Marine life notes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:

Researchers at Auckland University in Wellington, New
Zealand, in mid-August announced that DNA typing of 30 samples of
whale meat bought in Japanese supermarkets found remains of humpback
and fin whales, confirming cearlier findings by conservation groups that
contraband species are being killed and sold. Neither humpbacks nor fin
whales have been killed legally since 1986, when the International Whaling
Commission moratorium on commercial whaling began. Japan did later buy
whale meat from abroad that was frozen before 1986, a Japan Fisheries official
told the New Zealand Press Association, but the most recent purchase,
of humpback meat from Iceland, was in 1991. Similar DNA findings
obtained by EarthTrust scientists were published by the peer-reviewed journal
Science in 1994, but Japan Fisheries has repeatedly challenged the data.

Timing the July 18 unveiling of their joint Ocean Wildlife
Campaign on behalf of sharks, bluefin, marlin and billfish to gain favor for
the repeal of the U.S. “dolphin-safe” tuna import standard, the World
Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other participating
conservation groups scored collateral hits when Time put the global decline
of sharks on the cover of its August 11 edition, the Washington Post published
a similar feature on August 12, and California governor Pete Wilson
signed a bill indefinitely extending a ban on hunting great white sharks, previously
to have expired in 1999. Repealing the dolphin-safe standard
encourages tuna netters to resume setting nets “on dolphin,” which kills
fewer sharks than “log sets,” the leading alternate method.
Papillomaviruses, similar to types afflicting humans, cattle, and
Keiko, the star of the 1993 film Free Willy!, are now attacking manatees,
University of Miami veterinary pathologist Gregory Bossart reports. Only
two manatees are known to be infected, but many more cases may have
escaped observation, Bossart told media. Other marine ecology experts are
wondering whether the disease may be related to the fibropapillomas causing
facial tumors on sea turtles, especially around Hawaii, Florida, and the
Galapagos Islands. The Florida manatee population is already severely
stressed, with a record 415 recorded deaths in 1996, 151 reportedly due to
red tides and 60 caused by collisions with boats. While the red tide deaths
fell off, the 110 recorded deaths during the first six months of 1997 indicated
the full year’s total will again top 10% of the known population. Twentyseven
of the 1997 manatee deaths were caused by collisions with boats.

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