Background of whaling in Japan and Norway
Japanese whaling culture started around the 12th century and it is still active with the formation of Japan Whaling Association. This culture has spread across Japan's territorial water to countries like Norway. Commercial whaling picked during the 20th century where the International Whaling Commission (IWC) enacted a moratorium on commercial whaling. The moratorium agreement effected use of scientific research methods in whale hunting and currently, the culture is under the control of Institute of Cetacean Research (Jones, Swartz and Leatherwood 2012, p.59). A whale hunting guru, Juro Oka, from Japan traveled all over the world carrying out research on whale hunting. His efforts led him to Norway where he introduced modern whaling. In Norway, exploding harpoons, cannons, and power-driven vessels are used in carrying out whale hunting. Over the years, Juro Oka dominated the whale meat business, coordinating whaling in both Japan and Norway. Whale hunting practice thrived on the following parameters;
Promotion of food culture festival
At present, there is town that thrived on the whaling culture. Local and foreign visitors troop these towns to learn the history of whaling spanning to hundreds of years ago. Whaling being an old Japanese tradition, attempts to stop it have been futile as it receives backing from the government. Harvest from scientific whale hunting is sold to Japanese food festivals, restaurants, and shops. Commercialization of this culture saw over 13.4 million visitors participate in Japanese food festival where foreign visitors ate whale meat in 2014. Even in Norway, the government organizes Bukta or Inferno music festival where they promote eating of whale sushi and whale burgers to youths and tourists. Currently, the Japanese government is offering whale meat to school going children as part of their feeding programs.
Creation of employment and earning of foreign exchange
In 2009, Norway signed a trade agreement with Japan where they started exporting whale meat to Japanese markets. Even though international trade in whale meat is prohibited, the two countries sought for exemptions from Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The import-export business contributes to economic growth of both Norway and japan where Japan tax the imports and Norway earning foreign exchange. In the 2008-2009 financial year, Japan earned $81 million in revenue. Globally, whale watching generated $2 billion in revenue in 2009 with over 13,000 jobs created (Lundgren 2014).
Whales are mammals belonging to a group called Cetacean. Research shows that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are very intelligent mammals. Being in the same family, dolphins have been held in captivity for training and measuring their intelligence since whales are too big. Using brain size to measure intelligence prove that sperm whales are very intelligent with the largest brain size of 7.8 kg. In addition, availability of spindle cells too indicate the possibility of high intelligence. Like human beings, the self-awareness that whales and dolphins exhibit shows how intelligent they are. Dolphins can look themselves in the mirror, and even turn around to see other body parts.
Opposition on whaling
There has been opposition from Pro-Wildlife, Ocean care and Animal Welfare Institute on the whaling culture arguing that whales face painful deaths that are not warranted and the majority of people do not like whale meat.
Jones, M.L., Swartz, S.L., and Leatherwood, S. eds., 2012. The gray whale: Eschrichtius robustus. Academic Press.
Lundgren M. 2014. The economic impact of whaling. GEI Associate. [online] Retrieved from https://econintersect.com/b2evolution/blog1.php/2014/09/27/the-economic-impact-of-whaling [16 May 2017].
Whale Facts. 2017. Marine mammal facts and information. [online] Retrieved from https://www.whalefacts.org/are-whales-intelligent/ [16 May 2017].
Whale and Dolphin Conservation. 2017. Whaling in Norway. [online] Retrieved from https://uk.whales.org/issues/whaling-in-norway [16 May 2017].