Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 2 April 1998

News Notes


On March 31st "J.J.", the gray whale, was released about 20 miles West of San Diego, timed to coincide with the northern migration of gray whales from Baja, Mexico to their summer home in Alaska. J.J. had been in Sea World in San Diego for a 14-month rehabilitation program since washing up near death on a beach in California in January 1997. With constant care and attention she had gained more than 18,000 pounds, and judging by her behavior after being released from her sling in the water she was very eager to go.

While Sea World officials called her move back to the ocean "the largest and most complex animal transport in history", inviting comparisons with Keiko, most of us relished a superb example of rehabilitating cetaceans for release back to their natural world. This was a humane effort for one individual. Grays are no longer an Endangered Species, and the IWC allows some to be killed every year. We should all congratulate the staff of Sea World who devoted themselves to helping this whale. Sea World officials are not sure about the whale's chances of survival in the wild because of hazards including orcas, her own curiosity and commercial fishing gear. She was fitted with a radio transmitter and a satellite transmitter designed to operate for 18 months, but unfortunately both were lost in less than three days at sea, so her progress can only be monitored by visual sightings. Now, if she can get by the Makah hunters in Washington State...


Two stranded and rehabilitated rough-toothed dolphins were returned to the Gulf of Mexico on March 25th, equipped with radio and satellite tags to follow their progress. The Internet web site displaying their track is at http://www.mote.org/~mkmetz/track.phtml. These two males were among 62 rough-toothed dolphins that stranded on Cape San Blas near Port St. Joe, Florida on December 14th. Only four dolphins survived during the mass stranding; these two males were rehabilitated and released by Mote Marine Lab, and two females are still recovering at the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach. None of those taken to Marineland at St. Augustine survived. Congratulations to the dedicated team at Mote Marine Lab. CSI recently helped fund the first scientific study of this species in the wild, by Barbara Bilgre, in Moorea, French Polynesia.


The Costa Rica Minister of Tourism Carlos Roesch confirmed that Costa Rica will not allow dolphins to be displayed in captivity. In January he stated that "for ethic principles and for the negative results of the captivity and use of dolphins for commercial purposes I can assure you that this Institute is not interested in promoting this type of projects in our country". Also in January Executive Director McDonald of the Jamaican NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority), confirmed that Jamaica would not grant a permit to export bottlenose dolphins from Jamaica to Knies Kinderzoo in Switzerland. As a result the dolphin show closed and the dolphins there were expected to be sent to Spain. The Jamaican government was hailed in the local and international press for sending a powerful and positive message to the world regarding Jamaica's respect for nature. In a related matter Cedar Point amusement park announced March 19th that their Oceana exhibit is officially closed. The lone dolphin will be moved to Dolphin Research Center and homes will be found for the two sea lions. CSI urges the Cedar Point owners to shut down their Knotts Berry Farm dolphin show as well.


Many Whales Alive! readers write to ask how they can help. A significant portion of CSI's budget goes directly to scientists worldwide whose work will help the survival of cetaceans. CSI is trying to fund more conservation-oriented research than we can afford; the opportunities to help in major ways at minimal costs are overwhelming. To help one very significant project we thought we would ask you about matching a grant. We need help to help Mia Emilia Morete and the Projeto Baleia Jubarte study the potential impacts of whale watching on the humpbacks of Abrolhos Banks, Brazil. We all love whale watching, but we know that too many whale lovers create commercial opportunities that can result in significant harassment to the whales we love too much. The Projeto Baleia Jubarte project wants to ensure that doesn't happen on Abrohlos Banks, a major calving and nursery ground for the humpbacks in the South Atlantic. As we all know, it is so much easier to prevent problems than to solve them. Their entire operating budget for five months of work wouldn't buy batteries for similar research in the U.S.; they only need US$900! CSI has committed US$250. Can you help match that? They also need a Mac notebook computer, which they budget at US$2,000. CSI is working with Dr. Phil Clapham of NMFS, who is arranging an opportunity for Morete to study at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Professor Sheila Simaõ in Brazil to locate and assist extraordinary young scientists in Latin America to study at various institutions in the U.S. Please contact us if you have any interest in this effort.


