Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 3 July 1998


News Notes


Whale Watcher Gifts

The perfect gifts for the avid whale watcher, or yourself, include the new WhaleNet Humpback whale catalogue CD-ROM, available through WhaleNet at: <http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/CDROMintro.html>. The CD includes the life histories and individual identifications of over 900 Gulf of Maine humpbacks, as well as natural histories of 20 marine mammal species in the North Atlantic. For information contact Professor J. Michael Williamson at WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu> or CSI. For incredible video footage from thousands of hours of whale watching off Cape Cod, get "Wonderful Whales", Volumes 1-7, from the Whale Video Company, P.O.B. 1052, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 USA, <seewhales@aol.com>. Go ahead, treat yourself. You deserve it!

Swimming With Whales And Dolphins

CSI continues to inquire about the New Zealand whale and dolphin watch industry, where a major focus is on swimming with dolphins. How have the dolphins been impacted? That is the subject of ongoing research by Rochelle Constantine, helped in part by CSI. There are many problems, but the Government is making a significant effort to understand and solve them. The superb studies of the local industry's evolution by Jo Berghan, Department of Conservation Russel Field Centre, should be valuable tools for anyone contemplating similar ventures. They could be of great value in many places, such as Tarifa, Spain, where a sudden industry is a mix of inexperience, competition, and unknown impacts. A far better approach may come from Cetacean Interpretation Center at Puerto de Santa María, which is offering three types of tours this summer: Six-hour daily tours through the waters off Cadiz Bay to watch dolphins and whales, as well as weekend trips to the waters of the Gibraltar Strait and week long sailing through Gibraltar Strait and Alboran Sea.

For further information contact Diego Gabriel Asensio, Centro de Interpretación de Cetáceos, Pto. de Sta. María, Cádiz, Spain. Tel/Fax: + 34 956 85 49 36, <dga@mad.servicom.es>. The proliferation of such swim-with tours is a certainty; the implications for cetaceans is not.

Virtual Swimming With Dolphins

In May the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden opened Cyberfin, a virtual reality attraction that simulates the experience of swimming with dolphins. People report feeling intensely relaxed and calm after their virtual swim within a pod of dolphins. Not only does one see and hear bubbles, but even experiences the sensation of them flitting across the skin. The experience comes from a liquid-crystal table, which is a waterbed-type of apparatus that prompts the sensation of floating in water; echophones, or specialized headphones that deliver binaural dolphin and underwater sounds; and 3-D glasses the user wears to view the video playing on a 25-inch display screen. Cyberfin's developers see the experience as a way to raise consciousness about dolphins and inspire people to learn more about them. The educational potential for this concept has been an effort CSI has worked on for years, and we ask that anyone sampling the experience tell us all about it.

Japanese Whaling

On June 17, 1998, the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru returned to the port of Ishinomaki after having killed 100 minke whales during "scientific research whaling" in the northwestern Pacific. About 300 tons of whale meat were scheduled to be stored until November when it would be distributed across Japan for consumption.

Japanese Bluefin Tuna Fishing

On July 10, 1998, the Japanese fishing fleet began an "Experimental Fishing Program" for Southern bluefin tuna in direct contravention to the decisions of the Convention for Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). Some 65 boats will take up to 1400 tons (in addition to the 6500 tons the Japanese have allocated themselves already) of this highly endangered fish species. It seems that the scientific whaling "bug" has spread from the IWC to another Convention.

Rare Sea Turtles Killed by Mexican Salt Mining Operation

According to a July 9 Reuters report, the Mexican environment ministry has determined that an accident in the controversial salt mining operation on the banks of the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon in Baja California last December caused the deaths of 94 rare sea turtles. The salt mining firm Exportadora de Sal S.A. (ESSA), a joint venture between the Mexican government and Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation, extracts salt from the lagoon by pumping water into large basins to dry, leaving the salt behind. Some of the highly salty water spilled into the lagoon last December, killing 94 sea turtles of the species chelonia agasizzii, which according to Greenpeace is in danger of extinction. Another less severe spill in May killed off fish and single-celled organisms.

ESSA wants to expand their salt mining operation alongside San Ignacio Lagoon, despite the fact that this is a critical breeding habitat for gray whales (Whales Alive! Vol. V No. 2 April 1996). The proposal is still under scientific review.

French Perfumes And Whale Products

A CSI member recently asked if "Blanc de baleine", or spermaceti oil, was still an ingredient in some French cosmetics, concerned that this suggested an illicit trade in whale products. According to a very reputable scientist, Dr. Anne Collett, the only product that may still be used by perfumes such as Chanel or Guerain is "ambergris", a concretion from sperm whale stomachs found stranded on New Caledonian beaches. Have you come across any commercial product that includes, or says it includes, cetacean byproducts? There is a black market trade out there, and we want to know about it.

Keiko Going Home!

