This Week in Whales: Baby Boom for Pacific Gray Whales; Dolphin Bullying?; Norway Starts Killing Minke Whales; Taiji Has another Bad Idea
News in the world of whales this week (or close to it).
- Pacific gray whales may be in the middle of a baby boom. Volunteer spotters have counted a significant number of calves passing California on their journey from winter calving grounds in Mexico to feeding grounds in the Arctic. Earlier this week, spotters had logged 192 calf sightings. According to Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the ACS-LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, “At this rate we just might exceed our record high of 222 cow/calf pairs by May 15.” No longer on the Endangered Species List – the Eastern North Pacific stock was removed from the list in 1994 – the total population of Eastern North Pacific gray whales is believed to range from about 18,000 to 30,000 animals.
- Not everything’s chummy in the dolphin world. A dolphin has taken sanctuary in Huntington Beach, California, wetlands after apparently being bullied by other dolphins. Earlier in the week when the dolphin showed up in the Bolsa Chica wetlands, rescuers believed the dolphin needed help getting back to the ocean. But when they herded the animal into open water it was attacked by two other dolphins that may be part of the dolphin’s own pod. Rescuers have put any future attempts to help the dolphin (it isn’t otherwise in distress) on hold as forcing the dolphin into the ocean could lead to more bullying. But is there really bullying in the dolphin world? Dennis Kelly, a marine science instructor at Orange Coast College doesn’t think so. According to Kelly, it’s more likely that the other dolphins were reacting to the odd behavior of the dolphin in the wetlands – an area that dolphins don’t go unless something’s wrong – and haven’t wanted to leave until they know the dolphin’s fate.
- Boo!! Norwegian whalers have killed their first minke whales of the hunting season. The total quota for this year’s hunt is set at 1,286, although it’s unlikely that many whales will be killed. Norway had the same quota last year, but whalers only killed 533 animals, as they had problems selling the meat. Unless there’s some unexpected demand for minke meat (stranger things have happened), it’s unlikely the full number will be killed. Norway registered an objection to the International Whaling Commission’s commercial whaling moratorium in 1982 and, thus, is not bound by it.
- Taiji, the Japanese town made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, has another bright idea besides its annual slaughter of dolphins for meet that nobody wants to eat – Taiji is proposing a marine mammal park where visitors can swim and kayak with dolphins. Hopefully not relatives of the same dolphins that will surely be sold in the park’s cafeteria…. Or maybe that will be one of the park’s gimmicks. Just as Disneyland Resort in California sometimes offers a twofer deal (where you can buy a ticket to visit a park (Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure) one day and then return on another day to visit the other), maybe the Taiji park will have a twofer – swim with a dolphin one day and return the next to eat it. Kazutaka Sangen, Taiji’s Mayer, explained, “We want to send out the message that the town is living together with whales.” Seems like an awfully expensive way to get out a message. Maybe they should just consider not killing them. That would send a nice message too.