Friday, February 20, 2009

Whale Wars Season Two - Search Warrant?

In a surprising twist to the ongoing and very sad saga of Sea Shepherd - officers in Hobart, Tasmania boarded Sea Shepherds vessel Steve Irwin this morning.

The ship was met dockside by a party of Federal Australian Police officers with a 40 page search warrant.

The warrant authorized the seizing of "all edited and raw video footage, all edited and raw audio recordings, all still photographs, producer's notes, interview transcripts, production meeting minutes, post production meeting minutes as well as the ship's log books, global positioning system records, automatic radar plotting aid, purchase records, receipts, financial transaction records, voyage information and navigational plotted charts."

In short, the sum total of Animal Planets Whale Wars season two. Exactly why this raid happened remains a mystery. For the money we think it had a lot to do with Watsons pathological inability to tell truth from fiction and the repeated ramming of Japanese whalers last week - done expressly for the film crews of Animal Planet.

This is blow back for Wagging the Conservation Dog. With Watsons second vessel the Farley Mowat owing close to 2.2 million dollars in fines and sitting at a dock in Canada for serious regulation violations we will once again point out that your money is best sent to organizations that effect real and lasting change.

Watson and Sea Shepherd have been attempting to stop whaling for 31 years. This years entire anti whaling effort culminated in the storming of his vessel by Federal Australian Police officers with more downside to come.

Is this what you want from your eco group? Demand more than just hysterical media.

Goblin girl on… size!

Does size matter? At least when it comes to sharks it seems like size matters. One of the most frequently asked question I get from the public is: which is the smallest and which is the largest shark? It is quite uninteresting in one way. I mean, the maximum length for a human is 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in). How many people have been that tall? One! So, maximum length might be interesting for anecdotal reasons, but it doesn’t say much on the ”ordinary” shark. Still, it is a very common question and therefore I can’t ignore it.

The late Aidan Martin held the dwarf lantern (Etmopterus perryi) as the smallest shark. It reaches a maximum length of ca 20 cm (8 in) according to fishbase . At a size of just 19 cm one female was carrying developing embryos. After sharks reach sexual maturity the growth rate slow down considerably. Therefore the size at sexual maturity is interesting.

It was also to fishbase I went in search for the largest whale shark on record. I was a bit amazed to see a total length of 20 m (66 feet). I would have said 14 m (46 ft), and usually fishbase is quite conservative when it comes to size. So I posted my question on the three sharky mailing lists I’m a member of.

Luckily one list-member was in direct contact with Professor S.J. Joung in Taiwan - one of the authors to the fishbase referene. He assured the member that he personally witnessed this shark - and although not accurately measured, the animal was estimated by him and his scientist colleagues (Profs. Chen & Liu) at 20 m TL. The shark weighed 43 t!

The length equals that of the largest toothed whale, the sperm whale , where the bulls can grow to 20.5 m (67 ft) and weigh 57 t. Note that the whale sharks cartilage skeleton makes it much lighter, if not light!

So, does size matter? Let me know what you think!