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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

however, has been made

however, has been made on the extent of tissue tearing and trauma, or its impact on the whales. 5. The ‘traditional’ sharp hook is secured into any part of the body. Whales have been documented with hooks struck into the eye (EIA, 1987). 6. Each unsuccessful strike extends the time from first wounding of the animal, to final loss of sensibility, and eventual death. Although the Faroese authorities claim that it takes only a few seconds to cut through the skin, blubber and flesh to sever the blood supply to the brain (Olsen 1999), several factors may increase the cutting time, delaying time to loss of sensibility and death: • The whale may be struggling as a result of fear or the pain from the hook wound/s. • The slaughterer may be standing on rocks or in shallow water. • The slaughterer may not be experienced at cutting whales. 7. The impact on those individuals who escape back to sea, having been trapped in the bay while the killing of their companions or family members takes place has not been explored. It is unknown if these animals survive and join another herd. These aspects of the killing methods are thought to result in severe welfare problems for the animals concerned. Regulation should be introduced that would ensure that where whale hunting does occur, it is carried out in a manner that does not result in unnecessary individual suffering and prolonged times to death. The Japanese Dall’s porpoise and Baird’s beaked whale hunts About 20,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises are killed in Japan’s coastal waters each year. There is little regulation of the methods used to kill them or the equipment used and no official training is apparently given to hunters (EIA 1999). As a consequence of intensive hunting, several cetacean populations are at risk of extinction in Japan’s coastal waters and the animals may be subjected to severe cruelty. The Japanese government records the numbers of cetaceans reported taken, although concern has been expressed that the numbers of Dall’s porpoises may be under-reported. There is no data collected on the duration of hunts, individual times to death, numbers struck and lost, or the numbers of females taken that are accompanied by calves. The Japanese government has published virtually no information describing the methods used to kill cetaceans in its coastal waters. Investigations and research by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media, however, has provided some information on the killing methods. The Dall’s porpoise hunt Dall’s porpoises have been hunted in Japanese coastal waters for centuries, with the hand harpoon being first used in the early 20th century. With the advent of faster boats in the 1970s, the catch averaged 8,000 per year, causing IWC scientists to warn that it was too high (EIA, 1999). Catch numbers continued to rise and, in 1988, as Japan reduced its commercial whaling operations as a result of the commercial whaling moratorium, the Dall’s porpoise hunt was increased with the introduction of new specialised boats, and the hunting season extending throughout almost the entire year. In 1987, 25,600 animals were reported killed. In 1988, this figure increased to 40,367 porpoises – about 30 per cent of the estimated population in Japanese waters. The catch figures for 1987 and 1988 are both thought to be underestimates. A year later in 1989, the catch was estimated THE SMALL CETACEAN DIMENSION 59

60 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES to be around 30,000 animals, and Japanese scientists warned that the hunting levels were unsustainable (EIA 1999). As a result of pressure from the IWC and the international community, the annual hunt has now been reduced to about 17,000 animals. There is, however, continued concern about the sustainability of this hunt and inadequacies in the reporting of the numbers killed. Killing methods Using specialised boats equipped with a bow platform, hunters travel offshore, anticipating that the Dall’s porpoises will ‘bow ride’ the boats 1 . The hunter leans from the platform and throws harpoons attached to long detachable shafts at the bow-riding porpoises. The harpoons are also attached to buoys by lines to secure the harpooned porpoises while the hunt continues for other porpoises. When the boat returns to collect the harpooned porpoises, they are dragged to the side of the boat and brought aboard the vessel. Some hunters apply a charge of electricity to the animals through the harpoon as it strikes them, or once they are aboard, if they have not been killed by the impact of the harpoon. Porpoises which have not been killed by either the harpoon or the electricity will have their necks cut with a knife, probably from the underside of the head, so that they bleed to death. With numbers of Dall’s porpoises severely depleted in the Sea of Japan, hunters are targeting porpoises accompanied by calves. As the calves tire more quickly and the females will not abandon them, they are, therefore, easier to catch. Although the hunters do not take them, abandoned calves will inevitably die (Perry 1999). Baird’s beaked whale hunt Baird’s beaked whales reach a length of 12.8 metres (42 ft). The Japanese government sets itself a quota for 62 of these rare whales to be taken in its coastal waters each year. The Scientific Committee and Working Group on Whale Killing Methods of the IWC have not formally considered the hunt but since the moratorium was passed in 1982, 1032 Baird’s beaked whales have been killed in Japan’s coastal waters (EIA 1999). These whales have been hunted for several decades with heavy exploitation by Soviet and Japanese hunters until 1970. In 1952 alone, 332 whales were taken. In the 1970s the catch averaged 44 whales per year and on the imposition of the moratorium in 1986, Japan set itself a quota of 40 Baird’s beaked whales per year. In 1989, the quota was increased to 62 whales, with the claim that this was an emergency increase to be reduced if a coastal quota of 50 minke whales was granted to Japan. This was refused and Japan reduced the Baird’s beaked whale quota to 54 animals. In 1999 the quota was arbitrarily increased to 62 whales. Killing methods Baird’s beaked whales are hunted off the Pacific coast of Japan and in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Hakodate, Hokkaido, using 48-ton ‘small type’ whaling boats. In the Sea of Japan, the boats travel to the feeding grounds (EIA 2003) where the whales are harpooned with a 50mm harpoon (Braund 1989). There are indications that non-exploding or cold harpoons may be being used to kill some of the whales (EIA 2003). The cold harpoon was banned in 1980 by the IWC on welfare grounds (ICRW schedule). There is no information available on the implement used if the impact of the first harpoon does not kill the whales immediately. Reports from people associated with the Sea of Japan

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