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Whale ecology means enrichment of the oceans and carbon dioxide reduction

Whale Poop Pumps Up Ocean Health

New research in the Southern Ocean has revealed that the excretion of nutrient-rich poo from whales boosts the growth of plankton in the ocean, which helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  The increased population of plankton bolsters the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

University of Vermont whale biologist, Joe Roman and his colleague James McCarthy from Harvard University have discovered that most whales actually deposit waste that floats at the surface of the ocean as a "very liquidy, a flocculent plume."

Image: Humpback whale poop
Source: courtesy of Jennifer Kennedy at Marine Life

Whale poop doesn't sink to the bottom of the ocean. The Harvard studies have shown that whales play an important role in transporting nutrients from where they feed, in deep waters, up to the surface, where they  fertilize tiny, floating plants called phytoplankton.

Research in the Southern Ocean has revealed that the excretion of nutrient-rich poop from whales boosts the growth of plankton in the ocean, and this bolsters the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Australian biologists estimated that 12,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean each defecate about 50 tonnes of iron into the sea every year after digesting the fish and squid they hunt.

The iron is a terrific food for phytoplankton - marine plants that live near the ocean surface and which suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

The ability of the Southern Ocean to act as a carbon sink may have been diminished by large-scale removal of sperm whales during industrial whaling.

Clearly, it is erroneous to claim, as the three whaling countries tout, that whales compete with their commercial fisheries.  Rather, they enhance them.

Whale Fall

Living whales can provide as much, if not more, valuable scientific information to aid their conservation than dead ones.  Even dead on the ocean floor ("whale fall"), their bodies support a myriad of marine species for decades.

Image: whale fall Wikimedia commons.

Oceanographer Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii has been studying the remarkable afterlife of whale corpses ("whale fall") and has shown that their remains last for decades and must dot the ocean bottom everywhere as they are natural stepping stones between hot vents and cold seeps, supporting a myriad of species.

A San Diego biotechnology company is working with Smith to develop a cold-water detergent containing an enzyme found in bacteria growing on whale bones. Such a detergent may have the potential to yield substantial energy savings on a national scale. Understanding what happens to organic-rich matter in the deep sea--like a 35 ton whale--is another area of broad ecological interest.

Some scientists say the self-awareness, suffering and a social culture, along with high mental abilities, are a hallmark of cetaceans.  There are so many values associated with whales and dolphins that it is criminal to reduce their value to that of livestock, or simply "meat"!

If Japan is justifying their illegal whale slaughter under the smoke-screen of "scientific research", then their junk science must be exposed to enforce their removal.

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Masayuki Komatsu, a counsellor at the Fisheries Agency, reportedly called minke whales ''cockroaches of the sea'' in an interview with an Australian television station.
A senior Japanese fishery official compared minke whales to ''cockroaches'' and the Fisheries Agency rose to his defense, saying the comparison was intended to illustrate that minke whales are highly fertile.
His remark provoked a stream of protests, particularly from New Zealand, which is one of the antiwhaling nations in question.
The gestation period of a Minke whale is about 10 months and the calf is born near the surface of the warm, shallow waters. Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer. Minke whales reach puberty at 2 years of age.
Male Antarctic Minke Whales reach sexual maturity at about 7.3 m and eight years, females at 7.9 m and between seven to eight years. They live to about 20 years.
Minke whales are the most abundant baleen whale. It is estimated that there are about almost 800,000 minke whales world-wide. They are hardly in "plague" proportions, and do not breed like cockroaches!
For a "fisheries" expert, such a highly ignorant and inflammable statement only adds to the scientific information NOT gathered by whale slaughter.

The anti-whaling activists found two harpoon ships from the four-vessel whaling fleet on the edge of the Antarctic pack ice, about 1700 nautical miles south-east of New Zealand, Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said last night.

The group's fast interceptor boat, Gojira, and its helicopter were last night searching for the factory ship, Nisshin Maru, which normally steams within about 30 nautical miles of the chaser ships. They have not yet been located.

Fortunately, the whale killing has not yet started. They plan to mount a campaign of constant harassment to distract the Japanese. Japan self issued a scientific permit for a four-ship fleet to slaughter up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this summer. The IWC are part of the "scientific whaling" scam.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week reiterated Australia's opposition to whaling ''in every circumstance''. However, which "circumstances" will make the Antarctic ocean, the Whale Sanctuary or the whales themselves of critical enough importance to actually enact upon and get the illegal fleets removed? Rhetoric without the followup action is just hot air and political spin.

