Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. X No. 2 - April 2001

Why Whales?

Whale conservationists are sometimes asked, "Why should we care about whales?" One eloquent answer was recently stated by one of the world's leading marine mammal scientists and author of "The Year of the Whale" and other noted books, Dr. Victor B. Scheffer, now retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and residing in Bellevue, Washington. Published in the Atlantic Monthly in August 1999, his words bear repeating.

Whales are awesome. A sperm whale dives a mile deep in the sea and holds its breath for more than an hour. The blue whale (the largest mammal) outweighs the pygmy shrew (the smallest) by a factor of ninety million, yet the two have similar tissues and organs, and both, I presume, nurse their young with a certain tenderness. Whales live in families and play in the moonlight; they talk to one another in distress. They are more complete and successful in their world than we are in ours. They deserve to be known and cherished, not for their potential as meatballs but as a collective inspiration for humankind. The thought of managing them for their spiritual value alone seems far more civilized than is the thought of managing them to satisfy a tiny fraction of the world's insatiable demand for marine products of commerce.

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