While commercial whaling seems an antique subject in much of the world, it's a going economic concern in other countries. And those countries - notably Japan and Norway - aren't about to yield to pleas to stop killing the seagoing mammals in the name of conservation.
Japan just made that clear again, adding two whale species to its yearly "scientific" hunting forays. Using a loophole in a 1986 treaty that bans whale hunts, Japanese ships take hundreds each year under the guise of checking on the creatures' health. After a little research is done, the whale meat is transported home for consumption. Japanese culture claims it as a traditional delicacy.
Norway doesn't use that ruse. It simply takes hundreds of whales each year, saying it refuses to be bound by the ban.
Both of the main whaling nations, as well other newer and smaller members of the International Whaling Commission who vote with them, dispute the claim that whales deserve protection. Their position can't be dismissed out of hand. Whale populations have recovered significantly since the days when many species were nearly extinct.
But the sperm and Bryde's whales added by Japan to its prey are widely believed to be threatened.
The larger question is why these magnificent animals need to be hunted anymore at all.
True, whaling traditions are strong in a few countries, but the desire to protect the whales is even stronger. Reaching the goal of preservation is still a hard fight. The international agreements, clearly, are flawed. But the fight should go on, with the US, which firmly opposed the recent Japanese move, using its influence and scientific resources to make the case for peaceful coexistence with whales.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society