The practice of hunting whales has existed for more than 5,000 years.
Whalers would hunt and kill many of the large whales and various industries would use the whale various body parts to make a variety of goods such as transmission oil, candle wax, cooking margarine, jewelry which was made from whale bone, toys (such as chess pieces), work and hunting tools (made from the bone and ivory of certain species) and whale meat (which is now considered a delicacy in some countries).
While the history of whaling can be tracked back to 3,000 B.C. the booming whaling industry (which caused most of the deaths among various whale species) really emerged around 17th century which was propelled forward by an increased need for whale oil and other goods combined with advances in technology, which allowed whalers to hunt larger stocks of whales on a more frequent basis.
By the 18th and 19th centuries whale hunting became a highly very competitive & lucrative business, which caused more individuals and companies to invest in whaling in order to boost their profits.
Unfortunately as technology and the demand of whale parts increased so did the death rates of whales which caused many species to quickly become endangered.
By the 20th century whale harvesting became a popular idea among some whalers and the introduction of factory ships furthered whale hunting efforts by allowing whales to be hunted in much larger numbers and in a much more effective manner.
As a result whale populations became so diminished that new policies, regulations and legal actions had to be taken to prevent further whale killing, so in 1931 international agreements were made between various countries to regulate and monitor the whaling industry in order to prevent endangered species from being hunted and killed.
In 1946 the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (IWC) was signed by a collection of countries.
The IWC was created to establish stronger rules and legal protections in order to help regulate whale killings.
Countries that agreed upon the rules and signed the petition agreed to monitor the practice of whaling in their country and abide by the polices made in the agreement in order to keep whale hunting to a minimum or completely eliminate the practice of whaling all together.
In 1986 the IWC made a further push and completely banned the practice of commercial whaling to allow various whale species time to recover from generations of whaling and hopefully repopulate their species.
While the IWC and other anti whaling organizations have made great strides in protecting the whale species some countries have chosen not to sign into to the agreement and instead chose to adopt their own policies in regards to whale hunting and the policing of whaling in their respective countries.
In addition to help from various organizations the introduction of cheap alternative to whale oil also helped play a major role in the elimination of the practice of whaling in many countries.
While the act of commercial whaling hasn’t completely stopped it has been significantly reduced due to the help of activists and whale protection organizations, introduced regulation policies and organizations making great strides to protect endangered whales and other marine mammals, and awareness largely due to the creation of whale watching which begin in the 1950′s and created a negative perception towards the act of hunting whales.
Nowadays whales are mainly hunted for their meat which is considered a delicacy in some countries and by some cultures who share a deep emotional attachment to the history of whale hunting and what it means to them and their ancestors.