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Jan 4, 2013

Science or sushi? What we've learned from whaling

The only legal reason Japan can hunt whales is for "scientific research". As the annual whale war approaches, Crikey looks at the science coming out of whaling to see if it is trash or treasure.


This is how to scientifically “sample” a whale.

It is harpooned, brought on board a “research base vessel” and dissected at sea. More than a third of the 266 whales “sampled” by the Japanese fleet in the Antarctic last summer were pregnant females; their “lactation status” and mammaries are measured, and the foetus is extracted, photographed, weighed and measured. A foetal skin sample is taken for genetic study.

Adult whales have their internal and external parasites identified, their blubber measured, their testis weighed, their ribs and vertebrae counted. Blood plasma is taken, along with samples of lung and liver tissue for “air monitoring”. The earplug and ocular lens are studied to age the mammal. The stomach contents are analysed. The whale’s length and weight are recorded.

The whale meat is then taken to Japan and eaten.

Why does this dissection matter? Because the only way Japanese whaling in the Antarctic is permitted under international law is if it is “for purposes of scientific research”. No science, no whale burgers.

The Japanese whaling fleet left port in late December — later than usual — and is expected to reach Antarctic waters in mid-to-late January. Four ships from militant protest group Sea Shepherd are en route to meet them. As both sides gear up for the annual whale war, Crikey decided to look into the science produced by Japan’s lethal whaling program. Is it good science — or junk?

The International Whaling Commission has had a moratorium on commercial whaling in place since 1986. However, article VIII of the 1948 International Whaling Convention states:

 “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Convention, any Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take, and treat whales for purposes of scientific research … each Contracting Government shall transmit to such body as may be designated by the Commission, insofar as practicable, and at intervals of not more than one year, scientific information …” (emphasis added).

On the face of it, Japan abides by international law. Whaling authorities release various scientific documents each season, some of which are published in peer-reviewed journals. According to Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (an official front group which deflects public attention from the government), 121 articles appeared in peer-reviewed journals from 1989 to 2011; an average of about five a year. Many are written in Japanese in the Bulletin of the Japanese Society of Fisheries Oceanography, but some have appeared in reputable international journals such as Conservation Genetics, Polar Biology, and Molecular Ecology.

But not all this science comes from lethal research activities. Japan also conducts sightings, studies whale vomit and faeces, and takes biopsies from (and attaches satellite tags to) live animals. Similarly, Australia is spending $32 million on non-lethal whale research, arguably to play to domestic anger at whaling.

The whalers also submit scientific documents to the IWC each year. The report from 2011/12 can be seen here — it’s how we know about dissection practices.

So some scientific reports are produced from lethal whaling, but it’s a live question whether the science has much merit. Japan’s report from last season concluded that whale composition in a particular area of the Antarctic was stable, ice cover had decreased, minke whales congregated at the ice edge and mature female minkes dominated the southern area. But that was largely based on the results of non-lethal research. The lethal research yielded anatomical and fertility data — and the report drew limited conclusions from that.

“When asked if he used research from Japanese whaling, marine biologist Rob Harcourt replied: ‘That’s a good question. Not really.'”

Marine biologist Rob Harcourt, from Macquarie University, cautions against writing off the research as junk science. Whaling authorities have published some excellent articles, and some of it has fundamentally altered scientists’ understanding.

“It’s not science just for science’s sake,” Harcourt told Crikey. “There’s a lot of information we can’t get from live animals.” He says whaling yields important information on the rate at which females give birth, helping build models of population dynamics.

But Harcourt says the information learned per whale taken is poor. Lethal whaling is not generally a cost-effective way of conducting science, should be aimed at a specific scientific question (it sometimes isn’t) and may not be of a sufficiently large sample size, he says. Japan grants itself a permit to hunt 850 (plus or minus 10%) minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales each year, although it has not taken humpback whales recently. Due partly to Sea Shepherd’s protests, those targets have not been met.

A key question for Harcourt is whether scientists and society need to know the information gleaned from whaling, which feeds into the ethical question of what science is for. Harcourt argues our understanding of what makes “good” science is subjective and culturally determined; science itself is more of a methodology, a way of observing the natural world — it doesn’t necessarily pass judgement on what knowledge is “good” or “necessary”.

Asked if he used research from Japanese whaling, Harcourt replied: “That’s a good question. Not really.”

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson says the whalers’ science is “bogus”.

