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OUTRAGE OVER WHALING ... #2 <cont>

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Wed 9 Jan, 2008 06:56 pm
This is a continuation of the Outrage Over Japan's plan to slaughter humpback whales thread, which got too big:

http://www.able2know.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=51564&start=0

Please post all your new comments here.

Thanks,
Olga
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Type: Discussion • Score: 13 • Views: 64,385 • Replies: 1,075

 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jan, 2008 07:04 pm
The last post from the previous thread:

Robert Gentel wrote:
msolga wrote:

My comment was about killing whales (for profit.)


Sorry if I made it look that way, I was connecting his two posts to comment across both of them to the effect that his respect should be held in low regard. And yes, in your own incredibly polite way you expressed your disagreement with the ethnic slurs.

Quote:
I don't have much respect for the systematic killing of whales under the pretext of "scientific research".


Japan has been very very open about wanting to resume commercial whaling. If your problem is just the "pretext" then why not support a removal of the ban so they can call a spade a spade? The use of conservationism as a pretext to ban all whaling doesn't bother you, so I think the answer is obvious. You object to killing whales at all, not to what it's called.

Quote:
Particularly when there is not even sufficient market demand for the whale meat to justify the extent of the killing (from the whaling industry's point of view.)


But again I don't think this is the real point. Let's say the Japanese decide to eat more whales and the demand resumes. Does that make you happy? No, because your problem isn't that not enough whales are being eaten, your problem is that any whales are being killed.

Quote:
Any "respect" issues I might have about killing animals would be directed at the industries, not the workers within them.


At the end of the day, it's still a human being on the other end who thinks differently. You can't abstract the difference of opinion to inanimate industries. At the end of the day the basic disagreement between what is an acceptable animal to kill is still the bottom line.

Call a spade a spade: If whales were not threatened by extinction at all, and if the demand existed, would you have a problem with whaling?
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jan, 2008 07:04 pm
We're in business! Very Happy
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jan, 2008 07:53 pm
Robert,

I think, being in grave danger of repeating myself endlessly, I might just pass on attempting to answer your questions in a way that you'd find "valid".
The fact is that I do find whaling (especially in a designated whale sanctuary) objectionable, whether it is under the guise of "scientific" whaling or not. Perhaps the Japanese should just call a spade a spade & just thumb their noses at the IWC & conservationists & go about commercial whaling openly, like the Norwegians? It will not make the industry any more "respectable" for many conservationists & I can't understand why this "respectability" - of appearing to be operating within "the rules" of the IWC - is sought. It just turns the debate into farce, I think. As I've said earlier, the IWC is not the appropriate body to be protecting whales, it's brief is whaling.

"Call a spade a spade: If whales were not threatened by extinction at all, and if the demand existed, would you have a problem with whaling?": You won't be satisfied with this response, either, I'm afraid, but to me, they are magnificent creatures, many of which are threatened with extinction. And they are killed in a cruel manner which I can't condone. And the demand doesn't exist for whale flesh to the extent that they are slaughtered right now. So my response to your hypothetical question is that I continue to have a problem with whaling, along the lines, say, that I'd have a problem with a magnificent old growth forest being destroyed for wood chips. Why do it if you don't have to and other alternatives are available? I know that's not a very satisfactory response, but there you go ...
Now, I'm hoping that better minds that mine will come along and debate these issues with you more satisfactorily.
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jan, 2008 09:48 pm
msolga wrote:
Perhaps the Japanese should just call a spade a spade & just thumb their noses at the IWC & conservationists & go about commercial whaling openly, like the Norwegians? It will not make the industry any more "respectable" for many conservationists & I can't understand why this "respectability" - of appearing to be operating within "the rules" of the IWC - is sought.


The Japanese aren't trying to make it respectable, they are merely complying with a treaty they are party to for legal reasons, and as to why they don't withdraw it has a lot to do with Australian pressure (and even more to do with the subsequent American pressure).

The reason Japan is walking this tightrope is no secret, the US has very directly threatened Japan over this in the past. That is why.

Quote:
It just turns the debate into farce, I think.


There was never any real debate, the US threatened Japan with economic sanctions and that was that. The economic might of the western nations was wielded to bludgeon other cultures into acceptance. There's nothing to debate if either side is unwilling to compromise or even to agree to disagree.

Quote:
So my response to your hypothetical question is that I continue to have a problem with whaling, along the lines, say, that I'd have a problem with a magnificent old growth forest being destroyed for wood chips. Why do it if you don't have to and other alternatives are available? I know that's not a very satisfactory response, but there you go ...
Now, I'm hoping that better minds that mine will come along and debate these issues with you more satisfactorily.


No no, don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for you to justify it, I was just seeking confirmation that conservation, the technicalities of the treaty and demand aren't the core issues for you so much as not having magnificent animals killed.

I completely understand, as it's very much human nature to place different values on different animals. For example, I have no qualm with killing a cockroach but would with killing, say, a cat. That's normal. Heck I know hunters who will hunt ducks but not deer. It's normal to value animal species differently.

But if you do accept that your position is that you feel the whales are too magnificent to kill my question is whether you recognize the subjective nature of such morality. Some people think that cows are too magnificent to kill, would you find it reasonable to be criticized the same way for eating beef? I know you don't think it's the same thing, because you just don't feel that way about cows, but some do and it's no more fair to take others to task for not feeling the same about whales as it would be to take you to task for not venerating cows.

