MARINE MAMMALS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1995:

Effective January 1, amendments to
the Marine Mammal Protection Act forbid fish-
ing crews to shoot sea lions and seals unless they
menace human life. A violation carries the same
$20,000 fine and up to one year in jail as deliberate-
ly harming whales, dolphins, or sea otters.
Formerly, fishers could get a permit to shoot any
seals or sea lions who stole their catches. As over-
fishing depleted coastal waters, shootings became
more common. The National Marine Fisheries
Service received 250 reports of fatal shootings of
seals and sea lions in 1993, while the Marine
Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, in 1992
treated 80 seals and sea lions wounded by gunfire,
after treating only 37 in the preceding eight years.

Since the MMPA was adopted, in 1972, the
California sea lion population has grown from
about 30,000 to more than 100,000.
The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
formally came into being on December 7––the
same day the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru
and three catcher boats entered the area to kill 300
minke whales for “research,” the only whale killing
allowed there. Defying global pressure to halt
“research” whaling, the Japan Fisheries Ministry
instead halved the price of whale meat, to $78 per
600-gram package, hoping to boost sales and
revive political support in Japan for lifting the
International Whaling Commission ban on commer-
cial whaling. The creation of the Southern Ocean
Whale Sanctuary, adjacent to the Indian Ocean
Whale Sanctuary, means about 80% of the world’s
baleen whales are officially protected from whaling
up to 80% of the time for the next 10 years. The
sanctuary designation is to be reviewed in 2004.
Samuel Goldwyn Co., producers of the
U.S. television show F l i p p e r more than 30 years
ago, announced December 1 that it is developing a
new Flipper series, to be filmed in Florida, the
Bahamas, and Honduras, targeting the fast-grow-
ing Asian TV audience. The series is expected to
markedly increase Asian interest in protecting dol-
phins, including the pseudorcas massacred in the
“drive fisheries” of Iki Island, Japan, the highly
endangered Chinese river dolphin, and the equally
imperiled pink dolphins of Hong Kong harbor.
40,000 people will have watched right
w h a l e s off the Valdes peninsula of southern
Argentina by the end of 1994, up from 16,000 in
1991. The $14 million to $20 million they’ll spend
comes to far more than the peak worth of the
defunct Argentine whaling industry. But the boom
isn’t all good news, says Alejandro Vila of the
Argentine Wildlife Foundation, who claims 80% of
the whale-watching vessels break the rules. “They
chase the whales up against cliffs, track them in
tandem, and separate the calves from the mothers,”
charges Vila. Right whales are the rarest of the
great baleen whales. Barely 3,000 survive, of
whom about 500 wean their calves and mate in the
Valdes area.
Tiao, a bottlenose dolphin frequenting
the beach near Caraguatatuba, Brazil, turned on
swimmers who harrassed him in early December,
killing one and injuring seven others in separate
attacks. Public officials vetoed retribution. “He’s
been with us for five months, and the town doesn’t
want him to go,” said a spokesperson for the mayor
of Carguatatuba. “He’s normally very gentle.”
Volunteers set up a dawn-to-dusk vigil to keep other
swimmers away from Tiao.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium a d v i s e s
beachgoers not to bother sea otters and seals they
find during the winter months––especially pups,
and any found on stormy days. The animals are
usually not stranded but resting, to conserve their
insulating fat rather than try to buck heavy seas.
An impact report on the Acoustic
Thermometry of Ocean Climate experiment, pro-
posed by the Defense Department’s Advanced
Research Projects Agency, concludes that it will not
harm marine life. The $35 million project will
involve transmitting sound impulses around the
world from speakers in the Monterey Bay National
Marine Sanctuary and off Kauai, Hawaii.
Originally to have begun last May, the experiment
was postponed lest it harm the keen hearing of
whales. It has now been redesigned to begin with
six months of study to determine the actual effect on
whales. A public comment period ends January 16.
Nearly 1,500 endangered Kemp Ridley
sea turtles nested in 1994––twice as many as in
1985, says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service turtle
recovery program chief Dr. Richard Byles, who
hopes to have 10,000 nesting females by the year
2010. But even then, he warns, the turtle will
require endangered or threatened species protection.
“If we were to take it entirely off the list,” Byles
adds, “40,000 shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of
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