For the most part, marine mammals -- whales, dolphins, manatees, seals, polar bears -- are taboo as sources of food for people. Habitat destruction, bycatch and overfishing have depleted the global populations of these species, in many cases, to endangerment or near-endangerment. What's more, many marine mammals are highly charismatic, developed animals; you can't make the ethical case, with them, that they don't have some rudimentary form of sentience, as you can with oysters or eels.
For all these reasons, the cultures that are known to continue regularly eating marine mammals are often castigated by the global community. The Japanese, in particular, are often upbraided for their insistence on large-scaling whaling, which they do to supply the still-ample demand for whale sushi.
But a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows that, in the past few decades, marine mammal consumption hasn't been limited to any one country or even region. Instead, it remains a global phenomenon.
After consulting over 900 sources, the researchers found that "since 1990, people in at least 114 countries have consumed one or more of at least 87 marine mammal species." That means that the overwhelming majority of the world's countries have hosted marine mammal consumption in the past 20 years. The researchers noted that many of the species, because they are rarer and less well known, are not subject to the kind of aggressive oversight that protects species like humpback and blue whales. But that doesn't mean that all the animals that have ended up being eaten by man in the past two decades have been obscure or unimportant. The study found evidence that people had eaten species as well-known and beloved as narwhals, sea lions and polar bears.
Click through below for more examples of marine mammals you didn't know people ate:
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