Whaling lost popularity in New England before it was outlawed. Falling population numbers and the emergence of petroleum ultimately made whaling obsolete. Whale oil has long been a valuable source used for heating and lighting in the United States, but petroleum was much more abundant and easier to harvest. Also, decades of over fishing made whaling increasingly more difficult. The last whaling ship, which operated out of New Bedford, ceased operations in 1927. No official outlaw of whaling took place until the 1986 international moratorium on whaling was imposed.
In the mid-80s whaling was banned internationally due to extreme depletions of whale species. After the immense destruction that whaling caused in the 19th and 20th centuries due to irresponsible whaling practices, improved hunting technology and lack of regulation, many whale species were on the verge of extinction, and still today a great number are struggling for survival. Of the eleven species of bayleen whales, nine still have much smaller populations than they did before whaling. In some cases, populations are down to a few thousand, or even a few hundred (as is the case for the North Atlantic Right Whale, so named because it was the “right” whale to catch). There are currently only three countries in the world that practice whaling: Iceland, Norway and Japan, though they frequently receive criticism for it.
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