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Nature

Canada Ignores Rescue Option, Kills 500 Endangered Narwhals

The Canadian government opted last week to allow the killing 500 narwhals trapped beneath ice rather than calling in icebreakers to free the animals, claiming the process would have been too stressful for the whales.

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Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and star of Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, wrote a lengthy condemnation of the Canadian government’s decision. He noted that the government provides millions to fund ice-breaking for the annual baby seal hunt, but rejected the idea when proposed in order to save the whales.

Canada allowed Inuit hunters to shoot the whales as they swam one-by-one to the one hole in the ice where they could come up for air. If minimizing stress was the goal, they miserably failed.

Watson believes the decision was made purely for economic reasons: breaking ice costs money, while killing narwhals makes money.

“Where Canada could have delivered the gift of life, they have instead unleashed a torrent of violence that has spewed the hottest of blood into the frigid seas of the high north,” wrote Watson, who is a Canadian citizen.

“Narwhal tusks sell for thousands of dollars and this bonanza was 4 times [the Inuits’] allowed ‘legal’ kill. This was an opportunity to put hundreds of valuable ‘unicorn horns’ on the market and to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the economy of the far North,” he continued. “Every Canadian should hang their head in shame at this atrocious environmental crime.”

Correction: Narwhals are in fact merely a threatened species, not endangered. However, there appear to be around 45,000 still in existence, meaning this killing spree wiped out a large chunk of the population. Narwhals also happen to be considered the animal most threatened by climate change, even more so than polar bears. It is also worth noting that the number of narwhals killed in this incident is actually now approaching 600.

Photo Credit: Glenn Williams on WikiMedia Commons under Creative Commons license.




59 comments
  1. Colin

    this is amazingly stupid, their animals and I love them bt what I think is stupid is how you people think its fine that some 600 whales can be killed by people but if a person killed 600 people it would be soooo horrible we have to kill whoever did it :@ like fuk u then honestly its really sad
    EVERYTHING IN THIS PLANET THINKS,FEELS,AND LEARNS
    but obvioulsy we have a few who just cant see than *sigh* :'(

  2. Amber

    You fucking asswipes,you think you can just go ‘kill them all!’ don’t you, you sll make me sick. Narwhals are an awesme animal. Yet you have the guts to say ‘eh, kill them all,’ It’s that kind af crap that is making the entire world go down the drain. It’s your fault that so many animals are endagered, I pay the organizations that help that, I recycle, I try to be pollution efficent. But the rest of us are turning into monsters and start throwing chairs. You should be ashamed of the human race.

  3. David Ruffieux

    L’abattage de quelques 600 narvals pris dans les glaces à Pond Inlet au Nunavut à de quoi soulever le cœur des écologistes.

    La première question qu’on doit se poser est celle-ci : a-t-on tout fait pour tenter de sauver ces animaux ? Ces narvals étaient dans une situation de détresse de laquelle ils ne pouvaient s’échapper, nous dit-on. La mort de faim ou d’asphyxie dans les glaces en formation était-elle inexorable ? Dans un pays qui compte de puissants brise-glaces et comptant sur l’aide des Inuits, si soucieux du bien-être des animaux, on s’attendait à un autre spectacle ; celui de la délivrance et de la vie. Et bien non.

    Le Canada aura encore brillé par sa magistrale cruauté envers la faune sauvage. Dans un pays, dont le gouvernement conservateur fait l’apologie de la chasse commerciale jusqu’au cœur même de l’Europe, et utilise l’argent public dans des proportions intolérables pour subventionner cette chasse, la vie de ces quelques narvals comptait bien peu. Mr. Harper, que notre malheur commun a reconduit au pouvoir, et les hauts fonctionnaires du Département des Pêches et Océans feront preuve encore d’un manque de compassion affligeant. Non contents d’avoir gagner des votes chez les Inuits, dont la culture, invariablement, semble nécessiter la mort de mammifères marins, des ministres fédéraux sortent de leurs igloos, pour critiquer les propos excessifs de Paul Watson. Le Président de la Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, dont on réclame sa destitution, est un habitué des formules chocs et réitère ses exploits médiatiques en assimilant la tuerie des narvals à Pond Inlet, au massacre de My Lai, lorsque des soldats américains massacrèrent les habitants de tout un village, durant la guerre du Vietnam.

