Marine experts seek answers in death of humpback whale

A whale washed up Sunday evening on the beach in Seaside. — Kyle Spurr/The Daily Astorian


SEASIDE — The dead 24-foot humpback whale that washed ashore on the north end of Seaside’s beach Sunday caused quite a stir.

A couple of dozen onlookers stopped to watch Tuesday as a team of marine experts from Portland State University and Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers performed a necropsy on the animal, which had been moved slightly inland and north on the beach. Some came to town specifically to see the whale.

The team collected biological samples that will be used to help determine a cause of death. If there are no “smoking guns,” such as bullet holes or something stuck in the mammal’s throat, then it can take days or weeks to determine a cause of death, said Keith Chandler, the general manager of Seaside Aquarium.

It was clear the animal did not die from old age, as it was only about a year old, Chandler said. He said it is not unusual to see a whale wash ashore on the North Coast, but they tend to be gray whales. Humpbacks are rare — Chandler said he has only see a few in his 20 years with the stranding network — but the species was spotted in nearby waters recently.

“There were a few humpbacks hanging out in the mouth of the Columbia River last year,” he said. “They are usually further offshore. It could have died offshore and with the storm, washed in.”

The whale was one of at least five cetaceans to wash up in the area in three days. A harbor porpoise and two striped dolphins were found Saturday. One dolphin was found in Cannon Beach and the other in Ocean Park, Washington. A third striped dolphin washed ashore in Seaside Monday. Chandler said it is “quite unusual to get them all together,” especially the striped dolphins.

The Ocean Park dolphin showed signs of being entangled in a net and had a hole in its tail that appeared to be from a gaff, Chandler said. The dolphin from Seaside had a similar hole in the same area, but it had not undergone a necropsy by Tuesday. Chandler said it could be a single event — getting caught in the net — that caused the unusual occurrence of killing multiple dolphins at once. If a single event is the cause of death, Chandler said, then “we know it’s just an accident,” as opposed to persistent conditions impacting a species, like disease.

City crews planned to bury the whale at the beach by Wednesday morning.

Orca Expert says: Breach the Snake River Dams

Breach the Snake River Dams

Posted here: by Carl Safina of The Safina Center on June 15, 2015

By Kenneth Balcomb, guest essayist

Note: In this guest essay, long-time killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb shows how obsolete but still salmon-killing dams are helping cause the decline of killer whales due to food shortage in the Northwest. The dams do feed us one thing: propaganda. As Ken wrote to me, “I was flabbergasted that the dams are closed to photography, and that their wasteful secret is downplayed in the mainstream propaganda fed to the public.” For more on the dams, see my book Song for the Blue Ocean. For more on Ken and the whales he has spent his life loving and studying, see my soon-to-be-released book Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, which will hit bookstores on July 14. — Carl Safina

I have studied the majestic southern resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest for forty years (approximately one productive lifespan – whale or human), during which time much has been learned and shared with the world about this iconic endangered population. They are now arguably the best known whales in the world! But, that was not always the case. The common response in the 1960‘s and 1970‘s to my announcement that I was studying whales was, “Why?” “What good are they?”

My best response was to point out that as top marine predators whales are indicators of the health of that environment in which they live – the ocean – and that is also an environment upon which humans depend. Now, with growing numbers of people appreciating the whales’ natural role in the marine environment, and better understanding their ecological requirement for specific food—Chinook salmon in this case—to survive, the conversation has moved toward a strategy of how best to provide that food. There is currently an active discussion about removal of the Snake River dams to save fish, or whales. The issue of whether dams should be breached to provide this food for the whales has now arrived. Would that be reasonable? Are we sure that will work?

I don’t consider this lightly. I tend to consider the status quo of institutions and structures to be enduring and worthy of protection, even if only as displays of the truly amazing feats our species has achieved in the course of human evolution and ingenuity. Not all of our feats have been without unforeseen consequence, however; and, most tend to crumble over time anyway. Dams require maintenance, and they eventually fill with sediment.

