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[LINK] “Japan to Resume Whaling Next Year, Defying International Whaling Commission”

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Oh, Japan. From National Geographic News:

Japan announced Thursday that it will restart its scientific whaling program next year in response to a new resolution adopted by the International Whaling Commission placing stricter regulations on scientific whaling.

This new nonbinding resolution—proposed by New Zealand—adopts the criteria used by the UN’s International Court of Justice earlier this year when it ruled that Japan’s current whaling program was not scientific.

The new guidelines establish criteria for the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee to consider when it reviews whaling plans submitted by member countries. The criteria include consideration of whether a program needs to lethally sample whales to obtain data, how many whales a scientific program will take, and whether the number to be taken is justified.

At this week’s IWC meeting, Japan’s representatives stated the country’s intention to revamp its scientific program based on “international law and scientific evidence.” They planned to submit their proposed program to the IWC’s scientific committee this fall, with the aim of conducting scientific whaling next year.

If Japan were to abide by the new regulations, the country would have to submit a plan to the scientific committee next year, delaying the start of its whaling activities until 2016, says Leigh Henry, a senior policy adviser for wildlife conservation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 7:42 pm

[LINK] “Faroe Island Whaling, a 1,000-Year Tradition, Comes Under Renewed Fire”

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Jane J. Lee’s National Geographic article profiles, with distressingly–but necessarily–graphic pictures, the ongoing controversy over whaling in the Faroes.

One positive sign is that apparently it has become much less an issue of subsistence or economics and more a cultural trait. These can be changed more readily.

The recent arrest of 14 volunteers working to stop whaling in the North Atlantic Ocean’s Faroe Islands has focused a spotlight once again on a local tradition stretching back over a thousand years.

Six of the protesters were found guilty this week of interfering with the grindadráp, or grind, as these drive hunts are called, according to a statement released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The remaining eight will appear in court on September 25. The activist group often makes headlines for the confrontational tactics used by some of its members—such as ramming whaling ships in the ocean around Antarctica.

The organization’s campaign to end these hunts began in the 1980s, says Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, and won’t stop until the practice disappears.

During a grind, a flotilla of small boats drives whales or dolphins into a shallow bay where they can be easily killed with knives. Grinds are the longest continuously practiced and relatively unchanged whaling tradition in the world, says Russell Fielding, a geographer from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He has studied the Faroe Island grinds since 2005.

Other cultures in the Arctic and Europe started whaling long before the Faroese, Fielding says. But they have either stopped or changed their techniques quite a bit.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s elephants get back to basics in California”

The Toronto Star‘s Laura Armstrong reports that the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants, relocated recently to a reserve in California, seem to be doing well in their new home.

It’s dry season in San Andreas, where California’s ongoing drought and prolonged excessively hot weather make a fire hose at the Performing Animal Welfare Society Wildlife Sanctuary a welcome escape for three African elephants as familiar with frigid winters as drawn-out summers.

Iringa buries her head in the ground and kicks her foot up in the air as she bathes in the steady stream. Toka wiggles down in the mud, throwing dirt with her trunk, basking in the oozing slime.

This is probably the first year the ground these two elephants call home hasn’t frozen, said sanctuary co-founder Ed Stewart. Iringa and Toka, along with a third elephant, Thika, moved from the Toronto Zoo to their warm, sprawling habitat last fall.

[. . .]

Despite protests from zoo staff, the elephants’ relocation was finally pushed through in late 2012, when city council reaffirmed its decision to move the mammals to the sanctuary, which takes in retired zoo and circus elephants. Barker funded the October 2013 transport.

In the nine months since their hotly-contested move, Iringa, 45, Toka, 44, and Thika, 33, have started acting like elephants in the wild rather than captive creatures, Stewart said.

“Natural behaviour is exhibited a lot, like every single day,” Stewart said. “Every day they resemble elephants in Africa.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

[LINK] “Save (most of) the whales”

Tristin Hopper’s recent National Post article describing how Greenpeace’s new support for limited native whale hunts among the Inuit, seen as necessary to enlist local allies against oil drilling in the Arctic, is actually not appreciated by locals who remember the past.

(Myself, I think Greenpeace should have stayed consistent and not made exceptions.)

“Our young men started committing suicide in the 1970s because people couldn’t feed their families anymore,” said Rosemarie Kuptana, a former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an international organization representing the world’s 160,000 Inuit.

Greenpeace, she said, has never acknowledged “that there’s a whole generation of young people today who grew up without fathers.”