We have all read of the terrible weather in Peru. Recently CSI sent a small grant to CEPEC, an environmental organization there that is working miracles with very limited resources, despite the weather. Dr. Marie-Françoise Van Bressem sent an update of their environmental activities which we offer to you to show how determined and dedicated these wonderful people are. Joanna Alfaro has completed seven pamphlets, aimed at port authorities, on different groups of aquatic animals: turtles, penguins, river and oceanic dolphins, sea lions, sea otters and manatees. The first environmental education talks will take place in April in Pucusana, Callao and Chancay. Other plans have been delayed because it will be impossible to travel to the northern fishing towns for months. The "El Ninyo" has destroyed most of the northern part of the Panamericana highway. In late March CEPEC gave a talk at the Ecological Police, a government entity responsible for enforcing laws protecting Peruvian fauna and flora, and thus very important for the conservation of aquatic animals. Joanna and Marie also finished the writing and drawing of the third comic booklet "Kenzo and Alicia in the World of Aquatic Animals". It is now in press at the Banco de Credito, the same bank which has graciously supported the two previous booklets. CEPEC has created a museum with many activities and an environmental education program directed at fishermen's children. A similar program directed at the tropical rainforest has begun. The program is always in need of books (Spanish if possible), and PAL videos of marine life. A few years ago Marie-Françoise organized a children's parade through a local fish market. The children carried posters they had made to express their feelings about over-fishing and the killing of dolphins. Many had fisherman fathers who watched the future parade by. Marie-Françoise is an activist, educator, cetologist, and world renowned Ph.D. toxicologist. She and Joanna believe the answer lies with the children. So do we.


The children's computer network for dolphin lovers, Lolita's Legion, now has 133 chapters, the latest being the International School of Beijing, China. Any suitably young person is welcome to ask administrator Carl Dortch about joining, at lkitto@gfk.auracom.com. The web page for Lolita's Legion is at http://www.whidbey.net/lolita.


The Japanese environmental organization IKAN reported that on February 16th, whale meat was served as part of school lunch served among 10 junior high schools in the city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The meat was from the minke whales obtained through scientific research whaling conducted by the Japanese government in the west part of Northern Pacific. The city had already purchased 900 kilograms of meat from the Fisheries Agency for 50 schools with 24,000 students. Along with the obvious ploy to develop a market for whale meat from a captive audience of future purchasers, the use of whale meat for school lunch in Shimonoseki goes back to the city's deep roots with Japan's whaling industry. The first whaling company that implemented Norwegian style whaling resided in Shimonoseki, along with the base for Antarctic whaling. The city still maintains a port that is utilized by the science research whaling catcher boats. Another cause for the use of whale meat may lie in the city's intent to strengthen its ties with the Fisheries Agency, which is considering closing the Fisheries University in the city. Since the city prefers to continue the school's existence, they may have tried to strengthen the cooperative relationship with the Agency by purchasing the whale meat. IKAN had requested that the Shimonoseki Educational Council stop the plan in December, contending that the use of whale meat for school lunch would sustain and expand the whale meat market and act against the philosophy of wildlife conservation. The Shimonoseki Educational Council (fax number 81-832-22-8333) says that they are not planning to use the whale meat for school lunch next year.


The Daily Herald in Bequia called it a big celebration but the IWC must call it a quota infraction. Orson Ollivierre harpooned two humpback whales on February 25th. The 35-40 foot long mother was said to have sunk one of the whaler's boats as she fought to protect her son. The last whales were caught near Bequia four years ago by Athneil Ollivierre. Efforts to ensure that the whaling tradition passed on along with that legendary whaler have obviously failed. No quota from the IWC authorizes Bequia to kill a mother and calf. Will the IWC fail to act against such infractions? The problem will only get worse, as the following report demonstrates.


The first General Assembly of the World Council of Whalers convened from March 2-6 in Victoria, British Columbia, attended by participants from Antigua & Barbuda, Canada, Dominica, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Grenada, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Russia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Tonga, and the United States. They issued a challenge to the international community to recognize the vital roles which whaling plays in providing food security, nutrition and cultural identity, and the right of whaling communities to trade in whale products and thereby participate in the global cash-based economy. Specifically, they pledged support for the aspirations of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations of British Columbia, Iceland, and four coastal whaling communities in Japan to exercise their right to sustainably use whales. In spite of their failing economy Japan seems to have an unlimited budget to support such ventures.


