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 has been confirmed to WDC by Defra (UK Government) that no dolphins were transhipped through Heathrow yesterday, the 11th October.
Recent press reports appeared at first glance to indicate that Japan was considering suspending it Antarctic whaling operations.
The initial euphoria felt by many members of the public proved ill founded when it was revealed that Japan was simply preparing to refurbish its factory whaling ship, the Nissan Maru. The Japanese government has now indicated that this refurbishment will lead to at least another 10 years more whaling.
It would appear that Japan has spent around ¥900 million (approximately €5.7 million) annually since 1988 on subsidizing waiting, so in many ways it should come as no surprise that Japan’s whaling interests have their eyes on the long term goal of a fully sanctioned resumption of commercial whaling.
Japanese whaling interests’ hopes lie either in a compromise deal at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), or a break away by the Japanese government to form a new whaling commission with only pro-whaling interests allowed to participate. Japan regularly threatens to walk out of the IWC but it appears that international presige and its position in the international community acts as a break on such a reckless act.
However, the risk of a compromise is never far away. There have been three attempts at reaching a so-called compromise deal within the IWC since 1997. The first attempt was initiated when the then Irish commissioner, Mr Michael Canney, sought to ‘break the stalemate’ in 1997. In what was to become known as the ‘Irish proposal’ and with oft repeated rhetoric that the ‘IWC was about to break up’, some commissioners at the IWC sought to push through a new form of commercial whaling known as coastal whaling. This would have restricted Japan’s so-called ‘scientific whaling, but would have overturned the moratorium on commercial whaling once-and-for-all.
Again in 2004 Henrik Fisher, the then chair of the IWC, attempted to seek a similar compromise. A concerted effort, supported by the US Government, was taken forward by Bill Hogarth, chair of the IWC between 2005 and 2009, but again, floundered in 2010.
All these proposals failed both because they would have led to the resumption of commercial whaling, and also, because the whalers felt that their continued pressure at the IWC would actually deliver them everything they wanted without having to compromise.
Indeed, the very regularity of the repeated attempts to promote a compromise has become a source of encouragement to the commercial whaling interests. The IWC is populated with new Commissioners every few years, many of whom have no memory of the recent past, and some of whom rush to ‘solve’ what they see as a problem only they can ‘manage’. Each attempt has led to more compromises being proposed from the conservation-led side. The last proposal even considered allowing the hunting of fin and sei whales as well as minke whales. It would have also allowed whaling for at least 10 years before review.
So no wonder that the pro-whaling industrial complex feels that all it needs to do is keep banging away at the IWC, eroding its foundations and seeking to compromise its ability to carry out any conservation action.
The pro-whalers have also sought to encourage aboriginal subsistence waiting to engage in more commercial activities. The most enthusiastic of the ASW hunters have been those in Greenland. Their strategy has been to blur the divisions between ASW and commercial whaling, so making it easier to Japan and her allies to complain that ‘their whaling is no different to that sanctioned already by the IWC’.
It is remarkable is that this all comes at the same time the consumption of whalemeat in Japan and the other countries has continued to rapidly diminish.
The Japanese Dolphin and Whale Action Network (IKAN) has carried out research which shows that Japanese people eat on average only 23.7 g a year of whalemeat, about the same weight as a chocolate bar.
But, despite these facts, the pro-whaling interests still have a tight grip on the decision-making process within Japan, Norway and Iceland.
Japan and her allies appear to be in for the long-haul in this debate. Pro-conservation countries need to also look to the long-game and not seek to falter by pursuing any compromise deal that will simply bring sucour to the pro-whaling interests and encourage them even more. Now is the time to hold fast, to protect the remaining whales, and seek a better future for all us, human and whale-kind alike.
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
The marine conservation world lost one of its greatest and most modest heroes last week. Dr Mandy McMath, the senior marine ecologist at CCW (the Countryside Council for Wales) passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Mandy McMath touched the lives and hearts of many of us who work on marine wildlife and we could all do a lot worse than seek to walk in her footsteps.
The news of Mandy’s death took me by surprise as a few days earlier I had exchanged emails with her and she was as wise and witty in these exchanges as ever. By then, I had heard that she would have to run her life from a wheel chair, as her cancer had resurfaced, but I did not know that her death was imminent. Perhaps she knew but chose not to share this, instead channelling her energies into positive engagement with colleagues and issues, as she had always done.
