Whaling is the hunting of whales which dates back to at least 3,000 BC. The evolution of traditional Arctic whaling developed with increasing rapidity by early organized fleets in the 17th century; competitive national whaling industries in the 18th and 19th centuries; and the introduction of factory ships along with the concept of whale "harvesting" in the first half of the 20th century. In the late 1930s more than 50,000 whales were killed annually. Modern whaling began in 1946 with the formation of an International Whaling Commission (IWC) for its consensus-based emphasis on conservation, resource management, and international cooperative standards. Contemporary arguments for and against whaling are the subjects of ongoing contention. Greenpeace and other environmental groups dispute the various claims of scientific research "as a disguise for commercial whaling, which is banned" by the IWC's moratorium in 1986.

Picture of a whale

Worldwide populations of whales are becoming increasingly vulnerable to extinction. With a return to whaling seeming inevitable, these beautiful creatures are under an ever increasing threat. Before the commercial whaling ban in 1986 many great whale species, such as blue whales, were almost hunted to extinction.

Whaling began in prehistoric times and was initially confined to (near) coastal waters. Early whaling affected the development of widely disparate cultures, for example, in Norway and Japan. Although prehistoric hunting and gathering is generally considered to have had low ecological impact, human activity related to early whaling communities in the Arctic may have altered freshwater ecology. The development of modern whaling techniques was spurred in the 19th century by the increase in demand for whale oil, sometimes known as "train oil" and in the 20th century by a demand for margarine and later whale meat.


Picture of a whale

Whaling at its finest.

Whaling in Canada: Nowadays, Canadian whaling is carried out by various Inuit groups around the country in small numbers and is managed by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The meat obtained from this whaling is commercially sold through shops and supermarkets. This meat is typically not available in southern metropolitan centers such as Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal but is more available in northern communities where whale meat is a component of the traditional diet. There is considerable consternation amongst whale hunters and conservationists about the hunt. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society says "Canada has pursued a policy of marine mammal management which appears to be more to do with political expediency rather than conservation." Canada left the IWC in 1982 and as such is not bound by the moratorium on whaling.