Until recently, dam removal was against my conservative nature. And it still seems to be counter to our government’s intent. This is in spite of clear evidence that the salmon-eating population of “killer” whales that I am studying is on a path to extinction along with significant populations of their main food resource—Chinook salmon—huge numbers of which formerly spawned and returned to the Snake River, and fed whales in the Pacific Ocean and humans, before the dams were built.

I had to see for myself what was going on in the Snake River watershed currently. So last week my brother and I drove up the highway to visit the dams on the Columbia River and upstream, sightseeing and taking photos and videos along the way and learning about the current passage of remnant populations of salmon.

But when we got to the McNary and Ice Harbor dams just below the Snake River and on it, it seemed as if an iron curtain had come down and we were prevented from taking any photographs, or even carrying cameras and cell phones behind the fences surrounding the dam structures. It was as if something was being hidden from view. And, it was. There was no point in our continuing upstream to Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams to take photographs and videos of fish passage, because that was not allowed.

Lower Monumental Dam, Snake River
Lower Monumental Dam, Snake River, Photo: USACE

In truth, already well known to others but not to me, these four Snake River dams are obsolete for their intended purposes and are being maintained at huge taxpayer expense for the benefit of a very few users. Plus, they are salmon-killers in a former river (now a series of lakes) that historically provided spawning and rearing habitat for millions of Chinook salmon. And, they now doom all technological attempts to bolster these salmon populations to expensive failure.

Even many of the Army Corps of Engineers’ internal documents recommend that returning the river to natural or normative conditions may be the only recovery scenario for Snake River fall Chinook salmon, and it will also benefit other salmon populations.

You and I are paying for this economic and ecological blemish with our tax dollars spent to maintain structures and negative return on investment in power generation, “barge” transportation, and recreation. The question I would now ask is “Why?” and “What good are they?”

Killer Whales off San Juan Island
Killer whales off San Juan Island, Photo by Carl Safina

Removal can be done inexpensively and doing so makes perfect ecological sense. The technological fixes for the dams have not improved wild salmon runs, and there is nothing left to try. There are no fixes for the deadly lakes behind the dams. As a nation, we are dangerously close to managing the beloved southern resident killer whale population to quasi-extinction (less than 30 breeding animals) as a result of diminishing populations of Chinook salmon upon which they depend. There are only about eighty of these whales now remaining (including juveniles and post-reproductive animals), down from nearly 100 two decades ago and down from 87 when they were listed as “Endangered” in 2005.

If you really want to have healthy ecosystems with salmon and whales in the Pacific Northwest future, and save tax/rate payer money at the same time, please contact or mail your thoughts to your elected representatives in support of a Presidential mandate to begin the return of the Snake River ecosystem to natural or normative conditions by the end of the current presidential administration. The time is now!

When they are gone it will be forever. Returning the Snake River to natural condition will help salmon and whales, and save money. Please do not wait until all are gone. Call or write your representatives today!


Ken Balcomb, 11 June 2015

Senior Scientist, Center for Whale Research

Washington state tribe’s whale hunting request triggers new backlash

dead whale

Date: 30-Apr-15
Country: USA
Author: Eric M. Johnson

A Native American tribe’s request to resume its sacred canoe and harpoon hunts of federally protected gray whales off the Washington state coast has drawn fresh opposition while the treaty-enshrined proposal is weighed by U.S. fisheries managers.

The application is at the heart of a decades-long quest by the Makah Tribe to hunt the marine mammals for both subsistence and religious purposes, which the tribe says it has done over millennia in the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Conservationists have criticized the practice as an unnecessary and barbaric death for animals that have high sentience and intelligence levels.

“The bottom line is that the Makah don’t have a legitimate need to kill the whales,” said D.J. Schubert, a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit group.

The Makah Tribe is the only Native American tribe outside Alaska to hold whaling rights, enshrined in an 1855 U.S. treaty, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is evaluating the request.

