Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 2 April 1998

1997 President's Report For CSI

Presented by William Rossiter at the CSI annual membership meeting on 27 January 1998

CSI accomplished much in 1997. We took on some new challenges and remained involved in all the unresolved issues that concern our membership. Our membership remains stable. Overhead remains negligible and our available capital has increased.

Whales Alive! continues to be well received thanks to outstanding editorial work by Brent Hall, with articles on specific topics that are accurate and informative. Judging from occasional responses the newsletter is well read and considered valuable by many. Also thanks to Brent Hall, CSI has a well respected World Wide Web page with access to previous Whales Alive! newsletters and a continually updated source of pertinent information. Our site is popular, well linked to other valuable sites, and has generated a significant number of memberships compared to other means. CSI did no advertising or promotional work in 1997, and no significant impact was noted. One constant difficulty has been timely responses to all the requests for information from students, teachers, job applicants and people interested in careers with marine mammals. By letter we began to direct inquiries that we assumed to have Internet access to our web site. This has enhanced the completeness of our responses and freed up time for other tasks.

After many years as CSI's Membership Chairman, Tom Callinan was forced to resign because of his workload. Brent Hall took over near year's end and CSI's membership list is more computerized than ever. One benefit may be a more coordinated regional response to issues by members. Len Brown must be recognized once again for his remarkable membership drive, resulting in what has become a traditionally significant spike in numbers of new members. Brent Hall's projections of members and finances using historical data are very accurate. Martha Fitzgerald did an excellent job of recording CSI Board minutes, and Brent Hall graciously took over in fine fashion during her summer vacation.

CSI and the whales again benefitted from having Dr. Carole Carlson as our IWC NGO. Her scientific credentials permitted access and influence to all the IWC meetings. Carole served on the IWC Scientific Committee on whale watch issues, and worked closely with CSI Board Member Kate O'Connell, also at the IWC. Kate has been extremely active on many issues, on behalf of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. CSI was represented at a preliminary IWC Interagency meeting by Robbins Barstow, who also created a seminal and scholarly submission to the Australian Task Force on Whaling. Carole, Kate and Bill have continued to participate in various efforts to solve the Makah whaling problem.

Carole co-chaired a conference in May on the Educational Aspects of Whale Watching. Robbins, Kate, and Bill attended. Robbins was warmly received in recognition of his decades of effort concerning whale watching. CSI's promotion of Icelandic whale watching has continued, and our connections with the Husavik Whale Center are growing stronger. Bill has monitored the growth of New Zealand's dolphin and whale watching, with particular concern for the potential excesses of the dolphin-swim tours. CSI previously sponsored research on this industry, and in 1997 developed relationships with many New Zealand experts and a large German tour organizer with a goal to lessen potential impacts. The traditional CSI whale watch aboard the Dolphin Fleet was organized superbly by Lea and Len Brown, providing fun, fellowship, profit, dolphins and whales. This was a good year for Cape Cod whale watchers.

A wide variety of scientific projects received CSI support, with direct grants, equipment purchases or loans, and related assistance. Examples include support of an environmental center in Peru (Reyes), coastal marine education programs in Peru (Alfaro) and the Caribbean (Ward, Carlson), a public animal welfare conference in Brazil, research on self-recognition and cognition in dolphins (Defour), and travel expenses for scientists from Brazil and Puerto Rico to attend a major conference in Europe.

Bill's educational flyer on cetaceans in captivity has been reprinted in several languages with over 50,000 distributed worldwide, including the WDCS version. Responses have been received from Rumania to Indonesia to South Africa. CSI was directly involved with several captivity issues in 1997, such as a conference in San Francisco, prevention of the capture and display of Venezuelan Amazon River dolphins in Texas and the importation of a traveling marine mammal show into Puerto Rico, plus the first-ever study of captive cetaceans in Latin America. The artistic panels prepared in 1996 by local children under the guidance of Sue Wachtelhausen and Pamela Finkle, for inclusion in the kilometer long "Free Corky" banner, continued on their European tour.

Bill has kept CSI close to the U.S. Navy LFA sonar test project, and subsequent development of the Low Frequency Scientific Research Project that is currently studying the effect of human noise on large whales. He attended associated meetings in Washington, Monterey, and Boston. Work trips permitted meetings with scientists and CSI international Representatives in several countries. CSI made numerous submissions and response letters during 1997 on this and many issues, including official efforts to save the North Atlantic right whale.

Fred Wenzel continued his scientific research on the humpbacks of the Cape Verde Islands, and treated us to a public presentation of his work in November. Jean Rioux continued her summer Nantucket Speakers Program, and Paul Knapp was once again operating the world's only whale listening tour in Tortola during the winter months.

With a stable membership, increasing capital, and superb reputation CSI enters 1998 in a very strong position. However, perhaps we are not exercising our resources as well as we should. We may be wasting opportunities to involve people all over the world directly in CSI's efforts to help cetaceans. We do need the ability to utilize the energy of all those who write with a desire to volunteer or to get involved in some way. Closer to home we certainly need to regain CSI's respected influence among Connecticut's Congressional staff. We should try to increase our local activities, strengthen our locally active membership and attract new Board Members. All of these needs require volunteer effort, and as so many of us have been associated with CSI for many years and are already giving all that we can, the solution may be to actively recruit new members who will take the initiative and help CSI meet its full potential.

We would appreciate any comments or suggestions that you have.

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