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Ray Gambell is the Secretary of the International Whaling Commission.

Thats the body made up of 43 member


governments who responsible for the management of the whaling industry, the regulation of that industry, and the
conservation of the whale stocks throughout the world. Ray, who himself is a zoologist, spoke about some of the ways
in which scientists conduct research into whales, and how research methods have changed recently.
In recent years because of the pressures of public opinion against the over-exploitation of whales there is a pause in
commercial whaling, and as a result of this very few whales are now being caught and so scientists are having to devise
research techniques that dont rely on being able to get hold of a whale. Theyre having to develop very exciting new
techniques, based on a more distant approach.
Some of the techniques are really quite extraordinary. You can actually recognize individual whales by certain patterns
or colours or marks on them. For example, hump-backed whales on the underside of their tail have a quite characteristic
and individual color pattern. Its enormously variable; they are individually recognizable in same the way that you can
recognize individual human faces. By taking photographs of the underside of the hump-backed whale tail you can
recognize individual animals and we have a catalogue of them. And, so you go out with your boat and you wait until the
whale dives and tips its tail up, you take a picture of the underside of the tail and you can compare your photograph
with a central catalogue of these photographs. And theres all kinds of laser technology that allows you to skim through
this very large number of photographs very quickly. And you can see where that whale has been seen before, you can
actually follow the migrations of the animals.
Its also possible to work out the breeding interval. But its a long-term process. Scientists got that sort of information by
having access to a great many whales that were killed and looking at the internal organs, looking at the ovaries, and
looking at the fetuses inside, and that sort of thing. And you got an instant 'snapshot'. Now we have to wait seven or ten
years but we havent killed the whales, and one would hope that there will be new techniques developed that will allow
us to tell the age of the whale.
Why isnt there a total worldwide ban on killing whales? Why cant whales be totally protected from being hunted?
Because certain, particularly Arctic communities are heavily dependent on the natural resources of a very severe
environment. And so the Inuit people, the Eskimo peoples of Greenland and northern Canada and Alaska, have argued
that they, in spite of a ban on commercial whaling, should be permitted to carry on catching for subsistence purposes.
And so the commission has developed a specific management regime for aboriginal subsistence whaling, which is much
more heavily dependent, not on the number of whales in the ocean, but on the perceived need of the indigenous
peoples who are hunting the animals. They need them for subsistence, for cultural and social purposes. Many of these
communities feel bound together by the fact that they are hunters together.
But this may not be what enlightened people in Europe and North America want to hear, as Ray explains. Of course
many people now in the comfortable Western world have a very different view of what a whale is there for. The
aboriginal subsistence hunter sees it as part of his total environment: hes dependent on the animal and he feels a
special relationship to the animal because it does sustain his life. But to the Western communities which are not
dependent on flesh for food now - theres a general movement against eating red meat - theres a preference to see the
whale as a beautiful animal, as an animal with a very large brain, an animal with great powers of being able to dive to
great depths in the ocean and survive, and so on. The whale is seen as a symbol of a life of freedom and it evokes all
kinds of non-culinary thoughts. So that the whale is now seen as something that has to be preserved and kept in respect
in the ocean.
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They really are very exciting animals. To see a blue whale, which is the largest animal that has ever lived in the ocean on
this earth, and to see it turning and moving, twisting, so completely at home in the water, its a very exciting sight. And
they do have very large brains. May be they have a form of intelligence that its difficult enough to measure human
intelligence, measuring the intelligence in another species altogether is really quite difficult. Very large brain suggests
that there is a degree of affinity with man which has the large brain use on land. These have been described as 'our
cousins in the ocean.
When you have the chance to get close to a dolphin and when he peers at you out of the water, its like looking into the
eyes you think, There must be something in there, if only I could make contact with it. Its the same with the dolphin,
its the same with the whale, that there is some kind of instinctive bond that you feel. They are impressive animals in
terms of size and ability, and there is this sense that theres more than we can grasp at the moment. Theres something
more that we may find out in the future. They really are very exciting animals.

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