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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Say Goodbye to Whale Conservation

Iceland's resumption of whale slaughter is having profound consequences. Not only is Iceland now exporting whale meat to Japan (depriving starving Icelanders of valuable protein), Norway is actively hunting minke whales, Japan is set to depart for the Antarctic for its annual slaughter, and, now, Saint Kitts wants to get into the action. I suppose the good news is that tourists are boycotting Iceland.

What we are seeing is narrow corporate and ideological interests combining to create a market for whale products. Whaling should have died a market death with the end of whale oil for lamps (last I heard, Iceland had electricity and didn't need whale oil for light). Instead, a few companies have solicited government subsidies to make a consumer base for a "product" that's source is declining rapidly, no one really likes to eat, will make no difference to global development or economic success, and will have tragic consequences for global marine health. Rich bastards are getting richer by killing off our few remaining natural wonders.

This is madness, given the global context of marine life. New studies indicate that fish will be off the menu by 2048 from a combination of climate change, overfishing, pollution, and even swirling vortexes of plastic (thanks to Stuart for the link). Already, overfishing has wiped out 90% large predatory fish such as tuna, marlin, swordfish, sharks, cod, halibut, skates and flounder.

If you want to vent on this issue and tell the Icelandic government what bad people they are, go here.

And, on a further cheerful note, the results of a new study predict that species won't be able to adapt to a climate changed environment, except for saying goodbye:

Ecological changes in the phenology and distribution of plants and animals are occurring in all well-studied marine, freshwater, and terrestrial groups. These observed changes are heavily biased in the directions predicted from global warming and have been linked to local or regional climate change through correlations between climate and biological variation, field and laboratory experiments, and physiological research. Range-restricted species, particularly polar and mountaintop species, show severe range contractions and have been the first groups in which entire species have gone extinct due to recent climate change. Tropical coral reefs and amphibians have been most negatively affected. Predator-prey and plant-insect interactions have been disrupted when interacting species have responded differently to warming. Evolutionary adaptations to warmer conditions have occurred in the interiors of species' ranges, and resource use and dispersal have evolved rapidly at expanding range margins. Observed genetic shifts modulate local effects of climate change, but there is little evidence that they will mitigate negative effects at the species level.

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