Japanese Whalers Are Clear Cutting the “Forests” of the Southern Ocean
An Environmental Article from All-Creatures.org
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Intelligence willfully destroyed to read books
Moby Dick read by the light of burning whales,
Without a thought, blind to the connections
By death’s bright light, is read another book
Thou shalt not kill is one of the lying tales.
We define what is right by biased selections
By Captain Paul Watson in Planet of Whales
The Antarctic Treaty clearly prohibits any activity the damages the
Antarctic marine and atmospheric eco-systems.
The slaughter of whales by the Japanese whalers is not only a violation of
the Treaty that prohibits commercial activity, it is also a factor in
releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere by removing whales as
significant repositories of carbon.
And thus Japanese whaling is an activity that Japan should be factoring in
on their calculations for greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the
The whales are to the ocean what trees are to the land, both whales and
trees store carbon by the ton.
Last week at an Ocean Science meeting held in Portland, Maine, scientists
revealed their estimates of carbon released by whaling.
In nature, when whales die, the carbon in their bodies is sequestered in the
deep ocean. Whaling by humans however releases that carbon into the
atmosphere. According to scientists the last century of commercial whaling
has released some 100 million tons of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to a recent news article in the BBC:
Dr. Andrew Pershing from the University of Maine described whales as the
"forests of the ocean."
Dr. Pershing and his colleagues from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute
calculated the annual carbon-storing capacity of whales as they grew.
"Whales, like any animal or plant on the planet, are made out of a lot of
carbon," he said. “And when you kill and remove a whale from the ocean,
that's removing carbon from this storage system and sending it into the
He pointed out that, particularly in the early days of whaling, the animals
were a source of lamp oil, which was burned, releasing the carbon directly
into the air.
"And this marine system is unique because when whales die [naturally], their
bodies sink, so they take that carbon down to the bottom of the ocean. "If
they die where it's deep enough, it will be [stored] out of the atmosphere
perhaps for hundreds of years."
In their initial calculations, the scientists calculated that 100 years of
whaling had released an amount of carbon equivalent to burning 130,000 sq km
of temperate forests, or to driving 128,000 Humvees continuously for 100
Dr. Pershing stressed that this was still a relatively tiny amount when
compared to the billions of tons produced by human activity every year. He
said that whales undertook an important role in storing and transporting
carbon in the marine ecosystem.
Simply leaving large groups of whales to grow, Pershing said, could
"sequester" the greenhouse gas, in amounts that were comparable to some of
the reforestation schemes that earn and sell carbon credits.
In addition, according to the BBC:
He suggested that a similar system of carbon credits could be applied to
whales in order to protect and rebuild their stocks.
"The idea would be to do a full accounting of how much carbon you could
store in a fully populated stock of fish or whales, and allow countries to
sell their fish quota as carbon credits," he explained.
"You could use those credits as an incentive to reduce the fishing pressure
or to promote the conservation of some of these species."
Other scientists said that he had raised an exciting and interesting
Professor Daniel Costa, a marine animal researcher from the University of
California, Santa Cruz, told BBC News: "So many more groups are looking at
the importance of these large animals in the carbon cycle.
"And it's one of those things that, when you look at it, you think: ' This
is so obvious, why didn't we think of this before?’”
Dr. Pershing pointed out that whales, with their huge size, were more
efficient than smaller animals at storing carbon. He said that the marine
carbon credit idea could be applied to other very large marine animals,
including endangered Bluefin tuna and white sharks.
Dr Pershing said, "These are huge and they are top predators, so unless
they're fished they would be likely to take their biomass to the bottom of
the ocean when they die."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society should receive carbon credits for
every whale we prevented from being killed this year and over the past five
Not only is saving whales a good thing for the whales, it’s also a good
thing for the planet and ultimately that means it’s a good thing for
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