Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wildlife Bytes 4/4/10

Kangaroo Campaign Update

The commercial kangaroo kill is now one of the most wellknown Animal Welfare issues in the World, along with the Canadian harp seal kill and the whaling. This awareness didn't happen by accident, it happened entirely due to the efforts of many groups and individuals around the World. There are now dozens of groups working on ending the commercial kangaroo kill, and there are now dozens of websites about the killing, and there are many online Petitions. While governments, many academics, and some wildlife and conservation groups worked hard for years to hide the horrors of the commercial kill, persistent work by other wildlife and animal welfare groups and individuals for over 40 years, has finally seen this Industry being publicly condemned for what it really is.

Recent bans on kangaroo imports into Russia has seen the Industry almost collapse. But this didn't happen by itself either. It happened because Australian groups have been working with Russian animal welfare groups for several years, providing them with photos, information and support. It was easy for Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, in a highprofile public relations exercise, to fly to Russia and talk to Russian Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik thru an interpretor for an hour or so, to try to salvage the Industry. But Russian animal welfare groups for some years have been able to sit down with their own politicians, in their own constituencies, and in talk their own langauage, show them photos and documents, and give them the real truth about the kangaroo industry.

There has also been some bureacratic talk about importing kangaroo meat into China, and some protocals to do so have been apparently developed. But our groups talk to the Chinese too, with several meetings at the Russian Embassy at both Sydney and Canberra. What the media is not saying is that both China and Russia are trying to develop more export industries, China in particular has many thousands of square kilometres of organic tea, rice, and vegetable gardens, and manufacturing Industries too. They dont want to damage those fledgling Industries.

Both Russia and China know that many people around the World refuse to buy Japanese products because of the whaling, and that many people around the World refuse to buy Canadian products because of the harp seal kill, and that many people around the World refuse to buy Australian products because of what we do to our kangaroos. This is something that seems to have escaped our Australian politicians too. Our understanding is that neither Russia or China want anything to do with something as controversial as the commercial kangaroo kill.

A proposal by animal welfare groups has been presented to the European Union to ban the import of kangaroo products into Europe, a State with 27 countries, most with different languages. Work has been underway for several years now, to help local animal welfare groups to lobby their own politicians, and again to sit down with them, in their own constituencies, and talk in their own langauage, and give them the truth about the kangaroo industry. Both the EU President and VicePresident have come out recently and publically supported a ban on kangaroo product (meat and skin) imports into the EU.

There are still campaigns against the commercial kangaroo kill ongoing, some we know about, but cant talk about yet, and some that various community groups are undertaking "under the radar" that we dont yet know about.

And nobody ever asked the Aboriginal people if we could kill millions of their kangaroos every year and send the meat around the World for people to eat, so some Aborigonal groups have entered the campaign too, and I have a photo of one Aborigonal elder campaigning and protesting against the kangaroo kill taken in Melbourne in 1970. Steve Irwin always said if we can close the markets, we can stop the kill. With the Australian Federal and State Governments knowingly turning a blind eye to what's really happening to the kangaroos, our campaigns have focused on closing down the markets for kangaroo products.

We are very confident we can close this Industry down. If it wasn't for Coles, Woolworths, and Adidas, the Industry would be dead now. We know for some it can be difficult, because there may be no other option, but if anyone shops at Coles or Woolworths, they are helping this rotten Industry stay afloat, and causing more kangaroos and joeys to be brutally killed every year. The kangaroo Industry is very nearly a dead Industry, and for all of us who love wildlife, it's our job to ensure that it dies properly, and stays properly dead! *WPAA

Was I there? No, but I know it is morally wrong. A statement from Councillor R Whitehouse - Wolverhampton City Council, UK.

“At the turn of the last century Americans completely wiped out the American bison from the vast plains of that country. Today in darkest Africa apes of all kinds are being killed to the point of extinction, for bush meat. In the southern oceans some species of whales have been wiped off the face of the earth whilst others are also near extinction. Now the marsupials of Australia are being barbarically killed, joeys being slaughtered by the millions just because they are a “by-product” of a cruel trade in which skins are traded for sports footwear and body parts as meat and novelty items. Was I there? I don’t think so, but I know it was morally wrong. Have I been to the African forests to see this? No, but I know it is morally wrong. Have I been to see this slaughter of joeys in Australia? No, but I know it is morally wrong. If it weren’t for the few dedicated people, morality would be lost.

