Small Cetacean Hunts

Small whales, dolphins and porpoises are hunted for commercial and subsistence purposes across the globe. They are killed for human consumption, fisheries bait, and to reduce the perceived competition for fish or damage to fishing nets. Some are also captured alive to supply the aquarium industry, with frequent overlap between those involved in the killing and the live capture.

Small cetaceans also face indirect threats which may impact them cumulatively or synergistically. Such threats include bycatch (accidental capture in fishing gear), chemical and noise pollution, ship strikes, habitat destruction, over-fishing of prey species, and climate change - which can impact prey, breeding and feeding habitats and migration routes.

Many populations of small cetaceans are categorized as vulnerable or endangered. Some, like the vaquita of the Gulf of California, are critically endangered. Others have gone extinct, such as the baiji (Yangtze River dolphin) - declared extinct within the past decade. Compounding the problems faced by some species is the lack of good scientific data on their status, thus diminishing the prospects for successful recovery efforts.

While the largest slaughter of small cetaceans in the world is conducted in Japan, they are also hunted in the Faroe Islands, Solomon Islands, Greenland, Russia, Indonesia, Peru, Canada and elsewhere.

AWI recognizes that certain indigenous communities hunt small cetaceans for subsistence purposes. While we have concerns over the welfare implications of these hunts, we find those conducted for commercial gain to be particularly egregious. Although it is common for a country to have emotional attachments to various traditions considered cruel or unnecessary by outside standards, we believe that it is important to distinguish between traditions that are ethical, sustainable, and humane given the context of the modern world from those that are cruel, potentially unsustainable, and, in some cases, pose a public health hazard to unwitting humans.