5 years ago

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

these kills take place

these kills take place (see chapter 8). The significance of these variables and the inadequacies of the methods used result in the poor TTDs and IDRs that are commonly reported (see chapter 6). The proximity of the vessel and the gunner to the whale is variable and is often far from optimal. The optimal distance for euthanasing a large cetacean, as demonstrated during the euthanasia of stranded cetaceans, is likely to be no more than an arm’s length. During many whaling operations, the gunner must aim at a moving target, surrounded by a moving sea and from a moving platform (chapter 8). There is also growing concern that the active pursuit of whales, may force the escaping cetacean to undertake a degree of exertion for which it is not evolutionarily adapted. This may induce what is referred to as ‘exertional myopathy’, which may manifest as lethal or sub-lethal disease or dysfunction. Thus, whales that are pursued, but avoid being struck and eventually evade capture, may suffer as a result of this pursuit. It is also possible that some may die as a result of induced exertional myopathy. As a result, even if more efficient and more species-specific technology could be developed for killing cetaceans on the high seas, the fact that there may always be a percentage of whales that are either struck and lost, or that are pursued and lost without being struck, would remain a serious welfare problem. Problems associated with the specific biology of whales As described in chapter 4, cetaceans are unusual animals and their biology raises ethical as well as welfare concerns. We still know relatively little about many whale species. This lack of knowledge includes a poor understanding of where many populations begin and end, and even of basic cetacean biology and behaviour. Where knowledge is adequate, it is apparent that some species – for example, orcas, sperm whales and pilot whales – have highly developed social structures and there is a strong interdependence between individuals. Skills and specialisations can be seen to pass between generations and, these animals can be said to have cultures as well as societies. This means that the removal of individuals by hunting may have a significant impact on the wider population because their potential to pass on knowledge (as well as genetic diversity) is removed. Similarly, the removal of entire groups or populations may mean the removal of entire ways of life or cetacean cultures. Because they are adapted to an exclusively marine way of life (cetaceans being the larger of only two orders of mammals that complete their lifecycles in the water), these animals also have a number of physiological and anatomical peculiarities that further compound welfare issues. Determining when whales are dead Perhaps the greatest concern relating to the welfare of hunted cetaceans is the fact that the current criteria used for determining death in cetaceans are inadequate (Butterworth et al. 2003) (see chapter 11). It is likely that whales suffer more prolonged deaths than the current data suggest, but until a scientifically proven means of determining death in cetaceans is established, individual whales may be declared dead while they are still alive. In some cases, it is possible they may even die while being winched aboard a processing vessel. It is also possible that an individual whale could be paralysed by the harpoon strike and may initiate a physiological dive response, in an attempt to escape this attack. Such an animal would then present as ‘motionless’ and not breathing (since it may be holding its WHALING & WELFARE 127

128 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES breath). Using the current criteria this whale could then be recorded as dead and be hauled on to the flensing deck whilst still alive. The IWC criteria tend to be used in an exclusive fashion by whaling nations i.e. the presence or absence of a single measure is used, rather than the inclusive assessment of several criteria, as is common practice for assessing death in other species. Furthermore, Japan typically uses motionless as the main criteria for determining death, although this is not, in fact, one of the IWC criteria (chapter 11). Many species of cetacean are adapted for extended dives (Anon 2003) (see chapter 4) and consequently harpoon strikes to the thoracic region (which might be considered lethal for terrestrial mammals due to the injury caused to the lung and heart tissue) may not have the same immediate effects for cetaceans, due to their capacity for functioning using tissue-stored oxygen reserves. The ‘special case’ of special permit whaling Japan continues to issue special permits for the killing of whales in scientific research programmes. However, there has never been unequivocal approval of any of these research proposals by the IWC’s Scientific Committee. Furthermore, the Commission has expressed considerable concern through several resolutions on scientific whaling, including, most recently, a call on “the government of Japan to halt the JARPA program, or to revise it so that it is limited to non-lethal research methodologies” 4 . A critique of one such programme, the ‘JARPN’ programme, by a number of scientists from the Scientific Committee during the 2002 Annual Meeting (IWC 2002b) revealed that: • there are no meaningful quantifiable measures by which to judge the research; • lethal sampling is not essential to the research, as biopsy sampling could provide genetic and dietary information; • Japan describes JARPN II as a “multi-species modelling approach to whale management”; yet no such approach has been agreed by the Commission. Concern was further reflected in the statement submitted by 40 scientists from the Scientific Committee to the 55th Annual Meeting of the IWC in Berlin, in response to Iceland’s proposal to initiate special permit whaling: “The proponents have failed to supply adequate justification for the proposed sample sizes, and have offered no performance criteria for how the work’s ‘feasibility’ will subsequently be determined”. Also: “We reiterate that the major objectives of the Icelandic proposal are either not relevant to the management of whales under the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), or that the subset of information which is relevant ... can be – and routinely are – obtained with far greater efficiency by well-established non-lethal methods”. And: “As members of the Scientific Committee, we are seriously concerned by what we see as the increasingly frequent abuse of Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling by some member nations. This has important ramifications for the IWC and the work of the S.C. Member governments that promote poorly conceived research whaling programmes place their scientists in the untenable position of having to defend these proposals in order to support the agendas of their governments” (IWC 2003b).

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