Accepted Paper:

Whale watching: trouble on the small whaling island of Bequia  

Author:

Hisashi Hamaguchi (Sonoda Women's College)

Paper short abstract:

The harvesting of humpback whales by Bequians has been approved by the IWC as a form of "aboriginal subsistence whaling" since 1987. But, in 2012 an NGO launched a pro-whale watching campaign. In this presentation, I would like to take up the problems that the movement has brought about.

Paper long abstract:

The small Caribbean island of Bequia has a history of whaling dating back to 1895, and the harvesting of humpback whales by Bequians has been approved by the International Whaling Commission as a form of "aboriginal subsistence whaling" since 1987. This recognition permits a catch quota of 24 whales for the 2013-2018 whaling seasons. As of 2012, twelve whalers were engaged in whaling with two whaling boats in operation. The regular use and consumption of whale products such as meat and blubber constitute a key component of Bequian culture, and whale products are of economic and nutritional significance to the Bequians.

However, in 2012 an NGO launched an anti-whaling campaign targeting the island, with the ultimate aim to convert whaling into whale watching. To this end, the organization has recruited a former whaler to persuade active whalers to stop whaling, and also took a harpooner to Australia to introduce him to whale watching. The NGO's leader is a lawyer and the daughter of the former prime minister, and she has successfully used her connections and eloquence to gradually build the organization's influence in Bequia.

In this presentation, I would like to discuss the problems that the pro-whale watching movement has brought about. It has created a rift among the whalers and strained relations between two whaling communities. To prevent this movement from spreading on the island, we must advocate the cultural significance of whaling to the people of Bequia.

Panel P003
Anthropology of whaling issues: the present and future of whaling cultures (NME panel)