Showing posts with label whales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whales. Show all posts

Friday, 5 April 2019

The rare Omura’s whale

The New York Times, 22 March 2019:

An Omura’s whale in waters off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. CreditCreditGabriel Barathieu/Biosphoto, via Alamy

Salvatore Cerchio stunned the small world of whale science in 2015 when he found examples of a new species in the wild for the first time. Now, he’s mapped the habitat of that species, called Omura’s whale after Hideo Omura, a prominent Japanese whale biologist.

The surprise in the new study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, is that Omura’s whales, though little seen, are widespread across the tropical world.
Dr. Cerchio, a researcher with the New England Aquarium in Boston, found a population off the northwest coast of Madagascar, where he works, and compiled reports of sightings from Japan, Australia, Brazil and off the coasts of Indonesia, among others. In total, from photographs, audio recordings, museums and documents, he identified 161 accounts of Omura’s whales in 95 locales.
Scientists said the finding is a reminder of how little we actually know about what goes on in the world’s oceans….

Japanese researchers first identified Omura’s whales in 2003, based on a 1998 stranding in Japan and tissue from eight animals killed during Japanese scientific whaling operations in the 1970s. The Omura’s whales have relatively small bodies, distinct genetics and unusually shaped skulls, leading researchers to conclude that the new species had split off from its genetic cousins 17 million years earlier.

Omura’s whales are baleen whales, meaning they are filter feeders, and they can be identified by their asymmetric coloration. The right side of their jaws are white, with a swirling, smoky splash of light coloration and four bisecting dark stripes on the right side of their heads, and their backs are decorated with asymmetrical chevrons. They favor tropical environments more than most whales and don’t migrate, Dr. Cerchio said.

After publishing his 2015 paper, in which he described more than 40 whales seen in the wild and expanded their range beyond the Indo-Pacific, Dr. Cerchio said people sent him pictures of similar looking whales.

“Little by little it became clear that there were a lot more out there that could be researched and tallied,” he said.

At the urging of Bob Brownell, the paper’s senior author, Dr. Cerchio counted images he received, those he’d stumbled across on the internet, as well as sound recordings and historical sightings dating back to a 1955 magazine article from Hong Kong University that misidentified an Omura’s whale as an immature fin whale.

Bob Pitman, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in this research, said he was surprised to learn the scope of the species’ habitat. “I think most of us whale scientists expected that it would have a small, relatively localized population,” he wrote.

As Mr. Pitman noted, “if new whales are still being described, it means we are probably also losing species of animals that we never even knew existed.”

Monday, 4 March 2019

From September 2019 onwards underwater seismic blasts will rock the Great Australian Bight around the clock over a 30,100 sq kilometre area

ABC News, 15 January 2019:

Oil and gas testing is set to take place in the Great Australian Bight this year, after the national petroleum regulator granted permission to exploration company PGS.

Environmental groups have slammed the decision to allow seismic testing near Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln, while the tuna industry has questioned whether it is even likely to go ahead.

Seismic testing involves firing soundwaves into the ocean floor to detect the presence of oil or gas reserves….

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) granted permission for the testing to be done over a 30,100-square-kilometre area, located 80 kilometres from Port Lincoln and 90 kilometres west of Kangaroo Island.

The testing is set to take place between September and November.

The fishing industry has long had reservations about the impact seismic testing would have on the local tuna industry.

PGS has been ordered not to interfere with or displace pygmy blue whales, southern bluefin tuna, and southern right whales…..

The Wilderness Society has slammed the permit, saying the practice can deafen whales and even kill smaller marine animals.

"It's obvious that blasting massive amounts of noise constantly for months on end through a water column in a space where animals communicate and navigate and live by sound and sonar, it is obvious that this is going to have a terrible impact on those animals," the environmental group's Peter Owen said.

"I fail to see how you can actually approve this type of seismic activity in the middle of one of the most significant whale nurseries in the world.

"It's totally unacceptable."

The Greens say the seismic testing is the first step to drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

"Why on Earth would we be wanting to sink oil wells in the Great Australian Bight, put our marine life and beaches at risk and make climate change worse," senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

"We've got to be getting out of fossil fuels and transitioning to a clean, green economy."

