By Karl Mathiesen
As countries meet in Slovenia to discuss proposals for whale conservation the headlines are dominated by the activities of whaling nations. Karl Mathiesen, with your help, investigates whether we’re right to focus so much on whaling compared to other threats, from shipping to climate change.
For some species, notably minke whales, small scale whaling offers little threat to their immediate survival. For many others, whaling offers no threat at all as they are off limits to hunters. In this sense, whales are perhaps the pandas of the oceans. Drawing disproportionate funding and attention to a cause that is as much moral as conservation.
Many more whales die from entanglement in fishing lines and nets than on the harpoon. These impacts affect all whales species, from the relatively common to the rare. In terms of numerical impact, the death of just three North Atlantic right whales (0.7% of the species) in shipping or fishing accidents is comparable to the entire annual Norwegian minke whale quota.
With a few exceptions, extinctions happen by one thousand cuts. The cumulative effects of noise, shipping, climate change and fishing mean that the oceans have become an increasingly inhospitable place for all whale species. I wonder what the result would be if the force of moral objection applied to whaling was turned upon gill netting or the shipping industry? What technological solutions would appear and how many whales might be saved?