Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. V No. 4 October 1996


News and Updates


Tuna Dolphin Senate Bill Fails!

The "Dolphin Death Act" was left to die as Congress quit for this session! Congratulations and thanks to all Whales Alive! readers who contacted their Senators and President Clinton in the last days of September to voice their concerns about S1420, the "International Dolphin Protection Act". Take pride in your actions, and remember this as one of those beautiful times when the Public Will overwhelmed raw and bloody politics. Our grateful thanks go to Senator Barbara Boxer, who, along with Representative George Miller, led the Congressional opposition and secured this victory with her courageous actions in the last hours of the Senate session. Not only have the dolphins and the "dolphin safe" label won a reprieve, but the environmental community may again focus on solving issues together. CSI has learned far too much about international politics and commerce during this issue, and we know more than ever how vulnerable the marine environment is to both.

Antarctic Environment Bill Passed

In September Congress voted to approve the "The Antarctic Science, Tourism, and Conservation Act of 1996." The bill implements the United States' obligations under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which, among other things, prohibits mining in Antarctica for a minimum of 50 years and establishes new standards for environmental protection for 10% of the earth. Passage of this Bill is a major success. The Antarctica Project and members of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, including CSI, have spent five long years negotiating with Congress and the Administration to obtain the strongest possible language to protect the Antarctic environment.

This Bill amends the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 to make the existing law governing U.S. research activities in Antarctica consistent with the requirements of the Protocol, and extends the law to cover all U.S. citizens and companies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) must report to Congress the amount of funds it spends on Arctic and Antarctic research, and would remain the lead agency for regulating and managing the Antarctic research programs. The bill mandates that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures must be used to meet the Protocol requirement for comprehensive assessment and monitoring of the effects of both governmental and non-governmental activities on the environment. NEPA will help ensure greater transparency and accountability, and the EPA is directed to promulgate regulations to govern environmental impact assessment procedures for non-governmental activities. The bill also amends the Antarctic Protection Act of 1991 to continue indefinitely a ban on Antarctic mineral resource activities, and amends the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (the bill which implements MARPOL) to implement the marine pollution provisions of the Protocol.

The passing of this law is an important step towards the international entry into force of the Protocol. U.S. ratification will catalyze the ratification processes in the remaining three countries which have not ratified (Finland, Japan and Russia). We are very hopeful that international ratification and entry into force of the Protocol will occur by the ATCM in Christchurch, New Zealand, next May. For additional information, please contact The Antarctica Project by e-mail: antarctica@igc.apc.org, phone: 202-544-0236, fax: 202-544-8483, post: 424 C Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002 USA.

Right Whales

Right whales' plight continues as at least nine of the perhaps 300 surviving North Atlantic right whales have died in the last twelve months, in spite of increasing efforts by scientists, government agencies, and all the rest of us. The U.S. Coast Guard has special vessel rules designed to minimize right whale impacts. Boats and fishing gear are major threats, and NMFS is responding in two ways. First, a proposed 500 yard rule would prohibit intentional boat approaches, and next, a proposed reclassification of lobster trap/pot fisheries in the Gulf of Maine might allow more oversight and inspection. Other fisheries will be considered for new rules by the Large Whale Take Reduction Team. Many of these right whales show marks from encounters with vessels and gear, and they are just the survivors. But impact technically includes all the hidden and subtle ways human activity affects this incredibly vulnerable coastal species. Soon we may learn where some go offshore, and gain hope that they may escape the dangers of sharing our space. The problem begins with what the whales can or will tolerate. Our toxins and pollutants may suppress their immune systems, making them susceptible to disease or less able to heal. Our noise may disrupt their behavior, and even cause damage, as indicated in this Whales Alive's LFA article. At times these whales seem oblivious to boats, and may get hit. Other times a vessel may disrupt feeding, migration, or breeding without knowing it. Because of all that we don't know, and can't seem to correct, CSI is strongly supportive of absolute caution and restraint with all human activities that have potential impacts on these magnificent creatures. But, one by one, we are losing. No, they are losing.

Harbor Porpoises

Harbor porpoises continue to get caught in various kinds of nets in significant numbers. Although thousands of cetaceans are similarly killed in fishing gear all over the world, the loss to these porpoise populations is critical. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is ably supporting a rescue and research team in eastern Canada. Various U.S. agencies are also implementing solutions that include time or area closures of fisheries, and the expanded use of "pingers" that may provide enough warning.