The Makah tribe ceased the practice in the early 20th century as whale populations dropped. But after gray whales were de-listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1994, tribe members harvested one whale in 1999 with the U.S. government’s approval.

In 2004, a U.S. appeals court ruled the Makah must seek a waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act to hunt whales, and that NOAA officials must analyze the environmental impact of the request.

The tribe sought a waiver a year later, asking to take as many as five gray whales annually from an estimated stock of 20,0000, NOAA said.

The tribe did not respond to requests for comment. It says on its website that “whaling and whales are central” to its culture, describing capturing an animal that can weigh 80,000 pounds (36 metric tonnes) using little more than a harpoon thrown from a canoe. NOAA says whalers use .50-caliber gun for the final kill.

In 2007, lacking government approval, Makah whalers killed a gray whale.

A NOAA study from March looked at range of options, including allowing the tribe to hunt up to five whales a year during limited seasons and under other restrictions.

The final analysis, which NOAA hopes to finish by year’s end, will be evaluated during a hearing by an administrative law judge who will decide whether to grant the hunting request.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott)



Whale of a Fight Over Bringing Belugas to U.S.

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Aquarium wants to bring 18 Beluga Whales to the US.

The Aquarium was denied their request to bring the whales here more than two years ago, but Wednesday, they will appeal that decision.

When they first asked to bring the mammals here, it started a firestorm of controversy from animal rights advocates.

The whales were collected at a research facility in Russia in 2006, 2010, and 2011.

There has been strong opposition to bringing the Belugas to the US from environmentalists who think the whales should stay put… But the aquarium argues it would do more good to have them here, where they say they can teach people to care about wildlife and serve as ambassadors.

This is a very long running fight between the two groups.

All the way back in June of 2012, the Aquarium submitted the application to bring the whales to the US.

A year later, in November, NOAA denied their application, which at the time, was unexpected.

The Georgia Aquarium filed their appeal, in October of 2013

The court will hold a hearing on Wednesday about documents the Georgia Aquarium wants uncovered.

According to the Aquarium, NOAA seemed likely to approve their request and then changed course.

The Aquarium is asking for all documents related to the decision not to allow the whales to come to the US.

There will likely not be a ruling Wednesday.

Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

I have been at the wrong end of a defecating sperm whale: it smells, it’s nutrient rich, and could just save the world
A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina.

A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina. Photograph: Justin Hofman / Barcroft Media

The first success of the environmental movements of the 1960s was to save the whale. Now, with deep irony, whales may be about to save us with their poo. A new scientific report from the University of Vermont, which gathers together several decades of research, shows that the great whales which nearly became extinct in the 20th century – and are now recovering in number due to the 1983 ban on whaling – may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces.

Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere – even in death the sinking bodies of these massive animals create new resources on the sea bed, where entire species exist solely to graze on rotting whale. There’s an additional and direct benefit for humans, too. Contrary to the suspicions of fishermen that whales take their catch, cetacean recovery could “lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth”. Their fertilizing faeces here, too, would encourage phytoplankton which in turn would encourage healthier fisheries.

Such propositions speak to our own species’ arrogance. As demonstrated in the fantastical geoengineering projects dreamed up to address climate change, the human race’s belief that the world revolves around it knows no bounds. What if whales were nature’s ultimate geoengineers? The new report only underlines what has been suspected for some time: that cetaceans, both living and dead, are ecosystems in their own right. But it also raises a hitherto unexplored prospect, that climate change may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century, which removed hundreds of thousands of these ultimate facilitators of CO2 absorption. As Greg Gatenby, the acclaimed Canadian writer on whales told me in response to the Vermont report, “about 300,000 blue whales were taken in the 20th century. If you average each whale at 100 tons, that makes for the removal from the ocean of approximately 30m tons of biomass. And that’s just for one species”.

