Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Southern Ocean Runs Red With.... Money?

Every year Japan sends a whaling fleet down to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The chosen catch of the whalers include Minkie whales, Humpback whales, and Fin whales. Every year the whaling fleet goes down there and well... Words cannot describe exactly what happens. The best way for people to really get a grasp as to what goes on down there is to watch. I must warn you though, if you go to this link you will see the Japanese whaling fleet harpooning a minkie whale and kill it over the course of 25 minutes. Anyway. If you choose to watch go to this link.

Pretty terrible stuff huh? Believe it or not, this goes on every year. It's not just 1 whale they kill. They set out to kill hundreds of whales every year. Luckily for the whales, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been able to greatly cut down on the number of whales being killed. To find out exactly what Sea Shepherd does to prevent the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary visit

So why does this brutal slaughter take place every year? Lets go back in time to a much simpler time. The time before large metal ships existed. The time before explosive tipped harpoons existed. Throughout the world during this time whaling was a huge thing. Whale oil had several uses that helped average people live their lives in the best way they could for that time period. Since whales came close to shore, fisherman would go out and kill a whale to feed their families for sometimes months. Being an isolated island nation, whaling in Japan was a tradition that was handed down through generations. As time passed technology improved. Suddenly fisherman were no longer able to just supply whale for their families. They could supply it for the entire country! For a long time whale was a very popular food, but thanks to Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and other conservation groups, less and less Japanese are eating whale. The majority of Japanese people now understand not only the environmental impacts on killing so many whales, but the impact whale has on their own bodies. Still though, a small group of Japanese are so enthralled in the old tradition of whaling that no matter what is said, they just don't seem to listen.

In Japan there is a small number of people who still eat whale, but it's the Japanese Government that is really driving the continuation of whaling in Japan.  In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in an effort to save whale populations. There is a loophole in the law that allows whales to be killed for scientific research. The remains of the whales can then be sold so it does not go to waste. The Southern Ocean is designated as a whale sanctuary which means that no whales should be killed down there to begin with. Japan goes down every year to kill their whales in the name of research. Japan has not discovered a single thing over the last few years from their scientific whaling. Many nations feel that Japan is simply covering their illegal commercial whaling operations under the name of research. In several attempts to have the rule reversed, Japan has been caught bribing poorer nations and even threatening others if they do not vote with Japan.

The Japanese government have tried and tried to get whaling back into the big picture of Japanese culture. In reality it is a dead tradition that is being kept on life support by the government and a small group of fisherman. Thanks to the efforts by Sea Shepherd, this year the Japanese whalers caught under 25% of their quota. So far, over 75% of that catch has not sold at all and there is still whale meat in warehouses from last year. Over the past two years the Japanese Whaling Fleet has cost Japan millions of dollars. This includes money from the tsunami relief fund that went directly into nothing more than increasing security.Clearly whaling in the Southern Ocean is costing Japan and her citizens an incredible amount of money.In reality there is no need for this dying tradition to exist let alone its existence in a whale sanctuary. The people of Japan hardly eat it and in reality, consuming whale is not in the least bit healthy.

Similar to sharks and dolphins, whales are generally at the top of the food chain. What that means is that just like other marine animals that eat other marine animals, there is a dangerously high level of Mercury inside of a whale. This has led many people to stop eating whale as it is highly reccomended that people do not eat whale. The drop in demand in Japan has led to the near bankruptcy of the whaling industry. The Japanese whaling fleet has largely fallen apart, falling from 7 ships strong to just a couple harpoon ships and a factory ship. Still though, the Samurai spirit of the Japanese government has not yet surrendered to the fact that this tradition has been put to bed by the people of Japan.

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