On Sunday, March 22nd, a whale-watching boat capsized in rough seas off Vancouver Island, Canada, killing the captain and a German passenger. The operator had notified rescuers that one of its boats had failed to return from a scheduled tour. Rescuers found the two dead and one injured passenger floating in the frigid water Sunday. The fourth passenger was found in shock on the boat, which apparently righted itself after capsizing. The whale watchers were all wearing special foam suits that kept them afloat, acting as life preservers and wet suits. We recall a whale watch fatality in Scammon's Lagoon, Mexico, in the 70's, when a gray whale under a boat hit an oar that hit a man, although some reports said he died of a heart attack. CSI would be interested in other reports.


All 43 species of cetaceans found in Australian waters are protected under the Commonwealth Whale Protection Act 1980, which prohibits killing, injuring, taking, capturing or interfering with cetaceans. The Blue, Southern Right, Humpback and, as of March 16th, the Sei and Fin whales are also protected under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Act. The species were added because the Australian federal government must develop recovery plans for the most effective way to ensure their survival, according to Environment Minister Robert Hill. "Australia's populations of the Sei whale have declined by 75 percent in the past 40 years alone, and there are estimated to be only 25,000 of this species of whale remaining," the Minister said. "Populations of the Fin whale have seen an even greater decline in numbers. They were originally estimated at 500,000 prior to the 1960s and have been depleted to a mere 25,000." Hill added that the decision would add impetus to Australia's push for a global whale sanctuary at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Oman in May. The Act considers threats such as depletion of food stocks through commercial fishing, shipping strikes, oil spills and toxic pollutants, entanglement in fishing gear and acoustic pollution, among others. Other cetacean species that may be nominated include the Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin.


From January 28 through January 31, 94 dolphins stranded and died on approximately 25 miles of coastline between Dennis and Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. This mass stranding was composed of 78 white-sided dolphins and 16 common dolphins. Efforts launched by many volunteers were instrumental in rescue attempts. It is believed that strong winds, abnormally high tides, and the irregular features of the coastline were factors that likely contributed to the stranding. The enormous response to this event included the National Marine Fisheries Service - Woods Hole, New England Aquarium, Cape Marine Animal Rescue and Conservation, Center for Coastal Studies, Dennis Department of Natural Resources, Harvard University, International Wildlife Coalition, International Fund For Animal Welfare, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, National Park Service - Cape Cod National Seashore, Northeastern University, Triton Regional High School, Tufts University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, U.S. Coast Guard, Wellfleet Shellfish Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, local veterinarians and staff, numerous local officials, and countless concerned citizens from Cape Cod. CSI commends and honors all who attended these dolphins, often at great personal sacrifice. This was not a futile exercise, it was a magnificent effort. The effects of El Niño are everywhere, including an increased rate of stranded marine mammals. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network is expecting a record year.


The numbers should alarm anyone; more than 25% of the humpbacks in the Western North Atlantic have scars from impacts with boats, propellers, nets or ropes. There are perhaps only 300 right whales in all this ocean, and the majority show impact scars. These are the survivors. This is why the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, operates a unique and inspiring cetacean disentanglement team. Since 1984, with the rescue of the well-known humpback "Ibis", the CCS team has freed 25 cetaceans from life threatening ropes and nets. In 1997 they saved three, a right whale, minke and finback. Because of the danger and complications the CCS team is the only one currently permitted by NMFS, but CCS is training people to help at all levels. The CCS rescue team is on 24 hour alert to respond anywhere near the Atlantic coast of the U.S., including U.S. Coast Guard helicopter airlifts to sites at sea. The Coast Guard's involvement is exemplary. An increasing network of fishermen and mariners know how to alert authorities to an entangled whale and start the team's reaction. Each event is unique, and dangerous. After all the logistical support the effort comes down to two wonderful people who actually cut the whale free; Dr. "Stormy" Mayo and Dave Mattila of CCS. Details of this effort can be found at CCS' web site, http://www.coastalstudies.org/. The Center's focus on right whales was also evident at a recent conference in South Africa. As part of the Right Whale Consortium CCS leads the way in right whale research, particularly habitat use. Unfortunately right whales seem unaware of ships and other human hazards. A "dynamic management plan" conceived by Dr. Mayo has resulted in a massive effort to alert mariners to the presence of right whales. Recent findings suggest that the dangerously low population, officially numbered at 300 individuals, was killed off to a "few tens" by 1730, and the current recovery rate of 2.4% per year may be a factor of limited food resources. "Our" local rights are certainly smaller than their southern cousins. From the numbers of right whales and their plankton food in Cape Cod Bay in winter it is clear that this critical habitat needs protecting. Recent plans to dump processed sewage north of the Bay, near Boston, will have unknown effects on the habitat.


