If I ever get to see a live whale, swimming freely in the ocean, it will most likely be while standing on a cliff overlooking some part of the Australian East Coast. You won't get me in a boat for the very simple reason that I enjoy my tucker and see no point in using it to burley up more fish, of the whale variety or otherwise.
Yet, I am a strong supporter of the anti-whaling fraternity. Its probably just sentimentality; after all, we kill and consume plenty of other mammals. But killing and chasing these magnificent creatures does seem completely pointless, unless, of course, you happen to sell or consume the flesh.
So, what happens if the slaughter is stopped? The most obvious is that whale numbers will stabilise and then increase. We will enjoy, with greater frequency, the sight of them moving gracefully up and down our coast and marvel at their magic. Many of us will experience more "up close and personal" moments and the enchantment that brings. Perhaps, tragically, there will be more beachings and the drama such events bring to effected communities. There will also be consequences!
Whales feed very near the bottom of the ocean food chain. Yet, they are not the only specie dependent upon this source. Put very simply, more whales mean more competition for other species. Generally, this would not be an issue as nature, if left to work its own magic, will strike a balance. However, nature is not left alone; we have not left it alone. The impact of human intervention in our ocean environment is complex and without dispute. Perhaps it is time to reduce our impact, to allow the big fish and the little fish (and all in between) to sort things out.
Seafood, as we all know, is an excellent source of protein and essential oils. Many communities around the world are heavily dependent upon harvesting the oceans as their only means of abundant protein. Many more, like we in Australia, also depend on an ocean harvest to add variety and nutritional complexity to our diet. Yet all countries, rich or poor, are finding it much more difficult to source supply. We are forced to travel further, fish deeper, take more risks to produce the plunder demanded by the market place. In the process, the food chain shrinks, species become scarce, ocean life gradually dies.
The answer to efficient seafood production, world wide, lies in the rapid development of aquaculture. "Fish farming" is a far more efficient and consistent means of producing large amounts of seafood quickly and cheaply. It has endured the developmental and experimental agonies and is now established as an important link in the human food chain. A 2002 report, presented by the ABC's Landline program, gives voice to the possibilities of this industry. There is also a large amount of aquaculture technology now available, allowing fish farming from the micro, back yard level, to large commercial enterprises. In most respects, it is no longer experimental.
Humanity demands to be fed. Yet, if we wish to save the whales, we cannot ignore the fact that we must ensure their food chain is viable. Subspecies must be allowed to survive and prosper.
Oh, by the way, we have not yet touched on climate change. The warming and acidification of the ocean may just do the job on the whales, and more, without a harpoon being fired. But, we will still, more than ever, need the protein seafood can give us. Everything is connected, after all.........."the shin bone is connected to the knee bone....is connected to the thigh bone......is connected to the hip bone....etc, etc!"