Deadlier than the harpoon?

...and its Reflection in Newspapers

Eka Lainio:"Once Upon A Time.."

Deadlier than the harpoon?

New Scientist, 1st July, 1995, p. 12

Mounting evidence suggests that the industrial chemicals which transformed the postwar world are disrupting the reproductive systems and immunity of marine animals

EXPLODING harpoons, marauding factory ships and an insatiable taste for whale meat are all well-known threats to the great whales. In the past, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which aims to conserve whale stocks has focused its efforts on staying the hand of the hunter. But last month's annual meeting of the IWC saw a sea change.

For the first time, the commission's scientific committee reviewed research into the effects of industrial pollutants on cetaceans and called for more studies. Researchers have long suspected that some chlorine-containing compounds are having a slow, subtle and sometimes lethal effect on marine mammals. The evidence gathered so far - on seals as well as cetaceans - suggests that these suspicions are well founded.

In the past decade, there have been at least five massive "die-offs" of marine mammals, after only four in the preceding 80 years. Some 8000 seals died at Lake Baikal in Siberia in 1987 and 1988, and more than 18 000 were found dead in and around the North Sea, also in 1988. Over the next few years, almost 3000 bottlenose dolphin carcasses were found in two more episodes on the eastern seaboard of the US and in the Gulf of Mexico, and in 1990 striped dolphins began to wash up in their hundreds around the Mediterranean.

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Rauno Lauhakangas