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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Secondary killing

Secondary killing methods • The common use of secondary killing methods, such as the rifle, during whaling operations reflects the inefficiency of primary killing methods. The IWC has not established any formal criteria for determining when to apply secondary killing methods, and the decision, including which method to use, rests with the hunter. • The primary objective of any secondary killing method should be to kill immediately, or render insensible to pain, an already wounded and compromised cetacean. The data available indicate that rifles may often be inadequate as a secondary killing method, often requiring many shots to achieve a kill. Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) • Killing methods used during ASW hunts are recognised to be less accurate and efficient than those used in commercial whaling operations, resulting in longer times to death (TTD), lower instantaneous death rates (IDRs), and higher ‘struck and lost’ rates. Data from ASW hunts for the period 2000-2002 show an IDR of 0-17 per cent, an average TTD of 9-57 minutes, and a maximum TTD of 25-300 minutes. The number of whales struck and lost per hunt varied from zero to 26 animals. • For some ASW hunts, the IWC sets a limit on the number of whales that may be landed, rather than a ‘strike limit’. This means that ASW hunters are often able to land the maximum number of whales permitted, but strike and lose an unlimited number in addition. Criteria for assessing time to death • The IWC criteria for determining the time to death in hunted cetaceans are; relaxation of the lower jaw; or no flipper movement; or sinking without active movement. A review of these criteria by a group of scientists and veterinarians with expertise in welfare, physiology, and anatomy, concluded that they were not adequate to determine precisely the point of death. Cetaceans are adapted for diving, and consequently have developed mechanisms for storing oxygen in their tissues. Thus they may survive, but have the potential to experience pain over a longer period than indicated by the current IWC criteria. Therefore, current data on time to death and instantaneous death rate, which are based on these criteria, are incredible. Moreover, these criteria are not used in an inclusive fashion, further reducing the credibility of these data. • Without robust and practical methods of accurately measuring time to death and insensibility in the field, it will remain difficult to assess comprehensively the full welfare implications of various killing methods. ‘Struck and lost’ whales • The failure to land whales that are struck and injured (‘struck and lost’) by whaling operations is a severe welfare problem. Struck and lost cetaceans may incur a wide range of injuries, including haemorrhage, significant nervous tissue damage and/or damage to internal organs. Depending on the extent of injury, these wounds may prove debilitating or possibly fatal. Injuries may lead to infection, restricted mobility, ankylosis of shattered joints and eventually muscle or limb atrophy. Struck and lost cetaceans may suffer an inability to feed, socialise or reproduce. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3

4 A REVIEW REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING WHALING ACTIVITIES The potential stress effects on whales of pursuit during whaling operations • Whaling operations can impose a degree of physical and psychological stress upon a pursued cetacean before any killing method is deployed. Such stress factors may be significant for cetaceans that are struck and eventually killed, but also for those that evade capture. From first sighting, the elements of the pursuit, such as the approach, duration, speed and distance covered, may affect morbidity and mortality, even amongst animals that successfully evade being struck. • The degree of exertion imposed on whales during pursuit may fall outside the species’ adaptive range. Whalers depend on achieving a minimum distance between themselves and whales for successful harpooning. This range is likely to fall below the distance that would naturally be maintained by wild cetaceans. Pursuit, as part of whaling, therefore has the potential to induce stress, which may reveal itself in a series of lethal and sub-lethal pathologies. Weather, sea condition and ship motions affecting accuracy in whaling • The combination of visibility, sea state, ship motion and marksmanship are likely to impact significantly on the ability of a whaler to reliably kill a whale instantaneously. If weather, sea conditions or the motion of the vessel do not allow for a properly aimed shot, then there is a significant risk of a poorly placed harpoon or bullet causing an extended time to death and associated suffering. Euthanasia of cetaceans • The meticulous nature of the methods developed for the euthanasia of stranded cetaceans and the conditions under which these methods are applied, contrast significantly with the often inferior circumstances and substandard methods used during whaling operations. Whalers attempting a fatal shot with a harpoon or a rifle, often from a considerable range, need to overcome a number of significant factors that hinder accuracy. The significance of these variables and the inadequacies of the methods used are reflected in the poor instantaneous death rates and average times to death during all whaling operations. Other welfare considerations • The complex social behaviour of cetaceans may mean that the killing of one cetacean from a social group may have a significant effect on others. This is especially likely if the strong maternal bond between mother and calf is broken. There is also growing evidence of culture in some cetacean species. Therefore, consideration should be given to the impact of whaling operations on the welfare of remaining individuals in the social groups. Comparison with the commercial slaughter of other species • Basic principles that must be addressed to protect the welfare of animals at slaughter have been identified for livestock animals. These principles, the determinants of high welfare slaughter methodology, are: pre-slaughter handling facilities which minimise stress; use of competent well-trained, caring personnel; appropriate equipment, which is fit for the purpose; an effective process which induces immediate unconsciousness and insensibility, or an induction to a period of unconsciousness without distress; and, guarantee of non-recovery from that process until death ensues.

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