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The Debate of Their Lives

Many people enjoy hunting because it is relaxing, fun or also a means of survival. Through out the years, though, hunting has become a dangerous event for has been around for centuries and has almost brought about the extinction many species of whales( Whaling 2). Many countries have hunted whales in the past but now there are only a few whaling countries, one being Japan(Lemonick 42). Japan, disregarding the ban, are now hunting minke whales because they feel there is a sufficient amount of this species( Watch 20). After many years Japan still insists on continuing to hunt whales but many organizations are opposing this for the simple fact that the whales are in danger of

becoming extinct.

Whaling has been around for centuries(Lemonick 44) and evidence shows that whaling has possibly been around since prehistoric times( Whaling 1). The earliest record of whaling by countries with organized businesses is dated around 875( Whaling 1). During this time Japan has gained much wealth from whaling and continues hunting certain

species of whales( Whaling 1).

Japan and other countries initially hunted whales from rowboats but by 1870 factory ships were introduced and by 1925 a whale could be completely laid on the deck of a ship( Whaling 1). The first method of capturing whales was using hand held lances and hand-thrown harpoons( Whaling 2). By 1731, though, technology advanced and a gun was devised that was able to shoot the harpoons instead of throwing them( Whaling 2). For centuries whalers were limited to a certain number of whales because of the availability of whales and the difficulty in finding and catching them( Whaling 2). As many species of whales evolved and nations were still constantly hunting them, the IWC(International Whaling Commission) had to make certain regulations. By 1949, the commission regulated whaling by (1)setting geographical limitations, (2)prohibiting the taking of certain species such as the Arctic right and blue whales, (3)establishing rules for safeguarding immature whales and females with suckling calves, and (4)limiting the operations of factory ships and shore stations ( Whaling 2). Now the few thousand minke whales has increased even more with an estimated 800,000 minke whales living in the Antarctic waters and northern seas(Nickerson A7). Japan requested that they be allowed to catch 3,000 minkes, but the IWC turned their request down(Nickerson A7). Japan s Institute of Cetacean Research is allowed to catch 330 minke alone for research each year(Watanbe A2). After they are used for research, the eat ends up being sold or cooked in whale meat restaurants(Nickerson A8). Since whales have been over-hunted for years the IWC had to put a ban on whaling(Lemonick 44).

Japan is one of the largest countries that hunts whales(Watanbe A3). In a 1992 Gallup Poll, 54.7% of Japans population support the idea of hunting nonendangered whales for food. This percent is more than double of the U.S. percent, 26.3%(Watanbe A3). The only other country with more people than Japan in supporting the hunt is Norway with 62.7%(Watanbe A3). Japan is very frustrated that the IWC will not lift the ban against whaling because they feel it is acceptable to hunt nonendangered whales, such as the minke( Watch 20 ).

One specific area in Japan that is suffering in because of this ban is Taiji(Nickerson A7). For 400 years, men of Taiji have hunted whales for food and other uses such as lamp oil and women s dress corsets(Nickerson A7). Whales represent 26% of the meat in Japan(Nickerson A7). One concerned whaler, Yoji Kita quoted, For a poor town like ours, a return to whaling is a question of life or death (Nickerson A7). This ban against whaling has stripped Taiji of it s most important industry, putting many whalers out of work(Watanbe A2). Some have moved to fishing but say it is not the same as whaling(Watanbe A3). Shoya Fyono said, Whaling is a lot more profitable… You could make 10 million

yen($88,000) working just three or four months a year. with fishing, you work all year, six days a week and pull in just 5 million yen (Watanbe A3). Japan argues the fact that they should be allowed to hunt the minke whales, at least, because there are a large quantity of them(Lemonick 44). They understand the idea of a ban on certain species of whales, but they feel that it is wrong that they are banned from hunting minke whales(Lemonick 44). An observer supported this notion, Nobody wants to hunt the large whales anymore because they threatened. But the argument that whales must therefore not be hunted at all is like saying that because on breed of pig is on the verge of dying out nobody should eat pork (Lemonick 44). Japan feels that this ban was imposed against them only because of the emotion felt for the creatures and not for rational science (Lemonick 42).