There has been little research into the impact of seismic testing in Australia, but Western Australian researchers have found noise from seismic air guns significantly increased mortality in scallops.

Commencing on or about 1 September 2019 for an initial period of 91 days a fofeign-owned PGS survey vessel will be operating sounding equipment 24/7 in the Bight at a seismic source pressure of est. ~2,000 pounds per square inch (psi) with the two or three arrays firing alternately every 16.67 to 25 m, each with a maximum volume of 3260in. (See Duntroon Multi-client 3D and 2D Marine Seismic Survey Environment Plan at pp.24-25).

This is what happened when such testing went ahead in the Atlantic Ocean……..

Earthjustice is suing the federal government to prevent seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. The process involves the blasting of shockingly powerful seismic airguns every few seconds for hours or even days on end and can cripple or kill marine life in the search of offshore oil or gas deposits.

Earthjustice is challenging the administration’s actions in court, and on Feb. 20, we joined a coalition of other conservation groups asking a federal judge to block the start of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean until our case has been heard.

The tests, harmful in their own right, are just the first step in the administration’s broader plans to open up 90 percent of U.S. federal offshore waters to the fossil fuel industry, despite widespread opposition from Americans across the nation.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Japanese Government to withdraw from International Whaling Commission and recommence commercial whaling?

The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 December 2018:

Japan is to withdraw from International Whaling Commission by the end of the year, giving it the freedom to resume commercial whaling, Japanese news agency Kyodo has reported.

Kyodo quotes a government source as saying that Japan is unlikely to catch whales in the Antarctic Ocean after its withdrawal.

The government is considering allowing commercial whaling only in seas near Japan as well as the country's exclusive economic zone, the source said.

The decision will be announced by the end of this year, Kyodo said.

Humane Society International (HSI) said in a statement that, if the reports were confirmed, they would mark a welcome end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.

However, Nicola Beynon, from HSI in Australia, believes that Tokyo's decision to leave the rules-based order of the IWC would place Japans' North Pacific whaling program completely outside the bounds of international law.

She also fears that Japan may recruit other pro-whaling nations to leave the IWC, "leading to a new chapter of widespread and unauthorised killing of whales for profit".

"This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for international rule. We're going to continue to press the international community to bring an end to the unjustified persecution of whales for commercial profit wherever it occurs," she said.

The IWC was established in 1948 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Japan joined the organisation in 1951.

Kyoda News, 20 December 2018:

The following is a chronology of events related to Japan's whaling.

1948 - The International Whaling Commission is established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

1951 - Japan joins the IWC.

1982 - The IWC adopts a moratorium on commercial whaling.

1987 - Japan starts hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean for what it calls "scientific research" purposes.

1988 - Japan halts commercial whaling.

1994 - Japan launches research whaling in the Northwest Pacific.

2005 - Anti-whaling Sea Shepherd starts obstructing Japan's research whaling in the Antarctic.

2014 - The International Court of Justice issues an order to halt Japan's research whaling in the Antarctic.

2015 - Japan resumes research whaling in the Antarctic by reducing the number of whales it hunts.

September 2018 - The IWC rejects Japan's proposal to resume commercial whaling at an annual meeting in Brazil.

Dec. 20 - Japan's plan to withdraw from the IWC comes to light.

Japan has until 1 January 2019 to notify the International Whaling Commission of its intention to withdraw.

Friday, 10 August 2018

The fight against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic continues....

Minke Whale Breaching at

Australia states its position……

Joint media release
Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy, The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

2 August 2018

Australia is very concerned by Japan’s latest proposal to lift the global moratorium on commercial whaling at the next International Whaling Commission meeting in September 2018.

Australia remains steadfastly opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling and continues to be a leader in seeking to strengthen the International Whaling Commission to protect whales.

We strongly support the 30-year global moratorium on commercial whaling and will vehemently oppose any attempts to undermine the processes that support it, including through changed voting regimes or the establishment of catch-limits for commercial whaling.

