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Stanford Study: Hunting Minke Whales not Justified

Stanford DNA study: Hunting minke whales on grounds of overabundance not justified

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.


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 grocery stores.

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 Molecular Ecology.

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