“If they’re doing any research at all, it’s about whether they can get back to commercial whaling or not,” Watson told Crikey from aboard his protest vessel, on its way to Antarctica (Crikey reported on Watson’s legal fight to set foot in Australia in December). “We’ve killed hundreds of thousands of whales in the 20th century, so I don’t see what they’re going to gain.”

Watson says “there’s really no point to this at all” — if it wasn’t for the whale meat the science wouldn’t exist.

Under international law it’s unclear if anyone has the authority to judge the merit of Japan’s “scientific” whaling, and possibly prohibit it. Under the convention, a country simply grants itself a whaling permit and must supply some scientific research. The IWC’s Scientific Committee, made up of around 200 scientists, reviews these permits, but appears to have limited powers. As the IWC notes:

“There has been and remains considerable disagreement over the value of [Japan’s whaling] research both within the Scientific Committee and the Commission. Particular disagreement within the Committee has focussed on a number of issues, including: the relevance of the proposed research to management, appropriate sample sizes and applicability of alternate (non-lethal) research methods … The Commission has passed a number of resolutions by majority vote asking Japan to refrain from issuing permits for this programme.”

Crikey contacted the ICR, Japan’s Fisheries Ministry, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese embassy in Canberra but was unable to obtain comment on the merits of the science produced from lethal whaling, beyond being pointed towards some published science.



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57 thoughts on “Science or sushi? What we’ve learned from whaling

  1. Bjorne Sorensen

    A fair attempt at an unbiased article on whaling, for an Australian.

    However, a more interesting topic for discussion would have been whether the moratorium ought to exist at all. It is, after all, the primary reason for this nonsense regarding research whaling. No moratorium? No science.

    The moratorium on commercial whaling was only ever intended as a temporary measure to allow the recovery of cetacean stocks to the point at which they could again be commercially harvested. For many species of whale, such as the minke and humpback (listed by the IUCN as “Least Concern”), this has undeniably been achieved. So why then does the moratorium continue to exist?

    It continues to exist because the IWC has been hijacked by ideologically-motivated anti-whaling countries. The Commission is now so clogged with countries that have no interest in whaling – such as landlocked Switzerland, Monaco, Czech Republic etc – that it has ceased to function at all. These nations use block voting to prevent the IWC from carrying out its stated purpose of regulating commercial whaling.

    Hence research whaling.

    So the crux of this entire issue is the impotence of the IWC to carry out its function due to corruption by anti-whaling forces.

    The solution is to reform the IWC, lift the moratorium (in regards to abundant species) and allow those wishing to do so to carry out a sustainable and regulated harvest of whales.

  2. andrew

    A poor attempt at an unbiased comment.

  3. Andybob

    If cows could only swim …

  4. MJPC

    Bjorne, interesting comments however, as I see it, it’s not the fact of a moratorium or not it’s the total irrelevance of commercial whaling in the 21st Century.
    Why would countries want to kill whales? All of the “reasons” of the 19th Century whaling fleets no longer exist. As for the Japanese and some cultural reason to eat whale meat, it is just so much crap.
    All power to the ‘militant’ Sea Shepherd fleet, at last someone who takes the fight to the environmental criminals of this world, be they private or public institutions. The commercial fishing fleets of this world have destroyed the world’s fisheries through over exploitation, given the chance the whaling fleets would do no less, science or not.

  5. Zeke

    Mr Sorenson, our region relies on the whale watching industry during winter. If Japan once again hunts Humpback Whales then this industry will disappear. Humpbacks will stay far away from ships and boats if humans once again start killing them.

    The whale watching industry is worth far,far,far,far more than the whale eating industry would EVER be worth.

    Whale killing is not only bad science, it is bad economics.

  6. zac48

    What have we learned from whaling???????….What we’ve learned from whaling is this. Only one small boat with a dedicated crew can prevent an international power from pursuing illegitimate goals within Australian territorial waters…..If Gillards Labor government won’t stop the ever increasing tide of illegal immigrants ‘breaking into’ this country across our legitimate borders and through our territorial waters the Australian people will take the job into their own hands.

  7. Bjorne Sorensen

    MJPC, I am not sure what you mean when you say that whaling is ‘irrelevant’ in the 21st century. How do you define ‘relevant’ and in what way is it any less ‘relevant’ than the harvesting of cows, pigs or chickens?

    The way I see it, there is no need for the Japanese whalers to justify their harvest, in much the same way as you might not see a need for the Australian farmer to justify his harvests. Provided the harvests are sustainable, then there is surely no issue.

