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51 Maui Whale Watch Magazine • WhaleWatching OnMaui.com days, and the scientific whaling clause-- which allows whalers to take whales for the purpose of scientific research, and was never intended for more than a few whales here and there. Japan has taken around 14,000 whales under that provision, but they are having a harder and harder time justifying the necessity for lethal "scientific" research. So far no one's made them pay a price, and Japan continues to flaunt both international public opinion and the decision made last year by the International Court of Justice that temporarily shut down their Antarctic whaling program. Japan came back with a new program that they said had fixed all those problems-- which it hasn't--and though an expert panel from the IWC said they hadn't justified the need for lethal sampling, Japan said, "Well, we disagree, and we're going to go down there and kill whales anyway." I think the only thing that could stop it is Japanese public opinion. Right now, most people in Japan don't really care about whaling one way or the other. They're still whaling because Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research which does the "research" is partly funded by the proceeds of whaling, and because whaling politics have important implications for Japan's fisheries policy generally. They are concerned that if they give in on whaling, the next thing could be bluefin tuna or other fisheries agreements. Fonarow: How is the recent rapid melting of sea ice affecting the whales? Clapham: We don't know yet. It is causing the range of humpbacks and fin whales to extend northward. I think there might be a positive benefit for humpbacks, and possibly for fin whales. It's not clear what the impact is going to be on ice-associated species like bowheads. Trans-polar shipping routes are going to open up. For whales, that means an increase in noise, pollution, and potential ship strikes, especially in choke points like the Bering Strait and some of the passes in the Aleutian Islands. The big issue for me is not so much the profound changes that will be brought by Arctic ice melting, but it's the whole issue of ocean acidification. If worst-case scenarios come true, that could be literally catastrophic for ecosystems, and all whales would be affected. Fonarow: What do you think about the potential of humpbacks being removed from the endangered species list? Clapham: It's a good thing. Humpbacks are doing really well in most places, and they would still have protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. You need success stories! Gray whales were removed in 1994—the only large whale that's been removed from the list so far—and they've come back to 20,000 animals. If you keep humpbacks on the endangered species list, you continue to devote resources to a species that doesn't need it at the expense of those that do. Fonarow: Besides not whaling, what can we do as a species to make life more comfortable for cetaceans in general and humpbacks specifically? Clapham: Fishing gear is a big problem for whales and cetaceans generally, but entanglement tends not to receive the press, even though the consequences and impact are much greater than for whaling. The best example now is the vaquita—the Gulf of California harbor porpoise. This species is likely going to be extinct in the next few years because of entanglement in the gear of a relatively small fishery. The issue is simple and quite fixable, but I don't think it is going to be resolved. The big problem with environmental work is that if you take steps to stop something bad from happening, then you can never demonstrate that that something would have happened if you hadn't taken those steps. Meanwhile, the corporate world will say, "See, you lost all these jobs and you caused all this financial hardship, and it didn't even happen." For me, whaling and whales have become a symbol of the very bad way that we treat the planet in general. I think humans live by symbols, and if we make the commitment to not kill another whale, that's a step forward in our evolution towards maybe a more enlightened way of dealing with this planet. Fonarow: What is something only you know that you want everyone else to know about? Clapham: I think we're getting reasonably close to understanding how humpback whales navigate. My genius collaborator Travis Horton asked us a few years ago if he could have our satellite tagging data for humpbacks, and we immediately gave him everything. It is remarkable to watch humpback whales migrate in a straight line, sometimes to better than one degree accuracy despite currents, bad weather, and storms. They know where they are all the time; they come back to exactly the same spots year after year, and how they do that has always been a mystery. We speculate that it's a combination of geomagnetic and celestial cues, and I think with the tagging data, we may have an answer soon. Fonarow: Is there anything else you'd like to add? Clapham: No, I don't think so. You've exhausted my knowledge of everything. [Laughing] Fonarow: Thank you so much, Dr. Clapham. We wish you whale! Clapham: Thank you! [Both laughing] DR. PHIL CLAPHAM edits for three scientific journals: Marine Mammal Science, Mammal Review, and the Royal Society's Biology Letters.

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