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Orca Lulu's body contained PCB levels 100x above the safe limit. Image: SMASS

Toxic tides, troubled whales: the toll of chemical pollution

In last week's blog, we examined the challenges whales and dolphins face as they travel...
Group of orcas at surface

Breaking barriers for whales and dolphins at the Convention of Migratory Species

Many species of whales, dolphins and porpoises undertake long journeys, encountering human-made obstacles along the...
Tokyo

WDC in Japan – Part 1: Finding allies in Tokyo

At the end of May, I embarked on an incredible journey to Japan on behalf...
Amazon river dolphins leaping

The state of river dolphin conservation

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we partner with conservationists and communities fighting to save river...
Researchers in Southeast Alaska studying whale poo

We’re funding crucial research on whale poo to combat the climate crisis

The ocean is one of the lungs of our planet, and whales help it to...
Narwhal surfacing

The unicorns of the sea must be protected – CITES

The narwhal, is under threat. Often referred to as the unicorns of the sea, narwhals,...
Sperm whales

We’re pushing governments for action for our climate heroes – whales

The climate crisis is the greatest threat to all life on Earth. But there is...
Dolphins captured for captivity in Taiji. Image: Hans Peter Roth

Loved and killed – whales and dolphins in Japan

Protests and criticism from outside Japan in response to the slaughter of whales and dolphins...

Tag, you’re (a nitw)it!

On May 1st, a stranded minke whale found on a New Jersey beach was “tagged” with what appear to be Greek Letters-a frat prank perhaps? While “tagging” a whale may seem like a harmless prank, it’s harmful to conservation and dangerous to the “tagger.”

I have personally written on many dead marine mammals but only when they can’t be removed from the beach.  This ensures that the same animals aren’t reported over and over again to the stranding networks as new cases.  The key is that I did so AFTER examining the animal and while wearing the proper safety gear. 

Stranded marine mammals are thoroughly examined for signs of injuries which can be subtle.  Painting the carcass can conceal a mark that may help researchers understand what happened to the animal.  Injuries consistent with vessel strikes, or entanglements, can help managers understand where areas of high risk are, and help create measures to reduce those risks. 

But perhaps the taggers are not into protecting whales and aren’t worried if they concealed injuries on the carcass.  Maybe then they should worry if they were protected when they got close to a dead whale.  Whales are mammals and, as such, we share more than the air we both breathe; we share the same risk of infection from a number of bacteria that can lead to nasty and, if not properly treated, deadly diseases.   Brucella, for example, is a fascinating encapsulated bacteria that can be transmitted to humans. If you’re lucky, it leaves you achy, depressed and unable to be a blood donor.  If you’re not so lucky, then you can only hope that whomever finds your body doesn’t have a can of spray paint in hand when they do.