Skip to content

We Are All Whalers

Why I wrote this book: For the past twenty-five years I have been privy to the trauma that North Atlantic right whales suffer when ships collide with them, and they get entangled in fishing gear. For those that die, I have documented how fatal trauma occurred. For those that survive we have been learning what that means in terms of reduced calving success. My colleagues and I have written academic papers and book chapters, and made presentations at scientific meetings. But none of that has adequately communicated the needed remedies to those that can really make a difference: to the people whose voting, and purchasing behavior can enable ethical consumption of shipped goods and seafood that allows both industries and whales to thrive. The goal of this book is to help consumers understand what is going on, and what they can do about the problem. Actively demanding truly sustainable seafood. Telling your representatives how much you genuinely care to purchase goods and seafood that have been obtained sustainably.

Buy: We Are All Whalers.   Additional Reading : How We All Kill Whales  Ropeless Fishing

WCAI The Point with Mindy Todd – We Are All Whalers

One Planet, Your Call KALW San Francisco  with Malihe Razazan and Rose Aguilar

Book readings and talks New Bedford Whaling Museum and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Doug Fraser  – Cape Cod Times 12/3/2021

Amanda Moore kindly drew this plate for the book. You can copy, print and paste it into the front of the book if you wish. We tried to gather the theme of co-existence of American lobster and snow crab fisheries with the albeit, sad and rather skinny right whale seemingly at the end of its rope, but hopefully soon to recover in all its full and fat glory, with many calves to come.


Sam Moore – Whales In The Balance

Whales on line – To Michael Moore “We Are All Whalers”

Michelle Greenfield – AQUADOCS podcast Episode 58 North Atlantic Right Whales




Reviews of We Are All Whalers

Choice – Association of College and Research Libraries

This is the book all conservationists wish they could emulate. Through compelling personal narrative, Moore (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), a marine veterinarian, informs readers about the biology, life cycle, and human-caused threats that critically endanger the survival of North Atlantic right whales as a species. The book is easy to read, as the writing is superb and the narrative engaging, yet it is packed with facts and data. What may be most notable about this text is the author’s sensitivity not only to the species he covers but also to all stakeholders in whale conservation, from indigenous hunters to commercial fishers. It is a thoughtful treatise that, through fact-based analysis, leads readers to confront the root of the problem—choices consumers make in a post-industrial society. This reviewer strongly commends the book to all readers, especially students and scholars in relevant disciplines. The book has obvious value to marine biologists and veterinarians, not to mention whale conservation organizations. However, all conservation practitioners and journalists will benefit from reading it. Moore offers a most outstanding example of communicating science to advance conservation.

Summing Up: Essential. All readers.

Reviewer: J. Organ, emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Interdisciplinary Subjects: Environmental Studies, Food and Agriculture

Subject: Science & Technology – Biology – Zoology

Choice Issue: Jul 2022


Right Whale News

The journey is a theme often encountered in literature, history, and science. Think of Odysseus, Don Quixote, and Charles Darwin. Michael Moore is on such a journey. His journey has taken him to the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Labrador, the Caribbean, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Florida. While science often maintains its distance from anthropomorphism, Michael instead addresses its proper role in expressing empathy for the pain and suffering experienced by injured and entangled whales. Events that we have heard about from the news and web postings are here connected by a thread, the weaving of the journey’s story. Michael puts a voice, his voice, to a difficult situation and the similarly difficult solution. In the final chapter, Chapter 8, his voice becomes quite direct. What has been done? What needs to be done? The journey is continuing. Nothing I might say or reveal here will be an improvement. Absolutely read about it for yourself.

Publishers Weekly

The threat to whales goes beyond the conventional images of harpooning ships, according to this moving and impassioned debut from veterinarian and marine scientist Moore. “The very survival of the species is in our hands,” he argues, and the problem comes down to industry—commercial seafood fishing accounts for numerous whale deaths each year, as the animals get caught in nets and ropes, and “even vegetarians contribute to the problem, as we all benefit from global shipping of consumer goods and fuel, which, in its current iteration, leads to fatal collisions with whales.” Moore injects his descriptions of the dire situation with a personal angle, sharing stories about how he came to study and care passionately about whales, creatures with awe-inspiring intelligence and social skills but whose population is threatened by humanity: between 2017 and 2020, he writes, the number of North Atlantic right whales declined by 10%. Technology offers a ray of hope—in his final chapter, Moore describes how using ropeless nets for commercial fishing and studying whale population movements can prevent accidental collisions and lessen the death toll. This empowering call to action stuns.



