One might think it is a scene from a horror movie. Rather, it is video taken from Taiji, Japan depicting the almost unspeakable acts that occur beneath the tarpaulins from September through April each year in the dolphin drive hunts there. A recently published clinical analysis of the killing methods utilized in these hunts reveals their extreme cruelty.
Anyone familiar with the old Quaker philosophy of ‘bearing witness’ will know that it is often embraced by advocates and other humanitarians working to expose and rectify injustices through personal testimony and presence on the ground where atrocities are occurring. Fundamental to this philosophy is the cultivation of personal integrity and faith by speaking the truth, even when it is difficult; taking responsibility for one’s actions and consequences; and confronting others who are committing wrong or unjust acts.
Here, bearing witness takes on new meaning as the intimate details of the actual killing procedures utilized by the fishermen have come to light in a recently published clinical analysis of the methods in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS) and through the video documentation of the hunts, forcing us all to confront this unnecessary cruelty. The public is now exposed to a close-up view and detailed understanding of the trauma experienced by the dolphins in their last moments, and having already endured the arduous process of round-up and confinement in the killing cove.
With gratitude to Atlanticblue.de for providing the video footage, and utilizing the expertise of veterinarian Andy Butterworth and dolphin scientist Dr. Diana Reiss, we have been able to challenge the data collected by Japanese researchers that suggests the methods being utilized are humane and result in a swift death. This analysis and video has pulled back the curtain and given us an unfortunate front-row seat to the killing. The analysis and video provides the world with a better opportunity to see what is happening underneath the tarpaulins in Taiji, and to better understand the extreme suffering that is occurring during these hunts. These abhorrent procedures were tested on a variety of species, and deployed as the primary method of killing dolphins in the drive hunts. The original data can be found posted on the Taiji fishing Cooperative’s very own website.
I was in Taiji in 2006, alongside Hardy Jones and Ric O’Barry. At that time, the fishermen were just starting to use tarpaulins to shield the view of the shoreline in the killing cove, and would even wait to slaughter the dolphins until we (the witnesses) left town. There have been some changes since then, including this newer slaughter method that was introduced more fully in 2008, as well as new structures along the rocky shoreline to prevent frantic dolphins from bashing themselves against the rocks (as if this is any more horrible than the fate which awaits them), coast guard surveillance of the hunts, and even discussion of a proposed whale farm that might hold whales and dolphins for the public’s amusement and ‘education’ and to line the town’s coffers with yet another form of dolphin exploitation. Public awareness has also increased, with annual pilgrimages to Taiji being undertaken by citizens from every walk of life, many of whom saw the documentary The Cove and find travel to Taiji where they can bear witness to the hunts is the most tangible thing they might do to confront them. Even more promising, citizens within Japan are also becoming involved by launching peaceful walks and protests against the hunts. Surveillance by Cove Guardians provides daily video feeds of the hunts as they occur in real time and as the season unfolds. And more dolphins are being taken into captivity from the hunts than ever before.
But what hasn’t changed is the desire of the fishermen to keep the activities in the cove hidden from public view. If culture and tradition, why such secrecy and shame? Albert Schweitzer, in a call to unveil the cruel activities in the name of tradition everywhere, stated “The thinking (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.” What is deplorable is the disparity between how dolphins and other animals are treated, even within Japan. The current techniques employed in the drive hunts violate even current animal welfare regulations within Japan where domesticated animals are afforded protection under their equivalent of the Animal Welfare Act. These guidelines intended to minimize pain, suffering, fear, and “agony” are outlined for species such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, and other animals under human care or management. Dolphins and whales are not protected by this law, nor are they afforded protection under the wildlife protection and hunting laws. Instead, dolphins and whales fall under the jurisdiction of the Fisheries Agency under the Department of Agriculture, which affords them little protection. This is in sharp contrast to the protection for dolphins and whales in legislation in other parts of the world where the slaughter of whales and dolphin is strictly prohibited and even their harassment incurs penalties.
Even Japan’s stranding guidelines, issued by the very same agency (Japan Fisheries Agency) responsible for issuing quotas for the dolphin hunts across Japan, cite the necessity of involving a veterinarian in the humane euthanasia or slaughter of a stranded dolphin, and only under extreme circumstances where the individual animal is not likely to survive. Here, the stranding manual suggests that the spinal incision method, similar to killing method in the drive hunts (without the utilization of the wooden plug), ‘gives psychological damage to observers’ and that spectators should be eliminated from the site, and drugs used instead to “execute” small cetaceans such as dolphins. In the drive hunts, dozens are killed at a time, dragged to the shoreline by their tailstocks after an exhausting round up at sea. Under many commercial slaughter regulations, and even compassionate euthanasia standards, it is required that animals should not be in close proximity when killed to avoid the distress associated with the sight, sounds, and smells of slaughter. For example, in the US and UK, the regulations and guidelines governing the humane treatment and slaughter of animals prohibit the killing of an animal in the presence of other animals. From a scientific, humane, and ethical perspective, the treatment of dolphins in these drive hunts sharply contradict current animal welfare standards employed in most modern and technologically advanced societies.