In any case, I predict that whaling will decrease in short order. Modern commercial whaling needs scale to be profitable and the market can't support it. I know you don't necessarily have the same faith in the market correcting itself that I do but I think it may be due to not putting enough focus on the parts of Japan's history that make it want a market.

Given that Japan has the among the least arable land of any country and one of the highest population densities on earth it becomes obvious that Japan relies on the sea to feed itself and always will. Whales were actually very important to Japan at some points in its (recent) history.

There are complications to the industry itself that makes it require scale to survive and part of what you see where the demand doesn't meet the supply generated is related to the fact that they don't want to lose some of the industries they've relied on in the past. Whale meat is Japan's cheapest source of protein, in a country where they can't possibly produce even half the amount of protein its population needs its not a resource they are going to want to let go of easily.

Other nations without the challenges of not having anywhere near the arable land needed to feed their population have a hard time understanding this, and it seems extra senseless to them without this context.

In any case, take heart in that commercial whaling will almost vanish within our lifetimes, not because of the culture clash but just because of the market (other meat becoming cheaper for Japan is the biggest thing going for whales right now). The culture clash is just making it all worse. The US encouraged Japan to whale repeatedly from 1850 to the 1970s and then forced them to stop in the 80s. Japanese are now just as concerned about foreigners telling them what to eat as they are about their food resource concerns.

The market and public opinion are the real solutions, and where the disagreement has been less vitriolic it has worked. In Iceland and Norway the market is reducing whaling, but the vitriolic dispute with Japan is slowing down the natural solution:

"Whalers have been stopped by economic interest because there is no market for whale meat in Norway or elsewhere. Even if they could catch more ... they chose not to," said Truls Gulowsen, manager of Greenpeace Norway.

Iceland's fisheries minister Einar K. Guofinnsson said that it made no sense to issue new quotas if the market for whale meat was not strong enough. "The whaling industry, like any other industry, has to obey the market. If there is no profitability there is no foundation for resuming with the killing of whales. There is no reason to continue commercial whaling if there is no demand for the product."

For more on reasonable ways to protect whales read this: Whale quotas: A market-based solution to the whaling controversy published in the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review.

Here is a link I found for the article (in Firefox the text is cut off):
http://www.allbusiness.com/public-administration/administration-environmental/1145563-1.html
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 08:09 am
Robert Gentel wrote:
No no, don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for you to justify it, I was just seeking confirmation that conservation, the technicalities of the treaty and demand aren't the core issues for you so much as not having magnificent animals killed.


That is certainly one concern. But conservation, animal welfare/cruelty & the IWC-related issues definitely are, too.

Robert Gentel wrote:
But if you do accept that your position is that you feel the whales are too magnificent to kill my question is whether you recognize the subjective nature of such morality.


Yes, that's definitely a part of my position. I'm not denying that.

Robert Gentel wrote:
In any case, I predict that whaling will decrease in short order. Modern commercial whaling needs scale to be profitable and the market can't support it. I know you don't necessarily have the same faith in the market correcting itself that I do but I think it may be due to not putting enough focus on the parts of Japan's history that make it want a market.


You're right. I don't have nearly the same faith in market forces as you do. And I believe that environmental imperatives will have as much (or more) impact on eventually bringing the whaling industry to an end.

Robert Gentel wrote:
There are complications to the industry itself that makes it require scale to survive and part of what you see where the demand doesn't meet the supply generated is related to the fact that they don't want to lose some of the industries they've relied on in the past


Exactly. And whaling is just part of the overall Japanese fishing industry. Not a major part of it all. Japan supplies something like 15% of the world's fish & is often criticized for "over-fishing" certain species, like tuna. Fishing is a very important domestic & export industry to the Japanese & conservationists have argued that their position on whaling is as much resistance to any restrictions on their fishing activities.

Robert Gentel wrote:
For more on reasonable ways to protect whales read this: Whale quotas: A market-based solution to the whaling controversy published in the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review.
Here is a link I found for the article (in Firefox the text is cut off):
http://www.allbusiness.com/public-administration/administration-environmental/1145563-1.html


I haven't had a chance to read the article right through, though so far it covers a lot of the familiar IWC territory well. It looks interesting, but as I said earlier, I don't have quiet the same faith in market forces (particularly as the sole solution) as you do. Anyway, I'll definitely give it consideration. Thanks for the link.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 09:38 am
Im having trouble with Robert's entire argument. It seems based only in semantics. Of course we understand the JApanese culture and its use of whale meat. The entire world once used whales as a source of lamp oil until the late 1800's then we discovered incandescent lighting or paraffin based lamp oils.
Eating an animal to its extinction is hardly a definition of sustainability. We allow Innuits to kill fin whales because its a subsistance "crop", however the annual hunts are monitored by Canada and Greenland(Denmark).
To announce that killing 50 humpbacks as "research" is amazingly cynical and says more about the insousiance of the Japanese Whalers, not us.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 10:04 am
farmerman wrote:
Im having trouble with Robert's entire argument. It seems based only in semantics.


I can see how you'd like to construe it that way as it's easier than addressing my arguments but it's very clear that my arguments are not semantic in nature. Your difficulty in responding to the argument is due to your lacking responses, not to any semantic nature of the arguments.

