From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1995:
The clock is apparently running out on the sea
lion/steelhead conflict in Puget Sound, in favor of sea lions
who were caught, caged, and sentenced to death in February
under 1994 revisions to the Marine Mammal Protection Act,
for menacing the last steelhead from the endangered Lake
Washington winter run as they approached Ballard Locks. A
variety of nonlethal methods have failed to deter the sea lions,
but a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society proposal to relocate
them to San Francisco Bay and a publicity-grabbing cage
occupation by Ben White of Friends of Animals apparently
bought them time until the salmon run was over. Forthcoming
amendments to the Endangered Species Act are expected to
relieve authorities of the duty to save the last fish of particular
runs when the species as a whole is not endangered.
A female orca calf, stillborn at the Vancouver
Aquarium on March 8, died from blood loss due to a pre-
maturely ruptured umbilicus. “A calf experiencing this kind
of catastrophic event would be doomed whether in an aquari-
um or in the wild,” said consulting veterinarian David Huff.
The calf was the third the Vancouver Aquarium has lost, with
none surviving longer than 97 days. The death came five days
after an infant orca died at the Kamogawa Sea World (no rela-
tion to the U.S. Sea World chain) in Japan. The losses, along
with that of another infant orca at Sea World San Antonio on
December 28, renewed protest against trying to breed orcas in
captivity. However, noted MARMAM online bulletin board
host Robin Baird, “A large proportion of the killer whale
calves who have not survived have been from two particular
mothers, both at aquaria which have not had a single surviving
calf.” Orca calves born at U.S. Sea World facilities by contrast
have a better survival rate than wildborn counterparts.
Washington governor Mike Lowry on March 9
endorsed the Center for Whale Research’s campaign to return
Lolita, kept at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970, to Puget
Sound. Lolita is the last survivor of 57 orcas captured in
Washington waters, where captures were banned in 1976.
Zooplankton, the foundation of the aquatic food
chain, have declined 80% since 1951 off San Diego, Scripps
Institution of Oceanography researcher John McGowan report-
ed in the March 3 edition of S c i e n c e. McGowan reviewed
findings from 222 scientific cruises over the past 42 years.
The loss coincides with a rise of two to three degrees
Fahrenheit in the water temperature, and comparably steep
declines in numerous fish and bird species.
A 25-foot humpback whale believed to have been
killed six days earlier in a collision with the U.S. Navy
destroyer USS Callaghan washed up at Venice Beach, Los
Angeles, on March 5. She was the first humpback to wash up
in southern California in more than a decade.
An international study published in the March 16
edition of N a t u r e indicates that a third of the algae growing
along continental shelves is consumed by commercially caught
fish, and that commercial fishing overall uses four times as
much of the global algae output as was previously thought,
thereby starving other marine life.
Scientific consultants hired by the Group of 100,
M e x i c o ‘ s leading environmental organization, warned in
February that wastes from a salt mine to be built by a sub-
sidiary of the Mitsubishi Corp. could imperil the San Ignacio
Lagoon, an grey whale nursing area. The warning came three
weeks after the unexplained deaths of 300 long-beaked com-
mon dolphins, seven whales, and numerous sea birds in the
Sea of Cortez, at the upper end of the Gulf of California.
A February aerial recount of the Florida manatee
population, following an alarmingly low count of only 1,443
found in late January, discovered 1,822––just 34 shy of the
peak count recorded since the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection began doing the tallies in January
1992. However, manatees faced a renewed threat from power
boaters the same week when Volusia County judge John Roger
Smith threw out speed limits set by the state for being insuffi-
ciently defined. The verdict will reportedly be appealed.
University of Tasmania Ph.D. candidate Cath
S a m s o n on February 28 announced her discovery of the 15-
million-year-old fossilized skulls of four beaked whales among
dredging muck from a geological probe. They may belong to
four separate extinct species––or be ancestors of the 12 species
of beaked whale still found in Australian waters.
Marine mammologists are organizing to oppose
California bill AB 1737, proposed by Earth Island Institute
and introduced by assemblyman Richard Katz, which would
ban “any act that penetrates the skin, membrane, or orifice of
a cetacean or pinniped if the purpose of that act is to conduct
scientific research and is not for the purpose of treating or
rehabilitating the animal.” The bill, aimed mainly at halting
the capture of marine mammals for display, is likely to be
amended to avoid inhibiting research beneficial to the survival
New Zealand foreign affairs minister Don
McKinnon on February 15 told Japan that his government
objects to so-called “scientific” killing of minke whales within
the newly created Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Greenpeace aircraft photographed the Japanese fleet in the act
of whaling within the sanctuary earlier that day. On February
21, after the tanker Oriental Falcon took oil from New
Zealand to the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru, McKinnon
added that he would consider legislation similar to that in
effect in Australia to keep support vessels for the whalers out.