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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

equipment to Russian

equipment to Russian subsistence whalers, while Norwegian experts with commercial whaling expertise have provided technical advice to Aboriginal whalers in, Greenland, Russia and the US. A variety of different killing methods are used in the current ASW hunts for fin, gray, humpback, minke and bowhead whales. Data from each hunt should, in theory, illustrate the relative efficiency of these different methods for each species, as well as enabling a comparison between aboriginal and commercial hunts using the same techniques or targeting the same species. However, the information provided to the IWC by all nations conducting ASW is incomplete and the data that are collected are not necessarily based on consistently applied criteria, making a comparative analysis difficult 29 . For example, Greenland’s hunters use the same harpoon on the same species as Norway, but apply different criteria for judging the onset of death or insensibility (table 2). Table 2 Criteria used to determine death during Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling 30 ASW Hunt Criteria used for determining death Russian, Chukotka Estimated subjectively by the hunters and inspectors, from the time that the first harpoon struck the whale until complete cessation of movement of the flukes. Alaskan Inuit Time to prayer, rather than time to death, is used. This is the time when it is considered safe by the whaling captain to approach the whale, which is usually to between 5 to 10 minutes after the whale is considered to be dead by the hunters. Greenland When the whale does not move and the flippers are immoveable St Vincent – Bequian Details not provided, however one account states that “When the whale spout blood and she float dead...” (Ward 1999). Although all current ASW operations are still conducted from small boats, most now use motorised vessels to chase the whale. Probably the most effective ‘modernisation’ of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (in terms of reducing TTD) has been the adoption of the penthrite grenade as a primary killing method in some hunts, although it is used in different ways in different hunts. Often, however, a darting gun is used, with either a black powder grenade, or a cold harpoon. The projectile has line and floats attached which are intended to slow the progress of the whale through the water. In this instance, the harpoon is intended to secure the whale, rather than kill it outright. The final kill is then achieved using rifles, further harpoons or, depending on the hunt, sometimes spears. Despite concerns expressed by experts regarding the adequacy of the calibre commonly used (Anon 2003c), the rifle is still a popular hunting method for aboriginal whalers, particularly as a secondary killing method. Killing methods used during ASW Russian gray whale and bowhead hunt Chukotkan hunters use darting guns with black powder grenades, or harpoons. In both cases, floats and line are attached to secure and mark the whale. Spears are also sometimes used during these COMMERCIAL AND ABORIGINAL SUBSISTENCE WHALING 45

46 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES hunts. A rifle or darting gun is then used to dispatch the animal. The long times to death reported in the Russian Federation’s gray whale hunts indicate a serious lack of efficiency in this method. The average time to death for gray whales taken in 1999, 2000 and 2001 was 53 minutes with an average of 47 bullets used per whale. In 1997, ten floats were required to secure a whale and then a metal tipped lance and 600 to 700 bullets to kill her (HSUS 1997). In a 1999 hunt, it took over three hours and 40 minutes and 180 bullets to kill a single gray whale. The data provided to the 2003 Workshop on Whale Killing Methods show the proportional use of harpoons, darting guns and three models of rifles (including the semi-automatic ‘CKS’ which is the civilian version of the SKS) by Russian whalers in 2002. Of 131 gray whales killed that year, the harpoon and rifle were used in every case and the darting gun was used on 71 per cent of the whales (an average of 2.7 darting gun projectiles was used on each whale). The CKS was used on 10 whales, but the number of rounds used on these occasions was not provided. Not one gray whale was killed instantaneously by the harpoon in 2002 and all required the use of a secondary killing method. The maximum estimated time to death was 56 minutes and the mean time to death was 32 minutes. The maximum number of bullets used on a single whale was 100 and the median number, 52. In response to a question at the 2003 workshop about the small calibre of the rifles and the adequacy of cartridges used in its gray whale hunt, the Russian Federation explained that hunters use whatever weapons are available and gave behavioural, as well as operational, reasons for the large number of bullets and darting gun projectiles used, and for the long times to death. The Russian Federation delegate explained that, because the gray whale is aggressive, hunters tend to ‘overuse’ bullets to make absolutely sure that the whale is actually dead, and overestimate the time to death to be sure that the whale is not still moving before they approach it. The efficiency in the Russian hunt for bowhead whales is also of concern to the IWC. During 2002, two bowhead whales were landed and another was struck and lost. One whale was killed using a harpoon and darting gun and the other using a harpoon, darting gun and rifle. The number of bullets used was not, however, reported. The maximum time to death was 53 minutes and the mean, 41 minutes. In 2001, the Russian Federation provided different data, making a comparison impossible. It reported that six harpoons and floats and five darting gun projectiles were used on the one whale killed that year, but did not provide time to death data. US Alaskan bowhead and Makah gray whale hunt The Alaskan Inuit hunt for bowhead whales also employs a darting gun with black powder projectile with 35-fathom line and floats attached, which is designed to mark the position of the whale and slow it down. The secondary killing method, which is used once the whale is secured, is either another darting gun or a smooth bore, 7-gauge shoulder gun. Alaskan hunters have recently tested a penthrite grenade in the darting gun and reported to the IWC in 2003 that it appears to be more effective in producing a rapid death than the traditional black powder projectile. The US claims that hunting efficiency in the Alaskan Eskimo bowhead hunt has improved over the last 20 years, although in 2001, only 36.7 per cent of whales were killed instantaneously and 26 struck whales were lost. The US does not provide time to death data to the IWC, claiming that it is too dangerous for hunters in a small boat to stay close to a whale following a strike. In 2003, the US reported that it has introduced a new reporting form on which hunters are to record ‘time to prayer’.

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