From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1997:

Four baby gray whales and a
young male pygmy sperm whale washed
up on California beaches between
December 17 and February 1––a possible
warning of a depleted food chain. The
pygmy sperm whale was only the fourth to
wash up in northern California since 1969,
but the third to beach in California during
1996. The other two beached far to the
south, in the same vicinity as the grays.
Sea World San Diego reported that the
one grey whale calf it was able to rescue
was recovering, and would be returned to
the wild when able to survive. Sea World
San Diego previously rehabilitated and
returned a gray whale to the wild in 1971.

An analysis of four counts of
the endangered Gulf of California
vaquita harbor porpoise, 1986-1993, by
J. Barlow, T. Gerrodette, and G. Silber of
the Southwest Fisheries Science Center,
indicates that the population is declining
by 17.7% per year. “The species is at a
critically low level,” they concluded.
Officially extinct in British
waters since Scots whalers harpooned the
last one in 1928, humpback whales have
returned, reports Oxford University zoologist
Peter Evans. According to Evans,
the Sea Watch Foundation network of
about 1,500 observers has identified a
population of about 17 humpbacks who
feed off Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset,
and range as far north as Shetland.
Alaskan and Hawaian scientists
comparing whale photos on January
12 announced that a humpback dubbed
“339” shattered all known records for
swimming speed back in 1988 by traversing
the 2,775 miles between Sitka Sound
and the Kewalo Basin off Hawaii in just
39 days. The average time whales take to
swim the distance is believed to be 102
days. Humpbacks were not previously
believed to be fast. “If other whales are
making such journeys,” wrote Nick
Nuttall of the London Times, “it means
humpbacks are in Alaskan waters for at
least nine months of the year,” which
increases the importance of protecting
their Alaskan habitat. The whale “339”
has also been seen off Mexico, said
Janice Straley, whose Sitka Sound photo
made the belated discovery of the quick
journey possible.
The chemical tribuyltin, or
TBT, is more menacing to dolphins
than PCBs, Kurunthachalam Kannan of
the Skidway Institute in Georgia warned
in the January edition of E n v i r o n m e n t a l
Science & Technology. Testing the
remains of dolphins who died along the
Florida coast, 1984-1994, Kannan found
heavy build-up through the food chain.
The chemical, banned from other use, is
added to paint for large vessels and aluminum
hulls to discourage barnacles.
Russia might resume commercial
beluga whale hunting to protect fish
stocks in the Barents, Bering, Black, and
White Seas, State Fishing Committee
chair Vladimir Izmailov suggested on
January 21, blaming belugas for the
decline of White Sea cod. Izmailov said
resumed beluga hunting might begin with
indigenous people on the Chukotka peninsula.
But Alexei Yablokov, head of the
Interdepartmental Commission for
Ecological Security within the Russian
Security Council, told TASS a day later
that, “There are no grounds for such speculations,”
since there is no evidence that
the belugas are either increasing their population
or eating cod.
New Zealand Treaty of
Waitangi Fisheries Commission chair
Sir Tipene O’Regan told media on
December 24 that, “The commission supports
the right of other indigenous people
to customary use of whales on a sustainable
basis, but does not––and never
has––advocated Maori trade in whale
meat.” O’Regan, who in August 1996
said of fur seals that “the damned things
should be culled and managed,” said his
o w n i w i , or tribe, is promoting whalewatching,
and therefore has a “huge”
interest in preventing whaling off New
Zealand. O’Regan replied to remarks by
commission analyst Sean Kerine that indicated
the Maori might back Japanese and
Norwegian claims to “aboriginal” whaling
rights at the 1997 International Whaling
Commission meeting.
Japanese whaling industry
brass on January 22 announced formation
of the World Council of Whalers, a new
pressure group to be based in Vancouver,
British Columbia, Canada, with U.S.,
Japanese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and
Russian representation. The first WCW
meeting is scheduled for November.
Interfax reported in midJanuary
that Iceland had notified the
IWC that after doing “research” whaling
in 1996, it plans to resume commercial
whaling this year, with a quota of at least
200 minkes. However, the IWC said it
had received no such communication.

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