I'll make it real clear for you again: What right do the US, Britan and Australia have to tell others what animals are ok to kill?

Quote:
Of course we understand the JApanese culture and its use of whale meat.


I disagree. You demonstrate little knowledge or understanding of Japanese culture.

Quote:
The entire world once used whales as a source of lamp oil until the late 1800's then we discovered incandescent lighting or paraffin based lamp oils.


And lamp oil has nothing at all to do with modern whaling. It is only related in that it was one of the reasons that the US encouraged Japanese whaling and has nothing to do with Japan's motives.

Quote:

Eating an animal to its extinction is hardly a definition of sustainability.


And nobody is talking about eating an animal to extinction. It's not my fault if you can't keep up farmerman. Minke whales are flourishing. There will still be opposition to hunting them because the opposition now has less to do with conservation than the notion that whales are too "magnificent" to kill.

Again, if extinction is the problem then what qualm do you have with hunting minke whales?

Quote:

We allow Innuits to kill fin whales because its a subsistance "crop", however the annual hunts are monitored by Canada and Greenland(Denmark).


And what people here can't seem to get is that they are in no position whatsoever to "allow" people to do anything. Japan has a sovereign legal right to whale and you have no position of authority to do anything about it. You don't "allow" anything, you just think you do on your high horse.

Quote:

To announce that killing 50 humpbacks as "research" is amazingly cynical and says more about the insousiance of the Japanese Whalers, not us.


Nah, it says a lot about you too. It says that your cultural ignorance and intolerance is helping push the disagreement further toward animosity. Japan's whaling is not endangering any whale species, and that's a pretext by the anti-whaling camp to play culture police and tell people what animals are ok to kill.

That's not semantics, it's just an argument you'd like to ignore.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 10:41 am
msolga wrote:

Robert Gentel wrote:
But if you do accept that your position is that you feel the whales are too magnificent to kill my question is whether you recognize the subjective nature of such morality.


Yes, that's definitely a part of my position. I'm not denying that.


Then who decides what animals are too magnificent to kill? Some people venerate cows and Japan isn't too attached to beef or pork. They could just as easily start a culture clash over meat they aren't fond of.

The Japanese position is that all humans have a right to consume all animals unless their consumption endangers the species existence.

To move into "some animals are too cool" territory is a very fundamental change in human rights. I'd actually like to see it happen but I'd like for it to happen without arbitrary sentimentality being the litmus test and without western cultures dictating the terms. I think it's understandable that people who are not part of the dominating cultures would have their reservations on how this new ethic is prosecuted.


Quote:

You're right. I don't have nearly the same faith in market forces as you do. And I believe that environmental imperatives will have as much (or more) impact on eventually bringing the whaling industry to an end.


I actually like and support the environmental imperatives. The IWC saved whales. But the environmental imperatives have become a pretext for cultural imperatives and that doesn't serve anyone well.

Quote:

Exactly. And whaling is just part of the overall Japanese fishing industry. Not a major part of it all. Japan supplies something like 15% of the world's fish & is often criticized for "over-fishing" certain species, like tuna. Fishing is a very important domestic & export industry to the Japanese & conservationists have argued that their position on whaling is as much resistance to any restrictions on their fishing activities.


And a valid one at that. If they accept western imperialism they may have a legitimate problem in feeding themselves.

Quote:
I don't have quiet the same faith in market forces (particularly as the sole solution) as you do.


I have faith that without a market the unprofitable nature of whaling will curb it. But I don't think the market is the sole solution.

I credit the environmental position for diminishing the market. But now we aren't in environmental territory anymore. Whale populations are growing and now it's about the decision of which animals are ok to kill. That's a different ethical argument and the Japanese legitimately call foul.

I do want to make clear that I want to see fewer whales killed. I also credit the environmental positions of the 70s that saved many whales and perhaps some species from extinction.

But the modern argument is one of a new world of human/animal rights in which highly evolved species are afforded additional rights. This is a hijacking of the conservation position and needs to be more fairly argued and not dictated to others on the basis of the conservationist position.

It harms the conservationist position, which is widely accepted as reasonable for a fringe position on what animals are ok to kill. I care a lot about that because I really detest extinction. While I care (to a lesser degree) about the highly-evolved argument I think it needs to be more fairly prosecuted or it tramples human rights for that of animal rights.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 11:12 am
Robert-Minkes are only "flourishing " as a relativistic term. Their numbers are almost halved from pre whale days. They were never a real target because they are small


The Humback Whale IS thretened . Despite its post whaling rebvound , the population in the North Atlantic is actually endangered by lack of genetic diversity (This is science from Woods Hole, not emotion)

You dont agrre that weve given up whaling for oil because other technologies have rendered it undesirable as a resource?

Whale meat IS NOT part of JApanese culture? What research can you name that underpins this whale hunt? flavor research?

Youre dismissing the rgument of extinction. Extinction actually happens as a function of an unsustainable population mass. A "Critical mass" of any whale species is needs for the free mixing of diversity, otherwise well have populations of slowly disappearing species. The Japanes have not proferred IWC with any proposals as to the nature or goals of their "research" and most of us here feel that its a slickly covered ruse to do market hunting. Do you know otherwise?


