From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1995:

Seal hunt
Canada on April 11 denied an allegation by the
International Fund for Animal Welfare that the Shanghai
Fisheries Corporation and a sealing industry delegation from
the Magdalen Islands of Quebec met the day before in Hong
Kong to sign a deal to increase the export of seal penises to
China. “Because it’s penises, people laugh,” said IFAW
spokesperson Marion Jenkins, “but the Chinese medicine
market has been responsible for the near extinction of the
tiger and the rhino.” Despite the lack of other apparent
viable markets, the seal slaughter shifted from the
Magdalens to Newfoundland in mid-April, encouraged by a
quota of 186,000 and a federal bounty of 20¢ per pound on
seal carcasses landed. Newfoundland fisheries minister Bud
Hulan claims the Atlantic Canada seal population is circa
eight million, and that the seals are contributing to the
decline of cod, recently pronounced “commercially extinct.”
However, current research by Thomas Woodley and David
Lavigne, of the International Marine Mammal Association,
indicates there are no more than 3.5 million harp seals, prob-
ably fewer; 400,000 hooded seals; and 142,000 grey seals,
the only species whose numbers are increasing. Cod make
up only about 1% of the seals’ diet.

IFAW and Natural Habitat Adventure Tours
have promoted seal-watching in the Magdalens since 1989,
“based largely on our shared belief that seal tourism and seal
hunting cannot coexist,” IFAW coordinator of animal wel-
fare Thomas Moliterno recently told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“However, a local tour operator and hotelier, Andre
Bourque, supports both the tours and the hunters,”
Moliterno warned. “In addition to his growing seal-watching
business, I am told that Mr. Bourque has, in the past, actu-
ally flown sealers to the ice in his helicopters to obtain seal
meat for a local community dinner. My information also
suggests that Mr. Bourque’s pilots have been very coopera-
tive with the sealers in giving out seal positions,” Moliterno
said. This would augment data provided by the Canadian
Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “In an effort to prevent
our flight information from being used to help the seal
hunters,” Moliterno added, “IFAW’s and Natural Habitat
Adventures’ helicopters use their own radio frequency for
communication,” but “This frequency is also used to relay
landing positions to the Air Traffic Control station in the
Magdalens in accordance with air regulations,” setting up
the possibility of interception by sealers.
Whales & whaling
The Japanese factory ship Nisshin
Maru––returned to Tokyo on April 13 with the remains of
330 minke whales killed “for research” within the Southern
Oceans Whale Sanctuary. Japan intends to continue killing
300-plus minke whales per year “for research” for another 16
years, and hopes to win approval of the practice at the
International Whaling Commission annual meeting com-
mencing on May 29 in Dublin, Ireland. The whalers claim
that the average age of the whales killed each year since
1987 is declining, indicating a growing population charac-
terized by larger numbers of young. The Global Guardian
Trust, a front for the Japanese whaling industry, on April 9
attacked the global moratorium on commercial whaling
imposed by the IWC in 1986 with a quarter-page ad in The
New York Times––and charged the U.S. with hypocrisy in
obtaining increased Eskimo “subsistence” quotas on highly
endangered bowhead whales last year.
Norway denied on April 7 that computer pro-
gramming errors had inflated its estimate of minke whale
numbers in the northeast Atlantic. Norwegian Fishing
Ministry spokesperson Bjarne Myrstadt admitted that errors
had been found, but said they had been corrected and didn’t
affect the official estimate that the area contains about 87,000
minkes. Greenpeace says the true number is circa 60,000.
The standard of living in the Faroe Islands, one
of the highest of any North Atlantic nation, may be at risk
from the decline of the cod fishery––and predictably, fishers
are taking out their frustrations on pilot whales. Last year
they drove ashore and killed about 1,200 pilot whales,
including 668 in one day. This year’s toll, observers warn,
may be higher. Earth 2000 asks that letters of protest be sent
to Ambassador Peter Dyvig, Royal Danish Embassy, 3200
Whitehaven Street, Washington DC 20008.
Peru banned dolphin hunting in 1990, but
enforcement has been delayed by civil war and economic
chaos. More than 20,000 dusky dolphins, Burmmeister’s
porpoises, and members of other dolphin species are killed
along Peruvian shores each year, reports Alison Smith of the
British-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society,
adding “The scale of the hunting is so high that WCDS fears
for the survival of the cetacean populations involved.”
The Australian Nature Conservation Agency
announced April 3 that a Taiwanese trawler intercepted off
the Northern Territory coast was hauling dead
dolphins––apparently to be used as bait––as well as illegally
caught fish.
Researcher A.P. MacMillan of the Brucellosis
Reference Centre in Weybridge, Great Britain, has
advised marine mammologists that serological evidence sug-
gests B r u c e l l a infection is widespread around the British
coast, and could potentially harm whale reproduction.
Brucellosis has not actually been reported yet in whales.
Hong Kong announced on April 13 that it will
create a sanctuary for the last of the rare pink dolphins
who once thrived around two islands called The Brothers.
The dolphins’ numbers have dwindled from more than 400 to
just 84 since the islands were leveled as the site of a new air-
port. The Hong Kong government declined to order a halt to
the construction of a fuel depot on Sha Chau island, in the
middle of the dolphins’ feeding area; instead, it ordered that
the construction be accelerated, to minimize harm by getting
the job done faster.
