Stanford DNA study: Hunting minke whales on grounds of overabundance not
The killing of Antarctic minke whales has been justified on the theory that
their population is booming. A Stanford study, based on minke DNA, concludes
that the population is, in fact, not booming. The researchers ran their DNA
tests on whale meat from grocery stores in Japan.
BY LOUIS BERGERON
Claiming the population of Antarctic minke whales boomed after World War II,
Japan's scientific whaling program has been "sampling" increasing numbers of
them each year on the grounds that reducing the number of minkes actually
benefits the Antarctic ecosystem.
Meat from these "sampled" whales ends up for sale on the shelves of Japanese
The Japanese position is rooted in the belief that the minke population is
booming. But a new analysis of the whales' DNA by a team headed by Stanford
researchers concludes otherwise. There is no evidence of a significant increase
in the population of minke whales, the researchers said. Their research
demonstrates that the current population of Antarctic minke whales is within the
historical norm of the species over the last 100,000 years.
"Based on our genetic analysis, average Antarctic minke whale populations over
the past 100,000 years have been around 670,000," said Stephen Palumbi,
professor of biology, director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station and senior
fellow at the university's Woods Institute for the Environment. "That number
easily falls within the range of current population estimates for the whales, as
determined in studies by the International Whaling Commission," he said. Palumbi
is the senior author of a paper describing the work, published in the journal