Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VI No. 4 October 1997

News Notes

Japanese Drive Fisheries Report Available

CSI's representative in Japan is Mr. Eiji Fujiwara, President of the Elsa Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy and the Institute for Environmental Science and Culture have produced an enlightening and objective report, written by Sakae Hemmi and including several photographs. CSI wishes to loan this report to people researching the Japanese drive fisheries and the significance of one particular event. In October, 1996, a drive fishery at Futo, on Shizuoka Prefecture's Izu Peninsula, captured over 200 bottlenose dolphins, three times the quota, and about 50 false killer whales, for which there was no quota at all. In response Japanese NGO's worked together in innovative ways that caused a suspension of quota-violating operations, caused a release of many of the cetaceans destined for slaughter, and caused the release of the false killer whales that had been taken to aquariums. Many cetaceans were slaughtered, but the stronger significance is the account of how many were saved. Japan seems to emerge as the focus of so many environmental concerns, yet remains enigmatic to many of us. Reports such as this may help us understand, and act.

Permit Updates

In September CSI made exhaustive use of the enlightened U.S. laws that allow the public an opportunity to comment formally on certain permit applications, all here to the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Protected Resources. Much more information is available than these space-limited reports on the issues. We put a lot of effort into them, and we are very satisfied with the three that have been decided to date.

LFA / LFS: The Low Frequency Sound Scientific Research Program received a permit for a test cruise of the U.S. Navy's Low Frequency Active Sonar System dedicated to quantifying the impact of low, loud noise on whales. The calibration test scheduled for October 6th will be west of California's Channel Islands. Observing on behalf of CSI will be Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, Senior Scientist for the Center for Coastal Studies and highly respected cetacean behaviorist. In late October CSI President Bill Rossiter will attend another meeting in Monterey, California, about the next phase of the project. CSI is as involved as we can be with this project, because of the potential value from the research and the potential harm from human noise in the oceans, including the U.S. Navy's Low Frequency Active Sonar System. The Navy seems committed to understanding and mitigating the LFA's impacts because they don't want to harm whales, but they believe they need the system. Science needs the data the system can hopefully provide. We all need answers.

Refer to the next article on the LFA: Migrating and Breeding Whales versus Loud Humans: the Continuing Din of the LFS, in Vol. VII No. 1, January 1998

Previous articles on the LFA:

Traveling Show In Puerto Rico: In late September NMFS notified M&M Amusement Park of Puerto Rico of the denial of their import permit application for a traveling dolphin and sea lion show operated by Water Land Mundo Marino from Venezuela. The show has toured much of the Caribbean and was trying to enter the U.S. No traveling dolphin displays have existed here since the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. The spectre of potential roadside horrors was clear to anyone who thought about it, and the responses indicated that many did. The general precedent is one concern, but this specific operation was denied because the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had not issued an Exhibitor's license, and had found several items of noncompliance with animal welfare regulations. APHIS also noted that NMFS "carefully consider the inherently stressful nature and risk of harm to the animals, particularly the dolphins, of the multiple planned transports". CSI commends APHIS for their diligent adherence to concerns for animal welfare.

In addition, the dolphins were Cuban, and the U.S. embargo on Cuban "merchandise" applied. Another dolphin originally scheduled had been replaced because of a shady past that appeared to have begun in the Black Sea. The sea lion's documents were even more shady, with an inadequate chain of custody, plus inconsistent records of capture dates, birth dates, medical records and CITES permits. The applicants had also failed to offer "a program for education that is based on professionally recognized standards of the public display industry." CSI expects more traveling dolphin shows to seek approval in the U.S. They can be very profitable, but only at an extraordinary price of animal suffering and mortality. There are a number of them operating in Latin America. A report on that region by CSI's Representative in Argentina, Dr. Hugo Castello, will be presented in the January issue of Whales Alive!.

Amazon River Dolphins In Texas: The import permit application for four Amazon River Dolphins, Inia geoffrensis, made by the Dallas World Aquarium was withdrawn in late September. Those in favor of the import of course represented the captive display industry and Dallas business interests. There is profit to be made from these exotic creatures. Those opposed represented a remarkable onslaught of scientific and environmental concerns. The overwhelming array of critical responses included many scientists, from young researchers doing work on the species to well-known and respected leaders in the field. "The decision (to withdraw) was made based upon the fact that no reliable scientific census data exists for these animals in the wild. The impact on the wild population of the permanent removal of four (4) sub-adults could not be determined." A potent array of experts had testified in addition that the species did poorly in captivity, that captive breeding was a fantasy, and that the associated Venezuelan aquarium that routinely plucked out wild river dolphins as their display dolphins died had a terrible record. The aquarium must be commended for responding to the crescendo of critical comments that their application had unleashed. The scientists who responded to this permit application deserve even greater commendations. Their professional participation on behalf of the species was surprising, enlightening, and vital. The reality is that many had thereby made themselves vulnerable to subtle repercussions because of their involvement in something held to be of a political nature. CSI will remain vigilant for those repercussions and the continued interest in the captive display of this population and species.

Makah Whaling Environmental Assessment: In stark contrast to these other permit applications, the "Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Makah Tribe's Harvest of Up to Five Gray Whales Per Year for Cultural and Subsistence Use" was a panicked and inept response by NMFS to a legal query by Australians For Animals and the UK's BREACH Marine Protection. The U.S. had simply failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the law there are a number of factors which influence whether an Environmental Impact Statement is prepared, including whether the action is likely to be highly controversial, is likely to take place in or near a protected area, or involves a threatened or endangered species. All these stipulations apply to this issue. It's so obvious; why didn't CSI think of that? We have been involved with the Makah whaling issue since it began, and have had experience with Environmental Impact Statements since 1974. But we missed this one, and so did every other U.S. group. Congratulations to AFA and BREACH! But not to NMFS.

The EA is embarrassingly inadequate. NMFS has attempted a minimal response to a major issue that affects significant U.S. political positions, international policies and treaties, questionable legal opinions, and concerned public opinion. It is depressing to read the torturous rationale officials have used, particularly as they evade the international consequences for coastal and commercial whaling. If you want to know more please contact CSI, but be prepared for a lot of reading. It is pertinent to repeat that in January, 1996, CSI "Moved that the Board of Directors of CSI make it known that it is opposed, on ethical grounds, to any whale killing by the Makah Nation, and that the Board seek to engage in further dialogue with the Makah in an effort for each side to better understand the other". We continue that effort in earnest. U.S. policy has been manipulated to justify Makah whaling. We have lost much in the process; whales will lose much more.

Go to next article: Whale Watching Soars in Iceland! or: Table of Contents.

© Copyright 1997, Cetacean Society International, Inc.

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