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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Since struck

Since struck and lost whales can incur a wide range of injuries, the prognosis for these animals will vary significantly. Whales that have been struck by an explosive harpoon that pulled out, or whose forerunner rope broke, may suffer some considerable internal damage. Once the whale has ‘escaped’ and the opportunity to administer a secondary killing method has been lost, pain, suffering and TTD may be considerably protracted. In contrast, it should be noted that the escape from a slaughterhouse of a significant proportion of wounded animals would not be tolerated. In this manner, as many others, expectations of the welfare of whaling operations differ fundamentally from that of slaughtering other animals for food (see chapter 12). In the short-term, the damage cause by a poorly aimed harpoon or bullet may lead to bleeding, significant nervous tissue damage and/or damage to internal organs. Depending on the extent of injury, these wounds may prove fatal over time. In the longer term, less immediately perilous injuries, such as strikes to the musculature or bullets embedded in bone, may be significantly debilitating, although not immediately fatal. Such injuries may lead to infection, restricted mobility, ankylosis of shattered joints and eventually even to muscle or limb atrophy. This could lead to loss of use of the pectoral fins or tailstock, which would impede swimming ability. A number of different injuries could, therefore, result in an inability to feed, socialise and reproduce, and could potentially cause a slow death through starvation (Anon 2003b). Furthermore, struck and lost whales are almost certainly more susceptible to infection. In addition to physical wounding, exertional myopathy induced by a prolonged flight, may also have a significant impact on the long-term prognosis of struck and lost animals (see chapter 9). Iceland During the 55th IWC meeting, in June 2003, Iceland presented its proposal for a scientific whaling programme, targeting 100 fin whales, 100 minke and 50 sei whales annually over two years. The proposal met strong opposition from both the Scientific Committee 20 , and the Commission, which adopted a resolution describing scientific whaling as “an act contrary to the spirit of the moratorium on commercial whaling and to the will of the Commission” 21 and called on Iceland not to proceed with its plans (see chapter 13 for more details). In August 2003, Iceland announced its intention to implement the first stage of its scientific whaling programme, involving the take of 38 minke. This hunt commenced on 11th August 2003. Whale bycatch The killing for food of whales caught in nets is not a new practice. Japanese whalers have been actively using nets to trap whales since the seventeenth century (Mitchell, Reeves and Evely 1986). In 2001, Japanese legislation 22 was amended to permit the killing of whales accidentally caught in nets and the commercialisation of their products. Before this amendment, fishermen were required to free trapped whales and were prohibited from selling them. It is not clear whether the subsequent fourfold increase 23 in whales caught in nets in Japan in 2001/2002 resulted from better reporting of bycatch incidents, or whether a new commercial incentive led to more whales being killed 24 . However, there are growing concerns from some IWC members that fishing nets are used intentionally to catch whales for commercial purposes in an effort to circumvent the moratorium on commercial whaling 25 . This was further evidenced by the figures presented to the 2003 IWC Scientific Committee by Japan which demonstrated that in 2002, 109 minke and three humpback whales were reported to have been caught in Japanese nets. COMMERCIAL AND ABORIGINAL SUBSISTENCE WHALING 43

44 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES The use of the products of bycaught whales for commercial purposes is not unique to Japan. In Korea, where it is also legal to commercialise the meat of whales caught in nets, a bycaught whale can fetch between US$30,000 and US$40,000 at auction (IAKA and KAPS 2002). In Greenland, whaling regulations permit the killing of a sick or injured animal, including species not included in the ASW quota, and the distribution of its meat to public institutions. In countries where the intention is to dispatch bycaught whales for human consumption, no details are available on the methods used, or who undertakes the kill. It is likely that a wide range of weapons are employed, including knives, rifles and cold or exploding harpoons (Anon 2003a). It is doubtful that veterinarians are consulted on the best welfare option for the whale, which should include its possible release. It is equally doubtful that, if fishermen kill the whales, they will have had any appropriate training. As a result, the range of wounds incurred by these animals may be extensive and their TTDs protracted. Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling The IWC permits ‘aborigines’, whose cultural and nutritional need for whales and whaling it has recognised, to hunt some baleen species ‘exclusively for local consumption’ 26 . The IWC establishes five-year blocks of annual Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) quotas that are based on the advice of its Scientific Committee. These subsistence quotas are currently taken by indigenous people in the US (who take gray and bowhead whales), Greenland (who take minke and fin whales) and Russia (who take gray and bowhead whales), and by Bequians of St Vincent and the Grenadines (who take humpback whales). The IWC recognises that killing methods used in ASW hunts are less accurate and efficient than those used in commercial whaling operations, and result in longer times to death, lower instantaneous death rates, and higher struck and lost rates. Paragraph 13 of the IWC’s schedule, which sets out the quotas for the species that may be hunted in ASW operations, does not include any specific welfare provisions. However, through a series of resolutions, and direct recommendations from the working groups, the IWC has urged aboriginal subsistence whalers to do everything possible to reduce any avoidable suffering caused to whales in ASW hunts 27 . Contracting governments are requested to provide relevant data from their hunts for analysis by the Workshop and Working Group on Whale Killing Methods and Associated Welfare Issues, so that advice on techniques and equipment can be given by experts (which, in practice, often means other ASW hunters). The IWC has been slower to address welfare concerns relating to ASW than to commercial whaling, and has been particularly hesitant to consider whether (and if so, how) the integrity of subsistence hunts should be maintained through the use of traditional, but inherently less efficient, equipment and vessels. As indigenous hunters have begun to use more non-traditional equipment to chase and shoot whales, ASW hunts have become more efficient, but they have also become more expensive and have lost some of their defining cultural characteristics. Although the IWC’s workshops and working groups provide increasingly technical advice, the Commission leaves the decision about which equipment to use to the discretion of the governments concerned and their hunters. It also requests all contracting governments to provide appropriate technical assistance to improve the ‘humaneness’ of aboriginal subsistence whaling and reduce time to unconsciousness and death 28 . As a result, native US whalers have shared technology, provided training and donated

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