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Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

A story about whales and humans

As well as working for WDC, I write books for young people. Stories; about the...
Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...

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.