Recently I was watching a lot of the series 'Whale Wars'. Its about the people of the eco-conservation group Sea Shepherd who interfere with whaling operations on the Southern oceans as a means to save the dwindling whale population.
Although a moratorium on commercial whaling operation took effect in 1985, it does allow whaling for scientific and research purposes. When the reasearch turns lethal for the whale, parts and meat is allowed to be sold in markets, shops and restaurants. Now there's a lot of controversy riding on this since it is said that this research stuff is just a loophole commerical whalers use to get around the moratorium.
Now I don't want to get into a rut about who is morally right or wrong in the commercial whaling ban. I want to get into the source why they are being hunted in the first place.
There are a lot research materials in the web about the history of whaling in Japan and other countries, but I want to get the reason on a casual, bottomline level; the need for people to consume whale meat.
Although my correspondence with some Japanese about their whale meat consumption habits are incomplete and couldn't be used as a statistical basis. It does, however, raise a bit of awareness about the situation.
Before the ban on commericial whaling, whale meat is normally available anywhere anytime, recalls one of my correspondence. The taste and texture of whale meat, to my surprise, is likened to that of beef. Since beef and pork are really expensive in those days, whale meat meets the standards as a replacement out of the daily grind of fishes and vegetables. She recalls whale meat to be really delicious and tender. But she also tells me that the ban doesn't bother her since there is still a lot of other things one can use for sustainance.
But she also notes that there is a change in the eating habits of today's young Japanese. Although she belong to the generation that normally consumes whale meat, the one born after the whaling ban are the people that now grow up not knowing what it tastes like, therefore refuses consumption of that particular meat product..
The way I see it, its an issue that is varied as the nations that participate in whaling. Although a lot of pressure was made on the Japanese, which ultimately led to a revamp of their lifestyle and eating habits, there are still a lot of countries out there where whaling is not banned while nothing happens to them, leaving some Japanese fishers and whalers to believe that they are being singled out.
This issue is not something you can solve with sustainable means like farming or livestock raising...whales are big. They need large spaces to move around, feed on, and reproduce. All they can do is give the species time to regenerate and recover. With around 17,000+ left around the world, catching a quota of 1,000 or 2,000+ per season ain't gonna help either.
Its a sensitive matter between a nation's culinary identity and the global conservation mindset.
A bit of a conundrum indeed.