Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 4 October 1998

News Items

Over 1250 people had adopted a very popular manatee named Shane by the time he died from boat-inflicted injuries in June, joining the list of over 750 manatees killed by boats in Florida waters since the initial records began in 1974. 1998 is becoming a record year for human caused manatee deaths, with 201 dead manatees counted in the first 9 months of the year. Significant efforts have been made to reduce this devastation by boaters, all intent upon making the boating public concerned enough to watch out for this utterly benign and vulnerable creature. For more information please contact the Save the Manatee Club, Inc., 500 N. Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751. Phone: 1-800-432-JOIN, email: membership@savethemanatee.org, web: http://www.savethemanatee.org/.

Argentina recently proposed new legislation that includes prohibitions on the hunting or capture of orcas in Argentinean waters. Other species may be included. Please show your support and encouragement for this action as it will help prevent the captivity industry from growing in Argentina. Please send support letters to: Diputada Dra. Elsa Melogno, H. Camara de Diputados de la Nacion, Rivadavia 1843 - (1033) - Buenos Aires, Argentina. The text of the letter needs to say politely that you support the development of laws protecting cetaceans and congratulate the work of Fundacion Cethus, a hard working NGO that CSI respects greatly. It only needs to be a few lines long to make a difference.

In September the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published regulations in the Federal Register establishing standards for swim-with-the-dolphin programs. Little changed from the first version proposed in 1995. APHIS stated that "Standards more restrictive than those set forth in this rule would require significant increases in expenses and record keeping, without a commensurate increase in the well-being of program animals." Clearly favoring business over dolphins, the rules continue to allow three people per dolphin, for two hours at a time, with a ten hour rest period every 24 hours. The size of the pools is too small and no area is required to allow a dolphin to retreat from human contact. Veterinarian inspections are only required once a month. Enforcement of APHIS regulations is often a problem, and the industry considers itself self-regulating. Further buckling to commercial demands, APHIS had by October corrected itself with an exception for specific requirements pertaining to wading interactive programs, in which the participants are stationary and non-buoyant. In contrast with CSI's disgust with these rules the industry is most pleased that the strategy of removing NMFS from a role with captive cetaceans has proven so fruitful. There are six registered dolphin-swim programs in the United States but the unofficial number is much higher. Tourists may pay more than $100 per half hour to "fulfill a fantasy," in the words of one handler.

The Norwegian minke whale season concluded August 17th with a total catch of 624 whales from a self appointed quota of 671, with about 950 metric tons of whale meat landed. Whalers received about $4 per kilogram for their catch. Their own historical statistics from 1984 indicate that almost half were not killed instantaneously. The average time to death was over three minutes and several took almost an hour. Over one third were finally killed by 9mm rifle bullets. Almost one third were pregnant.

Japan's Whaling

To continue a record of insult, Japan's fifth year of "scientific research" whaling in the north Pacific killed 99 minke whales and one Bryde's whale. Continual IWC resolutions calling for Japan to "refrain from issuing any further permits for the take of minke whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the North Pacific Ocean" have had no effect. The Bryde's whale was "apparently" killed in error, and while the Fisheries Ministry declared there was "no problem" this was, in fact, an infraction of IWC rules. To further the insult the whale's body was burned and buried. Japan's research is focused on proving that the population is one stock, to justify a larger quota than for several smaller stocks if legal whaling is ever allowed. Further research to "justify" the whaling include the impact by minkes on fish populations, perhaps to prove that whales were excessive competitors with Japan's fisheries. 30 tons of meat from 483 minkes killed in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1998 was distributed to a campaign to promote eating whales, and another 893 tons went to "processed food", from a total of 1707 tons. This is only the whaling of record. A recent publication available from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, "Whale for Sale", details the results of DNA analysis to establish the "illegal trade of whale meat and products in Japan and South Korea". Commercially available meat that came from humpback, blue, finback, Bryde's and orca whales suggest that "scientific whaling" may be nothing more than a cover for rampant illegal whaling. The only remedy has been exposure; when confronted with proof of specific illegal whaling the associated governments have acted, but only because they were found out. Contact IFAW at P.O. Box 193, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675 USA.

Iceland: Whale Watching And Whale Eating

Whale watching in Iceland continued to increase magically in 1998, according to statistics from Asbjorn Bjorgvinsson, Whale Centre, in Husavik, icewhale@centrum.is. CSI congratulates all who have worked so hard for this success, which would have been higher by several thousand but for difficult weather in June and July in the North. 50% growth figures are rare for any business today!

