This Week in Whales: Taiji Dolphin Slaughter; Taking Humpback Whales Off the Endangered Species List; Whales Get Tans Too...
News in the world of whales this week (or close to it):
- Hope you all had a great summer! Time to welcome a new season, a new school year, and a new…dolphin massacre. Ugh, that’s right; the Taiji dolphin slaughter made infamous by The Cove has begun again. Former Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum traveled to the remote Japanese village to protest the start of the dolphin-killing season. Best of luck to the protesters.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering delisting the North Pacific humpback whale from the endangered species list in response to a petition filed by Hawaiian fishermen claiming that the whales' population has increased enough in recent years to warrant the delisting. According to one article, the fishermen believe “the Endangered Species Act is being used as a tool to manage the oceans and this will ultimately affect how fishermen are allowed to fish.” Hmm. I don’t think so. The Endangered Species Act is a tool to help save threatened and endangered species. You might have to “manage the oceans” (whatever that means) to save the species but any such decisions are based on the best science for saving the species. Here, we’ll have to watch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closely to ensure that North Pacific humpback whale gains aren’t lost with any delisting.
- New eyewitness accounts have revealed that British warships torpedoed and killed three whales after mistaking their sonar signatures for that of submarines during the Falklands War in the 1980s.
- In a recent study, scientists analyzed DNA samples from blue whales, fin whales, and sperm whales to check for genetic damage from UV rays and found that each species has adapted distinct strategies to counter the adverse effects of solar UV radiation. For example, blue whales appear to tan to protect themselves from sunburns, while sperm whales respond by increasing production of repair genes. The study also provided information on changing climate conditions that have led to the whales' increased exposure to sunlight--findings that could potentially be applied to human skin research on aging and skin cancer.
- An alarming number of whales have washed up dead in Ghana recently. Environmentalists there cite recent oil exploration off the Ghana coast as a potential cause, but the country's Environmental Protection Agency denies the link. Hmm, seems a bit early to deny the link until a full inquiry has occurred. I’d expect that from the oil and gas industry, but not a government agency – unless no amount of evidence will move the agency from cheering on oil and gas development.
Meanwhile, this week in Wales…
A grey seal that was rescued as a pup and had to be taught to eat whole fish before being released back in the wild in 2002 has been found to be living on the island of Skomer off Pembrokshire. It’s a great story of rescue and successful release back into the wild.