This Week in Whales: Bottlenose Dolphins Have Individual "Names"; More Plans to Protect Whales from Entanglement in the Atlantic; Icelandic Whale Meat Can't Make it to Market...

Bottlenose dolphin NOAA.jpg

News in the world of whales this week (or close to it):

  • A team of University of St Andrews marine biologists studying twelve distinct bottlenose dolphin groups discovered that the dolphins have individual "names" for each other, and will only answer when called by their "name" (more like a "signature whistle").  The signature whistles helped mothers find their calves, but are also used within the wider dolphin population to identify individuals – dolphins even responded when unfamiliar dolphins or scientist recordings called their names.  As noted by one of the researchers, Stephanie King, “our new study really demonstrates that signature whistles are used like names and present the first case of naming in mammals, providing a clear parallel between dolphin and human communication.”  You can find the full study here.
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently announced plans to amend its Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, which was originally enacted in 1997 specifically to protect the North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, and fin whale, and tangentially minke whales, in commercial trap/pot and gillnet fisheries in order to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The regulations are intended to reduce the risk of entanglement posed to these whales by both groundlines and vertical lines, which threatens entire whale populations. You can find the announcement here and the associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement here.
  • A shipment of 130 tons of fin whale meat from 10 fin whales was returned to Iceland after the Dutch shipping company, Samskip, pledged that it would no longer carry whale meat.  As my colleague Taryn Kiekow blogged, Iceland resumed hunting fin whales earlier this summer.  As of this week, Iceland has allowed the killing of at least 64 fin whales this season.  It’s unclear what will happen to this whale meat and what it means for the future of whaling in Iceland if whale meat can’t make its way to Japan.  Surely, with dwindling demand and whale meat rotting in a warehouse, Iceland will rethink its attachment to this “that’s so last century” barbarism?  Don’t hold your breath.
  • Over at Lapham's Quarterly, they're investigating the tough questions--like, where did the psychedelic space-traveling whale art genre originate?

Meanwhile, this week in Wales...

The head of Oxfam Cymru, Julian Rosser, called on the Welsh Government to enact a strong Sustainable Development Bill, which will ensure that the people of Wales protect their “biodiversity, language and culture, while only consuming [their] fair share of the planet’s resources.”  Sounds good to me.



Photo Credit: NOAA