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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Norwegians 1

Norwegians 1 and Japanese 2 is, on average, between two and three minutes, but with some animals taking over 40 minutes to die (IWC 2003). The number of whales apparently killed immediately 3 is variable, with Norwegian hunts achieving an approximate four in five immediate kill rate (Øen, 2003) (Figure 1). Japan’s Antarctic Whaling Research Programme (JARPA) achieved a less than two in five immediate kill rate in the 1998/99 (31.6 per cent), 2000/2001 (36.1 per cent) and 2001/2002 (33 per cent) seasons, and a slightly more than two in five immediate kill rate in the 1999/2000 (44.4 per cent) and 2002/2003 (40.2 per cent) seasons (Ishikawa 2003b, Kestin 2001) (see chapter 6 for a review of these data). Recent data from the Greenland Home Rule minke hunt provide a mean TTD of 16 minutes (and a longest time of 300 minutes) for minke whales hunted in West Greenland in 2002 (IWC 2003). Figure 1. Survival of minke whales in the Norwegian whaling operations Survival (%) 100 – 80 – 60 – 40 – 20 – 83% 1981-1983 55% 1984-1986 39% 1996-1998 20% 2000-2002 0 – I I I I I I I 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Time (in minutes) Points on the y axis show survival if greater than 10 seconds after being hit by the harpoon for all whales caught in the four time periods 1981-83 (cold, non grenade harpoons) 1984-86 (first grenade harpoons) 1996-98 (improved grenade harpoon and improved training) 2000-2002 (new grenade harpoon). The decay lines show: Upper dotted- Survival / time for animals in the period 1996-98 Lower solid- Survival / time for animals in the period 2000-2002 (Source: Øen 2003) REVIEW OF CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING DEATH AND INSENSIBILITY IN CETACEA 85

86 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES It is apparent from Figure 1, that, while there have been improvements in the percentage of animals killed within ten seconds from 17 per cent in 1983, to 80 per cent in 2002, there remain one in five (20 per cent) of whales which do not die rapidly (in less than ten seconds), and whose survival can be as long as 40 minutes. From the tail of the lower survival curve in Figure 1, it is apparent that, despite alterations to the design of the harpoon, and increased training and monitoring of whalers, the decay line for whales taking more than ten minutes to die has effectively remained unaltered between 1996 and the most recent recorded data in 2002. One can interpret this as meaning that, for approximately 10 per cent of all whales killed (the intersection of ten minutes on the time x axis, with approximately 10 per cent on the survival line, y axis) by the Norwegians, death takes at least ten minutes. This figure has not significantly improved since 1996. The interpretation of the three criteria used to determine time of death is likely to be critical. Differences in the perception of ‘flipper movement’ (passive or active), or ‘sinking without swimming’ can create differences in TTD data. Whales are capable of sinking without swimming during normal activity (Ridgeway et al. 1984, Dierauf & Gulland 2001), and so sinking alone is not likely to be a fully reliable indicator of non-viability. In practice, the use of the existing IWC criteria in the field by observers of the Japanese and Norwegian whaling operation has highlighted inconsistencies in their interpretation. For example, in a recent description of his experiences as a veterinary observer in the Norwegian hunt, Bruce (2003) states that the IWC criteria were used in an ‘inclusive’ fashion (relaxation of the jaw AND no Flipper movement AND no active movement). In contrast to this Norwegian example, recent data provided by Japan from the IWC Humane Killing Workshop in 2003 (Ishikawa 2003a) indicate that Japan does not make the criteria ‘inclusive’ in general (but sometimes combine criteria such as motionless AND slackened jaw, or motionless AND slackened pectoral fins) Table 1. For the largest part Japan uses ‘motionless’, a criterion which is not one of the IWC criteria, for determining TTD in most animals (Table 1, 514 out of 566 – 90 per cent). The IWC holds periodic scientific workshops to examine whale killing methods and associated welfare issues. It has been repeatedly noted at these workshops 4 that existing criteria are in need of improvement and that more reliable indicators of the point of sensibility and death should be produced. An International Scientific Workshop on Sentience and Potential Suffering in Hunted Whales was hosted by the RSPCA in London in 2001 (RSPCA, 2003). The purpose was to review current criteria for assessing insensibility in cetaceans and consider the welfare implications of these criteria for whales. A group of scientists and veterinarians with expertise in welfare, physiology and anatomy reviewed current data on times to death in whale hunts, and the current IWC criteria for determining the point of death in cetaceans. The group concluded that these criteria were not adequate to determine precisely the point of death, and it was agreed that it should be possible to greatly improve current indicators of sensibility and death in whales. If the scientific community is concerned that the existing IWC measures do not give confidence that the animal is dead, are there better measures? A preliminary study (Butterworth 2003a, 2003b) stemming from this workshop identified that the following measures would be likely to provide reliable information on the sensibility of cetacea – “breathing rate when the animal is stimulated around the blowhole, electrocardiogram and heart rate, presence (or absence) of rhythmic swimming activity, and the temperature of the surface of the eye”.

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