The Future


The future of whales remains uncertain. Along with the menace posed by the imminent resumption of commercial whaling and illegal drift-nets, whales and marine mammals in general must also endure the less understood threats of ocean-borne toxins.

The 1992 collapse of the moratorium on commercial whaling removes an important pillar from the foundation of the environment movement. As well as adding protection to whales, the ban – established in 1982 – brought environment issues into public consciousness. Other victories, more specific to the US, include the decision of American tuna canning companies to accept only dolphin-safe fish, and the ascendency of the Environmental Protection Agency to Cabinet level. It was whales that bought conservation into an international arena.

In spite of protections through legislation, few species are recovering to pre-exploitation levels. The minke whale, currently numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the North Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans, is the latest target for Japanese and Norwegian interests. The minke will continue to be threatened unless the International Whaling Commission (IWC) re-establishes the moratorium.

Creating sanctuaries

Another option is the creation of more whale sanctuaries. Sanctuaries do not counter the justifications for commercial whaling, but they do protect the critical feeding, breeding, and/or calving habitats of endangered marine species. They afford needed relief for exploited stocks. In the absence of a moratorium, individual sanctuaries are a critical part of any reasonable strategy to protect whales and their ecosystems

OA supported the creation of an Antarctic Ocean sanctuary, as proposed by France to the IWC in 1992 and passed 26 May 1994. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary has a high proportion of the world's surviving baleen whales.

Alternative research methods

A drawback to the current guidelines for international sanctuaries is that such areas, as defined by the IWC, still allow for limited 'scientific whaling' within their boundaries. Research data from scientific whaling nations is regularly submitted to the IWC Scientific Committee. That research method, however, has really been an excuse to let whaling enterprises continue providing meat to international markets.

OA, through its development of effective benign research techniques, has exposed the deception underlying the practice of killing whales to study their populations. Long–term benign research is able to provide the same data on individuals needed to manage whale stocks that scientific whaling provides. Unlike scientific whaling, however, long-term benign research also documents the social and behavioral fluctuations that occur over time. Examining such fluctuations is essential to understanding the overall behavior of a species.

In recognizing that tissue from stranded whales could yield important information on toxin levels and effects, the Institute supports the establishment of a national tissue bank for marine mammals as provided in the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Act. OA continues to support the establishment of standardized stranding protocols in which marine mammal specimens are collected and utilized. The Institute endeavors to strengthen the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, which at present does not adequately address the issue of whale entanglement in fishing gear.

Oceans Matter
Changing Minds

Whale Video

The Ocean Alliance sees an unlimited moratorium on whaling as a long-term goal. Since nations are not legally bound to the IWC's decisions and may leave the governing body at any time, a ban on whaling will only occur through addressing the market for whale meat. Changing the market, however, means changing minds. The OA has produced many international television and large screen programs which have provided the global audience with a more comprehensive view of the value of whales. These include: