Legal vs Illegal Whaling

So what is legal and what is illegal whaling?

Illegal Whaling

Abandoned Station in Front of Snowcapped Mountains, Whaling Station, St. George Island, Alaska, USA
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Although the International Whaling Commission's rules act as laws only for countries which are signatories to their convention, the IWC banned all commercial whaling in 1986.

But each country's laws also apply in their own waters, and commercial whaling is now illegal in most parts of the world.

Legal Whaling

Butchered Whales Line the Beach Following a Hunt, Frenchman Bay near Albany, Australia
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Whaling is generally legal when it's practiced by indigenous people e.g. eskimos (and is in accordance with the country's laws); or when it is done for scientific research (and again, is in accordance with the laws of the country in the waters of which it is done).

Both research whaling and traditional whaling are often restricted in numbers by the laws of the country.


Eskimos, Sledge and Whale Bones at Yanrakino Village, Chukchi Peninsula, Russian Far East, Russia
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Since the commercial whaling got banned, countries with long traditions of eating whale meat got particularly keen on doing whale research.

Iceland for example started research programs right after 1986, and Japan is running extensive "research programs" including whaling trips to Antarctic waters.

Australia and New Zealand have protested for a long time about Japanese whaling ships in their waters.

The meat of whales killed for "scientific purposes" finally end up in markets, shops and restaurants in Japan.

Japan's answer is that IWC particularly wants to see all the products being used and not gone to waste once the research is done.

However, it is clear that their "whale research" is driven by the fact that they do like whale meat.

Other countries use the indigenous traditions as an excuse.

While the Eskimos of Alaska, northern Canada and Russia hunt relatively small amounts of whales, the Faroese put an ugly massacre on each year when they drive whales into bays and then kill them all in a blood bath which is a folk festival attended by whole families so that the kids get used to it from a young age.

Some indigenous traditions could be changed in a world that now knows better. It's not like Faroese would not be able to survive without whale meat anymore. The countries that are against whaling would be more than happy to send them all the support.

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