MEPS 375:305-309 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07882

Reconsidering the science of scientific whaling

Peter J. Corkeron*

Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA

ABSTRACT: Scientific whaling is one of the most publicly contentious applications of marine ecological research today. An evaluation of the second phase of Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) program in the western North Pacific (JARPN II) is soon to be conducted under the auspices of the Scientific Committee (SC) of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Previous IWC SC reviews identified serious problems with the programs, yet reached inconsequential conclusions, and the JARPN II review is the first under a new format. The basic design of this study—forestomach sampling coupled with acoustic and trawl surveys for prey—is an unsophisticated approach to investigating the foraging ecology of Balaenoptera spp. Published results of the JARPN II feasibility study demonstrate problems with the execution of field work. Data analyses were simplistic. Non-lethal studies into the foraging ecology of Balaenoptera spp., using far fewer resources, have produced more definitive information. The recent changes in the IWC SC review process should result in unambiguous advice on how to improve the design of JARPN II. If the review recommends improvements that are not acted upon by the program’s proponents, the IWC may need to decide whether the JARPN II program can be considered to be scientific research under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. 

KEY WORDS: Scientific whaling · Foraging ecology · Fisheries interactions · Scientific review

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Cite this article as: Corkeron PJ (2009) Reconsidering the science of scientific whaling. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 375:305-309

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