From: Howard (howard@orcanetwork.org)
Date: Wed Jun 05 2002 - 11:57:00 EDT

Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am Ching Heng Jeng from Taylorís College Malaysia, currently pursuing the
South Australian Matriculation Programme. I am currently writing an essay
for my BIOLOGY HUMAN AWARENESS ESSAY on Whales-Are Human Activities that
Only Causes to Its Extinction. I will be very grateful if you can share
some of your information with me regarding this issues such as: -
∑ Biological background on whales
∑ List of whales facing extinction
∑ The current global issue regarding whaling
∑ Latest statistic regarding whaling
∑ The latest management policies proposed against whaling
∑ List of human activities causing whales to face extinction
Yours faithfully,
Heng Jeng

Dear Heng Jeng,

         Thank you for these comprehensive questions. Your questions are
truly global. The answers to each of these questions could be very long,
much longer than this format allows, but I'll be happy to provide at least
summary answers to the best of my ability.

∑ Biological background on whales

         I believe you refer to the evolutionary history of whales. It is
believed that the ancestors of modern whales branched from the ancestors of
early primates about 95 million years ago. The whales' ancectors were among
the early artiodactyls, and after the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million
years ago they became large land-based grazing mammals. Sometime around 50
or more million years ago these grazing mammals began wading in the warm,
shallow Tethys Sea, which comprised what is now the Mediteranean, the Black
Sea, and the Caspian Sea as the continent of India was beginning to join
Asia. They evolved some amazing and highly developed adaptations to become
aquatic mammals. Early whales died out as oceanic conditions cooled around
30 million years ago, giving rise to the early forms of modern whales.
Eventually some became filter-feeders using baleen, and some grew teeth for
grasping various prey. At this time over 76 species are recognized, filling
and utilizing every conceivable niche in the marine, and some freshwater,

∑ List of whales facing extinction

         I don't have that information available from official sources, but
I can tell you the species that I am familiar with that face extinction.
The bowhead whale, the Atlantic right whale, the Yangtzee River Dolphin and
the Vaquita porpoise all face imminent extinction. Most river dolphins are
in trouble. Some other species that were protected have probably not
returned to previous population sizes, such as blue whales, fin whales, and
Brydes whales. In addition, there are many regional populations of certain
species, such as Hector's dolphins off New Zealand, and the Southern
Resident orca community in Washington and BC Canada that are in steep
decline and have only small numbers of individuals. Additionally, one must
consider that with global climate change and overall marine biomass
depletion underway significant suitable habitat and food may disappear for
many species.

∑ The current global issue regarding whaling

         Again, this is a very complex issue, and any short answer
necessarily relies on one's personal judgement. In my opinion, the issues
revolve around our fundamental perception of whales and dolphins. For those
who consider them commodities to be exploited for harvest, sales and
consumption, the appropriate policy is to kill them at the maximum rate
possible. For those who consider whales to represent highly evolved
capabilities such as acute self-awareness and cultural faculties, they are
fellow conscious beings who deserve our respect and affection, thus the
appropriate behavior is to honor them, interact with them and learn about
them, and most certainly not to kill them.

∑ Latest statistic regarding whaling

         This is a technical matter best answered by a specialist in
whaling statistics, which are often hotly debated and not well
substantiated if you are referring to living populations. Also there are
undocumented "pirate" whale hunts. Currently Japan each year kills about a
hundred minke whales, fin whales and sperm whales and possibly others.
Norway kills several hundred minke whales each year.

∑ The latest management policies proposed against whaling

         Japan attempted to lift the global whaling ban without
success. As retaliation against non-whaling nations, Japan and 10 other
countries voted against the proposal to renew a bowhead take of 279 for
Alaskan Inuits and to Russia's indigenous Chukotka people. Thirty-two
delegates supported the request, which failed to get the necessary
three-quarters majority. China and Panama abstained. Still Japan did not
get their way on the global whaling ban. Japan wants to take 50 sei whales,
50 Bryde's
whales, and 10 sperm whales besides the 400 minkes it hunts around
Antarctica each year.

         In a widely expected defeat for antiwhaling groups, proposals to
create two new whale sanctuaries in the southern hemisphere fell through,
failing to collect the three-quarters vote needed for
passage. Both proposals, one for the South Pacific and one for the South
Atlantic, have been voted down in past annual meetings.

         The IWC is increasingly concerned with global climate change, and
the economic and scientific value of whale watching is increasingly
discussed as alternatives to killing whales.

∑ List of human activities causing whales to face extinction

         These include killing them for food, depleting their food sources
directly for human food, and degrading habitat for prey species to the
extent that whales go hungry. Persistent organic chemical pollutants, such
as PCBs, PAHs, DDT and others, as well as heavy metal pollution such as
mercury, lead, arsenic and many others threaten whales by compromising
their immune, neural and reproductive systems. Undersea noise pollution and
chronic oil spills cause additional stress and mortalities. In addition,
anthropogenic global warming will cause severe disruptions in habitat
conditions that whales have evolved with and depend on.

         Thank you for these challenging questions. The only remaining
question is, what are we doing to help protect and restore watershed and
marine habitats to allow cetacean populations to thrive and reproduce?


Howard Garrett
Orca Network
2403 So. North Bluff Rd.
Greenbank WA 98253
(360) 678-3451

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