Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VI No. 3 July 1997


News Items


CSI congratulates all of Connecticut's Members of the House, Representatives DeLauro (D), Gejdenson (D), Johnson (R), Kennelly (D), Maloney (D), and Shays (R), for recently voting in a manner that prevented the destruction of the Endangered Species Act. CSI's core is in Connecticut, and we are very proud of the way our Senators and Representatives have voted with our concerns over the years. The ESA will be under continual attack this year, and this first, defeated effort was HR 478, the "Flood Prevention and Family Protection Act of 1997". A public flood of protest recognized that this bill was actually a sneak attack at the ESA, and the House responded such that the bill was withdrawn. Yes, it might be back, and so too will the riders that the previous Congress used to weaken environmental laws. For further information contact the Endangered Species Coalition (CSI is a member), 1101 14th St. NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20005, 202-682-9400. CSI urges all U.S. readers to write your Representatives to support the "Endangered Natural Heritage Act", designed to protect the ESA, and all that it protects.

In May the IWC's Scientific Committee met in Tokyo, Japan, to review Japan's scientific whaling program. Results of this review will be presented at the IWC's annual meeting in Monaco in October 1997.

Officials of Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research announced the terms of sale for 1,995 tons of meat from 440 minke whales taken in the Southern Ocean between November 1996 and March 1997. This meat is to be sold primarily to processors of canned foods, with projected revenue of 3.5 billion yen. Prime-quality meat for general consumption would be sold wholesale for 3,840 yen per kilogram, with the retail price to be three times the wholesale price. The British TRAFFIC Network released a report in May entitled "Whale Meat Trade in East Asia," which reported that whale meat is smuggled illegally from Japan and is available on the menus of numerous restaurants in Hong Kong.

Japanese whalers, during commercial minke whale hunts conducted as "scientific" whaling in the Antarctic 'Sanctuary' and the western North Pacific, are using the cold harpoon extensively as a secondary killing method. A leading Norwegian whaling scientist has inferred that the cold harpoon is used in preference to the electric lance secondary killing method. During recent Japanese minke whale hunts, around a quarter (26%) of whales caught were subjected to one or more cold harpoons following an unsuccessful first strike by penthrite explosive grenade harpoon. Of the minke whales struck with the cold harpoon, about half (53%) remained alive after one or more shots and were then subjected to electrocution with electric lance apparatus. The use of non-explosive 'cold' harpoons for minke whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1981 on the grounds that it is inhumane. The IWC member governments seem to have been unaware of the ongoing use of cold harpoons by Japanese whalers; thus the Government of Japan appears to have deliberately kept the use of cold harpoons a secret from the IWC. The inefficient and inhumane cold harpoon and electric lance secondary killing methods are used instead of a second or third explosive penthrite grenade harpoon for economic reasons - they destroy less of the commercially valuable flesh on the small minke whale. Japan argues that because of its technical objection lodged against the IWC decision to ban the cold harpoon for commercial killing of minke whales, Japanese whalers have no obligation to adhere to the ban, and IWC regulations, including the ban, do not apply to "scientific" research whaling anyway. This information was gleaned from papers by Hajime Ishikawa of the Institute of Cetacean Research, Tokyo, and Professor Lars Walloe, chief scientific advisor on whaling to the Government of Norway, member of the IWC Scientific Committee and the Norwegian delegation. Further information from: Breach Marine Protection UK, Tel/Fax: +44 1405 769375.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society requested an investigation of reports that as many as 12 sperm whale carcasses were sighted in the central Atlantic, 200 miles west of the Azores Islands, with large orange buoys and radar reflectors/beacons nearby. The Portuguese government has reportedly sent a naval vessel to investigate the suspected pirate whaling. Dead whales began to be reported by yachts in May and two possible whaling vessels operating without lights were reported as well.

The Committee on Trade and Foreign Affairs of the Canadian Parliament urged the Canadian Government to join the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO). The Committee advised the Canadian Government to work closely with other nations on sustainable utilization of marine mammals. Iceland has also restated its desire to strengthen NAMMCO to the same end. A recent Gallup poll indicates that 72 per cent of Icelanders support the resumption of commercial whaling, but some 60 per cent support Iceland rejoining the IWC. In other words, the majority of Icelanders do not support resumption of commercial whaling unless within the framework of the IWC. Icelanders know little about the IWC, except that non-members cannot export whale meat to Japan and they consider it against commercial whaling. The Commission has a very negative image in Iceland. Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson (Minister of Fisheries 1983-1991 and responsible for the formulation of Icelandic whaling policy) recently acknowledged that whaling would not be resumed this summer.

