Archive for October, 2008

October 16th 2008
Blaming Whales for Mankind’s Overfishing

Posted under news

There are ongoing efforts to reduce whaling around the world, which is terrific. What’s bizarre about the nations who still whale are some of the arguments being used to justify whaling.

Yeah, because whales eat all of the fish. *rolling my eyes* Say what? In a recent meeting of nations at the World Conservation Congress, this argument came up again, that “controlling” whale “stocks” is meant to increase fish available for human consumption. (I can’t stand the word stocks as applied to whale populations. But maybe that’s just me.) The large baleen whales that have been/are hunted – blues, humpbacks, minkes, fins – eat copepods, krill, sand lance. These are not fish consumed by humans. Sure, toothed whales eat fish, like some orcas that eat salmon, sperm whales, dolphins, etc.

But I feel that the contention that this interferes with human fish consumption is specious. In the early 20th century when whaling was at its vicious, steam and gas powered peak, fisheries for humans were also at a peak. Cape Cod, for example, was amass with fish stocks. Commercial boats worldwide pulled tons and tons of fish out of the oceans on a regular basis (yes, they still do, but there aren’t as many and they aren’t as big). And guess what? Those fish stocks lived in same oceans, side by side, with the world’s cetaceans for millions of years. If whales were such a threat to fish stocks, I’d posit there would not have been any fish to harvest for humans, certainly not at the vast numbers that they were caught. Carl Safina’s book “Song for the Blue Planet” talks about the bluefin tuna fishery collapse as one example of abundance turned scarce by human fishing.

Australia, being one of the largest anti-whaling nations on the front lines of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, deserves a lot of credit for fighting so hard to eliminate so-called scientific whaling. They are being blamed for wanting stronger language condemning whaling as a way to increase fish stocks for humans. So the whaling nations are walking away from the table, rather than concede the fallacy of the fisheries argument. Google “impact of whales on fisheries” and find a bounty of PDFs and pages dedicated to disproving this argument. Rather, the continued depletion of the oceans by humans has far more implications on the availability of food for the whales as ocean ecosystems collapse from the absence of big pieces of the food chain. Not to mention the general condition of the oceans themselves thanks to pollution and acoustic noise.

The time is past for tiptoeing around the egos of the whaling nations. Their arguments get weaker as public awareness increases. Let’s hope that continues and we can finally end whaling for real.

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October 13th 2008
Closing out “my” season with #10

Posted under whale watches

It takes so little to twist my arm for yet one more whale watch… in the week following the last one, I got an email from a friend about wanting to go out sometime. After the trip on the 5th was so good, I couldn’t resist thinking about getting out again this season. That someone else wanted to go as well was all the impetus I needed!

2ww1008jgl8tSo, we met in Gloucester on a sunny and gorgeous day. We did not see an especially large number of whales, not the 15+ from the week before, but with different behaviors. We spent about 45 minutes watching Jabiru flipper slapping. According to the Whale Center naturalists on board, this was a protracted display; they don’t usually carry on for this long. Did make for some nice photography!

We eventually left Jabiru because some breaching could be seen off in the distance, and who doesn’t like to see that? As we got closer, the breaching fell off, but we found ourselves amongst Tornado and Owl and their calves. The moms were apparently doing some feeding while the calves swam around. Owl gave us some good views of the deep scarring on her body, left over from a bad entanglement. It’s testament to the both the resilience of these animals to recover and the dangers they face in their own waters because of human activity.

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This was a terrific whale watch to have to end my own season. I didn’t out as much as I had hoped, but did better that I thought I might. In this summer of screamingly high fuel prices, a 2.5 hour drive each way on top of the increased whale watch cost due to fuel makes for a fairly expensive trip. Every single one was worth it, and I already cannot wait for the 2009 season to begin.

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October 11th 2008
How to Kill a Whale – why would one try?

Posted under news

It isn’t easy. Recently in Australia, officials decided to “euthanize” a sick whale that had stranded. Despite the fact that mother nature has been taking care of whales in all respects for millions of years, despite loads of empirical evidence that there is no humane way to kill a whale (eyewitness reports from those observing whalers, some stories here), the officials decided they could trump mother nature and “humanely” kill this whale.

They were wrong. The dynamite blast only caused pain and thrashing. They then had to shoot this whale. It took another 15 minutes for the animal to die.

I can believe that the animal was in discomfort before hand, but this account indicates it was “simply” lying on the beach. We can’t really know what it was physically feeling. So where do these Australian officials come off trying to step in? Australia is one of the leaders in combating whaling operations by Japan, especially since Japan routinely flouts the established marine sanctuaries established by Australia in the Southern Ocean. They are closer than anyone (besides Sea Shepherd, perhaps) to know what happens to the harpooned whales. Does it really make sense they would use untried, guesstimate methods to attempt to save this whale from suffering?

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October 7th 2008
Season winding down, whale watch #9

Posted under Uncategorized

This trip was a special treat for me. I was in Boston for a weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday, and it seemed only natural to take in a whale watch while in the area. So off I went again to Gloucester on a lovely though overcast fall day and was rewarded with yet another terrific whale watch. Really, all I need is to see a whale for it to be a good whale watch, but on this day, we got some great stuff.

1ww1008igl17tIt was a busy day out on Stellwagen bank with loads of small boats out fishing. Apparently the fishing was good on all counts because we came across a number of whales engaging in surface feeding. We got some fantastic looks at the baleen as the whales sat at the surface and were slow to close their mouths at times. There was not a lot of other surface activity to see but that’s ok. The open mouth feeding was an exceptional treat.

In the end, we saw more than a dozen humpback whales, including Banyan (becoming one of my favorites), Loon, Pipette, Echo and calf, Tectonic, Evolution, Tulip, Tracer and Habanero.

I can’t imagine a better thing than to have a grand whale watch during a big birthday weekend.

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