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WebQuests (ICT Integration)

A Whale of a Problem

In many parts of South Africa whales are a resource for the tourism industry. Whales are now a protected species and may no longer be hunted. This has probably boosted the local tourism industry but in a country like Japan, that relies heavily on food resources from the sea, the abolition of whaling has always been a problem. If whales are protected they may reduce other sources of seafood. Is it time to review the laws? What are the issues involved?


In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) set a zero-catch policy for whales, and when the policy took effect in 1986, whales could no longer be caught. In 1994, the IWC developed a new policy that allowed more whales to be caught, but the rule has not yet been enacted. So, commercial whalers are still not allowed to catch any whales. Japan recently asked the IWC to let them begin whaling again on a limited basis. Japanese whalers want to be allowed to hunt specific whale species, with the number of whales they can take of each species based on the estimated size of whale populations. Japan currently hunts whales as part of its scientific research program, but Japanese whalers are not allowed to catch whales for industrial uses.

You have been appointed to a committee asked to compare and contrast past and present populations of whales in the Pacific Ocean and the effects of whaling on both Japan’s economy and the marine ecosystem. Your committee must complete the following tasks:

  1. Research the history of whaling, its impact on the marine environment, and the financial impact of a whaling ban on Japan's economy. You will also need to gather statistics on population sizes of whale species and other sea life.
  2. Analyse the data and create a graph to illustrate your marine population statistics.
  3. Reach a consensus with your committee either to recommend that the IWC grants Japan’s request to begin whaling again or continues to enforce the zero-catch policy.
  4. Create a multimedia presentation to present your recommendation and the data and statistics that support your recommendation. You can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Microsoft FrontPage to present your recommendation.
  5. Write a letter to the IWC that explains the position you have taken on the Japanese whaling issue.


If you use FrontPage to create your presentation, you may want to post your finished Web site to the Internet so you can share your conclusions with a global audience.

Before you do individual research in your role your group should determine some of the following information:

» http://iwc.int/home
IWC site
This site will help you understand more about the organisation that has asked for your committee's recommendation. Answer these questions to find out more about the organisation:
What is the IWC? What is its purpose?
What countries belong to the IWC?
What occurred in 1982?
What was the reaction to this decision?

» http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale
Whaling Entry in Wikipedia
What is whaling?
What products were made from whales?

» http://whales.greenpeace.org/
Greenpeace Whale Site<
What is Greenpeace?
What is the purpose of this site?
Is this site pro-whaling, anti-whaling or neutral?

» http://www.cnn.com/search/?query=whales&x=-1109&y=-31&primaryType=mixed&sortBy=relevance&intl=false
CNN News Article About Whales
Which countries have continued whaling?
What impact has this had on whale populations?
What is being done to address this problem?
Who wrote the article this site?
Are they pro-whaling, anti-whaling, or neutral?

For this assignment, you will work in teams of four and you will divide your task into roles as follows (click on each role for more information):

Japanese Government Economist
Your task is to research the issue from the point of view of the Japanese economy. Japan has resumed hunting Minke whales for scientific research. They have petitioned the International Whaling Commission to allow them to begin hunting Sei, Minke, Bryde's, and Sperm whales. Your task is to gather information about how the Japanese use the whales that they hunt. How important are whale products to the Japanese economy? Will resuming whale hunting (or continuing the ban) cause a significant change in their economic outlook? Does the history of the Japanese whaling industry offer any additional information about how important it is to the country's culture and economy?

» http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale
Wikipedia: Whale Products in Japanese Culture
How do the Japanese use whale products?
What part do whales play in Japanese culture?
Marine Biologist
Your task is to research the issue as a marine biologist, gathering information about each type of whale that Japan wants to hunt using the links provided. At the Cetacea Web site, look for information such as a description of each type of whale, its habitat, and its primary food source.

» Click here to use this research assistant to compile your information.
IWC Statistician
You are responsible for collecting whale population data. The links below will take you to sites where you can find information on whale species populations as well as data on other sea life. Use the data to create a Microsoft Excel chart showing the whale population for Sei and Minke whales.

» http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/fishery/whales/iwc/minke.html
Minke Whales Are Increasing
Using the graphs on this Web site, create a chart in Microsoft Excel that shows population statistics for Sei and Minke whales. Show the rise or fall of the whale populations over a stated length of time.
What percentage of increase/decrease has occurred?
Do you feel that if the population statistics suggest that numbers of whales are increasing, the IWC should allow the Japanese to resume hunting some whale species?
Who provided the data?
Is it from a reputable source?

» http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/fishery/whales/iwc/moratorium.html
Whaling Moratorium and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary
What is the comparison of whale consumption with their population?
Would these numbers impact the fishing markets around Japan ?

» http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2003/august6/whales-86.html
Whale populations are too low to resume commercial hunting, geneticists find
What are the findings of the geneticists' study?
Is this report from a reputable source?

» http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/oceans/whaling/
Greenpeace Whale Population Data
Record data on whale populations from the Greenpeace Web site. How do they compare to the numbers from the Japanese Web site?

You must provide information about the environmental concerns of allowing Japan to whale again and the possible long-term effects on whale populations and the marine ecosystem.

» http://whale.wheelock.edu/archives/ask01/0293.html
Ask Archive Whales
What effect may occur if whales become extinct?
What are this scientist's thoughts on the Minkes?
What are the other factors affecting whale recovery?

» Whale Net's A.S.K a Scientist
» Use this analysis sheet to compile your data before and during your group discussion.
» You should use this storyboard template as you plan your final presentation.


» http://iwc.int/home
The official International Whaling Commission Web site provides information about the commission and the role it plays in overseeing whaling.

» http://whales.greenpeace.org/
This is the Greenpeace whale Web site. Greenpeace is an environmental group that takes an activist stance on many issues.

» http://www.sawestcoast.com/stwhale.html
This is one of the pages on a site that provides information on the history of whaling along the West coast of South Africa.

» http://www.earthwatch.org
This site provides information on whaling research.

» http://www.cnn.com/search/?query=whales&x=-1109&y=-31&primaryType=mixed&sortBy=relevance&intl=false
This CNN article about whales offers learners some good background information.

» http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/fishery/whales/iwc/minke.html
This site is presented by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and provides graphs showing whale populations.

» http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/fishery/whales/iwc/moratorium.html
Another Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, this link presents information about whales in Japan.

» http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2003/august6/whales-86.html
This site shows the results of a study from Stanford University and Harvard University about whale populations.

» http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/whale-wars/about-whaling/why-japanese-hunt-whales.htm
This article explains the importance of whale meat in Japanese culture.

» http://whale.wheelock.edu/archives/ask01/0293.html
On Whale Net, each week a different whale scientist answers e-mail questions about whales.

» http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/classifications.html
About the behaviour of whales.

» http://worldwildlife.org/species/whale
The World Wildlife fund website and its commentary on whales as an endangered species.

» http://www.conservationafrica.net/projects/dolphin-research-centre.php
African Conservation experience website details a Whale and dolphin conservation project


By completing this activity you and your team will have gained an insight into the whaling issue. You will also have experienced how any one issue has many viewpoints because each of you represented a different interest group during the activity.

» Download the Presentation Assessment

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