Minke whaling estimates???

whe_william@flo.org
Mon, 27 May 1994 07:41:47

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Subject: Minke whaling estimates???
 
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Subj:	Possible Flaws in Norwegain Minke Whale Estimates
 
Date:         Wed, 25 May 1994 01:15:12 BST
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From:         Richard McLanaghan <ifaw@gn.apc.org>
Subject:      Possible Flaws in Norwegain Minke Whale Estimates
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To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
 
 
 
 
 
Release Immediate: May 23, 1994
 
 
 
                        NORWAY'S DOUBLE VISION
 
                         PUTS WHALES AT RISK
 
 
 
A series of oversights based on sloppy interpretation of data
 
means that Norwegian statistics used to support its pro-whaling
 
stance are seriously flawed, says the International Fund for
 
Animal Welfare (IFAW) as the International Whaling Commission's
 
annual meeting opens in Mexico this week.
 
 
 
The IWC Scientific Committee Report, released today, reveals
 
unresolved  problems with the Norwegian estimate for the number
 
of minke whales in the North East Atlantic.  The number blunder
 
means that the real best estimate may be as low as 53,000 whales
 
and not 87,000 as repeatedly claimed by Norway.
 
 
 
Norwegian and other scientists will meet in December to go over
 
the calculations in detail.  Meanwhile, there is no valid
 
estimate of the number of whales in the North East Atlantic on
 
which any calculations of catch quotas can be based.
 
 
 
Norway has used the higher figure to claim that it justifies
 
their killing 250 minke whales each year in the North East
 
Atlantic under the proposed new rules of the IWC.  If the lower
 
estimate is correct, their catch quota would be less than one
 
whale.
 
 
 
The bungled calculation was made by Norwegian scientists and
 
presented to the IWC in 1992 where it was reluctantly accepted as
 
"the best estimate available" until the IWC's own scientists had
 
a chance to review the data.
 
 
 
"The Scientific Committee of the IWC was irresponsible in blindly
 
accepting the Norwegian estimate rather than waiting to calculate
 
the numbers themselves", said IFAW's scientific advisor Dr Sidney
 
Holt who is attending the meetings.
 
 
 
Now IWC scientist Dr Justin Cooke has examined the data and his
 
paper to the Scientific Committee shows startling slip ups.  He
 
explains that the Norwegians simply miscounted the number of
 
double sightings of the same whales in their analysis.
 
 
 
"Dr Cooke's re-calculation, based on very careful scrutiny of the
 
original raw data, leads to an estimate of the number of minke
 
whales as about 53,000.  And that would give a catch quota of
 
less than one whale under the IWC's proposed new rules." added Dr
 
Holt.
 
 
 
"Dr Cooke's study has shown that the Norwegian scientists were,
 
at best, careless.  Now the Norwegian authorities have no agreed
 
number on which to base their decision about whether to engage in
 
"outlaw" whaling again this summer.  They will probably try to
 
bluff their way out of this mess, as they have done before."
 
 
 
IFAW Animal Welfare Director Paul Seigel said: "This also means
 
that the US Government, which has been trying with increasing
 
desperation to find excuses for not imposing sanctions on outlaw
 
Norway that US domestic law mandates, is facing a serious
 
dilemma.
 
 
 
"In any case Norway's unyielding pro-whaling policy is daily
 
looking more threadbare than ever."
 
 
 
Ends....
 
 
 
Further Information:
 
IFAW PR (UK) (44) 0892 668724 or 0634 830888
 
 
 
Notes for Editors
 
 
 
How Many Minke Whales in the Northeast Atlantic?
 
 
 
 
 
Dr Justin Cooke has presented to the Scientific Committee a
 
re-analysis of some of the Northeast Atlantic minke whale
 
sightings data obtained by Norwegian scientists. If Cooke
 
is right there are about 53,000 minke whales in the
 
Northeast Atlantic, not 87,000 as claimed by Norwegian
 
scientists. Calculation of a catch limit from each of these
 
numbers leads to very different results; about 250 animals
 
from the Norwegian estimate close to zero from Cooke's.
 
 
 
Cooke has calculated a new value for  g(0), a critical number
 
used in the calculations which lead to population estimates.
 
G(0) is a measure of the chance that a whale on the track of
 
the survey vessel will be seen. It can range from zero to one.
 
If all whales present are seen then g(0) = 1. If g(0) is 0.5
 
then the raw estimate is doubled. Cooke's best estimate is
 
0.59, compared with the earlier Norwegian estimate of 0.36.
 
 
 
The difference between the estimates of g(0) arises mainly
 
from differences in numbers of whales identified as duplicates
 
[ie the same whale seen by different observers] in the data
 
from experiments carried out especially to estimate g(0).
 
Discrepancies arise from a combination of poor specification
 
of criteria for such identifications, subjective judgements
 
that cannot be reproduced, inadequate specification of their
 
methods by Norwegian scientists.  It seems that the Norwegian
 
scientists were careless in their analyses of their own data
 
in that they missed many duplicates.
 
 
 
It also seems that the majority of the Scientific Committee
 
acted irresponsibly in uncritically 'accepting' the Norwegian
 
analyses in 1992, and in not attempting to verify them in
 
1993. While the RMP itself may be a finely tuned and
 
exhaustively tested instrument, the casual approach that the
 
Scientific Committee appears to have taken in advising how it
 
might be implemented (should the Commission so decide) clearly
 
leaves much to be desired.