The first traces of whaling go back to prehistoric times, but it was from the eighteenth century that they started to be massively hunted leading to the extinction of some species.

At the end of the Second World War, when the populations of large cetaceans were at their lowest levels, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created with the objective of guaranteeing the proper conservation of whale stocks while allowing the orderly development of the whaling industry. Currently the IWC brings together 88 governments from around the world.

The IWC recognises three types of whaling:

  • aboriginal subsistence whaling for people who depend on whaling for their survival without financial benefits
  • scientific whaling, which exceptionally authorises the taking of individuals for research purposes
  • commercial whaling, with quotas set at 0 since 1986, and therefore prohibited until now in the waters of member countries.

Commercial whaling is officially carried out by a few countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland in their territorial waters. Small cetaceans (mainly dolphins and pilot whales) are hunted off some countries like the Faroe Islands, Japan and the Solomon Islands.

Whaling in the Caribbean

In the waters of the Agoa Sanctuary, French law protects marine mammals. Whaling is therefore prohibited. However, on the Caribbean scale, traditional hunts are still practiced in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is recognised by the IWC as an aboriginal hunt with an imposed quota of 28 whales for the period 2019 to 2025. On the island of St. Lucia, small cetaceans are also hunted, but few figures exist concerning these catches.