Last Week in Whales: Is a Market-Based Solution to End Whaling a Bad Idea? (Hint, It's a Bad Idea); Activists Board Japanese Whaling Ship; Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Population Plummets, NOAA Yawns...

News in the world of whales last week (or close to it).

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  • Three professors float a market-based approach to managing international whaling.  Let’s hope it sinks.  Ah, the market.  Isn’t it wonderful?  Why, it’s already solved so many of our problems, like global warming and over fishing.  Oh, wait, it hasn’t.  Nonetheless, some people continually feel compelled to dredge up “market-based” solutions to our environmental problems.  I suppose they think it will be more palatable if our tough choices are cloaked behind the workings of the invisible hand.  The professors advocate the development of whale quotas that could be bought and sold in a virtual whale market, allowing conservation groups to save whales by buying quotas and whalers to profit by selling quotas.  Of course, whalers could choose to use their quotas too, legally slaughtering the whales allowed by their quota.  There are so many reasons why this proposal is a bad idea, as my colleague, Taryn Kiekow, describes in her post, Putting a Price Tag on Whales Won’t Save Them.  For me, she gets at the crux of why this is a non starter – commercial whaling would be legalized.  I don’t want to legalize commercial whaling and I shouldn’t have to spend money to save whales from being slaughtered.  It’s wrong to kill whales for commercial purposes, end of story.  It’s wrong to put lead in paint that will be used in children’s classrooms or toys, end of story.  We don’t have to depend on child-welfare organizations to buy up lead paint quotas to keep the lead paint industry from poisoning children.  And I don’t want to depend on conservation organizations to buy up whaling quotas to stop commercial whaling.  Commercial whaling’s already illegal, let’s keep it that way. 
  • Speaking of whaling, three Australian activists climbed aboard a Japanese whaling security ship last week to protest the illegal poaching of whales in Antarctic waters.  Apparently not wanting to provoke Australia any more than it’s whaling already does, Japan released the three activists to Australian officials without charge.  While it’s not the same as boarding a Japanese ship in the dead of night, a new iPhone game allows you to assume the character of a minke whale and dodge the dangers of the Antarctic as you save whale calves from whalers.  Fun. 
  • With a solid hat tip to the Occupy Movement, demonstrators are planning an “Occupy the Japanese Embassy” in Miami this week to protest the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.  The slaughter got international attention following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove.  Taiji is currently midway through its killing season.  You can get updates from Ric O’Barry reporting live from Taiji
  • Rare dolphins spotted around the globe:  rare Irrawaddy dolphins found in Vietnam and rare Hector’s dolphin calves spotted in New Zealand (with great photos).  And the Cambodian government is working to save Mekong dolphins – experts estimate there are fewer than 100 adults left.  Good luck Cambodia! 
  • Speaking of dolphins, the U.S. Navy may use dolphins to keep the Strait of Hormuz open if Iran closes the strait in response to U.S. financial sanctions. 
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released results of its annual survey of Cook Inlet beluga whales, reporting that the population plummeted 20 percent in 2011.  Downplaying the significance of its owns survey, the agency tasked with protecting these belugas then immediately backpedaled, noting that “an actual decline of 20 percent in a year would likely be reflected in a large number of reported mortalities, which NOAA has not seen.”  Here, I’ll translate:  “We didn’t see a lot of dead whales, so they must not be dead.”  Great job, NOAA, way to go out on a limb for belugas.  I don’t care how big a bow you put on this story, it’s bad news for Cook Inlet Belugas, as my colleague Taryn reports.  NRDC and other environmental groups have been fighting for years to ensure protection for this iconic species, which is both genetically distinct and geographically isolated to Cook Inlet. In April 2006, we petitioned NOAA to list Cook Inlet belugas as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The government finally listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered in April 2008 and designated more than 3,000 square miles of the Cook Inlet as critical habitat essential to the whales’ survival.


Meanwhile, last week in Wales…

Unwilling to revisit even two hours of Thatcherism, Welsh are shunning The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep (who just won a Golden Globe for her performance).  As stated by Kevin Madge, deputy leader of Carmarthenshire council, “I saw, and many others saw, the devastating things she did for these areas, for the Valleys.  Whether it was pit closures, steelworks, cuts in public services – the upheaval of this period and for my generation will not be forgiven here for a long time.  The coal industry was absolutely destroyed – so is it any wonder ticket sales are bad where many closures happened?  For most people in the Valleys, she will never be forgiven for that.  I don’t really want to see the film but as a politician I can understand why people want to – she was a hated figure in the 1980s and ‘90s and that may never go away.  It will take a generation.”