Let Them Eat Whale

mmmm, whale burgers!The subjects of the TV show “Whale Wars” are idiots.

Chief dope among the crew of the Steve Erwin is captain Paul Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace who got kicked out for being too radical. In the show, Watson leads a band of land-lubbing sailors into battle against a fleet of Japanese whaling ships, intent on throwing enough stink bombs at them to stop their rape of the seas (this show runs on Animal Planet).

Only here’s the thing—they’re not really raping the seas. The Japanese fleet takes a total of about 935 Minke Whales and 50 Fin Whales each year. The International Whaling Commission estimated there are as many as 45,000 Fin and over a million Minke Whales in the sea (Correction below). Compare that tiny harvest to humans’ ability to decimate stocks of Atlantic Cod, Salmon, or Blue Fin Tuna, and what the Japanese are doing looks like a study in sustainable fishing.

I’m not saying it should be open season on whales just because they’re not about to go extinct—far from it. I think the IWC should continue to strictly police whaling habits. But ban it? Why bother?

“But whales are intelligent, defenseless creatures!” you say. Well, you’re right. But so are pigs and octopuses. Unfortunately those animals also taste good. So the Japanese think whale meat tastes delicious? Fine, let them eat whale. It’s their funeral.

Whale meat is essentially poison. Human activity spews tons of industrial chemicals into the sea that slowly make their way up the food chain, concentrating PCBs, DDT, mercury and other compounds in the tissue of the biggest predator. In this case, that means whale meat.

This is not news—just ask people living in the Faroe Islands. Their kids’ immune systems are shot and many have developmental disorders brought on by mercury poisoning that came from eating whale meat. That makes Japanese people just as dumb for eating the stuff as the crew of the Steve Erwin is for trying to stop them. And after mercury-laden shellfish killed thousands of Japanese people in the 1950’s and 60’s, you think they’d know better.

As for the inept sailors of the Steve Erwin (if you think I’m being harsh, watch the first episode of “Whale Wars”), ever hear of climate change? The global water crisis? Polar bears?? There are better ways to spend millions of dollars towards conservation. -Michael Reilly

Image: JapanSugoi

Correction: The IWC numbers are outdated, as my colleague Kieran Mulvaney has informed me. While no reliable numbers for these whale populations exist, a more correct figure for Minke Whales is in the neighborhood of 500,000, with a less likely possibility that they number as few as 250,000.

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