A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. Photograph: Andrew Sutton There’s another irony here, too. American whaling, as celebrated in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), declined in part because of the discovery of mineral oil wells in the second half of the 19th century. One unsustainable resource – the whale oil which lit and lubricated the industrial revolution – was replaced by another. By killing so many whales, then turning to carbon-emitting mineral oil, humans created a double-whammy for climate change. (Conversely, and perhaps perversely, some US commentators have claimed that capitalism saved the whales rather than environmentalists. They contend that our use of mineral oil actually alleviated the pressure on whale populations – proof, they say, that human ingenuity has the ultimate power to solve the planet’s problems).

The 10 scientists who jointly contributed to the new paper note the benefits of “an ocean repopulated by the great whales”. Working on a whalewatching boat off Cape Cod last month, I witnessed astonishing numbers of fin whales, humpbacks and minkes feeding on vast schools of sand eels. I watched dozens of whales at a time, co-operatively hoovering up the bait – and producing plentiful clouds of poo in the process. (Having been at the receiving end of a defecating sperm whale, I can testify to its richly odiferous qualities.)

Observers in the Azores have reported similarly remarkable concentrations of cetaceans this summer. And with a 10% increase in humpback calves returning to Australian waters each year, and blue whales being seen in the Irish Sea, a burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet’s rearguard action against climate change.

It would certainly be a generous return on their part, given what we’ve inflicted on them. Indeed, as Melville imagined in his prophetic chapter in Moby-Dick, Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?, the whale might yet have the last laugh, regaining its reign in a flooded world of the future to “spout his frothed defiance to the skies”.

Makah Want Another Whale

Makah whalers celebrate atop a dead gray whale in Neah Bay after the successful hunt in this May 17, 1999, photo. — Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

Makah whalers celebrate atop a dead gray whale in Neah Bay after the successful hunt in this May 17, 1999, photo. — Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

Makah group marks anniversary of whale hunt (AP)

…Meanwhile, federal officials are in the process of finalizing an environmental review that could lead to another hunt, the Daily News reported. The tribe is currently seeking authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries agency under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to hunt gray whales for subsistence purposes.

In 2012, NOAA scrapped a 2008 draft environmental impact statement of Makah whaling and began a new draft environmental impact statement, after new scientific information found that a group of gray whales that frequents the Washington coast may be different than the 20,000 whales that migrate past the state each year on their way between Alaskan and Mexican waters.

Donna Darm, associate deputy administrator for the NOAA’s west region, said a new statement incorporating that information should be ready for public review by the fall.

“There’s been a lot of new science that we received since the 2008 draft,” Darm told the Daily News Thursday.

That information will not necessarily affect the tribe’s hunt, but it will require that tribal hunters carefully identify what group any future whales they take come from, according to the Daily News.

“Nothing we’ve learned really changes what the tribe has proposed in the first place,” Darm said. “It just changes what we see as far as impacts.”

….Animal welfare and other groups decried the 1999 killing and later sued to stop the hunts.

Legal challenges then put the whale hunts on hold.

In 2004, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Makah could not obtain a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act until an environmental assessment was prepared.

An illegal whale hunt in 2007 led to the death of gray whale and federal prison sentences for two Makah tribal members, including Johnson.

Makah whalers commemorate 15th anniversary of last legal whale kill

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

Also see:  Makah group plans to mark whale hunt anniversary Saturday in Neah Bay

NEAH BAY –– Fifteen years after returning from their tribe’s last legal whale kill, some members of the crew of Makah whale hunters who led that hunt set out again into the bay aboard the Hummingbird whaling canoe Saturday.

“It gives me chills. It just gives me chills,” said Charlotte Williams King.

Descended from a long line of whalers, King thought of her ancestors as she watched the canoes paddle in Neah Bay.

Her great-grandfather, John “Hiska” McCarty, dove underwater to tie closed the mouths of harpooned whales.

“I didn’t really realize it, but 15 years is a long time,” she said.

