Subsistence Whaling in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The whaling operations of the Bequians of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Eastern Caribbean date back to the time of the commercial Yankee whaler hunts, which operated there beginning in the late 1800s. These whalers taught the locals (who were not pre-colonial first natives) to whale and they have hunted sperm and humpback whales since that time, although now the IWC quota is only for humpback whales.

The current quota for the period 2008-2012 is 20 humpback whales.  The Bequians have killed 29 whales since 1986, including two Brydes whales taken illegally.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not provided any data to the IWC in recent years on the methods and vessels used in its hunts, nor on recorded times to death, instantaneous death rates, or struck and lost rates.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Bequian whale hunts are perhaps the most brutal of all. Humpback whales are first struck using a cold harpoon (banned by the IWC for commercial whaling in 1980 because of its cruelty), thrown by hand from a boat. Once struck the animal is brought alongside the vessel. Then an 8-foot lance is repeatedly thrown at the animals in an attempt to puncture the whale’s heart or lungs. Sometimes the whale is finally killed by a "bomb lance" - an exploding projectile discharged from a shoulder gun. In some instances the bomb lance may be used concurrent with the initial cold harpoon. A final killing method also reported is the use of a projectile from a 40-pound bronze shoulder gun or "bomb gun."

Females are traditionally hunted, with whalers targeting calves first (a practice explicitly prohibited by the IWC) in order to lure their mothers to the boat.