Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Our Whale Champions May Soon Win in US

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Our Whale Champions May Soon Win in US

Article excerpt

FOR the last 12 years my group has taken the lead in protecting the California gray whale. A coastal whale, the species has many similarities to the humpback, although it doesn't exist in the Southern Hemisphere.

The gray whale is the most ancient baleen whale alive today. These whales migrate from the balmy lagoons of Baja, Mexico, along the west coast of the US, Canada and Alaska, to their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea.

Because they migrate so close to the shore, just like our humpbacks, most Americans are very familiar with the gray whale and many Americans and Canadians travel to the Mexican lagoons to spend time with these majestic creatures.

The gray whales are the only whales in the world that come to the small Mexican pangas, allowing themselves and their calves to be touched and stroked, yet incredibly, no US group has this whale as its focus.

At the 1997 meeting of the International Whaling Commission, my group was forced to take on the role of gray whale champions.

At that meeting the US delegation was seeking a quota of gray whales for killing by a Native American Indian tribe which had not killed whales for 70 years.

The ramifications of any quota were extremely serious as Japan backed the tribe, seeking to set up coastal whaling by indigenous people as a means of recommencing their commercial whaling interests.

In IWC meetings Japan has repeatedly claimed that its coastal people are 'indigenous' and so the US support for coastal whaling would have been be disastrous for all whales.

Six lawsuits later (all suits instituted by Australians for Animals), the gray whales have been spared and a quota refused.

Despite this victory, the threats to gray whales grew exponentially, with climate change creating havoc in their primary feeding grounds. Oil and gas leases across these feeding grounds also threaten their long-term survival, and noise from military and seismic sonar is forcing changes in their migration. …

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