Sperm Whale's chronicles

Human being: Sperm’s Worst Enemy

The commercial whaling for sperm whales started in 1712, when Captain Hussey found sperms, searching for right whales [6]. After it, sperm whales were hunted (Figs. 1, 2) mainly for their blubber and spermaceti [1]. Their spermaceti wax was used to make candles [1]. By 1800, the blubber was used as lubricant for machines of Industrial Revolution [6] and for submarines [1]. Other parts, such as teeth and ambergris were also by-products of the hunt: teeth were used in carving, and ambergris (a waxy substance occasionally found in sperm whales’ lower intestines) was used as a perfume fixative [1].

Figure 1: Whalers showing their “prize”: a sperm whale.

Figure 2: Whalers dismembering sperm whales in a whaler ship.

In 1985, the International Whaling Commission gave sperm whales populations full protection [6], although Japan kept the hunt of sperms in the western North Pacific until 1988 [6].

Scientists still debate the impact of whaling in sperm whales’ populations. These impacts are not only in numbers of individuals, but in habits, cultural knowledge and rates of birth and survival rates of a population [6].

Today, the main threats to sperm whales are entanglement in fishing nets and collision with ships [1].

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