In 1986, the world’s whale populations had decreased to the point that many species were endangered. In response, the International Whaling Commission issued a ban on commercial whale harvesting. The IWC has nearly 90 member countries, including the UK. But three member nations – Norway, Iceland and Japan – have lodged objections to the ban and continue to whale commercially.
On March 31, Australia won an international lawsuit against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program and the International Court of Justice has ordered Tokyo to cease the killing immediately, according to a report in News.com.au.
“Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said Japan had not justified the large number of minke whales it takes under its program, while failing to meet much smaller targets for fin and humpback whales. Japan has said it will abide by the decision, but it does not necessarily mean a permanent end to whaling.”
The United Nation’s court ordered a halt to the issuing of whaling permits until the program has been revamped.
Australia and environmental groups say the hunt serves no scientific purpose and is just a way for Japan to get around the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.
As the largest species of the planet, these animals have been spared from some hunting. There are still whales taken in the name of research, and commercial fishing also has its perils. But after surviving these unnatural forces, whales still face ever increasing odds at survival.
We learned during the hunt for MH370 that the world’s oceans are full of junk and debris. They also have areas that are becoming toxic to aquatic life, such as the waters surrounding Fukushima and the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spillages.
But the biggest threat is also the most ominous for all life on earth – global warming. As the world’s oceans rise in temperature, many of the species whales feed on are threatened. More sensitive to temperatures than larger species, organisms like plankton and krill are already showing depletion and stress.
In fact, research shows that more and more species are being threatened and are nearing extinction levels. Polar bears are one of the largest land animals to be directly affected; as polar ice disappears, they are no longer to feed on seals in the arctic waters while being able to rest on the large chunks of sea ice.
Whales are perhaps the most intelligent species in the animal world, with brains large enough to have the capacity to map the world’s oceans. I often wonder what they would want to say to us if communication between the species could ever be realized.