By Dr. Marcos Sommer
Species such as the North Atlantic right whale, the baiji dolphin, the vaquita or the gray whale of the Northwest Pacific could become extinct this century if immediate action is not taken.
The pro-hunting policies of countries such as Japan pose a serious risk to cetaceans.
Vote buying is as deadly as a whaler's harpoon.
Ø Despite the resounding rejection of Norway and Japan, champions of commercial whaling, the proposal to create a Special Committee for the Protection of whales obtained 25 votes in favor and 20 against during the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC ) held between June 16 and 19, 2003 in Berlin, Germany.
Ø If the practice of vote buying continues, the Japanese government could end the result of 31 years of work to protect whales.
Ø In May 2003 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published a report warning that some species of cetaceans could become extinct within a decade and others would remain critically endangered.
Ø The ban on international hunting has not succeeded in preventing 60,000 whales from perishing annually, according to the most pessimistic estimates the number even rises to 300,000 among dolphins and whales, victims of normal fishing.
Ø Japan and its allies rejected the proposal of Argentina and Brazil to convert the South Atlantic, where the right whale lives, into a sanctuary, and others, of Australia and New Zealand, to do the same in the South Pacific.
Ø The distressing thing is that as long as there are countries like Japan that take advantage of legal loopholes for their own ends, the future of the whales can never be guaranteed.
The ignorance of humanity is putting the oceans of our planet in danger. We have created this problem due to the false impression that the oceans are infinite - they must dissolve, absorb, purify and render harmless everything that humanity produces.
Humanity is discovering in the worst way that the oceans are not infinite, much less invulnerable. Apart from man, whales are the only species that still migrate freely through all the oceans of this planet and occupy an important place in the structure and functioning of the seas and oceans. Most of these animals are the last link in complex food chains and can therefore serve as indicators of the health of an entire ecosystem. They are also the largest mammals on earth and certainly the most mysterious and interesting, since many things are unknown about them. The alarming problems facing many populations of dolphin and porpoise whales reflect the severity of the crisis facing the oceans.
Already in 1925 the League (IWC) of Nations recognized the overexploitation of the species and the need to stop catches. The moratorium was not achieved until 1986. The Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 undoubtedly represented a new historical milestone in favor of the environment. The Spirit for the Conservation of the planet and its people was reborn, contemplating future generations that they called: Sustainable Development. The native peoples have applied it without knowing it since long ago. Wiser and more pragmatic demonstrated that it is possible to obtain economic well-being, cultural growth and quality of life without attacking nature.
Countries that have not respected it for various reasons (Japan, Norway, Iceland and others) claim that the whale population has recovered. Thanks to the moratorium, large whales such as the gigantic blue whale, which can reach 150 tons in weight, even the tiny 15-ton minke whale are in immediate danger of extinction. But the blue fin whale and its cousin the Atlantic right whale are classified as endangered species, while the boreal right whale, the Patagonian right whale, the boreal whale, the fin whale and the humpback are considered vulnerable species. The gray whale population of the Atlantic Northwest has barely 300 or 350 individuals and that of the Northwest Atlantic has been so severely damaged that it is about to disappear from the planet. Likewise, there are between 100 and 200 specimens of the gray species of the Pacific Northwest, while other cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises, have also fallen to critical levels.
Pollution, food shortages, collisions with boats, climate change and the increasing degradation of their habitat seriously endangers the existence of seven of the 13 species of large whales in the world, which also suffer from non-compliance with the moratorium international. According to the latest research, whales are increasingly affected by the accumulation of chemical elements in their fats, which are slowly released through their milk to their young.
The chemical revolution of the last half of the 20th century has created a multitude of new products and by-products, many of which are accompanied by highly toxic materials that when concentrated become almost deadly poisons. Among the most dangerous and persistent are the organohalogens (organic compounds that include chlorine, fluorine, bromine and fluorine); examples of these compounds are dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or better known as DDT, biphenyls, polychlorinates, furans and dioxins. Some of these toxins can be found in some pesticides and herbicides.
