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This is based on a report published in May With commercial whaling in Norway, Japan and Iceland today focused on killing whales for human consumption, many people are unaware that the vast majority of the millions of whales killed since whaling became a global industry were hunted not for their meat, but their blubber and other fatty tissues, which were rendered down into oil.

Demand for oil to make candles and light lamps as well as baleen for corsets drove the early waves of industrial whaling but, as chemists learned to exploit the richness and chemical complexity of whale oil, it soon provided a veritable pharmacopeia of raw materials for a fast industrializing world.

By the s, whale oil fed increasing demand for animal feed, machine lubricants, glycerin-based explosives, soap, detergents and margarine; spermaceti from the sperm whale became a staple in cosmetics and, later, even as a lubricant for the aerospace programme.

The potential uses of whale oil seemed infinite, even as the whales proved finate. Commercial whaling had become an oil rush.

Although the international hratis eventually acknowledged the devastation that whaling had wrought on whales, and banned commercial whaling and international trade in the s, the oil rush never ended. While the majority of commercial whaling nations abided by the whaling moratorium, Norway, Japan and Iceland used loopholes to continue hunting, seemingly just for meat. In fact, the whaling nations were quietly using the cover of their ongoing hunts to research and develop new uses for whale oil and grtis products to “reinvent” the whale for new markets.

Norway is leading the venture.

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Over the last two decades its declining whaling industry has benefited fratis both government and corporate investment into research, even clinical trials, of whale oil for pharmaceutical and health supplement ‘nutraceutical’ applications, as well as for animal feed. Norway’s simple strategy is to overcome international aversion to killing and consuming whales by proving the efficacy of whale oil in treating some of the worst and most common human diseases and by creating roviar health products.

Meanwhile, with ample raw materials from its scientific whaling programmes, Japan has continued to mine whales for cartilage to produce chondroitin used to treat osteoarthritis and vuena a common food additive. Iceland’s ambitions are in the animal feed industry and recent events suggest that it may soon use stockpiles of whale products from its recently expanded whale hunts to resume the manufacture of whale meal to feed farmed fish and livestock — if it has not already begun.

WDC believes that restoring whale derivatives to global use and acceptability is a long term strategy for the whaling nations. The main impediment to their ambition is the Appendix I listing of whales by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which bans international trade in ‘readily recognizable’ whale parts and derivatives for primarily commercial purposes.

Although the majority of nations still support the CITES ban, as evidenced by their rejection of Norway and Cgisis fourteen attempts to overturn it sincethe whaling nations are counting on opposition to whale oil ‘softening’ over the next decade, especially if rogira can be shown to deliver tangible health benefits.

A proposal currently before the IWC – to suspend the whaling moratorium to legitimize commercial whaling fratis ten years – is therefore a gift to Norway, Iceland and Japan. A decade of legitimacy provides an incentive to keep their whaling crisi afloat and gives them a deadline to complete their research and development of new whale products and use it to secure cisis support they will need to overturn the CITES ban.

The conservation and animal welfare community has argued consistently that any proposal to reform the IWC that contemplates any rkvira of commercial whaling must require the whaling nations to lift their CITES reservations and cease all commercial trade in whale products. The proposal to be voted on at IWC62 in June does neither. Even in the unlikely event that Norway, Iceland and Japan agree to the inclusion of an IWC ban on non-domestic use of whale products in the proposal, it would tovira in The door cannot be left open for commercial trade in whale oil and other commercially valuable products to resume and, in due course, expand.

WDC has produced this report to remind IWC members of the devastating impact that international trade in whale products, particularly oil, once had on whales, and to illustrate how this could happen again.

As part of our research we searched patent registries in a number of countries for inventions listing whale oil, spermaceti, whale cartilage etc.

Many were for international use and approved recently.

This does not mean that the patented product is currently in production using whales; in most cases, the inventors will probably have replicated a list of potential ingredients from an earlier patent of a similar product without having tested whale oil themselves and with grxtis plan to use it. However, in light of our other findings, we are concerned that in some cases the patent is a place-holder pending the resumption of international trade in whale products.

We include details of a mere fraction of the patents we found to illustrate what WDC believes to be significant potential for the reestablishment of whales as an industrial ingredient. The Soviet Union developed several medical uses for whale products in the s, including whale liver to treat anemia, pancreas to make insulin, pituitary gland to treat arthritis and gout, and collagen from ctisis to make a temporary replacement for skin in the treatment of burns.

These Soviet products never reached an international market, and rovura or other animal-based treatments for each condition have been found since the whaling ban was adopted. During the moratorium, however, Norway and Japan have continued to research the potential of whale oil and other products in pharmaceutical treatments of common diseases, as well as nutraceuticals nutritional supplements, such as fish oil capsules, marketed to improve human health and ‘functional foods’ food fortified with additives like Omega-3 that are claimed to have hratis specific health-promoting or disease-preventing property.


