Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VIII No. 2 April 1999


News Notes

compiled by William Rossiter, CSI President


Cetacean Photos: We are going to try something new. Over the next few months CSI's much-appreciated web site will include a growing series of images of several species and situations that we hope will be of use to students doing reports and anyone with an interest in, say, spotted dolphins, whale watching, breaching humpbacks, net entanglements, strandings, and on and on. Some will be correlated to CSI's web site action page. Be patient. We're volunteers and must find the time to decide what would be of the most value, then select and scan slides. You can help us by requesting images you would most like to have available. What's your wish list? Perhaps you have images that would be perfect for us. Use of the slides for education, conservation or science will be free, but absolutely no commercial or profit making use will be permitted. They are all copyrighted by CSI president Bill Rossiter, or people who have donated them to CSI use. Yes, there's one catch; for the use of photos we will gently suggest that any user become a member of CSI.

Scientific Journals And Books Needed: CSI delivered four years of the scientific journal "Aquatic Mammals" in March to Professor Sheila Simão of the Federal University near Rio de Janeiro, and funded a continuing subscription for the only copies of this journal available in Brazil, where economic realities force many limits. The journal will be available to every researcher in the country. This CSI effort can continue with your help. Any old books and scientific journals gathering dust? Want a unique way to make a lasting contribution? We can guarantee the receipt of valuable materials, at CSI expense, by professional marine mammalogists who will use and share them. You cannot believe how grateful they will be, and how much cetaceans will benefit.

Incidental Mortalities: Enrique Alberto Crespo of Argentina received emergency grants in February from CSI and the IUCN Small Cetacean Group to respond quickly to a unique opportunity. Eighteen saddleback or common dolphins had been incidentally caught in fishing gear, not an unusual circumstance, and brought frozen to a port at Mar del Plata. What was unusual was the impounding of the boat by authorities and an invitation to Crespo's team to study the dolphins. The study results, according to Crespo, "have significant consequences for the incidental mortality of wildlife in fishing gear in our country". Collaborative necropsies were performed at the Institute for Fisheries Research and Development, by a team that included six of Crespo's students, biologists from the university and Natural Resources Secretary, and three veterinarians. Many discussions resulted, particularly with Fisheries Management officials, and one result was the potential for an observer program for incidental mortality evaluations for marine mammals and birds. CSI will work to make this program a reality.

Disentanglements: The Center for Coastal Studies operates the New England Whale Disentanglement Network and, with training seminars and outreach programs, has extended the successful effort to cover the major threat areas of the U.S. east coast. Rapid response vessels, equipment caches, integrated and committed participation by the U.S. Coast Guard, universities, museums, aquariums, government agencies and hundreds of fishermen make this network a role model for anyone interested in saving entangled marine animals. The core of the team effort is the often heroic work by the people in the boat that free the whales; Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, David Mattila, and Ed Lyman. In 1998 there were 4 regional drills, over 20 seminars, 40+ reports that required checking out, and ten successful rescues. One right whale, "number 2212" had to be cut free three times.

ESA Threats: The Endangered Species Act is one of the foundations of environmental law, and will again be subjected to Congressional and business pressures to weaken it during the reauthorization process. The Endangered Species Coalition includes over 336 organizations, including CSI, working to ensure that the ESA survives to help the life that depends on it. In June an Endangered Species Activist Conference in Washington, DC, will discuss ESA implementation and reauthorization, habitat conservation, and strategies for the next millennium (yes, that does seem a bit of a reach). For more information please see http://www.stopextinction.org, or contact 202-682-9400 x289 or x236, or ewingerter@defenders.org.