LocationNumber of passengers
Northsailing, Husavik14005600985012100
Seatours of Arnar, Husavik100150042006000
Niels Jonsson, Hauganes, Eyjafjord10046511801400
Seatours, Dalvik, Eyjafjord150102015001800
Hofrungur, Keflavik30070020003300
Konrad Eggertsson, Isafjord00500
Huni, Hafnarfjord00100800
Eyjaferdir, Stykkisholmur005001500
Joklaferdir, Hofn110110600
Orca, Olafsvik2060200300
Sjoferdir, Arnarstapi2045350400
Viktoriubatar Andrea,
Arnes, Reykjavik00150130
Sea Marvels, Keflavik0002100
Total number of passengers:2,2009,70020,54030,330

Because of the economic boom generated by whale watching, and the positive flurry over Keiko, now may be the time to mitigate the problems on the dark side of Iceland's attitudes about whales. Iceland left the IWC in 1992 and is not whaling now, but minke whale meat is being advertised and sold publicly. Recently State Broadcasting Service advertisements included ads such as "New minke whale meat! Fishshop Haflida", "People in Akureyri! New and pickled minke whale meat! The Fishshop, Strandgata", "Minke whale pepper steak. Humarhusid". The whales have in past years been stated to be "bycatches" from net entanglements, killed rather than released, and there is some suspicion that the nets are deployed intentionally to entangle.

To help clarify the situation, and show international concerns from potential whale watching tourists, CSI is requesting that Whales Alive! readers respectfully write Minister Thorstein Palsson, Ministry of Fisheries, Sjavarutvegsraduneytid, Sjavarutvegshusid, Skulagata 4, IS-101 Reykjavik, Iceland, to request information on the bycatch, domestic commercial sales of whale meat, and government attitudes about the situation. Please contact CSI with any information that you receive.

Cassana, one of the four common dolphins held at Marineland in Napier, New Zealand, died in September. Cassana was the 73rd death from the 76 dolphins Marineland has captured from the wild since 1965.

Australian Environment Minister, Senator Hill, boosted efforts in September to protect dolphins after two were shot in the Port River. Those found guilty of killing or injuring dolphins in Commonwealth waters will face up to two years' jail and fines of up to $110,000 under the new plan. Actions that have a significant impact on a threatened species of dolphin, whether in State or Commonwealth waters, will be fined up to $550,000 for an individual and $5.5 million for a company. A loophole in existing legislation will be closed to prohibit the capture of dolphins for live display, and all Commonwealth waters will be declared the Australian Whale Sanctuary, which will protect whales, porpoises as well as dolphins.

Entanglement Issues

1,700 harbor porpoises from the Maine population die from fishing net entanglements each year. This is three times the sustainable rate. According to a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the U.S., the Center for Marine Conservation, and others, the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to implement an adequate plan to protect the species NMFS proposed to list under the Endangered Species Act as a Threatened Species in 1992.

Entanglements in fishing gear are an ever increasing problem. Acoustic warning devices on nets, "pingers", are getting mixed reviews, but research may provide consistent solutions. The key may be to find the effective species-specific sound combinations that alarm approaching cetaceans just enough to alert them. A Greek distributor recently contacted CSI looking for ways to develop a dolphin-proof net, certain that the market would leap at the product. Such a resource doesn't exist, yet. Sounds like an opportunity for imaginative inventors to succeed beyond their dreams! After all, the people who study dolphins, acoustics, and related fields haven't solved the problem. A fresh innovative approach might.

The Whale Rescue Team of the Center for Coastal Studies was again called into action September 12th to cut free a right whale so close to Provincetown, Massachusetts, that the annual Swim for Life fund raiser had to be altered to miss the effort! This whale had been entangled before, and may never learn the lesson. But with only 300 left even this right whale too deserves a maximum rescue effort. The Team so far this year has freed four humpbacks, three right whales, one minke and one finback. CCS staff have also trained response groups and Coast Guard units along the east coast of the U.S. The Center's Team and equipment can be airlifted far out to sea, and supported there for prolonged rescues. You would think that such high profile work for whales would generate a good deal of public support. After all, these people truly risk their lives to save whales. But the public hasn't responded as you might think. Yes, we are asking all our readers to support this organization's needs. For more information: CCS, 508-487-3622, http://www.coastalstudies.org/, email: ccs@coastalstudies.org.

Go to next article: Ken Norris' Passing or: Table of Contents.

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