‘Whale prison’ discovered by drone in Far East Russia https://t.co/gkZBVmYwVp— RT (@RT)1541635201.0
In the video below, a crane lifts a whale into an onshore tank in preparation for transport to an unknown destination.
It's believed that the cetaceans will be sold to Chinese aquariums, despite the fact that it is illegal to capture wild whales except for scientific and educational purposes. Commercial whale hunting has been banned worldwide since 1982.
Killer whales can reportedly fetch up to $6 million at marine parks in China.
Из «китовой тюрьмы» в Приморье вывозят млекопитающих www.youtube.com
Citing Russian newspaper Novaya Gazetta, The Telegraph reported that the four companies that are renting the enclosures exported 13 orcas to China between 2013 and 2016. The companies allegedly involved were given permission to capture 13 orcas in the wild.
A prosecutor is investigating whether the orcas and belugas were actually captured for scientific or educational purposes. The conditions of their confinement as well as the legality of their holding pens are also being examined, The Telegraph said.
"The holding pens … are not very large—I'd say no more than 30 to 40 feet on a side, and probably only about 10 to 20 feet deep," Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo. "If they stay there through the winter, ice can form on the top of the water and they have to break through to breathe."
Greenpeace Russia described the conditions as "torture" and said that capturing the marine mammals could threaten the species' survival.
"Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population," Greenpeace Russia research coordinator Oganes Targulyan said to The Telegraph. "The capture quota now is 13 animals a year, but no one is taking into account that at least one orca is killed for every one that is caught."
The orca population in the nearby Kamchatka region has decreased so drastically that they were listed as endangered this year.
"The trauma and distress these animals experience during captures is not opinion or emotion—it is fact," Rose added to The Dodo. "They suffer intense stress-related reactions and their mortality risk spikes sharply soon after capture and then again after transport—they don't get accustomed to the process. The decimated pods may experience similar stress and trauma—their offspring are being taken from them."
With only 74 individuals remaining in the wild, time is running out to save Southern Resident orcas, but last week… https://t.co/ulPmTnR9hC— Oceana (@Oceana)1541601013.0
Japan is proposing a slew of rule changes at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Florianópolis, Brazil this week that conservationists worry would ultimately lift a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Japan, which launched a "scientific whaling" program in 1987 as a loophole to the moratorium, has killed more than 15,600 whales in the Antarctic since the ban (including juvenile and pregnant minke whales), according to a report released last month by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).
Previous reports have revealed that the Japanese government has an ultimate goal to resume commercial whaling, even though most of its citizens no longer eat whales. Whaling proponents say that hunting the mammals is part of their culture.
Hideki Moronuki, Japan's senior fisheries negotiator and commissioner for the IWC, told the BBC that the country is pushing for the "the sustainable use of whales."
Among its proposals, Japan wants to set up a "Sustainable Whaling Committee" which would create catch-quotas for nations wishing to allow their citizens to hunt healthy whale populations for commercial purposes, according to AFP.
Japan, which says minke and other whale stocks have recovered, will propose setting new catch quotas for species whose stocks are recognized as healthy by the IWC scientific committee.
Japan is also seeking to lower the proportion of votes required to set rule changes to a simple majority of the 89-member IWC, rather than three-quarters.
IWC meeting host Brazil is trying to rally other anti-whaling nations, such ads the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, to sign the "Florianópolis Declaration" that states commercial whaling is a no longer economically necessary and would allow the recovery of all whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels, according to AFP.
Conservation groups have highlighted significant welfare concerns regarding "inhumane" time to death (TTD) rates after the whales are caught.
Whalers typically use an exploding harpoon to try to kill the animal "instantly"—defined by the IWC as within 10 seconds of being shot.
However, the report from EIA and AWI found that the hunted whales have suffered up to 25 minutes before dying:
- Iceland's TTD data in 2014 claimed that 42 died "instantly" while eight whales had to be shot a second time and their median TTD was eight minutes.
- Norway recently collected TTD data for 271 minke whales. The median TTD for the 49 whales not registered as instantaneous deaths was six minutes. One whale had to be shot twice, taking 20-25 minutes to die.
- Japan's minke whales taken in the offshore North Pacific hunt take an average of two minutes to die, while those in the coastal hunt take over five minutes. Antarctic minkes take an average of 1.8 minutes to die.
