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Minke whales dragged aboard the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru. Customs and Border Protection Service, Commonwealth of Australia

Japan Aims to Overthrow 32-Year-Old Global Whaling Ban

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).

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Showdown Expected as Japan Plans to Resume For-Profit Whaling

For years, the Japanese government has hunted whales under the name of "scientific research." Now officials are angling to resume commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting this September in Brazil.

At the meeting, officials "will propose setting a catch quota for species whose stocks are recognized as healthy by the IWC scientific committee," Hideki Moronuki, an official in charge of whaling at Japan's fisheries agency, told Agence France-Presse.

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Japan Kills More Than 120 Pregnant Whales

More than 120 pregnant female minke whales were killed this year in the Antarctic Ocean as part of Japan's controversial "scientific whaling" program.

The numbers were revealed in a newly released report presented earlier this month at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee meeting in Bled, Slovenia.

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Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Global

333 Minke Whales Killed by Japanese Fleet

Japan's whaling vessels returned to port with 333 minke whales on Friday after its months-long Antarctic hunt.

The Fisheries Ministry said the whales were killed in the name of science.

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90% of Minke Whales Killed in Norway Are Female and 'Almost All' Pregnant

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 documentary, Slaget om kvalen ("Battle of Agony"), shows grisly footage of Norway's whaling industry, including one bloody scene where a fisherman cuts open a whale and removes its fetus.

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Sea Shepherd Founder to Bill Maher: ‘If Oceans Die, We Die'

You can always expect to see Captain Paul Watson on the front lines of the battle to conserve and protect marine ecosystems for wildlife. He and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been doing it for nearly 40 years.

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Marine Mammals on the Menu in Many Parts of World

Wildlife Conservation Society

The fate of the world’s great whale species commands global attention as a result of heated debate between pro and anti-whaling advocates, but the fate of smaller marine mammals is less understood, specifically because the deliberate and accidental harvesting of dolphins, porpoises, manatees and other warm-blooded aquatic denizens is rarely studied or monitored.

To shed more light on the issue, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Okapi Wildlife Associates have conducted an exhaustive global study of human consumption of marine mammals using approximately 900 sources of information. The main finding—since 1990, people in at least 114 countries have consumed one or more of at least 87 marine mammal species. In addition to this global review, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists work in remote countries around the world to assess and actively address the threat to dolphin populations with localized, applied conservation efforts.

The new global study appears in the most recent edition of Biological Conservation. The authors include Dr. Martin D. Robards of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Dr. Randall R. Reeves of Okapi Wildlife Associates.

“International bodies such as the International Whaling Commission were formed specifically to gauge the status of whale populations and regulate the hunting of these giants,” said Robards, lead author of the new study. “These species, however, represent only a fraction of the world’s diversity of marine mammals, many of which are being accidentally netted, trapped, and—in some instances—directly hunted without any means of tracking as to whether these harvests are sustainable.”

In order to build a statistically robust picture of human consumption rates of marine mammals around the world, Robards and Reeves started with records on small fisheries focused on small whales (i.e. pilot whales), dolphins, and porpoises from 1975 and records of global marine mammal catches between 1966 and 1975. From there, the authors consulted some 900 other sources and consulted with numerous researchers and environmental managers, an exhaustive investigation that took three years to complete. The team only counted information with actual evidence of human consumption of marine mammals, omitting instances where marine mammals were caught (either intentionally or not) for fishing bait, feed for other animals, medicines, and other uses.

The list of marine mammals killed for human consumption includes obscure species such as the pygmy beaked whale, the South Asian river dolphin, the narwhal, the Chilean dolphin, the long-finned pilot whale, and Burmeister’s porpoise. Seals and sea lions are on the list as well, including species such as the California sea lion and lesser known species such as the Baikal seal. The polar bear (a bear that is considered a marine mammal) also makes the list. Three species of manatee and its close relative the dugong, considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, are also widespread targets of human consumption.

Overall, the historical review reveals an escalation in the utilization of smaller cetaceans, particularly coastal and estuarine species since 1970, often caught as accidental “bycatch” in nets meant for fish and other species. Once caught, however, small cetaceans are being increasingly utilized as food in areas of food insecurity and/or poverty, what the authors call “fishing up the food chain.”

“Obviously, there is a need for improved monitoring of species such as the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and other species,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “In more remote areas and a number of countries, a greater immediate need is to understand the motivations behind the consumption of marine mammals and use these insights to develop solutions to protect these iconic species that lead to more effective management and conservation.”

WCS’s Ocean Giants Program works in a number of seascapes of critical importance to small cetaceans in particular. These efforts are focused on the local level to address local impacts on coastal dolphin populations, providing on-the-ground practical conservation actions to compliment the global investigative work highlighted above.

In Congo, Gabon, and Madagascar, WCS conservation scientists Dr. Salvatore Cerchio and Tim Collins are conducting scientific studies to assess the status of impacted dolphin populations, and work with local communities of traditional fishermen to reduce accidental bycatch and deliberate hunting of dolphins. In these regions, the scientists are documenting a worrying trend in increased captures and use of dolphins for food, and they are sometimes also being sold in markets better known for their association with terrestrial bushmeat.

In response, Cerchio and the WCS Madagascar team have worked with local communities to establish a local conservation association composed of fishermen, local traditional laws protecting dolphins, and development of community-based whale and dolphin watching as an alternative livelihood. On the other side of the African continent, the coasts of Gabon and Congo represent one of the last strongholds for the rare Atlantic humpback dolphin. Catches by fishermen in Gabon are extremely rare, but groups of dolphins that cross the border (a finding of recent WCS work) risk capture in coastal gillnets set by artisanal fisherman. “The Atlantic humpback dolphin may well be the rarest mammal in the Congo basin region,” said Tim Collins. “Unfortunately, few have ever heard of it, least of all the fisherman eating them out of existence.”

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Sea Shepherd Moves in on Japanese Whaling Fleet in French Antarctic

Sea Shepherd

Early morning Jan. 4, Sea Shepherd's vessel the Bob Barker moved in amongst the Japanese whaling fleet 190 miles north of the French Antarctic base of Dumont D'Urville.

While on the look-out for the Japanese factory ship the Nisshin Maru, the Bob Barker ran into one of the three harpoon vessels, the Yushin Maru 3. It appears that the Yushin Maru 3 has not begun whaling activities as its harpoon is still covered.

The whaling fleet has been desperately trying to avoid being caught by Sea Shepherd detection and has fled more than 1,500 miles to the southeast of where they were first detected by a drone reconnaissance deployed by the Steve Irwin.

The Bob Barker continues to travel east in pursuit of the Japanese factory ship, now followed at close range by the Yushin Maru 3. The whaling fleet has left the French Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Sea Shepherd can confirm that the Japanese whaling fleet is now in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.

The Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot continue to make progress towards Fremantle with the Shonan Maru #2 tailing both vessels. The Shonan Maru #2 is now 65 miles inside the Australian continental EEZ.

Because the Nisshin Maru and the harpoon vessels have been moving continuously since first located by Sea Shepherd, they do not appear to have had any time to kill whales. They know that if they slow down or stop, the Bob Barker will close the gap and will be on them.

The Steve Irwin will quickly refuel in Fremantle and will return to the Southern Ocean to assist the Bob Barker in intervening against the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, inside Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.

About the Sea Shepherd Drone

Bayshore Recycling Corp’s (Bayshore) donated drone Nicole Montecalvo helped the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) catch a Japanese whaling fleet Dec. 25, 2011 before any whales were killed. The drone, released by the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin, will help track and follow the Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, which was able to escape the ships’ interception on Christmas Day. This drone will also assist in helping protect the fleet, its crew and alert them to potential dangers during the chase.

Bayshore President Valerie Montecalvo and her team are thrilled to hear of the impact their donated drone is making on marine wildlife protection.

“Bayshore Recycling Corp’s mission is to help preserve the planet and its precious natural resources through conservation, recycling and maximum use of renewable energy,” Montecalvo said. “It is our honor to assist noteworthy organizations such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in their endeavor to save wildlife and endangered habitats for future generations. To quote Steve Irwin, ‘I am a wildlife warrior…..my job, my mission and the reason I have been put on this planet, is to save wildlife.’ In some small but meaningful way, we hope that our company can help carry on his mission.”

To promote and encourage Bayshore’s conservation efforts, Bayshore’s owners donated the drone Nicole Montecalvo to the SSCS vessel the Steve Irwin in May 2011 to aid and assist in locating Japanese whaling fleets in protected sanctuaries and bluefin tuna poaching operations off the coast of Libya as a part of the Operation Divine Wind campaign to protect the world’s oceans.

Bayshore’s long-range drone, which is defined as an unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly independently or be operated remotely, is fitted with cameras and detection equipment to support SSCS’s mission in marine wildlife conservation. The donated drone was delivered on board by the vessel security officer during transit to Antarctica to search for the Japanese flagship Nisshin Maru, which was found Christmas Day and will be followed by the drone Nicole Montecalvo.

Bayshore stresses the importance of conserving our planet’s natural habitats. Whether it is saving natural resources, conserving energy, preserving endangered wildlife or recycling household debris, Bayshore rises to the challenge. Together, Bayshore and the SSCS will continue to fight to save the ocean and its vulnerable inhabitants.

For more information about Bayshore Recycling, click here.

For more information about Sea Shepherd, click here.

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Bayshore Recycling Corp (Bayshore) currently operates six different recycling businesses in Woodbridge Township, N.J. making the company one of the most innovative and vertically integrated in the Northeast. A seventh operation to accept and process Class A curbside recyclables is planned for start-up in 2012. For more information, click here.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international nonprofit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. For more information, click here

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