Many of these compounds last for hundreds to even thousands of years. There is evidence to suggest that these substances may be responsible for lower sperm production in men, anatomical malformations, developmental problems in fetuses, learning problems in children, and increased deficiencies in the immune systems of all mammals.
Noise levels from industrial marine activities have increased seriously affecting these animals that use a sonar system to navigate and communicate, as well as to find food.
Another problem that cetaceans suffer are the changes in the climate of recent years, which have caused severe disturbances in ocean currents, as well as global warming that causes polar melt, which could cause an ecological destabilization of the Arctic and Antarctic that would put endangered species that live in the area.
From June 16 to 19, 2003, the meeting of the International Whaling Commission was held in the German city Berlin. The ritual verbal warfare took place between those who sought to increase their hunting quotas and those who opposed. While in Berlin they discussed quotas, and the prohibition of the so-called "hunting for scientific purposes" of cetaceans developed by Japan and Norway, and which Iceland also wants to practice, the specialists indicated that whaling is no longer the real thing. trouble. For years there has been a discussion about the fishing quota, when in reality the real danger for large cetaceans is artisanal fishing. Tens of thousands of cetaceans are accidentally caught each year in fishing activities and some species and populations, such as the North Atlantic right whale, the baiji dolphin, the vaquita or the gray whale of the Northwest Pacific, could become extinct this century if measures are not taken immediate.
The ban on international hunting has not succeeded in preventing 60,000 whales from perishing annually, according to the most pessimistic estimates the number even rises to 300,000 among dolphins and whales, victims of normal fishing. They perish in nets or are caught in the ropes that tie lobster hunting baskets. Others are victims of ghost nets, lost nets that drift aimlessly and continue to kill on their way. More whales die today than in decades of peak hunting. The hunting quotas of the Norwegians and Japanese are 1301 dwarf whales, 10 sperm whales, 50 Sei and 50 Bryde whales in 2003. In the Baltic Sea for example, normal fishing has decimated the pig almost completely and it is estimated that survive at most about 100 specimens. In this sea 7,500 whales die annually in normal fishing nets. Bycatch is the main problem for whales in this century, but this issue does not concern the International Commission on Whaling.
The Committee created at the Berlin meeting will advise the International Whaling Commission on ways to deal with problems that threaten marine mammals, such as pollution, climate change, sonar waves and fishing nets. In addition, the creation of the committee will make it possible to integrate whale conservation into the institutional structure of the Commission that emerged 55 years ago, especially to regulate capture.
On the other hand, unknown a few decades ago, commercial whale watching has quickly become a multi-million dollar global business in several countries. Well managed, this recreational activity is a good opportunity to develop sustainable tourism in coastal regions that have this natural resource.
Many countries have adopted navigation guidelines and standards for whale watching, adapted to each species and place. The goal is to cause these extraordinary creatures as little annoyance as possible, thereby helping them survive and ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy this productive activity.
In some cases, whale watching may have arisen precisely because their hunting is in decline. In Iceland, for example, whale watching increased 250 percent between 1994 and 1998. According to a survey of tourists, it is likely that this growth would not have occurred if Iceland had restarted whaling.
Japan's attitude of buying votes from nations belonging to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in exchange for financial aid, this maneuver has been known for a long time. This attitude further discredits Japan's environmental credibility. The Japanese interest in whaling is from a very small group of Japanese, some five hundred families who are dedicated to the business. The scientific argument of the Japanese is a false front to maintain a lucrative whaling industry in Japan, where meat is still sold in restaurants and shops, this adds up to about 80 million dollars a year. Government subsidies reach $ 4 million annually.
However, the international public option is decidedly in favor of the conservation of whales, and countries like Norway and Japan have felt the effects in aspects such as tourism and the consumption of their products.