Commercial whaling in the 19th and
20th centuries brought many species of cetaceans to the
brink of extinction. Because of this, a world-wide
moratorium on most whaling went into effect in the late
20th century. Since then, many species have made
astounding recoveries, and others are rebounding slowly.
Because of these recent recoveries, some countries want
to resume whale hunts. However, due to the growing
popularity of whales, there is much public pressure to
have the whaling ban perpetuated, perhaps forever.
Back in the days of commercial
whaling, sometimes Orcas would be included in the catch
by whalers. But they were not usually targeted since
they didn't provide a rich source of food or oil.
However, during the early 20th century it was common for
fisherman to deliberately shoot killer whales when they
encountered them because the orcas were perceived to be
competition with the fishermen for the same fish
schools. Additionally, some orcas were shot at as
targets during World War II pilot training! Canadian
pilots flying off shore would try to kill any orcas on
sight in order to "improve" their skills as wingmen.
Lastly, another form of whaling
posed a different kind of threat to orcas: live capture
for captivity. The Orca’s popularity in seaquariums
around the world made it a highly marketable species and
created a demand for more and more live animals during
the late 20th century. Unfortunately, at the beginning
of this process many Orcas died while being captured or
shortly thereafter. The many captures also very likely
had long lasting negative impacts on the social
structures of the targeted wild populations.
All of these threats are in the
past however. In large part due to their tremendous
popularity in marine parks, orcas are now thought of
favorably by most people and at present there are no
wild Killer Whales being hunted or captured any where in
What's Being Done
The creation of the US Marine
Mammal Protection Act in 1972 protected Orcas and other
species of marine mammals off the coast of the United
States. It also made capturing these animals illegal.
(As a consequence, most seaquariums have turned to
breeding programs to sustain the populations that you
see in captivity today.)
Whaling is not completely an idea
of the past, however. Although the hunting of Orcas is
not being considered anywhere, the high numbers of other
species such as the Minke whale have led a few countries
to consider the resumption of whaling. They claim that
there is still a demand for whale products and that
whaling is a legitimate cultural practice that deserves
to be perpetuated. After all, even during the whaling
moratorium, aboriginal groups in North America and Asia
were always allowed a certain number of whale "takes"
because it was part of their past culture. Now some
nations like Norway and Japan are arguing that they too
need different regulations to protect the interests of
their own people and cultures.
What You Can Do
Write a letter of protest to the
Embassy of any country that you learn may resume whale
hunts. Some think that the most effective thing that you
can say in such a letter is to tell them that as long as
they allow whaling you will boycott all products
produced in their nation.
Support the public relations
efforts of conservation focused groups. Support them by
financial donations and support them by providing your
own time and efforts.
Become an advocate yourself.
Spread the word to others about the possible resumption
of whaling and get them to join you in opposition.