Hunting is the most familiar threat known to the general public. It is practised by different countries and is often highly controversial.
There are different types of whaling and each one is governed by different legal rules:
- commercial whaling (which is the subject of a moratorium)
- aboriginal subsistence whaling
- scientific whaling.
These types of hunting are behind the trade of whale meat and derived products, whether legal or illegal, and require unwavering control and vigilance by public authorities and various operators to check compliance.
Apart from its impact on the populations in question, hunting raises questions about the welfare of cetaceans because of the brutality of the methods used.
Hunting large whales
Whaling is one of the phenomena that has contributed to the historical decline in the population of large whales. Combined with bycatch and pollution, it remains a current threat.
Within the International Whaling Commission (IWC), there is no question of lifting the moratorium or granting further hunting exemptions as long as all necessary conservation measures have not been taken and the various populations remain vulnerable.
Hunting dolphins and porpoises
As for hunting small cetaceans, the goal is often to feed a meat market for human consumption. However, in some countries, meat is simply used as fertilizer or fish bait. In addition, small cetaceans are often deliberately killed by some fishermen who consider them as competitors.
Currently, dolphins are hunted in 58 countries: in Japan and in many developing countries (Central America, West Africa, etc.). In these regions, the trend of hunting small cetaceans is increasing, or even appearing in places where it did not exist before. This increase is due to population growth in these countries and the profit that hunters can derive from this activity. Nevertheless, this phenomenon has still not been well researched. It is therefore impossible to say how many cetaceans are killed annually around the world. It is however estimated that in these states, the number of animals slaughtered annually varies between several hundred and several thousand.
Types of whaling
Commercial whaling supplies the market with derived products (meat intended for human or animal consumption, fertilizer, etc.). Although whaling has been prohibited since 1987 by the IWC moratorium, commercial hunting of large whales is still practised by Norway and Iceland (who objected to the moratorium).
It should be noted that the moratorium applies only to large cetaceans and commercial hunting of small cetaceans is not prohibited.
Aboriginal subsistence whaling
Subsistence whaling is practised in order to satisfy the dietary and cultural needs of local communities. It is currently practised in Greenland, Canada, USA, Russia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Faroe Islands, etc.
The scientific permits mechanism allows any state to hunt as many whales as they want for scientific purposes, regardless of age or sex of the animals concerned. These permits therefore allow the slaughter of mothers and their calves, pregnant females, etc. Under the guise of scientific research, more than 25,000 whales of five species were actually captured under scientific whaling by a handful of hunter countries since the 1987 moratorium. This system is controversial not only because it bypasses and nullifies the moratorium on commercial whaling, but also because now there are many non-lethal methods of scientific research.