16th 2008
Blaming Whales for Mankind’s Overfishing

Posted under news

There are ongoing efforts to reduce whaling around the world, which is terrific. What’s bizarre about the nations who still whale are some of the arguments being used to justify whaling.

Yeah, because whales eat all of the fish. *rolling my eyes* Say what? In a recent meeting of nations at the World Conservation Congress, this argument came up again, that “controlling” whale “stocks” is meant to increase fish available for human consumption. (I can’t stand the word stocks as applied to whale populations. But maybe that’s just me.) The large baleen whales that have been/are hunted – blues, humpbacks, minkes, fins – eat copepods, krill, sand lance. These are not fish consumed by humans. Sure, toothed whales eat fish, like some orcas that eat salmon, sperm whales, dolphins, etc.

But I feel that the contention that this interferes with human fish consumption is specious. In the early 20th century when whaling was at its vicious, steam and gas powered peak, fisheries for humans were also at a peak. Cape Cod, for example, was amass with fish stocks. Commercial boats worldwide pulled tons and tons of fish out of the oceans on a regular basis (yes, they still do, but there aren’t as many and they aren’t as big). And guess what? Those fish stocks lived in same oceans, side by side, with the world’s cetaceans for millions of years. If whales were such a threat to fish stocks, I’d posit there would not have been any fish to harvest for humans, certainly not at the vast numbers that they were caught. Carl Safina’s book “Song for the Blue Planet” talks about the bluefin tuna fishery collapse as one example of abundance turned scarce by human fishing.

Australia, being one of the largest anti-whaling nations on the front lines of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, deserves a lot of credit for fighting so hard to eliminate so-called scientific whaling. They are being blamed for wanting stronger language condemning whaling as a way to increase fish stocks for humans. So the whaling nations are walking away from the table, rather than concede the fallacy of the fisheries argument. Google “impact of whales on fisheries” and find a bounty of PDFs and pages dedicated to disproving this argument. Rather, the continued depletion of the oceans by humans has far more implications on the availability of food for the whales as ocean ecosystems collapse from the absence of big pieces of the food chain. Not to mention the general condition of the oceans themselves thanks to pollution and acoustic noise.

The time is past for tiptoeing around the egos of the whaling nations. Their arguments get weaker as public awareness increases. Let’s hope that continues and we can finally end whaling for real.

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