From The Independent
Marine biologists and philosophers have joined forces to support a controversial declaration of rights for whales and dolphins on the grounds that their astonishing intelligence and emotional empathy puts them on a par with humans.
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Research into the complex behaviour of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – is revealing that these sea mammals are so highly evolved and complex in terms of their behaviour that they deserve special protection with a universal bill of rights, they said.
Dolphins and whales have complex vocal communications and are able to learn an astonishing variety of behaviours when they come into contact with humans, such as cooperative fishing with native fishermen. The proponents of the bill of rights argue the cetacean mind is so advanced and self-aware that whales and dolphins should be classified as “non-human persons” who deserve the right to life, liberty and wellbeing. “A person needs to be an individual,” said Tom White, a philosopher at the Hilton Centre for Business in Los Angeles. “If individuals count then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being.
“The captivity of beings of this sort particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life is ethically unacceptable, commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable. You can’t say its all about the size of the population. We’re saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness, self-awareness is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges.”
The declaration of rights for cetaceans states that every individual dolphin, whale and porpoise has the right to life and liberty and that not only should they not be killed by hunting, but none should be kept in captivity or servitude or subject to cruel treatment. It states that no cetacean can be the property of any individual or government and calls for the legal protection of their natural environment and a ban on any activity that disrupts their “cultures”, which could include underwater military sonar that disturbs their acoustic communications.
“The similarities between cetaceans and humans are such that, like us, they have an individual sense of self. We can look internally and say that we have emotions, personality and sense of self. They do as well,” said Dr White. “What we see in cetaceans is that humans need individual freedom more than whales and dolphins. But dolphins need social life more. When I look at captive animals I don’t say, ‘gee, they’ve got no freedom’, I say, ‘they have no social life’.”
Lori Marino, of Emory University in Atlanta, said people can support the call for a bill of cetacean rights by not going to sea life parks that keep dolphins, porpoises or whales. “Once you shift from seeing a being as a property … to a person, an autonomous entity that has a right to life on his or her own terms, the whole framework shifts,” she said.
Marine intelligence: brains of the oceans
* In self-awareness experiments, dolphins identify their reflections in a mirror.
* Wild orcas in Patagonia supported a member of the social group with a damaged jaw by feeding it for more than a year.
* Tests on captive dolphins show they have the ability to indicate “I don’t know” when pressed to make a choice between two alternatives.
* A captive dolphin was found to have exploited a reward for picking up rubbish in its tank by hiding a sheet of paper and plucking off small segments when keepers with fish rewards were nearby.
- Whales and dolphins ‘should have legal rights’ (bfreenews.com)
- Same rights as humans for whales and dolphins? (naturalgaia.wordpress.com)
- Whales and dolphins ‘should have legal rights’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Dolphins ‘Deserve Same Rights As Humans’ (news.sky.com)
- Dolphins Are ” Non-human” Persons (havehest.wordpress.com)
- Group: Dolphins are ‘Non-Human Persons’ (myfoxny.com)
- Proposed bill of rights for whales and dolphins (independent.co.uk)
- Why whales and dolphins should qualify as ‘non-human people’ (macleans.ca)
- A bill of rights for dolphins: They’re so smart we must treat them as ‘non human persons’ say scientists (dailymail.co.uk)
- Santorum Shows He’ll Fire Back In Michigan Ad Wars – NPR (npr.org)
Link to my whales and noise pollution resource page
The effect on whales of propeller noise, military sonar and explosions set off in the search for oil and gas is highly controversial. Environmental campaigners claim the noise interferes with the singing of whales, or even kills the animals, and are currently suing the US government over the navy’s use of sonar.
The research, published on Wednesday, provides the first evidence of physical harm, according to Rosalind Rolland, a researcher at the New England Aquarium, in Boston, US.
“We showed whales occupying oceans with high levels of ship noise have a chronic stress response,” said Rolland, who led the study. “We knew whales changed the frequency of their calls to adapt to the ship noise, but this work shows it is not merely an annoyance – it is having a physical effect.”
She had not originally set out to study the effect of noise on the animals. The hormone data was part of a study of the whales’ health and reproduction but Rolland realised many years later it could be combined with data on noise levels from shipping to draw conclusions about how the whales are being affected.
Whales use sound as their primary sense, just as humans use sight, and their singing enables them to find food, mates and to navigate. They are believed to be able to communicate over hundreds of kilometres. But the frequencies they use largely overlap with the frequencies generated by human activities in the oceans, which have increased tenfold in volume since the 1960s, disrupting their ability to communicate.
A separate study published in January showed the singing of humpback whales was disrupted by sonar noise caused over 200km away while measuring fish stocks.
Rolland was at sea in the Bay of Fundy on 11 September 2001: “There was a dramatic reduction in ship traffic that day. It was like being on the primal ocean.” The noise levels from shipping fell by half, as transport was shut down in response the terror attacks. Rolland’s team also collected faecal balls from the whales, which float, and analysed the levels of stress hormones present. They found a “highly significant” decrease in stress hormones coincided with the drop in shipping noise.
“Instant responses to stress – like running away from a tiger – can be life-saving,” said Rolland. “But if it becomes chronic, it causes profound depression of the immune system, making them vulnerable to disease, and it depresses reproduction.”
The northern right whales Rolland studied are one of the most endangered whales, with 475 in the world and a population growing at just 1% a year. In contrast, the southern right whale numbers 8-10,000 and a growth rate of 7-8% a year, as they recover from the decimation of whaling. Rolland dubbed the northern right whale “the urban whale” in a book she co-authored, because its territory is close to the busy eastern seaboard of North America. She said damage caused by noise is very likely to be a factor in the population’s slow recovery, and may also affect other whales. Beaked whales, which Rolland is now studying, are particularly sensitive to sonar she said, and are frequently the species involved in mass beachings.
“The positive aspect to this particular issue is that it is a solvable problem,” Rolland said. The noise is largely down to engine inefficiencies, she said, which is possible to remedy and doing so would reduce fuel consumption in return for upfront investment. The International Maritime Organisation and the European Union are both investigating how to reduce marine noise. But with 50,000 large ships travelling the oceans on any given day and a ship lifespan of about three decades, changing the fleet will not occur overnight.
Danny Groves, at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: “Not enough is being done to reduce noise in our oceans Very little is known about its long-term effects and more research is needed.
“Amazingly, there are currently no accepted international standards regarding noise pollution in our seas.”
Asked how the whale faecal balls were found, Rolland said: “We find the pellets opportunistically, but we do also use trained scent-detection dogs. They are phenomenal. They work off the bow and can detect the scent up to 1km away.”
- Shipping causes ‘chronic stress’ to whales (bfreenews.com)
- Whales ‘stressed by ocean noise’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Shhh … Ocean Noises Stress Out Whales (news.sciencemag.org)
- Whales ‘stressed by ocean noise’ (bbc.co.uk)
- First evidence that shipping noise stresses whales (newscientist.com)
- Ship Noise Boosts Stress in Whales (maboulette.wordpress.com)
- Whaling Update : Japan urged to recall fleet and abandon dying whale meat industry (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- “Whale Day” announced! (saveourwhalesnow.wordpress.com)
- Whale heads and tales (uwtreasures.wordpress.com)
Thirty-eight pilot whales which stranded in Golden Bay yesterday have re-stranded, despite a successful refloating exercise this morning. 3News reports on a natural tragedy that still baffles scientist. *** Please post comments below, at https://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature or http://www.facebook.com/pages/LearnFromNature/122123191208795
My FACT SHEET REGARDING STRANDINGS http://environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com/jargon-busterfor-kids/cetacean-strandings/
“They just milled around in a group and didn’t show any inclination to move, other than 4-500m down the beach.”
Project Jonah’s Kim Muncaster says one whale lead the others into shore.
“After [we] refloated them, one of the larger whales made a determined attempt to get back on shore,” she says.
The other whales then followed – causing them to re-strand.
The rescue mission is made worst by the fact the tide is quickly receding, with low-tide forecast for just after 5pm.
DOC spokesman Nigel Mountfort says the whales are stuck “high and dry, exactly where they were yesterday”.
For now, the plan is to cover the whales in sheets, keep them wet, keep the sun off them and shovel around their tails and fins to help them stay upright.
Once night falls and the tide starts coming in, it is hoped the whales will refloat themselves, Mr Mountfort says.
Project Jonah and DOC will review the situation in the morning, but it is too dangerous for volunteers to stay in the area overnight.
Almost 100 pilot whales stranded about 7 kilometres from the base of Farewell Spit on Monday, in the third mass stranding of the summer.
Volunteers and Project Jonah worked throughout the night to keep them alive.
Thirty-four whales did not survive the night but 39 were refloated at high-tide this morning.
By midday the whales were 200m offshore with volunteers coaxing them out to deeper water.
Twenty-six that refloated themselves overnight were seen swimming away this afternoon.
Mr Mason said the unfortunate turn of events was “disappointing”.
“We put a lot of work in trying to refloat the whales and they chose not to go. It’s disappointing but we will try and refloat them again and hopefully they will choose to leave.”
About 50 people had volunteered to help with rescue efforts, with people travelling from as far as Australia, Auckland and Invercargill to take part.
Mr Mountford said the dead whales would either be buried or left to dry out in the dunes.
3 News / NZN
- New Zealand Whale Stranding: 36 Pilot Whales Dead, 40 More in Danger [Video] (inquisitr.com)
- More pilot whales die from beachings in New Zealand (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Ninenty whales stranded on beach (calgaryherald.com)
- You: 25 whales strand on New Zealand beach; 7 dead, 18 refloated but not out of danger (washingtonpost.com)
- Whales strand in New Zealand: 7 dead, 18 refloated (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Whales strand in New Zealand; 7 dead, 18 refloated (uwtreasures.wordpress.com)
- Whales Strand in New Zealand; 7 Dead, 18 Refloated (abcnews.go.com)
- 61 whales die in New Zealand mass stranding (france24.com)
- NZ officials euthanise stranded whales (news.smh.com.au)
- Whales strand in New Zealand; 7 dead, 18 refloated (msnbc.msn.com)