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.


Pilot Whale and Dolphin Drive Fishery on the Faroe Islands Denmark

Every year in the Danish protectorate of the Faroe Islands, up to 1’000 pilot whales, dolphins and other small whales are hunted and brutally killed on their migration routes. This practice is known as “Grindadráp” or “Grind”. This cruel and bloody drive fishery takes place with the support of the Danish government, including the Danish Navy, and at the same time violates international laws.

The Faroese continue to rely on an old tradition that has been practiced for centuries and whose continuation is essential to their identity and culture. Nowadays, the drive fishery is merely a cruel and outdated relic of ancient times and has now become nothing more than a bloody sport that contributes to the already prevalent plundering of the oceans and has devastating consequences. A single drive fishery can severely decimate or even completely wipe out a pod of whales.

During a drive fishery migrating pilot whales and dolphins are herded together in shallow water and slaughtered. To do this, they are secured with a round hook that is driven into the blowholes (the whales’ respiratory tract) of the animals. In this way they are then pulled ashore. There, each individual whale or dolphin is killed with a knife or a sharp spinal lance plunged into the neck behind the blowhole. This can paralyze the animal, but does not necessarily mean it is immediately dead, unconscious, or insensitive to pain. This process can sometimes take several hours and is associated with a lot of stress and suffering for the animals.

In contrast to the original drive fishery in the Viking Age with simple rowing boats, modern techniques such as motor boats, helicopters, GPS, radio, etc. are used today, which means that significantly more animals are killed than centuries before. This tradition is maintained under the pretext that without the meat of whales, people would starve. However, the Faroese have one of the highest living standards in the world, with the highest per capita income in Europe. They enjoy the luxury of a modern industrialized society and do not depend on whale meat for food or livelihood.

Although the drive fishery is not officially a commercial hunt, the meat is sold in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, making it available to other European visitors to the islands. Regardless of the fact that eating whale meat is very dangerous due to its high level of pollutants.

Every year activists from animal and marine conservation organizations who protest against these barbaric drive fisheries are arrested. Many were subsequently expelled from the country for the “crime” of defending pilot whales. Sea Shepherd has evidence that Danish police, navy and customs officials supported and even actively participated in the drive fisheries.

Seven of the world’s leading animal and marine conservation organizations have refuted in a new report whale hunters’ claims that the Faroe Islands’ annual drive fisheries are humane, sustainable and an integral part of local culture.

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Correct behavior during Whale Watching (