    As for Sea Shepherd, well, regardless of what they claim to be doing, they have absolutely no authority to ‘uphold’ any laws and they certainly have absolutely no authority to commit acts of violence. I believe they are beginning to discover this through various judicial systems the world over.

    And why they would choose to spend their donated funds on the ‘protection’ of abundant species from a sustainable harvest is beyond me. Perhaps whaling is an emotive topic in Australia and is therefore a lucrative cash cow for Sea Shepherd? After all, I don’t hear them complaining about Australia’s vast harvest of the critically endangered Southern Bluefin Tuna. No money in it for them, I suppose?

  8. zac48

    Some people just don’t get it, Bjorne Sorensen. The ‘possible’ threat of the extinction of yet another of Earth’s species, being whales, is irrelevant compared to the ‘actual’ and ‘impending’ extinction of the human race. Welcome to the ‘real’ world.

  9. MJPC

    Bjorne, whaling is irrelevant because all of the products formerly obtained commecially in the 19thC by whaling fleets, such as whale oil, is no longer necessary in the 21stC, or obtained from other products other than destroying another species on this planet.
    Maybe where you live they still have oil lamps or whale burgers instead of McDonalds.
    As for the comparison between cows, chickens and pigs and harvesting whales I will let than one pass because the comparison is just too laughable. I haven’t read of any endangered flocks of Rhode Island reds.
    As for the SS and upholding law, what they are upholding is UN charters for a whale sanctuary. If the Japs are so keen on scientific whaling take a smaller sample, say 10, and dispose of the carcases other than by turning them into whale burgers.
    Just answer me this question, what makes Whales necessary for exploitation or is it the case that mankind has to exploit every species on the planet to destruction as it did to whales in the 19th C? As for BlueFin tuna, the SS does not have to worry on this point, Greenpeace has that exploitation clearly in their sights.
    In the end, capitalism ensures that every exploited species is done so to its demise, being it tigers, tuna or whales. Maybe there are some who are trying to stop the demise of this planet.

  10. Mark Reid

    Zac48 – perhaps you should re-read Bjorne Sorensen’s 2nd para. What precisely is wrong with harvesting whales if there is a demand for them and the harvesting is sustainable?
    Many who argue against whaling – especially by the Japanese fleet – overlook the fundamental notion that its okay to kill and eat stuff if that can be done sustainably and as humanely as possible.
    I fail to see why or how Sea Shepherd possesses any legal or moral authority to interfere if the Japanese whaling effort is conducted within the law, and it seems to be.
    They are pirates, pure and simple, undeserving of support or sympathy.

  11. Cathy Alexander

    Bjorne raises some interesting points. I’m hoping to write a piece for Crikey on the conservation case for opposing whaling, as opposed to the conservation case for protecting various species which live in Australia. Do we only care so much about whales because we have nothing to lose in protecting them? Why don’t we care so much about the large number of mammal species faced with extinction in Australia?

  12. Bjorne Sorensen

    Cathy, I look forward to reading your piece on the ‘conservation case’ for opposing whaling and I hope that it is a rational and unbiased discussion. Such discussions on this topic are very rare in Australia indeed.

    Can I suggest the following article as a good starting point for reading?

    “Misguided Morality: The Repercussions of the International Whaling Commission’s Shift from a Policy of Regulation to One of Preservation” 12 Geo. Int’l Envtl. L. Rev. 305 (1999-2000)

    There is some handy information contained therein.

    But I believe you may be onto something with your idea that the popularity of the anti-whaling agenda in Australia is related to its ‘cost-free’ nature. That is, it is a feel-good symbol of conservation that comes at absolutely no cost to Australians who espouse it. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum compete to take the most extreme anti-whaling stance as it is a source of free votes without political consequence. Contrast this with pollution reduction or fisheries conservation, for instance, and the Australian position is no longer quite so vehement.

    I believe that Australia’s position as the world’s worst per capita polluter may also weigh into its loud bleating on the whaling issue. Perhaps by screaming loudest about the conservation non-issue of whaling, it masks the awkward truth about its own horrendous environmental shortcomings?

