Title page for ETD etd-10152010-153405

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Fielding, Russell
Author's Email Address rfield2@lsu.edu, russell.fielding@gmail.com
URN etd-10152010-153405
Title Artisanal Whaling in the Atlantic: A Comparative Study of Culture, Conflict, and Conservation in St. Vincent and the Faroe Islands
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mathewson, Kent Committee Chair
Colten, Craig Committee Member
Rowe, William Committee Member
Turner, R. Eugene Committee Member
Siebenaller, Joseph Dean's Representative
  • conservation geography
  • political ecology
  • whales
  • dolphins
  • cetaceans
  • caribbean
  • scandinavia
  • cultural ecology
Date of Defense 2010-10-08
Availability unrestricted
Whalers from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the North Atlantic archipelago of the Faroe Islands hunt pilot whales and a variety of other small cetaceans for food. Vincentian whalers use harpoons, thrown by hand or fired from a modified shotgun mounted on the boat. Faroese whalers, using several dozen boats, work cooperatively to drive an entire pod of whales ashore, where shore-based whalers are waiting to complete the kill with traditional whaling knives. Vincentian whaling traces its origins to the late nineteenth century. Records of Faroese whaling date to the late sixteenth century but the practice is thought to be much older, originating perhaps as early as the tenth century. The annual average take of all cetaceans is 305 in St. Vincent and 1,358 in the Faroe Islands.

Whaling is both culturally and practically significant in both locations, providing not only a connection to history, but a source of food as well. However, the continuation of both operations may be threatened by the presence of methyl-mercury and other environmental pollutants in the tissues of the whales, which have been shown to have negative effects on human health. Additionally, both societies have had to negotiate the efforts of anti-whaling organizations, who employ methods such as protest, boycotts, and interventionary attempts to disrupt whaling activities.

While the majority of whaling operations throughout the world have ceased completely, owing to a severe decline in whale populations, the Vincentians and the Faroese have in place certain traditional conservation strategies to avoid overexploitation of local stocks. Both societies place geographical limits upon the spaces in which whaling is allowed. The Faroese have codified certain traditional conservation practices into their legal codes including the power of whaling authorities to forbid whale drives to occur if conditions are not favorable or if the food that would result is not needed. Additionally, whaling in the Faroe Islands is conducted communally and the commercialization of whaling is forbidden. Vincentian whalers have cautiously engaged available technological advances, adopting certain technologies to aid their efforts but declining to adopt technologies that might lead to overexploitation of the resource.

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