Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XII No. 2 - April 2003
Compiled by William Rossiter
Avid whale watchers take note: The edge of the continental shelf about 100 miles east of Cape Cod is teeming with life, including sperm, beaked, pilot, fin, humpback, and minke whales, Risso's, bottlenose, common, striped, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins, plus sharks, manta rays, turtles and enough cold water and Gulf Stream seabirds to give anyone a lifetime experience. The once-a-year three day excursion aboard a Yankee Fleet vessel from Gloucester, Massachusetts, will depart on 13 July, to offer you a rare experience to get Out There. The trip supports the research of the Center for Oceanic Research and Education (CORE) and will include an expert from WhaleNet. For information contact 1-800-942-5464 or firstname.lastname@example.org. CORE's Great South Channel two-day excursion leaves 17 August, and will spend the evening on Nantucket. One whale watch through the GSC area last year found 12 right whales and too many humpbacks to count accurately.
Whale watching off Cape Cod begins 12 April, aboard the world-famed Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, Massachusetts. CSI is pleased to recommend the Dolphin Fleet over the many others cruising the famous Stellwagen bank, because of the expert and respectful way their captains find and maneuver around the many whales, and the expert naturalists from the Center for Coastal Studies who make every trip a full experience of the marine wonders this famous ecosystem offers. For information contact 1-800-826-9300, or http://www.whalewatch.com/.
Fiji's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is now a whale sanctuary, a major victory for whale preservation and a boost for the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. Fiji becomes the ninth Pacific nation to either declare their EEZ a whale sanctuary or announce their intention to do so. Over 11 million square kilometers in the Pacific are now whale-safe, thanks to New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Samoa and French Polynesia. Just 45 years ago there were thousands of humpbacks in Fiji's waters, before whaling decimated the population. Today enough come to Fiji to boost hopes that a thriving whale watch industry will boost tourism. The Navy's LFA, meanwhile, has been allowed to operate in a million square mile region surrounding but not close to the Marianas Islands in the North Pacific. Although humpbacks and other cetaceans are known to frequent the area, information about whale sightings and possible impacts remain hard to find.
Queensland, Australia whale watching has benefited from an 11 percent growth in the humpback whale population that comes to their area for the July and August birthing season. 4,000 humpbacks visited in 1998, and while whale watchers are predicting 10,000 by 2010, perhaps the recovering whales will spread to fill all their historical sites.
California's ban on new offshore oil drilling, and oil and natural gas exploration off the central California coast, will not be challenged by the Bush administration. The announcement in early April caused celebrations among the many conservationists that had fought to stop further exploitation of inshore waters.
Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFA) use in Europe's waters was threatened in January, as EU MPs called for a ban, and an environmental impact assessment of the LFA and NATO derivatives as required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Fish stocks around the UK have been affected by LFA tests, according to the fishing industry. EU MPs acted because NATO and member states failed to act.
Japan's Season for Dolphin Drives ended at the end of March, with the Ito City Fishing Cooperative making no efforts to herd dolphins ashore for slaughter during the season that began last September. As reported by Eiji Fujiwara, president of the Elsa Nature Conservancy and CSI representative in Japan, this was due at least in part because of criticism from Japanese citizens as well as worldwide animal protection groups.
Eiji's wife Sakae, and CSI board member Deb Adams, had been part of a team led by Hardy Jones, that last year toured the area to fight the slaughter and promote whale watching. As a result of their hard work, and the Internet site http://www.bluevoice.org/, thousands of signatures and emails had protested the planned killing, while promoting whale and dolphin watching. As expected, the Ito City Cooperative announced that it would carry out the drive fishery next period, beginning next September, and set a sales goal of 8 million yen. But the killers and politics are getting old, and young people are more aware of issues and the world around them.
On the other hand, the Dolphin and Nature Watching off the shore of Futo and Jogasaki by Mr. Ishii have been growing. As of the end of March, cetaceans were seen 31 times out of 37, with as many as 244 people participating. Ishii's dolphin watching promises far more for the region than dolphin drives ever could.
The first Russian National Marine Wildlife Reserve is to be established on the Sakhalin Shelf in 2004, specifically to lessen the impacts of seismic surveys on gray whales. Since 2000 a floating platform has pumped oil and dumped waste in the region used by gray whales as a "water pasture", which Russia believes may have contributed to the whales' population decline.
