WHALE numbers in Shetland waters have declined rapidly over the last century because of hunting, ac-cording to one campaigner with a vested interest in cetaceans.
Shetlander Willie Mackenzie said the island’s make-up had been altered forever because of the whaling industry which once thrived on these shores.
Hundreds of whales were hunted down at the turn of the last century – their carcases brought to three whaling stations in the isles, one at Olna Firth and two at Ronas Voe, for processing.
The station at Olna was operated by Salvesons, which Mr Mackenzie said went on to become the single biggest whaling company in the world. It saw its peak year in 1924, with 448 whales caught and landed.
Mr Mackenzie’s comments were made in a book, Stop the Whaling, which highlights the ongoing threat of the whaling industry.
Whaling is still continuing worldwide, with a reported 25,000 whales and dolphins being hunted and killed across the globe each year.
The killings continue despite a global ban imposed by the International Whaling Commission some 20 years ago.
Mr Mackenzie said attitudes needed to change before numbers were further depleted.
“When we didn’t know any better people used to hunt lots of whales because they needed them,” he said.
“People needed the oils because the whale oil was needed to power lamps.
“Now that is no longer necessary, and it is no longer justifiable to kill whales on this scale.
“Commercialisation has led to the decimation of whale numbers.”
Mr Mackenzie said some nations that had traditionally embraced whaling were now turning their backs on it, preferring instead to make whales a focus for tourism rather than a prey to hunt down.