Recent news headlines have been splashed with stories of South Korea’s decision to begin issuing scientific whaling permits to its citizens. Earlier this month, South Korea publicly declared this choice; now, amid backlash, the country has indicated that it plans to reconsider.
The world over, societies have hunted whales for thousands of years. Historically, this was for the purposes of religion and survival. More recently, however, stories such as “Moby-Dick” have chronicled whaling as more a sport than a societal necessity.
In 1946, at a meeting in Washington, D.C., the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was inaugurated by nations across the globe. The purpose of the commission was to oversee and regulate whale populations, largely from the perspective of the commercial whaling industry, which had grown unsustainably large. Throughout the 20th century, however, as whale populations continued to decline, the IWC was forced to reconsider its position. In 1982, the IWC officially adopted an indefinite whaling moratorium, scheduled to go into effect in 1986. There were exceptions, however. Aboriginal societies were issued whaling permits, guaranteed as part of their cultural rights and heritage. Today, the North American Inuit population still whales for food and other heritage purposes.
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