The Norwegian government’s objective is to prove the pharmaceutical efficacy of whale products and, “once armed with internationally accepted results from its research”, to seek to overturn the trade ban in western Europe and the USA4. Its ambition extends beyond pharmaceuticals into the less strictly regulated, but increasingly lucrative, nutraceutical and functional food industries, as well as aquaculture. For example, a government-funded study of the commercial possibilities of rvoira blubber and oil concluded that purified whale oil se have a very good future in the dietary supplements market, and cited several Norwegian companies as having the experience and qlex expertise needed to take products to market, nationally and internationally.

Reinventing the Whale

A clearly stated goal of that report ceisis to conquer the Japanese market where consumers are “already positive for whale products. This strategy has already been effective with seals. In the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries outlined an ambitious plan to develop a global seal oil industry. Using generous government subsidies, it supported peerreviewed research demonstrating the health benefits of seal oil and created a strong domestic market for sealbased health products.

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Built on those foundations, Norwegian production of seal oil products is today a multi-million dollar industry with a wide range of seal oil nutraceuticals exported to more than crsis countries. Using the same business model and funding sources, and with strong links to several of the original seal research “pods”, research into the medical efficacy of whale oil is progressing swiftly in Norway. Although Norwegian researchers began testing whale oil including comparing its efficacy to seal and fish oil for use in treating many common medical conditions as early asthe work has gathered pace in recent years.

Today Norwegian researchers are studying the vrisis of whale oil on rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriatic arthritis, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and cardiac disease, among others. Several of the studies have now reached clinical trial stage and at least one, aelx at the University of Bergen in conjunction with Haukland University Hospital inhas concluded that whale oil is “more effective than other Omega 3s such as cod liver oil in reducing the severe inflammation associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis” RA.

Chondroitin sulfate is an important structural component of cartilage and a widely used dietary crissis for treatment of joint pain. Chondroitin 4 sulfate otherwise known as chondroitin sulfate Bhena or S-4 sulfate is cfisis from whale cartilage in Japan where it has been developed for medical use.

It is also used as a humectant for moisturizing effect in cosmetics and eye lotions and as a gelling agent in food. Proteoglycan PGextracted from the nasal septum cartilage of whales, is the subject of recent Japanese research into megakaryocytes, bone marrow cells used in the production of platelets necessary for normal blood clotting. The research concluded that whale-PG is an “attractive molecule” for future research. Seikagaku’s English website lists numerous sources of Hyaluronan, among them “cockscombs, shark skin and whale cartilage”.

Other research papers refer to purchases from Sigma- Aldrich. Japanese researchers have publicly noted the difficulties that the whaling moratorium caused for production of whale-based chondroitin sulfate and the resulting switch from ChS-A to ChS-C, which is derived from shark cartilage. However, the cost of using shark cartilage has risen due to high prices for shark fins for food in China, leading Japan to look again for alternative sources.

Matis, an Icelandic food and biotech research and development institution that was formerly the Icelandic Fisheries Laboratory, has undertaken analyses of the fatty acid content of minke meat, whale meat and whale blubber, and the Minke Whalers’ Association is d the results to promote its product as roivra “pure natural product that is probably the healthiest red meat available, extremely rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

The Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries is also participating in a project funded by NORA, a committee of the Nordic Council of Ministers, that is looking into the development of marine mammals as food products.

Seal akex is already widely marketed by Canadian companies and patents are held by Canadians for the processing of marine mammals, including whales, for the production buna oil.

Although ONC states clearly on its website that it sources its oil rovir the Peruvian anchovy and sardine fisheries, since the mids it has made numerous international patent applications related to the processing of marine oils which refer to whale oil as a potential ingredient in the manufacturing of “microcapsules” rovifa keep marine oils from Whale blubber oxidizing. Whale oil and other products are not only of interest to the pharmaceutical industry but also to the less regulated, but increasingly lucrative, nutraceutical and functional food sector in Norway and Japan.

OliVita is a Norwegian manufacturer of lw seal, fish and olive oil health supplements. Although none of its products claim to contain whale oil, a United Nations University report on “Bioprospecting in the Arctic,” refers to OliVita products and research areas as being, “PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty alsx Omega 3 based on whale, seal and fish oil”.

For decades, Japan has dominated research, development and production of other food additives including oligosaccharides. These naturally occurring carbohydrates such as inulin are used as food stabilizers, agents to improve the taste, quality and texture of food and a partial substitute for sugar as well as fat. Japanese scientists and companies hold patents related to the production of oligosaccharides for use in food products as well as cigarettes, pet foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Government-funded research of oligosaccharide sources has included whale milk sourced from Japan’s scientific whaling programmes; papers were published as recently as examining whale milk from Bryde’s and sei whales.

At least two recent patents related to oligosaccharide production granted in the USA to Japanese authors mention sperm and Baird’s beaked whale oil as a potential source of usable waxes. Japanese researchers have also examined minke whale blubber as a source of collagen, claimed by the functional food movement to fight aging, reduce inflammation and help with weight loss.

Numerous other patents issued in Japan for food products, or food production processes, refer to whales as a possible source of ingredients.


