show that the conservation management plan is crucial for all countries primarily because of the significant role of the whales in the marine ecosystem as well as their irreplaceable position in the food and energy chain on the Earth (Australian Government, 2010).
Kille (2014) emphasizes that mass killing of whales obviously makes it impossible for their ecosystem to be restored. However, they make up a great inseparable part of the marine world. First of all, they can affect the climate. Dying and consequently deteriorating in the ocean, the whales add substantial amounts of carbon into the water functioning as the “carbon credits” (Kelly, 2014). The numerical data that supports this idea is derived from the research conducted by Pershing et al. (2010). These researchers prove that the restoration of the wales’ population would help to remove approximately 160 thousand tons of carbon per year from the Earth atmosphere (Pershing et al., 2010). In order to provide a better understanding of this data, the comparison of the effects is equaled to the results of air purification by means of 843 hectares of a forest (Pershing et al., 2010). Hence, the negative impact on whales leads to the negative impact on the ecosystem, environment and climate posing a serious threat of the global climate change. In regard to the fact that such danger already exists, whaling becomes a direct means to aggravate the problem (Kille, 2014). For this reason, the damaged environment needs to be analyzed in complex and the sea world’s role in producing carton cannot be neglected when dealing with the atmospheric pollution.
How Serious Is the Threat Today?
Morishita (2006) has analyzed the problem of whales in more detail to find out whether the threat is as serious as the IWC suggests. The scientific data offered in his paper shows that the belief that whales are in danger is quite erroneous. The overall number of cetaceans consists of approximately 80 types of the investigated species (Morishita, 2006). Among such, only some of the whales such as the blue whale, the humpback and minke were commonly referred to when the topic of whaling was raised (Morishita, 2006). Hence, it is of crucial importance to distinguish between the different types. The IWC results provide information on a number of whale species, and shows that some species are abundant while others breed very fast with the annual rates reaching 10% (Morishita, 2006). In regard to this issue, one can easily deny the belief the whales are in danger at present. However, it is true that the critical decrease of the whales’ population in 1960s – 1970s (Morishita, 2006) marked the historical unregulated whale hunting. Nevertheless, since the moratorium implementation, the population of whales has been gradually restored.
Convey and Lebouvier (2009) have also emphasized the crucial damage to nature caused by marine exploitation. The scientific marine researches from 1960 till 2000s were also unsafe (Convey & Lebouvier, 2009). Both the related terrestrial activities and exploitation of the resources from the marine environment have generated the industrial pollution and brought the hazardous wastes to the territories of the Southern ocean ecosystems (Convey & Lebouvier, 2009). As a result, the local environment has become unsafe for the mammals. Till nowadays, the sub-Antarctic islands required additional attention that would ensure restoration of the natural resources and balance.
In addition, the analysis of the existing situation refers to the change of interests in various countries. In the 1980s, whaling commerce was particularly beneficial for the economies of different countries. However, nowadays, the economic viability of the industrial whaling has decreased and led to the deceased number of whales killed even in the hunting countries (Morishita, 2006). In any case, this does not mean that the whales’ protection should come to the end; instead, scientists have proved that the role of whales is crucial for the air quality. Therefore, the higher number of whales on the Earth is desirable for the sake of air purification. However, not only whales, but also all large marine vertebrates must be perceived as an inseparable part of the life cycle and the basic source of energy that allows the ecosystem function properly (Pershing et al., 2010).
From the above analysis, one can see that whaling causes a serious damage to the environment and ecosystem. Hence, it is harmful for practically all processes that take place on the Earth. In regard to their crucial role in the life of the marine system and its balance, stabilization of the food chain and balanced co-existence of the species is required. Therefore, killing of the whales leads to serious problems in the ecosystem and across the population of marine species in particular. One of the first negative consequences is complete destabilization of the marine ecolife, so that the more whales are killed, the more destabilized and misbalanced the marine world becomes. However, in addition to the above-mentioned issues, another problem has to be considered. The scientists prove that the whales’ role in cleaning the atmosphere is crucial as these mammals stimulate planktons that pull Carmon from the atmosphere and ensure the clean air for the living beings. Apart from the irreplaceable contribution of the whales to the ecosystem on the biological level, the scientists also show that whales contribute a lot to the studies and discoveries in the areas of echolocation, marine life and environment, mammals’ intelligence and other fields that are important for understanding the natural relations and processes related to ocean and other marine environments.
Consequently, the interest in the marine life and in the life of whales in particular is advantageous for the economy of the countries that are involved in whale-related activities. Such activities are quite popular; hence, bringing financial benefits to the organizations. Therefore, the benefits from defending and investigating the alive mammals prevails over the necessity to kill them for the mercantile interests. Even though the tendency to defend whales has started with the moratorium on their commercial killing in 1982, the moratorium was not effective for all countries and the whales are still being killed leading to negative consequences for all Earth inhabitants.
For this reason, it is crucial to strengthen the whales’ protection worldwide, ensure absolute taboo for whaling, and contribute to the overall environmental welfare especially in the modern times, when the atmospheric pollution and climate change issues are of great concern to the humanity. Public awareness of the problem and specifically of the role of whales in the ecosystem must be raised. The possible sanctions and alternatives must be offered to the whaling countries.