Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XV No. 2 - April 2006

Cetacean News

By William Rossiter

ACTION ALERT: Please Help Stop the Export of Dolphins from Japan to China. CSI and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan ask you to send an email or fax protest today, to the places indicated below, to stop Taiji, Japan from receiving an export permit for eight female bottlenose dolphins to be sold to Dalian, China. Time is short, but your action may make the difference.

Whales Alive! readers know that Taiji, Japan is infamous for slaughtering dolphins, and that the captive dolphin industry supports the drive hunt. The town of Taiji and the Taiji Whale Museum select dolphins to sell, while the rest are slaughtered for meat. These eight dolphins will be sold for US$375,000, seven times what the Taiji Fishing Cooperative was paid. Last year Dalian dolphinarium paid US$400,000 for eight dolphins, again seven times their original price. The sale to China is labeled an "academic exchange" to try to make it legal.

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) has refused to stop its members from buying or selling drive hunt dolphins. The Taiji Whale Museum is a member of JAZA, and JAZA is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which has warned its members not to purchase dolphins from the drive hunt. Last year six bottlenose dolphins, one short-finned pilot whale, and one dolphin/hybrid died at the Taiji Whale Museum. Two false killer whales disappeared this January.

Please send your polite request opposing this export to:

- Mr. Kazutaka Sangen, Town Mayor of Taiji, E-mail: taiji@town.taiji.wakayama.jp, Fax: +81-735-59-2884

- Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, E-mail: webmaster@meti.go.jp, Fax: +81-3-3501-6942

- Mr. Teruyuki Komiya & Mr. Ken-ichi Kitamura, Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, E-mail: exdjaza@sirius.ocn.ne.jp, Fax: +81-3-3837-1231

Dolphin capture photo courtesy of Sakae Hemmi, ELSA

Dolphin capture photo courtesy of Sakae Hemmi, ELSA

Stage fright is the official reason given for the refusal of five bottlenose dolphins to perform tricks at Iruka (dolphin) Marine Park in Iki, Japan. An earthquake in March 2004 has been blamed, as has their age; nearly all are 30 years old or more. Officials say the show must go on, as the dolphin acrobatic act is the park's showpiece. Only the youngest dolphin still performs. There is no way to tell how the other six are being cared for now that they refuse to be productive.

The city-owned dolphinarium started on the premise that it was "a good way to rid lucrative fishing spots of the sometimes pesky mammals", which translates to buying a few dolphins selected from the horrific dolphin slaughters condemned worldwide.

Iruka started in 1995 with twenty dolphins. Every year since at least one has died. Three more dolphin survivors were bought in December. The ¥10,000,000 price was a discount for incomplete training, and Iruka's training abilities are so poor the three won't be ready for show tricks for a year. Iruka wants more dolphins, but for fewer tourists; the dolphinarium drew a peak of 72,000 tourists in 1998, but has continued to drop from the 51,000 tourists acknowledged in 2004. Iruka wants to save money by capturing dolphins again at Iki, but Japan continues the local capture ban begun in 1991 following a worldwide condemnation of Iki's well publicized dolphin slaughters. The slaughters serving the captivity market continue elsewhere, where documentation is difficult (see many earlier Whales Alive! newsletters).

Dolphin Safe Tuna has a new web site at http://www.DolphinSafe.org/, the creation of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project. The new web site includes fact sheets and policy statements about the standards that must be met by tuna companies in order to be part of Earth Island's international Dolphin Safe Tuna monitoring program. More than 300 companies, representing 96 percent of the global tuna catch, adhere to Earth Island's standards. Dolphin Safe standards include no encirclement of dolphins during an entire fishing trip, no killing or harming any dolphins, no use of drift gill nets, and reducing bycatch of other nontarget species. The tuna industries of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and other countries continue to chase and net dolphins in the tuna fishery. More than 7 million dolphins have been killed by this practice over the past 5 decades.

The boycott worked: Nissui is dumping its whaling connection! If you were one of the thousands who stopped buying Gorton's products, be proud that your act helped persuade a large corporation to act responsibly. Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd., or Nissui, owns Gorton's of Gloucester, the US's major seller of fish sticks, fillets, and frozen seafood, 50 percent of New Zealand-based Sealord tuna and, until early April, one third of Kyodo Senpaku, the company that conducts the "scientific" whaling program for the Japanese government. CSI congratulates the Environmental Investigation Agency, Humane Society of the US, Earth Island Institute and Greenpeace for their successful campaign.

The pressure grows: 3511 tons of whale meat in Japan was unsold at the end of 2005. The Fishery Agency blamed poor advertising for keeping sales far below the supply from "scientific" whaling. Only 1300 tons have been sold since August, and the glut continues to grow. "Hakodate", a principle whale meat seller in Japan, closed in February.

