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Environmental Issue: Whaling Essay

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Updated: Nov 19th, 2021

The migration of animals in the wild is a yearly activity that is dictated by their nature and habitat. In the case of the Whales, their yearly migration habits are based upon the circumstances of the body of water where they reside. Just like the rest of the planet, their habitat is directly affected by climate changes, changes in water temperature, salinity, sea floor topography, and most importantly, their food supply. Studies have shown that whale migration also depends upon their biological needs. When hungry, whales venture out into cold water. Pregnant whales have been known to venture into the warmer waters in order to give birth.

There are two main problems facing the whale population at present time. These are the illegal fishing of whales and maritime sonar use. Both problems heavily contribute to the diminishing of the whale population and both problems are very hard to control due to cultural traditions (illegal whale fishing) or military defense needs (Sonar usage).

The act of illegal whale fishing is commonly termed as Whaling. The term is meant to explain the activity of capturing whales either through hunting or the use of fishing nets. After the whales are hunted and killed, it undergoes various procedures meant to extract fish oils, fish fat, meat, and other substances from the whale which is used by man for various clothing, medicinal, and food means. Such activities have been declared illegal in most parts of the world. However, Japan is one of the countries that continues the inhumane practice regardless of worldwide protests.

Sonar usage on the other hand is a more horrific practice of man that uses sound waves underwater in order to determine the position or location of various debris that must be avoided by underwater or submersible vessels such as a navy submarine. Sonar waves emitted underwater reach deafening sound levels of s35 decibels or above.

What we have to understand is that whales, although without any visible signs of hearing capability, such as ears and the like, actually use soundwaves to help them navigate the waters the sea creatures reside in. Whales emit sound waves which bounce their sounds off the sea floor and various objects which are then transmitted to the brain of the whales, which , just like human beings, warns them to avoid the path of the obstacles.

The problem is that because of the maritime use of sonar soundwaves in whale water habitats, the whales become confused and in the process, physically injured. Unbeknownst to us, the ears, brain, and various tissues of the whale’s body encounter undue stress, swelling, and eventually, bleeding, that lead to the death of the animal. In some cases, cases of the whale equivalent of “the bends” can even be seen. Indicating that whales possibly try to dive deeper into the waters too fast in order to avoid the discomfort that the sonar soundwaves inflict upon them.

Either of two things happens to a whale who is severely affected by Sonar waves. They can either fall to the bottom of the ocean and die or they can swim up and, due to their disrupted sense of direction, end up on our beaches. It is believed that majority of the beached whale cases that end in death over the past years are all results of the beaching of whales due to unabated sonar use.

Worldwide policy makers have realized the need to protect the whales if only to keep the balance of nature within our oceans. As far back as 1946, the United States has tried to lead the way and set precedents in terms of protecting the Whale species. On December 2, 1946, the convention called International Convention For The Regulation Of Whaling drew up a pact which was signed in Washington, D.C. The end result of this pact was the International Whaling Commission whose prime duty, according to the bylaws is to “ provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.”

By the 1970’s the commission found itself more concentrated on opposing the practice of commercial whaling, resulting in a moratorium in the year 1986 and continues to exist at present. In 1994, the commission presented the public with the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in an effort to help people learn more and understand why Whales must be protected and how they can be protected from unintentional harm caused by humans.

With regards to the use of Sonar in the oceans, the Natural Resources Defense Council has presented their case against its use in the Supreme Court. They have been pushing for a more responsible approach to sonar use since the year 1990 and by the year 2000, the end results of the sonar use could no longer be ignored. By the year 2005, the NRDC was faced with a Navy that admitted to its fault and found the Supreme Court instructing the the Navy to implement safeguards pertaining to sonar use in October 2008.

In the end, we all have to understand that a balance must be found and established wich can help us provide for our human needs without posing undue harm to our oceans and its inhabitants such as the Whales. This can be established by pressuring our policy makers to enact more Whale conservation laws and taking a proactive stance in terms of making our sentiments felt and heard when it comes to protecting the Whales rights.

References / Bibliography

  1. International Whaling Commission Information. 2009. Iinternational Whaling Commission.
  2. ”. Natural Resources Defense Council. 2008. Web.
  3. “Whales”. Greenpeace Australia Pacific . 2009.
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