Whales could be mined for use in the cosmetics and personal care industry if the current ban on commercial whaling is lifted, according to a report from UK-based charity, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).
The report, entitled ‘Reinventing the Whale’, revealed that Japan, Norway and Iceland are planning to manufacture new whale-derived products for diverse markets including cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical.
“It is clear that the whalers are planning to use whale oil and other whale derivatives to restore their hunts to long-term profitability. Iceland, Japan and Norway are betting heavily that the commercial whaling moratorium will be lifted, and that trade in whale-based products will soon be allowed,” said whaling campaign leader for WDCS, Susie Fisher.
Whale-derived products in cosmetics
The WDCS report highlighted several whale-derived products that researchers in Japan have examined for cosmetics and personal care applications, including minke whale blubber as a source of collagen, and a cartilage component used as a humectant in cosmetics and eye lotions.
The organization is also concerned that sperm whale-derived spermaceti (a combination of wax esters and triglycerides) could still be being used in cosmetics.
According to the WDCS, spermaceti was most notably replaced by jojoba oil after the cosmetics industry began using alternatives to the whale-based product, yet ‘unscrupulous or unwitting manufacturers of topical products may still be using spermaceti as an ingredient’, the report claimed.
A patent search performed by the organization showed more than 20 products manufactured in countries such as China and Iran claimed to contain spermaceti.
Commercial whaling ban
In 1986, commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in order for depleted stocks to recover, although Japan, Norway and Iceland used loopholes to continue hunting, according to WDCS.
The charity alleges that under the pretext of hunting whales for meat, these countries were researching and developing new uses for whale derivatives in order to ‘reinvent’ the mammal for new markets.
A decision over whether the ban on commercial whaling is to be lifted for a period of ten years will be made this month, at the annual general meeting of the IWC in Morocco. The lifting of the ban aims to limit the number of whales culled as a result of the loophole that allows whaling for scientific purposes.
"The decade of legitimacy for commercial whaling proposed by the IWC provides an incentive to the whalers to keep their industries afloat, and will allow them time to complete their research and development of new whale products,” said WDCS trade expert, Kate O’Connell.
“We anticipate they will use these new pharmaceuticals, animal feed and personal care products to soften global opposition to whaling and challenge the international ban on international trade in whale products by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which defers to the IWC" she added.