India Banned Dolphin Captivity on Moral Grounds Motherboard (blog) To anyone that has ever seen The Cove or read the growing mountain of evidence demonstrating the ills of cetacean captivity, this will come as a relief.
Dolphins Get Free Ride from Gray Whale Yahoo! News Scientists taking stock of cetaceans off California's coast captured an amazing sight from the air: a pod of dolphins enjoying a free ride from a migrating gray whale.
World's Oldest and Largest Species In Decline Scoop.co.nz (press release) Also assessed is the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis), a subspecies of the Narrow-ridged Finless Porpoise and one of the world's few...
In three-dimensional open space habits, and to a lesser degree open terrestrial habitats, cooperative groupings of animals have repeatedly evolved. These cooperative systems have been observed in a wide variety of animal taxa, ranging from sea urchins to cetaceans. Various attempts have been made to relate the origins of such patterns to kin or altruism theory. An evolutionary stable strategy appears to be involved.
We propose a graded series of group structures of increasing complexity by means of which three-dimensional groupings could have evolved without recourse to either group selection or even necessarily kin selection or reciprocal altruism. These structures are asocial and social aggregations, and polarized schools. Social aggregations and polarized schools allow cooperative feeding and avoidance of predation. They confer three predation-related advantages over living alone for animals in open environments: (1) the dilution effect of large prey numbers relative to those of predators, (2) the encounter effect, which provides some protection from searching predators, and (3) the confusion effect by means of which visual tracking by a predator is confounded. We suggest that the gaze stabilization system of the visual system is involved in the most advanced version of the confusion effect.
In polarized schools members sense and react to each other, forming a sensory integration system (SIS). This system allows detection and transmission of information across a school, flock, or herd in three dimensions.
Because members watch beyond their immediate neighbors the transmission of such group reactions can greatly exceed the reaction speed of individual members, or any predator. Because the confusion effect and the SIS depend upon uniformity of behavior the polarized school is uncommonly difficult and perhaps impossible to cheat against. We perceive this as a key factor in the establishment of the evolutionarily stable strategy of schooling.
Polarized schools and aggregations are considered as the extremes of a behavioral continuum. Because in daytime the polarized school is a safer place to be and because the aggregation allows more freedom of movement for such activities as food finding, groups in open space oscillate between the these extremes during varying levels of predation.
The social complexity of fish schools seems modest whereas dolphin schools show the complexities of fairly typical mammalian organization. Occupancy of open space by both oceanic dolphins and schooling fish seems to have fostered promiscuous mating. In both open water fish and mammals elements of a cooperative disposition occur, which involves both cooperation and suppression of some aspects of individuality. Such dispositional elements allow the automatic support of a cooperative society. Dolphin schools, which during daytime rest or danger react like fish schools, express typical mammalian organization at other times. Dolphin echolocation has probably allowed the expression of mammalian behavior patterns at sea because it confers a major advantage over shark predators. The expression of mammalian social complexity may have required both kin and reciprocal altruistic patterns in different species.
I just signed a petition to NOAA / National Department of Fisheries: Cease issuing permits to the Navy to emit sonar sounds into the oceans that harass, maim, and kill the sea life including whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans.
Out of sight: Grasping a steel spear in his right hand and the fin of a dolphin (obscured by tarpaulin) in the other, a fisheries worker smiles as he prepares to sever the animal's spinal cord in the bloody waters of 'killer cove' in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, in September 2009. | ROB GILHOOLY
From a cliff above the tiny cove, a stocky, bald man could be seen between tightly drawn lengths of green tarpaulin, a metal rod in one hand, and something long, black and smooth wriggling helplessly under the other.
Suddenly, the waters come alive with frantic splashes as the two objects meet and the water the man’s wading in turns a purplish red.
This was the culmination of the first dolphin cull of the 2009 season in Taiji, the fishing village in Wakayama Prefecture that gained worldwide attention following the release of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” that year.
The method employed — impaling the dolphins behind the blowhole to sever the spinal cord — seemed barbaric, but, according to a paper by Japanese researchers, it is more humane than the more random hurling of harpoons from boats employed previously in Taiji’s drive hunts.
Now, a new study by scientists in Britain and the U.S. rebuts those claims. “Our analysis shows that this method does not fulfill the internationally recognized requirement for immediacy,” said University of Bristol Veterinary School professor Andrew Butterworth, lead author of the paper. “It would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.”
Butterworth and his team assessed video footage of the Taiji cull, filmed covertly in 2011 for the German conservation group AtlanticBlue, in order to verify a study penned in 2010 by Toshihide Iwasaki and Yoshifumi Kai of the Fisheries Research Agency and Taiji Fisheries Association, respectively.
