Many myths and legends show that humans have always held a special bond towards cetaceans. Cetaceans (whales, dolphin and porpoises) were not only worshiped but have always been a source of food and other materials, such as their baleen. Not all societies actively hunted dolphins or whales. There is no evidence of the Aborigines of Australia ever hunting marine mammals. However, some tribes took advantage of the carcass of a stranded cetacean: eating the meat and crafting tools from the bones.ASCOBANS_Mascot-2b_web

Inuit seal hunter in a kayak armed with a harpoon © Wili Hybrid [www.flickr.com/photos/wili]/Creative Commons

Inuit seal hunter in a kayak armed with a harpoon © Wili Hybrid [www.flickr.com/photos/wili]/Creative Commons

Other cultures such as the Inuit, Northern Europeans and Japanese have long-standing traditions of hunting whales and dolphins. For Inuits, hunting whales was always seen as a very dangerous task because they only used small seal-skin boats to hunt 12–15m (40–50ft) long whales that could dive for a long time to escape the huntsmen. The rewards were often worth the risk, especially in the high north: one whale offered large amounts of meat, intestine and blubber for food as well as skin, bones, baleen and tendons for building and tools. All parts of the whale were used, except for the head, which would be thrown back into the sea because Inuit people believed the whales would be reborn.

A photo of Perlorus Jack, taken in 1911 by Captain. C. F. Post © [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

A photo of Perlorus Jack, taken in 1911 by Captain. C. F. Post © [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

Humans don’t always hunt whales and dolphins; there have been many cases of their collaboration. Some of these are peculiar and uncommon cases, such as dolphins saving humans from shipwrecks or storms. For example the famous case of Pelorus Jack, a Risso’s dolphin who escorted ships through a dangerous passage in New Zealand from 1888 to 1912. This famous story tells the tale of how Pelorus Jack was shot at one day from a passing boat and disappeared, but returned a few weeks later to continue guiding all ships, except for the one who had shot him, through the strait. Regardless of whether the whole story is true, Pelorus Jack was later protected by an Order from the Governor.

Other relationships are longer lasting, such as the cooperation between fishermen and Irrawady dolphins in India. The dolphins help the fishermen to catch fish by driving the prey into nets. They are rewarded by the fishermen with some of the by-caught smaller fish.