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Whaling 101

Whether you've studied it in school or seen Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere championing the cause, you're bound to know that whaling is a pretty important global issue. Here are the basics about this practice, and those who are fighting to stop it.

History and Regulation

The hunting of whales, commonly referred to as whaling, dates back thousands of years to at least 6,000 BCE. Eventually, whaling played a major role in endangering many whale species including the Gray Whale, Beluga, Bowhead Whale, Right Whale and Blue Whale. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up in 1946 to regulate whaling. In 1982, the IWC implemented a pause on commercial whaling, while allowing some whaling to continue for research and "subsistence" purposes (eg. aboriginal groups who kill small numbers of whales for food).

Modern Whaling

Although the IWC has attempted to end commercial whaling, it still exists. Japan, for example, has a scientific whaling program called JARPA, which sells meat from "research" whales commercially. Also, about 14,000 dolphins are killed for food in Japan every year. Norway, Russia and Iceland have all opted out of the IWC and so continue to hunt whales.


Many people and organizations (such as Greenpeace and the Whaleman Foundation) oppose whaling for several reasons. They argue that whaling is a threat to certain endangered populations of whales and that the methods of killing whales are inhumane. They also argue that Japan's whaling for research purposes is just a legal loophole that allows them to continue commercial whaling.

Did U Know?

  • Hayden Panettiere is an anti-whaling advocate and spokesperson for The Whaleman Foundation. She physically intervened in a Japanese dolphin kill and now has a warrant for her arrest in that country.
  • The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth!
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts was once the whaling capital of the world.
  • If you're interested in finding out more about anti-whaling activism, head to www.greenpeace.org.
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