BY: STEFANIE PHILLIPS
What weighs nearly 36,000 kilograms, stretches over 12 metres in length, was born 30 some years ago and is white all over? If you guessed Migaloo the albino humpback whale you’re either an Australian who’s really into marine biology or you’re like me and get easily lost in the black hole that is Reddit.
Migaloo was the only documented albino humpback whale in the world, so when he’s seen splashing about in the Pacific Ocean the Internet blows up. Since he was first sighted in 1991 off Byron Bay, Queensland, Australia he’s become Australia’s most well-known whale, a website has been dedicated to the research of white whales, and even a first-person Twitter account with hilarious tweets about ocean pollution and avoiding Japanese whalers.
Migaloo was the only documented albino humpback whale in the world, Since he was first sighted in 1991 off Byron Bay, Queensland, Australia he’s become Australia’s most well-known whale.
Photo courtesy of Port Jet and Cruise Adventures.
The Japanese have been heavily involved in commercial whaling since the 20th century using harpoon guns and factory ships to hunt and kill whales for their meat. This continued until the International Whaling Commission prohibited commercial whaling in 1986. Under this commission Japan continues to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific research.” Since 1986 Japan has killed more than 8,000 whales. These whales end up filleted on dinner tables across the country.
According to Captain Sid Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, conservative estimates put the number of whales killed during the golden age of commercial killing fleets at 1,339,232. Japan was opposed to the moratorium in 1986, but then established the Institute of Cetacean Research, a bogus scientific body that claims that hunting minke whales is essential to recovering blue whale populations. They have dubbed this scientific killing “multi-species management.” This includes an annual killing quota of 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales.
Under the guise of “scientific research,” since 1986 Japan has killed more than 8000 whales for human consumption, claiming that hunting minke whales is essential to recovering Blue Whale populations. Each year 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales are also killed.
Captain Chakravarty writes, “‘Whether the operation is labelled as ‘science’ or ‘research’ and the slaughter as ‘harvesting,’ ‘management,’ ‘selective use’ or ‘utilisation of resources,’ for the whales it simply means ‘death.’”
Japan is not alone. Since 1993, Norway has killed 6,879 minke whales under objection. Just this year, Iceland also sent 1,700 tonnes of whale meat to Japan. Currently, Migaloo is protected from these whalers by groups like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd. who aggressively campaign against whaling with direct action tactics.
Up until 2011 Migaloo was believed to be the only all white whale in the world. In that year an all-white calf was spotted in the Whitsunday Islands of Australia. The calf was named MJ (Migaloo Junior) and could potentially be Migaloo’s offspring.
Photo by Jenny Dean
The sighting of an albino humpback earlier this year shows that there is hope the rare species will survive the harpoons of whalers. White Whale Research Centre founder, Oskar Peterson told the Australian Associated Press that the whale spotted was too white and too small to be Migaloo. “It was probably Migaloo Junior.”