Im still not convinced that your attempts at this argument are anything but wordplay. Ive seen no real substance or ideas except the automatic gainsay of msolga's (and now my) opinions.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 03:38 pm
farmerman wrote:
Robert-Minkes are only "flourishing " as a relativistic term.


Incorrect. There is near-universal consensus within the academic community of marine biologists that the minke whales are flourishing. So it's only "relative" to the effect that you are redefining the term.

Quote:
Their numbers are almost halved from pre whale days. They were never a real target because they are small


You make no sense. Pre whale days? You must mean pre whaling but you'd still be making up numbers. The bottom line is that certain whale species are flourishing, and are increasing in population even while this grave danger to their populations you assert is happening.

Quote:
The Humback Whale IS thretened . Despite its post whaling rebvound , the population in the North Atlantic is actually endangered by lack of genetic diversity (This is science from Woods Hole, not emotion)


I have never once asserted otherwise. This is a straw man. Want to bring the dodo into your arguments as well?

Quote:
You dont agrre that weve given up whaling for oil because other technologies have rendered it undesirable as a resource?


I've never said otherwise again, I only said your point is completely irrelevant because modern whaling has nothing to do with whale-oil lamps like you referenced. Japanese whaling has nothing to do with oil lamps and your point remains vapid.

Quote:
Whale meat IS NOT part of JApanese culture?


Says farmerman, who knows next to nothing about Japanese culture. It does not fall unto you to decide what is and what is not part of Japanese culture for them.

That being said, whaling of this nature is far less a part of Japanese culture than many make it out to be. Yes there are some small villages where whaling is very much a part of Japanese culture, and yes Japan requested exemptions under the "aboriginal" clause many times to have it rejected. But cultural arguments don't play out as well as basic food resource arguments so yes they've been overplayed.

But the bottom line is that it falls unto no one but the Japanese to decide what is and what is not part of their culture and furthermore whether or not it is part of their culture they have the moral and legal right to whale anyway.

It's not up to farmerman to decide what other people can eat, just as farmerman wouldn't accept others deciding what he can and can't eat.


Quote:
What research can you name that underpins this whale hunt? flavor research?


You are displaying enormous reading incomprehension. I have long argued that Japanese whaling is nothing but commercial (I've said it here several times, give it a read), and quite frankly they don't have any need to justify it as research if they don't want to. They can just withdraw from the treaty altogether and call a spade a spade.

As it stands, the treaty that they were threatened into allows for "scientific" quotas and the subsequent commercial sale of the meat. Since they've always been very clear in their objection to the ban they are merely following the letter of the law that they agreed to.

So again, it's commercial whaling. So what?

Do you also have problems with commercial fishing?

Quote:
Youre dismissing the rgument of extinction.


No, I am doing nothing of the sort. You simply choose not to address my point and make up others. Extinction is not the issue.

Japan is willing to engage in conservationism, Japan is not willing to allow your sentiments to dictate their food resources unilaterally.

Japan is not endangering any whales so this is an intellectually bankrupt argument from people who hijack it for their own agenda.

Quote:
Extinction actually happens as a function of an unsustainable population mass.


And the whale species being hunted have fully sustainable population masses. Again, a completely pointless red herring.

Quote:
A "Critical mass" of any whale species is needs for the free mixing of diversity, otherwise well have populations of slowly disappearing species.


I am well-versed in genetic diversity. What's your point? Japanese are hunting whales with plenty of genetic diversity at sustainable levels.

Again, what's your beef? You can't invoke extinction when it has nothing to do with the current dispute.

Do you have a problem with whales that are not endangered being hunted at sustainable levels? If so, then you are just hijacking conservationism for your own reasons since all the Japanese conservationism in the world won't make you happy.

Quote:
The Japanes have not proferred IWC with any proposals as to the nature or goals of their "research" and most of us here feel that its a slickly covered ruse to do market hunting. Do you know otherwise?


Of course not. It is commercial whaling and I've said that time and time again. I can't be faulted for your obtuseness.

Now what I did argue is that they have the legal and moral right to commercially hunt whales. Where's your response to that?

Quote:

Im still not convinced that your attempts at this argument are anything but wordplay. Ive seen no real substance or ideas except the automatic gainsay of msolga's (and now my) opinions.


I can live with not convincing you of anything, as it seems like an effort in futility. But don't claim it's wordplay, since you can't address a single one of the arguments I brought up. I'll even summarize them for you so that you can pretend they are wordplay again and ignore them:

- Humans have the right to consume any animal as long as they do so in sustainable ways.
- Western nations have no legal right to tell others what to do. Despite what their hubris leads them to believe.
- Western cultures kill animals for profit as well, and are much more destructive to the environment than any other culture in history. they have no moral authority to tell others what animals they can and can't kill without being hypocrites.

Ergo, if Japan wishes to commercially hunt whales you are going to have to come up with arguments other than extinction and IWC since hunting whales can be done while conserving sustainable whale populations and the IWC is a voluntary organization that Japan can legally just ignore.

So go ahead and call it "semantics" or "wordplay" while conveniently failing to address any of the arguments. Just expect me to call a spade a spade and call you out on your vapidity.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 03:52 pm
Robert wrote:

"To move into "some animals are too cool" territory is a very fundamental change in human rights. I'd actually like to see it happen but I'd like for it to happen without arbitrary sentimentality being the litmus test and without western cultures dictating the terms. I think it's understandable that people who are not part of the dominating cultures would have their reservations on how this new ethic is prosecuted."


