Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XIV No. 2 - April 2005
Bits and Pieces
Attacks on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are being assisted by the Administration's budget proposal, released in February, which once again failed to fund the core programs needed to adequately implement the ESA. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-CA, was joined by Representative Greg Walden, R-OR, and Senators Mike Crapo, R-ID and Lincoln Chafee, R-RI in announcing a joint effort to rewrite the Endangered Species Act to make it tougher to get habitat and scientific provisions. Chafee chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife and water. Reauthorizing the ESA in recent years has only meant weakening it. Previous bills have not passed, because voters stayed alert.
The insidious attacks to weaken protective laws are coming from all directions. 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported having been told to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, when their scientific conclusions interfered with businesses' profits.
Dolphin exports from the Solomon Islands were banned in January. The government ban stops a worldwide marketing plan that exploded into controversy in July, 2003 when 28 dolphins were sold to Parc Nizuc in Mexico (see Whales Alive!, October 2003 for details). The Solomons ban on further dolphin exports was the result of international pressure following the export, with significant support by the Soltai Company of the Solomon Islands tuna industry. The nation's industry, which employs 3,000 people, was concerned about its overseas image and a brief boycott on tuna sales to Europe.
44 dolphins remain captive, some held for up to 18 months. Their future with the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre or Dolphin Island Retreat is uncertain, although an offer for rehabilitation and release is being negotiated. As long as they stay captive, or if harm comes to them, their exploitation by an international cartel still affects the nation's return to stability.
CSI congratulates Mark Berman and Lawrence Makili of Earth Island Institute, and Ric O'Barry of France's One Voice for their fearless and continuing efforts to help the remaining dolphins. Above all, CSI congratulates Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project for their extremely effective Dolphin Safe Tuna campaign, to which almost 90 percent of tuna companies now belong.
Public Display of Dolphins in Chile became prohibited in January. SUBPESCA (Chile's marine fisheries management agency) announced new regulations to prohibit the capture and export of Chilean dolphins for public display and all commercial displays of cetaceans, sea lions, marine turtles and marine birds such as penguins. Dolphin imports were previously prohibited. The CMMR Leviathan (http://www.leviathanchile.org/) should be congratulated for their close work with SUBPESCA, as the new regulations took over a year to develop and approve.
Besides reminding us all that Chile has one of the highest diversities of cetacean species in the world, as well as the greatest whale watching potential, CMMR Leviathan urges us to write a letter to congratulate the Chilean government, stressing the importance of the new regulations for the conservation of Chile's marine resources: Mr. Felipe Sandoval, Subsecretario de Pesca, Ministerio de Economía, Gobierno de Chile, Fax: (+56-32) 502756, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. ¡VIVA CHILE!
Tributylin oxide (TBT) can have harmful effects on hearing in whales and other marine mammals, as reported in March's Biophysical Journal. The Yale University study found the toxic chemical, commonly painted on the bottom of large ships and vessels to protect against barnacles, was an environmental hazard in part for its effect on mammalian ears' outer hair cells. These cells, unique to mammals, must move in the presence of sound energy and amplify the sound for the inner hair cells. Depending upon the degree of exposure, particularly from TBT sediment from boats, TBT could affect all kinds of aquatic mammals, especially whales, but not humans. TBT has been proven to inflict damage on marine mammals' immune and hormonal systems, has been banned on small ships, and there is a treaty under discussion to ban it totally.
Bacteria resistant to antibiotics have been found in some bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem, apparently caused by farm runoff and treated sewage. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a manmade problem now evident in humans and domestic animals, but this is the first known effect among wild animals, and it could result in ecosystem effects.
12 Orcas became accidentally trapped by drifting ice off Hokkaido, Japan in February, apparently as they tried to protect three newborn orca calves that might not have been able to swim far enough under the ice to escape. Nine are known to have died. Another six orcas became trapped by ice at Russia's Far East Kuril Islands in late February. Rescuers from the Emergency Ministry and villagers tried to keep a channel open, but with temperatures of 25 below zero the only hope was for a change in the weather. Decades of similar experiences abound in maritime Canada. But sudden and unusual changes in ice conditions are becoming more frequent, more evidence of global warming.
The Dolphin Defender is one of this Spring's new additions to the PBS Nature series. Watch for it on 15 May. The progam follows the work of Hardy Jones and BlueVoice.org, documenting the wonders of free, wild dolphins, as well as issues with dolphins and whales in captivity and polluted by human toxins.
China's treasured cetaceans of the Yangtze River, the Baiji and the Yangtze finless porpoise, are seriously threatened as the river's environment deteriorates due to increasing human development, including dam construction, pollution, river transportation and excessive fishing. China is caught between protecting a critical habitat and dealing with very pressing social issues. A December 2004 international workshop on the conservation of the two species will create an International Baiji Conservation Committee as a advisory agency to the Chinese government. A full river survey will begin in September, sponsored by a Swiss organization, baiji.org Foundation. For more information see http://www.ihb.ac.cn/ or http://www.baiji.org/.
The Eighth World Wildlife Congress will come together in Anchorage from 30 September to 6 October. About 1,000 delegates from over 40 nations will attend, and associated events will be held in Kamchatka and the Russian Far East. The congress is the longest-running, public, international environmental forum, and this year's theme is Wilderness, Wildlands and People - A Partnership for the Planet. For more information see http://www.8wwc.org/.