Mandy was renowned for her championship of two key causes in the marine conservation sphere: firstly, the conservation of the marine mammals in Welsh seas; and, secondly, the promotion of the role of women in conservation and science. Part of her legacy is the conservation designations that now gird the Welsh coastline. In this context, she was also a great friend and supporter of research on dolphins and seals around her beloved Bardsey Island and elsewhere in Cardigan Bay.
One of my fondest memories is sitting with Mandy on Bardsey one particularly fine sunny day at what we call the Cliff End lookout and surveying the wonderfully flat sea south across the Bay. A small group of the usually elusive Risso’s dolphins accompanied by their calves swam into view and then milled for long wonderful minutes in the waters directly below us. Clip boards with forms for essential data and cameras were forgotten, the dictaphone was dropped and cameras kicked as we both lost our professional detachment in the thrill of this rare inshore encounter. Her enthusiasm for marine wildlife was undeniably infectious.
In recent years, Mandy visited Bardsey many times and led the innovative work there using digital photography to examine how mother gray seals returned to the same coves and often the same mates each year. Several of the team from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society are on the island today and send their best wishes and join their thoughts with yours. One of Mandy’s last messages to us asked for photographs of the recently moulted seal pups, to extend this project, which of course we have been doing.
Seals have a strange status in the UK and can be the subject of human persecution. Bardsey Island is relatively remote and offers a sanctuary for them. Mandy was one of their champions working hard to navigate the complex politics that affect them. It is not surprising that the handful of people who live on the island (who all knew her well) have already made a small salute to her memory and named a recently born seal pup there ‘Mandy’. I think that would have made her smile. She did not like fuss and she certainly did not seek accolades (this eulogy would have made her cringe) but my goodness she deserved to be recognised as the fundamental force for marine conservation that she was, and Mandy the seal’s chances of a long and happy life in an increasingly busy and dangerous sea have certainly been improved by her namesake.
The second sphere of influence where Mandy was also an undoubted champion was more subtle, but nonetheless important, and this concerned her encouragement of the participation of women in conservation and science. Mandy recognised the many difficulties that often stopped an enthusiastic female graduate from making a career in conservation. With a kind and encouraging word here and some subtle manipulation elsewhere she would help them along. Her influence will have been spread by them all around the world.
Over the years that I knew her she encouraged many people of both genders in their endeavours and a chat with Mandy would often serve to re-inspire and redirect even the most jaded researcher. ‘Keep going Boyo’ she would say to me and I am sure she spoke similarly to many others.
Mandy was funny. Mandy was fun. Her good humour helped many of us through difficult periods in the field, as well as in dealing with our frustrations with the authorities. Above all, she was wonderfully wise and I am sure like many of you, I will miss being able to talk to her.
Part of what Mandy leaves behind her is a body of papers and reports which bear her name as author or project manager, but her influence is much greater than this. Put simply, Mandy significantly nurtured marine conservation in Wales, and also far beyond. One example of the ‘far beyond’ being her contributions to the work of the European Cetacean Society which also extends its condolences. Recently she helped to establish the European Cetacean Society’s Conservation Prize and in doing so also ensured the Prize’s strong focus on education.
In what turned out to be our last email exchanges, when I was initiating a visit to see her, Mandy commented that the people at CCW could not have been more supportive of her in her illness and how proud she was of her team. Perhaps I should have seen a hint in the tense she used in this thought that she shared with me.
In response to my comment: ‘Those are some tough life cards you have been dealt…’ her reply was characteristically wise:
“The trick now is to make the most of the hand dealt.”
As I said, we could all do a lot worse than try to walk in Mandy’s shoes – striving to adopt a similar positive attitude and her good humour, being down to earth but still inspirational, and at least attempting the wonderfully wise support to friends and colleagues that Mandy gave so generously.
WDCS wishes all of Mandy’s family and friends well at this sad time. It was a pleasure and privilege to know her.
