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Evidence of whaling in the North Sea and English Channel during the Middle Ages
De Smet, W.M.A. (1981). Evidence of whaling in the North Sea and English Channel during the Middle Ages, in: FAO Advisory Committee on Marine Resources Research. Working Party on Marine Mammals (Ed.) Mammals in the Seas: Volume III. General Papers and Large Cetaceans. Selected papers of the Scientific Consultation on the Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals and their Environment. FAO Fisheries Series, 5(III): pp. 301-309
In: FAO Advisory Committee on Marine Resources Research. Working Party on Marine Mammals (Ed.) (1981). Mammals in the Seas: Volume III. General Papers and Large Cetaceans. Selected papers of the Scientific Consultation on the Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals and their Environment. FAO Fisheries Series, 5(III). FAO: Rome. ISBN 92-5-100513-3. X, 504 pp., more
In: FAO Fisheries Series. FAO: Rome. ISSN 2033-3366, more

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Keywords
    Hunting > Whaling
    Marine

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  • De Smet, W.M.A.

Abstract
    Although cetaceans are not now abundant in the North Sea, historical evidence indicates that they were common there and in the English Channel during the Middle Ages and earlier. Whales were probably hunted regularly in this area from at least the 9th century onward, mostly by Flemings and Normans. Biscayan whales (Eubalaena glacialis glacialis)and perhaps also gray whales (Eschrichtius gibbosus) - if this species did survive in the Atlantic until medieval times - may have been the main species taken; both live near the coast and are relatively easy to catch. A decline in their abundance in the late Middle Ages seems likely and may have been caused in part by hunting. Evidence of this early whaling includes references to the availability of whale meat in medieval markets and anecdotes about the intervention of saints in whale hunts. Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), now the only cetacean commonly found in the North Sea, were hunted along its southern coast and in the English Channel before the Dutch fishery for them began in the 16th century. Other small cetaceans were probably also taken.

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