Norway opened its controversial whaling season in early May with whalers given an increased limit of 580 minke whales. Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 following a six-year hiatus, despite international protests and a non-binding ban by the International Whaling Commission. Norway's Fisheries Ministry argues that minke whales are not endangered and that an uncontrolled population of the whales would threaten valuable fish stocks. It has steadily increased annual quotas. The limit was raised from 425 minke whales to 580 for this year, even though hunters took only 382 whales in 1996. One of the 34 authorized whaling boats was damaged by arson in May by a previously unknown group called "Agenda 21". The same boat, the "Senet," also was sabotaged in 1994. Each boat can only have an inspector on board for six weeks, effectively limiting individual boats' hunting season to six weeks, even though the season lasts closer to three months.

Breach Marine Protection UK, together with Australians for Animals, announced that a 17 page formal legal letter has been sent to Dr. James Baker, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and to the Director of the NMFS in order to prevent the US Government from obtaining a quota for California gray whales at the coming IWC meeting in Monaco in October. Acting on the instructions of the two groups, the Washington DC based public interest law firm of Meyer & Glitzenstein allege that the US government is in blatant violation its own federal statutes, in particular the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

18 Dall's and harbor porpoises were found dead within a three week period in May, off the southern tip of Vancouver Island and the lower Strait of Georgia, Canada. The sex ratio was equal, some had eaten, and there were few consistent clues as to the cause other than an untreated sewage outpipe in the area. Although the normal number found dead in a similar period is 3-4, another die-off of 30 porpoises was recorded in 1993.

A controversial dolphin swim-with program is being developed in Dominica, using dolphins imported from Dolphins Plus in Florida. If you wish to protest this development please write to: Hon. Norris Prevost, Minister of Tourism (Fax 809-445-7405), and Hon. Peter Carbon, Minister of Environment (Fax 809-448-7999), Government Headquarters, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica. Sea World and the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums has recently begun a challenge to the authority of NMFS regarding the export of marine mammals, as a continuation of an effective effort to gut the Marine Mammal Protection Act and government oversight on captivity. Sea World has recently shipped nine dolphins to a facility in Holland, reluctantly complying with a NMFS request for a letter of comity from Holland, a requirement which they will challenge in the future.

A study conducted through May under a NMFS permit in the San Juan Islands, Washington, involved capturing up to 25 Dall's Porpoises with a hoop net and bolting a telemetry device onto their dorsal fins, to establish the health and numbers of the local population in order to determine how many porpoises can be safely removed. The establishment of a potential biological removal (PBR) level is an initial step to setting standards for how many of these porpoises may be killed by fishing and other activities without adversely affecting the entire local population. CSI and many others, including Congressman Jack Metcalf, expressed considerable concern for the negative effects of this study. Dall's Porpoises are among the fastest swimming cetaceans and are locally preyed upon by transient orcas. The telemetry devices increase drag by as much as 18%, placing tagged animals at a disadvantage. The devices are intended to drop off "in a few months" according to researcher Hanson. Whale watch operators felt that, once harassed, Dall's Porpoises will be less inclined to bow ride on their boats. Perhaps the final data and management policies will support the need for this research, but we doubt it.

Also in May NMFS issued an announcement reminding the public that it is illegal to feed or swim with dolphins in the wild. NMFS personnel held news conferences at various locations in Florida where dolphin feeding has become popular. NMFS has contracted with the Florida Marine Patrol to provide additional enforcement relating to dolphins during 1997 and, in 1998, NMFS expects to fund an additional 6 enforcement officers for protected species enforcement, including dolphin feeding and harassment.

The U.S. Navy and NOAA cooperated on the development of recently announced protective measures now being used for naval operations in the Southeastern Atlantic that are "not likely to jeopardize marine species". In early 1996 dead right whales were found near naval operating areas, and although cleared of any involvement the Navy began a study of ways to prevent harmful interactions, especially with threatened and endangered species like the right and humpback whales and sea turtles. Measures include using areas not known to be critical habitats, slower speeds, more lookouts, avoidance of sargassum rafts where turtles hide, and a real time alert system for advisories on species' locations. The latter would be shared with civilian and commercial mariners.

The Free Willy/Keiko Foundation announced that by next spring Keiko could be in a fenced-off pen in the North Atlantic as the next step toward release to the wild. Details of cost and potential sites are under research and negotiation.

Conference and Meeting Announcements

49th International Whaling Commission annual meeting, 20-24 October 1997, in Monaco. Dr Carole Carlson will again be CSI's NGO, and may have a role with the Scientific Committee. In case you were wondering, CSI's annual IWC appeal has been delayed accordingly.

Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference to be held in Monterey, California, USA, 3-7 November 1997. For more information contact: Nancy Ottum, Wildlife Health Center, ITEH, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA. 1-916-752-3809; Fax 1-916-752-3318; <ndottum@usdavis.edu>

The World Marine Mammal Science Conference (WMMSC), incorporating The Society for Marine Mammalogy and the European Cetacean Society's biennial conferences, Monaco, 20-24 January, 1998.


Go to next article: International Workshop on the Educational Values of Whale Watching or: Table of Contents.

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