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
Consciousness is often perceived as an ethereal notion which is difficult to pin down. However, finally, a group of eminent scientists meeting to discuss the neurobiological basis of conscious experience and related behaviours agreed that:
“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
These scientists argue that the abundance of new data in this field requires a re-evaluation of our preconceptions about consciousness in other species. Whilst this may come as no surprise to many of us, it is a huge step forward for these scientists, from a broad range of neurobiological fields, to be satisfied that they have enough supporting evidence to boldly state the case for consciousness in these other species.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was crafted in July at Cambridge University during the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants and in the presence of the celebrated scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking.
WDCS argues that not only are whales and dolphins conscious, but that they often live in complex communities, that they are capable of experiencing a range of emotions and that they are sentient and sapient beings.
As we focus on our own sporting prowess at the London 2012 Olympics, maybe it is a good time to think about some of the gold-medal holders in the animal kingdom too.
The longest mammal migrations are made by the whales too – a humpback travelling from its feeding ground in Antarctica to the breeding ground off Colombia may cover 5,176 miles (8,334 km). The gray whales are also contenders for this gold medal and also cover vast distances.
The deepest diving mammal is probably the sperm whale. 2000 m has been recorded but indirect evidence indicates that they may go a further 1000 m. The beaked whale family are contenders for this medal too and are known to dive to similar depths.
The record for the longest dive may belong to the sperm whale too – two hours and 18 minutes were recorded. Team Beaked Whale is again a contender in this sport.
Of course the largest animal on Earth is the blue whale – the heaviest recorded weighed 209 tons (190 tonnes) and the longest measured 110 feet and 2 inches (33.5 m). A similar length to a Boeing 737 jet airliner. (The fin whale comes second!)
The loudest sounds made by any animal also come from the blue whale (and the fin whale) – these low frequency pulses can be up to 188 decibels.
The longest and most complex song produced by any animal is that of the humpback whale. Each song may last for half an hour and contains many components.
Team Whale are also contenders in the following events:
Dall’s porpoises can reach 30 knots which is about 34.5 miles per hour.
The spinner dolphins with their amazing high spinning leaps from the water might be the gold medallists here but don’t discount the amazing aerial displays by the humpback whales.
Perhaps not really a sport but certainly an important attribute and the bowhead whale is now known to live up to about 200 years. This probably makes them the longest-lived vertebrate animal.
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.
Largely based on materials used in undergraduate programmes that the lead author, Professor Chris Parsons, has contributed to at a number of UK and US universities ‘An Introduction to Marine Mammal Biology and Conservation’, is arguably the first complete up-to-date introductory text for students that covers both the full range of marine mammal species and the many issues that affect them.
This book will be helpful for anyone interested in these animals and their conservation and who might feel that they lack a starting place to understand them. It will also be helpful to students on undergraduate and postgraduate courses concerned with marine conservation and conservation issues more generally.
This large paperback has been deliberately produced to allow it to be within the purchasing power of students (it under £40). Nonetheless its 350 pages are highly and clearly illustrated and provide a well-researched and knowledgeable introduction to a wide range of topics. The main species covered include all the pinnipeds (the seals and sea lions), the sirenians (the sea cows) and the cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), and other chapters feature the sea and marine otters and polar bears.
The opening section on General Biology covers Evolution, Classification and Diversity, Adaptations to a Marine Environment and Underwater Sound. Part Two looks at the Ecology and Statuses of the various taxonomic groups and then, in Part Three, the focus is conservation. In its third and concluding section, the book, really comes into its own with excellent introductions to the relationship between these animals and people through the ages; a chapter devoted to Whaling and the International Whaling Commission; quite detailed chapters on threats to cetaceans and pinnipeds; and finally chapters reviewing marine mammal laws and marine mammal-related tourism. The book concludes with a interesting review of research techniques.
Key features of the book include
- that it is highly illustrated;
- that each chapter comes with an extensive list of references and further reading for those that wish to know more about any topic; and
- the use of numerous ‘Exploring the Depths’ boxes inserted into the main text. These boxes provide a further insight into key topics such as ‘Dolphin Intelligence’ and ‘Conservation of the Dugong’ and are mainly contributed by a wide range of guest contributors. They help make the book a lively and stimulating read.
Book details: it is 350 pages long; Published by Jones & Bartlett Learning; written in English and all diagrams and photos are in black and white. ISBN-10: 0763783447; ISBN-13: 978-0763783440. The current price on Amazon.com is £36.99 with free delivery.
Professor ECM (Chris) Parsons during a recent expedition on the Panama Canal