Peter Hain MP, as a young Liberal, took direct action against the apartheid regime in South Africa, he did it because he believed the regime was morally wrong. William Wilberforce took political action to stop the slave trade; he did so because he knew it was morally wrong. Today we have the opportunity to take a small piece of action against what is morally wrong. I urge everyone to sign the petition calling for kangaroo products to be banned in Europe. This is just the start. What is at the moment a concern for a small core of citizens will, like a snowball, gather momentum, grow, and eventually stop the genocide of marsupials in Australia. Today, you have the opportunity to do something marvellous and save the lives of these animals.” Sign the petition at :- www.440000joeys.eu *Media Release

Press Alert 1/4/10

Unknown disease outbreak confirmed by NSWNP is killing kangaroos in Northwest NSW while 'harvesting' for domestic human consumption and exports continues. Mark Pearson, Executive Director of Animal Liberation said today, "An unknown disease is threatening to decimate the kangaroo population of northern New South Wales. The disease which has been confirmed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service could also threaten the health of people who eat kangaroo meat because of cross contamination caused by poor carcass storage conditions in the field. "Recent laboratory tests conducted by Animal Liberation on kangaroo meat for human consumption at several leading supermarkets showed unacceptable levels of bacteria.

Dr. Dror Ben-Ami, Ecologist and author of A Shot in the Dark a report critical of the kangaroo industry said. “Fatal epidemic episodes are known to occur in kangaroo populations regularly after flood events. This is one of the kangaroos’ known natural population regulation mechanisms that have evolved over time. Claims of kangaroo population explosions fail to consider that there are a number of such natural population control mechanisms that regulate the population boom and bust cycles of kangaroos.”

In calling for an immediate end to the culling of kangaroos in the infected areas Mark Pearson said, "If cattle and sheep started to die in significant numbers due to an undiagnosed disease then the transport and slaughter would be immediately halted. So why is the kangaroo meat industry allowed to kill and transport kangaroos from contaminated areas, cross contaminating carcasses in processing plants and still selling meat domestically and through exports. Outrageous". The sale of kangaroo meat for human consumption is currently banned in Russia, Australia’s biggest recipient of such meat because of health concerns and the European Union is considering a ban. Further information Dr. Dror Ben-Ami: 0458 759 075, Mark Pearson: 0417

Kids for Kangaroos

The first point of action from KIDS FOR KANGAROOS - is an online petition. Yes another one!!! This one is targeted to the supermarket chains, their aim is to achieve 5000 names..... I know its going to be a long road for them, considering how many we are getting for the others - but can we please add this to our list to forward.... http://www.thepetitionsite.com/10/stop-selling-kangaroo-meat

Another kangaroo Petition is still running, this one is hugging along at 6,800 we need to reach at least 10,000, so if you havent signed this one http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/kangaroo-extinction.html there is stiill time. Another kangaroo website is here http://www.nokangaroomeat.org

Another Oil Spill

Everyone will now know about another ship stranding on the Great Barrier Reef, and yet another oil spill. From late last century until today, conservation and wildlife groups have argued for compulsory Australian pilots on all ships inside the World Heritage listed GBR. The Queensland government did nothing, stating it would cost $10,000 per ship. So what? This time we were lucky the weather was good, if it had happened two weeks ago, in bad weather, it would have been a nightmare. If the weather does worsen, or the refloat planned for today goes belly up, and a serious spill hits Shoalwater Bay, it would be an unmitigated disaster on a scale never seen in Australia before.

I've scuba dived on the Douglas Shoals (where the ship is stuck) several times, its a place of amazing underwater beauty. Ascidians, sea squirts, sea stars, red and black coral, fish everywhere, its the equal of any underwater dive site in the World, including the famous Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand. It's the last place any coal ship should be. And if a major spill happens, the beaches of Shoalwater Bay would be savaged. Unlike the recent Stradbroke Island oil spill, Shoalwater Bay beaches are unaccessible by road, and many beaches are only accessible by boat, and then in only good weather. By virtue of its size (bigger than the ACT), largely undisturbed, and it's tropical/temperate flora and fauna overlap zones, Shoalwater Bay is in our view, the single most important conservation site in Australia.