Whaling opponents are urging the IWC to reaffirm its international moratorium on commercial whaling.
"If Japan gets its way, it would be a massive victory for those rogue whalers who have time and again defied the international ban on commercial whaling and an absolute disaster for the world's whales," said Clare Perry, EIA's Ocean Campaigns leader in a statement received by EcoWatch.
"Many whale species have not yet recovered from massive overhunting in the past, and they are also facing a wide array of mounting existential threats ranging from climate change to marine pollution by chemicals, plastics and noise," Perry added.
Kate O'Connell, marine wildlife consultant for the Animal Welfare Institute had similar sentiments.
"We're only just beginning to grasp the vital role whales play in maintaining the health of the world's oceans," O'Connell said. "Weakening the ban now would be a fatal mistake, and would open the doors to increased commercial whaling around the world. This cruel and unnecessary industry is a relic of the past that has no place in modern society."
"All other contracting governments to the IWC must step up to vigorously defend the moratorium from this new assault by Japan and its allies," O'Connell concluded.
Japan Kills More Than 120 Pregnant Whales https://t.co/PI5eMQHDAH @SeaShepherd @Oceanwire @savingoceans— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527638705.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, released draft legislation Monday to significantly overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Under Barrasso's proposal, individual states would be given key authority over the federal program to conserve threatened and endangered species.
"When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough," the Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman said in a press release. "We must do more than just keep listed species on life support—we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process."
The Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress four decades ago, is the nation's safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.
Many Republicans have long sought to weaken the landmark conservation law, as it can block energy production or other developments on critical habitat for endangered species. The current GOP-controlled 115th Congress has introduced dozens of bills that would strip federal protections for specific threatened species or undermine the ESA, according an analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity. That's one such bill every six days in 2017 alone.
Earthjustice anticipated Barrasso's legislative proposal more than a year ago. The environmental law nonprofit said that Barrasso has received substantial campaign contributions from extractive industries that wish to mine or drill land that overlaps with wildlife habitat. Citing campaign finance records, from 2011 until 2016, Barrasso received $458,466 in total campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, plus $241,706 from the mining industry.
Conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife criticized Barrasso's plan, contending that states may lack the legal authority, the resources and sometimes the political resolve to implement the ESA.
"This partisan bill is all about politics, at the expense of sound science and the species that depend on it for survival," said Defenders president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark in a press release provided to EcoWatch. "It is a reckless power grab designed to wrest away authority from scientists and wildlife experts and give it to states that lack the resources—and sometimes the political will—needed to save wildlife from extinction."
Defenders of Wildlife has multiple objections to the provisions in Barrasso's draft bill. For instance, a team overseeing the recovery of a certain species would not be allowed to have more federal members than state and local officials, who would be nominated by state governors.
It also "relegates scientists, the heart of any science-based recovery effort, to an afterthought requiring majority approval by the State-dominated team," the group said.
The Sierra Club similarly criticized Barrasso's bill.
"Shifting from a basis in science to one blown by political whims leaves wildlife exposed, threatening to reverse decades of work to bring animals back from the brink of extinction," Jordan Giaconia, Sierra Club federal policy associate, said in a press release.
"You need to look no further than Sen. Barrasso's home state of Wyoming, where grizzly bears prematurely stripped of endangered species protections are about to be trophy hunted, to see the risks legislation like this poses," Giaconia added.
Wyoming Votes to Allow First Grizzly Bear Hunt in 40 Years https://t.co/49Bzq6sneM @ConservationOrg @WWF— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527199510.0
Further, the Casper Star-Tribune reported that the proposal will "prohibit scientific data from being disclosed in a public records request—if it includes a business or private landowner's proprietary information. Otherwise, the scientific basis of decisions with a species is to be public information."
Barrasso's proposed legislation reflects recommendations from the Republican-dominated Western Governors' Association.
"The Western Governors' Association appreciates the Chairman's willingness to productively engage with Governors, and that the Chairman has approached this polarizing topic in an inclusive, thoughtful manner," a February letter from the WGA states. "The proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues."
As The Hill noted, the governors' process was bipartisan, with Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signing on to the recommendations. However, other Democratic governors, including California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee objected to its legislative proposals.
