IWDG research used to reject Japan's new whaling plan

14th Apr 2015

A recent paper produced as part of a joint research project by IWDG and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology has been cited as a reason not to support the new Japanese whaling plan which tries to justify resumption of lethal scientific whaling.  The study was carried out as part of a PhD project at GMIT carried out in collaboration with IWDG who supplied tissue samples obtained from biopsy sampling of fin and humpback whales.

The Internation Whaling Commission Expert Panel was set up to review  the Japanses NEWREP-A proposal which claims that it needs to conduct “lethal research to better understand whale populations’ migratory, feeding and reproduction habits with a view to a return to commercial whaling. This included a feasibility study to determine whether stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) may provide information on this regard".

The Panel noted "that this is already a standard technique routinely used to investigate overlap in diet between species; it  has already been successfully applied to mysticetes on a number of occasions (Ryan et al., 2013) and recommends its implementation without the need for a feasibility study".

Ryan et al. (2013) refers to a paper published in Marine Ecology Progress Series which uses keratin obtained from baleen sampled from stranded and archived fin, humpback and minke whales for "investigating diet, migrations and niche in ecological communities by tracing energy through food-webs".  in this paper Ryan et al (2013) showed "significantly larger niche area and higher overall N/C ratios in fin whales from Irish/UK waters compared to those sampled in the Bay of Biscay and Mediterranean.  This suggests inshore foraging may be unique to fin whales in Ireland and the UK. Stable isotope analysis of baleen could provide an additional means for identifying ecological units, thus supporting more effective management for the conservation of baleen whales".

This information is essential for proper fisheries management when the requirements and impact of predators such as whales can be assessed and used in management plans.

Citing this work carried out by IWDG and GMIT, in collaboration with the Marine Institute is an endorcement of the internationally significant work being carried out in Ireland and shows how this iinformation can be used to inform important management decisions such as that offered by the IWC Expert Panel.  

Congratulations to Dr Conor Ryan for achieving this recognition.

The paper can be accessed here :https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235425893_Stable_isotope_analysis_of_baleen_reveals_resource_partitioning_among_sympatric_rorquals_and_population_structure_in_fin_whales



and the IWC publication is available for download here (1.5MB)