Advocates of whale hunting claim that whales are an important part of their nations' diet and food culture and that the population of some species of whale is at a sustainable level to allow commercial whaling. Opponents of whaling insist that some species of whale are endangered, that methods of whaling are cruel, that whales are highly intelligent and that whale watching is a more lucrative industry than whale hunting.
Whales listed as endangered or vulnerable include blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, North Pacific right whales, sei whales and sperm whales. Whales are killed with harpoons that explode inside their bodies, sometimes taking hours to kill them. Some scientists point out that whales have the large brains and brain cells present only in species with high intelligence. Economists state that whale watching is a billion dollar industry that brings in far more revenue than whale hunting, explains Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Though in 1986 the International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling, Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales. Japan affirms that eating whale meat is part of Japanese tradition and circumvents the ban by claiming that the whaling it carries out is for scientific research. In March of 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to stop whale hunting in the southern seas, though it continues to hunt in the north Pacific. Norway defies the ban and continues to hunt after lodging a formal objection. Iceland left the IWC in 1992 and rejoined in 2002, making a contested claim that it has a reservation to the whaling ban.