The Japanese report claimed that tests of this method had seen considerable reductions in the time taken for a dolphin to die, leading to further use from December 2008. In the case of four striped dolphins, death occurred in as little as five seconds instead of the 300 seconds needed using conventional practices, according to the report.
Examining the 2011 video footage, however, Butterworth and his team found that the time taken was in fact far longer, with one striped dolphin still moving 254 seconds after first being impaled.
“The disparity . . . calls into question the confidence that can be attributed to the data provided in the Iwasaki and Kai report,” says the study.
The criteria for death used in the Japanese report — given as “termination of breathing and movement” — is also flawed, it adds. Immobility could occur in any animal that had just had its spinal cord severed, while nonrespiration could simply reflect the dolphin’s ability to hold its breath for long periods.
The new paper also scrutinizes other aspects of the Taiji drive, such as the tethering of the animals to boats by their flukes to herd them into the culling cove. “From a scientific, humane and ethical perspective, the treatment of dolphins in the drive hunts sharply contradict current animal welfare standards employed in most modern and technologically advanced societies,” said the coauthor of the paper, Diana Reiss of Hunter College at the City University of New York.
A Taiji fisheries official who asked for anonymity insisted that footage seen by Butterworth and his team may simply have shown a one-off example, featuring less-experienced workers.
“Just as with cattle slaughtered by pistols shot by humans in the West, it is difficult to attain a 100 percent success rate,” he said. “On occasion it’s possible that the spear will not precisely hit the mark, but overall, death is instantaneous. . . . Picking up on one instance that shows this not to be true is just another example of one of the strategies employed to further the claim that we in Taiji are liars.”
Reiss admitted that there is a paucity of clear video footage of the culls such as that provided by AtlanticBlue due to the increasing tendency to shield them from public view, but that an abundance of other footage showed dolphins “flailing and struggling . . . well beyond a few minutes in this practice.”
“Our analysis also addresses the entire process of killing, including the rounding up of the dolphins at sea, the confinement in a cove for sometimes days, and then the actual dragging and herding to shore where they are killed in front of their kin and close allies — all of which is extremely stressful and inhumane,” said Reiss, who has studied the cognition and communication of dolphins for more than 25 years.
“In the U.S. and the U.K., regulations and guidelines governing the humane treatment and slaughter of animals prohibit the killing of an animal in the presence of other animals.”
The Taiji fisheries official said he had no knowledge of the regulations, but added that if they became international requirements they would consider implementing them.
Another unnamed Taiji fisheries official who tried to hinder this reporter’s coverage of the cull in 2009 lambasted what she called “hypocritical” and “racially motivated” condemnation of the hunting methodology, saying kangaroo culling in Australia was far more brutal and that spinal cord transection was also practiced on chickens and other animals in the West.
Researchers say this is a chalk and cheese comparison. With large animals such as dolphins, accuracy of spinal cord severance is problematic, they say.
“To penetrate the spinal canal, the rod would have to accurately enter the space between vertebrae . . . or to damage the cervical vertebral bone sufficiently to allow spinal cord severance,” the U.K.-U.S. study says. “Either of these processes, if carried out with a rod after passage through muscle and other tissues, is unlikely to be applied with a high degree of precision.”
As a result, exsanguination becomes a drawn-out process, inducing first paraplegia and death through trauma and gradual blood loss, the study continues. The process is prolonged further by a practice introduced in 2009 whereby a wooden peg is inserted into the wound. This is undertaken, say Iwasaki and Kai, to prevent excessive water contamination. “It also opens up a potential avenue for the commercial use of the blood,” their report says.
Butterworth and his coauthors say that the method described “does not conform to any recognized mechanism for bringing about death in accepted humane slaughter or euthanasia practice in large mammals.”
The Taiji Fisheries official countered: “Who decided these (recognized mechanisms)?”
The new study has its critics, with expert Lori Marino of Emory University calling the decision to focus on the culling method “unfortunate” as it implies “there is a humane way to end a sentient life.”
“At very best, these statements are worded in a way that can only lead the average person to conclude that there are more acceptable ways and less acceptable ways to kill dolphins,” Marino said. “The idea that there are proper and improper ways in which to slaughter animals is obviously inconsistent with the recognition that they have basic rights to life and liberty.”
Asked if there are other killing methods that would be considered more humane, Reiss said: “The killing of dolphins is indefensible, given our scientific knowledge of dolphins, which has demonstrated their sophisticated cognitive abilities, including self and social awareness. They deserve global protection.”
Kris Simpson of International Dolphin Watch applauded the new study. “We should ensure that dolphins receive the highest standards of treatment in any hunt, equal to that granted to domestic animals,” he said. “This is clearly not being achieved, nor, under conditions in the wild, is it ever likely to be. Our position is therefore unequivocal; dolphins must not be hunted.”