After the world spent more than two centuries slaughtering whales to the point of near-extinction, international commercial whaling was finally banned in 1986. But in this highly persuasive book, the marine scientist Moore demonstrates that many of the gains are being undone by a combination of commercial fishing (in which whales are strangled with ropes and nets) and shipping (whales are often hit by passing cargo ships, and their songs are drowned out by the incessant drum of engines). The North Atlantic right whale’s population, for instance, has declined more than 20% since 2017. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: Moore (not to be confused with the filmmaker of the same name) furnishes solutions while sounding the alarm.


Washington Post

Moore, a marine scientist and veterinarian, makes a compelling argument that whales’ survival depends on each of us — not just on those who venture out on ships, hunting whales for meat and blubber. It’s sobering to grapple with the ways we might unwittingly contribute to the mammals’ demise, like by eating commercially caught seafood. But Moore also offers reason to be hopeful, including new technologies for ropeless fishing.



By GrrlScientist

Humans have hunted whales for longer than 1000 years. There was a time when landing one of these great beasts was enough to feed an entire village for many months. But since the 1890s, most nations stopped actively hunting wild whales because they had nearly driven them extinct, especially the whales in the northern Atlantic Ocean. However, wild whales are still dying prematurely, and as a result, some species remain critically endangered to this very day. The North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, is facing the most dire situation, with fewer than 350 individuals alive today.

The North Atlantic right whale’s precarious circumstance is directly attributable to people. Now, we are killing whales with ship strikes or entanglement in fishing gear. The material goods that we buy often arrive at major sea ports after traveling global shipping routes that often traverse waters where whales feed or rest, putting them at risk of a ship strike. But entanglement in abandoned gill nets or in ropes attached to commercial lobster or snow crab traps claim the most lives, but only after the entangled whale has suffered an excruciatingly painful and protracted death. Additionally, ocean noise created by ships adds to these animals’ stress levels to the point where they are unable to reproduce and may interfere with their ability to communicate with each other.

Killing whales is a thing that we all — even us vegans — participate in and are responsible for, argues marine scientist and veterinarian Michael Moore in his new book, We Are All Whalers: The Plight of Whales and Our Responsibility (University of Chicago Press; 2021).

In this readable book, we follow the author through 40 years of fieldwork with a variety of whales — humpback, fin, pilot and especially North Atlantic right whales, whose population has declined more than 20% since 2017. Readers stand on the beach alongside the author whilst he performs necropsies on dead whales to learn how they died, we listen in on conversations with lobster fishermen as they discuss their fishing methods, and we watch as whales are killed using explosive harpoons. (Cough, cough, um, thank you, Iceland. Not really.) We also learn what attracted the author to whales as a young boy, and we come to understand that the plight of whales is complex, confounding, and disturbing, and results from poorly enforced conservation laws, as well as fishermens’ never ending quest for profit.

This book was a sobering read for me because the author details the whales’ deaths and are quite gruesome. As a zoologist with a lot of experience teaching comparative anatomy and physiology at the university level, it was all too easy for me to imagine the long, lingering and painful deaths these magnificent animals experienced as the result of a ship strike or, worse, entanglement in ropes attached to lobster or snow crab traps. But understanding the pain that all whales experience (more than 300,000 each year that we are aware of) by drowning after being struck by ships or maimed by fishing gear as a direct result of our actions is essential. Without this information, neither readers nor consumers would care enough to force changes to how their lobsters and crabs are caught, and how their material goods are shipped long distance.

You might think that this adventure makes for some mighty grim reading but actually, it is profoundly optimistic. Dr Moore shows us how new technologies for rope-less fishing and the acoustic tracking of whale migrations make a dramatic difference, especially for preventing accidental collisions. We also clearly see that Dr Moore took every whale’s suffering and death to heart and this motivated him to continually work to improve his methods, even when his own health was compromised.

“The goal of this book is to help consumers understand what is going on, and what they can do about the problem”, writes Dr Moore on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute website. “Actively demanding truly sustainable seafood. Telling your representatives how much you genuinely care to purchase goods and seafood that have been obtained sustainably.”

This impassioned book is beautifully written and will appeal to a wide audience. In this book, Dr Moore skilfully walks the fine line between anthropomorphism and anthropogenic responsibility. If we open our hearts and minds to the needless suffering that wild whales experience for our convenience, and take the responsibility to change our actions, he argues, there is hope, even for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.