Imagine ... a whale. A sei whale, her body something between blue and steely grey. Along her head, a single ridge runs from the tip of her nose to two blowholes and set high on her back is a sickle-shaped dorsal fin. At 15 metres and 29 tons, she eclipses her male counterparts in size. Since us humans like giving living beings names, let’s call her Grace.
Despite her gigantic body, she’s gracefully swimming through the waters of Hokkaido, Japan. When she is not feeding, Grace can be quite playful, and a pretty fast mover when she wants to be. Sadly, Grace's population was severely depleted by commercial hunting and Grace and her fellow sei whales are endangered.
Suddenly, a loud noise and a sharp pain, as a grenade-tipped harpoon pierces her skin, enters her body and explodes inside her. Her precious, free life ends in unimaginable agony, another giant of the ocean no more. Grace is gone.
This actually happened.
And it didn’t happen long ago.
It happened 35 years after the world agreed the International Whaling Moratorium and introduced a ban on the killing of whales for commercial gain.
It happened last month, on the 8th November 2021.
And it was proudly announced by Kyodo Senpaku, a Japanese whaling company.
No whale should face a harpoon. Please make a donation to help us save whales like Grace.
As 2021 draws to a close, it not only marks the end of a troubled year for all of us affected by the pandemic, it is also the end of a bad year for the hundreds of whales, who died on the harpoons of commercial whalers in Norway and Japan, and the families they left behind. And it’s the third year that Japan has hunted whales outside the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the body that regulates whaling).
While Norway ended its whale slaughter season with a record death toll of 575 minke whales slaughtered, Japanese whalers were celebrating the killing and sale of endangered sei whales, amongst other species. The governments of both countries seemingly eager to make a mockery of worldwide efforts to protect and conserve the remaining giants of our planet’s ocean.
Between June and November of this year alone, Japanese whalers killed 187 Bryde's whales and 25 sei whales and well over 100 minke whales.
Despite falling demand and very little interest in consuming whale meat, the whaling industry in both Norway and Japan is trying hard to reignite the appetite of citizens (and tourists) in both countries in order to make big money. Japan’s whaling proponents are looking to replace the aging industrial whaling ship Nisshin Maru – a floating slaughterhouse – with a more modern and even more effective killing tool.
Kyodo Senpaku was proud to announce that for the first time since commercial whaling resumed in July 2019, the Nisshin Maru landed raw sei whale meat – Grace’s flesh - which was auctioned at the Shimonoseki fish market to be sold in shops and restaurants in the city.
What is particularly painful for me is that this happening in a year when people all over the world came together at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to find solutions for the climate and species extinction crises that affect every single being on the planet. It also is the year that WDC launched our Green Whale project to help tell people about whales as climate giants, our partners in fighting climate catastrophe and key to ocean biodiversity.
Grace the sei whale should have lived a long, wild and free life. She should have kept playing a very important role in our lives, bringing nutrients to a surface forest of floating phytoplankton which provides around half our oxygen, stores most of the ocean’s carbon, and is the base for fish populations. Grace should have continued to help the ocean produce oxygen, fight climate change, and sustain fish populations. She deserved to live a long and rich life and no human has the right to take that from her.
Grace might have lived more than 60 years, might have had many children and grandchildren, enriching the ocean and our world. Instead, she was killed so that raw sei whale meat sashimi and carpaccio could be served at a ‘tasting party’. To quote the president of Kyodo Senpaku: ‘We want to increase the demand and raise the wholesale price by letting everyone know the high nutritional value and deliciousness of raw whale meat.’
For the coming year, Japan’s Fisheries Agency has set a new kill quota of 349 whales – permitting the harpooning of 25 sei whales, 187 Bryde’s and 137 minke whales.
In memory of Grace and the millions of other whales who have lost their precious lives to human greed, we will keep fighting - for their sake, and for ours. Even whalers need live whales. Their lives and the future of our planet depend on it. It is time to accept that and just stop killing them.
Please help us stop the killing
Your gift, large or small, will help us fight for the lives of whales like Grace.