The National Wildlife Federation—which supports the Recovering America's Wildlife Act introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in December—is pushing congressional leaders to prioritize a bipartisan effort.
"The truth is that we, as a nation, could save the vast majority of species through proactive and collaborative conservation efforts on-the-ground, just as we have recovered species like deer, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, ducks, and wild turkeys," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation in a press release.
O'Mara continued, "Specifically, we urge the Senate to prioritize bipartisan recommendations which bolster science-based decision-making, foster collaboration among conservation partners, and accelerate on-the-ground habitat restoration projects—and to reject recommendations that erode the scientific integrity that is the bedrock of the Endangered Species Act."
Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, said in a provided statement that the Endangered Species Act "does not need to be reformed, streamlined, or modernized—it simply needs to be fully funded and given the opportunity to help species achieve recovery."
She added, "Congress must stop meddling with this critically important law and focus instead on ensuring it is fully implemented and enforced."
The Environmental Consequences of Justice Kennedy’s Retirement https://t.co/rJ5qBr0ttz @ClimateReality @SierraClub @NRDC @UCSUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530196624.0
The National Marine Fisheries Service protected rare Taiwanese humpback dolphins on Tuesday, listing the species as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a March 2016 petition from the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians seeking U.S. protections to help prevent the extinction of a population that now numbers fewer than 100 individuals.
"These rare dolphins deserve every possible chance to escape extinction, and we are thrilled that the National Marine Fisheries Service has stepped up and given them the protections of the Endangered Species Act," said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. "A myriad of dolphin species are at risk due to human activities, and we owe these intelligent creatures the best protections we can give them."
Taiwanese humpback dolphins are threatened by gillnet fishing, pollution, boat traffic and development along Taiwan's densely populated west coast, including the proposed construction of large wind farms. An endangered listing will enable the U.S. to provide technical expertise and resources to support Taiwan in conserving the rare dolphin.
"This is good news that will help these rare dolphins avoid extinction. International cooperation is the key to saving certain critically endangered species," said Abel Valdivia, an ocean scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now that U.S. officials have made the right call on this listing, they should immediately start working with Taiwan on a recovery plan. The Endangered Species Act is a powerful tool that can still save the Taiwanese humpback dolphin and other small cetaceans struggling to survive."
The Taiwanese humpback dolphin, also known as the Taiwanese white dolphin, is a biologically and culturally important subspecies of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. In 2014 the National Marine Fisheries Service denied a previous petition to protect the Taiwanese humpback dolphin, concluding that the population was not distinct from the Chinese white dolphin, which swims in deeper waters closer to China's coastline. New taxonomy studies, however, conclude that the Taiwanese humpback dolphin is a distinct subspecies with unique characteristics, whose numbers continue to decline to alarmingly low levels.
"This is a major victory for the Taiwanese dolphin," said Tara Zuardo, Animal Welfare Institute senior wildlife attorney. "The Endangered Species Act will help enable the United States to provide the resources needed to help protect and conserve this imperiled population. We are grateful that the National Marine Fisheries Service recognized the need to take immediate action."
An estimated 50 percent to 80 percent of all life on Earth is found in the oceans. More than half of marine species may be at risk of extinction by 2100 without significant conservation efforts. Despite this grave situation, the U.S. largely fails to protect marine species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act is an effective safety net for imperiled species: It has prevented extinction for more than 90 percent of plants and animals under its care. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006 if not for its protections. Protecting species with global distributions can help focus U.S. resources toward enforcement of international regulations and recovery of the species.
First Ever Tagging of Amazon Dolphins to Boost Conservation Efforts https://t.co/JI7XW5GmFz @environmentca @ConservationOrg @ImageOfWildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512695409.0
By Mike Gaworecki
A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery (VaquitaCPR) that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating "sea pens" until the species' survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade and fishing activities that have driven them to the brink of extinction.
Late last month, scientists with VaquitaCPR took the first of the marine mammals into captivity. Though the 6-month-old calf became so stressed by its capture that the team quickly chose to release it back into the wild, Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a scientist with the Mexican government who heads the VaquitaCPR program, suggested that the fact that they were able to successfully find and capture a vaquita at all was an encouraging sign.
First Vaquita Rescued in Bid to Save the Porpoise From Extinction https://t.co/QLjiU41Y8P @environmentca @ImageOfWildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1509138915.0
This past weekend, however, it was announced that another vaquita—a breeding-age female—was taken into captivity and subsequently died.