    To take the cynical view a degree further, there are territorial considerations at play here also. Australia claims a vast swathe of Antarctica as its own – a claim which is recognised by only a handful of nations worldwide. When Japanese vessels ‘intrude’ into that territory and harvest whales (in ‘violation’ of an Australian Federal Court injunction that cannot be enforced, mind you), it weakens the Australian claim to that area. In recent years, Australia has courted Chinese resource ministers and officials in its Antarctic territory with a view to exploiting its mineral wealth. So you see that Australia has a huge vested interest in ending Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean to protect its feeble claim to the area. Perhaps this is also explains why Australia is indifferently silent on Japan’s annual northern Pacific whale harvest?

  13. Patriot

    If the catch doesn’t put the target species at risk then it’s nobodies business but the people catching and consuming them. These violent, extreme activists’ time would be better spent protesting something that is genuinely harmful and dangerous – like organic farming.

  14. Neutral Zone

    “On the face of it, Japan abides by international law.”
    The moratorium is nothing more than a “gentleman’s agreement” between IWC members not to hunt whales. I believe Iceland showed us that you can simply withdraw from the IWC and hunt as you wish.
    People put too much faith in the IWC protecting the whales, when they overlook that “IWC” means International Whaling Commission, NOT the International Anti-Whaling Commission. Bjorne is correct that the group was formed in order to *control* whaling, not to stop it.
    All of this goes way back when the US threatened Japan’s fishing in the US EEZ if they did not stop whaling. Japan reluctantly agreed, and the US rewarded them by still kicking them out of the EEZ. Japan then resumed whaling under the pretense of science. This set the precedent for Japan that if they play by the rules, they will still get a raw deal, but using a loophole works.
    The Australian government is in a bad position; they are perfectly allowed to set up a sanctuary in their own EEZ. The problem is that the sanctuary is located in the Antarctic zone, which is governed by the Antarctic Treaty, which Australia signed, therefore signing away many rights. One of them being the establishment of new zones such as sanctuaries, and the operation of military vessels within that zone.

    This is where the spin makes the difference – Australia claims the fleet is breaking the law, and they are correct. The fleet says no law is being broken, and they too are correct. Only Australian law is being broken, but the Antarctic Treaty supersedes Australian law and dictates that scientific vessels are not to be interfered with, and Japan has permits for scientific research. Australia cannot directly interfere with the fleet (regardless of the questionable scientific results), or it will jeapordize its right to continue operating the Australian Antarctic Division.

    Until the Antarctic Treaty is re-written and all signatories sign again, we will never see an Australian patrol boat in the sanctuary enforcing Australian law, regardless of how much politicians and activists bluster.

    I do not realy have a position on whaling; I understand that people can get quite bothered by the harpooning process, and I would certainly agree that it is very gruesome. I cannot, however, ignore the fact that animals are slaughtered at least this cruelly on an everyday basis; the only difference is that it is behind closed doors, so activists tend to avoid this topic. If you’re up for a real fright, look up Kosher slaughter or Halal slaughter. These practices still happen every day, but they are allowed for “traditional religous reasons”.

  15. Dmitry of NZ

    It’s nice that even pro-whaling commenters here agree that “scientific whaling” is a nonsense. There are two points that completely erase their arguments:

    1) Stockpiles of unsold whale meat in Japan in spite of the government’s attempts at force feeding it to school children.

    2) Recognision of whales and dolphins as advanced intelligent social mammals, so “harvesting” them is akin to “harvesting” of elephants, chimps (if population can be brought back to “sustainable” levels), dogs and cats (if bred for food) etc.

    Of course there is the question of the use of domestic animals & overfishing, but the Japan’s record here is no better if not worse than anybody else’s, so they should not be pointing the finger. At least most countries are civilised enough to admire whales and dolphins, specifically, and not kill them, also in recognition of their own historical wrongs when nearly wiping the whales out.

    On the other hand, if we switch off all feelings of empathy, compassion and look coldly at other animals only in terms of their nutrional content and the ability to please our tastebuds, then yes you are right, and I see where you are coming from, and I am sure the annual slaughter of dolphins in Japan is no more of a problem for you than the slaughter of the whales.

  16. izatso?

    Pat, patiently hyperventilatin’ in the cellar, negates hisself once more. All that evolution wasted, if we give any credence to these financial genius’z ….. uh huh.

  17. Silver Lining

    To stop the whaling the protestors ought to try reducing market demand. I have read the mercury levels in whale meat is six thousand times the ‘safe’ level.

  18. The Pav

    Hey Ho Silver

    I reckon Patriot has been consuming some of that high mercury meat or something similar.

    Maybe he swallooed a few six pences over Christmas.

    For me forget the sustainability of whaling how about the xtraordinary cruelty involved.