And who is complicit in supporting this horrible slaughter? Beyond the whaling politics of Japan, we are faced with a harsh reality that implicates many in the cycle of violence at Taiji. The airlines that continue to carry dolphins from the drive hunts within Japan and to international destinations around the globe support a deadly international trade in dolphins that fuels these devastating hunts. The captive facilities that continue to acquire dolphins from the drive hunts sustain this cruel practice. So, too, the patrons who vi sit captive facilities that either acquire dolphins directly from the hunts, or whose programs support the continuation of captivity worldwide, are ultimately complicit. And any of us that continue to remain silent in the face of such horror and yet choose not to act or deny the obligation that comes with bearing witness to a wrong that needs to be made right.
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight”--Albert Schweitzer. WDC continues its call for an end to the drive hunts on welfare grounds alone. In the end, it is not just about the metal rod and dowel, it is about the entire process of the hunts which is inhumane and that involves extreme suffering. The stress and acute trauma that is experienced by the dolphins as they are rounded-up at sea, driven miles by speedboat into a tiny cove, and the panic that ensues as they are then dragged to shore, is all part of the killing process. The bottom line is that these hunts are both unethical, and unnecessary.
Find out how you can help our campaign to end these hunts.
Entries tagged as dolphnaria
One might think it is a scene from a horror movie. Rather, it is video taken from Taiji, Japan depicting the almost unspeakable acts that occur beneath the tarpaulins from September through April each year in the dolphin drive hunts there. A recently published clinical analysis of the killing methods utilized in these hunts reveals their extreme cruelty.
On November 21st , an unsuspecting 8-year old girl, Jillian Thomas, was bitten by a dolphin at the petting and feeding pool at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. This comes as no surprise to WDC who published a report on the injuries and other risks to both humans and dolphins that occur at dolphin petting pools that primarily exist at SeaWorld parks in the US, and based in nearly 100 hours of undercover investigation at these pools. We have been monitoring these pools since the mid-1990s, and have revealed not only a disturbing frequency of bites and aggression by dolphins in these pools towards the public, but also the disturbing treatment of dolphins at the hands of patrons at these parks. This is, of course, not the first incident at this and other SeaWorld parks: it is just that it happened to be captured on video and for the entire world to see.
As a result of these investigations, WDC launched a campaign, and alongside HSUS, released its report in 2003. Our studies have recorded and assessed human and dolphin behaviors which present direct or indirect risks to the health and welfare of visitors or dolphins, including biting and butting/bumping, and the feeding of foreign objects and contaminated food items. Other factors that were looked at include gull harassment at these pools, feeding regimes, access to refuge areas, overcrowding, and potential for bi-directional disease transmission. The conclusion of this report is as relevant now, as it was then: the physical interaction between humans and dolphins may pose serious risks to the health and welfare of both parties. Abrupt movements by, and aggressive competition between, dolphins can result in physical injury to visitors. Many of the dolphins in these pools also bear wounds.
The words of this young girl in response to her injury also reveal the other side of this issue, and that is the welfare of the dolphins involved in this program. She stated that I was afraid that the dolphin might get sick because of the paper carton.” WDC’s investigations reveal that up to 17 dolphins, including calves can be in the petting pools at any one time. Too many dolphins in an overcrowded pool are subjected to not only stress, but the potential to be fed foreign objects or contaminated food items from the public, where inadequate supervision not only may lead to injuries, such as the bite experienced by Jillian Thomas, but the ingestion of objects that could prove fatal to the dolphins if undetected. There is more to be concerned about for these dolphins than just the paper fish carton. The government-maintained Marine Mammal Inventory (MMIR) report reveals that the ingestion of foreign objects is a common cause of death in captive marine mammals.
Through the life of our campaign, and the long history of meetings with the relevant regulatory agencies, the only change that has occurred at these pools is a restriction of access to the dolphins around a portion of the perimeter of the pool, and signage at the pools that indicates “feeding dolphins in the wild is illegal.”
What does feeding dolphins in the wild have to do with an 8–year old girl being bitten at SeaWorld in Orlando? For one, feeding dolphins in the wild is illegal. However, perhaps less obvious is the connection between these interactions in public display facilities, and problems for wild dolphins. I suggest that this mixed messaging within the context of interactive programs not only confuses the public, but is responsible for significant conservation issues in the wild: you can feed dolphins or swim with them here, but don’t feed them or swim with them in the wild. It is this ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality that is leading to a real regulatory nightmare in the wild.
Dolphins are being harassed and fed, especially around the coastline of Florida and throughout the Gulf, and the conflicts between humans and dolphins are intensifying. Individuals in Louisiana who are eager to interact with a solitary sociable male dolphin have been bitten and sent to the hospital. Swimmers in the hot zone of Panama City, Florida, known as a mecca for swimming and feeding wild dolphins, have had threatening encounters with aggressive dolphins that have pushed them underwater and away from the safety of their boats. Interestingly enough, it is in these areas where dolphins have been injured by human interaction and directed vandalism, and where individuals have been convicted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for crimes against dolphins, including shooting and throwing pipe bombs at dolphins.
In fact, interactions with wild dolphins have become so prevalent, and the consequences so serious, that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) launched a public campaign in the late 1990s to deter feeding, touching and swimming with dolphins in the wild. This ‘Protect Dolphins Campaign’ deals directly with human-dolphin interactions and harassment in the wild, and seeks to educate the public about the risks to dolphins and the public in interacting with dolphins, pointing to the grave consequences that can result. Provisioning (feeding) dolphins modifies their natural behaviors and leaves them at increased risk for collision with boat propellers, vandals, recreational and commercial fishing operations, and may prevent them from foraging on their own. Similarly, swim-with activities can harass and harm wild dolphins.
As people are participating in more encounters with captive dolphins, there is an unmistakable trend of people seeking out close encounters with free-ranging dolphins in the wild. We believe this trend is increasingly harmful to wild dolphin populations, as evidenced in Hawaii with the spinner dolphins, in southeastern US with bottlenose dolphins. Swim-with activities can target vulnerable populations and disrupt normal behavior. For instance, in Hawaii, spinner dolphins are targeted by swimmers and swim-tours in their resting bays during the day (they feed at night). Recent research in this area has revealed that some populations are being displaced, and population level impacts are becoming evident, altering behaviors and distribution of these populations in the longer term.
The seriousness of feeding wild dolphins is also the focus of another NMFS public-facing campaign developed in collaboration with, ironically, public display facilities. WDC declined to be a part of this collaborative initiative because of our very concerns about the connections between these activities at public display facilities and what is occurring in the wild.
The ‘Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins,’ campaign which includes a very clever and graphically-appealing Public Service Announcement and accompanying website makes it very clear that feeding dolphins in the wild is not only illegal, but pretty much a death sentence for the dolphins that subsequently become habituated to human hand-outs and find themselves at risk of boat propeller injuries, or worse, the vandalism of irritated fishermen or recreationalists. In certain areas, dolphins may frequent angling areas, follow commercial fishing boats looking for an easy catch, and become the target of a public eager for close interaction in coastal areas. Media reports about dolphins being fatally targeted in the Gulf region, some with guns, another with a screwdriver, have intensified in the media since last June and continue to today. The poster child for this campaign was Beggar, an adult male bottlenose dolphin that was infamous for his begging behavior around boats, and that eventually led to his demise.Beggar was found dead in October, and was likely the most observed wild dolphin in the world. Focused observation of his activities over 100 hours and conducted in 2011 identified 3,600 interactions between Beggar and humans (up to 70 per hour) and 1689 attempts to feed him 520 different food items, from shrimp to hot dogs and beer. In addition, during just those observation hours, researchers logged 121 attempts to touch him, resulting in nine bites to people. Beggar reportedly spent much of his time a short distance from shore, where he was frequently approached by boaters. As a result, Beggar stopped foraging on his own and stopped socializing with other dolphins.
The connection is obvious to us. It is time for NMFS and SeaWorld to acknowledge the real link between the close interaction between dolphins and the public at these facilities, and the problems of managing these same activities in the wild. Opportunities for physical contact with dolphins, including touching, feeding and swimming with both wild and captive animals are increasing in range and intensity. From our perspective, these programs stimulate the public’s demands to get closer and closer to these unique animals, increasing the risk for injury to both the public and dolphins, both in the wild and in captivity. By promoting and reinforcing the acceptability of feeding and touching dolphins, captive feeding programs will continue to encourage the public to repeat their experiences with these animals in the wild.
Although the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) stopped requiring the reporting of injuries in 1999 with the suspension of regulations governing interaction programs in public display facilities, these suspended regulations, which were opened for public input in 2002, are due to be released as newly proposed and revised regulations in the spring of 2013. WDC has been critical of these regulations, providing our recommendations for their improvement over 10 years ago, requiring the specific redress of petting pools within those guidelines, or their closure. However, we have been informed by APHIS that dolphin petting pools are no different than any other interactive program and pose no greater risk, and will therefore not be specifically addressed in the proposed regulations.
