Here’s a round-up of the latest news on whales, some good and some not so good including endangered whales killed, whales being rescued and whale watching tours going carbon neutral.
Endangered Blue Whale Killed by Icelandic Whalers??
Sea Shepherd claims that an endangered Blue Whale was recently killed by an Icelandic whaling company. The claim was backed up by photos released by Hard to Port an Icelandic anti-whaling group showing the huge animal hauled ashore before being cut apart. The whales’ exact species has led to bitter accusations from both sides.
“I know a blue whale when I see one and this slaughtered whale is a blue whale” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.
The whalers shot back that the whale was a Blue whale-fin whale hybrid that is not protected by the International Whaling Commissions agreements. (photo – Hard to Port)
Many experts have concluded that it is a blue whale including Dr. Phillip Clapham a scientist from NOAA who said. “From the photos, it has all the characteristics of a blue whale,” adding “given that, notably the coloration pattern, there is almost no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea,”
The issue may not be resolved until the whale’s DNA is tested. This matters because the Icelandic whalers could face serious consequences including the loss of their license.
In some ways this is all academic because hybrids are also highly endangered animals.
“It is unforgivable. We hope that the Icelandic public give their whaling group a hard time about this. The cruel and inhumane practice of commercial whaling does not belong in the 21st century, it’s time to give it up,” said Beynon of the Humane Society international.
Blue whales are the largest animal alive and no blue whale has been deliberately caught since 1978. (photo – Sea Shepherd)
Saving Whales Again
Now for some really good news from the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. Last July we reported on the co-founder of the rescue team’s Joe Howlett successfully releasing an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale from fishing lines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Unfortunately, in the final moment of the rescue the whale flipped onto Joe’s boat, killing him. Joe’s community remained in deep mourning when we visited Campobello Island on our trip to the Maritimes shortly after the tragic event.
This week we are very happy to report that the team has freed a humpback whale calf ensnared in fishing lines off the coast of Nova Scotia. This was the first rescue since Joe’s death.
Mackie Greene who co-founded Campobello Whale Rescue along with Howlett, said “It’s been a struggle, obviously. Joe was a very close friend and team member…. I think of Joe daily, that’s for sure.”
Greene acknowledged to CBC News that it was tough going out again but that, “If I stopped whale rescue, Joe would come back to haunt me. I know he would,”
Canadian Government Funds Whale Research
The whale that Joe Howlett was rescuing when he was killed was a North Atlantic Right Whale, an endangered species with between 300 and 500 remaining. These whales travel along the eastern seaboard of North America spending their summers in Canadian waters.
In 2017 this whale population was hard hit loosing 17 whales killed, mostly from entanglements with fishing gear or collisions with shipping. These tragic occurrences forced the Canadian government to launch a number of initiatives to protect the remaining whales including regulating the fishing season and slowing ships in certain areas of the St. Lawrence shipping lanes.
Now the government has announced spending C$26 million on research to better understand the effects noise pressure, particularly from shipping has on marine mammals including right whales, killer whales and St. Lawrence estuary beluga whales. The research will also allow experts to establish feeding and migration patterns for these whales. “If you don’t know where the right whales are, you can’t protect them” said Andrew Wright a marine biologist with eh Bedford institute of Oceanography.
Whale Watching Tours Go Carbon Neutral
Eagle Wing Tours is leading the way. The Canadian company based in Victoria BC, is protecting whales and the environment with a number of initiatives including donating 1% of gross revenues to non-profits and supporting educational centers and research at institutions like the Center for Whale Research and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center.
Eagle Wing tours has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to promote Seafood Watch and they are the first whale watching company to go carbon neutral in all their operations. Trip Advisor has voted Eagle Wing, Victoria’s #1 Adventure Tourism Company for over a decade!
There are other tour operators that are leading the way in sustainable travel practices and creating innovative programs that introduce their clients and the wider public to more sustainable travel habits. Find a complete list of these tour operators here.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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