“Whales and dolphins today face more threats than ever before, and these threats are diversifying and intensifying. Many are critically endangered.” Ocean Alliance
Why Are Whales Endangered?
While measures for coexistence with whales can be implemented, it is necessary for regulations to be adhered to especially for the benefit of endangered species nearing extinction. We cannot expect whales to enforce these rules for us. These issues are important because our legislation governs not just how whales live but also how well they live in the oceans. Humans need to come to terms with the need to restore whale populations and remain lawful for the benefit of humanity.
Legislation for the protection of whales from commercial uses began in 1934 with the protection of right whales by international treaty after the development of synthetic oil to replace whale oil as a lubricant was developed (Roman et al, 2013).
The Marine Mammal Protection Act became law in the United States in October of 1972 followed by legislation for the ecological restoration of all marine mammals with the Endangered Species Act in 1973 (Roman et al, 2013).
The Marine Mammal Protection Act has two fundamental objectives:
- to maintain marine mammal stocks at their optimum sustainable populations, and
- for these stocks to exist as functioning elements of their ecosystems (Roman et al, 2013).
While Canada recognizes watching marine mammals in their natural ocean environment can give Canadians a better appreciation for marine wildlife, this can also lead to a risk of disturbing or harming marine wildlife (Oceans Canada, 2018).
Therefore, Canada has updated its Marine Mammal Regulations with amendments under the Fisheries Act in 2018 to set out required minimum distances required for whale watching and approaching marine mammals and further identifies that disturbing a marine mammal includes:
- interacting with it
- moving it (or enticing/causing it to move)
- separating a marine mammal from its group or going between it and a calf
- trapping marine mammals between a vessel and the shore, or between boats
- tagging or marking it (Oceans Canada, 2018).