Marine life

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1996:

As expected, U.S. President Bill
Clinton announced February 9 that the U.S.
would “vigorously pursue high-level efforts to
persuade Japan to reduce the number of whales
killed in its research program,” but stopped
short of imposing trade sanctions, as he is
authorized to do in response to a Commerce
Department advisory issued in December that
Japan is violating the intent of the International
Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial
whaling by setting “research” quotas for
minke whales so high––now more than
400––that the “research” amounts to commercial

Representatives of Canada,
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway,
Russia, Sweden, and the U.S. met on March
21 at Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada,
to form a new body called the Arctic Council
to address Arctic environmental issues. Carole
St. Laurent, representing the World Wildlife
Fund as an observer, called for action to protect
polar bears and bowhead whales––but the
recent political history of most of the nations
involved and the WWF emphasis on “sustainable
development” suggests any “protection”
measures will be along the lines of killing animals
to finance finding out how many can be
killed without wiping out the species.
Norway on February 29 for the
first time penalized a whaler
for overkilling. The whaler,
not named in wire service
reports, had already killed his
1994 quota of seven whales
when he shot another. He
reportedly also killed a whale
illegally in 1991, but was not
penalized. This time he drew
30 days in jail, a fine of
10,000 kroner, and was
barred from whaling for four
Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners
A s s o c i a t i o n spokesperson Tor Are Vasskinn
announced on March 1 that, “There will be no
seal hunt in 1996,” because state subsidies
were too low to insure profitable sealing, with
increased competition for the limited international
markets likely to come from Canada.
But the announcement was just a ploy to get
more money, and when the deal was struck,
four vessels sailed to kill approximately
20,000 seals. Norwegian sealers killed 14,800
seals in 1995, including from 800 to 1,000
babies, out of an infant quota of 2,600.
The Canadian Department of
Fisheries and Oceans on March 7 announced
it would charge sealers Jim Walsh and brothers
Michael, John, and William Hearn, all of
Petty Harbor, Newfoundland, with using illegal
weapons, illegal use of a gun, and illegal
bleeding of a marine mammal. The charges
carry a maximum penalty of $73,000 in fines
plus up to a year in prison. A home video they
apparently made for their personal amusement
was apparently given to the International Fund
for Animal Welfare by a shocked acquaintance,
and shown as lead item on the February
6 CTV national newscast. Vancouver Sun TV
columnist Barbara Righton described it as
“footage of babies, gutted and screeching as
they were kicked across the ice alive.”
On February 14, the Canadian
DFO joined with the World Wildlife Fund in
announcing a 56-point recovery plan for the
estimated 525 beluga whales remaining in the
St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. Priorities
are the reduction of toxic discharges into the
St. Lawrence, protection of beluga habitat,
and reduction of disturbances to belugas.
Also on February 15, the National
Marine Fisheries Service formally proposed a
ban on “chumming” within the Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary, off the California
coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to Hearst’s
Castle near San Simeon. “Chumming” is the
practice of dumping bloody offal overboard to
attract great white sharks toward tour boats.
The ban has been pursued for several years by
the Santa Cruz-based Pelagic Shark Research
Foundation and the Surfers Environmental
Four giant squid were caught off
New Zealand during the first two months of
this year, encouraging Clyde Roper of the
National Museum of Natural History, a division
of the Smithsonian Institution, to organize
a $5 million effort to use a miniature submarine
to locate, pursue, and film the squid
for the first time in his/her native habitat.

Transmitters attached to the backs
of a female leatherback sea turtle and six
loggerhead sea turtles by Natal Parks Board
staff on January 16, monitored by satellite,
had by March 7 tracked the leatherback for
1,500 miles on an apparent journey from the
northern coast of South Africa to the South
Pole. The loggerheads were meanwhile moving
up the coast of Mozambique. The African
findings were announced the same week that
Kenneth and Catherine Lohmann of the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
announced their discovery via wading-pool
experiments that even two-to-three-day-old sea
turtles seem to be able to navigate by sensing
the earth’s magnetic field.
Baton Rouge District Judge Janice
Clark ruled on February 17 that a suit filed by
commercial fishers against the state ban on gill
netting can become a class action, with as
many as 1,000 plaintiffs. Earlier, Clark
refused to suspend the ban pending resolution
of the case, and was backed by the Louisiana
Supreme Court.
The National Marine Fisheries
Service on March 18 authorized the state of
Washington to kill any California sea lion
who “can be individually identified and has
been observed killing steelhead” at Ballard
Locks, near Seattle; “has been observed foraging
for steelhead at the locks any time after
January 1, 1994, when underwater noisemaking
devices were installed” to warn sea lions
away; and “is observed foraging at the locks
during this year’s steelhead season,” which
began January 1 and will continue through
May 31. Three sea lions, including the notorious
Hondo, currently meet the standard, as
could two more if they are seen eating even
one steelhead this year or next. The NMFS
authorization means nonlethal alternatives
need no longer be tried before Washington
officials open fire.
Swordfish resisting capture reportedly
killed both a Japanese fisher and a Fijian
fisher in separate incidents on March 14.
Sea World of Orlando, Florida,
lost both a stillborn orca calf on February 21
and, four days later, her 21-year-old mother,
Gudrun, who was captured from the wild in
Icelandic waters in 1977. The calf apparently
died in her womb several weeks earlier, at
which point Gudrun stopped eating. She
seemed to visit occasionally through a gate
with Nyar, her youngest of two surviving
calves, on the day of her death.
The U.S. Court of International
T r a d e ruled in February that the U.S.
Secretary of Commerce must finger Italy for
violating the international agreement on driftnetting,
and halt imports of fish from Italy if
the violations continue.
A March 15 sea turtle feast on the
island of Pemba off Tanzania in the Indian
Ocean brought the deaths of 24 people, as
more than 200 fell ill from an unidentified
toxin in the meat. Tanzania responded by banning

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