I am interested in what you would see as a legitimate litmus test for animals being "way too cool to kill". (I am struggling with reasoned criteria in my own thinking.)



Do you think over-fishing may reverse the trend against whaling, especially for countries like Japan?


I note a Japanese argument I have often seen, but not, I think, on this thread, is that some whales (clearly baleen whales don't count, except as possible competitors with fish for food) compete with humans for fish. Therefore, they argue, whales should be culled, just as dingoes and kangaroos are.


Over-fishing seems to me to be becoming more and more of a problem.
0 Replies
 
Stradee
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 03:59 pm
Whale populations are too low to resume commercial hunting, geneticists find

BY MARK SHWARTZ

Scientists have vastly underestimated the number of humpbacks and other great whales that inhabited the North Atlantic Ocean before the advent of whaling, according to geneticists from Stanford and Harvard Universities. Their findings, published in the journal Science, could represent a major setback for countries that advocate lifting a 17-year moratorium on commercial whaling established by the London-based International Whaling Commission (IWC).



The worldwide population of humpback whales, estimated at 20,000 may have been as high as 1.5 million before the advent of 19th-century commercial whaling, according to a new genetics srudy by researchers from Stanford and Harvard Universities. Photo: Dr. Louis M Herman / NOAA

"The IWC is the main organization that regulates whaling, and its policies allow for the resumption of commercial hunting when populations reach a little more than half of their historic numbers," said Stephen R. Palumbi, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford and co-author of the July 25 Science study. The problem, he noted, is that the IWC bases its historic estimates on unconfirmed whaling records dating back to the mid-1800s.

"It is well known that hunting dramatically reduced all baleen whale populations, yet reliable estimates of former whale abundances are elusive," wrote Palumbi and Harvard graduate student Joe Roman, lead author of the study. "Whaling logbooks provide clues, but may be incomplete, intentionally underreported or fail to consider hunting loss."

Genetics surprise

To assess the accuracy of historic whaling records, Roman and Palumbi turned to the science of population genetics.

"Our study marks the first attempt to use genetics rather than whaling records to confirm the number of whales that used to exist," said Palumbi, whose lab is based at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "The genetics of populations has within it information about the past. If you can read the amount of genetic variation -- the difference in DNA from one individual whale to another -- and calibrate that, then you can estimate the historic size of the population."

In their study, Roman and Palumbi focused on the genetics of humpback, fin and minke whales -- three species decimated in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries by the demand for whale oil (for lamps, candles, soaps and perfumes), baleen (for whips, corsets and other devices) and meat. Although humpbacks, fins and minkes are found in many oceans, the researchers restricted their DNA analysis to the North Atlantic -- with surprising results.

"The genetics we've done of whales in the North Atlantic says that, before whaling, there were a total of 800,000 to 900,000 humpback, fin and minke whales -- far greater numbers than anybody ever thought," Palumbi said.

Take humpback whales, for example. According to the IWC, the current population of North Atlantic humpbacks is about 10,000, compared to its historic high of 20,000 -- a figure based on old whaling records. But after comparing DNA samples from 188 humpbacks, Roman and Palumbi concluded that the historic population in the North Atlantic may have been 10 times greater than the IWC estimate.

"A small population tends to weed out all of its genetic differences through inbreeding," Palumbi observed. "A large population, by contrast, should have a lot more genetic variation. Our study shows that humpback whales today actually have about 10 times more genetic variation than would be expected from the whaling logbook estimates. That tells us that, sometime in the past, the population of humpbacks was pretty big -- and in fact our calculation for the North Atlantic suggests that the historic size of that population was about 240,000 animals."

Using these results, Palumbi estimated that the worldwide humpback population could have been as high as 1.5 million -- more than 10 times the IWC's global historical estimate of 100,000. Exactly when the population reached that size will have to be determined in future genetic expeditions, he added: "We know from the genetics that there were many, many humpback whales in the ocean, but when those numbers started to drop is something we haven't been able to pinpoint yet."

Palumbi pointed out that, although the humpback population today is small because of whaling, "the genetic signal persists in that population for a long time, so we're really reading the past signal in the current population. And that past signal is far higher than it should be if there were only 20,000 whales in the North Atlantic."

An analysis of fin whale DNA yielded similar results. According to historic whaling records, about 40,000 fin whales once inhabited the North Atlantic. Current IWC estimates place today's fin whale population at 56,000, which would be an all-time high. But a genetic comparison of 235 fin whales by Roman and Palumbi revealed that the actual pre-whaling population was probably about 360,000 -- again, roughly 10 times higher than the IWC's historical estimate.

"Somehow we have to reconcile those numbers," Palumbi added. "That's going to require going back and looking at the whaling records. Are they complete? Have there ever been large hunts of whales that weren't recorded? These are things that we have to find out."



A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaches off the coast of Hawaii. Found in all the oceans, humpback whales reach sexual maturity at around age 12 and can grow to 48 feet long. PHOTO: Stan Butler/NOAA

Conservation conundrum

For Palumbi, reconciling those numbers is not an esoteric pursuit but rather an essential component of whale conservation for the 21st century. "Several countries would like to re-start commercial whaling," he noted. "The question is, when is a population large enough to allow whaling to begin? That depends upon how many whales there used to be before whaling wiped them out."

