Archive for February, 2009

February 19th 2009
Tracking Endangered Whales

Posted under news

I was very encouraged to see a story on CNN.com today titled “Volunteers, Scientists Guard Endangered Whales“.  The subject is still sobering – preventing fatal ship strikes from happening to the critically endangered North Atlanta right whale – but being on a popular news site means this is not just an issue of interest to those in the field.  Public awareness is growing, and that can only be a good thing.  The article also provide concrete examples of how non-scientists can play a key role in protecting these animals.  The more the merrier!  There’s no question that if I lived closer to any whale-traveled coast, I would be one of those on a high point with binoculars (and probably a camera) in hand to do whatever I could.  Hopefully, the more people know about where whales are found and how to spot them, the more other ship strikes, like this one involving a cruise ship, can be avoided.  CNN.com also has a story about spotting the whales from a plane – very interesting!  It includes a real world example of how close a boat can come to hitting a whale and how important the spotting is for preventing the collisions.

The story also talks about the persistent problem of fishing gear entanglement.  I don’t understand why there is not more effort on the part of the fishing industry to reduce the entanglement risk. I would think that the people who most rely upon the health of the oceans for the health of their income would want to do whatever is possible to ensure an overall robust ecosystem.  There are very interesting research projects happening to better track entanglement as it occurs so it can be prevented in the future.  I realize that fishing gear isn’t cheap, but losing it altogether to become endlessly dangerous ghost gear, can’t be cheap either so wouldn’t a solid investment now reap longer rewards?  I’ve heard on whale watches how there is a push to develop gear that would still be effective but less dangerous to whales and sea turtles. Hopefully that means more and more breakthroughs and innovation sooner than later.

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February 17th 2009
Sea Shepherd Breaks Off Their Pursuit… This Year.

Posted under news

Anyone who follows the welfare of whales around the world knows about the Sea Shepherd and their efforts to prevent Japan from whaling in the Southern Oceans.  There’s a book about one of their annual campaigns (The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals by Peter Heller), and now even a TV series, Whale Wars on the Animal Planet.  Theirs is a hard campaign – take a old ship, an earnest (though not always sea-experienced) crew and sail into the Southern Oceans to find a fleet of Japanese ships.  Each year is different in how long it takes to find the ships, as well as the Japanese response.

This year, the Sea Shepherd found the Japanese fleet quickly, not once but twice, and managed to prevent whaling for significant stretches of time. And now, Japan has shown it is unafraid to take the fight to the most extreme.  While the Sea Shepherd crew is willing to sacrifice their own lives, their actions are not designed to endanger any human lives.  Japan’s response has been one of being a bully – amassing several of their ships to attack at once.  Since this created an exceptionally dangerous environment, the Sea Shepherd left the area, with word that a Japanese military team was en route to board them and confiscate the many hours of video footage accumulated by Sea Shepherd.

It says a lot that Japan is so worried about the footage that they would rather take the extreme measure of trying to confiscate it than let it be seen.  I will be very anxious to see what makes the edit for Whale Wars when it airs again.  I am a little skeptical about some Sea Shepherd’s claims – Like Captain Paul Watson’s assertion that he was shot at the end of the previous year’s campaign (the video footage aired on TV showed none of the recoil you would expect from a bullet impact, and no reaction from anyone standing near him, which would seemingly happen had he been struck).  Still, no doubt about it, this is a war.  I deeply respect the crew of Sea Shepherd for taking on this front-line battle; I am not sure I could do it. But it’s also a challenge to separate truth from spin sometimes.

Japan does not even try to hide that it’s “scientifically justified” whale killing winds up as meat in the stores.  They claim it is important for their heritage.  Maybe once it was.  But I have yet to see anything that shows that anyone in Japan is going hungry for lack of whale meat to eat.  They actually have much unconsumed whale meat that sits in freezers.  And younger Japanese are showing a lot less interest in whale meat than their elders. The Japanese claim of scientific research is not backed by any concrete, scientifically accepted reports.  On the contrary, several whale research oganizations have refuted bogus arguments for whaling and demonstrated effective non-lethal ways of learning the same information that the Japanese claim can only be gleened from killing whales.

This is definitely an ongoing issue.  Once when I met Bill Clinton during Hillary’s presidential campaign, I commented to him: “Please tell the Senator, when she is elected, to pressure Japan to stop whaling.” His response was very interesting, “Yeah that’s the one topic they get really defensive about.”  It’s time for reality to reach Japan – whaling is not necessary, the methods are cruel and inhumane, and killing whales to find out how many there are and if we need to save them is a massive contradiction in terms.

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February 3rd 2009
Whale videos

Posted under misc

I know are many whale videos out there, but I just landed on this page today on YouTube and wanted to share. The man who created this channel runs the Whale Video Company has several terrific DVD collections available. Watching these clips just makes me all the more anxious to get out on the water again. (Is it spring yet???) So, I wanted to share this link to his YouTube channel. I invite you to check out Dan the Whale Man!

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