Canadian Bowhead Whaling

In August, Inuit in Repulse Bay, Canada, killed a bowhead whale from the Hudson Bay/Davis Strait stock of perhaps 450 individuals. The dead whale was recovered on Aug. 17 after sinking in 250 feet of water, having been harpooned 14 times and shot numerous times; the hunt was reported to have cost C$100,000. On July 23, 1996, Inuit in western Canada killed a bowhead whale from the Bering-Beaufort-Chukchi Sea stock. The United States issued a strong protest September 11th to Canada (which authorized its native people to hunt two bowhead whales this year) for allowing a whale hunt without international approval and for ignoring pleas by the International Whaling Commission to stop issuing permits for killing the endangered animals. "The IWC expressed particular concern about the prospect of whaling in the eastern Canadian Arctic, where bowhead stocks are still highly endangered and are not known to be recovering," said U.S. Commissioner to the IWC, Dr. James Baker. Canada left the IWC in 1982, saying that it no longer had a direct interest in the whaling industry. "Clearly this is no longer the case," said Baker. "Canada's unilateral whaling quotas call into question its commitment to international management of living marine resources". Along with protests by CSI and many others, CSI Director Emeritus Robbins Barstow concluded that Canada has decided to endorse actions that flaunt international conventions, and that such actions invite and deserve international condemnation.

Maui Captivity Facility Proposed

In Hawaii, the Maui County Council will reportedly consider allowing the establishment of a captive cetacean entertainment and research facility on a 9.5 acre parcel of the north coast, partially using taxpayer funds, at a hearing around October 14th. The Dolphin Institute, "a new, independent organization that will retain the staff and all the attributes" of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, apparently includes four bottlenose dolphins that were captured from the Gulf of Mexico and are now between about 10 and 18 years old. To express your concerns, or find out more, please contact Alan Arakawa, Chair, Maui County Council, County Building, 200 South High Street, Wailuku, HI 96793, fax: 808-243-7118. This proposal deeply concerns a large coalition of organizations, including CSI.

Orca Breeding Farm Must Be Shut Down

Marineland of Niagara, Canada, is a captive display facility that should bring tears to your eyes. On the surface it is glossy entertainment, with shows, exhibits, food, and rides. But inside a warehouse and away from public eyes Icelandic-caught orcas named Junior and Duke languished and died. Privately owned, the place is not a member of the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, and inventory, health and mortality records are not publicly available. One male orca is crammed in a pool 25 feet wide, and in another at least two females and a calf. The calf is the key. Marineland has brokered Icelandic orcas for sale under inhumane conditions, and is now developing as a breeding facility. Other facilities that might have some ethical or humane concerns seem reluctant to get involved in part because of the political power of the owner, and in part because they may want to do business there. Every time you read of a facility looking for an orca think of this farm, because there are few legal sources, and to Marineland orcas are a cash crop. CSI is part of a consortium, led by ZOOCHECK of Canada, working to shut this horrible place down, and we need your support. For detailed information on Marineland, and what you can do about it, please contact CSI, or ZOOCHECK Canada, 3266 Yonge Street, Suite 1729, Toronto, ON M4N 3P6, Canada, (416) 696-0241, fax 0370. CSI will send copies on request of an educational flyer that includes a photo of Junior in the warehouse, and more details on orcas in captivity are in "Captive Orcas Dying to Entertain You", from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Alexander House, James Street West, Bath BA1 2BT, England.

Makah Update

The Makah Nation's Tribal Council continues its dance with whaling, still intent on killing and landing up to five gray whales. Meanwhile nations, governments, lawyers, whalers, environmentalists, and the IWC watch from outside. The saga of this issue would make a fascinating book, but whether the ending will be uplifting or destructive is still in the future. While the Makah work to resolve internal cultural and leadership conflicts over the issue, CSI and many other groups are trying to stay respectfully out of the way. Our focus is the whales, and the seeds of a new and horrifying chapter in whaling that might spread much farther than just the Makah.

Norway's Whale War Won?

Since 1991 Norway has spent over 6.7 million dollars through lobbyists in Washington to influence U.S. responses to Norwegian whaling. Before wondering how that equated to the total income generated by their minke whale slaughter we might note that they feel the war is won, and won't spend any more. Recalling the gross capitulation by Vice President Gore to the Prime Minister in 1994, and the State Department's bloody priority for trade, we find the Norwegians convinced that even environmental groups are not pushing the issue as strongly. The real guilt falls on the Clinton administration, which has had an absolutely miserable record regarding whaling, GATT, NAFTA, and much else. Norway's goals are clearly to test the international resolve to fight an increasing self-made quota (next year it will be 650 minkes or higher) while disputing and ignoring any contrary scientific evidence or inquiry, downlist the North Atlantic minke from Appendix 1 of CITES and resume legal exports of whale meat to Japan.

Ecotourism Is Getting Better All the Time

Remember the whales and dolphins of southern Brazil for your travel plans next year. Unfortunately too late for this season, CSI has just learned of the seven day ecotourism programs from late August through mid October, run by IWC/Brasil, headed by CSI Representative José Truda Palazzo. From Florianópolis to Porto Alegre you will enjoy locally expert guidance from young scientists CSI has come to know and admire greatly, through fascinating and almost unknown parts of Brazil where the stupendous coastal scenery adds to the opportunity to observe and understand the southern right whale, tucuxi dolphin and other marine life. You will also be supporting the conservation initiatives of this marvelous team of young and dedicated scientists. If you even think that you might be interested contact CSI for a brochure.
Go to next article: Some Thoughts on Listening to Humpback Whales in the Caribbean or: Table of Contents.

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