In 1986, the IWC declared a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling -- a position respected by all 51 IWC member-nations except Norway, which openly permits the annual sale and slaughter of about 550 North Atlantic minke whales, and Japan, which allows certain species in Antarctica and the North Pacific to be harvested for "scientific purposes." Under IWC guidelines, a majority of members could lift the moratorium and allow other countries to hunt whales in regions where the population has reached 54 percent of its original carrying capacity.

"This is a real conundrum," Palumbi said. "Humpback whales, for example, were thought to have numbered about 20,000 in the North Atlantic, and we're up to about 10,000 now, so at that rate, the IWC could allow countries to start killing humpbacks within the next decade. But if the historic population was really 240,000, as the genetics suggests, then we wouldn't be able to start whaling for another 70 to 100 years."

Conservationists also are concerned about the fate of minke whales, whose meat is prized in Norway, Japan and elsewhere. In their Science report, Roman and Palumbi analyzed DNA samples from 87 minke whales and concluded that the pre-whaling North Atlantic minke population was at least 265,000 -- roughly twice the number of minkes that inhabit the North Atlantic today, according to the IWC.

Phantom knowledge

"In light of our findings," Roman and Palumbi concluded, "current populations of humpback or fin whales are far from harvestable. Minke whales are closer to genetically defined population limits, and hunting decisions regarding them must be based on other data."

Unfortunately, Palumbi added, much of the scientific data on the state of the oceans -- past and present -- has proved incorrect: "We forgot how many whales there were, or we never really knew. We could call this presumption of information 'phantom knowledge.'"

Many ocean ecosystems are in serious decline, he noted, pointing to a well-publicized study in the May 15 issue of the journal Nature, which found that approximately 90 percent the oceans' stocks of tuna, cod and other large predatory fish have been depleted by commercial fishing. Whales are also large predators, and their demise has had a significant impact on ocean ecosystems, observed marine biologist Boris Worm, co-author of the Nature study.

"One of the few collective actions of mankind was to save the great whales from extinction through a worldwide ban on commercial whaling," said Worm, a researcher with the Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany. "This new paper by Roman and Palumbi shows us that, despite recent population increases, we are still far away from our goal of allowing whales to recover fully from relentless exploitation."

The loss of more than 800,000 humpback, fin and minke whales in the North Atlantic is likely to have altered the entire web of life in that ocean, added James Estes, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct professor of biology at the University of California-Santa Cruz: "Clearly, the disappearance of the great whale was not an isolated event."

Not only are baleen whales major consumers of krill and small fish, he explained, but when they die, their massive carcasses sink to the bottom and provide vital nutrition for a wide variety of creatures on the sea floor. For example, an adult humpback can reach 50 feet in length and weigh up to 40 tons. Multiply that by 240,000 whales, and the impact of the loss becomes apparent.

"Sharks and killer whales are known to prey upon humpback whales, and their demise likely had a big effect on those predators as well," Estes noted. "So the implications of the Roman-Palumbi study for ocean conservation are startling. It could entirely redefine our recovery criteria for whales."

Watching versus whaling

Instead of catering to commercial whaling interests, a number of scientists and policymakers have urged the IWC to encourage the development of commercial whale watching -- an industry that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenues worldwide, according to a June 2003 report by the conservation group WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

"The IWC is a whaling organization. It's not a conservation organization, although the last IWC session did vote to include a new committee on conservation -- a major step for them. But the IWC's main goal is to re-start whaling as soon as whale populations have come back to levels it considers safe," Palumbi observed.

"Our conception of how the oceans and their ecosystems were put together probably needs to change, and genetics is one of the new tools that allows us to do that. We are the stewards of these magnificent creatures, and knowing something about their history is crucial in order to bring their populations back."

The Science study was supported by a Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grant in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology from the Marine Conservation Biology Institute; the National Science Foundation; and the Pew Charitable Trusts.


Genetics study reveals that historic whale populations were much larger than previous estimates
International Whaling Commission
Panda.org Endangered Species
International Fisheries Law
American Cetacean Society
The Palumbi Lab
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 04:20 pm
dlowan wrote:
Robert wrote:

"To move into "some animals are too cool" territory is a very fundamental change in human rights. I'd actually like to see it happen but I'd like for it to happen without arbitrary sentimentality being the litmus test and without western cultures dictating the terms. I think it's understandable that people who are not part of the dominating cultures would have their reservations on how this new ethic is prosecuted."


I am interested in what you would see as a legitimate litmus test for animals being "way too cool to kill". (I am struggling with reasoned criteria in my own thinking.)


I've struggled with it a lot. For example, I want an objective way to justify the right to kill a cockroach while rejecting the right to kill a cat or dog.

I think it's interesting to explore, and there's even another thread about dog food using kangaroo meat that touches on it, but I'd rather explore that elsewhere since the whale issue is full enough of red-herrings.

Quote:

Do you think over-fishing may reverse the trend against whaling, especially for countries like Japan?


I'm not sure what you mean by this.

Quote:

I note a Japanese argument I have often seen, but not, I think, on this thread, is that some whales (clearly baleen whales don't count, except as possible competitors with fish for food) compete with humans for fish. Therefore, they argue, whales should be culled, just as dingoes and kangaroos are.


