photo: Kike Calvo via AP Images
One of the justifications the Japanese whaling industry gives for violating the international ban on whaling is that killing minke whales will help larger baleen whales recover. Well, a new study in Molecular Ecology, conducted by scientists from Stanford and Oregon State universities refutes that argument:More from Animal Planet: Meet the Minke Whale
The Japanese argument is that the minke whale population around Antarctica has grown unnaturally large due to larger whales in the region being over-hunted in the past.
No Direct Competition For Food
This new genetic analysis however shows that "direct competition for food is not keeping the large whale populations from recovering." The authors note that minke whale populations are roughly similar, if anything smaller, to what they were prior to early 20th century industrial whaling of larger species such as blue, humpback, sei, and fin whales.
To reach that conclusion, the researchers examined 52 samples of whale meat purchased in Japanese markets to determine the genetic diversity of the population.
Reasons Need More Study
Speculating on reasons why direct competition for food between minke whales and their larger cousins does not appearing to be occurring, the scientists said it is possible that minkes don't feed on krill at the same times as larger baleen whales.
Here's the original: Are Antarctic minke whales unusually abundant because of 20th century whaling? [PDF]
And some background video on whaling and how the scientists did their genetic analysis:
Japan Kills Sea Shepherd Anti-Whaling Shop. For Scientific Research?
Australia Tells Japan to End Whaling or Face Legal Action. Rest of World Rolls Eyes.
Whaling 'Peace Talks' Stalled, Japan Won't Cut Its Hunt Quotas Deep Enough