And this brings us back to the ‘Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins’ Campaign. NMFS is placed in an untenable and difficult position, where it works in partnership with public display facilities, that through lip service appear ‘supportive’ of the agency’s role in cracking down on illegal activities that harm and harass dolphins in the wild, but that actually perpetuate and propagate the very activities that NMFS must regulate in the wild, such as feeding, swimming and petting activities, at their facilities. And we are not the only ones that see this connection. A detailed survey of public display facilities conducted in 1989 reveals that many zoos and aquaria have eliminated their petting and feeding programs, citing the unacceptable risks associated with such attractions. In addition, individuals from within the public display community itself have questioned whether they are part of the problem in promoting these activities that are illegal and detrimental to dolphins in the wild. It is time to acknowledge the risks that captive dolphin interaction programs pose to humans and dolphins, both in captivity and in the wild. In the clear absence of a willingness to specifically regulate and acknowledge the risks associated with petting pools, and continuing injuries at these attractions, WDC continues our call for their immediate closure.
It seems the statements of the US National Aquarium and Merlin Entertainments against the proposed import of belugas by the Georgia Aquarium are creating quite a stir.
In the past the display industry has seemed to hold its tongue even when some may have disagreed with what colleagues in the industry were up to, but now some have the courage and the willingness to distinguish themselves as being different and in pursuit of a different vision.
Fingers crossed that their vision is a foundation for a future without live captures of whales and dolphins and eventually, even an end to all cetacean captivity.
Just as a debate is raging in the US about the proposed import of 18 beluga whales for display scientists in the US have published research which they believe shows that the vocalisation of one particular beluga whale in captivity were remarkably close to human speech.
Listen to the recording and judge for yourself.
This is not new. It is not unusual for beluga whales to imitate the sounds that they hear in captivity. Put ‘beluga sounds’ into YouTube and you will be furnished with a host of examples, from belugas imitating the sound of their trainer’s whistles, right through to an apparent imitation of flatulence.
We also know that belugas can understand verbal commands that are used by their trainers, in combination with whistle and hand signals. The question is, in imitating these human vocalisations was the whale trying to tell us something; to transfer information through sound in our own language?
The research was published in Current Biology and shows that these vocalisations were two octaves lower than usual and were made before the whale reached adulthood. Noc, the beluga whale who was recorded making these unusual sounds, died in captivity some five years ago. Yet, it has taken all this time for this research to emerge.
And what did one of the staff at this captive facility believe he heard Noc say when he was in the water cleaning his pool? ‘Out’
Was that ‘Get out’ or ‘Let me Out’? Perhaps we’ll never know.
It has been confirmed to WDC by Defra (UK Government) that no dolphins were transhipped through Heathrow yesterday, the 11th October.
In a communication to WDC, Defra said,
“The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency is aware of suggestions circulating online that dolphins travelling between Japan and the United Arab Emirates transited through Heathrow Airport during the last few days. AHVLA (the UK CITES management authority) has issued no CITES Permits for Dolphins, nor received any applications to do so; neither have AHVLA inspectors at Heathrow Airport been made aware of any such consignment.”
WDC welcomes the fact that these dolphins did not utilise UK airspace, but the fight continues to ensure that no more dolphins are caught in the Japanese dolphin hunts, and that the captivity industry is not a reason for these hunts and captures to continue.
WDC undertands that UK Border Force officers confirmed that the aircraft was not carrying any dolphins.
The question also remains that if these dolphins left Japan, where did they go to and who shipped them?
Also, how did the idea that the UK was the destination get circulated? Maybe those who are behind this trade thought that they could divert attention from the real destination. Its a tactic used called 'misdirection', and in this case it may well have worked.
We shall let you know more as we know it.
It seems the sad litany of injuries to orcas continues at Sea World. Nakai appears to have suffered a serious injury in an incident at Sea World California.
Nakai was born in captivity in September 2001.
I am afraid I would be more concerned than Sea World seem to be. The injury is deep and significant. Unfortunately you can also see that Nakai's teeth are very worn, which would be unusual in a wild free orca.
These teeth are typical of captive orcas that have been grinding their teeth on bars and concrete in their tanks.
The cause of the wound is more difficult to assess. According to Sea World the injusry happened when "when he came into contact with a portion of the pool on Sept. 20".
We regularly see problems with captivity for orca, but I have to say that this is one of the most traumatic set of images we have seen for a while.
Please don't frequent Sea World, you are only perpetuating this kind of suffering if you do. You can read more about this incident at the WDCS North American site
As some of you know we are about to move to a new website. We believe that its going to be easier to find the information you want and we hope that its going to be much easier to follow what WDCS is doing on any one campaign.
With that in mind I thought I would publish a copy of the letter we have just sent to the Japanese Embassy in the UK. Its similar to letters we are sending to other embassies around the world, but we thought you may want to see what we are saying and maybe you would like to do something similar. Of course letters alone can not solve this issue, but we know that the various embassies do note the number of letters they get and what is being said.