Yeah, that's the weakest Japanese argument for whaling that I know of because they can't establish any factual basis for it (when they take it so far as to say whales are threatening certain fish). But as a concept I think it's a legitimate comparison.

Quote:

Over-fishing seems to me to be becoming more and more of a problem.


I agree, and think it needs to be addressed more urgently than whaling at the moment given the trends in each.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 04:42 pm
Robert Gentel wrote:
msolga wrote:

Robert Gentel wrote:
But if you do accept that your position is that you feel the whales are too magnificent to kill my question is whether you recognize the subjective nature of such morality.


Yes, that's definitely a part of my position. I'm not denying that.


Then who decides what animals are too magnificent to kill? Some people venerate cows and Japan isn't too attached to beef or pork. They could just as easily start a culture clash over meat they aren't fond of.

The Japanese position is that all humans have a right to consume all animals unless their consumption endangers the species existence.

To move into "some animals are too cool" territory is a very fundamental change in human rights. I'd actually like to see it happen but I'd like for it to happen without arbitrary sentimentality being the litmus test and without western cultures dictating the terms. I think it's understandable that people who are not part of the dominating cultures would have their reservations on how this new ethic is prosecuted.


There's plenty Id like to respond to here, but I haven't the time this morning ... Later, maybe ...

Robert, I've said it before & I'll say it again: my admiration for whales is a part of my motivation for wanting to protect them. (And why not? There is much to be in awe of.) but that is not my sole motivation & never has been. By selectively choosing to emphasize this one part of my position on this issue (& presenting it as a "some animals are too cool") you are trivializing my motives & beliefs. And frankly, I'm offended by that. (BTW, I'm also concerned about the near extinction of the Tasmanian Devil in Australia (along with other species under threat) & they're as ugly as sin! :wink: )
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 08:52 pm
msolga wrote:
By selectively choosing to emphasize this one part of my position on this issue (& presenting it as a "some animals are too cool") you are trivializing my motives & beliefs. And frankly, I'm offended by that. (BTW, I'm also concerned about the near extinction of the Tasmanian Devil in Australia (along with other species under threat) & they're as ugly as sin! :wink: )


Sorry about that msolga. My intention isn't to offend you, but quite frankly I think your other motivations are not valid in this context, which is why I focus on the remaining part of your position. I expect you probably don't feel that way but I hope that we can disagree on that without too much love lost. ;-)

I am summarizing here but the various motivations for objection to hunting whales seems to boil down to be:

- Whales are endangered.
- Whales are intelligent and magnificent.
- Whales are hunted in ways that are inordinately painful.

In regard to the first, it's just not an issue for the whales Japan is hunting. Some whales are endangered and others are not. Their populations are growing despite the hunt and marine biologists agree that the quotas are sustainable.

In regard to the second I think you have a valid point that I focus on but it's important to recognize the dramatic shift in human/animal rights that it represents and not confuse the issue with the other more accepted motivations. That's why I focus on it.

In regard to the third, it touches on human rights in that all animals humans have a right to kill suffer to some degree but more so in that modern whaling technology has invalidated this argument. It no longer takes hours to kill a whale with the advanced technology and whales can now be killed in a matter of minutes.

That's why I focus on the too "cool" to kill part. I suspect that my wording is also part of what offends you, as you feel I'm trivializing it as inordinate sentimentality, but allow me to assure you that I don't feel that way.

Sentimentality is part of what makes us human, and I would have it no other way. But at the same time I am cautioning against approaching it too dogmatically because sentimentality is subjective and cultures differ. As I've mentioned, a great deal of people are sentimental about cows as well and I don't want my cow-eating rights to be trumped by it as easily as happened with the whale-eaters.

As to why I use the "too cool to kill" it's because I can't pin down an objective criteria. It's not easy and this is a central part of the problem.

I feel that whales are too big to kill. But that's not good enough of an argument to take away a human's right to eat their food.

I feel that whales are too intelligent to kill. But that's not good enough either.

I feel that whales are too beautiful to kill. Again, I don't feel that's good enough.

I know that way of putting it seems like it trivializes it but it's really just the only way I can put it that covers it all.

For example, some people frame it as a "highly-evolved species" argument but that doesn't cover it all very well. I, for example, don't like any animal extinctions but care more about the "megafauna" (there's another way to put it) and can't really pin down an objective reason and am stuck with "cute" or "cool".

I know that sometimes it's the animal's intelligence, but other times it's just cute. For example killing a duckling or chick would be harder for me than a grown duck or chicken and that's just cause they are warm and fuzzy.

I am not trying to trivialize it, I actually think it's a very human trait to feel that way.

I am trying to get you guys to admit that this is the real bottom line for you, because I think when you mix in the other arguments it hurts all of them.

When people hijack the extinction concerns (IWC's purpose and the treaty's purpose) with the "too magnificent" concerns the extinction concerns are harmed. Japan has accepted the conservation position. Japan has not accepted the "too magnificent" position and I think they have a legitimate point on this subjective issue.

They were rattling their sabers about the humpbacks precisely because of this. The IWC treaties they agreed to did not have the absolute no-whaling position in mind at all but are being used for it. They also have the loophole that they can exploit if they want legally to kill humpbacks and are illustrating that they can be threatened into the ban and still follow the letter of the law without serving its purpose. It's a protest at their qualms with the IWC and with western culture's newfound megafauna ethics.

