Whaling Wins

A nearly two-decade effort to create a whale sanctuary across the southern Atlantic was shot down by pro-whaling nations at the fractious International Whaling Commission meeting in Brazil.

While 39 countries backed establishing a haven for the marine mammals, 25 voted against it, including Russia and pro-whaling Japan, along with commercial whaling nations Iceland and Norway. This caused the vote to fall short of the required three-quarters majority.


Outlaw Whaling

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced that Japan killed more than 50 minke whales in an Antarctic marine protection area this year as it continued to ignore a ruling to halt its “research whaling.”

Fishing is restricted in that part of the Southern Ocean to protect marine life, including blue, humpback, minke and killer whales, along with emperor penguins and Weddell seals. WWF said that Japan killed a total of 333 minke whales off Antarctica this year, including 122 pregnant females.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should cancel all existing “scientific whaling” permits in the Southern Ocean. But the country continues to issue itself new permits, and plans to do so until 2027.



Evolving Immunity

Several species nearly sent into extinction by a killer chytrid fungus appear to have evolved with resistance to the pathogen. Their populations in Panama alone have now rebounded to previous levels.

A hybrid strain of the fungus has been responsible for numerous die-offs of amphibians worldwide since the 1980s. It’s believed to have emerged because of the global trade in amphibians.

While not all species have evolved quickly enough to survive, the deep croaks of frogs and toads are returning to some of the once-quiet streams in Panama, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh.

But they caution that the amphibians are still infected with the fungus; they are just better able to limit its growth and damage.

Japanese Whaling Season Ends

Japan’s whaling fleet returned home after slaughtering 333 of the marine mammals since November.

The fleet of five ships operated this season without interference from anti-whaling groups for the first time in seven years, allowing the hunt for minke whales to proceed without disruption or confrontation.

The most aggressive of the campaigners, Sea Shepherd, announced last year it was taking a break from its efforts to thwart Japan’s whaling by clashing with the fleet in the Southern Ocean.


Japan kills 333 whales in annual Antarctic hunt

A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived in the morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the country’s Fisheries Agency said.

In a press release, the mission was described as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea”.

But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for “scientific research” and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting. But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served up in school lunches.

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Whaling – Activists to battle on after Japan whaling court victory

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Japanese whalers on Tuesday celebrated what they described as a court victory in the US to end years of high seas clashes with anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which immediately vowed to fight on.

The arch enemies have waged a legal and public relations battle as Sea Shepherd has sought to disrupt an annual whale hunt in the Antarctic that Japan defends as scientific research.

However, the settlement between the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Japan’s whaling body is unlikely to end the dispute as operations in Antarctic waters are mostly carried out by Sea Shepherd Australia, which does not come under the ruling.

On Tuesday, the Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku — key players in Japan’s whaling industry — announced a legal settlement that would bar the US group from attacking whaling ships or funding such activities.

The parties involved “successfully resolved the dispute through mediated negotiations earlier this month”, it said.

But Sea Shepherd played down any suggestion of a global agreement, saying the settlement only applied to its US arm and that other branches, including its Australian office, would keep fighting.

The announcement comes after a US court issued a preliminary injunction against Sea Shepherd in late 2012, ordering it to steer clear of the whaling ships.

Japan initiated the legal battle after several hunts in which the anti-whaling activists pursued the fleet for months in the icy waters near Antarctica, seeking to stop the slaughter.

Activists harassed whalers with paint and stink bombs, rammed their ships, and snared ship propellers with ropes.

Japan claims it conducts vital scientific research using a loophole in an international whaling ban, but makes no secret that the mammals ultimately end up on dinner plates.

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Anti-whaling activists fail to find Japan fleet

Anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd says it has not been able to find the Japanese fleet which is hunting whales in the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd sends its boats out every hunting season to try to interfere with the Japanese fleet and protect whales. But it said Japan had “greatly expanded their area of illegal operations” this year, making it hard to find them.

The statement called on Australia and New Zealand to help by passing on the co-ordinates of the fleet.

From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s whale meat was the single biggest source of meat in Japan. At its peak in 1964 Japan killed more than 24,000 whales in one year, most of them enormous fin whales and sperm whales.

Today Japan can afford to import meat from Australia and America. There is no deep-sea commercial whaling in Japan. The fleet that is now hunting in Antarctic waters is paid for by Japanese taxpayers to carry out what the Japanese government describes as “scientific research”.

Japan’s other justification is that it needs to kill hundreds of whales each year to study them. But the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has systematically dismantled that argument. In 2014 it ruled that there was no scientific case for Japan’s programme of “lethal research” in the Southern Ocean, and ordered Tokyo to stop.

Japan resumed its annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean in December last year, after a one-year break, despite a global moratorium on whaling.

The four-vessel fleet is aiming to catch 333 Antarctic Minke whales – about one-third of previous targets – and Japan says the hunt is for scientific research, which is allowed under the ban.

But activists say the programme is inhumane, unsustainable and illegal.


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Missing Antarctic Penguins – Update

The news was previously reported — that some 150,000 Adélie penguins have died in Antarctica because a colossal iceberg cut off their sea access.

But according to other experts, there’s no proof yet that the birds are dead. No one has actually found 150,000 frozen penguins. In fact, some experts think there’s a less horrific explanation for the missing birds: When the fishing gets tough, penguins simply pick up and move. It wouldn’t be the first time Adélie penguins marched to new digs. When an iceberg grounded in the southern Ross Sea in 2001, penguins on Ross Island relocated to nearby colonies until the ice broke up.

While the Adélie population has dropped along the Antarctic Peninsula, the colonies in East Antarctica are growing. As of 2011, there were approximately 7 million Adélie penguins in Antarctica. Losing 150,000 birds — even if that were true — is hardly considered to be apocalyptic, according to the opposing experts.


Norway Kills More Whales This Season Than Since 1993

Favorable weather during spring and most of this summer has allowed Norway’s commercial whaling ships to slaughter more of the marine mammals than they have since the country resumed its whale hunt during 1993, in violation of a worldwide moratorium.

While Japan kills whales under the guise of research, Norway and Iceland are the only two nations that conduct commercial hunts.

At least 729 whales have been harpooned by Norwegian ships so far this summer, up from the 590 rorqual whales slaughtered last year.

Greenpeace says Norway’s hunt will eventually end as demand for whale meat continues to wane.

The delicacy has already become less popular in Norway as well as in Japan, where storehouses are flooded with surplus meat from the country’s “research” whaling.

“The weather this summer has been very good, which favored significant whale meat demand for grilling in northern Norway, but also made hunting easier thanks to clear skies and calm waters,” said Truls Gulowsen, the head of Greenpeace in Norway.



Japan’s Whaling on Trial in the World Court

Japan told the UN’s top court that Australia’s anti-whaling case is part of a “civilizing mission and moral crusade” that is totally out of place in the modern world.

Australian government lawyers argued in the world court that Japan’s annual whale hunt is nothing more than commercial slaughter of the marine mammals under the guise of science.

Australia’s case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is countered by Japan’s claims that its hunts are legal under a 1946 convention that allows limited catches for scientific research.

But Australia argues that killing whales for research “only makes sense if there is a question that needs to be answered … a meaningful question.”

They say that Japan is merely enabling its whaling fleet to kill for the purpose of putting whale meat on Japanese dinner plates.

“What you have before you is not a scientific research program. It is a heap of body parts taken from a pile of dead whales,” Australian lawyer Phillippe Sands told the court.

Commercial whaling was halted in 1986 under an international moratorium.

But Japan, Iceland and Norway have continued to conduct limited whaling expeditions despite a demonstrated lack of demand in the marketplace for the meat of the slaughtered leviathans.

Australian officials say they want the court to deliver a judgment by the end of the year, before Japan launches its annual Southern Hemisphere hunt near Antarctica.

Australia has declared a vast stretch of the Southern Ocean under its jurisdiction a whale sanctuary.


Bugless Britain Leaving U.K. Birds Hungry This Summer

A second consecutive wet, cool and unsettled summer across Britain has wiped out large populations of bees, moths and butterflies, according to a new National Trust report. It warns that the drop in the number of winged insects could cause birds and bats go to hungry for the remainder of this year.

“Insect populations have been really very low. Then when they have got going, they’ve been hit by a spell of cool, windy weather… so our environment is just not bouncing with butterflies or anything else,”said Matthew Oates, a National Trust naturalist who worked on the report.

It says that the dearth of airborne insects could cause martins, swifts, swallows and warblers to struggle to survive in the coming months.

A delayed spring that started with the coldest March in 50 years across the U.K. caused frogs and toads to struggle to breed in water that was still frozen in many rural locations.