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El Salvador whale watching workshop

Empowering communities through responsible whale watching

Miguel Iñíguez Miguel is WDC's research fellow based in Argentina. Seeing whales and dolphins in...
Busy Japanese city

WDC in Japan – Part 6: Lessons learnt

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Help Michelin change the course

We’re working with Michelin to take whales off the menu

Julia Pix Julia Pix is WDC's head of engagement. She delivers our public campaigns and...
Baird's beaked whale © Robert Pitman

Beaked whales have culture, too

Erich Hoyt Erich is WDC's research fellow. He works to protect areas of the ocean...
Humpback whale playing with kelp

Why do humpback whales wear seaweed wigs?

Alison Wood Ali is WDC's education projects coordinator. She is the editor of Splash! and KIDZONE,...
Japanese whaling ship

WDC in Japan – Part 5: The meaning of whaling

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Risso's dolphins off the Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Unravelling the mysteries of Risso’s dolphins – WDC in action

Nicola Hodgins Nicola is WDC's cetacean science coordinator. She leads our long-term Risso's dolphin research...
Save the whale save the world on a tv in a meeting room.

Saving whales in boardrooms and on boats

Abbie Cheesman Abbie is WDC's head of strategic partnerships. She works with leading businesses to...

WDC responds to recent publication

A recent essay published by Dr. Michael Moore in ICES Journal of Marine Science, chronicles the horrendous suffering experienced by large whales which become entangled in fishing gear.  The graphic image of a dead critically endangered North Atlantic right whale that was “dissected” by gillnet gear while it was still alive, is horrific.  But the image does not adequately depict the five months of suffering the whale experienced until its agonizing, and, undoubtedly, welcomed demise.  With fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining, entanglement remains a serious threat to continued survival of this species.  Research indicates that 82.9% of North Atlantic right whales have been entangled at least once and 59% have been entangled multiple times. According to Dr. Moore, these data suggest that right whales are more frequently restrained than animals in a zoo which certainly puts this issue in perspective.  

Yet it is the perspective of comparing commercial whaling for profit (“commercial whaling”) to entanglement (“whaling by default”) that clouds these significant issues.   Dr. Moore refers to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of whaling as “the action, practice or business of catching whale.”  The fundamental premise in using this definition is to include all human related mortalities of whales under one umbrella.  A premise similar to arguments we have made to the International Whaling Commission as to why they should be addressing ship strikes and fisheries bycatch. However, Dr. Moore’s statement that “(T)he idea that individuals should judge  another nation’s motivations and methods of killing whales, struck and strikes me as being far from clear ethically”  suggests that we cannot criticize one ‘evil’, if another ‘evil’, closer to home, exists.

We should not ever excuse the fisheries by catch welfare issues, and WDC is one of the few organizations’ that has published on this issue.  We commend Dr. Moore for raising its profile in his essay but there is an order of ethical judgment. Combining directed takes (commercial and ‘scientific’ whaling) with elected takes (placing nets where we know by catch will happen) and incidental takes (accidental, where we did not perceive a risk) implies an equivalence to these issues creating a false “ethical” economy.