The XV Biennial Conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy will be held 14-19 December 2003 in Greensboro, NC, USA. The conference website is http://www.marinemammalogy.org/. CSI is very pleased that the SMM has now established a funding mechanism for helping overseas participants, for while CSI has been helping students from developing nations to get to such conferences for many years, the surge in numbers in recent years has drained our budget to scary minimums. CSI will, in fact, be coordinating our funding efforts with the SMM to ensure that as many people as possible can attend, particularly from developing nations.
"Biting the Hand that Feeds: The Case Against Dolphin Petting Pools" is an investigative report by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and The Humane Society of the United States, available through either organization at http://www.wdcs.org/ or http://www.hsus.org/. The report's hard evidence for condemning the profitable attractions as risks to both humans and dolphins should be posted right by the pools like any other safety requirement, but the industry is unlikely to want the eager but ignorant public to know what might happen. Orcas are rarely used in petting pools, as in this photo, but the educational message to the public is the same no matter what species is exploited: these are cute, submissive pets that deserve to be here, begging for your attention and the dead fish sold poolside.
From CSI Photo Gallery. Photo by William Rossiter.
"Lolita - Slave to Entertainment" is a new one-hour documentary by Tim Gorski, which reminds us all of the continuing struggle to free Lolita from the decaying Miami Seaquarium, where she's lived her deprived life in the human equivalent of a closet. Captured in Penn Cove, Washington in 1970, where her mother and many family members roam free today, Lolita has become a symbol of what's wrong with the decaying captivity industry. The documentary includes some of the best wild orca footage available, to remind us of what she's missing. Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has championed the campaign to return Lolita to Puget Sound for eight years, presents the facts about Lolita and shows you why you should care. To find out more about the documentary, or to order your copy of the video or DVD now, go to: http://www.slavetoentertainment.com/
Kshamenk's export permit was denied in late March by the Secretary of Environment of Argentina, who supported the previous denial by Argentina's CITES Scientific Authority. Kshamenk is a male orca held captive at Mundo Marino, Argentina, and was allegedly captured illegally in 1992. He almost killed a trainer recently, by pinning the man on the pool's bottom. Mundo Marino has had other problems, which they work hard to keep from the public. Last year's premature approval by NMFS of an import permit for Kshamenk resulted in a lawsuit, to which CSI is a plaintiff, that contends that Kshamenk had been forcibly captured rather than rescued from a stranding, and that such an import would jeopardize U.S. laws. CSI congratulates Gabriela Bellazzi, of Wild Earth Foundation Argentina, for her 16-month fight to gather all the information, some of it very scandalous, which convinced Argentine authorities to close the issue.
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in late March deferred plans to capture orcas in Russian waters. After two years of very expensive but failed efforts, the aquarium acknowledged that the population was not well enough studied to know what effect captures would have, and that there was growing international opposition from conservation groups and members. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) Far Eastern Russia Orca Project is working to reverse a Russian quota for the capture of up to ten orcas.
Nicaragua in January passed legislation to prohibit the capture and display of dolphins.
Maui County, Hawaii, in January became the 17th municipality in the United States to ban any displays of captive cetaceans, with the largest show of public support of any decision in its history. On behalf of the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe, the County Council declared that: "cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are highly intelligent - and highly sensitive - marine mammals... The Council ... finds that the exhibition of captive cetaceans leads to distress living conditions for these animals." The ban also prevents the construction of the proposed dolphinarium in the Maui Nui Shopping Mall.
Keiko is still in ice free Taknes, Norway, as spring approaches. The historical flow of herring into the fjord hasn't happened, so fishermen are worried and the wild orcas Keiko was being primed to join have stayed offshore. During a "walk" Keiko initiated about a month ago, several miles from Taknes, he spent a few anxious minutes in the kind of lesson any wild whale would need to learn: he was briefly blocked from the surface by ice and ended up with some abrasions to his head and a new respect for sea ice. Keiko's caretakers have been working with him as they used to in Iceland, accompanying him on "walks," interacting with him as much as necessary to keep him from being bored, and searching for wild orcas. For more information: http://www.Keiko.com/
The "resident" orcas of Puget Sound, Washington have traveled widely during the winter. Parts of L pod were seen as far south as Monterey, California, where some of the K and L pods ranged in 2000. Orcas need an average of about 25 salmon a day. But with salmon in decline the orcas now travel far and grub for bottom fish, unfortunately laden with toxic waste.