When they don't get anything, they tend to assume the issue is no longer of concern. So if you get a chance, please let Japan know how you feel.
And as to what you feel, well, I hope like us, you feel that this is an unnecessary and extremely cruel practice. I am pretty tired of the Japanese whalers rhetoric and personally would say that they cannot continue hide behind statements about 'tradition' and 'culture' and, Japan, as part of the global commons, can no longer pretend that whales and dolphins are not like other animals and therefore are to be treated as nothing but 'unfeeling property'. Time for Japan to change, and sooner rather than later.
Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi
Embassy of Japan
London W1J 7JT
via E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
August 29, 2012
Dear Ambassador Hayashi:
I write on behalf of WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, to express our opposition to the dolphin drive hunts that occur annually in the town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture. WDCS will be among those protesting in front of the Embassy on Friday, August 31st because of the ongoing slaughter of dolphins, small whales and porpoises by Japanese fishermen. Similar demonstrations are taking place outside Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in protest of these cruel and unsustainable hunts.
Dolphin drive hunts, also known as “drive fisheries,” occur annually from September through April in the coastal towns of Taiji and Futo. During these hunts, dolphins are encircled by motorboats out at sea and chased into shallow coastal waters where they are trapped with nets. The dolphins are then killed or trapped alive to be sold into captivity. Every aspect of this hunt is extremely cruel: from the exhausting drive from the open ocean that can separate family groups, to confinement in a netted cove where the dolphins are crudely slaughtered. Whether they are killed for their meat, or because they are considered pests in competition for fishery resources, these highly sentient mammals face severe distress, suffering and pain. The dolphins selected alive for sale to aquaria are subjected to an impoverished life in captivity. Many die of stress and injury during, and immediately after, capture and transport to these facilities in Japan and overseas.
More than 2,000 dolphins and small whales may be killed annually in Japan’s drive hunts, including bottlenose, Risso’s, striped and spotted dolphins, and pilot and false killer whales. Up to 20,000 small whales and dolphins may be taken in other hunts along the coastline of Japan, including more than 17,000 Dall’s porpoises taken in northern Hokkaido.
Despite these hunts being the subject of the award-winning documentary, The Cove, which has brought worldwide condemnation of these activities, many Japanese people are unaware that these hunts occur in their country. Additionally, despite growing evidence that the dolphin meat from these hunts is heavily tainted with dangerous levels of mercury and poses a potential threat to human health, the contaminated meat is sold in Japanese supermarkets.
As you are aware, whale and dolphin watching is steadily growing in Japan, along with a growing respect and care for marine life. Wildlife watching is not only a popular activity for locals and tourists alike, but is also a financially viable alternative to killing or capturing dolphins for entertainment. Drive hunts are a direct threat to the valuable whale and dolphin watching industry.
WDCS strongly opposes these drive hunts on both welfare and conservation grounds. We urge you to act now and to heed the voices of the global community opposed to the unsustainable slaughter of entire families and communities of whales and dolphins. Please end the dolphin drive hunts now.
Courtney S. Vail
Campaigns and Programs Manager
In a landmark case a US judge has ruled in favour of captive elephants and against the Los Angeles Zoo.
Judge John L. Segal in his judgment against the Los Angeles Zoo noted that despite representation to the contrary from zoo staff, ‘the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving’.
Elephants are large brained, social, long lived mammals, who invest a great deal of time and effort in raising their offspring; attributes that can also be used to describe dolphins and orcas. Science has also shown that elephants are self-aware, one aspect of consciousness that was previously believed to be the preserve of humans and a select group of primates. Now the science demonstrates that bottlenose dolphins are also self-aware.
Judge Segal noted that ‘Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species… to believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional’.
The judge stopped short of ordering that the elephants should be release to a sanctuary. Nevertheless, the captivity tide is turning and this case bodes well for other large brained, social, sentient species, such as whales and dolphins.
Read a report of this landmark case here
With all the smoke from 64th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) now settling and most delegates safely home, we thought that it might be useful to review the main outputs of the meeting and consider that they might mean. Inevitably, public attention is drawn to the big dramatic debates about whaling but to some extent these draw attention away from many other important matters. These include much of the work that goes on in the Scientific Committee ahead of the Commission meeting such as the generation of many important recommendations including those directed at the conservation of the so called ‘small cetacean’ species. (These are the cetaceans not included on the IWC’s schedule of species that the pro-whaling countries claim limits the focus of the IWC.)
So, here we attempt to summarise all the conclusions and key issues from IWC 64 with some commentary. As usual we welcome comments, suggestions for additions and any corrections. Please note that for the first time in four years the IWC actually held votes on several matters and that we see this voting process as part of the healthy and democratic functioning of this body.