Australia and Japan enjoy a deep and strong bilateral relationship, but we disagree on the issue of whales. At the Commission meeting in September, Australia will be calling on like-minded nations to reject Japan’s proposal.

Australia has worked tirelessly to see an end to commercial whaling. We have co-sponsored resolutions to improve the operation and scrutiny of the Commission and its scientific committee; we have supported the establishment of new sanctuaries where whales can thrive in their own environment; we initiated the Commission’s twelve-nation Southern Ocean Research Partnership supporting non-lethal whale research; and we successfully took Japan to the International Court of Justice.

The Australian Government will continue to advocate strongly and consistently for the cessation of commercial whaling and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. The science is clear, you do not need to kill whales in order to study them.

How one Japanese newspaper reported the issues……

The Japan Times, 4 August 2018:

SINGAPORE – Japan and Australia agreed Friday to make efforts to prevent their whaling dispute from hurting bilateral relations, a government official said.

During talks in Singapore, Foreign Minister Taro Kono briefed his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop about Japan’s proposal to restructure the International Whaling Commission to make it easier to resume commercial whaling.

But Australia is strongly opposed to all forms of whaling, raising concern that ties between Tokyo and Canberra could be strained by a practice that Japan says is a cultural tradition.

Last month, Japan proposed resuming whaling of some species of relatively abundant whales. The government halted commercial whaling in 1982, in line with the global moratorium adopted by the IWC, but has hunted the mammals since 1987 for what it calls “scientific research purposes.”

In September 2014, the IWC adopted a resolution saying Japan should abide by the International Court of Justice’s ruling earlier this year that its “scientific whaling” program was illegal and should be halted.

Bishop and environment minister Josh Frydenberg released a joint statement on Thursday condemning the proposal to lift the global moratorium on commercial whaling.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Japan finds threats and bribery not working as well as expected with member countries in International Whaling Commission – will seek to change voting rules

I’ve lost count of the times that Japan has threatened to leave the International 
Whaling Commission (IWC) and bribery allegations seem to have been floating 
around forever. 

However, it appears the Government of Japan is not satisfied with results to date 
and now want to see IWC voting rules changed so that it won’t take as many 
threats and bribes to get its way and recommence large-scale commercial whaling.

Kyoda News, 27 June 2018:

Japan is set to propose resuming commercial whaling of some species at a 
meeting of the International Whaling Commission in September as a ruling 
party endorsed the government plan on Tuesday.

Tokyo is targeting certain types of whales whose numbers are relatively 
abundant such as minke whales for the proposal, but it remains uncertain 
whether it can secure support from members of the IWC that are split over 

Tuesday's approval by the Liberal Democratic Party came amid emerging 
calls from some government officials and ruling party lawmakers that Japan 
should weigh withdrawal from the IWC.

Their criticism is directed at the divisive and what they see as dysfunctional 
nature of the international body, with one ruling party source saying, "We 
are not going to drag this out."

At the meeting from Sept. 10 to 14 in Brazil, to be chaired by Japanese 
government representative Joji Morishita, Japan plans to make a packaged 
proposal that also calls for easing of the IWC's decision-making rules, a plan
seen as a tactic to court anti-whaling members.

Currently, approval from a majority of three-fourths of IWC members is 
needed to set a catch quota or a sanctuary where whaling is banned. 
The Japanese proposal is to lower the hurdle to a simple majority.

The potential easing of the rules will make it easier for anti-whaling members
to secure support for designating a new whale sanctuary.

Of the IWC's 88 members, 40 support whaling while the remaining 48 are 
against the practice, according to Japan's Fisheries Agency.

The IWC, which aims to manage whaling and conserve whales, was 
established in 1948. In 1982, it declared there should be a moratorium on 
commercial whaling and the ban came into force in 1986.

Japan stopped commercial whaling across the board in fiscal 1988. But it 
continues to hunt whales for "research purposes," drawing criticism 
overseas that the practice is a cover for commercial whaling.

Phys Org, 27 June 2018:

At September's meeting in Brazil, Japan "will propose setting a catch 
quota for species whose stocks are recognised as healthy by the IWC 
scientific committee", Hideki Moronuki, an official in charge of whaling at 
Japan's fisheries agency, told AFP.

