My two daughters and I went whale watching at Ucluelet, British Columbia, years ago. What a totally thrilling experience for all three of us. After we had calmed our sea sickness, the real majesty of the scenery took our breath away. Majestic mountains, an eagle scoring a fish just off our boat, seals; and, just when we thought it couldn't get any better - the whales appeared.
It soon became apparent that these vast behemoths could flip our boat with a flick of their tails; but, they swam under us without paying any attention to us at all. It was humbling; and, we still talk about it.
Tourism can be a great way to reconnect with nature and remember why you care so much about preserving it. However, tourism can also illustrate instances of blatant irresponsibility. Shockingly, in Iceland the problem goes far beyond irresponsibility, it's downright brutal.
Last week marked the launch of Whale Watching With Whalers, a four-hour tour which allows tourists not only to come along to watch minke whales being harpooned; but, then to sample the grilled whale afterwards.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) reports that today it's the tourists in Iceland that are consuming much of the whale meat. In fact, 35% - 40% of minke whale meat is eaten by tourists.
According to the organization, tourists are propping up the commercial whaling industry:
For [tourists] it's probably just one of those things they 'have' to try while they're over there; when in Rome, and all that... the irony is that fewer and fewer residents of the country are choosing to eat whale meat now.And most recently came the launch of Whale Watching With Whalers. According to Whaler, this is what the trip entails:
be on a whaling vesselYee! Gods!
- see and hear shot from our harpoon
- taste our grilled and raw whalemeat
- see minke whale and other commonly seen whales
- see our showroom, witch (sic) takes you through the history of whaling in Iceland
- see internal organs of the minke whale
- expert live guides
The idea that anyone would want to see such a gruesome, painful, bloody travesty is mind boggling. These are gorgeous, intelligent, gentle animals inhumanely hunted and killed for our viewing pleasure. (Unfortunately, the species that would do the planet the most good by becoming seriously endangered is the one that's flourishing the most - man.)
What's worse, whale meat is showing up on more and more plates in Iceland. Today over 100 restaurants in Iceland serve it up.
Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales and the only one that can leap all the way out of the water and reenter like a dolphin. Their numbers are 149,000 in the North Atlantic, 25,000 in the northwest Pacific and Okhotsk sea but there is no clear listing of their numbers in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the International Whaling Commission.