They have now withdrawn the quota on the condition that the IWC "normalize" and not attempt to foist the too magnificent position on them when that wasn't the original agreement. That is an example, in my opinion, of how an unfair hijacking of the IWC resulted in a stupid reaction by Japan that threatened an endangered species. I also think that the cultural imperialism of the IWC is ugly enough that that kind of response is understandable and predictable, if stupid.

This is why I care. I don't want the minority "too magnificent" position to undermine more widely held conservationist positions that are already working.

You claim you have all these motivations in mind and I don't doubt that you do, but my point is that only one is relevant to Japanese whaling and it needs to be owned up to by the anti-whaling camp because they are going about it with a false sense of authority that I feel harms the conservationist position as well as diminishes the chances of acceptance of the megafauna position.

I'd be happy call it something else if something appropriate can be coined but the difficulty in doing so is part and parcel of this whole debate.

What makes an animal off limits?

It's widely accepted that being endangered does, but Japan is respecting that.

Intelligence? Pigs are smarter than dogs.

Cute? Too subjective and in the eye of the beholder.

Appropriate food? One man's meat is another man's poison...

This is the only real issue in my mind. The suffering and extinction arguments just don't hold water anymore and it really boils down to nailing the megafauna argument and prosecuting it appropriately.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jan, 2008 11:30 pm
An attempt to begin to discuss some of the points raised above.

http://www.able2know.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=3033753#3033753
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jan, 2008 12:39 am
Quote:
Whale populations are too low to resume commercial hunting, geneticists find


I missed this article's misleading headline. In case it is posited in response to my challenge to dispute the notion that there is near-universal consensus among marine biologists that population levels for Minke whales are at levels that can support sustainable hunting I'd like to note that it does not even attempt to do so and even using techniques that result in 10 times more whales needed to sustain genetic diversity the authors don't claim that Minke whales are endangered.

Certain whale species that aren't being hunted are still to low and are not being hunted because everyone already knows it. Other species such as minke can be sustainably hunted as verified even by the authors of this new method:

Quote:

"In light of our findings," Roman and Palumbi concluded, "current populations of humpback or fin whales are far from harvestable. Minke whales are closer to genetically defined population limits, and hunting decisions regarding them must be based on other data."


Since Japanese aren't hunting the whales Roman and Palumbi are concluding are not harvestable I can't see what this has to do with the outrage over Japanese whaling (again, if it is in response to my posts claiming sustainable whale populations).

Edit: While fact checking my post quickly (specifically looking up whether Japanese are hunting Fin Whales) I noticed I may be wrong about Fin Whales and whether Japan is hunting them (which would make my claim that they are not hunting whales that are endangered specious). I'm leaving my post as is both because I'm not sure and because admitting my error is the more intellectually honest thing to do if I am wrong as some of my previous posts that I can't edit are based on this.

From what I can tell, Japan has recently hunted Fin Whales, but at lesser numbers than the aboriginal excepted communities in Greenland hunt them and at lesser numbers than Iceland. However Japan announced the intention of increasing this number to 50 whales in coming seasons and I don't know if that was withdrawn along with the humpbacks.

If Japan hunts Fin Whales at those kinds of numbers I think they would be ethically wrong.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jan, 2008 12:46 am
From what I can tell, as of late December the Fin quota had not been withdrawn. Fin Whale is Japan's favorite whale, supposedly having the best flavor so it may be a tough fight (I personally suspect Japan will reduce the quota to 10 or withdraw it).

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4335692a7693.html

One item from that article I'd like to highlight is this quote from New Zealand's Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick.

"It's no good if we all go on our high horse and Japan leaves the table ... If you change the structures, that's just more time. And we don't have a lot of time to buy here."

I can't agree more. From a conservationist position the high horse is something I view as a threat more than a help.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jan, 2008 06:41 am
Interruption to post this article I found today.:
This is especially for farmer's eyes! :wink:
Ian Campbell was the Oz environment minister in 2005 (when I started this thread) & represented us at the IWC meeting that year.
This story comes under the "remarkable conversions" category! (I love it!)
On ya, Ian! Very Happy :


Former minister joins anti-whaling crusade
Posted Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:03am AEDT
Updated Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:10am AEDT

http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200705/r147654_520986.jpg
Joining the fight: Ian Campbell has joined the radical Sea Shepherd group (ABC)

Former federal environment minister Ian Campbell has become the latest recruit in the anti-whaling campaign, joining the radical environment group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The former Liberal senator has told ABC's NewsRadio he wants to use his experience as an environment minister in the Howard Government to help Sea Shepherd block Japanese whaling ships.

But Mr Campbell admits he was once a critic of the group and its founder Paul Watson.

"I was worried about his tactics because Paul was making comments to the effect that he was prepared to lay his life on the line and I just don't think anyone should ever go to sea and seek to hurt someone else," he said.

"But I'm convinced that using really aggressive tactics, you can pursue aggressive tactics.

"I like his aggression. I like his passion. I like his dedication. I don't want to temper that."

Mr Watson says Mr Campbell is a "true friend" of the whales and a "welcome addition" to the advisory board.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/11/2136226.htm
0 Replies
 
 

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