Moronuki said the proposal would not specify which whale species and 
how many mammals Japan wants to hunt, but he said the IWC classifies 
several species as no longer depleted.

The moratorium has been in place since 1986, and Japan's previous 
attempts to win a partial lifting have been unsuccessful.

Japan will also propose measures to change the body's decision-making 
process, lowering the threshold for proposals to pass from three quarters 
of members to half.

"The IWC has not been functioning. We should get united to build a more 
cooperative system," Moronuki said.

Tokyo has continued to hunt whales despite the moratorium, exploiting a 
loophole allowing "scientific research". It says the research is necessary to prove whale populations are large enough to sustain a return to commercial 

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables, despite a significant decline in the popularity of whale meat.

Whales were a key protein source in the immediate post-World War II years, 
when the country was desperately poor, but most Japanese now say they 
rarely or never eat whale.

But foreign pressure on Japan to stop whaling has hardened the positions 
of conservative activists and politicians.

Japan cancelled its 2014-2015 hunt after the International Court of Justice 
said permits being issued by Tokyo were "not for purposes of scientific 

But it resumed the hunts in 2016, and conservationists were furious this 
year after Japan reported it had caught 333 minkes on its latest expedition, 
122 of which were pregnant.

Japanese officials said the high rate of pregnant whales showed the strength 
of the minke population.

Japan's last bid to ease the restrictions was in 2014, when the IWC voted 
down its request to hunt 17 minke whales in its coastal waters—where 
smaller whales which Japan claims are not regulated by the committee are 
already hunted.

Friday, 1 June 2018

This barbaric whale slaughter must end!

Antartic minke whale in Science, Space and Robots blog, 23 April 2014, 30 May 2018:

The Courier-Mail can reveal that 95 per cent of the female whales slaughtered by the Japanese were carrying calves.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has slammed the Japanese whale hunt.

“The Australian Government is deeply disappointed that Japan continues to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” he said.

“The Government has made representations at the highest levels to Japan – and will continue to do so…..

Japanese whalers killed 333 minke whales – plus 122 unborn calves – in the Southern Ocean last summer.

“Apparent pregnancy rate of sampled animals was high’’, the Japanese whalers stated in a new report to International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee meeting in Slovenia this month.

“One or two minke whales were sampled randomly from each … school using harpoons with a 30g penthrite grenade.’’

The whalers killed one in every three of the protected marine mammals they spotted.
Eleven whales managed to avoid the harpoons by hiding in water with high-density ice.

Over three months, two Japanese ships equipped with cannons hunted the whales for 12 hours a day – harpooning some whales 10m long.

Commercial whaling was banned more than 30 years ago but Japan continues to hunt by using a loophole to kill whales for “scientific research’’.

The Humane Society International (HSI) blasted the harpooning of pregnant whales as a “truly gruesome and unnecessary’’.

HSI senior program manager Alexia Wellbelove said the “scientific whaling’’ was a front for the meat trade, as the whales were taken back to Japan for human and pet food.

“The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt,’’ she said yesterday.

Ms Wellbelove called on State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to use her trade visit to Japan this week to lobby its government to stop whaling.

“They claim it’s necessary to understand whale biology but that information can be obtained through a biopsy,’’ Ms Wellbelove said.

“The whales often get used for pet food.’’

The IWC report, written by employees of the Institution of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, the Kyodo Senpaku fishing company and Tokyo University, says the whales were killed to obtain data on the “age, sexual maturity and body length of the whales’’.

The Japanese analysed the stomach content to “estimate prey consumption’’ and measured blubber thickness to “study the nutritional condition’’ of the dead whales.

Minke whale surfaces through Antartic ice, photo set

Friday, 13 April 2018

No wonder I don’t buy Japanese goods – including those now 100% Japanese-owned well-known Australian brands

The Strait Times, 31 March 2018:

This undated file picture released on February 7, 2008, by the Australian Customs Services shows a mother whale and her calf being dragged on board a Japanese ship after being harpooned in Antarctic waters .PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese whaling vessels returned to port on Saturday (March 31) after catching more than 300 of the mammals in the Antarctic Ocean without facing any protests by anti-whaling groups, officials said.