Whale Watching: To provide some perspective on the New England whale watch workshop reported in this issue, consider the Azores, a source of concern to many in previous years. In January the Regional Government of the Azores finally approved legislation to regulate the whale watching activity. The general rules took in account the results of the Montecastelo-di-Vibio and Martinica Workshops (see below), and a long discussion with whale watching operators, scientific specialists, the public and government. Those who approach cetaceans must now obey some rules regarding distance, direction, speed and time spent near the animals. The distances vary with situation but must not be less than 50 meters. The approach must be done from behind, leaving a free zone in front of the animals of at least 180 meters, and by only one boat at time. Other boats may be in the vicinity, but not closer than 200m. Each boat must stay no longer than 30 minutes with the same animal or group. Aircraft must not fly under 300m above the cetaceans for observation. No scuba diving is allowed with any cetacean, and snorkeling is allowed only with certain dolphin species. Observation with submersibles, subaquatic-scooters, kayaks, boards, jet-skis and all night operations are not permitted. Whale watch companies must apply for a permit, and recreational observation has to give priority to commercial tour operators, researchers and licensed photo/filming crews. Nature photographers and researchers must apply for a special permit if their work requires exceptions to the rules. No harassing, behavioral manipulation or feeding are allowed in any case, except under special license, and only for research purposes. Further information: (1) IFAW, 1995. Report of the Workshop on the Scientific Aspects of Managing Whale-Watching, Montecastelo di Vibio, Italy. 40 pages. (2) IFAW, 1996. Report of the Workshop on the Special Aspects of Watching Sperm-Whales, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica. 36 pages.

Dolphin Races: You will be pleased to know that, after being deluged with over 2,000 protest letters from around the world, Global Intertainment Corporation, a Vancouver Internet gambling company, canceled plans to stage dolphin races and jumping competitions in the Caribbean this February. The company underestimated animal welfare activists' and scientists' reaction to the plan and responded to the increasing pressure. CSI thanks all who responded to our request for letters and action. But we would like especially to thank Annelise Sorg, director of the Coalition for No Whales in Captivity in Vancouver, for her intense and courageous action to prevent these dolphin races and so much more. Annelise made it happen.

Belugas Need Help: Cook Inlet belugas are a genetically discrete population near Anchorage, Alaska. In 1994, NMFS estimated that there were 650 whales living in the inlet. Local Inuit and Inupiat hunters kill them and sell the muktuk in Anchorage for about $1200 per whale, killing about 20% of the population each year. In 1998, NMFS estimated the population to be 350. In March a coalition of conservation groups and a former whale hunter filed a 40 page petition with NMFS asking that Cook Inlet beluga whales be listed under the Endangered Species Act as an Endangered species. CSI and many others responded to NMFS' request for comments on this heavily exploited population, but the problem is deeper. NMFS may establish a co-management scheme with the local Inuit corporation but not other hunters. Only an emergency Endangered finding will enable the NMFS to shut the hunt down immediately. As expressed by Ben White, a magnificent activist with the Animal Welfare Institute, the Cook Inlet beluga situation exposes the weak underbelly of federal marine mammal protection from native hunters. To all practical purposes native people, treated as sovereign countries, are exempt from respecting marine mammal protections. We expect an effort to increase public awareness and political attention to this travesty.

Canada Cares? Jon Lien, a professor with the Ocean Sciences Centre and psychology department at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, was contracted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to conduct a review of the live capture program for marine mammals in Canada. One possible reason for the DFO-requested review is the application by Marineland of Niagara Falls to capture six beluga whales from a heavily exploited population. Lien, a well respected researcher, expert in whales and environmental education, and long time friend of CSI, sought comments from a vast array of organizations and the public. He has attempted to apply rigorous scientific research to establish whether viewing cetaceans in captivity truly changes people's attitudes towards conservation. "We say we put whales in captivity for education because it benefits animals in the wild, but on both sides, the empirical demonstration of how people's behavior is changed hasn't been done." Lien's report to Fisheries Minister David Anderson is due now, and is expected to include a recommendation that strict educational standards be implemented for facilities that exhibit live mammals. It may also reexamine DFO's role, now limited to setting regulations for how animals are removed from the wild, and recommend that it be extended to cover conditions in which animals are kept. What DFO will do with the recommendations is the big question. Many Canadian NGOs are skeptical that any positive actions will result.

Canada Doesn't Care: Patricia Gray of Prince Edward Island, Canada, has created Seal Hunt Protest 1999, in response to the unimaginable slaughter of seals sanctioned by the Canadian government. The Premier-Elect of Nunavut, Canada's new Inuit territory, has already complained at his first press conference about the U.S. ban on importing seal products and suggested that Canadian officials should try to persuade the United States to modify the Marine Mammal Protection Act so that thousands more seals can be killed. Because of Whales Alive! limits, and the scale of the violence, we can only ask readers to contact her at 902-569-4803 or pagray@pei.sympatico.ca for more information. In addition we recommend contacting the Seal Conservation Society, Peter Haddow, 25 Lerwick Road, Aberdeen, UK AB16 6RF. Tel: 44-(0)1224-696362, Fax: 44-(0)1224-683488, p.haddow@abdn.ac.uk and the excellent SCS web site at http://www.pinnipeds.fsnet.co.uk/.