I've seen large mobs of dugong there, mangroves that had never been seen on the Capricorn Coast before, marine turtles by the hundreds, extensive wetland areas, a few large crocodiles, even broaching whales, and streams of pure fresh water bubbling up through the sand on the beaches. I've done numerous lowlevel flyovers, a couple of helicopter trips, and sailed there many times on my own boat. Again, I believe Shoalwater Bay is the single most important conservation site in Australia, and whose fault is this incident? The Queensland Government of course. It's interesting now to see the various politicians on TV trying to blame someone else, but the bottom line is that the Queensland Government, years ago, should have put legislation in place to ensure that mandatory Australian pilots were on any ship travelling inside the Great Barrier Reef. It has had the opportunity many times, after several oil spills, but has failed to do so. *Pat O'Brien

Fraser Island Dingoes

The RSPCA says it does not believe feeding stations for dingoes on Fraser Island, off south-east Queensland, are a viable option. Dingo preservation groups and the Queensland Opposition says some dingoes are malnourished and a pup died last week from starvation. The Opposition wants the State Government to set up feeding stations but Sustainability Minister Kate Jones says it is inappropriate because dingoes are wild animals. RSPCA spokeswoman Tracey Jackson says the stations can have several effects. "We know that in past years when dingoes have been fed artificially - and that is not sourcing their food from wildlife on the island - we have had huge population explosions," she said. "Once the numbers or the populations increase, the chances of interaction with humans increases obviously. So there are all sorts of implications for things like feeding stations."

Ms Jackson says wild dogs should be lean and there is no evidence of starvation. The RSPCA says it plays a vital role in the management of dingoes on Fraser Island. She says the RSPCA works with government agencies and they are satisfied the State Government's strategy is working. "Whilst we do work with DERM [the Department of Environment and Resource Management[ and QPWS [Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service] it doesn't mean that we don't have our differences," she said. "But what it does mean is that we have a positive working relationship and that's definitely the best thing for the dingo, especially the dingoes on Fraser Island." *ABC


A wombat which may have been suffering from mange attacked a man in his sixties as he stepped from his caravan early today. The ABC and The Age report the 60-year-old camper - whose name was not released - was bitten on the arms and legs as he stepped out of his caravan this morning at Flowerdale, north-east of Melbourne. He was taken to the Northern Hospital where he was in a stable condition. Jeff McClure from the Department of Sustainability and Environment told the ABC it was highly unusual for a wombat to attack a person. "Wombats that are in an advance stage of mange will become very agitated from the suffering and the irritation of the mange," he said. We understand the wombat was killed by a neighbor with an axe. There is something very wrong about the whole incident. *WPAA

Wildlife Warriors Recognised

Terri Irwin today recognised the efforts of the next generation of Wildlife Warriors by honouring Australian singing sisters Jess and Lisa Origliasso, better known as The Veronicas, and young Chloe Tsangaris for their conservation efforts, naming them ‘Australia Zoo’s Wildlife Warriors’ for 2010. The awards were presented at Australia Zoo’s VIP Breakfast held this morning and attended by over 400 supporters and special guests of Australia Zoo. The annual event is an opportunity for Australia Zoo to thank family, friends, suppliers and sponsors for their continued support over the past year. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the Zoo’s achievements of the previous year, and to recognise the achievements of very deserving award recipients in Jess, Lisa and Chloe. A Wildlife Warrior recognised for raising awareness among young people is seven-year-old Chloe Tsangaris. Chloe is a passionate and dedicated Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Joey Ambassador, and was the highest individual fundraiser for Steve Irwin Day both in 2008 and in 2009, having raised close to $20,000 for Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors’ conservation projects.

Chloe Tsangaris receives her award from Bindi, Bob & Terri Irwin As well as writing and performing their hit songs as Australian duo The Veronicas, Jess and Lisa have a passion for wildlife, and are Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors ambassadors, bringing awareness for wildlife and conservation efforts to youth around the world. Terri Irwin expressed her appreciation for the work that Jess and Lisa have done to bring awareness to the work that dedicated staff do at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors – Australian Wildlife Hospital, and also with raising awareness of Steve Irwin Day. This year’s VIP Breakfast was also an opportunity to celebrate Australia Zoo’s 40th anniversary, with a special presentation on the Zoo’s history, and an exclusive look at historical memorabilia that has helped to shape the Zoo’s culture and success. Terri Irwin spoke of her excitement at the milestone, and encouraged everyone to join in the celebrations throughout the year.