A fleet of five whalers set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, as Tokyo pursues its "research whaling" in defiance of global criticism….

The fleet caught 333 minke whales as planned without any interruption by anti-whaling campaigners, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement…..

Japan is a signatory to the International Whaling Commission moratorium on hunting, but exploits a loophole that allows whales to be killed for scientific research.

Tokyo says the slaughter is necessary for in-depth knowledge of whale behaviour and biology, but it makes no secret of the fact that whales killed in the hunts often end up on dinner plates.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Tweet of the Week

Thursday, 25 January 2018

In the face of Turnbull Government inaction & legal restraints on Sea Shepherd the Government of Japan signals intention to continue whale slaughter in Southern Ocean

The Guardian, 23 January 2018:

Japan is to defy Australia and other nations with plans to replace its whaling fleet’s ageing mother ship, showing its determination to continue its annual expeditions to the Southern Ocean.
The country’s fisheries agency is planning to replace the 30-year-old Nisshin Maru with either a new ship or a refitted one bought overseas, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The newspaper quoted agency officials as saying that a new mother ship was needed to haul whales on board to be butchered during Japan’s controversial “research” hunts in the Antarctic.
Whaling officials have also said they needed a faster ship to evade anti-whaling activists. The marine conservation group Sea Shepherd recently said it was abandoning its pursuit of Japan’s whalers in the Southern Ocean, but has not ruled out a resumption of its campaign.
The group has clashed with the Japanese whaling fleet several times since it started obstructing the vessels in 2005.
The introduction of a new mother ship is expected to anger anti-whaling nations, as it signals Japan’s determination to continue slaughtering hundreds of whales in the Antarctic every winter.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A reminder that the Government of Japan still allows its whalers to slaughter whales in the Antarctic section of the Australian Whale Sanctuary

Australian Whale Sanctuary,
In 2015 Environmental Defenders Office ( EDO NSW) received instructions from Sea Shepherd Australia to help them obtain information from the Commonwealth Government relating to illegal whaling practices by Japanese vessels in the Southern Ocean

The resulting application was refused by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, requiring EDO NSW to press their client’s case with the Commonwealth Information Commissioner. 

In May 2017, the Information Commissioner ordered the release of the documents and this video was made public in the following November.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Japan's government sanctioned whale killers returned to home port in March 2017

ABS-CBN, 31 March 2017:

TOKYO - Japan's whaling fleet returned on Friday from its months-long Antarctic hunt in the name of scientific research with a take of more than 300 minke whales, a hunt that prompted complaints from Australia.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan should halt Antarctic whaling and Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling programme, including measures such as cutting the number of whales and species targeted.

It resumed hunting in the 2015-2016 season.

The final ships of the five-vessel whaling fleet returned to the southwestern port of Shimonoseki, having achieved their goal of 333 minke whales, the Fisheries Agency said…..

Japan intends to take nearly 4,000 whales over the next 12 years as part of its research program and has repeatedly said its ultimate goal is the resumption of commercial whaling.

Shimonoseki, a major whaling port, is in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's electoral district.

Japan, which has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture, began what it calls "scientific whaling" in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

The meat ends up on store shelves, even though most Japanese no longer eat it.

Japan has shrugged off repeated international protests, including those from key ally the United States. In January, Australia said it was "deeply disappointed" that Japan had continued its hunt, just days after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had discussed it with Abe.

Anyone wishing to politely make their views on Japanese whaling in the South Ocean/Antarctica known to the Government of Japan can do so with these contact details:


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
1-6-1 Nagata-cho
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968 JAPAN
Tel: +81-3-5253-2111
E-mail form:
Public Relations Fax: +81-3-3581-3883


Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida
Foreign Affairs online comment page:


Minister of Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries Hiroshi Moriyama
1-2-1 Ksumigaseki
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8907 JAPAN
Fax: +81-3-3502-0794
E-mail form:


Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Australia Sumio Kusaka
Embassy of Japan in Australia
112 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla
Canberra A.C.T.2600

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