Whaling resurfaces in northern Atlantic waters off Iceland
Could whale steaks from Iceland be coming to a grocery
store near you soon? Could be.
Iceland has resumed commercial
whaling for fin and minke whales. A total of 39 of
the marine mammals will be killed through August of
next year, according to the journal Nature. The commercial
harvest is in violation of the International Whaling
Commission, which has had a moratorium on such killings
The frosty country has had a longstanding
cool relationship with the whaling commission, and,
in fact, dropped out of the international body for
10 years due to a dispute over how many whales could
be taken for "scientific" purposes and then failure to provide data
on sustainability of the two targeted species. Iceland rejoined the group in
Why kill the big marine mammals?
"The whaling issue has always been
under discussion here in Iceland," said one Iceland whale expert. "The
people are very much dependent upon the fisheries."
ironic is that fin whales are classed as "endangered" by international
standards; minke whales are in the category of "near threatened."
officials apparently believe that the international
standards don't quite
apply to waters near their country, which has indeed seen a resurgence of the
populations in recent years.
To their credit, taking 39 whales out of a population
of more than 25,000 isn't
a huge "taking," especially
considering that whalers were killing upwards of 10,000 a year during the "high
season" from 1940-60.
Marine researchers figure that total populations
of the two species of whales could withstand an annual
hunt of 150 fin whales and 400 minke whales, without
harm to the overall population.
specifically Greenpeace of London, England, have argued
that the whales are more valuable to the lucrative
whale-watching eco-tourism industry than on someone's
Other "takings" include
upwards of 600 minke whales per year by Norway, limited killings by Inuit in
Greenland and Canada, and some questionable scientific killings by Japan.
the numbers, do we really need another form of white
meat on our tables?
Another wayward manatee has moved
far to the north from its usual Florida haunts, this
time to the chilly waters of the Mississippi River
As of this writing, biologists had bailed
on attempting to capture the 1,000-pound marine mammal.
like cold water, and with water temps hovering around 60 degrees there, the
sea cow may die if it's not captured. If it is netted, it will be transported
to SeaWorld for a checkup before being released in warmer Florida waters.
manatee took another unprecedented trip up the eastern
seaboard of the United States last summer, making it
as far north as
Cape Cod. That wayward critter has dropped out of
site, apparently, and hopefully is hot-finning its
way back south before the water gets too cold.
Now THAT'S a big barnacle
Researchers have discovered
a rare-to-Florida barnacle that is about as big as
your fist near St. Augustine.
The big barnacle, Megabalanus
usually found from Mexico to Ecuador in the Pacific
Ocean, but in the last few years has been reported
in Brazil, Texas and Louisiana waters, according to
scientists with the University of Florida in Gainesville.
It probably tagged along on a ship and ended up in
the Atlantic. It was first spotted in Savannah, Ga.,
Anyone who's scraped a boat bottom
free of the nasty critters knows that barnacles are a pain. Barnacles as big
as tangerines are a royal pain.
As one Florida Sea Grant extension agent
put it — rather mildly, too — "I think it's fair to
say it will have an impact. Especially for boating, they're a fouling
hazard. They tend to have sharp openings and they're a pain to get rid
According to UF researchers, "Barnacles,
arthropods that are related to crabs and lobsters, fix themselves to objects
or other animals and wait for food to come to them. The creatures can hitch
a ride to their new destinations by attaching themselves to ship or boat hulls,
or their larvae get sucked up in ballast water used to balance large vessels,
such as cruise ships.
"When ships unload cargo in ports,
they take on millions of gallons of sea water to keep them steady as the load
lightens. Ballast-water transport is believed responsible for many invasive
species around the globe, such as zebra mussels in the Great Lakes area, and
officials estimate ballast-water transport causes an estimated $10 billion
in damages a year."
Locally, Asian green mussels have plagued
the water inflow pipes for Tampa Bay Water's 25 million-gallon-per-day
The whole ship-ballast issue is being
addressed by federal officials through something called
Ballast Information Clearinghouse. The group
was formed in 1999, and penalties on ships went into
effect in 2004. Basically, ships must unload ballast
in non-coastal areas to flush out whatever has piggybacked
it's not just stuff
from there ending up here that's the problems. A U.S. ship carried some
kind of jellyfish to the Black Sea in the late 1980s, where it flourished and
killed off the anchovy industry.
As to the big barnacle, it seems to like
relatively warm waters and experts predict it will
indeed become a sticky problem for years to come.
A true exotic
Not all exotic species are bad, though.
A California company has genetically
engineered non-allergenic cats. Apparently, the kitties
replace shots and pills for allergy sufferers, as well
as purr and do all the other things that cats do.
per cat, it's not a feline
to sneeze at, but the company, Allerca, apparently has a steady stream of customers
willing to go through an arduous interview process before they can take delivery
of such a critter.
As the St. Petersburg Times put it, "People
who go to the trouble and expense of buying one of Allerca's cats obviously
don't view their cuddly purr machine as medicine, except maybe for the
Before you get going about genetic manipulation
and all its philosophical and ethical questions, there's
an addition to this cat tale.
Allerca has discovered
that about one in 50,000 cats has some form of mutation
that makes it allergy-free for humans, and they're
actively breeding those cats for their soon-to-be-sneeze-free
Here are some whale facts from the
American Cetacean Society:
"The fin whale is one of the rorquals,
a family that includes the humpback whale, blue whale, Bryde's whale, sei whale
and minke whale. The fin, or finback whale, is second only to the blue whale
in size and weight. Among the fastest of the great whales, it is capable of
bursts of speed of up to 23 mph, leading to its description as the ‘greyhound
of the sea.' Its most unusual characteristic is the asymmetrical coloring
of the lower jaw, which is white or creamy yellow on the right side and mottled
black on the left side. Fin whales are found in all oceans of the world, though
they seem to prefer temperate and polar waters to tropical seas."
minke whale is also known as the Little Piked Whale. Like all
the rorquals, the minke is a fast swimmer, capable of
reaching speeds of up to 21 mph. The minke can be curious,
and has been known to approach ships, even at times keeping
up with moving vessels. Often, however, minkes spend
relatively little time at the surface. It may be hard
to see a minke at sea because its blow is rarely visible
and it tends to disappear quickly after exhaling. Since
it is relatively small, it may be hidden in a choppy
sea. Minke distribution is widespread, ranging from sub-tropical
to polar waters."