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Whales and Whaling in the Caribbean

“There are
those in the Caribbean and elsewhere who would
see whaling return to our waters. If they have their way, instead of seeing a
mother whale gently lifting her new calf to the surface for its first breath,
someday soon you might see a ship hauling a carcass on board while hundreds of
gallons of blood flows into the water.”

I ended
last month’s article, “It’s Time Again”, with the
paragraph quoted above thinking that scene was only a possibility; however, I
have since learned that the International Whaling Commission investigated
several such incidents in the Caribbean.
While I have been unable to obtain documentation of the
IWC’s findings the report that brought about one of
the investigations came from a group of tourists out for a day’s sailing
who witnessed and reported the illegal killing of a mother and nursing calf in
the Caribbean to the BBC upon their return to the
United Kingdom.

While
aboriginal subsistence whale hunting is permitted for various IWC member
countries including Denmark,
Greenland, the Russian Federation,
Siberia, Alaska,
and some of the islands in the Lesser Antilles,
the IWC sets strict limits in order to conserve and protect whale populations.
In the Caribbean, for example, the aboriginal
whale hunting season begins in February and ends in May, only 2 adult Humpbacks
are to be taken per year, females with nursing calves are banned from taking
and the whale meat and by products are for the sole use of the aboriginal
peoples, i.e. not to be sold for profit.

Enforcement of international whaling rules is iffy at best; particularly
because compliance with International Whaling Commission regulations is
voluntary and “the fox watching the hen house” prevails as member
countries are left, for the most part, to regulate themselves. Hours and hours
of research have brought me no closer to determining whether the whalers
mentioned here were sanctioned in any way or, hopefully, lost their permits
forever.

The
International Whaling Commission, the regulatory body for commercial and
aboriginal whaling, holds its annual meeting in a different member nation each
year and during those meetings not only are various scientific studies
presented along with plans for designating new sanctuaries but, proposals for
increasing hunt quotas and adding or eliminating hunting grounds as well as
hunted species are also put on the table. The next annual meeting of the
International Whaling Commission will be held on St. Kitts from May 23-June 20,
2006.

The
scientific committee will meet May 26th through June 8th
to present various studies. Sub-committees will be meeting June 9th
through June 14th to discuss such topics as aboriginal subsistence
whaling, conservation, infractions, whale killing methods, and whale population
management plans. The general membership meetings begin June 16th
and it is then that many suspect some Caribbean
nations will once again ask that commercial whaling be returned to our waters.

Commercial
whaling in the Caribbean has been banned for 20 years but, according to a June,
2005, report by the BBC, there are some nations in the Caribbean who now
promote the idea their citizens’ welfare is dependent upon whale meat and
by-products for both personal consumption and sale to other countries where
whale meat is not a necessity but rather a very expensive delicacy.

There are
many cetacean species in Caribbean waters, some quite large, some fairly small,
some endangered, some threatened but all with a tentative hold on survival
after experiencing drastic losses in population over the past century or two.
The Atlantic Humpback that frequents the Caribbean
in winter to mate and calve numbered over 100,000 in the not too distant past.
Losing some 90% of its population, the Atlantic Humpback now numbers around
11,400 in total. Do we really need to allow great factory ships to hunt them
again?

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