Whaling on Bequia

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William Thomas Wallace Jr came from Scotland, and he introduced whaling to Bequia. Having worked on one of the New England whaling ships that came to the Caribbean chasing the humpback whale, Bill Wallace started his own shore whale fishery in the mid 1870s out of Friendship Bay. The Ollivierres from France followed suit in 1876 with a fishery at Petit Nevis (a small off-shore island just south of Bequia). Whale meat was a staple food for the population in those days.

Today only one small whale fishery exists. A crew of six sails out on a 26-foot traditional double-ended whale boat. The design is based on that of the small boats carried aboard the large whaling ships that sailed the Caribbean before the 20th Century. There is great excitement on the rare occasion when a whale is caught. Groups gather on the hills to follow the hunt. The butchering is done on Petit Nevis with a constant stream of small boats carrying loads of people to watch and celebrate.








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The Whaling Museum, La Pompe
The history of Bequia's whaling heritage, many maritime artifacts  Tel: (784) 458-3322



SC/54/Prog. Rpt. St.Vincent



Compiled by R. Ryan and F. Hester

Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Labour, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, West Indies

1.0 Species and stocks studied

Common name Scientific Name



Megaptera novaenglia

Various small cetacean species - see below

The Cetacean fishery has a long tradition of social and economic importance in St. Vincent and the

Grenadines. In the 19th century, this fishery was the most important of all fisheries. In 1868, whale

oil ranked fourth in the value of exports from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, behind sugar, rum and

arrowroot starch. A number of cetacean species are currently harvested in the coastal waters, among

them are humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), pilot

whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), orca (Orcinus orcus), Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella

frontalis) and others.

There is a small but active fishery for cetacean centered around Barrouallie on the West Coast of St.

Vincent. While the fishery targets primarily pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins, other small

cetaceans are captured as well. All species of small cetaceans are targeted. The primary purpose of the

fishery is the production of meat and oil. Harvesting is conducted from small open wooden boats

termed whalers, which are powered by outboard engines and oars. The cetaceans are taken both by

hand harpoons and small harpoon guns deployed from a tripod stand fixed on the bow of the boat.

The Bequia whale fishery targets humpback whales. Harvesting is conducted from small open wooden

whaling boats as in Barrouallie, but the whaleboats of Bequia do not use motors. The hand thrust

harpoon designed for taking large whales are used to strike the whale. Hand hand lances and darting

guns are employed to kill the whales. The skill of the harpooners is such that the darting gun is seldom

necessary to accomplish a rapid kill. The Aboriginal Whalers in Bequia were limited to a quota of two

whales per annum through the 2001/2002 season, during which the quota of two humpback whales

was taken before the end of March.

2.0 Sightings data

Survey in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada.

1) Date of surveys conducted:

a) Survey in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada: 19-22 March, 2001.

b) Survey off west coast of St. Vincent Island: 23 March, 2001.

2) Research vessel: “Black Jack” of Fisheries Division, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, a small

longline fishing vessel.

3) Participants: Raymond Ryan, a captain and 4 crew (Fisheries Division of St. Vincent the


Paul Phillip and Crafton Isaac (Fisheries Division of Grenada).

Hideyoshi Yoshida (The Institute of Cetacean Research, Japan).

4) Summary of results.

a) Survey in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada.


Track lines were placed in coastal waters shallower than 100 m in depth, surrounding the Grenadines

and Grenada. On east side of the Grenadines, sea condition was very rough due to heavy swell from

the Atlantic, thus we could not search the lines in the waters. A total of 175.0 n.m. (primary searching

distance was 63.4 n.m.) were searched, in which only a school of bottlenose dolphins were sighted.

b) Survey in off west coast of St. Vincent Island.

Searching was conducted for track lines placed within 6 n.m. off the west coast of St. Vincent Island.

Sea condition was not so bad. However, we could obtain no sightings of cetaceans during the 51.7

n.m. searching (primary searching distance was 41.1 n.m.).

3.0 Marking data

Photographs were obtained of the two whales landed at the shore station on Petit Nevis. The

photographs of the fluke of the lager of the two whales along with fluke photographs from whales

taken 2000 and 2001 are being forwarded to the NAH Photo ID database at College of the Atlantic for

comparison with the database for the North Atlantic.

4.0 Tissues and biological samples collected

Tissue samples are routinely obtained from all whales taken. These are sent to the laboratory of Dr.

Goto in Japan for analysis and then the profiles will be sent to the Laboratory of Dr Palsboll in USA

for comparison with DNA profiles from other NAH. Difficulty issuing CITES permits for the transfer

of the samples to Japan has delayed the project, but results for all samples through the 2002 take

should have been analyzed and compared before the next meeting of the Scientific Committee.

5.0 Pollution studies


6.0 Statistics for large whales

On March 27th, 2002, two humpback whales (Megaptera novaenglia) were taken some 3 - 3.5 miles

south southwest of Mustique by the local aboriginal whalers. These whalers were led by Orson

Ollivierre. One small and one large whale were struck at approximately 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.,

respectively. They were towed to the landing station in Petit Nevis, where they were secured at

approximately 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. on the said day. Processing (flensing) of the small animal

commenced at 2:00 p.m. on March 27, 2002 while processing of the large animal began at 6:00 am on

the 28th March 2002. The whole operation was conducted very efficiently and all useable meat was

recovered without spoilage. Harvesting and biological information (including tissue samples for DNA

analysis) were collected by the Fisheries Division. This information is provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Information collected by the Fisheries Division are as follows:



Time taken 11:00 a.m.

Length* 55ft

Girth at Flipper 27ft

Diameter/Tail span 15 ft

Sex Female

Lactating No

Vessel type Whaler

Landing station Petit Nevis

Location of harvest 3.5 miles SSW of Mustique

Method of killing Hand-thrown harpoon

*The lengths of the whales were taken from the upper jaw to the tail, straight line




Time taken 10:00 a.m.


Length* 28ft

Girth of flipper 12.2ft

Sex Male

Vessel type Whaler

Location of harvest 3 miles SSW of Mustique

Landing station Petit Nevis

Method of killing Hand-thrown harpoon

Stomach content No milk present

7.0 Statistics for small cetaceans

Records are maintained at the Fisheries Division offices and laboratory in Kingstown, St. Vincent and

the Grenadines, West Indies.

8.0 Strandings and other studies

None reported for large whales.

9.0 Publications

Dr. Hisashi Hamaguchi published the results of his studies of the Bequian whale fishery. See:

Hamaguchi, H. 2001. Bequia Whaling Revisited. Sonoda Journal. 36: 41-57

10.0 Literature cited