YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
The Japanese whaling fleet left port this week to conduct what the government calls "research whaling" in the Southern Ocean through March. The ships plan to catch 333 minke whales in the country's fourth such whaling expedition since their resumption in 2015, according to the government. Japan temporarily suspended research whaling after the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the whaling program was "not for purposes of scientific research" and ordered its suspension. Japan has been catching whales in the region for "scientific research" since 1987 – but the program has drawn criticism that it is a cover for commercial whaling.
On a more positive note, humpback whales off Western Australian have bounced back from the brink, and now form the world's largest population. Like other humpback groups around the world, they lead a ‘feast and famine’ existence – feeding in Antarctic waters before migrating north to give birth and raise calves in an area safe from killer whales and sharks.
A rocket set to be launched next week by SpaceX will carry a trio of satellites designed to help track down illegal fishing ships and ocean poachers. HawkEye 360’s ‘Pathfinder’ constellation will use radio signals to give authorities around the world a major leg up in hunting ‘dark ships’ –vessels that turn off GPS transponders to hide their whereabouts.
A fascinating deep dive on ‘ghost gear’ in Scientific American highlights the fact that 640,000 metric tons of fishing gear goes missing at sea each year, entangling passing whales and settles atop sensitive habitats. Nets can be the width of a football field, which makes removing them from the reef a massive undertaking – but the global effort has some new unlikely allies.
A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has uncovered the history of bleaching on a reef in the epicenter of El Niño, revealing how some corals have been able to return after facing extreme conditions. The team discovered that with each heat wave, the reef experienced severe bleaching, yet seems to have bounced back fairly quickly each time.