October 1, 2022

Caribbean whale hunter turns whale watcher – is the end in sight for whaling everywhere?

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WhaleBy Aisling Maria Cronin From ONEGREENPLANETNEWS

Heartening news just in from the Caribbean, Green Monsters! Orson “Balaam” Ollivierre, chief whaler on the island of Bequia, the second-largest island of the Grenadines in the Eastern Caribbean, has made the decision to abandon whale hunting in favor of whale watching.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has granted St. Vincent and the Grenadines an annual subsistence quota of four humpback whales, under the premise that whaling is a long-standing cultural tradition in these islands.

However, this “subsistence quota” has been regarded as controversial because, according to Vanessa Williams-Grey of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), “whaling is not a cultural tradition for Bequia but rather was introduced in the late 19th century by Scottish settler, William Wallace, who later teamed up with French settler, Joseph Ollivierre, an ancestor of Orson.”

In addition, the hunts illegally targeted mother and calf pairs for many years, by striking a baby first in the knowledge that the mother would remain close by to assist her dying offspring – a practice forbidden under IWC regulations. Speed boats, harpoons, and exploding projectiles were also used.

Williams-Grey says: “I congratulate Orson and Gaston (Gaston Bess, another local whaler who abandoned his hunting pursuits last year) for having the courage to change their relationship with whales. My hope now is that another whaler, slaughtering fin whales thousands of miles away in Iceland, as his father did before him, may one day experience a similar epiphany.”

Following the International Court of Justice ruling that Japan’s “scientific” whaling scheme was, in fact, a thinly disguised commercial operation, it’s beginning to look as though the game is up for whaling industries all over the world – including that of Bequia.

Louise Mitchell, chairwoman of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust, says, “It was Yankee whalers who taught us (whaling) and it was the European settlers who were here who took it up. (The few remaining whalers) are holding onto it because it is a tradition. It’s a passion that they have; it’s something they are used to doing and people don’t like change.”

She adds that, “whaling did have its place in history and it was important; like in the time when we didn’t have electricity. But we have moved beyond that. I do not support it at this time in our history because it is not meeting a subsistence need any more.”

Could we be close to witnessing a gradual, yet permanent end to the worldwide whaling industry? Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

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