    Paul Watson pouvait compter sur la réaction d’un ministère rompu aux manipulations de masse, et aux techniques d’intimidations, qui feignant l’indignation, pousse le ridicule jusqu’à demander des excuses pour des commentaires de nature « blessante » envers la culture Inuit. Watson sortira toujours vainqueur face à une institution de contrôle des pêches, qui ne perd jamais une occasion de se tourner en ridicule. Ayant les intérêts des chasseurs à cœur, quoiqu’il en coûte à l’image du Canada, une image déjà bien ternie par ces amoncellements ensanglantés de peaux de phoques, comment pouvons-nous respecter un gouvernement conservateur et des institutions qui détruisent la faune sauvage et saccage l’environnement avec une telle indifférence et une telle férocité.

    Que le narval ne soit pas une espèce en voie de disparition pour mériter qu’on lui vienne en aide, est un argument fallacieux, qui traduit autant le manque de réflexion des uns que le manque de compassion des autres. Il serait bien de se rappeler qu’au Canada, il n’est pas trop tard pour protéger la faune et l’environnement et pour mettre un terme à l’arrogance de Mr. Harper et de son agence fédérale de destruction massive.

  4. jamie

    okay please read this it is something that everybody should read,consider and comment on……im canadian but if you lived in baffin islands they kill narwhals every year its just like killing cow’s to get steak or beff this is how they live how they survive the narwhals would have died any ways i agree that we could have sent in boats to break the ice but the narwhals would have gotten so scared they could have gotten heart attakes its a die die situation it’s life….i know that narwhals are almost endangered but you cant always blame us its global warming too!and then to say were “mad for losing wars and stuff so we take it out on animals thats Canada for you” that is not something you should say because you americans have had just as many faults as us but this is the food chain stuff like this happens…….now that you have read this i would like to tell you that i live in Ontario and i am 12 the only reasone I used my mothers acount to do this is because 1)my mom said i could 2)because is the things you amaricans said about us isn’t all that nice when the people on Baffin islands are just trying to live you should try to look into it and i am not EMBARASSED at all to be Canadian so nobody should be!

  5. Horst9

    Web Warlock’s comments seem to sum up Mr. Watson’s normal approach to logic versus hysteria. Having had some personal experience with Mr Watson during my ‘Sea Shepherd-guns or no guns-meet me in Panama-Washington Post Abbot or Costello period, I concluded that very often the truth is also trapped under the ice.
    How often have misguided whales actually asked or followed our directions?

  6. Nuclear waste

    I understand what you all are saying, but what are you proposing? More nuclear plants? I understand that wind power can create a lot of power, and would like to see it implemented, but please don’t forget about the risks of nuclear power plants. What will future generations do with all this nuclear waste that we are disposing of that is suppose to be safe? Will they love us or hate us for getting rid of coal? I know that you are blind and that you only think the way you do, but please open your eyes. Again, I am one that would love to see more wind power and other forms of alternative energy, but I don’t close my eyes to the facts that they will also have drawbacks. Ridding our world of coal will not rid the world of all evil. As long as humans inhabit the planet we will be destroying something.

    For instance, I bring up the proposed wind power (which I find to be amazing), what happens to the environment when they leak (the necessary fluid to make them produce electricity)?

    What about battery powered vehicles, what are we going to do to dispose of all those batteries that will eventually be beyond useful or obsolete (nothing man makes lasts forever)?

    What about being a vegetarian. Aren’t we destroying another life form?

    What about partial birth abortion, if that baby was wanted then it’s ok, but if it’s not then it’s ok to shove the scissors in it’s brain and kill it.

    You see, as long as we inhabit this earth we will be taking advantage of something.

  7. Sharon

    I love the mentality of some folks.

    “they were gunna die anyway”, “thats life, cows die too. get on with it”

    You demean others posts, where they show empathy and caring, and strong moral values.

    Two wrongs dont make a right, and im glad your self serving attitudes are a minority.
    How sad you are…

    Canada spends millions on ice breakers so the sealers can slaughter seals.
    But cant justify the money to save something.

    Its an indicator of the canadian governments priorities, and obviously profit wins over the environment and threatened species.
    How sad.

