Commercial Hunting Just One of Many Problems Facing Whales: Oil Exploration, Pollution, Fishing Nets

grey whale tail photo

photo: Minette Layne via flickr

The IWC meeting in Morocco may have seen the failure of plans to compromise on commercial whaling, to bring Japan and other international law objectors back into the fold, but there is some more interesting news coming from Agadir: More whales are being killed by pollution, getting caught in nets and other threats than by commercial whaling; and, Russian oil exploration in the Pacific is threatening critically endangered grey whales. Scientists Want Exploration Delayed to Protect Grey Whale Mothers & Calves
BBC News reports that the IWC scientific committee is "extremely concerned" about plans by Rosneft to begin seismic surveys for oil around Sakhalin Island. The work is planned for a period when there's a high density of grey whale mother-calf pairs in the vicinity. The committee wants the work postponed until early in the season next year.

Western Pacific gray whales (also known as grey whales) come to Sakhalin each summer to feed, and seismic survey work - which involves producing high-intensity sound pulses and studying reflections from rock strata under the sea floor - can seriously disrupt their feeding. The small area where the whales congregate has shallow water, and scientists suspect this is where mothers teach their calves how to feed at the sea floor.

Grey whales are thought to number only about 130 individuals, of which only about 20 are breeding females. Strangely, a few weeks ago, through grey whales have been extinct for quite some time in the Atlantic Ocean, one was sighted off the coast of Israel and later off the coast of Spain.

Far More Whales Unintentionally Killed By Humans Than Are Hunted
At another presentation, Reuters reports on the many other hazards whales face--from noise and chemical pollution, to being caught up in fish nets, to climate change--and how these issues have been sidelined of late in the public discussion around whale conservation:

"Accidental catches and scientific permits have killed more than 10,000 whales since the moratorium was put in place. What kind of a moratorium is that?" said Monaco IWC Commissioner Frederic Briand.

Nick Gales, who heads Australia's delegation at meetings of the IWC's Scientific Committee, said the organization was already changing, with or without reform.

"A few years ago we were talking about the importance of by-catch and climate change but were entirely embroiled in should you whale or not whale," Gales told Reuters.

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More on Whales:
Norway Raises Hunting Quota to 1,286 Whales
Washed Up Whale Found With Gallons of Our Garbage in Its Gut
Humpback Whales Have BFFs, Just Like You!
Japan Buys Off Developing Nations' Whaling Support: Whistleblower
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