Sunday, November 04, 2012

Non-Lethal Whale Research Program Begins

A new non-lethal whale research program has begun in the Antarctic waters in a bid to prove to Japan that their annual whale hunt for scientific purposes is unnecessary.
Each year up to 1,000 whales are killed by Japanese, under an exception to the ban on commercial whaling put in place in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. It is the opinion of many critics that the scientific research program is nothing more than a front for commercial whaling, as most of the meat from the whales involved is sold for consumption in Japan.
A team comprising of scientists from Australia, New Zealand and France has just returned from a very productive six -week study in the Antarctic. It is the first expedition in a planned five-year program to study whale numbers, feeding habits and travel routes to and from breeding grounds in the central pacific region by using non-lethal methods. The program was proposed by the Australian Government and takes place with the approval of the International Whaling Commission. It is being conducted by the Southern Ocean Research Partnership which comprises of 13 different nations.
According to Peter Garrett, Australia’s Environment Minister, the research was an effective and achievable way to collect important data without the need to kill the mammals.
About 60 humpbacks, the main species studied, had photos and biopsy samples taken. Tracking devices were attached to about 30 of these animals that will enable the scientists to follow their travel and feeding patterns. Humpback whale numbers are recovering quite strongly, but blue whale numbers are down by about two percent from what they once were, a result of being heavily hunted during the era of Industrial whaling.
In defense of Japan’s research program, Toshinori Uoya, official in charge of whaling issues for Japan’s Fisheries Agency told reporters that “there are some data we can only obtain through lethal approach, including age, stomach contents and fertility.”
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