Three news items about whales caught my attention:
Off the northwest coast of Maui, a juvenile humpback whale (30-35 feet) was reported entangled in polypropylene rope. Officials from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary were successful in removing hundreds of feet of rope but more still needs to be extracted from the whale's mouth. We have seen whales with fish nets or rope wrapped around the tail; entangled around the head and mouth would possibly explain this whale's reported weakened condition, being unable to feed properly. The whale is being tracked and officials hope to remove the remaining rope soon. Let's wish them luck and hope for the whale's speedy recovery. Derelict "ghost" nets and loose line pose a hazard to whales and the growth of industrial fishing - more boats, more nets - only increases the chances for an accidental encounter. Read The Maui News article.
Off the west coast of New Zealand, a sperm whale washed ashore, apparently the victim of a ship's propeller. The sharp cut across the whale's dorsal fin area exposed muscles and intestines and probably was an unfortunate slow death. Staff from New Zealand's Department of Conservation examined the whale and took biological samples, then allowed representatives of indigenous tribesmen bless and bury the whale in accordance to local custom. There have been issues in the past with sorting out safe shipping lanes that don't interfere with known whale migratory routes. A reduction in ship speed has proven somewhat effective in some areas, but the occasional accidental encounter seems inevitable. Read stuff.co.nz article.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, NOAA proposed a 3,000 square mile critical habitat for beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet. There is a required public response period before the proposal is enacted, and already the habitat opponents have got the PR wheels in motion. Meant to stir the blood of Alaskan citizens, here is a choice exaggeration from Alaskan Senator Don Young, declaring the proposal was "yet another attempt to halt resource production and development in Alaska and a step toward making the whole state a national park for the enjoyment of outsiders." What's clever here is that any input from national conservation groups or comments/petitions from non-Alaskans will appear like more interference from the "outsiders." Outside support for the proposal will be inevitable but there will need to be strong support from Alaskans too to combat this kind of clever PR positioning. Read UPI.com article.
Seems like whaling is not the only thing that puts these majestic creatures at risk. . .