Subject: Minke whaling estimates???

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Mon, 27 May 1994 07:41:47

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Subject: Minke whaling estimates???
From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 24-MAY-1994 21:19:36.32
Subj:	Possible Flaws in Norwegain Minke Whale Estimates
Date:         Wed, 25 May 1994 01:15:12 BST
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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From:         Richard McLanaghan <>
Subject:      Possible Flaws in Norwegain Minke Whale Estimates
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
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
"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
"In any case Norway's unyielding pro-whaling policy is daily
looking more threadbare than ever."
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.