    That alone is enough to condemn the “industry”

    And if killing something is a good way to study something then perhaps SSD could start studying Japanese Whale Scientists and Whalers…Could be a win/win

  19. Ian


    Do you have ties to the Norwegian whaling industry by any chance? I merely ask.

  20. Lady White Peace


  21. Lady White Peace

    SEA SHEPHERD AND YOUR COMMENT “As for Sea Shepherd, well, regardless of what they claim to be doing, they have absolutely no authority to ‘uphold’ any laws and they certainly have absolutely no authority to commit acts of violence.

  22. Nigel Vertigan

    If, as the Japanese claim, it is really about scientific research and not their domestic whale meat market, why not amend the International Whaling Convention to require that all whale carcasses taken for such alleged “research needs” be dumped back in the ocean after any samples, measurements etc. are taken at sea? Hai? I guess not.

    Perhaps a more realistic hope to end this barbaric practice lies in the pending decision of the International Court of Justice in Australia’s case against Japan . (See ” Japan, Australia, Sea Shepherd: a whale of a legal web.” The Drum, 4/1/13

  23. Ian

    Again Mr Sorensen I ask, are you involved in the Norwegian whaling industry? Do you spend a great deal of your time trawling for reporting on whaling and anti-whaling activities and then spurt out the nonsense you do in defense of the whalers ad nauseum?

  24. Madonna

    Stop Whaling Bjorne Sorensen.

    Well said Lady White Peace! I’m opposed to the barbaric

    treatment of such harmonious creatures♥

    Japan is a beautiful culture.

    I don’t know why the Japan government continues to harm

    mammals, Australians and others the world over are

    passionate about preserving!

  25. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Ian, I think ‘trolling’ would be a better term. In line fishing, when you motor around the grounds trailing a baited or lured hook it’s called trolling. It also means something about spurting out “….. the nonsense you do in defense of the whalers”, as a form of political point-scoring and agitprop. He’s pretty good at it though, and can lead you into the shallows.

  26. Ian

    He is a trawling troll perhaps? Or a trolling trawl or just another cretin of which we have more than enough I reckon.

  27. Magnus Petersson

    I think that the IWC has been too influenced by anti-whaling propaganda. I dont see anything wrong with harvesting non-endangered Minke whales on a sustainable level, but unfortuently in todays society of political correctness, people have to make bogus excuses to be able to do it. Of course, people such as the Inuit can hunt as many whales as they want without anger from Australian and American anti-whaling propagandaists who worships whales as if they were some kind of gods, except when it comes to people like the Inuit, cause you know, in todays society of political correctness, you cannot be against aboriginal minorities. People have to realize that what is god-like “super duper intelligent magnificent creatures” to you, may be food to someone else.

    Kind Regards

    Magnus Petersson, Sweden

  28. dogspear

    It’s all just meat at the end of the day. It’s pagan to suggest that animals have any intrinsic value while still alive and everything exists in isolation, therefore whatever happens to one species doesn’t affect any others. Ecology is a scientific lie just like the concept of animal suffering adversely affecting any other animals was a conspiracy invented by animal rights activists and humans are not animals so they don’t count. If the catch doesn’t put the target species at risk then it’s nobodies business but the people catching and consuming them. Teh Greens run the country. Let’s unite in a more healthy way and agree that whales are scum.

  29. Scott

    Not quite true, lady white peace. Japan has a rich whaling tradition that dates back to the 1500’s at least. They have been eating whale meat way before world war 2…being an island nation, they treat whales like a giant aquatic cow.
    Let’s not get too precious about whales. More research should be done to try and minimize suffering when killing the whales, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with scientific whaling, especially of antarctic minke whales which are plentiful. A whale pod dominates it’s immediate aquatic environment so it’s important to keep a track of populations to ensure sustainablility of those creatures that share the environment. Accurately measuring lifespans of whales, extremely important in population models, is not an easy thing to do without lethal sampling.
    Australians also have form in this area. The Csiro have done their own lethal sampling for
    research, but for endangered sharks off the WA coast. But because of the “Jaws” effect, no one cares.
    If I was Japan, I would hire a Hollywood studio to make me “Blowhole”, a movie about a homicidal humpback that terrorizes a small community of scientists in antartica.

  30. Bjorne Sorensen

    Ian, I cannot see of what possible significance any association of mine with the Norwegian cetacean harvest would have here.

    If you disagree with something I say, then refute it with reason and fact.

