Tag Archives: whaling

Whale Meat Stallholders Could Face Jail in Germany

German customs officers have confiscated whale meat snacks being sold by a Norwegian stall at Berlin’s Green Week. The stallholders could face prosecution and up to a 5 year jail term.

Following a tip-off, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society brought the sale of the meat to the attention of the German Federal Environment Ministry. The meat is illegal in Germany and throughout most of the European Union.

“The fact that the meat of a species which is strictly protected in Germany, and the EU, is offered for sale is scandalous”, says Astrid Fuchs, campaign manager at WDC. “It is incredible that this is going on under the noses of the authorities at such a big, international exhibition.”

Green Week has been going since 1926. It is said to be the world’s biggest fair for food, agriculture and horticulture. About 1500 national and international exhibitors present typical regional products and services to over 400,000 visitors.

In 1985 the International Whaling Commission “paused” all commercial whaling. Norway and Iceland are the only countries who are members of the IWC to hunt whales commercially. Norway takes North Atlantic common minke whales and Iceland takes both North Atlantic common minke whales and North Atlantic fin whales.

Further Reading
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
International Whaling Commission

Photo credit: Lakkasuo (CC0 1.0)

Iceland Resumes Whaling for Japan: More Dog Food?

Environmental organisations have strongly criticised the resumption of commercial fin whaling by Icelandic whaler Kristján Loftsson, whose company plans to hunt up to 180 fin whales this summer in an operation backed by the Icelandic government.

According to Greenpeace, The first fin whale, a 68 foot long male caught by the whaler Hvalur 8, was butchered in the port of Hvalfjörður, outside Reykjavik last night.

There is no market for fin whale meat in Iceland: in the past the whale meat was entirely for export to Japan, mostly to be made into luxury dog food.

The whaling is being carried out despite a ban on commercial whaling introduced by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of endangered species: their global population has declined by more than 70% over the last three generations. .

Fin whales are the world’s second largest mammals after blue whales.

Further Reading:
Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2008. Balaenoptera physalus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 19 June 2013.

How Noisy were Whales before Industrial Whaling?

Concern is growing that human-generated noise in the ocean disrupts marine animals that rely on sound for communication and navigation. In the modern ocean, the background noise can be ten times louder than it was just 50 years ago. But new modeling based on recently published data suggests that 200 years ago — prior to the industrial whaling era — the ocean was even louder than today due to the various sounds whales make.

Researchers Michael Stocker and Tom Reuterdahl of Ocean Conservation Research in California, presented their findings at the 164th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Using historic population estimates, the researchers assigned “sound generation values” to the species for which they had good vocalization data. “In one example, 350,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic may have contributed 126 decibels – about as loud as a rock concert – to the ocean ambient sound level in the early 19th century,” Stocker notes. This noise would have been emitted at a frequency from 18 – 22 hertz.

According to the researchers, use of whaling records to determine just how many whales were harvested from the ocean over the course of industrialized whaling is difficult because the captains were taxed on their catch and therefore had an incentive to “fudge” the numbers. Some captains kept two sets of books. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the real reports began surfacing. In one example the Soviets initially reported taking approximately 2,710 humpback whales from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. The newer data reveal the actual number was closer to 48,000.

This more accurate data was supported by population estimates using mitochondrial DNA, which does not change through female lines of a species. Thus the current diversity in DNA can serve as a proxy for historic population numbers.

Their estimates suggest there was a whole lot of whale racket a couple centuries ago.

Further Reading:
Whale Racket: Sounding Out How Loud the Oceans Were From Whale Vocalizing Prior to Industrial Whaling