A. Outputs from the IWC 64 Commission Meeting
1. Arrangements for future meetings
The Commission and its various committees will now only meet every other year instead of annually. The exception to this will be that the Scientific Committee will continue to meet each year and South Korea has invited it to meet there in 2013.
Moving to a biannual meeting cycle for the Commission will obviously be a financial saving for countries. The dues that they pay to the IWC to be members will remain the same but costs of sending delegates across the world very year for one or two weeks of meetings will be much reduced. In theory the Commission has oversight on what the Scientific Committee (SC) does and whether this new time-table will give the SC even more autonomy remains to be seen.
2. The establishment of the Bureau
The Commission established a Bureau to advise the Chair of the Commission and the Secretariat ‘especially at times when the Commission is not in session’.
Whilst the relevant new rules of procedure for this body stipulate that it is ‘only to assist with process management’ and is not a ‘decision-making forum’, it will obviously be highly influential.
3. The Appointment of new IWC Officers
The USA, Panama, Ghana and Japan will form the first IWC Bureau and the Chair and Vice Chair will also be part of this group along with the Commissioner from the country that will host the next meeting (although no country has offered to host IWC 65 yet).
Also elected this year were a new Chair and Vice Chair for the Commission: Jeannine Compton-Antoine (from St Lucia) and Frederic Chemay (from Belgium) respectively. They replaced Bruno Mainini (of Switzerland) who did an excellent job as the interim Chair for IWC 64.
4. Strengthening IWC’s support for conservation
A seemingly small but actually rather important administrative matter was the approval of work championed by the UK in a submission about financing which contained a series of 11 recommendations to ‘support the shared goal of rebuilding and maintaining healthy whale populations and inject budget discipline to ensure rigorous financial practices in how the IWC conducts its business’. In effect, the recommendations help move the Commission towards establishing a dedicated conservation fund.
5. Withdrawal of the ‘Monaco Resolution’ calling on the UN to address whaling issues
After considerable discussion and considerable revision to the original draft, the monegasque commissioner chose, instead of going to a vote, to withdraw his resolution on ‘Highly migratory cetaceans in the high seas’.
The operative part of this reads:
“NOW therefore the Commission:
7. Calls the attention of the international community to the circumstance that significant unregulated catches of highly migratory species of cetaceans continue to take place;
8. Invites Contracting Parties to consider this issue in collaboration with the United Nations General Assembly [UNGA}, with a view to contributing to the conservation efforts of the IWC.”
If the resolution had of been passed it would essentially have called on the UNGA to help with the unregulated catches affecting all cetaceans. The fact that the resolution was not voted on (presumably because its supporters judged that it might not be passed) does not end this initiative and, in fact, Monaco announced that he would be progressing interessional work on this, including via an informal (non IWC) working group.
6. Withdrawal of ‘Small Type Coastal Whaling’ (STCW) proposal
After Japan’s now customary presentation about the alleged deprivation experienced by their inshore whalers since the moratorium on commercial whaling came into play in 1986, including observations about how comparable they see this situation to the aboriginal quotas awarded to the US and other countries, Japan did not put its request for STCW to a vote.
Worryingly, Korea used very similar if not stronger rhetoric about the ‘plight’ of its coastal whalers and Korea’s opening statement to the IWC indicates that it means to start scientific whaling further to a review of a proposal to the SC to be made next year.
7. Endorsement of a wide range of further work on whale welfare
The Commission endorsed significant list of recommendations about whale welfare. This extended to work on disentanglement of whales, including the following approach:
(1) establish a dynamic entanglement response section on the IWC Website;
(2) consider establishing an international entanglement database;
(3) facilitate data exchange;
(4) promote establishment of national entanglement response networks;
(5) provide advice to member governments;
(6) develop a proposal for an international workshop on entanglement prevention; and
(7) continue to promote an IWC-managed fund for the entanglement response.
Two workshops on disentanglement were also endorsed: one in the French West
Indies (e.g. Martinique, Guadeloupe) and the other probably in Mexico.
Funding for a dedicated ship-strikes coordinator was also advocated and a strategic plan for ship-strikes work will also now be developed.
More generally with respect to welfare, the Commission agreed to an ad-hoc intersessional working group to:
(1) review its Terms of Reference and existing Action Plan to see if they need updating or revision and make recommendations accordingly; and
(2) identify and agree upon important issues or themes to progress the promotion of good animal welfare and agree a timetable of regular future technical workshops on these issues, that would report back to the relevant working groups, recognising the success of previous IWC workshops on specific issues incorporating invited external experts.
Also agreed was the development of plans for an expert workshop on the euthanasia of large whales (both stranded animals and those entangled whales for which euthanasia appears to be the only option).
