Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. V No. 2 April 1996


NEWS ITEMS


There may be still be time for you to act on the worst anti-environmental legislation you can imagine, the Omnibus Property Rights Act of 1995, the "Takings" bill (S.605). The Senate may vote on this the day you get this "Whales Alive!", and if passed federal agencies will find it impossible to protect wetlands and habitats for wildlife and endangered species. Please call your Senator today and voice your concerns. The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121.

On March 9th a right whale stranded dead at Wellfleet, MA, the sixth this year. Only two were known to have died in 1995. Three of the fourteen known 1996 calves in this extremely vulnerable population of just over 320 are already part of this toll. Our related article in January's "Whales Alive!" was unfortunately more prophetic than anyone would want. In addition to the murky threats of pollution, toxins, boat impacts, and other forms of human impact the timing suggested a connection with U.S. Navy weapons tests within the whales' known habitat. Initial necropsy work has apparently found no absolute evidence of "barotrauma", physical damage caused by explosive overpressures. We are frantic witnesses to one of the saddest historical tragedies affecting cetaceans, because, in spite of accelerating and earnest efforts to protect right whales we are killing them. We probably won't have the "proof" of why or how in time. We may never have the will or means to do much about it. The few right whales left are living at the wrong time...our time.

Gudrun, a 21 year old orca, died at Orlando's Sea World on February 25th, a few days after a difficult and premature stillbirth. Nyar, her two year old calf, died April 1st, having been long isolated from the other orcas and the public due to his "special needs". Six orcas have now died at this park. Sea World said that the performance schedule would be unaffected.

Sixteen dead sperm whales were found stranded on the Danish coast March 27th. Investigations of a sperm whale stranding in Denmark in January found so much mercury and cadmium in the whale's intestine that the remains were buried in a hazardous waste site.

A Beluga Recovery Plan was announced February 14th by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans and WWF Canada. 56 recommendations were given in the hopes of helping the remaining 525 in the St. Lawrence river population, including habitat protection and a reduction of toxins, pollutants, and disturbances. These solutions address problems well identified for decades. These belugas will continue to wash ashore as toxic waste hazards for a few more.

NMFS announced on March 13th that specific sea lions will be permitted to be killed at Puget Sound's Ballard Locks because of their reputed impact on the harvest of steelhead trout, a commercial species in decline due to human impact. (They were estimated to have eaten 11 trout there in 1995). In response, a suit was filed by Humane Society of the United States and joined by the Progressive Animal Welfare Society and Earth Island Institute, charging that NMFS has violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act by, for example, refusing to capture and remove individuals and ignoring a prepared holding facility, the first recommendation of an appointed Task Force.

81 manatees died in SW Florida between March 5th and March 26th, alarmingly above the usual mortality rate. Most suffered from bacterial pneumonia, but underlying reasons for this event remain under study.

Norwegian sealers expected to harvest over 20,000 seals as they began in late March, well within the government quota of 17,050 non-nursing pups and 13,000 adults. Until one of the boats withdrew there was concern that the quota would not be big enough, and there was threat of a conflict.

Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC): On Feb. 23, 1996, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved ATOC operations in Hawaiian waters, despite continuing concern over the cause of death of three whales in the vicinity of the ATOC source off California.


EVENTS

Northeast Regional Stranding Network Conference, 12-14 April 1996. For details contact Rob Nawojchik at the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium, 860-572-5955 ext. 107.

International Whaling Commission, Aberdeen, UK, 15-28 June 1996.

Bottlenose whale seven day expeditions to the Gully, off Nova Scotia, are being offered beginning June 30th, by David Prior of Western Ocean Sailing Expeditions, POB 432, Halifax, NS B3J 2P8, 902-425-5862, fax 423-6115. You've heard Hal Whitehead talk of these whales and this place; now's your chance.


BOOKS

Whales Tales, Peter J. Fromm, 1995, Whales Tales Press, POB 865, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 USA, $12.95 for 142 fascinating pages of the kinds of encounters with cetaceans that you dream of, or might have had. If the latter, consider contacting the author at 360-378-8378, or bydesign@pacificrim.net to be included in his second volume.

Friends in the Sea, Wade Doak, 1995, Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Limited, Aukland, New Zealand. 144 pages of interactions between solo dolphins and people in New Zealand and Australia, fervently told by the world's expert on the subject of interactive cetaceans.

The Ganges River Dolphin, Dr. Tej Kumar Shrestha, DOPHONE, POB 6133, Kathmandu, Nepal. A review of the biology, conservation, and possible future of this intriguing and threatened species.


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