And while the morning was an opportunity to walk down memory lane, it was also the opportunity for Terri Irwin to talk of grand plans going forward. These include an Australia Zoo in Las Vegas Nevada and a African themed resort as part of the expansion to the existing Beerwah site. mWouldn't be a party without a cake. Crocodile cake! The ideas were part of the 10 year plan put in place prior to Steve Irwin's passing. Project 'Vegas' will showcase Australian wildlife to the potenially 37 million visitors to Las Vegas each year as well as providing employment for up to 1000 people, hundreds of these being Australian. The 300-350 room resort project will expand the existing workforce at Australia Zoo by another 1000 people, over and above the current 600 plus, mainly local workforce. The proceeds of these ventures will continue to be fed back into wildlife conservation predominately in Australia and also selected projects abroad. *ViewNews

Sugar Glider Pets

Australia's iconic sugar gliders are being bred and traded as domestic pets in the US where they sell for about $US220 ($A240) each. Vets are treating malnourished gliders for broken bones and chronic lethargy as clueless owners feed the creatures classic American fare - soft drink and hotdogs - instead of insects. Companies are charging a small fortune for glider accessories and spruiking the tiny marsupials as Easter pets. "Sugar gliders are exploding right now but wild animals generally are not recommended as pets," Humane Society captive wildlife specialist Beth Preiss said. "It's difficult caring for wild animals in captivity." Florida is the commercial breeding hub, fuelling a sophisticated trade that is booming online. News Limited found dozens of examples of caged gliders being fed unusual foods such as ham, hotdogs and soft drinks. The tree-dwellers are made to entertain their owners by riding toy motobikes or leaping off ironing boards and curtain rods.

The biggest glider retailer in the US is Cape Coral company Pocket Pets , which is running Easter promotions and selling glider accessories such as tote pouches and running wheels. Unlike some breeders, they supply detailed nutrional advice to buyers and refuse to ship the creatures as air freight to online buyers. Pocket Pets regional manager Adam Wayne last night defended the trade, saying the group had sold "thousands" of the animals across the country over the past seven years and has 90 percent of the market. "It's not like we pull them out of the wild - they are all bred here for domestic use," Mr Wayne said. "In the wild, their average life expectancy is six to eight years. In captivity it's 10 to 15 years," he said. Vets say too many owners are ignorant of proper care requirements.

Syracuse wildlife vet Cheri Capparelli described their typical captive diet as "terrible", saying too many owners failed to feed the animals a specialty formula that mimicked their native menu of eucalyptus nectar and insects. "I don't condone a lot of exotic ownership because it is difficult to have these guys in captivity," she said. Despite federal licensing requirements, the trade goes largely unchecked across the US. A backyard dealer selling gliders out of shoeboxes at a Syracuse mall over Christmas only shutdown his stall after fielding complaints from Dr Capparelli's surgery. "It was appalling," she said. Keeping gliders as pets is outlawed in California and at least one other state. Elsewhere in the US, it's regulated by permits or goes completely unchecked. Owners in Australia must have permits. *News.com.au

Harp Seals

Thousands of seal pups die as sea ice fails in Canada. There may be mass mortality of seal pups as the ice fails in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Worst ice year on record leads to harp seals' demise. March, 2010. Thousands of harp seal pups are presumed dead in Canada's Gulf of St Lawrence and starving pups are being found abandoned on the beaches of Prince Edward Island, tragic victims of the worst ice conditions recorded in eastern Canada. With the opening of Canada's cruel annual commercial seal hunt imminent, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports that the Gulf of St Lawrence, the annual birthing ground of hundreds of thousands of harp seals, is essentially devoid of both ice and seals. Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW, said: "The conditions this year are disastrous for seal pups. I've surveyed this region for nine years and have never seen anything like this.

