IWDG research used to reject Japanese new whaling plan

14th Apr 2015

A recent paper by 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 suuport the new Japanses 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 lipids obtained from biopsy samples from fin and humpback whales in the Celtic Sea to explore diet and the importance of fish such as herring and sprat.  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 validates the IWDG opinion that although biopsy sampling is invasive in that it extracts a small piece of tissue from the whale the information that can be gained fully justifies the method and can be used to inform important management decisions.  This citation also endorses the internationally significant work being carried out in Ireland. 

Congratulations to Dr Conor Ryan for achieving this recognition.

The paper can be accessed here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259485940_Prey_preferences_of_sympatric_fin_%28Balaenoptera_physalus%29_and_humpback_%28Megaptera_novaengliae%29_whales_revealed_by_stable_isotope_mixing_models

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