Despite persistent international pressure, Taiji continues its annual culls, which it calls a cornerstone of a fisheries industry that sustains the small fishing community of 3,200 people.
None of the dolphins slaughtered for their meat are from endangered species, they claim. Bottlenose dolphins are among the cetaceans caught and sold for millions of yen to aquariums in Japan and overseas.
“Of course, overfishing of resources should be prevented,” the Taiji official said. “But I can’t see any problem with using resources that are not endangered and can reproduce.”
Entanglement in derelict fishing gear and other marine debris is a major threat to the survival of large marine wildlife like cetaceans, seabirds and sea turtles. However, no previous reports of entanglement or entrapment have been recorded in sea snakes (Hydrophiinae). We report here on a sea snake (Hydrophis elegans) found with a ceramic washer encircling its body captured from the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia.
New Research Says Sonar Sends Whales Scurrying Afloat Now for the first time, sonar has been proven to affect behaviour of cetaceans to a detrimental degree, confirming for many a connection between the use of sonar technology and recordings of...
The Ligurian Sea has one of the highest concentrations of whales and dolphins in the entire Mediterranean.
Research carried out since 1990 investigates the spatial distribution, ecology, habitat preferences and behaviour of cetaceans living in the Pelagos Sanctuary - a special marine protected area extending about 90,000 km2 between Italy, France and the island of Sardinia. Research focuses on the spectacularly large fin whale as well as on sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins, and on smaller species such as striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Research methods include the use of remote sensing and telemetry data, the combined use of laser range-finding binoculars and GPS to passively track and record the horizontal movements of whales, bio-acoustic research, photo-identification, behavioural sampling, and remote biopsy sampling for genetic and toxicological analyses.
Participants will be directly involved in field activities, helping the researchers to collect cetacean data and enter them in a computer. Read More
A group of dolphins was caught on camera as they worked together to keep a struggling dolphin above water by forming an impromptu raft.
For the first time, dolphins have been spotted teaming up to try to rescue an injured group member. The act does not necessarily mean dolphins are selfless or can empathise with the pain of their kin, however.
Kyum Park of the Cetacean Research Institute in Ulsan, South Korea, and colleagues were surveying cetaceans in the Sea of Japan in June 2008. They spent a day following a group of about 400 long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis).
In the late morning they noticed that about 12 dolphins were swimming very close together. One female was in difficulties: it was wriggling and tipping from side to side, sometimes turning upside-down. Its pectoral flippers seemed to be paralysed.
The other dolphins crowded around it, often diving beneath it and supporting it from below. After about 30 minutes, the dolphins formed into an impromptu raft: they swam side by side with the injured female on their backs. By keeping the injured female above water, they may have helped it to breathe, avoiding drowning.
After another few minutes some of the helper dolphins left. The injured dolphin soon dropped into a vertical position. The remaining helpers appeared to try and prop it up, possibly to keep its head above the surface, but it soon stopped breathing, say the researchers. Five dolphins stayed with it and continued touching its body, until it sank out of sight.
"It does look like quite a sophisticated way of keeping the companion up in the water," says Karen McComb at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Such helping behaviours are only seen in intelligent, long-lived social animals. In most species, injured animals are quickly left behind.
Animals communicate with each other, and sometimes with us. But that’s where the similarity between animals and us ends. Primates, birds, cetaceans, dogs and other species have proven able, through extensive training, to understand human words and simple sentences.
However, language is more than a process through which meaning is attached to words or short sentences. Language might be described as the ability to take a finite set of elements (such as words), and using a set of rules (grammar and syntax) to create infinite combinations, each of which is comprehensible. Given this definition, it is perhaps not surprising then that cognitive psychologists sometimes speak of a "grammar of action".
Like sentences, the catalogue of human actions is infinite. We stretch, bend, and kick. We build bridges and prepare meals. We perform an endless variety of dance routines. We make paper airplanes. A complex action, like hammering a nail, can be broken down into its constituent actions – grasping, striking, reaching – just as a sentence can be broken into its units – nouns, verbs, adjectives. In 1951, cognitive psychologist Karl Lashley proposed a link between language and action. "Not only speech,” he wrote, “but all skilled acts seem to involve the same problems of serial ordering, even down to the temporal coordination of muscular contractions in such a movement as reaching and grasping." Just as a stream of speech does not contain explicit pauses between words, fluid actions like nail hammering do not contain breaks between their components. Yet humans effortlessly parse speech streams and action sequences into their parts.
What is language, then, if it can describe the way we process actions as well as the way we manipulate words? Understand from this perspective, language is not a method of communication, per se, but a rather method of computation. Other animals clearly communicate with one another, sometimes in fairly elaborate ways. Whale sing, monkeys howl, birds chirp. Lizards bob their heads up and down to communicate, and some squid do it by regulating the colouration of their skin cells. But none of these processes can be explained by language.