  8. wickednwise

    LOLatcanada….because of a stupid decision on the part of the government, does not mean the majority of canadians support this!!!! It disgusts a great many of us, do not judge us by our government decisions, they are not MINE

  9. screwhippies

    If humans led the narwhals to the ice where they would be trapped, then I would side with your cause. However, believing that we have the moral obligation to save a bunch of whales who accidentally got themselves trapped is ridiculous. There is a thin line between being eco-friendly, and being an eco-snob. We do have a duty to the environment. We do not have the duty to intervene with nature. And on a side note, assuming 700 narwhals died, it only accounts for 1.6% of the population that was doomed to die. A large chunk for you maybe, but not for some.

  10. Paul

    It’s ridiculous that individuals would spend thousands of dollars to save their cats and dogs from tumors or other problems that require expensive surgeries. It is OK, because the poor animals belong to them. Who do the Norwahls belong to that we just sentence them to death, no one? Or is it of a less natural cause that they got trapped. If mankind is already killing thousands of animals in slaughterhouses to feed on, why do we need to allow for more killing if there was a way to save them. The icebreaker could have been loaded up with beef steaks instead and bring them over to the folks up north and save the whales on the way. 🙂 Why not?

  11. angelica weihs

    To your comments: Since when is killing “natural selection”? They would have died from breaking the ice? They would run away from the noise? How did the killers get to kill them then?

    1. Abbie

      Their so called “swords” are actually tusks or an extra large tooth and they are ultra sensitive. They aren’t even used to hunt. They contain 10 million nerves that can tell temperature change and more things. So stop being an ass and get your damn facts straight

  12. angelica weihs

    It’s really enough!! The Canadians continue their cruel Seal clubbing against years of public outcry world wide, now they shot 500 red listed narwhals!!!! in a move of convenience and again – greed. To all business owners and consumers: Let’s finally boycott not only Canadian sea food but all Canadian goods. What do we have social networks for??? Let’s make it happen this time.

  13. john

    Whether there are short term costs to the tax payers or not, there are social moral costs. Imagine the credibility Canada would have with world leaders in guiding the responsible management of natural resources if we took the high road. Think of the role of the rain-forest and how important it is to human survival. Who has the morally authority to influence the Brazilians away from exploiting the rain forest? In light of the Narwhal incident, it most certainly won’t be Canada.

  14. Jessica

    @Random and john: I find it hilarious that you think a Canadian news network is unbiased, not to mention that the article itself only features interviews from department officials and the Inuits who profited. I bet Fox News is your unbiased source of US news as well. They report, you decide, right? 😉

  15. SSluggworth

    Cry some more please, because whales never died before evil capitalists took over everything, they played and froliced in warm bubblegum oceans. There were no wars and inequality in the whale society, and they produced no greenhouse gas. We sure are terrible, people that is. Sure we cure diseases and produce arts but who knows how much whale knowledge has been lost on the world since we took over.

  16. AlbiDeride

    Its just fucking whales, this kind of thing is part of the natural cycle of life, seriously. And the “sea shepard” and his crew are terrorists who could be fixed with a torpedo or two.

  17. Frank

    You people need to actually learn about the issues before you go on your little Disney fantasy-land rants. Not every death in the world is an “atrocity” simply because you choose to label it as such. There are worse things happening out there in your own neighborhoods that you choose to ignore in favor of this? If you want to be ashamed of something, be ashamed of your ignorance.

  18. Canuck

    Baby seals are hunted now? | FAIL

    500 endangered narwahls? | FAIL

    How about the photo Watson uses of tusked narwhals when in fact, the trapped narwhals (check the CBC video) aren’t tusked? | FAIL

    But here’s the best part…

    Watson and the boatload of idiots on this forum, fervently believe that Canadian taxpayers should spend millions of $ in a rescue attempt that would see: a rented Russian icebreaker arrive 8 weeks from now; in 24hr darkness; working in -40C below weather; with human lives at stake. And for what? A handful of remaining narwhals that IF they managed to survive, would likely not be more than 20 or 30 animals over the Inuit peoples 130/year cull limit? | ULTIMATE FAIL

    Hey Watson… I’ve got a boat for you. I’ll even throw in a map and a toque.

  19. chris

    Fuck Canada? Fuck you! pussies. do you think ice flows are a recent phenomenon that only started affecting narwhals now? morons. its called natural selection jagoffs!