  31. Lady White Peace

    Scott and Bjorne and all of you who think killing animals and particularly whales is a good and hearty thing to do…we cannot change your mind .. we know that mind will make black white and white black… that it will delude itself and try to delude others with science and o called facts. Fact is that all life is precious. As for the pseudo scientific study excuse this article on Crikey puts paid to that fancy lie.
    And for the person who said that Inuits can eat as many as they want… firstly it is so
    freezing where they are that carbohydrates do not suffice and they feel hungry after eating carbs. They need the blubber to feel full and to stay healthy in the freezing conditions.
    SO nothing whatsoever to do with them being Indigenous and getting away with etc etc besides they don’t kill anywhere near what Japan kills. As for the Japanese eating whale meat if you do your research you will find that they don’t actually like it all that much, particularly the younger generation..nor should they, it is a vile and primitive habit which they have outgrown. Again I reiterate that it’s about money not science and because of that it should be outlawed. I could say a lot more, but it won’t influence any of you who believe it’s fine to kill and take anything that you want ,exploiting everything that you can on this earth, which belongs to all of us! So I am going to save my breath and my sanity by pretending that people that think like that, have all packed up[ and gone to live on the Moon.

  32. Lady White Peace

    Oh and as an afterthought… check out this report from Greenpeace !!

    It is not common knowledge inside Japan that the government spent a billion yen of taxpayers’ money on whaling in the previous year, nor that most whale meat is stockpiled in freezers because the appetite for it is so low. The cash-flow between the government, the Institute for Cetacean Research -which sponsors the ‘science’ – and Kyodo Senpaku -which runs the ships – is very murky; attempts to clarify how money is spent and by whom are met with blacked-out documents and denial. The ancient system of ‘Amakudari’ – dropping bureaucrats by ‘golden parachute’ in to well-paid retirement jobs in government agencies – is also intentionally lacking in transparency. And yet, all of these factors ensure that subsidisation of a programme that is not needed, not wanted and not scientifically robust continues.

  33. Magnus Petersson

    I think it would be funny to get a ship, rename it ‘Sting Ray’, and use it to go and ram and sink the Steve Irwin

    King Regards

    Magnus Petersson, Sweden

  34. Lady White Peace

    Magnus you are being silly and flippant plus aggressive.

    BTW, can anyone tell me why we still allow the Norwegian Cetacean Harvest..surely a
    primitive, cruel and unnecessary slaughter of innocent life.

  35. Lady White Peace

    OH and to Dogspear who says that whales are scum…have you heard of the saying that it takes one to know one??

  36. Scott


    While a billion Yen sounds like a lot, at current exchange rates it works out to be around $12 million US, not a great deal of money to be spending on scientific whaling research, especially for a country with a $5 trillion US dollar economy.
    As for the appetite for whale meat decreasing, well it is an example of an inferior good (as incomes increase, demand for the product goes down as people choose better tasting, but more expensive substitutes such as Tuna). A bit like the potato really…
    Still, it is better than the results of scientific whaling are utilised rather than just thrown out, don’t you think? You could argue that it is the most sustainable way to dispose of the whale meat.

  37. Ian


    The reason I ask about your ties to the whaling industry is that such ties or vested interests would indicate to me a predisposition of bias towards that industry as you have certainly demonstrated. It would also indicate to me that it no coincidence that you are involved in this debate.

    But in the end this whole argument boils down to values. Do we care more about other beings not closely tied to us (other races,future generations, other species etc) or about ourselves and those close to us?

  38. Ian


    I would suggest that most people in Australia who do care about whales also care about Australian animals (and birds) although of course the whale, like the polar bear and the panda etc are iconic very visible animals and there plight well publicized.

    With our politicians from the big parties of course it’s a different matter. I think some will support the protection of whales and ignore the protection of our own species just because it’s easy to do so…no morals involved in that decision.

  39. Scott


    Everyone has their value system. It doesn’t matter, in my opinion, where they get it from. One might presume, based on your posts, that you are in the pay of the animal conservation movement. Even if this is true, does that make your voice any less valid? I think you are entitled to your informed view like everyone else.

    It shouldn’t matter if you are of an anthropocentric view (like myself) or more sympathetic to deep ecology (like yourself). At least we are both engaged in the debate. Apathy is the only thing worthy of disrespect.