A lawsuit was filed in mid-March by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society International (HSI), and Defenders of Wildlife, in the U.S. Court of International Trade, seeking to compel President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of Commerce William Daley to ban imports of Italian fish products until Italian fishers cease violating a ban on the use of large-scale driftnets. If the groups win, restrictions on Italian products imported into the United States could cost Italian exporters as much as $1 billion.

Driftnets are a destructive fishing device threatening marine life in the world's oceans and seas. The UN called for a moratorium on high-seas driftnet fishing to be fully implemented by the end of 1992. The European Union, of which Italy is a member, also prohibits driftnets longer than 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). In violation of the driftnet bans, a large number of Italian fishing vessels continue to use oversized nets, some up to 18 kilometers, in the Mediterranean Sea.

Even though Italian fishers are targeting swordfish and small quantities of tuna, scientific studies indicate that nearly 80% of what they haul in with the nets is by-catch or non-targeted species that are thrown overboard, dead or dying. Thousands of dolphins are killed each season as well as scores of whales, turtles, sharks and other non-targeted fish. Lost or discarded nets or net fragments left in the Mediterranean continue for years to "ghost fish," killing more marine mammals and other marine life.

According to Patricia Forkan, Executive Vice President of The HSUS and its international arm, HSI, "While the U.S. government continues to believe in Italy's hollow promises that it will do something to curtail these nets, marine life is dying. It's time for the U.S. government to untangle the politics and protect marine animals."

"The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has flouted his legal obligation to identify Italy as an illegal driftnetter. U.S. law requires nothing less than a full ban on Italian fish imports," stated Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund lawyer who filed the lawsuit.

"The horrors of driftnet fishing have brought together politicians from different political parties and nations from all over the world - now is the time to put an end to this fishing practice," concluded Bill Snape of Defenders of Wildlife.


On Mar. 2, 1998, the Free Willy Keiko Foundation unveiled the design for a $350,000 floating net enclosure or sea pen, which is planned for an unnamed sheltered North Atlantic location where Keiko will be acclimated to a more natural environment. Components for the net enclosure will be fabricated, beginning in mid-March 1998. The Foundation hopes to be able to move Keiko to the net enclosure by spring 1999. In early March 1998, Foundation representatives were reportedly meeting with officials in Iceland, Ireland, and Scotland to discuss possible net enclosure sites. Officials at Oregon Coast Aquarium responded with reports that Keiko is not ready yet, and any release efforts are premature. Most press reports noted the extra three million dollars the Aquarium has made since Keiko arrived, although attendance is expected to drop this year to just over half of the 1996 peak of 1.3 million. They also have announced expansion plans.


A complete resource guide to the facts and issues of the captive display of whales and dolphins written by Jerye Mooney, one of the world's foremost authorities, and produced by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Available from WDCS, Alexandre House, James Street West, Bath, BA1 2BT, UK, or by email to FranC@wdcs.org, and at http://www.wdcs.org/ on the web. Using data from all available resources this document provides inventories and histories of many facilities, primarily in North America, and outlines the evolution of our society's attitude about displaying cetaceans in captivity. It will clarify the issue to all readers and empower those who chose to become involved. Sample excerpt: "The difference between confining cetaceans and terrestrial species lies in our inability to provide appropriate conditions to accommodate the physiological, social and environmental needs of a wholly aquatic species. Cetaceans are large, complex mammals which maintain close family bonds, travel long distances together, and feed and communicate as a cohesive group. Captivity severely compromises their quality of life to an unacceptable degree, through confinement in minuscule tanks. Such confinement is often characterised by forced associations, sensory deprivation and adverse intrusion by visitors. Marine parks can no longer justify their captivity under the false premise of education, conservation and research. Today's society is sophisticated enough to recognise these facilities as aquatic circuses, but the public must be encouraged to openly express its growing unease."

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