  20. Adam

    Wow, this article isn’t slanted at all. “He noted that the government provides millions to fund ice-breaking for the annual baby seal hunt”? Give me a break. It’s a seal hunt, they aren’t allowed to harm the baby seals. Absolutely disgusted at the wording of this article. You make it sound as if they’re out killing baby seals as the only goal of the hunt, when in fact the opposite is true! Poor journalism at best, and utter tripe at worst. YOU SIR, should be hanging your head in shame at the misleading way you wrote this article.

  21. Donna

    I would think that Canada would be more understanding of such situations… but this is shameful. Alas, capitalism reigns over all.

  22. Joshua

    Harper is pretty stupid… luckily it’s looking like the Conservative’s days are numbered (also due to their sheer stupidity)

  23. dubya

    embarrassment though this story is…..

    LOLatcanada: Free loading? you f’n DFA’s (dumb f’n american) steal what you don’t have (which isn’t much), then claim that G.O.D. said it was okay to kill for it all. When you run out of oil, and are paying $10 gallon for our gas, I’ll tell you once again to get on your little scooter and shove off while the rest of the world has a good laugh at your expense. F*** I hate americans.

  24. Canix

    please to stfu bleeding heart filthy hippies. The animals would die regardless without human intervention. why dont you stop crying over animals and devote your time to helping the homeless or paying for a poor kids college or 1 of the 1000 other much most deserving causes than whales who got stuck under the ice.

  25. cal

    This is one of the most idiotic, undeniably capitalistic, beyond comprehension excuses for slaughter that i have ever heard, it might be worse than “they have weapons of mass destruction”. F*ck*ng Canadian idiots.

  26. Web Warlock

    You people don’t get it. These whales were trapped under ice so thick that the only way to break it up was to use an icebreaker. The whales run away any time a normal ship comes within a few miles. If an icebreaker approached, the noise would have forced the whales to run away and get trapped under the ice, where they would have died. Paul Watson knows this, but he’d rather make responsible people look bad so he can continue taking money from suckers like you.

  27. notlolatcanada

    Freeloading? Where do you think the vast majority of our exports go? Yep the US. Get off your high horse. Half the talent in the states is imported from Canada.

  28. Captain Canada

    Damn. I would have been more than happy to put a few dollars of my taxes towards freeing these animals than to have the slaughtered to put some cash in the pocket of a few Canadians.

    F’ing senseless and ignorant and just plain disgusting. What a load of garbage.

  29. kristin

    I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but this story has barely recieved ANY coverage around these here parts…I am so glad for the internet. How horrible 🙁

  30. Starstryker

    Except Narwhals arn’t endangered, they’re Near Threatened and in this situation prob would have died anyway, a much slower and much more horrible death by drowning beneath the ice.

  31. Michael

    These Narwhals were going to die anyway, this article is just sensationalistic crap. Suddenly activists don’t give a shit about the Inuit anymore, the Inuit are just the MAN now, they are part of the system and should be with treat the same disdain as anyone else. These Narwhal put themselves in that situation, they could have used Ice Breakers to save them, but then again a private group of individuals could have flipped the bill. Yes governments have to balance their expenditures with income from taxation, that’s what we vote for, that’s Democracy. What would Sea Shepherd want? A totalitarian society in which a they’re in charge robs people of their money and treats humans like animals, and animals like humans?
    I feel for the Narwhals, but seriously nature dealt them a crap hand. The government chose not to spend tax payers money on saving them, ultimately balancing accounts is what they are responsible for, perhaps Sea Shepherd should buy themselves an ice breaker, if they can’t afford it than people who are chastising the Canadian government should put their money where their mouth is and donate to Sea Shepherd.

  32. Jay Reilly

    To save the whales we had to destroy them. Wow, you Canadians are catching on. That’s sort of like how we in the US protect our citizens from the bad effect of drugs by locking them up forever and seizing all their property.

  33. Matt Watson

    Excuse me but how does a whale become “trapped under ice”… For one, there is much less coverage of the ocean by ice now then there ever was before due to the process of global warming. Further, whales can SWIM and leave the area covered by ice. This is part of a natural process if they are truly trapped. Survival of the fittest… come on!

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