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Byron Shire
August 20, 2022

Celebrating the 40 year ban on whaling – but threats still ongoing

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Photo Sonia Friedrich.

It shows that when governments around the world come together they can achieve outcomes. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the global moratorium on commercial whaling the Humane Society International (HSI) said that the decision has ensured that many species and populations of whales have been pulled back from extinction.

Residents of the Faroes Island slaughtering whales. (youtube)

Whales (cetaceans) were traditionally killed for the oil in their blubber and for their meat. The slaughter of more than three million whales in the twentieth century took many whale species to the brink of extinction.

‘In July 1982, member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) held a historic meeting in the British city of Brighton and agreed on the global moratorium which remains in place today,’ said the HSI in a media release. 

‘Although Japan, Iceland and Norway still defy the global ban, without doubt it has spared the lives of tens of thousands of whales and been instrumental in pulling many species and populations back from extinction – although some have never recovered.’

However, whales still face many challenges today with threats caused by human activities including fisheries bycatch (almost 300,000 per year); chemical, plastic and noise pollution; marine debris; ship strikes; habitat loss and the urgent climate crisis. 

Plastic pollution of our seas is increasing. Photo garrettc/Flickr.com

The degradation of the oceans has accelerated rapidly in recent years, with ocean temperatures warming up to 40 per cent faster on average than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change previously estimated.

Of the 90 species, 12 subspecies and 28 subpopulations of cetaceans that have been identified and assessed to date, 22 are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 22 as ‘Endangered’ and 16 as ‘Vulnerable’.

‘Maintaining the moratorium has taken a marathon effort from a multitude of government officials and campaigners over the last four decades, and HSI is incredibly proud to have played our role,’ said Humane Society International Australia’s Head of Campaigns Nicola Beynon, who has spent much of her professional career fighting to maintain the moratorium.

This is where this baby whale gets his/her name, they look like strap liquorice. Photo Sonia Friedrich.

‘There can be no doubt that the global ban on commercial whaling has saved many species from the brink of extinction, yet whales still face an uncertain future. The 40-year anniversary is a timely reminder of what can be achieved and strengthens our resolve to combat ongoing threats.

‘To “save the whales” was a catch cry of the conservation movement in the 1980s, and the global whaling moratorium a momentous milestone, but the task is far from over.’


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