Saturday’s paddle, which included a chase canoe, was organized by the Makah Whaling Commission.

It commemorated the anniversary of the tribe’s successful whale hunt on May 17, 1999. It was the first time in 50 years that the Makah had harpooned a whale, and it happened aboard Hummingbird.

Members of the 1999 hunt crew led by Capt. Wayne Johnson were Theron Parker, Mike Steves, Darrell Markishtum, Glenn Johnson, Keith Johnson, Arnie Hunter, Franklin Wilson, Bruce Gonzelas, Dan Greene, Gordon Parker, Andy Noel, Donald H. Swan and Greg Arnold.

Most were aboard Hummingbird on Saturday.

Keith Johnson, president of the whaling commission, recalled the controversy that surrounded the 1999 kill of a gray whale, nicknamed “May,” whose skeleton now hangs in the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay.

“Last time we had a whaling crew in that [canoe], those terrorists, those eco-terrorists, that were out there in their Zodiacs waking our boat and throwing smoke canisters at us,” Keith Johnson remembered.

The last whale killed by Makah tribal members was in 2007, when a group of five illegally shot dead a gray whale.

Members of the 2007 crew were Wayne Johnson, Parker, Noel, Gonzales and William Secor Sr.

Wayne Johnson served five months in federal prison and Noel 90 days for their roles in the kill.

Hummingbird was retired in 2006 after it capsized, killing Joseph Andrew “Jerry” Jack, a hereditary chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht tribe of Vancouver Island, during an InterTribal Canoe Journey.

Some had called for Hummingbird to be burned, Keith Johnson said, saying it had been cursed.

“You don’t burn a whaling canoe,” he said Saturday. “You bless it.”

The Makah voluntarily stopped hunting gray whales in the 1920s when populations diminished. Gray whales were listed as endangered species in 1970.

When the species was taken off the list in 1994, the Makah worked to resume subsistence hunting.

In the 15 years since the legal kill, the tribe’s right to hunt whales, guaranteed in the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, has been embroiled in court reviews over science.

After being allowed to hunt in 1998 and 1999,which ended in the killing of one whale, whale hunts were stopped shortly thereafter by a federal court order saying the Makah needed an environmental impact statement to obtain a waiver from the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The International Whaling Commission in 2007 granted the tribe the right to kill as many as 20 whales over five years — with no more than five in a single year — but it still must get a federal waiver to conduct a hunt.

“We have judges that are animal rights activists that will do anything to put a road block in front of our treaty right to hunt whales,” Keith Johnson said.

“Just leave us alone.”

Conservationists say they are pleased that it’s been 15 years since the last legal hunt.

“We feel differently about the 15th anniversary,” said Margaret Owen, who formed Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales with her husband, Chuck, to speak against the tribe’s whale hunts.

“There’s 60 whales that could have been killed in that time,” Owens said.

A draft environmental impact statement underway in 2008 was stopped by new scientific information that found the group of gray whales that frequents the Washington coast has distinctive genetic markers that differentiate them from the 20,000 gray whales that migrate along the West Coast.

“Those resident whales would have been gone,” Chuck Owens said.

Donna Darm, associate deputy administrator for NOAA’s west region, said Thursday a new statement incorporating that information should be ready for public review by the fall.

Darm and Keith Johnson noted that the tribe’s hunt plan calls for kills of transient whales only.

The 1999 hunt was uplifting for many members of the tribe, according to Makah General Manager Meredith Parker.

“There’s a lot of pride that has stuck with us from that 1999 hunt,” Parker said, “because we did it the right way.”

But the rogue 2007 hunt created divisions, Keith Johnson said, pointing out there was no event to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 1999 hunt.

“Do you see the whole tribe here?” he asked as he pointed to the three dozen people on the beach before Saturday’s commemorative paddle.

Saturday’s paddle began with a prayer for more unity from Gordon Lyons and a song for good luck from Darrell Markishtum.

Keith Johnson expressed hope that divisions within the tribe could be closed.

