The Threats for Whales
There are three countries that undermine the commercial whaling moratorium: Japan, Iceland and Norway. They all use legal loopholes to continue the whaling.
Japan and Iceland officially adhere to the whaling ban but use an exception clause to kill the sea mammals for allegedly “scientific purposes”. For years Japan has been affecting poor countries within the IWC with development assistance to buy their votes. Japan says whales are responsible for the decimation of the fish population and environment protection organizations are a threat for the fishing fleets.
Norway does openly not adhere the ban of whaling and is most striking; it kills more large whales than Japan and Iceland together. And this as one of the most modern and prosperous countries in the world. But when it comes to whaling, Norway seems to have stopped in the times of the Vikings.
Whaling is a shame for Norway, not just for animal welfare reasons. It also makes no sense anymore. Norwegians eat less and less whale meat because it is contaminated with pollutants from the sea. But instead of ending the killing, the Norwegian government is artificially boosting whaling. It subsidizes the development of food supplements, alternative medicines and cosmetics from whale oil. And not only that; Norway feeds tons of whale meat to animals in fur farms!
The increasing noise under water generates a heightened dense acoustic fog that distorts the perception instincts of the whales. Military sonars can be heard within an underwater radius of about 3’000 kilometers (1’860 miles). Shipping, offshore oil platforms and the use of air guns in seismic oil and gas explorations all add to a deafening noise.
As is the case for humans, where the absolute pain limit is 120 decibels, whales are also susceptible to hearing damage as a result of extremely loud sounds. For whales hearing is a vital way to communicate and find partners. The most noticeable consequence of ocean noise pollution is the stranding of whales. Strandings have been observed to be particularly frequent after naval sonar maneuver. These sonar systems can be as loud as a rocket launch (up to 260 decibels). Extreme sound events like these inflict vascular damage in the brain, lungs and other organs. It can also be the case that animals panic and surface far too fast. This causes nitrogen bubbles in the blood and can end in a deadly embolism.
Whales are the “Gardeners of the Sea”. Whales promote the production of phytoplankton through their lifestyle and diet. These seaweed produce up to 70% of the oxygen on earth and bind around 40% of the released CO2 (carbon dioxide). Whale excretion includes nitrogen and iron, the nutrients essential for phytoplankton growth. Due to this fertilizing function, which has been scientifically proven, whales are a driving force for oxygen production and the binding of CO2 in the oceans.
Whales also have the amazing ability to bind CO2. When a whale reaches its natural average age, it takes up to 33 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere forever into its grave on the sea floor.
Many new studies show how similar whales are to us humans. The results have shown that whales have compassion, that they grieve for deceased family members, that each group has its own dialect and culture and that whales have an ego consciousness. They know in what position they are when they are shot or a family member is killed.