"A mature female vaquita, not pregnant or lactating, had been caught and transported successfully late in the afternoon on Saturday in the Northern Gulf of California and was taken to a specially-modified floating sea pen known as El Nido, or The Nest," according to a statement from VaquitaCPR. "From the moment of capture, the vaquita was under constant care and observation for its health and safety."
Marine mammal veterinarians that were monitoring the vaquita determined that it, too, had become stressed, to the point that its condition was deteriorating enough that once again the call was made to release the animal.
"The release attempt was unsuccessful and life saving measures were administered," VaquitaCPR reported. "Despite the heroic efforts of the veterinary team, the vaquita did not survive."
The vaquita population has been decimated by gillnet fishing in the Gulf of California, though they are only an incidental bycatch. The true target of the gillnets is another critically endangered species, the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), whose swim bladders are in high demand in some Asian countries, especially China, where they are believed to have medicinal benefits. Despite the lack of scientific evidence showing that the swim bladders (also known as maws) have any medical properties whatsoever, they can fetch prices more than $9,000 per pound.
So lucrative is the illegal trade in totoaba maws that organized crime syndicates are getting involved, according to a recent report that concluded the trafficking of the swim bladders has become a security issue in addition to a conservation problem.
Though they aren't the primary target species, vaquita become entangled in the gillnets all the same, causing them to drown.
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a two-year gillnet ban throughout the vaquita's range in the Upper Gulf of California in April 2015, as well as enhanced enforcement of the ban by a multi-agency task force led by the Mexican Navy and compensation for fishermen and other industries that might lose income due to the ban. A permanent ban on gillnet fishing went into effect in July 2017, but the practice continues more or less unabated today.
In response to the death of the breeding-age female this past weekend, some environmentalists are calling for VaquitaCPR's capture program to be shut down immediately, saying it is too risky an endeavor given how few of the porpoises are left.
For instance, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said in a statement that, though VaquitaCPR was born "out of a desperate, yet well-intentioned, desire to save the species, we believe that given the extreme risks involved, the vaquita capture plans must be brought to an immediate halt. These tiny porpoises do not respond well to the stress of capture, and not a single additional vaquita should be deliberately put in danger in this way."
Instead, AWI said, the Mexican government should further increase enforcement efforts throughout the Upper Gulf of California in order to bring an end to illegal gillnet fishing once and for all. The ban on gillnets issued by Mexico, AWI noted, provides exemptions for the area's corvina and Spanish mackerel gillnet fisheries, and does not prohibit the manufacture, sale or possession of the nets.
"Unless illegal fishing is ended through rigorous and stepped-up enforcement, and gillnets can no longer be found in the Upper Gulf, the regulations of the ban will remain inadequate to save the vaquita from extinction," AWI said.
Requests for comment from VaquitaCPR were not immediately returned. But, in the statement announcing the death of the female vaquita this past weekend, VaquitaCPR noted that "The risk of losing a vaquita during field operations was always acknowledged as a possibility, but it was determined that it was unacceptable to stand by and watch the vaquita porpoise disappear without a heroic attempt at rescue."
Together with Mexican government officials and an independent panel created specifically for this purpose, VaquitaCPR's scientists said in the statement that they will "carefully review the events of the past 24 hours and determine how best to proceed."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Conservation organizations announced Wednesday that Trader Joe's has declared it will stop buying shrimp from Mexico. The popular grocery store chain's decision follows pressure from organizations behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, launched earlier this year to save the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, from decades of decline due to entanglement in shrimp fishing gear.
Trader Joe's declaration comes as Mexican authorities prepare this week to capture some of the fewer than 30 remaining vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California before all are lost to entanglement. The announcement puts new pressure on companies like Amazon that still sell Mexican shrimp.
International effort begins to capture and protect some of the last vaquita on Earth in a desperate effort to save… https://t.co/LTuAEvW6kd— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1507329328.0
The boycott—supported by more than 45 organizations, including the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council—aims to conserve the vaquita by convincing Mexican officials to permanently ban all gillnet fishing, remove illegal nets from the water, and significantly increase enforcement efforts to save the species from extinction.