Exxon Doesn't Care: "Legacy of an Oil Spill, 10 Years After the Exxon Valdez" was a just-completed convention called to investigate the aftermath of the March 24th, 1989, grounding of the Exxon Valdez that spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. A decade later some populations haven't recovered, beaches are still fouled, and some fishing communities barely survive. We'd say something about the way Exxon has acted during this decade of suffering, and how many pennies they have spent making up for it, but we are simply too disgusted to find the appropriate words. For further information try http://www.oilspill.state.ak.us. [Note: That link has expired. Try this one instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill]

Russia Cares But Not In Time: Radioactive waste dumped by the Soviet Union in Arctic seas is leaking through its containers, causing radiation levels to reach up to 100 times normal in some areas, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry officials announced in January. Radiation levels in waters off the Novaya Zemlya archipelago exceed the norm by dozens of times and in the nearby Stepovoi Gulf by 100 times. Radiation levels in the Barents Sea are also above normal. Several containers the Soviet Union used in Arctic radioactive dumps in the 1960's have become depressurized and toxic waste is leaking out. Chemical weapons dumps in the Baltic Sea are also causing contamination.

Ocean Futures is the result of a merger this March of the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Institute and, besides communicating about Keiko and his potential release in Iceland, will focus on public education programs on ocean pollution and fostering a conservation ethic.

Marine Mammals Win: In March the California Coastal Commission unanimously rejected a Navy and Marine Corps report suggesting that gray whales and sea otters in Monterey Bay would not be affected by major military exercises, part of the Urban Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment. The force of 250 Marines was denied a beach landing in Monterey on March 13th. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NMFS, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had granted approval to the military.

Animal Welfare Act: In February the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published proposed Animal Welfare Act regulations concerning the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of marine mammals in captivity. The proposed regulations were developed by the Marine Mammal Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee in a series of meetings from September 1995 through July 1996. Public comment on the proposed regulations is being taken through April 26, 1999. APHIS has had a frustrating history of budget-constrained inspections and enforcement. Of course this was why Sea World and other entertainment centers fought to strip NMFS of many related responsibilities when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was last attacked during reauthorization. Regulations are useless unless enforced.

Japan Shopping For Orcas: On March 9th Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge (Norwegian Federation for Animal Protection) alerted CSI and many others that the Norwegian Trade Council had organized a meeting for a Japanese delegation the next Monday with the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries, research institutions and whalers. The four person Japanese delegation, headed by the director of Port Nagoya Aquarium, Itaru Uchida, arrived on Sunday, March 14th. Their initial intent was to discuss, among other trade issues, the capture of six orcas. The captures would probably occur near Lofoten and the orcas would be flown to Japan for display in the Nagoy aquarium when it opened in 2001. By the Monday meeting at the Ministry of Fisheries a protest demonstration was in progress, over 200 faxes from 20 countries had been received by the Norwegian Trade Council and the Ministries of Fisheries, Environment and Agriculture, and the over 5000 children that make up "Lolita's Legion" were writing furious letters. Norwegian scientists, whale watch guides and the media also inquired about the plans. A terse fax from the Norwegian Trade Council on the 17th reported that the Japanese delegation was in Norway, but that "no reference was made to possible future captures of live killer whales - this is no longer an issue." Norway is not usually responsive to international public pressures but it is possible that they made an exception here. The Internet today allows alerts to reach many organizations representing caring people and permits very rapid and coordinated responses to issues, in this case literally changing a policy while the Japanese delegation was in the air. What will tomorrow's Internet allow?

