Whales have been hunted for their meat and oil for centuries. In the 18th and 19th century, whaling became an industry. As time went on, whaling fleets caught more whales than the animals could reproduce. By 1930, 50,000 whales were killed every year.

In the 20th century factory ships revolutionized the whaling business. Whales were caught and processed on board. Advanced technology made it possible to track whales in the water.

Whaling is important in Norway, Iceland and other countries in the northern Atlantic as well as in Japan. For many years, the International Whaling Commission set quotas for each country. In 1986, it banned whaling altogether, so that the population would recover. Norway and Iceland, countries in which whaling is a major source of income, do not obey the ban set by the International Whaling Commission, but they have set their own catch quotas. Since the ban, over 30,000 whales have been killed. Japan, on the other side, allows whaling for research purposes.  Whale meat has always been an important  part of the Japanese diet.

The IWC allows some people to continue hunting whales, for example the Inuit of the Arctic region. They rely on whale meat for food and use whale oil in everyday life.

All in all there are thirteen types of whales. Many of these species have been extremely decimated. Some are showing signs of population increase, but the blue and grey whales are still in danger of becoming extinct. There are other threats to whales as well. Some are killed through collision with ships, others by the loud noises that ocean vessels make.

Whales are important to humans for many reasons. In remote regions, whale oil is still used as fuel for lamps. It has also been widely used to make cosmetics, soap, candle wax and washing powder. For centuriesbaleen was used to make roofs. Many cultures used the mammal’s bones to make tools and carve masks.

The future of whaling is unclear. Although environmentalists are constantly campaigning against hunting whales, countries like Norway and Japan still say it is deeply rooted in their country's tradition.



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  • advanced = higher, better
  • although = while
  • baleen = the filter system in the mouth of a whale
  • ban = forbid
  • campaign = fight for something
  • candle = stick of wax with a string through the middle which you burn to give light
  • carve = cut something out of an object
  • catch quotas = the number of whales that can be caught by a country every year
  • century = a hundred years
  • collision = crash
  • constantly = always
  • decimate = reduce , become lower in number
  • diet = food
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world around us
  • extinct = die out
  • factory = place where products are made
  • fleet = group of ships
  • fuel = oil that is used to produce heat or light
  • increase = to go up
  • International Whaling Commission = organization that oversees the whale population and tries to protect whales
  • major = important
  • mammal = animal that drinks milk form its mother’s body when it is young
  • obey = follow
  • process = to make food or other products ready to be sold
  • quota =share, number that is allowed
  • recover = here: to return to normal
  • rely = depend on, need
  • remote = faraway
  • reproduce = here: to produce young whales
  • research purposes = study a problem or topic in order to find out more about it
  • revolutionize = change, modernise
  • root = here: to be a main part
  • sign = signal
  • source of income = place or activity from which you get money
  • species = group of animals or plants that are the same and can produce babies
  • threat = danger
  • track = to find out where they are
  • vessel = ship
  • whaling = the action of hunting  whales
  • widely = very much