Not All Live Strandings Are Natural
Whales and Dolphins Can Survive Strandings
Orphaned Cetaceans Can Survive
Anthropogenic Factors Contribute to Live Strandings
1) What has changed since our first interview about 3 years ago, for better and for worse?
Things definitely did not get better. Stranded whales and dolphins are still denied medical attention, rescue, are still euthanized. Strandings barely get any comprehensive and independent investigation, it was illustrated perfectly in a recent dramatic stranding of a pod of sperm whales in the North Sea.
2) Can you go into more detail on the very important point from IV1 about the strandings we actually see or witness may be as little as 8% of who all really stranded or died from any given event
We focus on live strandings, and desperately are trying to communicate the idea that stranded alive cetaceans have beaten enormous odds to stay alive, to strand alive and to be found alive. Not all whales and dolphins that die at sea wash ashore, in fact, as it was discussed before, in an experiment where dead, marked carcasses were released offshore, only 8% or so washed ashore. This data indicates that we greatly underestimate mortalities, and yet another argument why we have to do anything possible to save every stranded alive cetacean.
3) The issue of what is big on the 'public radar'...'captivity' versus the real global threats...why this is the case
Strandings are basically fly under the public attention radar, and we think it happens for the several reasons. First, due to rescues and industry's decades-long narrative, the public sincerely believes that all stranded whales and dolphins are beyond any hope, and the mercy killing is the only way to deal with them. This, of course, is not true, since not only data shows that strandined animals' health differ greatly, but also that proper, timely rescue intervention coupled with medical attention saves lives. Furthermore, data also shows that rescued stranded cetaceans can survive, can find their pod, and thrive. Because of that false perception, the public sees stranded animals as "sickly", but captive cetaceans or Taiji cetaceans, as healthy animals being robbed of their lives. Second, stranded cetaceans are not "sexy", meaning that since these animals are "sickly", there are no celebrity wants to talk about them, no one wants to do a documentary, let alone stage any protests or cordons to prevent stranded animals from being killed. For example, just a few days ago, extremely rare pygmy blue whale stranded in Australia, and his murder by "rescuers" barely got any attention let alone registered in the public's psyche. Third, strandings are hidden from the public view due to lack of publicity. People do not see it, and think it is not happening. Fourth, since there is no global database on live and dead strandings we do not know how many animals strand alive and dead. We estimate that it could be around 800-1000 animals annually (live strandings only), including rare and threatened species. So over the decade we could lose 10, 000 animals in live strandings alone (not counting dead strandings, or those died at sea never to be seen or counted) simply because the rescue rates are extremely low. For the comparison, the entire humpback population in the Southern Hemisphere is 50, 000 animals.
4) the 'celebrity expert' syndrome...we can name names like Ingrid Visser, Lori Marino...I would now add Howard Garrett. Who and what are these people, how did they get to be this way and why they are so influential...mass-media and public stupidity?
What is especially puzzling to us is why stranded alive animals have not got any celebrity experts/spokespersons attached to the issue. As it was mentioned above, strandings result in population level losses, and not only we lose individual animals, but culture and knowledge, as knowledge in cetacean societies is transferred culturally. Maybe because not a single sperm whale lived to tell the story of the dangers of the North Sea, the next pod will be naive and will get caught in the same shallow trap. So it is clear that strandings can and do have profound impact on cetacean societies and population, and yet there is no spokesperson for them. We think it happens because strandings are very controversial and represent a degree of cognitive dissonance people do not want to deal with. In case of Taiji, Japanese are bad guys. In case of captivity, the Sea World are the bad guys. But who are the bad guys in strandings? Oil industry that gives people jobs? The Navy people do not want to go against (understandably so)? Rescues that put volunteers on the front line so no one can criticize them for refusing to help and killing cetaceans? Government bodies like the NOAA in the US or DOC in NZ? What celebrity would want to wage wars against rescues with their volunteers or the Department of Conservation?
