MARINE MAMMALS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:

Days before former U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service CITES
Operations Branch chief Susan
Lieberman was promoted to head the
Office of Scientific Authority ( page
14), she told ANIMAL PEOPLE that
while the Makah Tribal Council h a s
reportedly “made assurances to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration that” the grey whales it
intends to kill in Washington coastal
waters this fall “will be used exclusively
for local consumption and ceremonial
purposes, and will not be sold or offered
for sale, the USFWS has not had any
official communication with the Makah
Tribal Council on this issue. In the
event that the Service does communicate
officially with the Makah Tribal
Council on this issue,” Lieberman continued,


“we will inform the Makah
Tribal Council that since the grey whale
is listed on Appendix I of CITES, no
exports of grey whale products from the
U.S. will be authorized for commercial
purposes under any circumstances. In
addition,” Lieberman wrote, “you indicated
[in ‘Licensed to kill,’ cover,
September 1997] that the Makah Tribe
is considered a non-party to CITES. As
regards CITES, the Makah Tribe is
under the jurisdiction of the U.S.
Therefore, this office would be responsible
for the issuance of all CITES permits
involving the import or export of
CITES-listed specimens by the Makah.“
Any further decline “could
very seriously compromise” the survival
of Hawaiian monk seals,
National Marine Fisheries Service
Hawaii branch chief of protected
species investigations George Antonelis
warned in January. Monk seal
numbers have fallen from circa 3,000 in
1959 to perhaps as few as 1,200 now.
University of Hawaii marine biologist
Shannon Atkinson says major causes
of the decline are a low birth rate, high
pup mortality, and apparent starvation
of some juveniles, all of which “may be
due to lack of sufficient food on the
reef” they inhabit, Honolulu Advertiser
reporter Jan Tenbruggencate noted on
January 19. In a May 1997 ANIMAL
PEOPLE guest column, “Clear NMFS
of buyers and sellers,” Carroll Cox of
EnviroWatch pointed out that although
lobsters are a key part of the monk seal
diet, the Western Pacific Regional
Fishery Management Council a t
apparent recommendation of Crustacean
Standing Committee chair W i l l i a m
Paty recently reversed precedent to
allow fishers to take lobsters bearing
eggs. Entanglement in fishing nets is
also a major cause of death, Atkinson
said, killing 21 monk seals––mostly
juveniles––in 1996 alone.
The Canadian Department
of Fisheries and Oceans on February 5
charged seven Newfoundland sealers
with committing 17 violations of seal
hunting regulations during the 1997
hunt, documented on videotape by
International Fund for Animal
Welfare investigators––but the DFO
ignored more than 100 other documented
violations, said IFAW representative
Rick Smith. The charges came after
IFAW newspaper ads, including in
ANIMAL PEOPLE, generated more
than 30,000 protest calls to Canadian
government offices.
The National Marine Fisheries
Service on January 14 announced
assessment of civil penalties totaling
$60,000 against Ric O’Barry, The
Dolphin Project, which he heads,
Lloyd Good III, and the S u g a r l o a f
Dolphin Sanctuary, which Good
heads, for not obtaining NMFS permits
before releasing the former U.S. Navy
dolphins B u c k and Luther off Key
West, Florida, in May 1996. Both dolphins
were recaptured, Luther after a
day when he begged for fish at a Key
West marina, Buck two weeks later, 40
miles away. Both appeared to have
been beaten up by wild dolphins.
Luther was returned to the U.S. Navy
dolphin base in San Diego; Buck is
now at the Dolphin Research Center,
a swim-with facility near Key West.
O’Barry disputes the NMFS charge that
the releases risked the dolphins’ lives.
Of the fine, he told Nancy Klingener of
the Miami Herald, “I’m just going to
ignore NMFS and see what happens. I
can’t beat them in a court of law. I
don’t have the money and the lawyers
to do that.” O’Barry was recently in
Jamaica, protesting the application of a
Swiss citizen, Peter Bossenecker, for
permission to capture two dolphins for
the Knie’s Kinderzoo, in Switzerland.
Other dolphins at the facility have
reportedly suffered high mortality.
Syndicated nature columnist
Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late
oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, and
Patrick J. Griffin, ex-assistant for legislative
affairs to U.S. President B i l l
Clinton, were in January elected to the
Free Willy/Keiko Foundation board of
directors. The foundation hopes to
move the orca star of the Free Willy!
films from the Oregon Coast Aquarium
to a sea pen in the North Atlantic,
where he was captured in 1982, perhaps
as early as August. A USDA
review in late January found Keiko is
healthy except for a recurring papiloma
virus infection acquired at least five
years ago, but is overweight and bored.
However, reports indicate he is not
doing well at learning to catch live fish.

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