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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pacific Whale Foundation scientists head to international meeting

Anne Rillero
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Greg Kaufman, Chief Scientist at Pacific Whale Foundation, will be traveling to Agadir, Morocco in late May to attend the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee Meeting.

Pacific Whale Foundation

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WAILUKU, HI As worldwide debate heats up over a recent proposal by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to legitimize commercial whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway, two Pacific Whale Foundation scientists are preparing to travel to the IWC Annual Meeting in Agadir, Morocco in late May and early June.

Gregory D. Kaufman, Chief Scientist and Founder of Pacific Whale Foundation, will be traveling from Maui to present three research papers at the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee Meeting from May 30 to June 11. He will be joined by Pacific Whale Foundation's Director of Ecuador Research, Cristina Castro, who will travel to Morocco from Ecuador to present data before the Scientific Committee.

"Because the IWC has determined that its policies on whale management must be based on sound science, the scientific committee of the IWC has an important role in shaping IWC policies and decisions," says Kaufman. "Being involved in the proceedings of the scientific committee will allow us to help determine a better future for the whales."

As many as 200 of the world's leading whale biologists and population modelers will participate in the IWC Scientific Committee Meeting.

"Pacific Whale Foundation holds a unique position among environmental groups," explains Kaufman. "We are not just an advocacy organization; we are a research organization. Our data from the past 30 years is instrumental in supporting scientifically based approaches to whale conservation and management."

Pacific Whale Foundation has conducted field studies of Southern Hemisphere Pacific humpback whales for the past 30 years. "We have the largest fluke identification data set of humpabck whales in this region, numbering more than 9,000 whales representing Breeding Stocks D, E, F and G and feeding Areas IV and V" says Kaufman. "Our data includes regions where Japan's whaling fleet currently conducts lethal 'scientific' whaling expeditions and is where it would continue to hunt whales under the IWC proposal."

Pacific Whale Foundation's researchers are part of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP), an alliance spearheaded by Australia, between researchers committed to using modern, non-lethal, scientific methods to study cetaceans in the Southern Ocean and provide data to the IWC to help protect whales. Pacific Whale Foundation researchers attended a goal- and priority-setting meeting of SORP in March 2009.

Kaufman's presentations will include two scientific papers entitled "Estimating Growth Rate of the East Australia Humpback Population (BS-1) Using Temporal Symmetry Models", and 2009 Humpback Whale Surveys in the Cairns/Cooktown Management Area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Dr. Castro will be presenting two papers related to recent population estimates and movements of humpback whales off the west coast of Latin America.

"Our temporal symmetry model paper reports new findings regarding the high contribution of survival to population growth rates is of real importance - decreasing survival rates through harvesting could have a detrimental effect on the growth rate of Southern hemisphere humpbacks" said Kaufman

"Our research findings off the Carins/Cooktown region of the Great Barrier Reef, give us the first insight into long range movements and interchange of Breeding Stock E1 (east Australia) humpbacks, and provide the first ever look at animals north of 19 degrees S." added Kaufman

Following the Scientific Committee Meeting, Pacific Whale Foundation will present thousands of petition signatures against whaling to the Secretariat of the International Whaling Commission.

Cristina Castro will remain in Agadir, Morocco to attend the General Meeting of the International Whaling Commission from June 21 25, as Ecuador's Scientific Advisor.

This is not the first IWC meeting attended by Kaufman and Castro. Kaufman first attended the 1979 IWC meeting as the scientific advisor for the Kingdom of Tonga, was an Invited Participant to the Scientific Committee meeting in Santiago, Chile in 2008, and has been an invited participant to several IWC workshops. Castro has represented Ecuador at the Scientific Committee and at various IWC workshops and meetings since 2007.

Pacific Whale Foundation researchers were invited participants in the IWC's Workshop on the Comprehensive Assessment of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales in 2006.

"Pacific Whale Foundation has focused its research efforts on whales in the part of the Pacific known as the Southern Ocean since 1980, in part, because this is the area where illegitimate whaling has been conducted by Japan, under the guise of so-called 'scientific' whaling," says Kaufman. "We always felt that this area would be a hot spot when the push is made to resume commercial whaling, and it turns out to be true."

The proposal that will be discussed at the upcoming Annual IWC Commission Meeting in June would legitimize commercial whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway. Each of the three countries would be allowed to hunt whales under specific "catch limits" for the next ten years.

The proposal would also allow commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the area where Pacific Whale Foundation has studied humpback whales for 30 years. The region includes an important feeding habitat for many whale species, including humpback whales, blue whales and fin whales. Japan would also be allowed to hunt whales in its own EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

"Pacific Whale Foundation does not support any proposal or plan that legitimizes commercial whaling," says Tracy Jones, Executive Director at Pacific Whale Foundation. "There is no need to kill whales for any reason, whether that be for food or science."

"Decisions about whaling should be based on sound science," she notes. "The current proposal is based on international politics, not scientific evidence. The proposal, as presented, is in the best interest of whaling nations, not the whales."

"We are pleased that our researchers and our data will be employed in the fight to protect whales," she says. "Our mission has always been to use our research data in a way that helps to promote sound wildlife management policies and laws."

Eighty-eight countries are members of the International Whaling Commission. Membership is open to any nation that agrees to adhere to the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Each member nation would have one vote, if the IWC proposal would be put to a vote at the General Meeting in June.

To fund the researchers' trip to Morocco, Pacific Whale Foundation is offering "Think Whales are Saved? Think Again" t-shirts for all donations of $50 or more. The shirts and a donation form can be viewed online at www.pacificwhale.org. You can also donate by phone at 808-249-8811 ext. 1 or toll-free at 1-800-942-5311 ext. 1.