Mexico now prohibits the import, export and re-export of any species of marine mammal. Article 55 bis of the General Law of Wild Life, published in late January, also applies to primates, but has exceptions for scientific research. The reform was developed by the House of Representatives ex Deputy Diego Cobo, but Senate approval had been delayed for two years because of intense lobbying by Mexico's captivity industry. The surge in Mexico's captive dolphin displays in the last decade had simply overwhelmed the authorities, who lacked the will to even keep track of how many dolphins were in tanks, much less enforce compliance with inadequate laws. Corruption, scandal, and pressures from politicians and influential entrepreneurs made the environmental authorities impotent, and the industry went amok.

Some hard won progress has been made: A January 2002 law prohibited captures of marine mammals in Mexico's waters, all species were given some category of risk in Norm 59, and a modest law for the care and maintenance of captive dolphins was published in August 2004. Mexico also developed some strong policies protecting wild cetaceans, beginning with the 1972 whale reserve in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Baja California Sur, 2002's national sanctuary that now protects 21 species of cetacean from hunting and capture, 2005's vaquita refuge, and strong anti-whaling positions in the IWC. But captivity issues plague the nation, including 2000's infamous development of the La Paz dolphin display and 2003's continuing scandal as 28 dolphins of an exotic species were brought from the Solomon Islands for display in a national park. Inept disaster plans were no match for hurricanes that destroyed many dolphinariums, and killed or injured an unknown number of animals. Overall the still exploding industry looks great to unthinking tourists but is loaded with problems.

CSI applauds the organizations that have worked so hard together to make positive changes happen in Mexico, in particular Beatriz Bugeda, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Juan Carlos Cantú, Defenders of Wildlife/México, and Dr. Yolanda Alaniz and Laura Araceli of COMARINO, Conservation of Marine Mammals of Mexico. COMARINO is preparing the next stage right now, and CSI is proud to continue to support their still-confidential project.

London's Northern Bottlenose Whale became a world celebrity in January, as she swam up the River Thames to Westminster Bridge. Either in distress or simply lost, the whale was far from her normal habitat of thousand meter deep offshore canyons, near the Shetland Islands, Outer Hebrides or the Bay of Biscay. Everyone wanted to know why she was there. Pundits suggested she had been elected to parliament, others sold souvenirs, and TV commentators stretched whatever they could find, but the experts guessed that local North Sea waters had an unusual abundance of squid. Two or three other bottlenose whales were reported in nearby coastal waters, along with squid feeding cetaceans like Risso's dolphin, striped dolphin, long-finned pilot whale, and two sperm whales that later stranded separately in early February.

A rescue effort responded quickly, led by British Divers Marine Life Rescue and including Zoological Society of London and many volunteers. Under more intense media scrutiny than a royal wedding she was lifted onto a barge to be taken out to the Thames Estuary, but died during the trip. Blood tests proved she was suffering severe dehydration and kidney failure as well as some mild muscle damage. The whale had not eaten recently, which explained her dehydration; squid would have provided most of the water she needed. Her muscle damage may have come from an extended period in very shallow water. An expert team of veterinary pathologists performed a special necropsy to rule out any acoustical trauma, showing the intensity of the human-related noise issue. Something has caused cetacean strandings in Britain to double over ten years, from 360 in 1994 to 782 in 2004. No one knows why.

The public support for this whale was very British and wonderful. Who knows how many children chose to study whales after the experience. Few other places on earth besides Britain could trace records of other Northern Bottlenose Whales in coastal waters back to 1717, but she was the first to reach London.

A Nikon slide scanner was purchased by Bridgewater State College's Watershed Access Lab, thanks to a grant from CSI. The scanner solves a significant problem faced by scientists today: how to make use of thirty years of archived photo ID slides. The scanner benefits the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance, whose interns are busy converting archival slides of humpbacks, finbacks and basking sharks into digital images.

Need an outstanding, free resource for facts on small cetaceans? The "Review of Small Cetaceans: Distribution, Behaviour, Migration and Threats" is an accurate and current summary of small toothed whales, and the threats they and their habitats face. The joint publication, from the Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), is available in PDF format at: http://www.unep.org/regionalseas/Publications/Reports/Series_Reports/Reports_and_Studies/default.asp. Besides a wealth of species information, the report emphasizes culling, direct and accidental catch, pollution and habitat degradation. It shows that eight small cetacean species should be given new protection under the CMS agreement, and stock conservation should be expanded for seven other species.

Go to next article: Noise in the Oceans: Military Sonar or: Table of Contents.

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