Industrial whaling in the 19th and 20th century seriously decimated most large whale species. In 1946, the whaling nations agreed to establish the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which set up the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to prevent the extinction of the commercially exploited whales. However, in the following decades unsustainable hunting has continued with whaling nations blatantly exceeding the established quotas. This resulted in the collapse of many whale stocks. Only the Moratorium on commercial whaling, agreed by the IWC in 1982 and coming into force in 1986, was able to stop this ongoing decimation. In reaction to this ban, the International Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibited commercial trade in products of all large whales. These measures were milestones in the protection of large whales, although the kills have not been fully stopped:
• The IWC grants quotas for Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling.
• Three countries (Japan, Norway and Iceland) are ignoring the commercial whaling ban by using legal loopholes
• Hunting of small cetaceans unfortunately remains unregulated and in some regions, the number of dolphins and harbor porpoises killed even increased as a substitute for whale meat.
|Nation||Current annual quota||Current annual kills||Whales hunted (as of end 2012) since Moratorium||Justification / Remarks|
|Japan||North Pacific (NP): 340 minke, 50 Bryde's, 100 sei and 10 sperm whales.|
Antarctic: 850±10% minke, 50 fin and 50 humpback whales in Antarctic waters
In 2011, Japan granted a total quota of 17,940 small cetaceans
|NP (2012): 100 sei, 74 minke, 34 Bryde’s and 3 sperm whales. |
Antarctic (2011/12): 266 minke whales and 1 fin whale
In 2011: 3,209 small cetaceans (with 1,952 specimens Dall’s porpoises being by far the most hunted species)
|17,751 large whales (3,578 declared as commercial whaling and 14,173 under “scientific permit”|
an estimated 570,000 small cetaceans.
|“Scientific research” in accordance with Article VIII of the IWC Convention although whales taken via these “scientific programs” are processed and sold in Japan – unmasking the commercial motivation of these operations. However, domestic demand is declining and storehouses are full.
While the quota has remained fairly constant in recent years the number of small cetaceans de facto killed in Japan has significantly decreased –caused by a sharply declining demand for the contaminated meat.
|Norway||1,286 (quota has steadily increased since 1993)||In 2012: 460 minke whales (on average 544/year over the last decade)||10,855 minke whales (10,566 in commercial hunt and 289 under “scientific permit”)||Filled formal objection to the Moratorium within the given deadline of 90 days. Within the period 2002-2012 the number of vessels dropped from 33 to 19 – a decline by 42 %. Reason: low domestic demand makes hunt unprofitable.|
|Iceland||154 fin whales and 216 minke whales (quota runs out end of 2013)||In 2012: 215 minke and no fin whales (however, in 2013 hunt on fin whales has been resumed)||1,310 whales (659 minke, 581 fin and 70 sei whales – with 948 after its re-entry into the IWC in 2003)||Originally bound to the Moratorium, Iceland left the IWC in 1992 – not being aware of the fact that Japan’s national laws would not allow import of whale products from a non-IWC member State. Iceland re-entered the IWC in 2002, this time making a formal reservation to the Moratorium.|
|Denmark (Greenland)||Since 2013 no IWC quota (see right). Quota in 2012 was: 190 minke, 10 fin, 2 bowhead and 9 humpback whales||In 2012: 152 minke, 10 humpback, 4 fin, and 0 bowhead whales|
Small cetaceans: In addition up to 4,000 small cetaceans are annually killed (belugas, narwhals, orcas, pilot whales)
|4,468 large whales (4,093 minke, 324 fin, 41 humpback, seven bowhead, and 3 sei whales).||Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW); however, in recent years concerns over increasing commercialization of whale meat were raised. In 2012, IWC denied an increase in quota, but would have accepted quota of former years, which was refused by Greenland.|
|USA (Alaska) and Russia (Chukotka)||Up to 67 bowhead from Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock and 140 gray whales Eastern North Pacific gray whales (but over 5 yrs < 280 and 620, respectively).||In 2012: 71 bowhead whales (79 killed by Alaskan Inuit and 2 by Russian Inuit) plus 143 gray whales (Russia)|
Small cetaceans: An average of 331 beluga whales killed annually by Inuit in Alaska. Data on small cetacean hunt in Russia is not available.
|Russia: 6,162* large whales (see right) |
Alaskan Inuit: 1,342 large whales.
|Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW); quotas are given for whale stocks, not for countries; both States share the quota. * In 1986, Russia killed 3,028 minke whales under objection, but later withdrew its objection and since then is accepting the Moratorium.|
|St. Vincent and The Grenadines||4 humpback whales||In 2012: 4 humpback whales||36 humpback whales||Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW)|
|Canada||2 bowhead whales / year for Inuit in Nunavut||In 2011: 3 bowhead whales (data for 2012 not yet available)|
Small cetaceans: more than 200 belugas (269 in 2011) and an estimated 530 narwhals are taken every year.
|an estimated 10 bowhead whales killed since resumption of whaling in 1991||Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) – While Canada is not a member of the IWC and therefore not bound to the Moratorium, it ended commercial whaling in 1973.|