Who is killing all the whales, dolphins and porpoises?
First let us learn a little about whales, dolphins and porpoises, they are all in the class of cetaceans. Cetaceans are aquatic mammals characterized by having fusform (streamlined) body shapes, paddles-shaped front limbs and vestigial hind limbs. Their tails have been flattened into flukes to aid propulsion.
Cetaceans spend all their time in the oceans, they are mammals just like us. This means that they are warm blooded, give birth to live young, nurse their young, have traces of hair or fur, and must come to the surface to breathe air through their lungs.
Millions of years ago, the ancestors of whales lived on land. Scientists believe these land ancestors looked like small dogs, but were probably more closely related to hippos and went into the ocean about 60 million years ago. Over time, these ancestors adapted to survive solely in the ocean environment. Their front legs turned into paddle-shaped flippers, they lost their back legs, their tails grew larger and widened to form flukes, and they developed a thick layer of fat, called blubber, to keep warm in the ocean. Also, their skulls elongated and the nostrils shifted to the top of their heads (blowholes) to aid in breathing at the ocean’s surface. They developed a series of adaptations related to diving, which include the ability to store more oxygen in their blood and muscles and having more blood volume relative to their body size than land mammals. The baleen whales eat very small animals, which are low on the food chain, these whales are all very large and eat great quantities at once. For instance, the blue whale is the largest animal on earth, weighing up to 150 tons. Baby blue whales gain 10 pounds (4.5 kg) an hour!
Watch this amazing video of the amazing blue whale.
Many whales are endangered, largely due to past hunting from the Japanese and South Koreans. Right now people are protesting all over the world about hunting these valuable animals. Years ago, people used the oil from the blubber of whales for all sorts of items, including oil burned in lamps and ingredients for manufacturing lipstick. They also used whale meat to eat or make pet food, sinews for tennis racket strings, and even used baleen as supports in ladies underwear. A waxy substance called ambergris, which is from a sperm whale’s digestive system, was used in making perfume. Ambergris was very valuable and a large lump found by a beach goer was worth a fortune.
Since 1986, there has been a ban or moratorium on hunting the large whales for commercial uses. However, some countries still kill whales for scientific purposes, and others have illegally resumed commercial whaling. This is controversial because the products from these whales are still used commercially. Many scientists question whether the whales really need to be killed to learn the sorts of things being studied. Each year from September to May over 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered in Japan. Fishermen round them up by the hundreds using sound barriers to disorient and herd the frantic pods out of their normal migrations into hidden lagoons like the one featured in The Cove.
Bottle-nose dolphins especially ones that look like Flipper, are pre-selected by trainers and sold off for upwards of $200,000 to marine mammal parks around the world, where they will remain in captivity performing as circus acts. After the trainers and spectators have left, the rest of the dolphins are inhumanely killed in what can only be described as a massacre.
The butchered dolphins are later used for food, but the Japanese government has intentionally sheltered people from the dangers of eating them. Consumers of dolphin meat run the risk of mercury poisoning due to high levels of the toxin within the animals. Adding to the danger, much of the pricier whale meat they purchase is actually mislabeled toxic dolphin meat. While the Japanese government defends dolphin hunting as part of their cultural heritage, this tradition has serious health effects on its own people.
The more lucrative captive dolphin industry is the driving economic force behind the dolphin slaughter in Taiji.
In the U.S. alone, dolphinariums represent an $8.4 billion industry, while a dead dolphin fetches a mere $600. International law provides no protections against the killing of dolphins, and other slaughters occur in places outside of Japan.
Small cetaceans, namely dolphins are not protected by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In fact, the IWC affords no protections for 71 (out of 80, known) cetacean species, including all dolphins and porpoises, which is why Japan can legally kill them by the tens of thousands.
Green 400 Magazine will keep petitions running so that our friendly sea family will remain safe from poachers way. Please go to our Facebook page and hit our like button to support our cause.
The Japanese people have been intentionally sheltered from the slaughter, and the large majority are still unaware that much of the meat they purchase is actually mislabeled dolphin meat.
Many people are concerned about the fate of the small whales (the dolphins and porpoises). Thousands die every year from getting caught in fishing nets and plastic trash. Toxins and pollution in the ocean are affecting the health of these animals and likely their ability to fight off diseases. Around the world, there has been an increase in reported strandings of marine mammals. Strandings occur when marine mammals or sea turtles swim or float into shore and become “beached” or stuck in shallow water. Other species are suffering due to loss of their habitat. Sometimes even whale watching can interfere with and harass whales, if the boats venture too close to the whales or separate mothers from calves. Small whales are sometimes captured for display in aquariums and even hotels, and many people question the quality of life and health for these animals.
In the recent past, popular movements helped to save the whales from hunting. Unfortunately, the whales are not completely safe. We need to understand and solve some of the problems currently threatening whales like climate change, boat strikes, entanglement in nets, and noise pollution. You can help by learning about the issues, letting others know what you have learned, and writing to lawmakers. Also, if you ever have the chance, try to see live whales in the wild. You will never forget it!