“It’s our traditional food, and people still want it,” Johnson said. “And if for no other reason, a lot of people here will support us for the treaty right.”

Johnson also pointed to the tribe’s cohesion in 1999.

“When we all get attacked, we all stick together. Because we’re one community.”



In the Words of Farley Mowat

The world has suffered another great loss with the death of author, naturalist and avid animal advocate, Farley Mowat. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I do feel extremely fortunate to have received an endorsement for my book from him, just two short years before his passing.

He didn’t use the internet, so I sent a manuscript to his assistant, who had to hand deliver it (presumably on snowshoes) to him at his place in eastern Canada. This is what he had her send back to me, which now holds a special place on the back cover of the book:

“Robertson’s new book could be titled The Big and Dirty Game, because that’s what it is about — the dirty, bloody business of killing other animals for sport and fun. Fun? Sure, that’s what the Sportsmen say . . but read about it for yourself . . .”   ~ Farley Mowat, Author of Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing

One of Farley Mowat’s many classic books, A Whale for the Killing, written in1972, was an autobiographical account of his moving to Newfoundland because of his love for the land and the sea, only to find himself at odds with herring fishermen who made sport of shooting at an 80-ton fin whale trapped in a lagoon by the tide. Although he had started off thinking folks around there were a quaint and pleasant lot, he grew increasingly bitter over the attitudes of so many of the locals who, in turn, resented him for “interfering” by trying to save the stranded leviathan.

Mr. Mowat writes, “My journal notes reflect my sense of bewilderment and loss. ‘…they’re essentially good people. I know that, but what sickens me is their simple failure to resist the impulse of savagery…they seem to be just as capable of being utterly loathsome as the bastards from the cities with their high-powered rifles and telescopic sights and their mindless compulsion to slaughter everything alive, from squirrels to elephants…I admired them so much because I saw them as a natural people, living in at least some degree of harmony with the natural world. Now they seem nauseatingly anxious to renounce all that and throw themselves into the stinking quagmire of our society which has perverted everything natural within itself, and is now busy destroying everything natural outside itself. How can they be so bloody stupid? How could I have been so bloody stupid?’”

Farley Mowat ends the chapter with another line I can well relate to: “I had withdrawn my compassion from them…now I bestowed it all upon the whale.”

And Farley Mowat writes here of the wrongheadedness of hunting intelligent animals, such as geese, in his foreword to Captain Paul Watson’s book Ocean Warrior:

“Almost all young children have a natural affinity for other animals, an attitude which seems to be endemic in young creatures of whatever species. I was no exception. As a child I fearlessly and happily consorted with frogs, snakes, chickens, squirrels and whatever else came my way.

“When I was a boy growing up on the Saskatchewan prairies, that feeling of affinity persisted—but it became perverted. Under my father’s tutelage I was taught to be a hunter; taught that “communion with nature” could be achieved over the barrel of a gun; taught that killing wild animals for sport establishes a mystic bond, “an ancient pact” between them and us.

“I learned first how to handle a BB gun, then a .22 rifle and finally a shotgun. With these I killed “vermin”—sparrows, gophers, crows and hawks. Having served that bloody apprenticeship, I began killing “game”—prairie chicken, ruffed grouse, and ducks. By the time I was fourteen, I had been fully indoctrinated with the sportsman’s view of wildlife as objects to be exploited for pleasure.

“Then I experienced a revelation.

“On a November day in 1935, my father and I were crouched in a muddy pit at the edge of a prairie slough, waiting for daybreak.

“The dawn, when it came at last, was grey and sombre. The sky lightened so imperceptibly that we could hardly detect the coming of the morning. We strained out eyes into swirling snow squalls. We flexed numb fingers in our shooting gloves.

