AWI Quarterly » 2007 Summer

About the Cover: The majestic humpback, shown breaching in Alaskan waters (photo by John Hyde), is one of many whale species whose protections were at stake at this year’s International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Greenland’s Native population sought permission to kill humpbacks for subsistence purposes, and fortunately, the request was denied on the final day of the meeting. However, the country did receive approval to kill additional minke whales and to add bowhead whales to its list of targets.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed in April to list the Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), following a November 2006 Status Review and Extinction Assessment that found the population is now at a "26 percent probability of extinction within 100 years."
During recent World Trade Organization negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States submitted a proposal highlighting the need to cut worldwide destructive fisheries subsidies in order to stop the collapse of global fish species. The United States recommends that subsidies distorting trade and endangering marine life be prohibited by the body.
New research led by Oregon University’s Dr. Scott Baker confirms a long-held suspicion that South Korea is ignoring "unintended" whaling. Baker’s team used DNA fingerprinting of minke whale meat to determine how many individual whales were killed in recent years as the alleged bycatch of South Korean fishing nets.
The European Union and the 20 nations party to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization have agreed to curb the practice of bottom trawling in the South Pacific. This huge step in marine conservation, reached at a meeting in Renaca, Chile, will take effect on September 30—with particular importance to New Zealand, whose fishermen are responsible for 90 percent of bottom trawling in the South Pacific.
In late April, a three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to permit the Bush Administration to weaken the "Dolphin Safe" tuna label, criticizing the US Department of Commerce’s failure to base its findings on science.
At the 59th International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting held this May in Anchorage, Alaska, pro-whaling nations were expected to bristle with confidence gained from the simple majority they achieved briefly at last year’s meeting. But the 2007 gathering was anticipated anxiously by both sides of the whaling debate, since all of the aboriginal subsistence quotas, including Alaska’s own, were up for their 5-year renewal.
Each year, bees and their hives travel across the United States aboard tractor-trailers to pollinate vegetation on the West Coast. Because wild pollinators such as birds and bats are unable to keep up with the demand for pollination of the increasing dimensions of almond groves and over 90 varieties of crops from California to Washington State, migratory beehives and their apiculturists are essential to the region’s agricultural health. However, in recent months, millions of bees have abandoned their hives, gone missing or died.
Right whales in the North Pacific have still not recovered from being ravaged by historic commercial whaling, and according to US government sources, fewer than 300 may exist—making them the most endangered whale species in the world. Unfortunately, a recently planned lease sale area in Alaska’s Bristol Bay overlaps with their critical habitat, and proposed exploration would expose right whales and other marine species to threats such as noise pollution, oil spills, chemical pollution, vessel collisions and entanglement with or ingestion of marine debris.
In a victory for both salmon and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Bush Administration’s misguided strategy for making hydroelectric dams in the Columbia-Snake River Basin safe for salmon. Ruling against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claim that it was not necessary to consider the effects of the four dams on salmon because they were built before the implementation of the ESA, the judge acknowledged that it might be necessary to breach the dams to restore salmon populations.
This June, a dangerous provision entitled Section 123 was inserted quietly into the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), putting at risk critical state and local authority to ensure food safety, fight against animal cruelty, and protect the environment.
Millions of furbearing animals each year suffer pain and fear when caught in highly destructive steel-jaw leghold traps, which are banned in 89 countries. Companion animals, birds, deer and other non-target animals fall victim to the indiscriminate trap as well.
Much to our chagrin, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted an emergency motion by Cavel International that allows the DeKalb, Ill.-based horse slaughter plant to recommence killing horses for sale as meat for human consumption overseas.
Kawoof!" is the sound of an orca, or killer whale, spouting. It seems to echo off the big snow-capped Viluchinsky volcano in Avacha Gulf, southeast Kamchatka, Russia. Three researchers on our team, sitting in an inflatable boat, turn their heads. Where there is one orca, there are usually many more, for these are highly social mammals.
There are all kinds of revolutions—political, cultural, historic and economic—but the most effective ones are unexpected. In 1962, this was proven by the earth-shattering uprising brought about by a woman working in quasi-anonymity for the US government. Rachel Carson that year published Silent Spring, a lodestar of intelligent analysis of the destruction of our environment that had been engendered by "omniscient" scientists.