Efforts to reverse the decline of the whale species began in 1946 with the establishment of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). It unsuccessfully attempted to protect whales by setting sustainable whaling quotas. However, 66,000 whales were taken in 1962 alone, and by 1982 the Commission realized a total moratorium on whaling was needed to prevent the extinction of this majestic species. About 32,000 whales have been killed since 1986 and at least 1,500 whales are killed worldwide each year. The IWC moratorium compliance is voluntary and Japan, Norway and Iceland harvest whales under a “scientific study” loophole. These nations claim to kill only whales that are relatively plentiful such as the Minke whale. However, whaling opponents claim whale meat tested in Japan's fish markets reveal DNA of several whale species banned for any type of “take” including Blue, Humpback and Fin whales. Opponents say that since prohibited whale meat is sold in its restaurants, Japan’s research whaling program is actually commercial whaling in disguise.

However, there are indications the efforts of anti-whaling protesters are having an effect on this industry. Japan’s commercial whale-meat market has crashed and when Australia filed charges against Japan’s whaling practices in The Hague International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, the Court found Japan's Southern Ocean whale hunt to be illegal under international law. Advocates say this decision was a pivotal moment in the history of the IWC. Ironically, whale-watching has become a thriving industry accounting for $1 billion in annual revenue in 87 countries. This, and designated sanctuaries including those in the Indian and Southern Oceans, have had a positive effect on whale populations. Marine sanctuaries, off-limits to whaling, are places of refuge where whales can feed and breed, and where non-lethal scientific research can be done. President Obama has recently proposed doubling the size of the Pacific Ocean sanctuary, protecting this huge area from fishing and other environmentally harmful human activities.

Even though oil drilling off the Atlantic coast if prohibited for the next 5 years, our interior Department is now considering allowing companies to begin oil and gas exploration efforts. However, it is estimated that nearly 140,000 East Coast whales and dolphins will be injured or killed if these firms are allowed to use seismic airguns to locate petroleum and gas deposits. These devices, often activated every 10 seconds for weeks on end, generate sound waves which are 100,000 times greater than a jet engine. Advocates say this technique will harm many marine mammals, turtles and fish, causing hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings and death.

Pending Legislation:
H.R.2276 - Seismic Moratorium Act

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Poll Opening Date
May 21, 2020
Poll Closing Date
May 27, 2020

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