  40. Magnus Petersson

    Why is still whaling legal in Norway? The exact same reason why its legal in the USA (Alaska), Canada (Nunavut and Northern Quebec), Greenland, Iceland, Japan, Russia (Siberia) and Indonesia, cause its tradition and cause people wants to hunt and eat whales, as simple as that, and its usually only non-endangered whales that are being targeted so whats the problem? I do not in any way work for the whaling industry, i’m just a man who stands up for the right of sovereign governments to do as their people wants without international condemnation from other governments.

    Kind Regards

    Magnus Petersson, Sweden

  41. Ian


    Yes, In some ways you have a point although I’m not sure apathy is worthy of disrespect. Even so I, myself can’t help but not respect it…too much is at stake.

    But there is also the question of how values might effect others, what motive one might have for holding onto certain values and the question of facts and consequences.

    And finally there is a question of being honest or not.

    On the question of facts – not legalities but underlying facts, I have no doubt that our civilization is in dire crisis now through a combination of a number of factors at the apex of which are population growth, the goal of perpetual economic growth (impossible on a finite planet), neo-conservative capitalism that has and continues to shift wealth away from the many towards the few and exploit the earth’s resources at an increasingly unsustainable level and finally there is the rampant militarism, and the destructive weaponry to support it pursued by the US and its allies.

    This is not little Easter Island we’re talking about but a rather big Planet Earth.

    To bring this whaling thing into context. This is not subsistence whaling we are concerned with here but a subsidized industry in a country that has little concern for preserving species, even iconic ones like the whales and the critically endangered blue-fin tuna. Bit by bit, chunk by chunk we are losing species depleting resources and fouling our habitat.

    Paul Watson happens to have taken up this particular fight and I applaud him for it.

  42. Matt Hardin

    There is considerable evidence that ocean populations of all creates were orders of magnitude higher before the industrial fishing era. There is also evidence that whale faeces sequesters carbon http://news.discovery.com/animals/whale-waste-greenhouse-gases.html. To argue that a population level a fraction of its natural (i.e. before exploitation) level is “sustainable” is ridiculous. Continual expansion of the population and increasing the demands on the environment will result in (is resulting in) disaster; not just for the animals but ultimately people as well.

  43. Madonna

    @Magnus if you really are from Sweden, your barbed attack was not funny!

    ..oops…still not funny.

    Anyway, I appreciate people sharing their knowledge and opinions on topics, irrespective of differing views and heated debates…long live Democracy.

  44. Lady White Peace

    Hi Magnus so you say it is fine to kill because it is tradition?
    At the beginning of the Industrial era It used to be tradition to make children work in coal mines at the age of 6.
    When humanity grew a moral conscience , the children were sent to school instead.

    So if Norway in 2013 was still making children work at age 6, in your opinion it would be ok because it was tradition?

  45. Magnus Petersson

    Yes i am from Sweden, specifically, the city of Sölvesborg, in the province of Blekinge. Whaling is a harmless hunting tradition, similar to the moose hunting traditions here in Sweden. Are you against all hunting?
    No, just because its tradition does not make it okay, but what makes it worse than any other type of hunting, since the whales they hunt is NOT endangered? Cause you Australians worships them?

    Kind Regards

    Magnus Petersson, Sweden

  46. Madonna

    @Magnus, yes I’m not an advocate of hunting in general. For example fox, duck, whales, dolphins and spear fishing, shark finning etc. Even within my own Aboriginal culture I don’t like the killing of du-gongs – unless the tribe are living totally off the land.

    Personally, I don’t like the fact our government permits the culling of kangaroos(but have to look at the situation from a farmers perspective) I love horses and disapprove of hunting wild brumbies. That’s how I feel.
    In terms of hunting on land, a sharp shooter would make a clean direct kill, amateur hunters can cause the animal to suffer. It appears from the footage whales hunted by Japan’s vessel suffer a horrible slow death.

    I understand you view whaling differently to Aussies, they bring us joy and happiness. Clearly we have an emotional attachment to them and one reason why we’d like to see them given safe passage on their migration.

  47. Magnus Petersson

    Obviously, the larger an animal is, the longer it takes to kill it. The quickest way to kill a whale is with an exploding grenade harpoon. Unlike in many other places in the world, whales are not seen as an animal special more than others here in the Scandinavian countries, they are seen as just an animal, no more, no less.

    Sweden is, while not whaling itself, one of the few countries with a government that supports whaling in general, especially when it comes to non-endangered whales in our allied neighbor countries, but also sometimes in Japan, the Swedish environment minister supports official whaling quotas for Japan. I think its brave to stand up to the majority of the world, only a few dares to do that. Many governments has unfortuently been lobbied by activists to be against whaling internationally, which i think is very weak and cowardous.