"We are grateful that Trader Joe's has listened to the tens of thousands of people who spoke out in support of our campaign's efforts to save the vaquita," said Kate O'Connell, marine animal consultant at the Animal Welfare Institute. "We hope that the Mexican government will take note of this decision and realize that U.S. consumers want nothing less than a total ban on all vaquita-deadly fishing gear."
For decades vaquita have been killed by entanglement in gillnet fishing gear used in the Upper Gulf of California to catch shrimp to supply the lucrative U.S. market. More recently gillnets have been used to illegally capture critically endangered totoaba, a large fish whose swim bladder is in high demand in Asia. The vaquita population has rapidly collapsed.
"Trader Joe's knows American shoppers don't support the reckless fishing practices that have nearly wiped out Mexico's beautiful little porpoise," said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Other companies like Amazon need to stop selling vaquita-killing shrimp from Mexico. We can still save the last few vaquita, but only if Mexican officials act now to rein in illegal fishing practices."
The government of Mexico announced in June that it was implementing a partial ban on gillnet fishing in the Upper Gulf of California. That ban, however, falls short of what experts have said is needed to save the imperiled porpoise. The "ban" exempts two fisheries—thereby allowing continued use of gillnets—and fails to ban the possession, sale and manufacture of gillnets in the region. If the government of Mexico does not enact a genuine, permanent ban on the use of all gillnets throughout their entire habitat, the vaquita will be extinct in under three years.
"For far too long, Mexico has neglected the one necessary change for the vaquita's survival: a 100 percent gillnet-free habitat," said Zak Smith, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council's Marine Mammal Protection Project. "With fewer than 30 vaquita left in the world, the time for half-hearted measures is over. Everything that can be done to save the vaquita should be done. But let's be clear: Unless the Mexican government can finally ensure a gillnet-free Upper Gulf of Mexico, the extinction of vaquita is guaranteed."
The organizations behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign have asked other companies to join Trader Joe's and Monterey Fish Market—a California-based seafood retail and wholesale company that signed on to the boycott this summer—to support the boycott and agree not to sell or source shrimp from Mexico.
Ninety percent of the minke whales hunted and killed each year in Norwegian waters are female and " almost all" of them are pregnant, according to a documentary aired earlier this month on NRK, a government-owned public broadcasting company.
The release of the documentary has sparked intense outcry from conservation groups in light of Norway's long-standing objection to the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
"On the one hand because it's in violation of an international ban but also because ... it's indefensible from the point of view of the animal's well-being to hunt them during an advanced stage of gestation."
The estimated present population of minke whales is more than one million.
Norway is the world's top whaling nation, and has a quota to kill 999 minke whales during the 2017 hunting season, up from its quota of 880 whales in 2016.
Norway clings to its #whaling past: https://t.co/yyfmDyIvUh @AWIOnline @ShiftingValues @Greenpeace @WHALES_org https://t.co/f7LeZupkJC— OceanCare (@OceanCare)1465803071.0
"We have a professional approach and therefore we don't think about it," said Dag Myklebust, the captain and harpoonist on the Norwegian fishing vessel Kato.
He added that the fact that they are pregnant "is a sign of good health," Myklebust added.
An expert told NRK that the killing of pregnant animals is common.
"Lots of slaughtered animals are sent to the slaughterhouse when they are pregnant," said Egil Ole Oen, a veterinarian who specializes in whale hunting.
Norway and Iceland are the only countries that continue to hunt whales despite the IWC's moratorium. Japan also conducts whaling for "research" reasons.
Last year, Japan faced similar scrutiny after its whaling fleet came back with 333 dead minke whales, including 230 that were female and 90 percent of the mature females pregnant.
Japan Kills 333 Minke Whales Including 200 Pregnant Females https://t.co/m1qFN2U5od @Sailorsforsea @SolimanAdam— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1458867618.0
Animal rights groups remarked that the killing of pregnant whales is especially egregious because it affects the next generation.
"It is horrific to learn that such a high rate of the whales killed in Norway are female and pregnant," OceanCare said in a statement to AFP.
"The whalers are not only killing the current but also part of the next generation of whales," it added.
Astrid Fuchs, the program lead at Whale and Dolphin Conservation said that "the revelations of the film are absolutely shocking."