8. Key Conservation Issues Progressed
This relates to those issues reviewed by the Conservation Committee and then endorsed by the full Commission).
A five-year strategic plan for whale watching was adopted.
Progress on the three existing Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) was noted (the Arabian Sea humpback whales, Southern right whales and Western north pacific gray whales). New CMPs for the Southwest Atlantic Southern right whale and for the Southeast Pacific right whale were also agreed.
Marine Debris: A proposal for a workshop to consider the interactions between cetaceans and marine debris made by the Scientific Committee was well received in the Conservation Committee where it was decided that this could be a joint initiative between the two committees. This workshop was also endorsed by the Commission. It has some funding from the Commission and also significant financial support from OceanCare, The Environmental Investigation Agency and WSPA.
9. Requests for quotas
Four requests were made for the renewal, or expansion, of ‘aboriginal quotas’. The requests from the USA for their Inuit people, from Russia for the Chukotka people and from St Vincent and the Grenadines were ‘bundled’ together and therefore voted on jointly. Much concern was expressed about this ‘bundling’, which prevented proposal being judged on their own merits, and also the commercialised nature of St V&G hunt and its poor welfare implications. Nonetheless, the quotas were approved (48 votes for; 10 against; 2 abstentions and 1 not participating).
The request from Denmark on the behalf of Greenland for an expansion of take in a hunt which has been shown to have become highly commercialised in investigations and reports made by WDCS and AWI was refused (25 votes for; 34 against; 2 abstentions).
B. Key Recommendations and the Work of the Scientific Committee (SC)
The SC report was probably the longest ever produced and richly decorated with many recommendations. Here we will focus on those recommendations that are focused on actions outside of the SC itself.
From the perspective of the Commission agenda this year the main topics discussed in the SC were arguably:
a. The ongoing poverty of the data provided by Greenland to the SC concerning its hunts, although the SC agreed that the proposed removals were likely to be sustainable;
b. That an abundance estimate for Antarctic minke whales was agreed but the differences between the last two surveys still indicate a possible significant decline; and
c. A slew of concerns about small cetacean species including the ongoing hunts of orcas by Greenland and the situation in the Solomon Islands where bottlenose dolphins are taken for the captivity industry.
1. Marine Renewable Energy Developments (MREDs)
The Scientific Committee began with a pre-meeting workshop on Marine Renewable Energy Developments, the report of which (SC/64/Rep6), including its many recommendations, was endorsed by the SC and the Commission.
The recommendations can be broadly defined as covering the following:
1. Strategy to minimise risk
2. Broad management (including the need for better cooperation in strategic planning)
3. ‘Fundamental’ research, including into population structure, status, distribution and procedures for assessing impacts..
4. Evaluation of threats
6. Data sharing and the future role of the IWC SC in the consideration of MREDs
The SC also agreed that there is an urgent need to develop or improve effective noise mitigation measures or quieter foundation installation methods.
2. Western North Pacific Gray Whales
Western North Pacific gray whales (estimated at 130 animals in their breeding ground) remain critically endangered: the SC recommended that appropriate monitoring and mitigation plans be implemented for oil and gas activities. One Western gray whale tagged in Russian waters swam to Mexico (Eastern gray whale habitat). Therefore some mixing between Western and Eastern Pacific gray whale populations may occur.
3. ‘Scientific Whaling’
There were 226 Antarctic minke whales and one fin whale taken last year in Japan’s scientific hunt in Antarctica. 49 common minkes, 95 sei whales, 50 Bryde’s and one sperm whale were killed in Japan’s North Pacific scientific hunt.
In the report of the SC’s discussion of Scientific Whaling are two distinctly different statements from two groups of scientists (labelled as annexes P1 and P2):
P1 from some members states that some scientific committee members ‘wish to reiterate the view that the special permit programs conducted by the Government of Japan… and the recent program conducted by the Government of Iceland have not provided results relevant to the IWC and are unnecessary for the conservation and management of whales’. It also complains about how this matter disrupts the work of the committee on ‘genuinely scientific issues’, that the presentation of results has not always been timely and that these programs are ‘open-ended’.
In P2 some other members (and we can expect that these are the scientists appointed by the Government of Japan and perhaps some others – no names are given) note that they ‘disagree’ with P1 and state that the past Committee review reports include numerous statements that acknowledge the contribution of special permit programs to marine science and the conservation and management of whales.
There was debate in the Commission about whether or not the funding apportioned to support the review of Iceland’s scientific whaling could be better spent elsewhere. In the end the funding was left in place but a strong message was sent to those that choose to award themselves quotas for whaling that they should expect to bear the full costs of such activities in the future.
