Stone Age people were hunting whales for food as long ago as 2,200 B.C. They hunted slow-swimming, coastal species such as the bowhead, grey and right whales. This subsistence hunting is still practised by some societies such as the Inuit people of Greenland and North America, where the whale plays an important part in the people's survival.
It was from the seventeenth century onwards that the whaling industry began to develop as the demand for whalebone and whale oil increased. Sperm and humpback whales were hunted to such an extent that their numbers began to decrease. Whalers were able to hunt the faster roquals, such as the blue whale, when the explosive harpoon-gun was invented and faster ships were developed.
South Georgia became the whaling centre of the world in 1905, when the whalers moved into Antarctic waters. Huge factory ships processed the slaughtered whales at sea. During the 1930-31 season 30,000 blue whales were killed and processed. By the 1950s the blue whale had practically disappeared. The whalers then started hunting the smaller species such as the fin, sei and minke whales. Luckily for the Blue Whales their numbers are increasing, though are still a vulnerable species, listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.Read More: Whale Products