Shock treatment for marine mammals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:

Bob Fletcher, president of the 200-vessel
Sportfishing Association of California, is touting a
high-energy ultrasonic anti-sea lion device, developed
by Pulsed Power Technologies, of San Diego, with aid
of a federal grant. According to Los Angeles Times
hunting/fishing columnist Pete Thomas, the device
produces “a brief concussive wave of energy that
affects the inner ears of mammals close enough to be
affected.” Fletcher told Thomas that it makes sea lions
“take off like scalded dogs.”
Added Pulsed Power Tecnologies president
Dick Ayres, “The fur huggers won’t be happy with
anything that annoys marine mammals, but this is by
far the most effective and least intrusive device that has
come out.” The west coast fishing industry, including
Fletcher, is lobbying in support of a recent National
Marine Fisheries Service recommendation that it should
be allowed to start killing pinnipeds “in situations
where California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals conflict
with human activities, such as at fishery sites and
marinas,” if nonlethal deterrents don’t work.


Acoustic alarms affixed to nets, recently tested
off New Hampshire, may markedly reduce the
instance of marine mammals becoming entrapped. Net
and lobster line entanglement became hot issues for
New England in April when the National Marine
Fisheries Service proposed new rules to protect endangered
right whales. Fishers generated a reported 15,000
letters against the original proposals, but generally
applauded the rules in final form, announced July 14,
after the toughest provisions were eased to save an estimated
$50 million in equipment replacement costs.
“The final rules will allow Maine lobstermen
to conduct business as usual,” offered Portland Press
Herald reporter Clarke Canfield.
“We’re going to have dead whales on our
hands,” responded Center for Marine Conservation
staff scientist Nina Young. “The new rules don’t represent
any change from current practice.”
The July 26 Veterinary Record described the
deaths of 422 cetaceans of 12 species off Britain
between August 1990 and September 1995. Of the 320
cases in which the cause of death was determined, the
leading “natural” causes––neonatal starvation, pneumonia,
and general infection––killed 31%. Entanglement
in fishing gear killed 86 of 108 common dolphins,
66 of 176 harbour porpoises, and 6% of other species.
Entanglement in squid nets reportedly kills as
many as 100 Hooker’s sea lions a year off New
Zealand, which on August 4 recognized Hooker’s sea
lion as a threatened species. A remnant population of
10,000 to 15,000 Hooker’s sea lions breed only on
Campbell and Auckland islands, a fraction of their
habitat 200 years ago.

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