I’m sure most people would have heard the news by now: Japan has decided that they need to do some research on our beloved humpback whales – by hunting them down – too.

I must say I’m saddened by this decision. Unfortunately, neither my unhappiness nor the unhappiness of many other like-minded people and nations could change their point of view – the humpbacks have to go.

I never could understand what scientific research do the Japanese do when they kill the whales and sell the meat in their markets. So I tried finding out.

According to BBC news, the reason for this scientific research is the following:

The ICR and the Japanese government’s Fisheries Agency believe that if enough of the right sort of data can be collected, they can go back to the IWC and prove scientifically that some whale stocks are robust enough to allow a degree of sustainable commercial hunting.

This scientific research is aimed at gathering “information on the age distribution within each population (which relates closely to the natural rate of morality), blubber thickness (an indication of health and food supply), and diet.

Apparently, the Japanese researchers believe that lethal methods of surveying is necessary because it is the “only way” to accurately determine a whale’s age and only by examining the stomach contents of the whale can they assess a whale’s diet with accuracy.

read here for more info: BBC news

Here’s what WWF has to say:

Regarding a whale’s diet:

The Government of Japan claims it needs to kill ten sperm whales each year to learn what they eat. Yet the diet of this species is well known – not surprisingly, since more than a half a million sperm whales were killed and examined in the 20th century alone. Furthermore, the ecological significance of the sperm whale’s predation on squid cannot be meaningfully assessed without estimating the abundance of squid in the ocean – a question to which marine biologists world-wide would like to know the answer.

Regarding stomach contents:

Japan also claims it must kill whales to determine what they eat, which they accomplish by studying stomach contents of the dead whales. However, this generally provides nothing more than a snapshot view of the most recently consumed prey, and may not be indicative of the real diet, particularly with whales such as minkes, which consume a broad range of prey items. In contrast, stable isotope analysis from skin samples, again obtained using a biopsy dart on a live whale, provides a long-term view of the whale’s diet over a longer time period. Whatever food is consumed has a unique isotopic “signature” reflected in the tissues of the animal consuming the food. This technique has been applied all over the world in studies of other whales.

Alternative non-lethal assessment:

Genetic samples are generally taken from a live whale using a biopsy dart, and do not require killing or injuring the animal. Biopsy darting is also far more efficient, allowing scientists to acquire large amounts of data from a broader section of the whale population.

Read the rebuttals here: WWF

Excuse me while I grief… I just wish there was a way we could stop this whaling business… =(

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