“And then the dawn was pierced by the sonorous cries of seemingly endless flocks of geese that cam drifting, wraithlike, overhead. They were flying low that day. Snow Geese, startling white of breast, with jet-black wingtips, beat past while flocks of piebald wavies kept station at their flanks. An immense V of Canadas came close behind. As the rush of air through their great pinions sounded in our ears, we jumped up and fired. The sound of the shots seemed puny, and was lost at once in the immensity of wind and wings.

“One goose fell, appearing gigantic in the tenuous light as it spiralled sharply down. It struck the water a hundred yards from shore and I saw that it had only been winged. It swam off into the growing storm, its neck outstreched, calling…calling…calling after the fast-disappearing flock.

“Driving home to Saskatoon that night I felt a sick repugnance for what we had done, but what was of far greater import, I was experiencing a poignant but indefinable sense of loss. I felt, although I could not then have expressed it in words, as if I had glimpsed another and quite magical world—a world of oneness—and had been denied entry into it through my own stupidity.

“I never hunted for sport again.”



World Court rules Japan’s whaling not for scientific purposes

Monday March 31, 2014

The International Court of Justice has ruled that Japan’s whaling programme is not for scientific purposes, in a landmark decision tonight.

After years of protest and diplomatic wrangling, the court in The Hague ruled by 12 votes to 4 that Japan does not have the right to hunt whales in the Antarctic. The decision is binding so Japan can not appeal.

“The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not for purposes of scientific research,” President Peter Tomka told the International Court of Justice tonight.

The court ruled Tokyo should cease its whaling programme “with immediate effect”.

New Zealand helped Australia to haul Japan before the courts accusing Japan of exploiting a loophole in the rules by saying they are hunting whales for scientific purposes.

Japan says it’s necessary to kill a small number of whales to find out more about them. In the last 20 years, 10,000 whales have been slaughtered in the name of science.

The case started in 2010 but during a three-week hearing last year, New Zealand and Australia argued Tokyo’s programme was just a commercial operation in disguise.

However, Japan argued the court didn’t have the right to decide what is and isn’t science.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said it was a complex case.

“The big issue for us is whether we do see a pathway out of whaling in the Southern Ocean from Japan’s perspective and that’s what we’ll be looking for in the small print of the court’s decision.”

In 1986 commercial whaling was banned but several countries like Norway and Iceland continue to practise it and remain members of the commission. Japan reverted to the 1940s regulations that allow hunting for scientific purposes but there are no rules on how many whales can be killed.

The Sea Shepherd protest ship has been working to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean. The ship has collided with whaling boats, dragged ropes in the water to damage propellers and used smoke bombs.

Sea Shepherd campaigner Pete Bethune says it’s “judgment day for Japan… the stakes couldn’t be higher”.


Who’s the Real Anti?

When it comes to hunting, I’m definitely an “anti.” As I point out in my book, Exposing the Big Game: “Not only am I anti-hunting, I’m avidly anti-trapping, anti-seal clubbing and anti-whaling. For that matter, I’m anti any form of bullying that goes on against the innocents—including humans. I am not an apologist for the wanton inhumanity of hunting in the name of sport, pseudo-subsistence or conservation-by-killing.”

Most of all, I’m pro-wildlife, pro-nature and pro-animal.

If you’re following this blog, you probably feel the same. According to hunters, you’re one of the “antis.” Hunters like to stereotype us all with a negative brush stroke, yet they are the real “antis.”

Hunters are anti-wildlife, anti-wilderness, anti-nature and when it comes down to it, anti-animal. Most of all, they’re anti-competition, i.e., they’re anti-cougar, anti-coyote and unquestionably anti-wolf. Just ask the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, who tried to get an initiative on the ballot in 2008 calling for the removal of “all” of the wolves in their state, “by whatever means necessary.”

Now, you might be thinking, “Surely hunters aren’t always negative; they must be pro-something?” Well, you’d be right—they’re pro-killing, pro-death, and when it comes right down to it, pro-animal cruelty.

Let’s face it, you can’t kill an animal without being cruel; and therein lies the real reason I’m anti-hunting.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved