Stop Whaling Campaign
FAQs - the issues explained.
For information on whaling in the Faroe Islands please visit our information page.
What is the International Whaling Commission (IWC)?
Formed in 1946, the IWC is the body (89 nations) that regulates whaling and ultimately determines what happens to whales.
What is the commercial whaling ban (moratorium)?
Once it became apparent that the numbers of whales being killed were unsustainable and jeopardized whale populations, the IWC voted to introduce a moratorium (ban) on the practice of commercial whaling in 1986.
So which countries are whaling commercially and how are they able to continue if there is a ban?
The IWC currently allows Norway to hunt under an ‘objection’ to the ban, and Japan uses a loophole which allows countries to hunt for ‘research purposes’. Iceland is allowed to break the ban also because it left the IWC in 1992 but was allowed to rejoined 10 years later under a ‘reservation’. Between them, these countries kill around 1600 whales a year.
How many whales have been killed since the moratorium came into effect?
Over 30,000 whales have been killed since the moratorium came into effect.
- Japan has killed more than 17,000 whales : 5519 "under objection" until 1987/88 when it dropped its objection, 8659* in its JARPA scientific permit hunt and 3281* in its JARPN scientific permit hunt.
- Norway has killed nearly 10,000 whales since 1985/86 : 9773* mostly under objection, but also a few under scientific permit
- Iceland has killed 821, since 1985/1986 of which more than half have been since it resumed whaling in 2003 also under scientific permit and objection
*provisional figures. We do not currently have official IWC figures for the 2009/2010 hunts as yet and the data for the past year are based on press reports.
What whale species are currently being hunted?
Fin, minke, Bryde’s, sei, humpback and sperm whales.
How are whales killed, is it humane?
Ban or no ban, whaling remains inhumane and whales are unsuitable for sustainable use by humans (they are long living and slow to reproduce). There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. The hunting process can never be an exact exercise - whales are a moving target, shot at on a moving vessel which sits on a moving sea. Grenade harpoons are often used to kill whales forcing them to be subjected to a long, slow and painful death
Is the whaling industry in decline?
The whaling industry is currently uneconomical without substantial government subsidies (the market for the meat is not big enough at the moment so much of the meat is stored). The proposal thereby provides a lifeline to a dying industry, and those opposed to whaling may have to pay for it!
What happens to the whale meat?
As demand for meat is falling, a lot of it is frozen and stockpiled. International trade in meat is currently illegal but only recently there have been examples of whale meat turning up in restaurants in South Korea and the US.
Remember, it is not just the reduction of whale meat that is important here. It is also about stopping whale product use in cosmetics and health supplements, and whale meal feed. We already suspect that pigs may have been fed whale meal in Denmark
Is it true that whales eat so many fish that they need to be killed in order to protect the fishing industry?
No! Independent scientific data available shows clearly that whale predation (feeding on fish) does not represent a major ecological issue for commercial fisheries.
Trying to imply that fisheries are suffering because whales eat large quantities of fish is a tactic often used by those who support and seek to justify commercial whaling and distracts from the real issues relating to dwindling fish stocks - overfishing, catching of non-target species, and lack of control and enforcement.
What about the hunting of whales in the Faroe Islands?
Every year hundreds of small whales and dolphins are hunted for meat in the Faroe Islands, a territory of Denmark in the North Atlantic. The techniques used are intensely stressful and cruel. Find out more whaling in the Faroe Islands. This type of hunting is known as a 'Drive Hunt'. These hunts also take place in Japan where some animals are then sold to dolphinarium. Find out more about Japanese drive hunts.
For more about whaling, read our briefings below: