Subject: Stranding:RESCUERS NEED TO LEARN WHEN TO LET WHALES DIE - SCIENTIST

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Thu, 27 Nov 1997 10:20:39 -0500 (EST)

Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 17:40:13 -0500
From: Terry Hardie <terry@orcas.net>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA>
To: MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA
Subject: RESCUERS NEED TO LEARN WHEN TO LET WHALES DIE - SCIENTIST

27-Nov-97 11:33 am Regular  National

RESCUERS NEED TO LEARN WHEN TO LET WHALES DIE - SCIENTIST


   Palmerston North, Nov 27 - Rescuers of stranded whales on New
Zealand beaches should spend more time learning when it was best to
leave the animal to die, says American expert Joe Geraci.
   Dr Geraci, the senior director of biological programmes at the
National Aquarium in Baltimore, delivered the David K Blackmore
Memorial Lecture at a Massey University mARINE mAMMAL Symposium, in
Palmerston North today.
   He said scientists were continuing to more closely define when
that point of no return was reached.
   ``But that can easily be over-ridden, and often is, by the
compassion that people on the beach have to these animals, and their
determination to rescue them at all costs.''
   Dr Geraci said scientists had a responsibility to educate people
as to when their efforts could lead to unwarranted pain and
suffering.
   While New Zealand already had codes in place for slaughtering
animals for food production, a distinction appeared to exist in
people's minds between that and wildlife.
   ``Maybe we feel these strandings are in some way due to our own
excesses, the way we sloppily handle the ocean. From that comes an
obligation to work with these animals, to rescue them wherever
possible. Whales always seem to ignite the most sensitive
response.''
   Dr Geraci said small, young whales which were least stressed were
the prime candidates for rescue. Measurements of heart rate,
temperature and blood should be taken quickly, and the Conservation
Department team, in conjunction with the university scientists,
should make early, informed decisions.
   Many theories for WHALE strandings had been put forward, but no
one could account for every scenario. Whales often made repeat
strandings because of earlier injuries. Their immense weight meant
they injured themselves just by being out of the water.
     ``We believe that when injured whales return to sea, they may
well elect to beach themselves again, and in so doing, lead more
healthy whales to their deaths. So we need to make that early
distinction.''
     Dr Geraci said there was no indication whales today were
stranding in greater numbers than in decades past. It was true
entanglement in fishing gear was on the increase, and more whales
were being killed with boat strikes.
   ``We can also show most stranded animals carry burdens of
contaminants of all kinds -- much more than they ever did before the
days of industrial pesticides. But we cannot make the link between
the presence of those contaminants and strandings.''
   Dr Geraci said few countries had as much public interest and
activity as New Zealand when it came to WHALE strandings.
   ``Your country could well be the leader in understanding the
reasons behind the strandings and in establishing firm criteria for
handling them on the beach.''


NZPA PMS ks