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Fishing the Pacific Ocean – Whaling

The Pacific Ocean is so large that it is home to virtually every species of fish. Different sea temperatures in different parts of the Ocean has resulted in the waters being able to provide a home to so many different types of fish. This large expanse of fish has also made a valuable food source to many different populations who live in the region. Initially this was not a problem as supplies of the fish were so vast that natural replacement should easily replenish any lost stock.

However the real problems have occurred where commercial fishing boats have targeted the largest species at the top of the food chain. As in every food chain there are a few primate species at the top of the chain and the lower one goes down the number of the smaller species increase in numbers.

Commercial whaling in action

In the case of the Pacific Ocean the primate and largest species are the whales. Whales are found in every Ocean and many in the Pacific region have been fished to the verge of extinction. As soon as man found a method to successfully hunt these huge animals they went after them with a vengeance. Ever since the story of Moby Dick was written by Herman Melville in 1851, people have had a variety of opinions on whalers, the people who hunt the whales. At first they were seen as being heroic as these men in flimsy boats tried in vain to harpoon these huge creatures. As time has progressed and man has used technology to hunt the species to the edge of extinction, the whaler’s reputations have suffered.

The economic return on a whale is huge with restaurants paying vast sums of money. On average a whale today is worth around 50,000 US dollars, and the Japanese in particular have fished the mammal for 100’s of years with it now being part of the country’s culture to eat it.

The North Pacific Right Whale

Since 1986 there has been an international ban on the commercial hunting of Whales. Japan has got around this by hunting the whale for research purposes. The Japanese whalers now have to travel far away from their own waters in research of whales as their own waters have suffered from the mammals disappearing from them. The North Pacific Right Whale is one of the Ocean’s most threatened species with numbers estimated being at an all-time low of 60 surviving today. This is in contrast to the 20,000 that used to survive in the waters of the northern Pacific. The Japanese used to fish these whale as they would often stray into their waters.

However, large scale commercial fishing by American and Russian fleets in particular have drastically reduced the numbers, so the fishing of the species is banned. Here lies a major problem as the rest of the world is now stopping Japan from farming a cultural food. Yet the problems have been caused by other nations who are now lead the international condemnation of Japan for continuing to hunt Whales.

Only 4% of the current Japanese population eat whale meat yet 60% of people claim that their nation should be allowed to do so if they wish. People in the country feel that it is important for the Japanese keep their cultural identity and not be bullied by the rest of the world.

In reality the perfect scenario would be that whale numbers could return to the numbers that the Ocean’s natural ecosystem once allowed. If this were the case then a sensible amount of fishing could be allowed for those indigenous communities of the region to feed upon. This perfect scenario however, seems virtually impossible to attain.

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