Marine Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:


Captain Paul Watson honors
Captain James Waddell, commander of the
Confederate warship Shenandoah, in the
3rd/4th Quarter 1995 edition of The Sea
Shepherd Log. Waddell in 1865 sank 38 of
the 85 Yankee whalers in the North
Pacific––fighting on for seven months after
the Confederacy surrendered––without either
taking or losing a human life. His official
goal was doing economic harm to the Union,
but crewman Joshua Minor told one whaling
captain, “We have entered into a treaty
offensive and defensive with the whales. We
are up here by special agreement to disperse
their mortal enemies.” Watson credits
Waddell and crew with preventing the extinction
of bowheads and grey whales.

Marine mammologist Steven
Leatherwood in November warned that
estimates of as many as 120 surviving
Yangtze River dolphins may be far high.
“The first carefully planned and coordinated
survey of the species’ entire range, from
Shanghai to Yichang, was conducted in late
1994 and early 1995,” Leatherwood wrote.
It “resulted in sightings of only five river dolphins,”
along with about 2,500 finless porpoises.
“Even accounting for animals missed,
it is difficult to conclude that the population
is more than a few dozen animals,”
Leatherwood said. “It is difficult to find any
reasonable scenario in which this species can
survive very long into the next century. An
11th hour effort is underway to capture as
many of the remaining dolphins as possible
and move them into Shi Shou Semi-Natural
Reserve,” a 40-square-kilometre oxbow of
the Yangtse. Until December 22, when a 10-
year-old female was captured near Wuhan,
the population of the three-year-old reservewas
one, an 18-year-old male.
Cyprus fisheries director Andreas
Demetropoulos announced December 29 that
in mid-January Cypriot fishers will begin
testing echo devices intended to warn dolphins
away from their nets. Similar devices
to warn whales away from nets are under
study off Atlantic Canada.
Commerce Secretary Ron Brown
on December 11 formally notified
President Bill Clinton that, “Japanese
nationals are engaged in scientific whaling
activities that diminish the effectiveness of
the International Whaling Commission conservation
program,” by killing up to 440
minke whales this winter within the Southern
Oceans Whale Sanctuary surrounding
Antarctica. Clinton now has until February 9
to tell Congress what he plans to do about
it––but is not obligated to do anything.
Brown said he certified Japan because the
Japanese government, while promising it
would not increase minke killing within the
sanctuary for at least seven years, “made no
commitments regarding [a reduction in] scientific
whaling in the North Pacific or regarding
the possibility of lethal research in any
location involving another species of whale.”
A similar certification of Japanese research
whaling in 1988 brought a ban on Japanese
fishing within U.S. waters, and Japanese
compliance with the letter, if not the spirit,
of the global moratorium on commercial
whaling. New Zealand foreign minister Don
McKinnon on December 24 issued a parallel
criticism of Japanese research whaling.
The Scripps Institution of
Oceanography on November 30 was
allowed to resume the use of underwater
speakers off the northern California coast to
measure ocean temperatures, after investigators
determined that sound generated during
equipment tests was unlikely to have had
anything to do with the discovery of three
dead humpback whales in the vicinity.
The New England Fishery
Management Council on December 14 recommended
closing a 5,000-square-mile zone
off northern Massachusetts and southern
Maine from March 25 to April 25, to protect
migrating harbor porpoises.
South Australia state primary
industries minister Dale Baker o n
December 18 formed a study group to find
ways of halting dolphin damage to the sea
pens of tuna farmers.
A late December cold snap caused
656 manatees––about a third of the North
American population––to gather at five
Florida Power & Light plants near Cape
Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers.
1995 may have been the worst year on record
for Florida manatees, with 199 found dead as
of December 29. The highest known toll was
206 in 1990, including many victims of a
record cold snap in late 1989. This year’s
cold snap also killed thousands of fish in the
Indian River Lagoon and devastated tropical
fish farms in Hillsborough County.
Off-course manatees appeared in
New Orleans and Houston canals in early
December. The Houston manatee was netted
out of heavily polluted Buffalo Bayou and
trucked to Sea World San Antonio, where
staff hope to figure out where she came from,
and if she can be taken back there.
The California Department of
Fish and Game and University of
California have planted 50,000 juvenile red
abalone in Bodega Bay, off Salt Point, off
Fort Bragg, and in Half Moon Bay, emulating
a New Zealand experiment that found
50% of planted abalone survived at least one
year. Each abalone can spawn up to 300,000
eggs; successful planting could facilitate
recovery of the species, in trouble from overcollection,
poaching, pollution, and at some
sites, predation by sea otters.
Eighteen volunteer field docents
began patroling the Monterey Bay National
Marine Sanctuary in early December, after
completing a 40-hour training course provided
by the Center for Marine Conservation.
The program is the first of its kind in the U.S.

The captains of four Chinese
vessels on December 29 drew 10 months
in jail for illegal entry into Philippine
waters, on top of the two-year, four-month
terms they are already serving for possession
of explosives and cyanide, with apparent
intent to poison fish. Fifty-eight crew
were pardoned in October after serving sixmonth
terms––just as Australian reef ecologist
Bob Johannes reported that cyanide
fishing has extirpated older Napoleon
wrasse from Philippine and Indonesian
waters. Elite restaurants in Hong Kong and
China pay as much as $82 a pound for
Napoleon wrasse, which if unmolested
may live more than 100 years. Ironically,
the Tang dynasty (618-907) and Sung
dynasty (960-1279) banned poison-fishing.
European Union fisheries mini
s t e r s on December 22 agreed to a total
allowable 1996 North Sea catch of 78,000
tons of fish, down from 115,000 in 1995 in
order to allow overfished stocks to recover.
“Deep fisheries are often not
s u s t a i n a b l e , ” warns Center for Marine
Conservation senior scientist Jack Sobel,
noting fast-growing interest in trolling at
depths of 800 to 2,400 feet due to depletion
of upper water species. Many deep sea fish
mature and reproduce slowly, and one, the
orange roughy, native to waters off New
Zealand, is already overfished.
More than 80,000 captivereared
Atlantic salmon have escaped from
British Columbia sea pens during the past
two years, the Vancouver Sun r e p o r t e d
December 9. Escapees have been found
from Seattle to the Aleutians, and in
spawning runs in at least three rivers.
Many, the Sun said, are “freakish
mutants.” The expose came a month after
the National Research Council recommended
that U.S. salmon policy shift from
emphasizing numbers of fish to protecting
wild fish and genetic diversity, using
hatcheries to restore rather than replace
wild runs.

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