"Given the fact that a vast majority of the whales is pregnant, the minister's proposed doubling of the quota would mean close to 4,000 whales could be slaughtered each year in European waters," Fuchs noted about Norway's fisheries minister, Per Sandberg, who proposed to double the number of minke whales killed to nearly 2,000 and sell the meat to the European Union.
So how can you help stop this gruesome practice?
In an email to EcoWatch, Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway suggested contacting the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) about your opposition to the slaughtering of pregnant minke whales. The state-owned NSC is the world's largest generic marketing company for seafood and works to "safeguard" the Norwegian fisheries "positive image"—meaning they probably do not want the negative PR about its whaling industry.
"Although whale products are not exported, the seafood business is part of one large state/private operations, where they are all mutually responsible for each others practices," Gulowsen pointed out.
The Animal Welfare Institute is also urging its supporters to write to Kåre R. Aas, Norway's ambassador to the U.S., "to let him know that you are opposed to his country's continued killing of minke whales" and to "encourage him to support responsible whale watching instead."
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina today issued a preliminary injunction that orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to stop capturing and killing—and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill—members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.
On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Red Wolf Coalition, the Southern Environmental Law Center argued in a court hearing on Sept. 14 that a preliminary injunction was needed to stop the agency from harming these native wolves in the wild. Earlier that week, the agency announced its proposal to remove most members of the world's only wild population of red wolves that roam a five county area in northeastern North Carolina and put them into captivity, abandoning all protective efforts except in one refuge where one pack lives and in a bombing range.
"This is a great day for red wolves and for anyone who loves nature in eastern North Carolina," said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. "The court was clear that it's the Fish and Wildlife Service's job to conserve this endangered species, not drive it to extinction. The agency cannot simply abandon that responsibility."
The groups brought the federal agency to court for its failure to protect the world's only wild population of red wolves—previously estimated to be more than 100 animals. Court filings detail a population decline of 50 percent over the course of two years, as well as the agency's ongoing actions and inactions that imperiled the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. Previously, USFWS stopped key conservation actions and began authorizing private landowners to kill red wolves on their land. It also has been capturing wolves throughout the five-county red wolf recovery area in North Carolina, and holding them for weeks or months before releasing them into unfamiliar territory, separated from their mates and pack.
With Only 45 Red Wolves Left in the Wild, Confinement Plan Won't Save Species https://t.co/V0azUwluGR @environmentca @wwf_uk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473810314.0
"This wolf is running out of time. We have a short window to put red wolves back on a path to recovery or we will lose the last wild population in America," said Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to get its red wolf program back on track and start taking actions that will help, not hinder, recovery."
A strong majority of North Carolinians support the effort to recover the native red wolf, according to a new poll conducted by Tulchin Research. The new poll revealed that 73 percent of North Carolinians said they support red wolf recovery. The survey also found that over 80 percent of registered voters throughout North Carolina believe the USFWS should make every effort to help the endangered red wolf population recover and prevent its extinction.
"We are pleased the court recognized that allowing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to issue lethal and non-lethal permits for the removal of red wolves from the wild, was a pathway to extinction, not recovery," said Kim Wheeler, executive director, Red Wolf Coalition.
As one example of USFWS's failure to protect red wolves, the groups cite its 2015 authorization of a private landowner to kill a breeding female that was exhibiting denning behavior, after minimal efforts by the agency to save the animal. The private landowner shot and killed the red wolf in June 2015, even though the wolf had not caused any problems. Under the Endangered Species Act, it is unlawful for anyone to "take" (i.e., harass, harm or kill) a red wolf, except in limited circumstances. Federal regulations authorize USFWS to issue permits to take red wolves on private property after a property owner requests that wolves be removed from their property and the agency abandons efforts to capture them. For 20 years, the USFWS only allowed the taking of "problem wolves," those that threatened human safety or property, yet it recently expanded its activities to capture—and in some cases allow private landowners to kill—any wolves that enter private land.
The USFWS announced in June 2015 that it would suspend the reintroduction of red wolves into eastern North Carolina. The agency also stopped its adaptive management for the population which has been critical to reducing hybridization with coyotes.
Both lethal and non-lethal takes are destroying the wild red wolf population," said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. "It is reassuring that the court recognized the importance of fostering the recovery of this endangered species."
Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980s after the species was declared extinct in the wild. Once common throughout the Southeast, intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations.