Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

In addition to cruelty, the replacement of whale products, meat toxicity issues, and conservation, fellow SciBling the Island of Doubt brings up another great point against whaling:

For more than a decade now, genetic analysis of whale meat on Japanese markets has shown evidence of widespread fraud. The simple truth is, unlike pork and beef, it’s not so easy to tell the meat of one species of whale from another, a situation that allows whalers to catch just about anything from the order cetacea, and call it whatever the law allows them to catch.

Remember that whaling is an opportunistic method of obtaining food — whalers are sorely tempted to harpoon whatever comes along, rather than wait for the right species. And of course, catch and release is not an option.

It turns out that this is exactly what the genetic analysis in Japan has shown has been going on for years. A significant proportion of the whale meat on sale in Japan comes from endangered populations.

Check out his entire post, here.


  1. #1 J-Dog
    October 27, 2006

    As an object lesson, I would suggest harpooning Japaneese and Icelandic fishermen, (until we get to the limit) but I am very much afraid the Bush Administration would take me seriously. Hey, Dick Cheney – I am kidding! I think….

  2. #2 Steinn Sigurdsson
    October 27, 2006

    Why just them?
    Seriously. Why not US fishermen also?
    The US hunt whales also. Has been for a long time.
    Endangered whales at that.

  3. #3 Shelley Batts
    October 27, 2006

    Yes, Steinn it is true, and a shame that the US kills whales. Do you have any good references on the subject? I’d like to learn more about it, the extent, reasoning….

  4. #4 F. B.
    October 28, 2006

    I do not consider that a great point. The hunting in Iceland and Japan are simply not analogous. He is simply instilling doubt in people. In my opinion it is an unreasonable doubt, hope everyone reads Sigurdsson comment on that post and sees why.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    October 28, 2006

    Interesting – the Makah ‘cultural’ whaling program:

    “… the tribe’s management plan described the initial whaling operation as an “interim ceremonial hunt.” Makah leaders made no secret of their longer-range desire to process gray whales and other sea mammals for sale to Japan where whale meat is an expensive delicacy.

    “Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, too, that the Makah have had discussions with Japan and Norway about strategies for circumventing the worldwide ban on commercial whaling. Part of Japan�s plan, it seems, was to manipulate the Clinton administration into presenting the Makah�s case before international conservation agencies.

    “Significantly, the Makah whale hunt already has opened the door to the argument that “cultural” concerns can justify the hunting of whales, a rationale that Japan has pressed unsuccessfully for years on behalf of its traditional whaling communities.”
    These titles are from an online reading list I found (no links were provided);
    they might suggest terms for further searching:

    Makah Whaling Right
    Makah Treaty
    “Sovereignty Sustains Makah Tribal Traditions,� Hal Bernton,
    “Court bars Makah whale hunt,”
    “Court Rebuffs Makah�s Appeal Over Whaling,”
    “Five years after the Makah Historical Whale Hunt: Reflections of Makah Whaling,” by Captain Wayne Johnson as told to Keith Hunter.�

  6. #6 Steinn Sigurdsson
    October 30, 2006

    The Inupiat of northwest Alaska take some tens of bowhead whales from a formally endangered population; though from what I’ve read, the population has actually grown over the last couple of decades despite the hunt. Note they kill more whales from a smaller population than the current Icelandic fin whale hunt. The quota is in two parts, both for whales “landed” and for whales “struck” (a larger number, some escape, wounded).
    The IWC did stop the hunt for one year in 1977. I think the current quota is about 40 or 50 whales (landed). The quota also has a multi-year catch limit, but underflows one year can be carried over to next year. According to AEWC the quota is 75 per year, in accordance with IWC science committee guidelines for sustainable catch from a population estimated at 8000. Actual take has been ~ 40 per year recently (landed).

    The hunt is authorised by the IWC, at the request of the US delegation.
    It is done by US citizens in US waters, regulated by US authorities (either USFWS or NOAA). Supervision is by the Alaskan Eskimo Whaling Commission, which enforces and reports on the hunt, including population estimates and scientific results.
    The AEWC receives modest federal funding to subsidise its operation.
    As I understand it the hunt is done from motorboats supplied by oil companies, as part of the North Slope lease, and the kill is done using large calibre rifles or Norwegian harpoons purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife service. (AEWC says spring hunt uses skin boats, fall hunt is in motor boats).

    The hunt is a subsistence hunt, with the whole animal used. It is shared or bartered, as I understand it, not sold for cash. But the locals come in their SUVs to pick up the packs of meat and blubber. And the AEWC is campaigning for the cost of the hunt be permitted to be a charitable deduction for tax purposes for the captains, not sure if the IRS went along with that one, be interesting to know.

    There is a similar hunt in Greenland, used to be run by the Danes, but the Greenlanders are autonomous now and may have to run their own IWC delegation.
    One of my more surreal ponderings is whether Iceland would be taking this crap if we were still a Danish colony. We’d certainly then be poor enough to need the whale catch.
    It’d almost certainly be run by something like the AEWC in the US.

    A fin whale is worth something over $100,000 wholesale each, btw, tourism in Iceland is worth more like $1,000,000,000 from about 400,000 annual visitors (compared to a population of about 300,000) with at least $10,000,000 or so grossed in relation to whale watching. The commercial whale hunt (Hvalur HF) and the tour operators are not the same people, or even politically aligned. cf

    It bothers me, a lot, that the people who take on the Icelandic hunt seem almost completely unaware of the US activities. It is not hard to find out.
    Inconsistencies also bother me.

    Some pointers: Marine Mammal Council is the definitive site

    The last is informative. They even use a “hlut” system for dividing up the catch according to crew seniority, much as the Icelandic boats.

    Hmph, they have a “Weapons Improvement Program”. Cool.

  7. #7 Shelley Batts
    October 30, 2006

    Thank you Steinn! I’m gonna dig into those when i have a bit more time.

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