Japan also feels that the ban is affecting a tradition that began with their ancestors for at least 1,000 years(Nickerson A7). Wataru Kohama says, Since age 17, I have hunted the whale… Whaling has been my life as it was the life of my father and grandfather and many, many ancestors before them. Now our way of life is being destroyed (Nickerson A7). Japan fights hard against the ban on whaling. They are forming an alliance with Africa to end the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES)protection for the whales. In return, Japan would support the down listing of the African elephant and its valuable ivory ( Collapse 17). Japanese feel they are being singles out because of their eating habits and practice of a culinary hypocrisy (Nickerson A8). Kita Taiji s director of planning defends this statement by saying, Americans condemn whaling while slaughtering millions of cows to be put between the bread of their Big Macs… It s not a resource problem. There are plenty of minkes, and we are not seeking to harvest many. But Americans make us villains simply because they dislike our eating habits… It s just another form of Japan-bashing (Nickerson A8). Japan is trying so hard to release this ban that they are even struggling to find economic alternatives to whaling. They have built a whaling museum that attracts more than 300,000

visitors each year (Nickerson A8). Japan hopes to get rid of this ban so that they can keep their traditional way of living alive(Nickerson A8).

There are many reasons that the whales become endangered. One is the environment that the whales live in. It has been greatly disrupted by fishermen who catch the food the whales eat(Lemonick 44). Bruce McKay states, Over fishing directly deprives whales and dolphins of food… That increases the stress on an animal. It also makes them more susceptible to disease and reduces their capability to reproduce ( Deep 40). With fishermen depriving the whales of the food and Japan still hunting whales it makes it even more difficult for the whales to recover and reproduce form the heavy losses.

Many organizations argue that Japan should not be allowed to hunt whales because the organizations do not want the whales to become endangered if they are not already(Lemonick 45). Japan s whaling for scientific research has expanded from 330 whales killed in 1992 to 540 in 1997. That is close to tripling. Japan eliminated 21 minkes alone in 1993 and doubled that with 425 killed in 1996( Collapse 16). This year Japan intends to kill 580 minkes but Greenpeace and the IWC plan to put an end to this or at least reduce the amount of whales hunted to a minimal( Collapse 16)(Watanbe A2). The IWC estimated tat there are 760,000 minkes in the Antarctic. The IWC feels that it is acceptable

for Japan to hunt the minkes, but they want to put a limit on the number of minkes Japan can hunt so that the minkes will not be in jeopardy of becoming endangered like many of the other species of whales(Watanbe A2). Michael Tillman says,

The U.S. is perfectly willing to allow our own Eskimos to catch and eat bowhead whales. These

are special people with special subsistence and

cultural needs… What we object to, and what the

world community objects to, is the commercial use

of whaling. Is it necessary for whales to be

caught so they can be sold at expensive

restaurants in big cities in the world? Just

because a marine resource exists doesn t mean it

should be exploited(Watanbe A2-A3).

There are exceptions that the IWC made in order for Japan to continue to hunt whales, but the IWC feels that Japan is killing the whales for other reasons than just scientific research. They fear this may cause Japan to want to hunt more than the limit(Watanbe A3).

Another reason organizations feel Japan should stop hunting whales is because people feel whales are wonderful and intelligent creatures. The sounds whales make to communicate to other whales and their irresistible looks attract many spectators to aquariums and theme parks where some are held. A Green-peace spokeswoman said, Killing whales is a moral as well as ecological issue… Whaling is a barbaric deed. And the Japanese are the world s No. 1 despoiler of the environment. They have already ignored the whaling ban with their so-called scientific expeditions. They are greedy, ecological pirates (Nickerson A8). Environmental groups feel that because the whales are such marvelous

creatures, they deserve the protection just like people(Nickerson A8).

More and more whales suffer the consequences of being hunted and killed by Japanese whalers. With Japan disregarding the ban against them, it is more likely that commercial whaling will continue to flourish and kill many innocent whales( Collapse 17). If Japan does not reduce the amount of whales it kills, Clinton may have to take a stand against Japan( Let 46). He has two options, 1) he can ban Japanese fishing vessels from U.S. waters or 2) would be to restrict imports of Japanese fish products ( Let 46). Hunting can be fun and relaxing, but when it is taken too far as to eliminate the whole existence of a creature, certain action must be taken to stop it from happening. With Japan

destined to lift the ban against them, environmentalists can only hope to stop Japan from consuming so many whales.

Works Cited

Collapse of the Whaling Ban. Green Peace Quarterly. Spring 1997: 16+.

Deep Trouble. Discover. January 1993: 39+.

Lemonick, Michael D. The Hunt, The Furor. Environment. 2 August 1993: 42+

Let Them Eat Beef. Time. 22 February 1988: 46

Nicherson, Colin. In Japan, Saving whales means losing a lifestyle. Globe. 21 June 1991: A7+

Watanabe, Teresa. Japan Is Set for a Whale of a Fight. Times. 20 April 1993: A2+

Whatch Out, Whales! Time. 13 July 1992: 20

Whaling. Funk and Wagnails New Encyclopedia. 1995 ed

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