Subject: Case Study: Climate change biggest risk to whales

Michael Williamson (
Thu, 6 Jun 1996 11:55:25 -0400 (EDT)

Why might this be so?
How could the climate affect whales?
What impact might this have on whales? us?

J. Michael Williamson
   Wheelock College
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.566.7369


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 07:46:56 -0700
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: Climate change biggest risk to

Climate change biggest risk to whales, says IWC

    By Michael Perry
     SYDNEY, Australia (Reuter) - Global climate change,
pollution and the hole in the ozone layer are greater risks to
the world's whale populations than whaling, International
Whaling Commission (IWC) Chairman Peter Bridgewater said
     Though resumption of commercial whaling would devastate
whale numbers, he said, there were no moves to do so, neither by
Japan which conducted "scientific" whaling nor Norway which
resumed whaling in May.
     "I think the threat from all sorts of extrinsic sources to
whale populations pose a significantly greater threat than the
whaling activities that exist," Bridgewater told Reuters.
     "We may well see potential for (population) crashes for
other reasons (than whaling)," he said ahead of this month's
IWC meeting in Aberdeen, Scotland.
     The IWC must now focus on these new threats, he said.
     "There is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest there
are effectsfrom pollution on whale populations, even though
they are highly migratory animals which spend a lot of their
time in what we would call remote oceans," Bridgewater said.
     The Environmental Investigation Agency, a research group
based in London and Washington, detailed in May recent cetacean
deaths as a result of pollution.
     More than 1,500 striped dolphins died in the Mediterranean
from a virus linked to high levels of pollutants; 750 bottlenose
dolphins were killed in the Gulf of Mexico from a combination of
pollution, viral infection and toxic algal; while toxic algal
killed 14 humpback whales off the U.S. east coast.
     Bridgewater said whale fat readily absorbed pollutants. "We
really need to have a more strategic global program looking at
the effects of pollutants on whales," he added.
     Climate change also posed a risk to whales, particularly in
Antarctica, a major whale sanctuary. Ozone depletion over the
Antarctic could expose whales to damaging solar radiation, whichcould impact on
future whale stocks.
     "My guess it will take a few years for these effects to
come through," Bridgewater said.
     A report on the effect of climate change on whales is to be
presented to the IWC meeting starting June 24.
     Antarctica's eco-system has been damaged in the past century
through whaling, sealing and krill fishing, he said. Shrimp-like
krill are a major food source for whales. Antarctica's altered
environment may also be adversely affecting whales, he said.
     To date, whale preservation has focused on a 1982 IWC
moratorium on commercial whaling. Currently 12 of about 80
species of whales are protected and populations are recovering.
     Bridgewater said he believed support for a global ban on
whaling remained strong, despite Japanese and Norwegian whaling,
moves to allow whaling for some indigenous peoples and reports
that South Africa may review IWC membership.
     Japan kills 400 minke whales each year in the Southern Ocean
for "research," whileNorway resumed whaling last month for
cultural and commercial reasons, intending to kill 425 minkes.
     Both countries will face strong criticism in Scotland,
Bridgewater said. "Australia will be pushing very hard for both
the Norwegians and the Japanese to reconsider their decisions."
     He said he did not believe the world would again see
large-scale factory-ship whaling, but Japan was intent on
creating a minke whaling industry. "Japan has made no secret
that that is what its long-term objective is," he said.