SAVE THE WHALES:
Locals Band Together to Rescue Beached Whale
June 30, 2000
Over the past few months, a succession of stories have appeared in the Japanese news highlighting the fate of whales stranded on a beach or caught in a stationary fishing net. Though the whale that strayed into the net was successfully freed, the stranded whale perished, despite residents' determined efforts lasting through the night to save it. Many researchers now say that the growing population of minke and other whale species worldwide is one factor behind the rise in beachings and other such incidents.
Townwide Rescue Operation
The rescue operation resumed the following morning, when a thick rope was wrapped around the whale's tail and pulled by three fishing boats from off the coast. The rope broke, however, and the plan had to be abandoned. A decision was made to wait until the afternoon high tide and keep the whale alive by pouring water over it, but the whale's condition gradually worsened and it died before the plan could be implemented. The whale was buried on the beach following an autopsy. In its entirety, the rescue operation involved 170 people and cost the town as much as 10 million yen (95,000 U.S. dollars at 105 yen to the dollar).
Meanwhile, on April 16, a 10-meter (32.8-foot)-long whale strayed into a stationary fishing net extending 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile) along the coast of Chiba Prefecture near the city of Tateyama. The whale was successfully extricated from the net by a fisherman the next morning and returned to sea unharmed.
Just two months before that, at the end of February, an orca whale measuring 5 meters (16.4 feet) appeared in the Hori River that runs through the center of Nagoya, but it was safely led back to sea. Similarly, in September 1999 three short-finned pilot whales that strayed into Karatsu Bay off the city of Karatsu in Kyushu were also rescued, two of which are now being cared for at an aquarium in Fukuoka City.
Growing Minke Whale Population
The stranding of whales is believed, in turn, to be caused by the increase in their number. As the density of the whale population grows, the institute says, the small fish they prey on become scarce; many of the whales that become stranded are near starvation, it points out.
While the increase of the population of whales may be welcome news, their stranding and beaching certainly are not. Not only is such a situation unfortunate for the whale. As in the Enshunada case, the burden on the local area of carrying out rescue operations can at times grow considerable, in terms of both money and labor. Still, for local residents who receive surprise visits by whales, their first and foremost interest is to save their oversize guests.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.