Before electricity, whale oil was used extensively to light homes and many species were hunted for their blubber and their meat. 

Large-scale whaling began around the 11th Century in the Basque Country of France and Spain but gained real momentum in the 19th Century with the invention of faster, steam powered ships. 

Whales provided oil for lamps, candles and soaps. 

In 1819 the British Whaler Syren found rich pickings off the coast of Japan and its voyages over the year yielded 40,000 barrels of whale oil, the value of which would be about £20,000,000 in today's currency




As recently as 1961, 66,000 whales were killed in a season. In 1986 a law was finally passed to allow whale populations to replenish before they reached extinction. However 7 of the 13 whales remain endangered and many countries continue to falsify data, with the Japanese using the excuse of scientific research whilst no data or findings are ever published.

Faced with the near extinction of both the Blue and Sperm Whales, the International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling from 1986. However Norway resumed commercial hunts in 1993 and continued exporting. Iceland also resumed whaling in 2003. Japan continues to hunt whales with much of the meat ending up in Sushi bars. 

Find out more about how the IWC are protecting the whale here: