Dart Tagging Cetaceans – A Dangerous Practice

The Pacific Whale Watching Association (PWWA), which represents 36 British Colombian and American tour companies, called for a moratorium on the dart tagging of cetaceans. This common practice is often used for the purposes of data collection and scientific research.

In the minds of the activists, this rally to action was directed principally towards one organization: NOAA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, although an American entity, is primarily concerned with the use of oceanic resources and atmospheric conditions, which makes it relevant to the PWWA.

[Scientific dart tagging] is not necessary. This practice highlights the desire [of federal researchers] to go out, collect mountains of data and never do anything about it,” complains Michael Harris, CEO of PWWA.

“I’m sure it’s much more fun to hunt wales with guns than deal with numbers on a computer in Sandpoint [Seattle],” he continues. “Taxpayers do not pay to have fun, but to focus on the immediate threats to the cetacean population.”

Perforated Dorsal Fin

This call for abeyance comes after the announcement of the death of a killer whale, discovered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada on March 30th off of the coast of Vancouver Island. The animal, dubbed L95, was a 20-year old male, the crucial age for the reproduction of this species listed as threatened in Canada and the United States.

lL95 was tagged via dart in February by NOAA scientists. The animal had been hit on the trailing edge of its dorsal fin, and its label was attached by metal bars.

“We do not know yet if the dart is directly responsible for the death of L95, but for sure it didn’t help,” says Michael Harris.

The preliminary necropsy conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not determined the exact cause of death, but two puncture woulds were noted on the fin of the decaying carcass.


L95 was found dead by Fisheries and Oceans Canada off the coast of Vancouver Island on March 30th, 2016. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Preserve the salmon to help the orcas

Although an increase in births has been reported in recent months among the whales of the Pacific Northwest, PWWA’s conservation measures are increasing, particularly in terms of the whales’ food source. The association reminds us, in fact, that salmon populations are in steep decline in the region.

According to PWWA, two whales with dart tagged are missing and at least six were wounded by the fastening materials. Since 2012, NOAA has labeled 12 killer whales.

Source: ici.radio-canada (FR)