What makes human language unique is not that it allows us to communicate with each other, but that it allows us to do so with infinite variety. A monkey can scream to warn its troopmates of an approaching predator, or alert them to a cache of tasty food, but it can't communicate something like "doesn't that hawk have a funny looking beak?" or "with a little salt, this fig would taste divine". It certainly can't create nonsensical yet understandable sentences like “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”.
No, only humans can utter that sort of grammatical nonsense and understand it.
A Pacific commission forbids the setting of purse seine nets around whale sharks in a limited area.
Whale sharks get some respect; the bigeye tuna, not so much.
That was the gist of the message from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, whose member nations agreed this week at a meeting in Manila to help reduce whale shark deaths in Pacific fisheries. The commission did not act on a recommendation from scientists that the catch of bigeye tuna be sharply reduced.
Currently, Pacific fishing nations take in about 150,000 tons of bigeye, a sushi favorite, each year. Arguing that this number is unsustainable, scientists called for a catch reduction of up to 30 percent. But the meeting ended on Thursday with no change in the status quo, meaning that the overfishing will continue for another year at least.
In some respects, the proceedings of the fisheries commission, founded in 2004, are coming to resemble those of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the regional fisheries management organization that has presided over decades of overfishing of the Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. The cast of characters is largely the same, with the United States, Japan and the European Union among the prominent members.
Nanette Malsol, chairwoman of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, a regional organization that groups Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific island nations that have agreed to tuna fishing limits, put the blame squarely on the European Union, the United States, and Japan and other Asian nations.
“It is their longline fishing vessels that are responsible for much of the catch of adult bigeye tuna, which is still fished 40 percent over the sustainable level,” said Ms. Malsol, who is the fisheries minister for the tiny Micronesian state of Palau.
Russell Smith, deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, countered that the United States had “pushed hard for a reduction” of the bigeye catch. He disputed Ms. Malsol’s characterization of the impasse, saying that the longliners had already reduced their take.
He asserted that the purse seiners – fishers who are actually in pursuit of skipjack tuna rather than the bigeye – don’t want to take measures to reduce the incidental catch of bigeyes. (Purse seining is a type of fishing in which a net with a weighted bottom edge and a buoyant top is run around a school of fish to contain them; the “purse” is formed when the bottom of the net is closed.)
“The conflict is between countries that believe the reduction should come from the longliners and countries that believe it should come from purse seiners,” Mr. Smith said.
A proposal by the United States and the European Union to monitor and regulate the use of fish-aggregating devices, artificial structures that attract young tuna and other fish, also failed as Asian fishing nations refused to consider any limits. Whale sharks got a better deal, with member nations agreeing to ban the setting of purse seines around the fish.
Why would purse seiners, giant factory ships, set their nets on a fish that they don’t even want and will discard if they catch it? Like fish-aggregating devices and man-made structures like oil rigs, whale sharks attract schools of fish. Because they eat plankton, their presence can be a signal of abundant food for the prey of tuna and other commercial fish.
What easier way to catch fish, then, than to just throw a net around the whale sharks?
As reflected in the video above, provided by an environmental group that declined to be identified because it wanted to protect the source of the video, the outlook for a whale shark caught in a purse seine is not good. The rope around the fish’s tail will eventually be used to drag it backward out of the net, an unhealthy maneuver for any large shark.
A 2010 study for the commission concluded that 12 percent of all interactions between the boats and whale sharks ended with the animals’ deaths. It estimated that 60 of the animals were killed this way in 2009.
It is a fairly wide practice, experts say, with Japanese, American and other fishing nations employing it in their quest for fish. Now, though, the practice is to end, at least in Pacific waters from 20 degrees south to 30 degrees north of the equator. The Japanese delegation sought the 30-degree northern limit, meaning that almost all of Japan’s waters are excluded.
Whale sharks, harmless giants beloved by divers, are in trouble. Slow to reach sexual maturity and hunted for food and fin, the shark is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as endangered. The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species lists them as Appendix II species. That means they are not necessarily threatened with imminent extinction, but any trade should be closely monitored.
In some cases, the whale sharks are accidental victims, their presence undetected until they are captured. But Australian officials have reported that 3.2 percent of all purse seine nets are deliberately set on whale sharks or cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises).
Elizabeth Wilson, who leads the Pew Environment Group’s global shark conservation campaign, described the whale shark measures as a victory.
But she said she was disappointed with the commission’s refusal to adopt some other measures, proposed by Australia, New Zealand and a host of Pacific island nations, that would have saved many sharks.
Those nations called for requiring that all sharks be landed with their fins on (rather than simply finned and discarded into the sea to die) and for a ban on the use of wire leaders for longline fisheries. (If monofilament line were used, many sharks would escape by biting through it.)
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