Email Sent To Hon Mr McCully
Thank you for your email, it took along time to arrive, but I am glad that it did. We are getting lots of letters asking which side New Zealand is on. On the one side, you are saying that you take a strong pro - conservation approach to whale issues and that New Zealand is involved in a Southern Ocean Research partnership (presumably with Australia), devoted to non-lethal whale research and that you take a strong conservation approach to whale issues. On the other side, we now have learnt from the Independent Newspaper that New Zealand is backing the possible U.S.A/Japanese alliance to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean. It is nice to see that your neighbor Australia, is strongly opposing the plan.
If you agree to whale killing in he Southern Ocean, British people will turn against New Zealand and it could hurt your trading with Great Britain.
We hope that we can persuade you to strongly oppose any plan that involves cruel whale slaughter. Abattoirs would be shut down if they slaughtered animals in the way that whales are slaughtered, do you agree?
Looking forward to knowing which direction you are taking and thank you for sparing the time to read our email.
Please find enclosed report from the Independent.
Once again thank you Mr McCully.
Reply From Mr McCully
Ocean Science Whales & Carbon
The Antarctic Treaty clearly prohibits any activity that damages the Antarctic marine and atmospheric eco-system.
The slaughter of whales by the Japanese whalers is not only a violation of the Treaty that prohibits commercial activity, it is also a factor in releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere by removing whales as significant repositories of carbon.
The Japanese whaling is an activity that Jan should be factoring in on their calculations for greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol.
The whalers are to the ocean what trees are to the land, both whales and trees store carbon by the ton.
Last week at an Ocean Science meeting held in Portland, Maine, scientists revealed their estimates of carbon released by whaling.
In nature, when wales die, the carbon in their bodies is sequestered in the deep ocean. Whaling by humans however releases that carbon into the atmosphere. According to scientists the last century of commercial whaling has released some 100 million tons of carbon in the Earth's atmosphere.
According to a recent news article in the BBC:
Dr Andrew Pershing from the University of Maine described whales as the "forests of the ocean."
Dr Pershing and his colleagues from the Gulf of Maine Research Institure calculated the annual carbon-storing capacity of whales as they grew.
"Whales, like any animal or plant on the planet, are made out of a lot of carbon," he said, "and when you kill and remove a whale from the ocean, that's removing carbon from this storage system and sending it into the atmosphere."
He pointed out that, particularly in the early days of whaling, the animals were a source of lamp oil, which was burned, releasing the carbon directly into the air.
"and this marine system is unique because when whales die (naturally) their bodies sink, so they take that carbon down to the bottom of the ocean. "If they die where it's deep enough, it will be (stored) out of the atmosphere perhaps for hundreds of years."
In their initial calculations, the scientists calculated that 100 years of whaling had released an amount of carbon equivalent to burning 130,000 sq km of temperate forests, or to driving 128,000 Humvees continuously for 100 years.
Dr Pershing stressed that this was still a relatively tiny amount when compared to the billions of tons produced by human activity every year. He said that whales undertook an important role in storing and transporting carbon in the marine ecosystem.
Simply leaving large groups of whales to grow, Pershing said, could "sequester" the greenhouse gas, in amounts that were comparable to some of the reforestation schemes that earn and sell carbon credits.
In addition, according to the BBC:
He suggested that a similar system of carbon credits could be applied to whales in order to protect and rebuild their stocks.
"The idea would be to do a full accounting of how much carbon you could store in a fully populated stock of fish or whales, and allow countries to sell their fish quota as carbon credits, "he explained.
"You could use those credits as an incentive to reduce the fishing pressure or to promote the conservation of some of these species."
Other scientists said that he had raised an exciting and interesting problem.
Professor Daniel Costa, a marine animal researcher from the University of California, Santa Cruz, told BBC news: "So many groups are looking at the importance of these large animals in the carbon cycle.
"And it's one of those things that, when you look at it, you think: This is so obvious, why didn't we think of this before?"
Dr Pershing pointed out that whales, with their huge size, were more efficient than smaller animals at storing carbon. He said that the marine carbon credit idea could be applied to other very large marine animals, including endangered Bluefin tuna and White sharks.
Dr Pershing said, "These are huge and they are top predators, so unless they're fished they would be likely to take their biomass to the bottom of the ocean when they die."
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