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The hunting of whales for food, oil, or both.

The hunting of whales by Eskimos and Native Americans began around 100 a.d. in North America. In Europe the systematic hunting of whales began during the Middle Ages and greatly expanded in the seventeenth century. Whaling was driven by the desire to procure whale oil and sperm oil. Whale oil comes from baleen whales and is an edible product that was used in the making of margarine and cooking oil. Sperm oil, which comes from sperm whales, was used for illuminating lamps, as an industrial lubricant, and as a component of soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes.

During the nineteenth century, the U.S. whaling fleet dominated the world industry. Most of the seven hundred U.S. ships sailed out of New Bedford and Nantucket, Massachusetts. However, the industry went into a steep decline with the discovery and exploitation of petroleum during the late nineteenth century. Though new uses for sperm oil were developed, the U.S. fleet gradually disappeared.

In the early twentieth century, concerns were raised about the dwindling whale population. An international movement to regulate the hunting of whales met resistance from Scandinavian countries and Japan, but in 1931 the League of Nations convened a Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. It proved unsuccessful because several important whaling states refused to participate.

Annual international whaling conferences led to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946, which established the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC was charged with the conservation of whale stocks. It limited the annual Antarctic kill and created closed areas and hunting seasons throughout the world. Despite these initiatives and others over the years, the whale population edged closer to extinction, and the IWC agreed in 1982 to prohibit commercial whaling beginning in 1986. Commercial whaling has continued, however, often under the fiction of capturing specimens for scientific research.

In 1990 a scientific study was begun to determine if the whaling Moratorium should be lifted. Though the study indicated that whale populations were growing, in 1993 the United States refused to agree to a resumption of commercial whaling, and the IWC agreed. The United States warned that if a country (primarily Japan, Norway, or Iceland) ignored the IWC conservation program and resumed commercial whaling without IWC approval, that country's actions would be reviewed, and sanctions would be considered where appropriate.

Further readings

Freeman, Milton M. R., et al. 1998. Inuit, Whaling, and Sustainability. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press.


Environmental Law; Fish and Fishing.

References in periodicals archive ?
The book tells the remarkable story of the life of William Chamberlain who was abducted from Sydney as a young boy, to serve on the Frederick, a whaling ship, who saw action at the Battle of Algiers as a powder monkey, was re-united with his family in Sydney and went on in later life to become a captain of a whaling ship.
A resumption of commercial whaling still seems far away, but Hirai said he looks forward to many more years on whaling ships.
Australia-based environmental activist group Sea Shepherd has claimed it has saved 750 whales from the harpoons of the Japanese whaling ship.
Even before the ship full of ragtag international conservationists, animal activists and reporters makes it to Antarctica to find and confront Japanese whaling ships, the book presents an amazing alternate universe.
WHALING ships once operated out of Liverpool but it was never a major industry in the port - at its height around 1788 there were 21 vessels registered as whalers.
Two visual observation and whaling ships, including the 812-ton Kyo Maru No.
As the whaling ships headed for port, the Japan Whaling Association rolled out a new promotional campaign -- "Save Them, Eat Them
Sailors on 18th and 19th-century whaling ships (A) were well fed; (B) faced constant danger; (C) were highly paid.
The ranch was established by Kamehameha V in 1863, at a time when salt beef was in extreme demand for the sailors on whaling ships.
The member countries are expected to continue discussions on the issue, in particular over the extent of authority to be exercised by international monitors on board whaling ships and the issue of who should bear the costs of monitoring.
What the agency is aiming for with its DNA registry program is to track down the source of whale meat, by extracting DNA from the skin of whales onboard whaling ships soon after they are caught, officials said.
In local reports, Australian Antarctic Division Chief Scientist Nick Gales said two-thirds of whales caught by Japanese whaling ships die slowly.