For thousands of years, many civilisations have engaged in whaling, a practice that involve the hunting and killing of whales for the use of their carcases. However, a shifting in the world view of whaling in modern times -- with most of the world looking upon the practice in a negative light -- has rendered moot a great many of the advantages of whaling.
The earliest implementation of the practice of whaling began in Japan around the year 2000 B.C., although most of the whales used at the time were stranded on beaches. During the later half of the 20th century, whaling grew in popularity and became a significant industry in much of the world. During this period, many professionals were employed in some form of whaling-related industry, and the manufacture of such innovations as harpoons and whaling nets contributed to the practice. In 1946, the International Whaling Commission was created with the purpose of further developing and expanding the whaling industry while regulating its practice; however, since 1970, the world view of whaling has transformed into a negative one, with a ban being placed on commercial whaling in 1982.
One commonly argued advantage of whaling is that the practice keeps the ocean's ecosystem in balance. The argument maintains that the moratorium on whaling has lead to an unusual increase in the population of whales, meaning that food sources for whales are not enough to keep the whales healthy. One 2008 Japanese study conducted on 6,779 Antarctic minke whales found that they shed nine per cent of their blubber over 18 years. This has been attributed to a decrease in krill population.
Other advantages often cited by those in favour of whaling include the fact that whaling provides a large number of employment opportunities and economic gains, in addition to the fact that many native human populations, such as Alaskan Inuits, rely on whales for food and other materials. Some whales, such as minke, are also considered pests by some individuals, who argue their presence makes it more difficult for larger baleen whales to recover. Finally, some cultures, including the Icelandic and Japanese, regard whale meat as a delicacy.
Despite the often-argued advantages of whaling, the majority of the world's population holds the practice in a negative regard. Many argue that removing whales from their environments throws the entire ecosystem out of balance, and due to the lack of studies on the world's whale population, it is impossible to know for certain how much the population has been depleted. In addition, many studies have shown that whales are in fact intelligent creatures, with many species living in family-style pods and engaging in natural song often regarded as language. For this reason, many argue that whaling is an unethical practice. Also, because whaling is still largely unregulated, the methods used to kill whales are often considered inhumane.
- The Canberra Times: Explaining the benefits of whaling, Japan goes in for the kill
- International Whaling Commission: IWC Information
- "Pros and Cons of Whaling"; Caitlin Kidder; October 2009
- Department of Conservation: The Intrinsic Value of Whales
- "Japanese World-View on Whales and Whaling"; Shigeko Misaki; 1993