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Cetaceans – whales and dolphins

International Whaling Commission

IWC – Next Meeting September 2018

Three experienced Green Vegans representatives have represented you at the International Whaling Commission in the past. Though we hope to attend IWC 2018, it appears funding will fall short so we will work at distance and continue to confer with other organizations.  iwc

This would have been our second, third, and ninth IWC meeting. The biennial IWC meeting is a high-level, government-to-government convention that saves—or kills—whales depending upon which nations prevail voting. There are some 88 nation-members that send voting delegations to the convention. Aside from Green Vegans, there is no other outwardly vegan environmental organization represented at the IWC.

When we attend, Green Vegans has access to lobby the delegations from other nations. It feels impossible that the world has not yet entirely committed to saving Earth’s whales and dolphins from slaughter after decades of focused opposition by organizations around the world. Progress at the IWC is never easy.

Gray Whales

Green Vegans continues to advocate for gray whale protection as part of our history attending the International Whaling Commission (IWC): (a) We oppose Makah tribal whaling against a sub-population of 200 genetically distinct Eastern North Pacific gray whales. They are often referred to as the Washington/Southern Vancouver Island (WA/SVI) gray whales. (b) We support the protection of a seasonal population of 10 – 12 gray whales, the Northern Puget Sound (NPS) gray whales, who forage there for a few months and then leave, possibly joining the larger population south of Kodiak Island, Alaska.


Makah Whaling – Background

On February 14, 2005 the Makah Tribe’s requested a limited waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) take moratorium.  The waiver, regulations, and permit would allow the Tribe to resume killing gray whales. Two have been harpooned and shot, one illegally since they addressed the IWC with their request.

The Tribe made this particular request after the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision in Anderson v. Evans found that the Tribe must comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Since then, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was terminated in 2008 because new evidence came to light about a 200 (Washington/Southern Vancouver Island (WA/SVI) sub-population of gray whales and the discovery that highly endangered Western Pacific gray whales mix with the more populous Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales the Makah want to kill, and could be unavoidably harpooned by the Makah.

In March 2015 a new DEIS was released for public comment. Green Vegans comments were submitted but the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has not been released. Evidence shows the WA/SVI whales are a distinct sub-population. In 2017, the Government of British Columbia, which borders Washington, listed these same whales as “endangered”.

As the research continues to grow, so do the reasons from a legal perspective not to grant the Makah the required approvals. Green Vegans opposes killing whales anywhere, anytime, and will continue working against this particular hunt.


Gray whale calf / Baja, Mexico | Will Anderson


UPDATE Spring 2018: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has not yet finished the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) reportedly because information is continually evolving about the highly endangered Western Pacific Gray Whales who migrate through the area of the proposed Makah gray whale killing and the vulnerability of the local and more broadly regional sub-populations of gray whales who show both  fidelity, returning year after year, and genetic uniqueness.

Green Vegans advocates for these gray whales to be classified as a Distinct Population Segment (DSP) that would given them increased protections. We are monitoring NMFS for updates.

Gray Whales in Washington State

Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales are under increasing pressure as their habitat changes drastically due to global warming and human activities both on and offshore. On July 14, 2010, Green Vegans petitioned the state of Washington to list as endangered approximately 200 gray whales that have been identified recently as being genetically unique, the Pacific Coast Feeding Group. A new scientific publication recommended these whales, (200 but in 2017 cited at 243) be treated as a distinct population segment (DPS) which in the U.S. can be the basis for a finding of endangered species protections even though the larger population of the species remains “non-endangered.”

Thirteen national and regional organizations signed on endorsing our petition. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) responded with a denial and to this day has no management plan under the current status of “state sensitive”. The Department is interpreting state criteria arbitrarily and inconsistently when viewed from their past actions.

Without protections specific to the Western North Pacific and Pacific Coast Feeding Group populations and particularly members regularly occurring off northern Washington and southern Vancouver Island, these coastal-living whales are not protected from the growing threats to habitat destruction, vessel traffic, oil spills, climate change and increasing ship and pleasure boat disruption. WDFW is failing to protect this subpopulation of gray whales who spend a significant time in state waters and fills a specific ecological niche essential for healthy state marine ecosystems.

See https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00375/ 1997 reduced to State Sensitive and https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/species/gray_whale.pdf

UPDATE: Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., a scientist who serves on our board of advisors, notified us of a recent article from New Scientist magazine. It describes how mathematical and genetic modeling of the gray population indicates these 200 whales we are campaigning to protect are the remnants of a once larger population that responded to the last ice age by feeding differently and not migrating to the then frozen northern latitudes where they originally foraged.

UPDATE: Though the State of Washington has declined to up-list the 200 or so gray whales who most frequently inhabit state waters, we will continue our efforts to gain protection for them. This is a huge project that Green Vegans board members and supporters have undertaken. We collaborate with other organizations with your support.

Atlantic Humpback Whale | Will Anderson


Research – Northern Puget Sound Gray Whales

For the Northern Puget Sound (NPS) gray whales, research is underway to better define their habitat requirements and evaluate possible conflicts with local fisheries, including the spotted shrimp fishery. These gray whales feed extensively in sandy sediments filtering shrimp and other species through their baleen before swallowing them. In British Columbia, Canada, gray whales use different feeding strategies.

Lolita, the loneliest Orca whale

Lolita is a captive orca whale (taxonomically a dolphin) held at Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) in the smallest pool of its kind in the U.S. Green Vegans board members have a long history on this injustice and have documented first-hand her unacceptable captivity in Miami, Florida. Many organizations are working to get Lolita out of her watery prison.

Lolita Killer Whale

Despite multiple efforts to free Lolita to a sanctuary, she remains in Miami swimming in circles. MSQ’s board of directors who profit from Lolita’s enslavement refuse to consider retiring her. Now, the Whale Sanctuary Project  is underway to establish the first real option for formerly captive orca and beluga whales (collectively called “cetaceans”). The sanctuary will be available for Lolita and others in need.

The good news is that this trend is building; the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD is searching for a location to establish a sanctuary for the eight dolphins now held captive there but to be “free” by 2020. There are capable organizations that will work together but lack the funding to elevate the pressure on Miami Seaquarium. It’s an all too familiar obstacle.

It’s morally criminal that MSQ refuses to let their money-maker, Lolita, return to the Washington State waters of her birth and her sub-pod, L25. (www.orcanetwork.org). Orca whales generally stay with their mothers’ social groups (pods) for life. A vegan donor or team of donors with deep pockets would have the honor of linking Lolita’s freedom with veganism—and its environmental necessity. Donors with a cumulative pledge totaling $1.5 million minimum should get in touch with us. If you have any doubts about the value of this campaign, we recommend the movie Blackfish and the book Death at SeaWorld.