Sunday, May 30, 2010

Save the Whales

This last weekend people from my town, Half Moon Bay, gathered at the beach to protest lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling. The organizers made a grid with stakes and twine in the sand to form a 100 foot long whale. Protesters wearing black and gray filled in the body and were then photographed from an airplane. This aerial shot will be send to President Barack Obama to protest against the lifting of the moratorium.

Protesters waving to the airplane

What is the moratorium?
Agreed in 1982, and introduced in 1986, the whaling moratorium was brought in after long campaigns by environmental groups pointing out the fact that many populations of the great whales had been drastically reduced by over-hunting. The largest of them, the Blue Whale, had even been driven to the brink of extinction.

The main article of the moratorium of the IWC (International Whaling Commission) reads:
“....catch limits for the killing for commercial purposes of whales from all stocks for the 1986 coastal and the 1985/86 pelagic seasons and thereafter shall be zero.”

As the moratorium applies only to commercial whaling, whaling under the scientific-research and aboriginal-subsistence provisions is still allowed. However since 1994, Norway has been whaling commercially and Iceland began hunting commercially in September 2006. Since 1986, Japan has been whaling under scientific research permits. 2009 about 1700 whales were killed, half of those whales were taken by Japan under the guise of scientific research. One wonders what they are researching that makes it necessary to kill so many whales​?! The US and several other nations are whaling under aboriginal whaling provisions.
The IWC now proposes to lift the moratorium and put in yearly quotas of how many whales can be killed. Supposedly the whaling vessels would have to have observers on board and a DNA registry of whale meat would be required in order to track whales being caught and sold illegally. The question now is, if Norway, Iceland and Japan have killed 1700 whales last year with the limit being zero, how many will they hunt if the moratorium gets lifted???

In my opinion whales should not be hunted, period!

They are extremely intelligent and gentle mammals that already suffered so much through us.
In spring 2007 I traveled to Silver Bank, off the coast of the Dominican Republic, to snorkel with Humpback whales.
Silver Bank is part of the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic.
Pregnant Humpback whales come to these shallow waters to give birth and “hang around” with the calves until they are ready for their first journey north to the feeding grounds in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador.

On our first encounter in the water with these gentle giants, we watched a mother with her calf, resting on the bottom of the shallow bank.

After a few minutes the calf came up to breathe. On it's way down back to mom,

it swam really close by me, looking me right in the eye, curious, what strange whale I might be. For seconds our eyes locked. I was so mesmerized, that I completely forgot that I had a camera in my hands. I didn't get the photograph, but I caught something way more important, I caught a glimpse of a deeper understanding between two mammals, one being a whale and one being a human.

All photos © Susanne Weissenberger - White Mountain Photography

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