Only a few years after its 1971 founding in Vancouver, Greenpeace was at the forefront of efforts to condemn the Canadian seal hunt. By 1976, Greenpeacers were venturing out onto ice to physically push seals out of the way of East Coast sealing ships. Later, they would graduate to spraying the animals with non-toxic dye to make their coats unusable.

[. . .]

Driven by public pressure, Europe banned the import of whitecoat harp seal pups in 1983. Although the Inuit could still hunt, the ban demolished the market for seal skins. In some Northern communities, annual seal hunting revenue reportedly dropped from $50,000 to as low as $1,000.

“You could not find a more thoroughly discredited brand, from one end of the Arctic to the other, than Greenpeace,” said Madeleine Redfern, a former mayor of Iqaluit, writing in an email to the National Post.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • At the blog Buffer, Kevan Lee shows what lengths–in characters and in words–tweets and blog headlines and blog posts should be, according to science.
  • Patrick Cain notes that Canadians have no way of knowing how many banned guns there were under the former registry since its junking.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining what, exactly, is needed for a planet to become Earth-like.
  • The Dragon’s Tales, meanwhile, links to a paper claiming that the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity was a product of a nearby gamma-ray burst.
  • Geocurrents explores the question of whether and how it matters to call the eastern European country “Ukraine” or “the Ukraine”.
  • Joe. My. God. links to a site gathering the first and last lines from noted gay novels.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, bloggers question whether the American soldiers who perpetrated genocide in the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 should have their Medals of Honor stripped from them, and have no truck with the idea that American airpower can save Ukraine.
  • John Moyer responded to OKCupid’s boycotting of Mozilla for its anti-gay president by quitting Mozilla, and explains why.
  • At the Planetary Society Weblog, Emily Lakdawalla examines the latest thinking on Titan’s methane lakes and oceans. Where do they come from?
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Hungarians in former Hungarian territories in central Europe.
  • Strange Maps examines how maps are used to lie in George Orwell’s 1984.
  • Torontoist shares a picture of a vintage streetcar on the streets of east Toronto’s Scarborough.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy comments on the International Court of Justice’s ruling against Japan on the subject of its supposed scientific whaling program, and argues that a federal system for Ukraine might not be bad notwithstanding Russian bullying.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia’s military depends heavily on the technological and industrial output of southeastern Ukraine, relying on now-suspended cooperation.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily notes the growing Saudi-Pakistan alliance, something increasingly aimed against Syria (Pakistan is training an armed force funded by Saudi Arabia).
  • The Big Picture shares 17 pictures from Ukraine.
  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster suggests that we now have the beginnings of a model for the formation of planets around pulsars, with debris from the supernova explosion spinning towards the pulsar and condensing into planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a study suggesting that photosynthesis is possible on worlds locked into 3:2 resonances about their local sun, i.e. rotatomg three times on its axis for every two orbits around the sun.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog wonders if Venezuela might follow Ukraine.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Doug Merrill notes that Ukrainian revolutionaries are just beginning the real work.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the writings of an economist employed by Facebook. What does he do?
  • John Moyer, still in Iceland, meditates on solitude.
  • Naked Anthropologist’s Laura Agustín takes issue with the term “loverboys” used to describe studies of transnational prostitution.
  • The New APPS Blog considers what it means if animals feel love.
  • Justin Petrone, writing about the noise surrounding the Ukrainian revolution, argues in favour of radical skepticism of both sides as likely to lead to the truth.
  • Strange Maps considers the various plans for partitioning California into smaller units, including the most recent one.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anders Sandberg, as a good scientist, takes a look at the evidence same-sex marriage could be associated with floods (as a Briton claimed) by looking at his native Sweden.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling thinks that a Facebook executive’s prediction of the death of E-mail is substantially a Facebook power grab.
  • BlogTO chronicles the history of the Spadina Hotel, an edifice whose history as a hotel may have come to an end with the closure of the hostel that took its place.
  • Discover‘s Collideascape notes that the parable of Easter Island as a metaphor for global environmental collapse is no longer supported by the data.
  • Far Outliers takes note of the Arab awakening in the Ottoman Middle East circa 1915.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer thinks that the Syrian civil war hasn’t become a conventional conflict and isn’t close to ending.
  • Gideon Rachman takes a look at the plight of maids, specifically Indonesian ones, in Hong Kong.
  • Savage Minds revisits Franz Boas’ classic essay The Methods of Ethnology.
  • Supernova Condensate rightly takes issue with a Nature blogger, Henry Gee, who has taken to outing anonymous bloggers.
  • Towleroad notes the Japanese government’s defense of the barbarous Taiji dolphin hunt.
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