4. Small Cetacean Recommendations
4.1 Ongoing Beaked Whale Review: The focus this year was a review of the status of ziphiid whales in the North Pacific and Northern Indian Ocean (ten species of beaked whales). This included the following points:
- Recommendations that improved understanding of population structure, distribution, abundance estimates and movement of the stocks off Japan are required for Baird’s beaked whale, particularly as long as hunting continues there; and
- That a photo-ID study of Baird’s beaked whales conducted from the Commander Islands in the western Bering Sea provided the first evidence of a social structure for this species (‘a fission-fusion society’) and was encouraged to continue. (This study was part funded by the Critical Habitat/ Marine Protected Areas Programme of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society through the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project).
Important common issues coming from this review and that made of beaked whales in the North Atlantic last year related to marine noise (which beaked whales are especially vulnerable to) and marine debris (which many animals were found to have ingested). The Committee recommended that pathology be improved to look for noise-related lesions and also it strongly recommended that military exercises and seismic surveys should avoid areas of important habitat for beaked whales; that further effort should be made to mitigate their impacts; and that further effort should be made to identify such areas.
With respect to marine debris, many of the species reviewed were noted as ingesting debris and the Committee recommended that “this issue is further investigated via the collection, collation and analyses of relevant data from around the world concerning ingestion rates, debris types and associated pathology, and that standardised protocols are developed for pathology”. It also stated that consideration should be given in investigating marine debris accumulation and associated processes in areas of important habitat for small cetaceans. For a recently published review about marine debris click HERE.
4.2 Takes of Small Cetaceans
Particular and continued concern was expressed by the SC about the lack of assessment of the stock(s) of killer whales which are exploited in Greenland.
The SC also expressed particular concern about the low abundance of Maui’s dolphins in New Zealand and concluded that additional measures may be required to ensure recovery of the species. It encouraged the immediate implementation of the extension of the existing protected area to help reduce bycatch rates.
4.3 Marine Bushmeat
This relates to ‘poorly documented hunts of small cetaceans for food, bait or cash’ and. Ritter is leading intersessional work on this in preparation for a workshop.
5. Stock Structures and quota calculations
There is much ongoing work in the SC focused on assessments of populations and the development and testing of the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), which provides a framework under which commercial captures would be calculated if the moratorium is lifted.
Whilst this remains hypothetical, the progress of investigations into various populations until they are deemed well enough characterised for application of the RMP and the associated running of models that test their robustness to whaling catches, clearly have implications for the whaling debate. Various populations are in various stages of assessment and highly technical debates continue about stock-structures and the application of the RMP. Important issues related to this include an ongoing debate about whether it is appropriate to change certain factors within the RMP that would allow for a higher catch (these efforts did not progress significantly at this meeting) and the ongoing debate about the stock structures of minke whales in the North Pacific which would affect any authorised catches there.
A view of IWC 64.
For a detailed account of what happened at IWC 64 - reported as it happened and filed by the WDCS team at the meeting, please click HERE.
William M Johnson’s critically-acclaimed 'The Rose-Tinted Menagerie' has been republished as an illustrated Amazon Kindle ebook
One of the most influential anti-captivity books of the last Century, and hailed as ‘a ground-breaking work’ upon its original release in 1990, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie explores the role of animals in entertainment, from the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome and the travelling shows of the Middle Ages, to the circuses and dolphinaria of the 20th century.
When I began with WDCS some twenty years ago, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie was the best primer I could have read. It established in me the burning desire to see dolphin shows end once and for all. It still shocks me that the disturbing shows that Bill highlighted in the early 1990s still blight us now. Maybe they are not the same shows, but there are still captures from the wild, and places like the Georgia Aquarium try to justifty the suffering they cause in the name of 'education'.
Of all the books that inspired me to want to campaign for whales and dolphins this has to be up there as one of the best.
- Chris Butler-Stroud
This is a timely relauch of The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, and I would urge anyone who has not read it to do so. And if you did read it some twenty years ago, then re-read it. It'll show you we still have a way to go in this fight, but knowing where we have come from is the first step in knowing where the journey still needs to take us and what we need to achieve.
About the author
Prior to its first publication in 1990, author and investigative journalist William M Johnson spent five years researching The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. His research took him to big tops, menageries and dolphin pools throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and to circus shows from as far afield as the Soviet Union and the United States. From his own undercover work and from the testimony of scores of ex-circus and dolphin show staff, by 1990 Johnson had built up a formidable catalogue of evidence that, upon publication, dismayed wildlife experts, shocked the casual reader and provoked political debate: The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. While some establishments have since shut their doors forever — such as the infamous dolphin ‘striptease’ revue at the Moulin Rouge in Paris — these historical snapshots lucidly expose forms of cruelty and exploitation tragically still all too prevalent elsewhere, from the brutal capture of dolphins from the wild, to the sordid traveling dolphin shows currently entertaining locals and tourists in the Far East.
You can get a kindle version or an original print version of the book here at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk