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A Look At Today's Whaling Essay

3372 words - 13 pages

A Look at Today's Whaling

“ The story of the whale is so remarkable, that were there not so many witnesses, I would not venture to tell it, lest I be accused of exaggeration.”
-J.D.B Stillman, aboard the ship Plymouth, November 1850 (Stewart, 1995)

There is no doubt that humans have always been intrigued with the majestic beauty of the large giants found in all of the world’s oceans. Whales and people have had a long history together, marked by many turns of events.

Long ago, native tribes, from many places in the world, depended largely on whales for protein in their diets. They were also able to use much of the whale for oil, thus began a tradition of whaling. The first documented whaling expedition occurred in South Korea around 6000 BC (Bryant, 2000).

Whaling began with smaller whales, since humans had only small boats and weapons, such as spears. However, as humans developed larger, more powerful weapons and built bigger boats, they also attained the ability to hunt larger whales. At this time, whaling became an industry, rather than a method of obtaining nutrition and oil when needed. As the whaling industry gained popularity the whale populations began to decline. Whalers moved from one species to another as their numbers decreased to a population size that was no longer economical to hunt. This strain on the whale populations was the heaviest with the creation of whole whaling fleets.

It is apparent, that although whaling has important economic value, providing oil and meat, it also has a devastating affect on the whale populations that are targeted. Conservation and sustainability of whale populations has been ignored for a long period of time, leading to possible extinction for many species. Whaling has a long and important history, but with changing public attitudes and a changing environment, it’s necessary to discuss a modification in whaling and how it affects whale populations.

The Change in Whaling

What exactly happened in the whaling industry that had such a detrimental effect on the whale populations?

In the nineteenth century, commercial whalers began using whole fleets to hunt whales, with each ship given a specific role. The largest ship, found at the center of the fleet, was the factory ship. At the heart of these ships are many tanks. Christopher Ash worked as chief chemist on the factory ship Balaena, and in his book Whaler’s Eye, comments on the massive tanks found in these ships. “Balaena really is a tanker, and almost all of her hull…is subdivided into thirty-six tanks. It is rather like an egg crate with nine rows, each of four tanks extending across the ship, and each tank able to take some five hundred tons of fuel or Diesel oil, which will be replaced—after cleaning—by whale or sperm oil, or perhaps meat meal; sometimes they must be filled with sea water as ballast. These tanks are impressively large, being well over thirty feet deep; so that when standing on the bottom and looking up...

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