Both whales and whale lovers have lots to celebrate lately. Over the course of the past year, protection and treatment of whales has been gaining both increased media coverage and political momentum. New pledges, policies and regulations are gaining ground and can result in the betterment of the lives of whales. Here’s a list of several of these exciting developments:
Pledge by Virgin and Sir Richard Branson
March 11, 2014: Richard Branson and his company Virgin have asked marine parks, holiday companies and airlines around the world to join his pledge not to remove whales and dolphins from the ocean.
The commitment requires organizations:
- To participate in a Virgin-led multi-stakeholder engagement process on the role of captive cetaceans in tourism.
- To no longer capture cetaceans (including whales and dolphins) or acquire any wild-captured cetaceans.
- To only accept ill, orphaned or injured wild cetaceans deemed non-releasable by the appropriate government authorities.
To participate, Virgin requires that the pledge is signed by the organization’s chief executive and posted publicly by September 30th 2014. Read more.
California bill to Ban Captive Orcas (and 1.2 Million signatures of support!)
April 8, 2014 – A US Senate bill (AB 2140) intended to ban captive orca shows in the state of California as well as ban orca breeding programs and the importing of orcas was sent for interim study by the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee of the California Legislature. They ordered that the bill be revised and returned to the committee in a year and a half. Support for the bill included an impressive 1.2 Million signatures. If passed, the bill could require that any orcas in captivity in California would be retired to sea pens. Viewing by the public and study by scientists may still be allowed in this more natural environment.
International Court orders a halt to Japanese whaling
March 31, 2014 – The International Court of Justice has ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program. The ruling noted that the amount of science undertaken in the program is tiny relative to the commercial aspects and that Japan had not considered a smaller program or non-lethal methods to study whale populations. Only two peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to its program have been published from 2005 to the present, giving evidence that the program is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese government had claimed. Read More in the New York Times.
Increasing pressure on the Vancouver Aquarium to remove whales and dolphins from captivity
April 7, 2014 – While recognizing the amazing conservation and marine biology work undertaken by the Vancouver Aquarium, two Vancouver park commissioners Sarah Blyth and Constance Barnes have taken positions that it’s time to remove the belugas, porpoises and dolphins from captivity at the facility. The mayor of Vancouver has also weighed in stating that he believes the whales and dolphins should be phased out.
Seaworld loses appeal – trainers to stay out of tanks
April 12, 2014: In a closely watched ruling among those who criticize the captivity of marine mammals, SeaWorld’s appeal of safety citations issued by the OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The ruling mandates that Seaworld’s workers will need to stay out of the water with killer whales unless there are physical barriers to reduce the risk of injury or death. Read More.
Why these developments are so important and timely?
Our curiosity about whales is valid and humane. It enables us to learn more about them and protect them. But our methods for doing so are rapidly evolving. Modern technology continues to broaden the amount of people who can experience or learn about these creatures with limited human interaction. From the hidden cameras that researchers use to better understand the everyday lives of wildlife to underwater listening devices that broadcast continually on the Internet, our opportunities for exposure without containment have never been so varied and accessible.
From the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California which encourages visitors to watch for sea mammals directly from the shore outside its doors or via its live webcams to whale watching boats and kayak expeditions that bring people into the whales natural environment (while respecting strict viewing guidelines that don’t interfere with the whale’s activities), there are many opportunities worldwide to gain an authentic experience with whales.
Like the 1.2M people that signed the petition to support US Senate Bill to stop captivity, we all have the opportunity to improve the treatment of whales for future generations (both theirs and ours).
Which action to help whales are you supporting?
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