“I am very concerned about an oil lease sale that
the Minerals Management Service proposes for lower Cook
Inlet in Alaska,” writes Olga von Ziegasar of the North Gulf
Oceanic Society. “Many baleen whales feed in and migrate
through these and adjacent waters during summer months,
including at least a quarter of the North Pacific humpback
whale population. The environmental impact statement put
out by the MMS predicts a 64% cumulative probability of
two or more major oil spills and a 100% probability of minor
spills. We were lucky that the Exxon Valdez oil spill hap-
pened in March, and that there were very few baleen whales
present when the oil was thick.” Letters of concern may be
sent to Bruce Babbit, Secretary of the Interior, 1849 C St.
NW, Washington DC 20240.
Western Australia environment minister Peter
Foss on April 4 banned hand-feeding dolphins from boats at
the Shark Bay Marine Park, except under the direct supervi-
sion of park rangers. “There is concern that some people
using boats elsewhere in the park could compromise the
efforts being made at Monkey Mia,” said Foss. A tradition
of feeding dolphins there has been modified to exclude hand-
feeding male calves and suckling females, following the dis-
covery of a high death rate among unweaned calves. That
announcement distracted media from Foss’ quieter
announcement the same day that the department of
Conservation And Land Management (CALM) would com-
mence Project Eden, an attempt to encourage native wildlife
by airdropping Compound 1080 baits––not legally deployed
in the U.S. since 1972––over the Peron Peninsula, alongside
Shark Bay, to kill foxes and feral cats.
Cyanide dumped after use in refining illegal
d r u g s probably killed at least 283 common dolphins, 215
marine birds, 51 sea lions, and 8 whales in the upper Gulf
of California early this year, the Mexican general attorney
for Environmental Protection announced on March 31––four
days after the influential Group of 100 denounced govern-
ment plans to develop a salt recovery plant in the same area.
Discharges from the plant, Group of 100 president Homero
Arijis warned, could imperil the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere
Reserve, an important breeding area for grey whales.
Other issues
Residents of Jupiter Island, Florida, were to
vote on April 18 on a bond issue to finance a $12 million
beach reconstruction. If approved, the work will disrupt a
key nesting area for loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea
turtles––but if not approved, the nesting area could be com-
pletely eroded away within a few more years.
Kotar, a 20-year-old orca captured off Iceland in 1978,
died on April 1 at Sea World of Texas in San Antonio, after weeks
of treatment for an unidentified infection. He was the fourth cap-
tive orca to die within 100 days, and the second to die at Sea
World of Texas, following the December 29 demise of Namu, age
two months, from an apparently unrelated bacterial illness. Kotar
sired two surviving young. Sea World still has two adult males
plus several juveniles, vice president Brad Andrews told A N I-
MAL PEOPLE, and doesn’t expect to seek another. Sea World,
then under different ownership, last took an orca from the wild in
1982, and hasn’t taken any cetacean from the wild since 1987.
[Kotar is not among the orcas above, photographed at Sea World
of Texas in December 1994, but was in the same tank.]
The Montreal Biodome on March 28 indefinitely post-
poned tentative plans to acquire five beluga whales, discussed
off and on since the facility opened in 1988. “The obvious attrac-
tion of the belugas would likely overshadow our systemic message
about the St. Lawrence marine ecosystem,” the announcement
said, also acknowledging that the Biodome lacks facilities ade-
quate for separating belugas by sex, essential during pregnancy
and nursing, and that the proposed acquisition is opposed by the
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, as well as other groups,
“whose environmental goals in the end match its own.”
Dr. Hrvoje Gomercic of the veterinary faculty at the
University of Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia, is trying to identify a
tame female bottlenose dolphin who appeared circa April 2 in the
harbor at Bakar on the northern Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea.
“As far as we can see,” Gomercic says, “she feeds only on dead
fish that are thrown to her, doesn’t catch any fish swimming
around her, and seems very used to the company of people.”
California AB-1737, “which would prohibit the pos-
session or display of newly caught wild dolphins, whales, por-
poises, seals, and sea lions in California, will be heard in the
Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in early May,”
says sponsor Richard Katz, assemblyman for the 39th district.
Drafted by Earth Island Institute, AB-1737 has been amended,
Katz claims, so that it “will not impact important research on these
magnificent species,” the major concern cited by marine mammol-
ogists who organized in opposition to the initial draft.
After a winter lull, the “Free Lolita” campaign has
reignited in Miami. Campaign organizer Jerry Powers of Ocean
D r i ve magazine is posting billboards along I-95 urging that the
Miami Seaquarium orca be returned to her native Puget Sound,
and has started a toll-free hotline, 1-800-871-3530, to handle
response. The Seaquarium management responds that while
releasing Lolita would be impractical, her 30-year-old, three-mil-
lion-gallon tank could be replaced with one three times as big if
neighbors would drop their opposition to a proposed expansion of
the site into a full-scale theme park.
Earth Island Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute,
and the International Wildlife Coalition on April 1 appealed for
letters to Bahamian prime minister Hubert Ingraham, protesting
the possibility that Universal Studios might transfer bottlenose dol-
phins from the Dolphins Plus swim-with facility in Florida to the
Bahamas for use in filming the movie Flipper. The appeal argued
that Bahamian-trained dolphins should be used instead. “There is a
potential for disease transmission from Dolphins Plus dolphins to
free-ranging Bahamian dolphins via open-ocean pens,” the groups
warned. The risk of spreading disease from captivity to the wild is
the leading reason why many informed observers oppose releasing
either Lolita (see above) or Keiko, the star of Free Willy!––whose
release effort Earth Island spearheads.
Four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins belonging to the
Brookfield Zoo in Chicago were flown to the Lisbon Zoo in
Portugal on April 11 to become the founding parents of a captive
breeding program. None were actually in Chicago: two had been
temporarily kept at Marine World Africa USA in Vallejo,
California, while the others were kept at the Dolphin Connection
at Hawk’s Cay resort in Florida.
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