Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VIII No. 1 January 1999

CSI News

CSI has joined the Species Survival Network, an international coalition of over 50 organizations "committed to the promotion, enhancement and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Through scientific and legal research, education and advocacy, the SSN is working to prevent the over-exploitation of animals and plants due to international commercial trade. The Network strongly believes that such trade can occur only when evidence positively demonstrates that survival of the species, subspecies, or populations and their role in the ecosystems in which they occur will not be detrimentally affected by trade and when trade in live animals minimizes the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment. The species must always receive the benefit of the doubt if available evidence is uncertain." As reported in the last Whales Alive!, CSI President Bill Rossiter attended the SSN Summit meeting in England in September, and with pleasure and pride we now confirm that Board Member Katie Gray will be CSI's official SSN and CITES representative. Board Member Kate O'Connell, one of the most experienced and respected CITES NGO experts and representative for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is helping Katie engage the complex issues. The next CITES meeting, CoP11, will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, in November, 1999. Grenada will host the next IWC meeting in May. CITES and the IWC are among the most significant means we have to influence the decisions and policies of governments regarding marine mammals, and enabling our representatives to be there is a significant and justified percent of CSI's budget.

Funding education, conservation, and science projects by experts all over the world takes up most of the rest of CSI's budget. What we're really saying, of course, is that if you agree with the way we spend your contributions and membership fees please consider helping people like these through CSI even more in the future. We work very hard to make good investments in people, projects, and purposes. If you have ideas about helping others please let us know. If you want more information about the projects CSI supports, or all the efforts we would help if we could, please just ask. Our most recent flurry of grants went to a spectrum of efforts that should indicate some of what we are trying to do:

· Fundación Cethus' study of human impact on orcas and the prey-predator relationship in Patagonia, Argentina, where recent tourism and documentary pressures have exploded.

· The Orca Project's stimulating educational package for every grade school in New Zealand, centered on an Orca adoption program and ongoing research.

· Two important email networks that so many depend on, the scientific-oriented MARMAM, and the captivity-oriented Cetacean Freedom Network.

· Lolita's Legion, a growing Internet place just for children, linking them with kids around the world concerned about marine mammals.

· Travel support to enable three young Brazilian scientists with extraordinary potential to attend professional conferences in Europe. One, Eduardo Secchi, has such impressive potential that the IWC found the funds to get him to their workshop in Scotland, and CSI's will help him continue on to a related workshop in France.

· Continued support through CEPEC of a public educational center and associated programs in coastal Peru.

Franciscana dolphins incidentally caught in coastal gillnet fishery in the northern Rio Grande do Sul. Photo by Paulo Ott/GEMARS
Dolphins Photo
· Survival funds to help six graduate students and their voluntary coalition, GEMARS, continue their impressive and productive research on marine mammal fisheries interactions in southern Brazil. No, this needs more than one line. GEMARS is six young, eager and talented people trying to piece together the realities for marine mammals in southern Brazil. While each of them works on their graduate studies and thesis projects, as GEMARS they conduct disciplined scientific analyses, interview fishermen, survey hundreds of miles of remote beaches, study local dolphins and whales by every imaginable means that doesn't wipe out their very limited resources, and publish valuable scientific and conservation information. They are quite literally unable to survive without patronage. Until the recent financial crisis, tax-financed government support passed through the Brazilian Environmental Fund to students such as these. GEMARS' official support was recently canceled "for an indeterminate time". Yes, they may stop their schooling and careers and find other jobs, but these people are extremely valuable investments for science and conservation in Brazil, and the future of marine mammals in Latin America. We single out GEMARS only as an example. There are hundreds of students and projects affected by this collapse of funding, creating a very real problem for the future. What about charitable giving and non-profit organizations in Brazil such as CSI picking up the funding needs? Although Brazil has patron-supported charities there is still a cultural hesitation towards supporting such needs, accentuated by Brazilian tax laws that don't allow charitable deductions for science or conservation, but only for social services and other human-related projects. This gap wasn't supposed to happen. History is replete with tragic and costly examples of long term momentum lost to short term "solutions". What else can we do to help?

Why CSI's interest in Brazil? One reason may be the vibrant, powerful influence that Brazil has on the rest of Latin America. Another is the enormous coastline, and all the creatures near it. Another is the astonishing surge of young professionals who want to study and save marine mammals, among the many friends and associates CSI has made while Bill Rossiter often travels there at no cost to CSI, thanks to United Airlines. But the big reason is the reality that growing human populations demand more resources. More than at any time in the past there is a race to understand what's there, and what's happening to it because of us. This scientific race against human impact, particularly in Brazil, is helping us to illuminate what exists before, during and after human exploitation. The solutions to this impact are needed all over the globe.

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