Monday, January 4, 2010

How are Swedish Wolves and Right Whales related

One of our researchers was here over New Years and she was telling me about the situation in Sweden, where she now lives, with their wolves, clearly a small endangered population, not that much different from North Atlantic right whales. It is believed that the current Swedish wolf population started with only three individuals and has grown to 230-250 individuals. The government has approved a hunt of 27 wolves and have 12,000 hunters registered to participate in this hunt. Here is an excerpt from

"The most extensive wolf hunt in Sweden since the last century will start January 2: nd, 2010. More than 12 000 wolf hunters have registered to shoot 27 wolves in the five counties of Dalarna, Värmland, Gävleborg, Örebro and Västra Götaland. This kind of extensive wolf hunt hasn’t been seen since the 1920s. Over 10 % of the Swedish wolf population will be shot, although there aren’t more than 230-250 wolves in total. This hunt lacks any scientific reason, and is a violation of the European Union’s legislations of the Habitats Directive. Raise your voice, become a member and sign the petition at which will be sent to the Minister for the Environment Andreas Carlgren and the members of the Committee on Environment and Agriculture."

In the early 1900s a right whale hunt was restarted off the Hebrides, off Scotland, the whale fishery took 94 off Outer Hebrides and 6 off Shetland between 1903–1928, although only 3 after 1918 [Thompson, D’A.W. (1928) On whales landed at the Scottish whaling stations during the years 1908–1914 and 1920–1927. Scientific Investigations, Fishery Board of Scotland, 3, 1–40.]. None were obtained when whaling resumed in 1950–1951 [Brown, S.G. (1976) Modern whaling in Britain and the North-east Atlantic Ocean. Mammal Review, 6, 25–36]. In Western Ireland, 18 were caught between 1908–1914, but none in 1920 or 1922 [Fairley, J.S. (1981) Irish whales and whaling. Longstaff Press, Dublin]. These populations have not recovered but if this right whale hunt had not occurred in the early 1900s a right whale population along the European coast would be present today.

Now the level of hunt of right whales was clearly higher than the proposed wolf hunt, one wonders how we can decide what number is appropriate. And why do they want a smaller wolf population in Sweden? Perhaps because the same 12,000 hunters see wolves as a competitor with large game? Good thing that right whales eat zooplankton. That argument can never be made unless someone develops a zooplankton market. This is not as far-fetched as it may seem, since krill harvesting has already been in place in the Antarctic and was also proposed off Nova Scotia as a finishing ingredient for farmed Atlantic salmon. Colouring additives need to be added to farmed salmon since they are not eating such things as krill in the pellets they are fed daily and salmon, like flamingos are white-fleshed. Flamingos have white feathers if they do not eat brine shrimp.

I keep hoping that we will see other species as something we don't have to "manage" and that we can live in harmony with them but my normally optimistic self keeps getting derailed by such acts as culls.

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