Ships from conservation groups Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd are heading for the Southern ocean, braced for clashes with the Japanese fleet. Last week Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd said he was “prepared to die” if necessary to protect the whales. Unfortunately, there are very few politicians even willing to send navy vessels to monitor Japan's illegal plunder in Antarctic "protected" waters.
The Japanese whalers plan to kill up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and 10 endangered finback whales during the hunt.
An Australian navy vessel "Melbourne" recently rescued a British-flagged chemical carrier from pirates in the Arabian Sea. Their actions are commendable, but the Arabian Sea is far from Australia, and so were these pirates.
Australia under international Maritime Law needs permission from New Zealand to enter the Ross Dependency where the whaling fleet are heading. Their government promised to monitor Japan's fleet. However, the Australian navy ignores pirates in their own back yard, and so does New Zealand.
Why is Japan allowed to bully us, and ruthlessly plunder the oceans? They don't care about the niceties of diplomatic solutions, or protocols.
Japan says the sale of whale meat helps to pay for the research programme. However, they have published no scientific results, and most of what needs to be learned about whales requires living ones.

The Japanese government's suspension of their "research" on whales is
ironic as there are no valid scientific reports on their findings.
Japan was never interested in our opinions, the ecology of whales, or
the Antarctic environment.

Their only research results have been demographic in nature - age, sex,
species and numbers- to support ongoing commercial whaling. These
results don't require decades to complete or thousands of dead whales.
Japan was never doing "research" on whales, or environmental studies. It was a smoke-screen, promoted by the IWC, and unchallenged by our government.

When we hear cruel incidents like mass killing of dolphins in Denmark as a festival, mass killing of seals and dolphins in Japan as a part of entertainment and "tradition", it goes way beyond the question of immorality.

All applications for approval of the use of animals in teaching or research on animals in Australia - and it should include Australian territorial waters - must be considered at a meeting of the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science (IMVS) Animal Ethics Committee (AEC), appointed by the Minister of Environment and Heritage, the Minister responsible for animal welfare. It seems that Japan is above the laws that require animals in research to be euthanised humanely (this excludes harpoons) and not in sight of other animals. The Code of Practice for the care and use of animals in scientific research provides general principles for the care and use of animals, specifies the responsibilities of investigators and institutions, and details the terms of reference, membership and operation of AECs. It also provides guidelines for the humane conduct of scientific and teaching activities, and for the acquisition of animals and their care, including their environmental needs. Any scientific research in the Antarctic must be non-invasive and non-lethal and approved of BEFORE hand.

The IWC gave an approval for Japan's "scientific research" without a scientific basis. The JARPA 'researchers' insist on using lethal methods not because they are necessary but because they supply whale meat to the markets in Japan and offer an opportunity to train new crew, thus keeping the whaling industry alive.

According to the Scientific Committee of the IWC, data such as the age of an animal (obtained from earplugs) and the reproductive status and history of females (obtained from ovaries) can be obtained only by lethal methods. The question is whether these data are really ‘essential’, ‘reliable enough’ or ‘critical’ to justify the taking of the whales that are studied? The only results of Japan's research have been demographic - to support ongoing "harvesting'.

The gentle harassing tactics of Sea Shepherd, supported by generous sponsors, and the threat of legal action, hopefully will end Japan's smoke-and-mirrors illusion of lethal scientific "research" permanently. Time for the crew of Sea Shepherd to open the (vegan) champagne for this season, at least!

The anti-whaling group's two main ships, the Bob Barker and the Steve Irwin, arrived in Hobart on Sunday.

For the third year running, AFP officers searched the anti-whaling vessels.

Japan sometimes asks our Australian government for "help", such as to not let Sea Shepherd ships leave any of our ports! Clearly, our whispered protests of being an "anti-whaling" nation have not been heard, even after all these years of diplomatic pressure!

The Japanese government has complained about the Sea Shepherd ships getting in the way of commerce and industry, according to Senator Brown. Isn't this contradictory to their so-called "scientific research" on whales?

An AFP spokesperson said that Sea Shepherd's activities in the Southern Ocean would be investigated.

As an "anti-whaling" nation, why would the AFP be perusing legal grounds against the anti-whaling group, Sea Shepherd, on Japan's behalf? Our AFP is not paid by the government of Japan, as far as we know, so why should they be doing the work of Tokyo by "investigating" the law enforcers?

The AFP executed search warrants for the SSCS vessels. What did they hope to find? According to Senator Bob Brown: "The good police are doing the work of Tokyo".

Clearly Sea Shepherd's success has brought shame and embarrassment to our government. All their tough talk of stopping Japan's whale slaughter is shown to be nothing but shallow assurances with no substance.

Sea Shepherd are the real heroes, not criminals to be investigated.

Sydney Morning Herald: Sea Shepherd sails into more controversy