    Kind Regards

    Magnus Petersson, Sweden

  48. Ian Fairclough

    People, you are all wasting your time with the likes of Bjorn and Magnus, they are trolls and only here to make a fuss and frustrate. They pop up on various sites and forums spewing the same garbage.

    It’s tradition, no different from farming, whales aren’t endangered , whales have eaten all our fish, etc , etc. blah, blah.

    Pay no attention to them, I’ve heard their crap a thousand times, they are happy living in the dark ages,,,,,leave ’em there!

  49. Lady White Peace

    @ Magnus, thank you for your information on how to kill a whale… what a barbaric and horrific scenario you painted. You say that whaling is a harmless hunting tradition similar to Moose. Please explain:
    1) How you can compare a moose to a whale?? It is like comparing an Ant to a Dog.
    What makes it worse to kill a whale, Australians love them?? OF course we do, we love all animals, and yes I am AGAINST HUNTING for sport! It is a cruel, unnecessary taking of LIFE. Notice that it’s MEN that want to hunt and kill… what is your problem.
    You say that Whales are useless yet your government doesn’t condone whaling…but is standing up to the rest of the world,by supporting Japan’s killing in the Southern Ocean. What rubbish, Sweden has probably got an economic reason to stay friendly with Japan. OH and by the way, this is what Whales contribute to your life.
    Whale waste is rich in iron so it stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, which then serve as carbon traps that remove some 400,000 estimated tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

  50. Ian

    Really Magnus, lobbying by activists is weak and cowardly is it? What do these activists personally gain for the lobbying efforts? Intimidation by Japan and its allies for one thing and do you think for one moment the whaling industry and its proxy, the Japanese government don’t lobby?

  51. Magnus Petersson

    @Lady White Peace Of course i can compare a minke whale to a moose, neither of them are endangered, both are mammals, and both are regularly hunted and eaten in some countries in local hunting traditions. Please tell me any source saying that minke whales is an endangered species, cause the ICUN says it’s not. Yes, you Australians seems to love all animals, but you seem more emotionally attatched to whales than other animals, and gets more angry when people kill whales, instead of other animals. What country kills most mammals in the world in annual hunts? Australia does, with its annual hunt of around 4 million kangaroos and wallabies, but i dont see as much outrage about 4 million kangaroos, the outrage about a few hundred whales is much, much bigger, for some reason.

    @Ian Fairclough Are you saying that i’m a troll cause i dont agree with you? Also, read your facts, minke whales is not an endangered species, check the ICUN in case you dont believe me, do you seriously believe that taking a few hundred or just 1000 of a species (minke whale) that there is literally hundreds of thousends of, is not sustainable?

  52. Magnus Petersson

    @Ian its the governments who follows the activists orders who are cowards

  53. Lady White Peace

    @Magnus…. Do you have a Dictatorship in Sweden Magnus?? Or is it a Communist country?
    Just joking Magnus, but what you have written can only be written by someone who lives under a political system such as those two.
    Australians live in a democracy. In a democracy it is the People’s Voice that counts. Activists are the mouthpiece of the People. And so you are actually wrong both morally and factually because Governments who listen to activists are HERO”S not COWARDS. Cowards are those Dictators that do what they want to whoever they want and bend people to their thinking and their desires, without care or respect for the voice of the people. You are really behind the times in your thinking, unless of course, you are 100years old??

  54. Lady White Peace

    BTW… you are being rather ridiculous when you compare a minke to a moose… here are some REAL STATISTICS:
    MINKE WHALES:The minke whale was given its official designation by Lacepède in 1804, who … and the maximum weight may be as much as 10 t (9.8 long tons; 11 short tons)
    MOOSE: A typical moose, weighing 360 kg (790 lb), can eat up to 32 kg (71 lb) of food per day.

  55. Ian

    Lady White Peace,

    I suppose I could find this out by Googling it or something but perhaps you can tell me. What is our government and opposition’s latest stance on the whaling and what will they do about the Interpol warrant out against Paul Watson if he arrives in this country?


  56. Magnus Petersson

    @Lady White Peace no we dont have a dictatorship, every 4th year, we elect a government, and the government we elect acts according to the policies and standards of those political parties we elected, we cannot petition the government or make any kind of influence between the elections, that would possibly undermine an already democratically elected government for the wishes of a few

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