March 2012

Japanese whaling fleet kill numbers announced


Japanese whaling fleets have returned from the Antarctic region and announced their kill numbers recently.  This whaling is being conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) in order to exploit a loophole in an anti-whaling ban.  They have reported that 267 whales were killed in the hunt, almost all of them minke whales.  What makes things even worse than these hundreds of reported deaths are the approximately 100 deaths that occurred unofficially.  Statistics show that 107 of the whales were females and that 92.5 percent of these were pregnant at the time of their execution.

Last year’s numbers for the same fleet amounted to only 172.  This year is a sharp increase from the previous numbers, though the ICR stated that the 267 they managed to successfully hunt were still well-below the number they were targeting.

Traditional Whale Hunting in Native Cultures

Though whaling today is commonly associated with industrial hunting in the name of profit and condemned in general, there was a time when things were different.  Traditional whale hunting was one way that people survived in areas where other sources of food were scarce.  These old methods are mostly gone now, though still survive among a few groups of people, scattered across the globe.

Traditional whale hunts were not something that was done for the sport of it or for any sort of profit.  These events were usually spiritual in nature.  Ceremonies, songs, prayers, fasting and other rituals accompanied the hunt.  Some cultures would prepare for hunts weeks or months ahead of time, gaining strength for the upcoming trials.  Whales were sometimes seen as gifts from spiritual powers, being sent to the whalers’ boats as offerings to keep their villages fed.

Whale Watching in Alaska – Juneau and Glacier Bay

There is no better way to experience the majesty of whales than in their own environment.  This is one of the reasons why whale watching has become so popular over the years.  Due to whales’ migratory patterns, Alaska happens to be one of the best places for this activity during the summer season.  The converging currents turn the areas around Juneau and Glacier Bay into a prime feeding ground, teeming with fish, and whales come in abundance to take advantage of the ample food supply. 

From June to September is generally regarded as the best time to visit Juneau and take a whale watching trip.  Though some humpbacks have been known to stay in the area year-round, most of them begin migrating to other areas come September and do not return until May.

Rescued Whale Thanks Divers for their Help

I came across a story a short while back about a whale that got caught up in crab trap lines off the coast of San Francisco and was freed by Coast Guard divers.  The rescue operation took more than hour to perform, as the whale was caught up in a network of more than 20 ropes that were preventing it from being able to surface.

The story was not spectacular simply because of the rescue, but because of what happened afterwards.  Once the whale had been freed, it seemed to thank those who had rescued it, splashing about in the water and rubbing against the divers in gratitude.