In response to many concerns, the federal budget includes $750,000 for field studies of this orca population, the first such funding since the 1970's. Washington State will add $100,000. The six-year, 20 percent decline in the population of J, K, and L pods is getting more attention, some solutions are being implemented, and every birth in this popular, sacred but very sick population becomes a local headline. The happy news so far is that 31 year old J-11 was seen in April with a very new baby, her fourth known offspring and already called J-39, and Oreo, J-22, also has a new calf to join Doublestuf, J-34. To learn more, see http://www.whalemuseum.org/ or http://www.orcanetwork.org/.
Luna, or L-98, survived the winter in Nootka Sound, Canada, watched over by the Soundwatch and Marine Mammal Monitoring (M3) teams of dedicated and caring experts. But he has been starved for attention. Luna has allowed people to scratch his tongue, pushed boats around, and approached floatplanes on takeoff or landing. Luna is becoming a pet by default. Some visitors see a toy whale instead of a wild killer whale, something for them to use. What will the summer crush of curious people bring? With much controversy the Canadian government continues to delay deliberations on what action should be taken before someone gets hurt. They initially decided not to reunite Luna with his L-pod because he could survive, if left alone. He doesn't want to be alone.
One reason to help Luna return to L-pod is that he may one day help the clan grow, as the "resident" orcas are suffering reproductive failures as a result of their toxic habitat (see above). There are significant efforts to repair the toxin and overfishing damage caused by humans, and Luna may well represent the future hope of the very symbolic L-pod.
Orcas were shot in Greenland in late March, as a group of perhaps 15 whales in a fjord were attacked over several days by hunters in boats. At least three orcas were killed. Many more were wounded by the small calibre arms. The blubber of the dead whales was peeled off. The rest was left to scavenging birds, as Greenlanders don't like orca meat. Over 20 orcas were shot in 2002, and authorities have yet to act on their promise to regulate the hunts.
51 stranded whales were butchered immediately for food in the Solomon Islands in early April, before provincial government officials could intervene or determine the species.
The 1990 "Dolphin Safe" Label definition was upheld by a federal judge in early April, barring the Bush Administration from weakening it by allowing nets to be set on dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. While the government had plans for observers to certify no dolphins had been killed, opponents pointed out suppressed data showing the stress of net-capture could be behind the slow dolphin population recovery, and was likely to separate mothers and calves.
Chinese white dolphins are not surviving long enough to reproduce. With the population well below 1,000 individuals, China in late February established an offshore zone in China's Guangdong Province, to protect and showcase the endangered species. With a US$517,000 grant from the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the preserve should be finished in four years.
The last 100 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River of southern Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were officially recognized in February as requiring immediate help because of the rate of fishing net entanglements, but scientists feared that it would not come in time.
The last 70 to 150 Maui dolphins used to be called the North Island Hector's dolphin. The name change strategy is to help save the dolphin from extinction. Ineffectual policies handicapped by fishing lobbies have only fostered repetitive studies as the population declined from 1,300 individuals just ten years ago. Maui's dolphins are now on the "Red List" of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the world's most rare and critically endangered creatures. An overdue "zero risk management approach" finally closed the dolphin's known range to recreational and commercial set net fisheries in January. Strict enforcement was also mandated.
But fishing lobbies have been so effective that New Zealand's Minister of Fisheries is still deliberating whether trawlers should have observers, even though it has been proven that without official observers, most deaths are not reported. Five deaths were reported last year and nine the year before. Although the dolphins live up to 20 years, they do not breed very often. Females may begin to breed at seven years, and only produce one calf every two to four years.
Dolphins entangled in fishing gear in the North Sea and English Channel are stranding dead in record numbers. They are caught in fishing nets hundreds of yards wide, typically dragged for more than eight hours behind a pair of giant trawlers working together. Last year at least 180 dolphins stranded dead on the shores of Devon and Cornwall, but through mid-March 265 had stranded. Many had been mutilated, some bore knife wounds, and no one knows how many are actually killed.
A possible EU ban on this trawling is under consideration, welcomed by fishermen who blame French and Scottish pair trawlers fishing for sea bass. The UK's published a "Small Cetacean Bycatch Response Strategy" and is considering the obligatory use of pingers. Pinger use is supported in Denmark and Ireland, but not other EU member states. Experiments with panels to allow large marine animals to escape nets are also under way. The goal is to reduce bycatch of harbor porpoise, common, bottlenose, white-beaked, Atlantic white-sided, striped, and Risso's dolphins, and pilot and killer whales "to below the 1.7 percent target set by Ascobans (the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas) in 2000".