Whaling is a type of ocean fishing, which has been here for centuries. People hunted whales mainly for their oil and in some places for their meat. However in the 20th century with growing industrialization and the use of big factory ships, workers could start to process meat right away at the sea. The situation changed rapidly.
The averted face of humanity
Just in 6 decades in the last century (roughly a life span of a Blue Whale), humans managed to wipe out an almost entire population of these gentle giants going down from 360 000 to just 1000. The blue whale is the biggest mammal living on our planet. Overall in the 20th-century whalers killed at least 2 000 000 Baleen whales. This group includes for example Blue, Humpback, Minke, and Gray Whale.
In December 1946 several countries including Australia, Great Britain, Norway, and the USA created International Whaling Commission (IWC). Their goal was to keep the numbers of whales high enough, that they could be still hunted but in a sustainable manner. In February 1986 this commission decided to ban commercial whaling for good. Some countries like Japan decided not to support the IWC decision. They left the commission and kept hunting whales because of their scientific research. In the name of science, thousands of whales die in Japan every year. And many of them end up on the plates in restaurants as their meat is also treated as a delicacy over there.
Where does the Carbon issue enter the scene?
Have you ever heard of “Whale Falls”? It is a process when the whale dies, its body falls to the ocean floor where it decomposes and releases lots of important nutrients together with carbon which they absorb from the surface.
Some studies say that with the popularization of industrial whaling and thus reducing the whaling population, a large amount of carbon (up to 900 000 metric tons) remained in the atmosphere, instead of being brought down to the ocean floor. Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere helps create other greenhouse gases which continue to heat the climate on the earth.
Fisheries do show their environmental concerns, but carbon emissions are rarely among them.
(Watch a video below showing whale fall)
photo credit: Pixabay.com, EVNautilus Youtube video screenshot