LAST Sunday Inuit from Baffin Island, in the Canadian Arctic, discovered about 200 whales trapped in ice near Pond Inlet. In the Arctic open water is starting to freeze-over with the onset of winter.
Yesterday the Inuit started culling the whales, known as Narwhal, apparently on the advice of their elders and in the belief that otherwise the animals would die a slow death from starvation and/or suffocation.
The Narwhal, Monodon monocerus, also known as ‘unicorns of the sea’, have a bizarre spiral tusk extending from their head which can be up to three metres long. The species is not considered endangered and the normal hunting quota for the Baffin Island community is 130 Narwhal each year.
Ann Novek says
Threre is a narwhal hunt currently in Greenland as well:
Natural large kills of any animal can be an unfortunate event because of loss of viable populations of animals or if it causes suffering.
In the absence of viable alternatives, the culling by the Inuit, who will no doubt make use of the animals, seems the most appropriate outcome, even for the unfortunate whales. My hope is that the methods used are relatively humane.
It’s hard to avoid a glib comment about climate change producing an ice free arctic this year not remotely coming to pass, but especially since winter is well on its way I don’t know enough about ice coverage to determine if this ice event is approaching normal for a normal year (whatever that is) or a clear and present indiction of catastrophic climate change requiring immediate and irreversible crippling of global economy. [/sarc]
I suspect it may be the former.
You’re up late Ann!
In your post you (I assume it’s you) comment that the whales are coming later because of global warming.
Putting aside reasons for warming, I can’t read the link – I’m curious about what the evidence is for a warming connection to timing. Optimum breedin temperatures?
Ann Novek says
It’s quite common that whales are trapped by ice in the Arctic this time of the year. Methinks such incidents happen annually.
Perhaps the most famous case was when some grey whales were trapped off Alaska 1988 , and huge rescue actions were carries out , involving both the Soviet Navy and the US Navy , trying to make a passageway for the whales out to the sea with icebreakers. I think though this episode had quite a happy end .
Re the Greenland narwhals it is stated that they used to come near shore in the end of November , now due to warming they arrived earlier….
Appreciate the reply.
Ann Novel says
Aoplogies for an error in the above statement. The article states :
” Tidligere – før den globale opvarmning af kloden – kom hvalerne i begyndelsen af november, men nu kommer de senere på året. ”
From Danish : ” Earlier before the global warming –the narwhals arrived in the beginning of November but now the arrive later.
Thanks again Ann.
“I think though this episode had quite a happy end .”
It sort of did. There were three whales, one died and the other two were freed. I think there was also the case a couple of years later of a large number of belugas that were trapped and a Russian ice breaker lured them to freedom playing classical Russian music.
Compare this post with this weekend’s beaching of a pod of Whales in North East Tasmania
Margo's Maid says
On the subject of whales, in relation to the strandings in Tasmania, your readers might be interested in a paper highlighted over here: http://margosmaid.blogspot.com/2008/11/whale-management.html
If one expert is to be believed, we can expect that the whales sent back out to sea are not going to survive.
“If one expert is to be believed, we can expect that the whales sent back out to sea are not going to survive.”
The whales refloated stand a reasonable chance of survival. Provided these animals are in good health they should stay out at sea.
The pilot whales that were refloated were satellite tagged and are being tracked. This is a first for Australia, but has been done in a few cases overseas. It would appear that the animals are indeed doing well and have regrouped. The story on ABC midday report should be available online soon.
Can we really say we’ve freed these whales when we tag them and force them to participate without their consent in this Miss Universe Pageant we now call science?
Ann Novek says
I’m glad that some whales could be rescued: