Threat: Intentional Take

What is Intentional Take?
Intentional take is the term used for the intentional killing of an animal. This can be done to obtain food and other animal products, for sport or for population control. In the case of cetaceans we can divide intentional take into whaling, hunting of small cetaceans and culling. We will discuss these in more detail below.

Hunting and Whaling
Whales, dolphins and porpoises have been hunted for centuries for meat, oil, baleen and bait but as whaling technology increased, new harpoons (1964) and floating factory ships enabled processing of whales at sea (1920s) and whaling began taking a heavy toll on the whale populations.

In response to this decline, a worldwide ban on whaling was introduced through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to prevent extinction of the great whales. This ban prevents commercial whaling but still allows for indigenous and scientific whaling. Most countries which still whale do so as an indigenous practice in which a small number of whales can be taken using indigenous methods or as scientific whaling in which the whales are killed for the purpose of research. A loophole in the ban allows for the normal processing and sale of the meat and oil from these research whales. In addition to this there are also some countries that whale commercially in open defiance of the ban.

Small cetaceans are also hunted using various methods for the purposes of food, pet food and bait. Individual nations give legal protection to these small cetaceans and some international agreements suggest and support their protection but there are still many areas where hunting continues to drive populations and even entire species to extinction.

Culling is a term used for the killing of animals to control the size of their populations. In some places, cetaceans are killed not for consumption, but in a misguided effort to “protect” a declining  fish stock. Recently, especially with the global decline in fish stocks, many pro-whalers have recommended the culling of whales, dolphins and porpoises as a necessitiy for maintaining fish population for human consumption. They believe that if cetaceans eat fish, they must be a cause of the fish decline.

This argument overlooks the fact that for years before commercial whaling, there were many more whales and the fish populations remained high, until the advent of industrial fishing. Research has shown that in 15 years of industrial fishing the fish population was reduced by 80 per cent of what it was before this industry began. In addition, many whales feed on invertebrates, other marine mammals and non-comercial fish including large predatory fish which feed on commercial species.

In some instances individual animals have become a nuisance but this is not a reason for the systematic elimination of a population. The falling fishery stocks is not the fault of feeding cetaceans but is as a result of overexploitation and poor protection for our oceans and fish species.

Intentional Take in Trinidad and Tobago
Whaling is no longer practiced in Trinidad and Tobago but it was once a thriving industry during the 18th and 19th century. There were at least 4 whale processing stations in Trinidad (one on Gasper Grande, two on Monos and one on Chacachacare) which processed mainly humpback whales. There is no record of local consumption of the meat of these whales. There is no record of whaling on Tobago.

Smaller cetaceans have been hunted by local fishermen for personal consumption or sale but this is believed to be extremely rare. Sale and consumption of cetacean meat is usually as a result of incidental catch and entanglement in nets. Presently, it is not thought that whaling and cetacean hunting is a great threat to whales and dolphins in Trinidad and Tobago.

Culling has not been known to occur in Trinidad and Tobago waters and is not seen as a potential threat to local cetaceans.

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