The Free Willy Keiko Foundation announced in mid-June that Keiko will be brought to Iceland in late summer this year or early spring next year. Keiko's floating pen will be placed in Klettsvik, a bay near the town of Heimay, Vestmannaeyjar, a group of islands southeast of Iceland's capital Reykjavik. Iceland Prime Minister David Oddsson supports the return of Keiko to his native waters in Iceland and the people of Iceland seem excited and supportive about bringing Keiko home. The University of Iceland Research Unit at Vestmannaeyjar will participate in the monitoring and study of the rehabilitation program as Keiko learns to fend for himself. The project to rehabilitate Keiko and return him to his native Icelandic waters began more than four years ago. Captured in Iceland in 1979 for display in Japan, Keiko was finally bought by Marineland of Canada in 1982, and by January 1996 was sick and thin when removed from Mexico City to Newport, Oregon. Under expert care he is now healthy and 2,000 pounds heavier. Ultimately, if Keiko can thrive and his release is supported by scientific research, he will be given the opportunity to return to the wild. If this is not possible, the foundation is committed to seeing that Keiko is taken care of for the rest of his life.

Captivity Report Available

"Distorted Nature: Exposing the Myth of Marineland" is a sophisticated report from Zoocheck Canada on one of the worst examples of the captive display industry, Marineland of Canada. We recommend this resource to anyone who wonders what's wrong with keeping animals in captivity, particularly cetaceans. Many experts contributed to this report, and CSI commends them all; experts should care the most but many don't show it. For copies please contact Zoocheck Canada, Inc., 3266 Yonge Street, Suite 1729, Toronto, ON M4N 3P6, Canada, or (416) 285-1744, or <zoocheck@idirect.com>. It is also available on the web at: <http://www.zoocheck.com/programs/marine/mland/distorted/>.

Captivity In Mexico

Two 4-5 year old male belugas have been imported from Moscow to Chapultepec, Mexico to be exhibited in a fair called La Feria de Chapultepec in Mexico City. La Feria surrounds the belugas with many noisy mechanical rides and games. We need people to write to protest this situation. Please write to: President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Puerta 1, Chapultepec, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, Delegacion Miguel Hidalgo, C.P. 11580, Mexico, Fax no. 0052 5 516 5762 and 0052 5 516 4783. Also please write the Aquarium, Ing. Echavarria, Manager, "La Feria", 2a Seccion de Chapultepec, Chapultepec, Mexico, D.F.

Lolita

Lolita is another captive orca receiving lots of attention, as the Miami Seaquarium faces losses, maintenance problems, and expansion restrictions. An official committee was created recently to determine the future of the Seaquarium. On May 24th the "Free Lolita Benefit" in Miami Beach, Florida, raised funds for the Tokitae Foundation, a nonprofit organization campaigning for Lolita's release.

For more information on Lolita, see the Orca Network web site at: http://www.orcanetwork.org/.

Baby Beluga at Shedd Aquarium

A baby beluga whale, the first born at the John G. Shedd Aquarium Oceanarium, died seven hours after birth on June 23rd. An Aquarium spokeswoman incorrectly commented that beluga whales and dolphins in general do tend to have unsuccessful births. The whale was born to Mauyak, a 16-year-old beluga brought in from Tacoma, WA, for the aquarium's breeding program. The mother whale was pregnant for 14 to 16 months.

Captive Cetaceans In Asia

In mid-June two bottlenose dolphins arrived via Singapore Air into the Philippines from Indonesia for display until July 4th in the shopping mall parking lot at Ayala Center, Makati, Metro Manila. Such displays are increasing in Asia. The owner of Ayala Center is also a member of the Board of Directors of the local affiliate of World Wildlife Fund, known in the Philippines as KKP (Fund for Nature). The Government was embarrassed with the public protest that followed. To help ensure that such captive dolphin displays are kept from the Philippines, by amendments to the FAO 185, please send a polite letter to Mr. Dennis Araullo, Director, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 3rd Floor, Arcadia Bldg., 860 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines, or email: pelagic@vlink.net.p.

Sakae Fujiwara, Elsa Nature Conservancy, Japan, reports that the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium is planning to construct new facilities next to the current building to display orcas, bottlenose dolphins, and belugas. A major protest was made by a coalition of Japanese people called "Free Orcas", coinciding with the June 14th and 17th deaths last year of two of the "Taiji 5" orcas captured in Japan for public display. If you wish to join this protest with letters or emails please contact CSI.

China is now one of the largest new markets for captive display of cetaceans. Current facilities are in Hong Kong, Qingdao, Quinghuangdow, Chengdu, two in Guangzhou, and five in Shanghai, in addition to at least four that are planned. U.S. citizens are involved with the trade, and some sources include selected survivors from the infamous drive fisheries of Japan. There has also been an attempt to sell Amazon river dolphins there, in spite of international restrictions.

World Day For Captive Dolphins

July fourth has been decreed a World Day For Captive Dolphins by an international consortium of organizations working on the problems associated with the captive display of cetaceans. Coinciding with a conference in Finland were demonstrations in Belgium, Britain, Finland, Sweden, and the U.S.

Book Review

Razorback is a unique book about finback whales by a man who knows them well. John Conlon has been a naturalist aboard one of Provincetown's whale watch vessels for fifteen years, carefully observing finbacks, or razorbacks, that are commonly seen near there. He watches with the zeal of someone fascinated by the sheer majesty and awesome power of this fast, sleek, aloof whale species. He writes to tell us why. This book is more than a natural history of the species. While Conlon expertly blends in the facts from a full array of references his book is a work of love. As you read it you become a finback fan also, as you should be if you knew this whale as John does. Soft cover, 56 pages, illustrations and 16 color photos, $23 (includes shipping) to John C. Conlon, P.O. Box 1037, Wellfleet, MA 02667.


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