Saving Gay Whales for Jesus

June 12, 2007

 humpback_whale1.gif

Well, not quite (although religion does play a part in it).

In the news today I saw an article about the remarkable comeback of the Humpback (I suppose that could be the gay part) whale:

The most recent count, done 15 years ago and using less rigorous methodology, estimated that the Eastern humpback population at 6,000 to 10,000 whales, up from fewer than 2,000 when commercial whaling was banned in 1986, said John Calambokidis, the researcher coordinating the current study.

He said that judging from annual counts along the West Coast, the population may be increasing as much as 10 percent a year. The International Whaling Commission estimates the worldwide humpback population at around 50,000.

“The trend has definitely been upward,” he said.

Good news, right? Actually, that’s not the problem. It turns out some environmentalists are upset over the possible reclassification of the status of the Humpback whale under the Endangered Species Act from “endangered” to “threatened”. The reasoning according to one Greenpeace scientist:

“It’s dangerous to be reducing protections for whales given the wide range of threats they’re facing,” said John Hocevar, senior ocean specialist with the environmental group. He said perils remain for whales, including the effects of climate change, increased shipping traffic and more toxin contaminants in the oceans. “All of these things are not going away. …We are going to be needing stronger protections, not reduced protections.”

The purpose of the classification system is to classify. That is, to give some information about the number of animals and the possibility of extinction. It has a useful meaning. To throw that out the window in order to sustain some PR campaign, when the reality is quite different, sounds more like religion than science to me.

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5 Responses to “Saving Gay Whales for Jesus”

  1. QuakerJono Says:

    Well, couldn’t point be that, yes, while under current protections, the humpback whale has made amazing progress and recovery. However, the environmental pressures that necessitated the initial classification have not inherently changed and all that keeps them in check is the severity of response. Remove that threat and all the recovery work done to reestablish the humpback whale will be undone and they will be back on the endangered species list in a few years?

    Classifications are not written in stone and should be able to be modified as the situation necessitates.

  2. John in IL Says:

    Why the need for the classification at all then? The purpose of the classification is to determine how “in trouble” a species is, not how things are in general. Either way, more whales are a good thing, right?

  3. QuakerJono Says:

    The classification may have initially served the purpose but, as situations change (or don’t), it may need either refining or possibly complete redefinition. Nothing is or should be written in stone here. Classifications are useful tools, but they should also not be approached as dogma. The ultimate goal of the classification system must be remembered. In this case, classifying a species as endangered offered a certain amount of protection and visibility to that species. Now, as many of these species are bouncing back because of that protection, they ironically risk losing the gains because the classification system isn’t broad enough to cover the situation. So, in a way, you’re right in that if the classification system is so limited that it can’t be changed to adapt to changing needs, it’s worse than useless.

    However, this classification is changeable if we wish it to be. The Greenpeace scientist should probably realize this and be trying to flesh out the system as a whole to cover situations like this instead of trying to cram humpbacks into a classification they no longer technically belong to. I understand his frustration and sense of urgency, though, because that’s a much harder process, given current governmental bureaucracy. While one’s trying to cross the t’s and dot the i’s and get sympathetic politicians to return your phone calls, the humpback whale numbers could slip back down to extinction levels or even lower. Where’s the sense in making gains if you’re only going to squander them later?

  4. John in IL Says:

    At the rate of population growth mentioned in the article (10% increase per year), Humpbacks will reach their pre-whaling population in a little more than 10 years. If that happens, I wonder if the Greenpeace scientist will change his mind. Somehow I doubt it.


  5. […] the roof (and when I say roof, I talking about the roof of a Lincoln Log house).  And all about this one post.  I must say, it was quite a good post (I love them all, just like they were my little children), […]


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