5) update on the REAL GLOBAL THREATS to cetaceans and all marine life...awareness that could lead to preventing strandings
People need to realize how profoundly devastating strandings are for cetacean populations. We are very alarmed about the new narrative that is currently being pushed in Australia and other countries, that strandings are good since they indicate that populations are recovering. This is an absurd notion because we do not know what is a normal baseline of stranding events in a healthy and robust population. It is also absurd because populations are not recovering. Sperm whales have not recovered to pre-whaling numbers, nor did humpbacks. Australia has been saying that there are too many humpbacks and not enough fish (overfishing much?) so humpbacks in danger of stranding should be culled on a spot. Cetaceans face enormous range of problems: climate change, overfishing, pollution, entanglement, ship strikes, acoustic noise disturbances, oil/gas exploration, Navies with their bombs, sonars, shock wave tests, explosives, rockets, missels. The new threat is a deep sea mining that is gaining steam. Some of these disturbances contribute to strandings, but the public still sees strandings as "unfortunate, but natural events" or "Mother nature at work", while the reality is the large percentage of live strandings has anthropogenic causes.
6) Proper ways to deal with stranded cetaceans..examples of people/groups/methods that actually work and show respect and compassion for our fellow beings VERSUS what NOT to do and examples of this...
This question deserves another, entirely separate interview, since there is a lot to be said about that. Let's schedule one soon, ok? But in short, the best way to save a stranded cetacean is to provide timely, effective rescue. Some of stranded cetaceans are very sick and indeed will need rehabilitation. But in many cases, rapid intervention is very successful since it prevents the development of stranding related health issues like stress related cardiac events for example.
7) Relatively new global threats coming on radar...electrification of the ocean particularly in vicinity of high density vessel traffic, ref. work of Stewart Simonson and Terry Lilley, microwave saturation of marine environments, specifically off of Kauai and Great Barrier Reef Australia
We cannot comment on electrification of the ocean or the microwave saturation of marine environments since we know very little about this topic. What we know about, is the rapidly developing plans for the deep sea mining, that will be basically oil and gas exploration on steroids and is the area of a great concern, especially for deep diving species that are already vulnerable to strandings as is.
8) what about all the rubbish passing for 'science' these days, not only in marine and cetaceans but in general? Corruption, the use of 'science' as 'public relations' for globalization agendas, who funds 'science' and why? Who is actually unbiased and therefore capable of looking for, recognizing and sharing the truth in the world of today?
The biggest problem for cetaceans is that their livelihood intercepts with numerous, very powerful interests including fisheries, the Big Oil, the Navies, and others. Because everything is charged and controversial, it is very hard to do independent research under such conditions. As a result we have glaring conflicts of interests where the largest noise polluters (the Navy or the Big Oil) are the only funding bodies funding any research on acoustic impact on cetaceans for example. Strandings is another example. Since these interested parties do not want any evidence that their activities caused strandings, they do not fund this area. Since there is no money in here, no one comprehensively investigates strandings. For example, the evidence of acoustic trauma could be recovered from the whale's ear, but only when hair cells from the ear are collected properly and within hours post-mortem. Since organizations who respond to strandings do not have such capabilities, they do not do such analysis. It is even worse for large whales due to logistics involved in full forensic investigation. As a result the only analysis we have is some tissue samples that say absolutely nothing about the cause of stranding. In this information vacuum, we only have industry funded voices that say there are no evidences that these players cause strandings. Of course there is no evidence, when no one collects or investigates anything, there will be no evidence! What is worse, many countries, including the US, Australia, NZ and others allow numerous damaging activities in their waters, war games/exercises, oil exploration and upcoming deep sea mining. But none of these countries has well-designed, independent entity that should be charged with investigating strandings. As a result, we had numerous cases worldwide where we recorded live strandings in the vicinity of such activities, yet some rescue waltzed on that beach, collected one square inch of a tissue sample, gave the media interview telling that it was "sad, but natural event" and on the next day this whale or a dolphin is completely forgotten. Meanwhile, the Navy or the Big Oil write in their applications for permits and post-activity reports that their activities did not result in any negative impact on cetacean populations. The current state of affairs is a complete absurd and it is very frustrating.
MY FIRST INTERVIEW WITH SNM, SEPTEMBER 2013