Animals warn each other whenever a predator approaches, and in some cases they help each other. In the case of sperm whales they share defensive measures to avoid being killed by whalers. When whalers first started hunting sperm whales they were very successful; however, their effective harpooning rate soon started to drop. Researchers have been able to demonstrate that the whales shared knowledge to help them survive.
This provides another example of group intelligence in animals and can add to the argument that animals need protection as nonhuman persons.
Animals can mitigate human threats, but how do they do this, and how fast can they adapt? Hunting sperm whales was a major 19th Century industry. Analysis of data from digitized logbooks of American whalers in the North Pacific found that the rate at which whalers succeeded in harpooning (striking) sighted whales fell by about 58% over the first few years of exploitation in a region. This decline cannot be explained by the earliest whalers being more competent, as their strike rates outside the North Pacific, where whaling had a longer history, were not elevated. The initial killing of particularly vulnerable individuals would not have produced the observed rapid decline in strike rate. It appears that whales swiftly learned effective defensive behaviour. Sperm whales live in kin-based social units. Our models show that social learning, in which naïve social units, when confronted by whalers, learned defensive measures from grouped social units with experience, could lead to the documented rapid decline in strike rate. This rapid, large-scale adoption of new behaviour enlarges our concept of the spatio- temporal dynamics of non-human culture.
Undoubtedly, whaling is bad for whales, nature, and even geopolitical reactions. Demand for whale meat and byproducts has been decreasing due to ongoing pressure from consumers and activists. Countries that permit whaling are frowned upon by other nations for conitrnuig the practice. The good news for whales is that due to COVID-19 the demand for whale meat has decreased to the point that Iceland may finally shutdown their whaling operations.
Another issue for Loftsson is that public opinion on whaling has changed, says Ãrni Finnsson, chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association. â€œWhat has changed is that the fishing industry is not willing to support him anymore. They feel that Iceland needs to be able to export fish to the U.S. market, and they donâ€™t want to continue defending whaling. I think heâ€™s done.â€
When animals are put under the protection of the United Statesâ€™ Endangered Species Act (ESA) the protected species tend to rebound. Recently a new study found that when sea turtle populations were put under protection that the population soared upwards by 980%. This follows the success of the Hawaiian humpback whales resurgence under the ESA from a low of 800 whales to roughly 10,000 today. This is further evidence that when we do act as a society to protect species (or the planet) that we can do so rather effectively. All that’s needed is political will.
A team of researchers looked at 31 marine populations and found that the populations of 78% of marine mammals and 75% of sea turtles rebounded after receiving protections under the law.
The median sea turtle population increased by 980% following the regulations established by the ESA, and the median increase for mammals was 115%.
Increased coverage in media about the inhumane treatments of marine animals by entertainment facilities are impacting Canadian laws. Thanks to the efforts of documentarians, like in Blackfish, and concerned citizens Canada is making it illegal to capture dolphins and whales. Criminal code penalties are being considered by the senate to really drive home that Canada thinks this practice is wrong.
“The public acceptance of keeping these majestic creatures in captivity has changed and we think the law should also change to reflect that so we’re going to ban the taking of cetaceans,” Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters in Vancouver. “We think Canadians massively support that principle.”
There has been no live-capture of cetaceans for captivity in Canada since 1992. In recent years, however, wild-caught beluga whales and bottlenose dolphins have been imported from foreign sources.
The Senate bill would prohibit the import of a cetacean, or the sperm, a tissue culture or an embryo of one of these mammals.
A system of buoys that will warn boats of the presence of whales has been put in place along a part of the east coast of the USA. The network of buoys listen for sounds that whales make and then the network will relay messages to boaters in the area to stay clear of the undersea creatures.
They have developed a cutting-edge underwater listening system to protect the creatures from their number one killer: ships. The Massachusetts Bay network can track right whales by their signature call – and in as little as 20 minutes warn mariners to slow if they’re too close.
The devices are also giving scientists unprecedented insight into how the creatures change behavior to respond to the cacophony of man-made noises in the bay.
“We need to listen to these whales” to save them, said Christopher W. Clark, director of Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, which developed the technology with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Clarks said an increasing number of pipelines, cruise ships, tankers, and construction projects are drowning out the whales’ soft calls, making it difficult for them to connect. Clark has evidence that the whales simply don’t “whoop” when the bay gets too noisy.
“In the world of right whales, we know it’s a noisy place to live,” Clark said in an e-mail. “Underwater [is] not much different than living on the tarmac at Logan.”