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Harpoon type whaling coming to an end

Harpoon type whaling coming to an end


Tue May 13, 2014

Editor: The harpoon type whaling in Bequia is coming to an end and its demise has attracted international attention, so much so that the widely circulated Miami Herald newspaper has carried a lead story comprising two pages under banner head- line “last of the Whalers,” with a photograph of Kingsley Stowe, a whaler with a harpoon.{{more}}

Whaling was once a big and profitable business in Bequia, and supported at least a dozen whale boats, but that was before quotas and broad bans on commercial whaling. Now the quota system only allows four whales during the four month season, but during the past years, the whalers were not successful in their endeavours to catch whales. “It’s like carnival when you catch a whale,” Stowe told the Herald.

Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell has joined whalers in his homeland and environmentalists and marine mammal scientists, and is pushing for St Vincent and the Grenadines to replace whale hunting with whale watching. The Mitchell administration was the first to vote with pro-whaling Japan at the International Whaling Commission. Its move brought financial benefits which boosted the fishing industry.

The newspaper reported that Mitchell said that after three decades and technological advances, he has had a change of heart, like former whaler, Gaston Bess and many others, from killing to conservation. He added that “the situation has changed. We no longer go out with the sailing boats to go after the whales. We no longer use pieces of mirror to signal where the whales were from hill to hill…. cell phones and speedboats are now used.”

Australia had led a four-year legal campaign against Japan’s slaughter of about 1,000 whales a year in the southern ocean under the guise of scientific research.

The Olivierre family was engaged in the Moby Dick harpooning for more than 100 years and Orson Olivierre harpooned his final whale last year, a 40-foot humpback. He said his children were not interested in whaling and that he has sold his boat “Rescue”, harpoon and other supplies to the National Trust.. Goodbye, whaling, he declared.

Whaling was introduced in Bequia in1875 by a Scottish settler, William Wallace, who had worked on American whaling ships.

Oscar Ramjeet