Greenland Begins Whale Hunt, Illegally

Photo by Whit Welles, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Humpback whales, who’ve been absent from Greenland waters for 60 years and are only now beginning to find their way back, will be rewarded for their recovery with harpoons. That’s because the IWC has granted Greenland an aboriginal quota to kill 27 humpback whales starting in October. But the hunters aren’t waiting for the season to start, as BlueVoice director Hardy Jones reports at the Huffington Post:

“[From the air] an hour out of Keflavik, I realized the humpbacks that have now become targets of the hunt were swimming a mere vertical mile below me. I had come to know this stock of whales in the Caribbean at Samana Bay and out on the Silver Banks. They were extraordinarily friendly toward me as I filmed them underwater. We looked at each other eye-to-eye, each knowing the other was aware of the other. The idea of their being harpooned is appalling to me. Along most of their migratory route off the eastern seaboard of the United States, the humpbacks are protected. In response to protection, they’ve become increasingly friendly and curious toward the whale watchers who now are part of a multimillion dollar business for charter boat owners, hotels, restaurants and transport companies. They approach boats and eyeball passengers with astonishing trust. That trust will now be rewarded by a harpoon.”

I also know these humpback whales and, like Hardy, I cringe at the thought that emerging relationships based on years of hard-won trust are about to be destroyed, certainly for the remainder of my lifetime, and at the cost of the whales’ lives.

Aboriginal hunts of marine mammals provide food for people who eat outside a cash economy. But as Hardy discovered in Nuuk, some Greenlanders aren’t honoring the noncommercial terms of the IWC that allow them to kill for themselves but not for sale. Without having to look far, Hardy found whale meat for easy, open sale in markets and restaurants.

“In the supermarket I found packaged whale meat. In a Thai restaurant I found whale sushi and whale and Rangoon Whiskey soup. In a greasy spoon burger/pizza joint I found whale steak. The Inuit of Greenland complain that they do not have enough whale to sustain themselves. They may be having a hard time getting whale meat because the big money guys are sucking it all up for the more lucrative commercial trade.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest