[MARMAM] New paper reviewing conservation of large whales (2017 Revelle Lecture publication)

Phillip Clapham - NOAA Federal phillip.clapham at noaa.gov
Thu Jul 21 09:31:59 PDT 2016

The following was just published online and is available for free download:

Clapham, P.  2016.  Managing Leviathan: Conservation challenges for the
great whales in a post-whaling world.  National Academy of Sciences Revelle
Lecture Series.  Oceanography  http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/ oceanog.2016.70.


Perhaps no group of animals has come to better symbolize human misuse of
the global environment than the great whales.  Almost three million whales
were killed by whaling in the 20th century alone, with some populations
estimated to have been reduced by 99% of their pristine abundance.
Attempts to promote regulated, sustainable whaling by international
agreement, notably through the International Convention for the Regulation
of Whaling (1946), were almost immediately derailed by over-capitalization
and profit-based self-interest.  The major whaling nations used
uncertainties in abundance estimates to ignore increasing evidence of
population declines, and consistently exploited procedural flaws in the
Convention to obstruct either the passage of rules designed to enact
conservation measures, or proposals for independent inspection of the
industry.  This major failure of regulatory efforts was exacerbated by
secret, large-scale illegal whaling by the former USSR and Japan that
remained undisclosed for decades.  Today, the status of the great whales
varies widely: some species or populations are recovering strongly from
exploitation, while a few others remain critically endangered.  Although
some whaling continues, the scale is greatly reduced from that of the 20th
century, and in this largely post-whaling world other threats to whales are
more significant.  These include well-documented problems such as ship
strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, as well as issues for which
population-level impacts are unclear (ocean noise) or largely unknown.  The
removal by whaling of so many whales likely had significant impacts on the
ecosystems in which they played a major role as consumers and, through
their transport and recycling of nutrients, in the enhancement of primary
productivity.  As populations recover, the effect of their reintegration
into the marine environment represents a fascinating issue in ecosystem
dynamics.  Overall (and with some notable exceptions) whale populations
will likely continue to recover; however, this generally optimistic outlook
is clouded by the potential for large-scale oceanic ecosystem changes
precipitated by global warming.
Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
Leader, Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Alaska Fisheries Science Center
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115, USA

Associate Editor, *Royal Society Open Science*

tel 206 526 4037
fax 206 526 6615
email phillip.clapham at noaa.gov
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