Japan had attracted and apparently ignored a storm of protest with their capture of ten orcas at Taiji two years ago (see Whales Alive!, April 1997). Of 16 captured for aquariums at Taiji since 1978, 11 died after spending an average of 22 months in captivity. Postwar records show that orcas were regularly captured by Japanese whalers, peaking at 169 in 1965 and averaging 72 per year until 1968, when the number plummeted. From 1972, the catch stood at five or less each year until 1991, when it hit zero. After years of killing orcas near Japan, they are extremely rare, and Japanese aquariums are shopping aggressively for them. See the first article in this Whales Alive! for a similar perspective on all ocean resources. The Tokyo-based organization Free the Orcas sponsored a nationwide tour by Mark Berman of Earth Island Institute and orca expert Dr. Paul Spong in February to urge the Port Nagoya Aquarium to drop its plans. A Russian company supplying dolphins to Bahrain, and attempting to restock the Aya Nappa dolphinarium in Cyprus where all the dolphins died, is expected to be the next source the Japanese will try for orca captures. This Russian company is reported to have tried to capture orcas three times recently, and all they need is money.

Captive Exploitation: Mirage Resorts Inc. and the Marine Mammal Coalition, a captive display lobbying group representing marine parks and zoos around the country, have begun legal moves to nullify the Dept. of Agriculture's 1998 regulations governing attractions that allow people to swim with captive dolphins. "Swim-with" programs are very lucrative and that's all that counts, isn't it?

A scientific study on such "swim-with" programs prepared for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in January presents direct evidence that "petting/feeding" programs present high risks to visitors and dolphins. There are factors involved in these programs that cannot be adequately controlled and are potentially serious in nature, putting the welfare of dolphins and paying customers alike at unnecessary risk. During the study's thousands of videotaped observations there were at least six incidents of dolphin bites, and a three-year-old boy was hit in the face. Among many high risk human behaviors was the alarmingly frequent teasing of the dolphins as people held objects or fish out of the dolphins' reach. Aggressive dolphin behavior directed at visitors directly correlated with humans teasing the dolphins and added to the stress from food and social competition inherent in captive situations, reinforcing negative dolphin behavior. The staff did not intervene sufficiently and were unable to control people's actions. Foreign object ingestion by captive marine mammals have caused gastrointestinal blockage, toxicity and death, yet it is frequently observed. People fed dolphins fish that may have been contaminated, and there was no way a dolphin's daily fish intake could be determined. Some dolphins were obese. Were others malnourished? The study questioned that petting/feeding programs should be allowed to continue given that the effects on humans and dolphins appear to be unnecessarily risky and detrimental to both. The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, already committed to not making their dolphins perform, is reconsidering plans for a dolphin petting pool in view of the study data and concerns of many public organizations. A public debate on the issue at this aquarium is scheduled for mid-April.

One major justification given for "swim-with" programs is Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT), where people with disabilities pay for sessions in a pool where they are stimulated by interactions with a dolphin, seeking some relief from their condition. Highly controversial and even hyped as a "miracle cure", DAT has gone unchallenged until recently. CSI solicited qualified opinions on DAT from scientific networks in 1998, but nothing empirically supportive was received. The abstract from a paper by Marino, L. & Lilienfeld, S. in Anthrozoos, 11(4), 194-200 (1998), "Dolphin-assisted therapy: flawed data, flawed conclusions" says: "Two reports by Nathanson, Castro, Friend, and McMahon (1997) and Nathanson (1998) on the short-term and long-term effectiveness of dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) for children with severe disabilities have recently appeared in Anthrozoos. The authors of these reports have concluded that DAT represents an effective therapeutic intervention for several disorders, e.g., autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and that DAT achieves positive results more quickly and more cost effectively than conventional long-term therapy. Nevertheless, a methodological analysis of these studies demonstrates that these studies violate several important criteria for methodological soundness and, thus, scientific validity. This plethora of serious threats to validity and flawed data analytic procedures render the findings of Nathanson and colleagues uninterpretable and their conclusions unwarranted and premature. Practitioners of DAT and parents who are considering DAT for their children should be made aware that this treatment has yet to be put to an adequate empirical test."

Brazil has no captive cetaceans on display. A "dolphinarium" being planned near Rio de Janeiro cites DAT as one of their justifications and, with questionable and misleading information received from U.S. facilities, seeks to amend Brazilian laws prohibiting human/animal interaction in zoos and aquariums. CSI is involved with a major campaign to prevent or restrict the "Oceanographic Center" and others from displaying and exploiting dolphins. We hope to present some good news and many more details in the next Whales Alive!.

Stranding Reports

Cape Cod: From March 18th through 23rd, 50 white-sided dolphins stranded after unusually high tides near Wellfleet, Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, U.S.A. In spite of a major effort by experts led by the New England Aquarium and the help of hundreds of volunteers, 22 dolphins died and 24 were euthanized. Four survivors were tagged and released back into the ocean and have not been resighted. A satellite tagging effort was aborted due to bad weather, darkness, and safety concerns. Because of extensive shallows, misleading channels, sand bars, magnetic anomalies, and occasional combinations of strong tides and bad weather, Wellfleet and surrounding waters are a major "hot spot" for mass strandings, with a long history of many species. Last year, 97 dolphins stranded between late January and late February, and several times a year small groups or individuals strand on Cape Cod.

Adelaide: 48 bottlenose dolphins were found beached at sunrise, March 22nd, at Nepean Bay, at Kangaroo Island off the South Australian coast. In a nine-hour rescue attempt one died but the others were returned to the water. 80 volunteers, officials and vets stabilized the dolphins, and used a front-end loader and slings to carry the dolphins 1,000 feet across sand to shallow water, before they were guided out to sea by fishing boats dragging nets to keep them from returning to the beach. The dolphins reformed and swam into deeper water by mid-afternoon, and all seemed to have recovered. The adult male dolphin who died may have been the "key", perhaps sick or weak, moving to shallow water to breathe, and perhaps drawing in others.

Texas: In September an 18 month old bottlenose dolphin calf stranded on the Texas Gulf Coast. Nicknamed Stormy, the calf probably separated from his mother during Tropical Storm Frances. Suffering from malnutrition and shark bites Stormy was treated at the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, helped by many volunteers and $10,000 donated by Conoco Marine employees. Over months of rehabilitation Stormy's weight rebound to a healthy 180 pounds. National Marine Fisheries Service's committee of veterinarians and biologists decided in January that Stormy would not be released back in the Gulf of Mexico because he was neither weaned nor able to hunt for his own food. In late March, with the help of Eagle USA Airfreight, Stormy was transferred to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, U.S.A., which has two adult female dolphins.

Texas Again: A study has determined that 10 dolphins found dead on the shores of Matagorda Bay had toxic levels of PCB's in their bodies. The dolphins had eaten fish that were contaminated with the chemical. Scientists said that the finding doesn't mean that the bay is contaminated or that people are in danger, but there is reason for concern. Nearly 400 dolphins were stranded in the region during the winter of 1989 and 1990.

CSI congratulates all who helped with these dolphins, and all the other cetaceans that strand. Three of the four examples demonstrate that humans in many parts of the world will continue to dedicate often heroic efforts to saving live stranded cetaceans, with the same pattern of successes, failures, and unknowns repeated over and over. In spite of improvements in readiness, equipment and techniques, success often depends on response time, weather, and location. CSI suggests that another major handicap to future stranding response successes is poor communication about previous ones. Rarely do those in charge seek a constructive critique of an event that is publicly available as an objective and detailed learning tool. After an event, exhausted people go back to their lives and the details are lost, particularly the human factors. What was learned is often reduced to stressed memories, press reports, stomach contents and tissue samples. Hundreds of innovative ideas and techniques for dealing with the overwhelming nature of mass strandings have to be rediscovered over and over on the next beach because they are not available from previous events. There is no one resource to pass them to. Understanding past events could improve future responses, and also provide the facts to answer this basic question: How many stranded cetaceans survive after being returned to the sea?

Books

The Charged Border; Where Whales and Humans Meet is a new book by Jim Nollman about his personal odyssey to understand whales and dolphins, and why they move him so. Beginning with his cutting of nets to free dolphins from the slaughter at Iki in Japan, Jim has explored a broad range of human and cetacean encounters, often using his musical skills with diverse and ingenious instruments. Jim lyrically describes his successes and failures with the charged border between whales and humans as he critically reviews the scientific, environmental and new-age perceptions many of us have shared or debated. Reading this book wakens your memories of the whole "whale movement" and stimulates you to think of what might be its future. Henry Holt and Company, NY, 1999, $25.00.

Whales: A Visual Introduction is a stimulating, sophisticated, and educational resource; a wonderful gift for children. The Internet may get a lot of attention today, but it is not the medium that many can or want to choose to learn about whales. This book deserves to be in many home libraries simply because the facts are well presented, the photographs are excellent, and it will be read eagerly. Facts on File, 1999, $16.95.


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