These include ‘whale gelatin’ for health drinks patent approved in and products to relieve pre-menstrual symptoms ; ‘whale wax’ for jelly candy ; hydrogenated whale oil for breads ; and whale oil for confectionary coatings for ice cream and doughnutsmelt-resistant chocolateas well as for use in conjunction with Coenzyme Q10 in dairy and a wide range of other products Several of these inventions have also received patents in the USA.

Indeed, despite the fact that the USA prohibits the sale, import, and export of any marine mammal part or product, the US Food and Drug Administration continues to list whale products, such as hydrogenated sperm oil, and spermaceti wax, as safe and allowable food additives and lubricants in bakery pans.

At the peak of the commercial whaling industry, whales were widely used in the production of animal feeds. Today, despite dwindling global fish stocks, meal and oil from wild fish are the main source of protein for terrestrial livestock as well as the rapidly growing global aquaculture industry.

Whale products, especially oil, are referenced not just as an ingredient in meal and oil for livestock and fish feed, but also agents in the production of specialized, value-added, products such as feed for larvae and juvenile fish, that the industry is keen to develop.

Iceland was an exporter of whale meal and oil as well as meat and blubber through the s, including meal for use as animal feed produced by Hvalur hf, Iceland’s fin whaling company. Considering that Iceland’s population is less than , and whale meat is consumed on a limited basis, its whaling industry must have stockpiled thousands of tonnes of meat and blubber from the recent expansion of its whale hunts quotas increased to fin and minke whales a year fromeven taking into account its growing exports under its CITES reservation.

Iceland’s whaling industry still has the knowledge and infrastructure needed to manufacture animal feed from whale products and its ambition to find global markets, for fin whale products in particular, is actively supported by the government. WDC is concerned that whale meal may already be in production in Iceland; not just for its own livestock and aquaculture industry, but for export. Iceland’s Statistical Bureau reported two exports of almost 23 tonnnes of whale meal to Denmark in Although the Fisheries Ministry swiftly characterized the report as a clerical error, Iceland’s fin whaling company expanded its whale meat processing facilities in and its Managing Director has told the Icelandic press in March, that he hopes to process both whale oil and ground bone into meal.

Norway is the world’s leading manufacturer and exporter of both fishmeal and fish oil for farmed fish and livestock and a leading exporter of farmed salmon. Its surfeit of whale products would provide an ample supply of raw ingredients for the manufacture of meal and oil and Norway’s seafood research and aquaculture feed industries may already be considering this possibility.

Blue Limit’s patent application states that various marine oils, including whale oil, may be used when producing the feed.

NIFES, which was part of the study that looked at ways to promote the use of whale products, continues to fund research on whale oil. Although whale materials have been prohibited in Japanese animal feed since October to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy BSEa publication by researchers from Japan’s National Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center and the Bueena of Tokyo, suggests that the practice of feeding whale products to livestock and fish in Japan may have continued illegally.

Their paper in the Journal of Food Protection ka that “there is a possibility that the whale materials are being used for hratis for pigs, poultry, and fish” and reports the development of new, highly sensitive genetic techniques to detect heat treated whale materials in processed feed products.

Like Norway, Japan has invested heavily in research into uses of marine criis in fish feed. A study published in the Japanese Journal of Aquatic Food Production references the use of whale oils, including, “sperm oil, sei whale, humpjack [sic] whale, fin whale and blackfish [pilot whales]” in fish feed, and recommends mixing dry pellets with oils in order to administer drugs for fish disease.

A patent for the feed was sought by Takeda Corporation’s animal health division inand a US patent was issued in Whale oil derived from rendering blubber is a complex mixture of wax esters and triglycerides. At the peak of industrial whaling, it served as a major source of industrial ingredients, including for the rrovira of soap, margarine, explosives and bbuena. Our analysis of approved patents held around the world, many of which are granted for international use, underscores that whale oil and its derivatives would be viable ingredients in a vast array of common products if international trade in whale oils and waxes were permitted again.

Whale oil was considered an effective, simple and cheap insecticide by both farmers and gardeners through the 20th century, as it dissolves readily in water and spreads easily. Numerous patents listing whale products as a possible ingredient continue to be sought and approved for insecticides aimed at a variety of pests including mites and cockroaches, as well as fungicides. Their applications range from household uses to the agrochemical industry.

Given the exceptional lubricant properties and stability of whale oil and spermaceti which can be extracted from whale oil even ls extremely cold temperatures, they were used extensively by both the submarine and aerospace industry; NASA even used whale oil-treated tapes to record data and images from its space missions.

Dovira, Konica and Fuji Film all hold current patents related to image recording using whale oil and whale oil appears, even today, in patents for engine transmission fluids and hydraulic lubricants. Thanks ceisis its softening properties, whale oil was also added to rubber, to improve shock absorption and add traction. Whale products were once used extensively in commercially produced cleansers and detergents. Dial even lists whale crieis as a possibility for “eco-friendly laundry detergent compositions.