Archive for June, 2009

June 30th 2009
Whale Watching Vs. Whaling, and the IWC

Posted under news

The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission has recently concluded in Portugal and, as in previous years, not a lot seems to have been accomplished. Japan and other countries are still pushing for “legitimate” whaling quotas, and there’s a new contingent – Inuits in Greenland – who are seeking leave to hunt 50 humpback whales over the 5 years. The Danish government is helping them to get this through. All talk about whaling and quotas was tabled until next year because of the controversy and heated opinions on all sides. There are some terrific daily summaries of the meeting at this blog run by the American Cetacean Society.

While there are few actual results being reported from this year’s meeting, a lot happened during the week. Most encouraging to me was the report that whale WATCHING is actually more profitable than whale KILLING! Imagine that. What gets me is that the IWC delegate to Iceland actually made the comment that whaling and whale watching were industries that could co-exist and “grow together”. Um, what? How does one expect to see more whales if one is also killing more whales? Total lack of sensibility. And sentimentally speaking (on top of conservation concerns), I really hope that Greenland does not start killing humpbacks since the whales up there are part of the same overall population seen here off New England. Continue Reading »

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June 27th 2009
Marco! Polo! (or, Where Are You, Whales?)

Posted under whale watches

Went out for whale watch #6 today from Gloucester, on Capt. Bill and Sons with the Whale Center of New England. The weather here in New England has been decidedly unexciting lately, with more rain than anything else. On shore today, though, it was beautiful with sunny skies and some clouds – but not those of the threatening variety – and it was looking like we would have a nice trip. I had organized a group of friends and friends of friends from Camp Camp, and was really hoping to get a good trip in. Continue Reading »


June 16th 2009
Fishing Dangers for Whales

Posted under news

On most whale watches from the Northeast US, one of the many things that the naturalists will talk about is the danger to whales posed by fishing gear. Entanglement is a huge issue for whales and it is estimated that in the Stellwagen Bank area, 70% or more of the humpback whales bear scars from encounters with fishing gear. Efforts are ongoing to reduce the impact that fishing gear has on whales (like replacing floating line with sinking line), but the perfect solution has not yet been found.

Because minke whales are so fast moving and not as active at the surface as humpbacks, they are discussed less up in these parts. That made this story out of Canada about an entanglement injury on a minke whale very interesting to me. Take a look at the photos with the story to see the scar cutting right across the whale’s rorqual pleats. It is remarkable that this whale survives and has adapted to be able to feed despite the injury.

I’ve not had the misfortune of coming across an entangled whale while out on a whale watch. In this part of the world, whale watch boats that come across entangled whales are asked to both report them to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and wait with the whale until help arrives. Hopefully, as fishing gear adapts and is replaced, as ghost gear is removed from the ocean, injuries such as what happened to this minke, and has happened to hundreds of other whales, can become much less common.

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June 8th 2009
World Oceans Day

Posted under misc & news

Today is the first annual UN World Oceans Day. What does this mean? It’s an effort to shine a spotlight on the state of our oceans. It’s easy to stand on most shores, look out at the horizon, and feel a lot of peace about how beautiful the oceans are. But unfortunately, our oceans are in trouble. Very serious trouble, actually. Trash getting into the water is a major one, leading to things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There are other places around the world where trash is collecting, but this is the largest. A comprehensive report on marine litter was just released today.

What can we do? Well, a lot, but here’s a start:

If you smoke, dispose of your butts in a container. Stamping them on the ground just means they will get washed into some waterway and it has been shown that the filters contain plastics that make water toxic to fish. And the butts are eaten by fish, turtles and other marine life, which also kills them. Butts are trash. They shouldn’t just be tossed around and beaches are not giant ashtrays.

If you like seafood, make sure you are choosing something that is sustainable. Aquariums like the Monterey Bay Aquarium keep a close eye on this issue. Here’s a list of “good” fish to eat in a relative list. Overfishing is a massively important issue, and really greatly ignored. Some people are starting to make a stand, including against high end restaurants serving highly endangered bluefin tuna. Don’t eat at restaurants that serve shark fin soup. Sharks are disappearing at alarming rates because of being finned for a soup, where the fins add no taste and it’s simply “fashionable” to eat. Now, sharks are disappearing so fast that manta rays are being caught in increasing numbers for the soup. Human greed and consumption is vastly outpacing the oceans.

Go on a whale watch. See the ocean at work with your own eyes. What people know about, they tend to better protect. Not near the ocean? There are a bunch of great IMAX films available on DVD which is like being right there. I rather like Deep Sea 3D, myself, and am looking forward to one day getting “Dolphins and Whales 3D” on DVD.

I am still learning about the oceans and the myriad wonders, mysteries and problems. A lot of people out there have posted hints as well, so Google it and see what you can do. We must all make the effort, or there will be no more fish, no more whales, no more coral reefs, etc etc. As the oceans go, so will go our entire planet. Just because we can’t see the bottom of the ocean from the surface, doesn’t mean there is no bottom. And as Lucy Lawless said in a PSA, “there is no Planet B”. (Yes the PSA is primarily about climate change, but the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide is key to our climate.) Taking care of the oceans means taking care of us and all of this planet’s residents.

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