Imprisoned, impaled, harpooned, desecrated

10 Jun 2024

This is the hard life of cetaceans

The public is being consulted until June 18, 2024 on a draft decree concerning new management methods for dolphins born in jail and sentenced to life imprisonment. This decree is a model of hypocrisy. It is supposed to ban cetacean shows from December 1, 2026. In conjunction with the Ministry of Ecology, Marineland in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Southern France) and Planète Sauvage in Port-Saint-Père (Loire-Atlantique, Western France) have found a workaround. They will be able to carry out scientific experiments in the containment pools. This animal experimentation and “medical” training will be open to the public for a fee. In the closing stretch of the negotiations, a new concession was made to the dolphin owners. There is no longer any question of publishing a ministerial decree setting out the list of research programs, but simply a “document setting out the framework for the research programs”. There are currently 12 bottlenose dolphins at Antibes and 11 at Port-Saint-Père. The average commercial value of one dolphin is 250,000 €. The “herds” could grow with research into the reproductive cycle, and the dolphins could be sold internationally if transport does not exceed 24 hours.
Link to the consultation (in French)

United States
The European-flagged MSC Meraviglia, built in Saint-Nazaire, rammed a Sei whale between Bermuda and New York. The fatal accident occurred as the ship approached the Brooklyn terminal. The 13.4-meter-long whale was embedded in the bow of the 316-meter-long vessel. The Swiss company, the world’s 5th largest cruise operator, said it was “deeply saddened”. The MSC Meraviglia was travelling at full speed (42.4 km/h), in a hurry to unload its cargo, take a break for cleaning and disinfection, and set sail again with a new cargo for Canada, a trajectory that intersects with that of the right whales. It is estimated that at least 20,000 whales are killed every year in collisions with maritime traffic. Instead of condolences, Robin des Bois expects MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) and the other leaders of mass cruising to reduce the speed of their “Gigantic” and to mobilize human and technological resources on board to detect whales in the World Ocean, including the Arctic. Trying to avoid whales is a mission for all responsible shipowners. For the record, in 2012, CMA CGM’s container ship Mont Ventoux arrived in the port of Marseille (France) with a dead fin whale on her bulbous bow, and in 2015, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines’ car carrier Euro Spirit arrived in Le Havre (France) and passed through the François I lock also with a fin whale (15 meters long, 13 tons) on her bulbous bow.

Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis)
© Antonio Vukusich y Alejandra Cabellos

On one hand, the “small” whaling fleet based in the ports of Abashiri, Kushiro and Hachinohe has a global license for 142 Minke whales (8 meters long, 10 tons) to be caught within territorial waters (up to 22 km from the coast) between May and October. On the other hand, the Kangei Maru, a new whaling factory ship, has a quota of 187 Bryde’s whales (15 to 16 meters long, 30 to 40 tons) and 25 Sei whales (14 to 16 meters long, 14 to 17 tons) to be caught within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, up to 370 km off the east coast. The Kangei Maru was inaugurated with great fanfare in the port of Shimonoseki on March 29, 2024. She is the same length as her predecessor, the Nisshin Maru. The Japanese government refused to subsidise it. The Japanese Fisheries Agency granted a loan. However, the shipowner Kyodo Senpaku Co received a subsidy from the city of Shimonoseki. The Kangei Maru costs 46 million euros. She is not cut out for the grand-scale hunting in Antarctica. She does not appear to be ice-strengthened. Her operation is primarily intended to perpetuate the tradition of Japanese whaling at all costs, and to promote the consumption of whale meat. In the 1950s, during Japan’s reconstruction after the Second World War, eating whale was a necessity. Nowadays, it’s more of a chore and an unnecessary expense, especially for younger generations. Today, June 10, the Kangei Maru is in Sendai harbor in Miyagi prefecture. Between May 26 and 28, the Kangei Maru was in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This has to be seen as an attempt to take whales to detect any radionuclide concentration due to the release of extinguishing water from the reactors that crashed in 2011. The Kangei Maru is accompanied by the 69-meter-long Yushin Maru 3, a “whale catcher” whose job it is to spot the whales, harpoon them with penthrite grenades and tow them, dying, to the Kangei Maru, the factory ship where they are butchered and frozen. Locating the whales is facilitated by the use of a drone based on the Kangei Maru. Following public consultation, the Fisheries Agency would like to extend the quota to fin whales (18 to 20 meters long, 48 tons). The decision could be taken in July-August.

New Zealand
On the weekend of May 11-12, 2024, a week after his stranding on a remote beach in the Southland region, the sperm whale’s carcass was amputated of its lower jaw. Unknown assailants cut it off with a chainsaw, taking hold of 20 to 25 conical ivory teeth in the process. Sperm whale teeth are traded internationally, illegally and profitably. The largest weigh one kilo. A kilo of sperm whale ivory sells for between 2,000 and 5,000 € (2,380-5,960 US$). Such mutilations are not uncommon in Oceania. Eden (New South Wales) in Australia was also the scene of an exceptional theft. A sperm whale skull weighing a ton, which was suspended to facilitate the draining of spermaceti, was stolen from the oceanographic museum. The gang had a crane and a flatbed truck at their disposal. Five months later, the vandalized, cracked and dislocated remnant was deposited by the thieves or their accomplices near the museum.







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