Whales off the coast of De Hoop in the Western Cape.
Whales off the coast of De Hoop in the Western Cape.
A buoy boat, used in whaling in the 1950s, as depicted on a postcard.
A buoy boat, used in whaling in the 1950s, as depicted on a postcard.
DURBAN - Today whales fill our television screens, entertain us with their graceful movements, allow us to hear their conversations, while scientists delve into their different languages. Whales are a delight. Alas we are only too aware of their plight, and their inability to avoid ships and our plastic oceans. Man is failing the whale.

Suddenly we hear the appalling news that Japan is to resume the killing of whales. This is despite global pleas in print media and by TV documentaries by well-known conservationist David Attenborough.

Referring to the Japanese resumption of commercial whaling, the practice appears contrary to its supposed sensitivity towards nature. Is this truly a renewal for research, or is Japan loading its harpoons just to satisfy the demands of wealthy Japanese who want nothing more than to devour whale steaks?

Blue whales are now being decimated by large ships along the Sri Lankan trading coastline where the government, backed by Chinese investors at the ports of Colombo and Hambantota, are failing to extend the busy shipping lane by a mere 15km, which would protect the whales, according to a report in Britain's The Times.

During the five years between 1952 and 1957, 38 students from the University of Natal went south to the Antarctic on the Abraham Larsen factory ship. In 1955 at the age of 21, I was employed for four months by the Union Whaling Co as a bone puller.

Although not “Searching for the spirit of Moby Dick”, as reported in The Mercury on March 8 by Catherine and Michael Greenham, we experienced the beauty and spectacle of the environment, all of which enabled us to distance ourselves from the overpowering sights and smells of bloody decks and gore, all in search of valuable whale oil.

A buoy boat, used in whaling in the 1950s, as depicted on a postcard.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) seemed as ineffectual then as it does today.

An IWC inspector was on board but was seldom seen, and often pregnant whales were shot, as evidenced by 1m-to-4m-long foetuses on deck - still a vivid memory. We need to get furious about the killings.

Perhaps when whales, elephants, rhinos and other threatened and diminishing species are no longer with us, man will realise the price paid by future generations for contemporary mercenary, selfish behaviour. Conservationists, marine scientists and environmental managers, together with governments, need to act now, despite the fact that it may be far too late.

THE MERCURY