Dolphins under threat… and not just from huntingBy Graham Land Sep 04, 2013 6:00AM UTC
Though much attention has been paid to the brutal hunting of dolphins in Taiji, Japan (largely thanks to documentary film The Cove and continuing publicity), the world’s dolphins are at risk from a variety of threats.
Dolphins in the Atlantic are currently falling victim to a measles-like disease termed the Morbillivirus. The death count is currently at 333 since July, but is expected to grow, perhaps surpassing a similar outbreak a quarter of a century ago, which resulted in 740 dolphin deaths.
Read more about that story in this AFP report.
In the Pacific region dolphins aren’t faring much better and this time it’s humanity that is the main problem. More specifically, US military exercises that threaten the lives of hundreds of dolphins and whales in Pacific waters.
Studies conducted by the US military itself estimate thousands of unintentional serious injuries and hundreds of deaths will be caused by military exercises in Hawaiian waters and off the Southern California coast as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and off the East Coast of the US during the years of 2014-2019.
From the Huffington Post:
According to the reports, computer models show it may kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California.
The Navy said it developed the estimates by totaling the hours it will test and practice with sonar, torpedoes, missiles, explosives and other equipment over five years. Experts then combine the data with what’s known about the marine mammals and then use computer modeling.
As usual it’s the innocents that pay the price for selfish objectives of just a few.
Meanwhile, in Australia researchers are studying how a pod of dolphins is adapting to an “urban lifestyle”. The pod lives in Perth’s Swan Canning Riverpark, a place considerably more dangerous for dolphins than other habitats due to the proliferation of risks like boats and fishing lines.
See this BBC video report for more.
While strandings are a common and perhaps largely “natural” hazard for dolphins, it is nice when humans lend a hand instead of being the cause of so much cetacean distress. The dolphin that wandered up the River Dee in Wales last month and eventually got stranded on sandbanks was fortunately rescued and returned to the sea.
It is also heartening when influential individuals lend their voices to the fight against dolphin cruelty and slaughter, as former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum did in Taiji.
Although some Japanese nationalists flaunt the dolphin slaughter as some sort of cultural badge, most Japanese do not consume or even support the use of dolphin or whale meat.
Former dolphin trainer turned activist Ric O’Barry is quoted by the Associated Press:
Our work here is about supporting the Japanese activists. You only hear about the blood and the guts, and it’s being created by less than 50 men. It’s not even the whole town of Taiji, and certainly not the country of Japan.
Bringing the former Guns N’ Roses drummer to Taiji is a way of appealing to the youth of Japan, who are presumably more sympathetic to dolphins and rock and roll than cruel displays of extreme nationalism.