Taking Whale Meat Off The Menu

Taking Whale Meat Off The Menu : Food For Though?

Whaling, a practice dating back to prehistoric times, has evolved dramatically over the centuries. Initially, it was a small-scale, subsistence activity confined to coastal communities. This changed in the 11th century when Basque whalers began commercializing these hunts. By the 16th century, whaling had burgeoned into a major industry in parts of France and Spain.

The Barbarism of Whaling / New Scientist
Credit: The Barbarism of Whaling / New Scientist

The 17th and 18th centuries saw further advancements. Improved ship designs, a surge in demand for whale products, and fierce international competition escalated the scale of whaling. The introduction of explosive harpoons and factory ships in the 18th and 19th centuries marked a new era of industrial slaughter. As a result, whale populations, including fin whales, North-Atlantic right whales, and sei whales, plummeted. By the 1930s, industrial-scale whaling was claiming upwards of 50,000 whales annually.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), established in 1946, aimed to manage whaling stocks with a focus on conservation and science-driven regulations. A significant step was the 1986 moratorium by the IWC, effectively banning commercial whaling globally. While most nations agreed, Norway, Japan, and Iceland continued their whaling practices. Japan withdrew from the IWC in 2019, and Norway and Iceland are not bound by the moratorium due to their objections.

Japanese Whaling in Action
Credit: Japanese Whaling in Action / Wikipedia

The pressing question is: does whale meat hold any real commercial value today? The answer is increasingly negative. Whale meat’s appeal is waning, particularly among younger generations. Moreover, scientific studies have revealed high levels of toxins, such as mercury, in whale meat, advising only moderate consumption.

In a desperate bid to sustain this dwindling industry, national tourist authorities in whaling nations have resorted to promoting whale meat in tourist restaurants. This strategy not only undermines their cultural arguments for whaling but also highlights the minimal domestic demand.

Whale Meat
Credit: Whale Meat / CNBC

This presents a unique opportunity for tourists: the power to reject and undermine this failing industry. By simply choosing not to consume whale meat while traveling in whaling nations, tourists can contribute to the conservation of these magnificent marine mammals. Your dining choices can make a difference. Opt out of supporting an industry that is not only ecologically unsustainable but also increasingly irrelevant in modern times. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. Your choice to take whale meat off your menu is a stand for conservation and a better future for our oceanic giants.