2010 06 28- Our Bermuda humpbacks could be killed in their feeding grounds in Greenland Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   


About half of the 350+ individual humpback whale fluke ids we have made in four years of 'our' Bermuda whales are 'unmatched', whales that have never been photographed before. Many of these whales could be younger whales that have not yet had a photographer identify their flukes. An additional scenario is that 'our' whales are travelling to sparsly populated areas to feed, like the Davis Strait between Labrador and western Greenland. Now the International Whaling Commission has given the Indigenous people of Greenland the right to kill 'our' humpbacks, the same humpbacks that migrate past Bermuda on their way north each spring. There is nothing 'traditional' to the killing of humpbacks by indigenous peoples who use modern, motorised vessels and high-powered rifles to slaughter whales. Whale meat and whale oil were once neccesary for survival for indigenous populations living at the edge of civilisation. But these so-called 'traditional' communities now have Internet, satellite television, McDonalds, pizzerias, supermatkets, automobiles, skidoos and other aspects of modern life. It was once the tradition of Western societies to have slaves, humans that were deemed less 'human' than their Western counterparts. It would be abhorrent to allow segments of human society to continue to have slaves to protect their traditions. To allow the killing of these marine mammals in modern times purely for their meat, or to 'preserve' the remnants of indigenous traditions is nonsense and panders to political pressures. On a purely economic basis, these whales are important to Bermuda's whale watching tourism industry. Not only will hunting these whales damage our tourism industry, they seriously compromise the research we conduct on the whales' lives.  But at another level, there is a moral issue attached to the killing of any whale, marine mammals with the intelligence, familial ties and cultural depths that match humans' social lives. It is a sad statement on humanity if the only traditions that these so-called traditional societies can cling to is the killing of magnificent creatures whose lives are far grander and more complex than modern day indigenous people's lives. It is equally a poor reflection on our societies that we continue to endorse the hunting of whales by any community, indigenous or not.   Andrew

AGADIR, Morocco - Indigenous people of Greenland won a long battle Friday to extend their annual whale hunt to humpbacks, overriding objections from conservation-minded members of the International Whaling Commission.

The decision came at the end of a contentious five-day meeting that failed to resolve a larger dispute: a proposal to suspend a quarter-century ban on commercial whaling in exchange for a promise by the three whaling countries - Japan, Norway and Iceland - to reduce the numbers they kill in defiance of the ban.

The commission decided on a one-year "pause" in negotiations on the moratorium.


Greenlanders, like indigenous people from three other countries, are granted the right to hunt for food and to maintain traditional cultures, but only under strict quotas that are reviewed every five years.

They have been allowed to kill more than 200 of the common minke whale, but also 19 of the endangered fin whale. About half of Greenland's 60,000 people are indigenous to the icebound island.

Opponents objected to expanding the list of allowed species and to potential damage to the whale-watching industry in the Caribbean, where the humpbacks roam.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society condemned the decision, saying some of the whale meat ends up on supermarket shelves. A 2008 investigation showed about one-fourth of the whales the Greenlanders caught were sold on the market in violation of the commission's rules.

In a departure from normal procedure, the mayor of a small town in the northernmost area of Alaska made an emotional appeal to the commission to lift his people from "the constant uncertainty" of the periodic renewals.

"We the Inuit are the original conservationists and have sustainably hunted the bowhead whale for over 2,000 years," said Edward Itta. "Our relationship to the bowhead whale is at the very core of our culture. It is who we are, physically, spiritually and as a community."

U.S. Whaling Commissioner Monica Medina complained in a statement Thursday that the quotas for indigenous people "continue to be used as a bargaining chip by both pro- and anti-whaling governments seeking something in return."