"There is wide open water instead of the usual ice floes, and rather than the hundreds of thousands of seal pups that we normally encounter, only a handful of baby harp and hooded seals - animals that are normally found on ice - remain on the beaches." Extremely high pup mortality is expected this year, making this one of several such occurrences in the past decade. In 2007, 99% of harp seal pups born in the Southern Gulf of St Lawrence are thought to have died due to lack of ice. In 2002, 75% of pups are thought to have suffered the same fate. Scientists with IFAW are concerned that the cumulative effects of high pup mortality due to the poor ice conditions, and high numbers of pups killed during Canada's commercial seal hunt could be devastating. Fink added: "Finding these ice-dependent seal species on land is extremely unusual, and should be considered a warning signal. The seal pups we have found on shore are thin and unable to defend themselves or escape from land-based predators. It is highly unlikely that any of these pups will survive long enough for there to be a seal hunt in the Southern Gulf this year."

Earlier this month, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea increased the total allowable catch of harp seals (TAC) by 50,000, to 330,000 animals. The Minister's announcement was loudly condemned by animal welfare organisations, conservationists and sealers, in a rare moment of agreement. Last year, the European Union voted to ban the commercial trade in seal products from commercial hunts. Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: "It is reckless and irresponsible for the government to allow the hunt to proceed this year, given the high pup mortality that is expected. Under a precautionary approach, we should be protecting the few pups that might escape the devastating effects of climate change this year. "Given the almost complete lack of demand for seal skins, allowing the commercial slaughter of these survivors to proceed is simply adding insult to injury." *Wildlife Extra

The Strange Story of Irish Kangaroos and Rolf Harris

Relations between Australia and Ireland have hit an all time low. Seething Aussies, living in Ireland, are disgusted that kangaroos are being used to keep weeds at bay in Kilkenny's famed Castle park. Three marsupials, including the legendary Skippy, star of the tv series, of the same name have been imported under licence to the park by the OPW to eat the weeds which are threatening so many native plants. Junior minister Mary White of the Green Party is the woman behind the 'earth friendly' move which has been sponsored by local Pet shop, PetMania on the city's John Street. She said that kangaroos are noted for their weed eating ability. She claimed that it would save money and the environment in the long run by doing away with the need to use pesticide to get rid of the unwanted vegetation. However, one woman who had her sandwich stolen and eaten by one of Skippy's friends is not impressed. "I come to the park every day to eat my lunch and wile I was on the mobile phone the pest just put his paws into my bag and stole my lovely beef sandwich from Blueberry. Sarah Lovelater who comes originally from Darwin was hopping mad. She is livid with Minister Mary White and the Greens for robbing the kangaroos and has launched a campaign to have them returned to their native country. "These kangaroos have been stolen as far as I am concerned and they should be sent back to Australia as soon as possible. Minister White explained that she had received written permission from Rolf Harris to take the kangaroos and support Operation Marsupial. *Kilkenny People

Still Tourism Australia

Ads promoting Australia tourism almost invariably feature boomerangs, crocodiles or kangaroos. But Tourism Australia got into hot water when it used a real live kangaroo, which it caged and left on a busy street in Beverly Hills in January. Footage of the stunt posted on YouTube by a passer-by showed a kangaroo that seemed to be in distress, rocking back and forth as if trying desperately to leave. Animal rights advocates pounced. Bob Irwin, father of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, condemned the promotional event, telling The Sydney Morning Herald, “It is a terrible image for Australia to send to the world, seeing a magnificent kangaroo treated in such a cruel way.” Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd weighed in on the matter. You “want to make sure our national symbol is being properly respected in the way that Australia projects itself abroad,” he told a Perth radio station. After the uproar, Tourism Australia announced it would ban the use of animals in future campaigns. Almost on cue, the agency began a new campaign for Facebook that was boomerang-themed. *Media Report

Ed Comment; More hypocracy.....it was Kevin Rudd who authorised the Belconnen kangaroo kill.

Wedgetailed Eagles

King Solomon the Wedge Tailed Eagle found shot in Springsure in July of 2009 was released on a Central Queensland Grazing Property towards the end of March this year after almost eight months in rehab. The bird’s body was riddled with shot gun pellets and the pellets had caused three breaks on the one wing. The pellets remain within the bird. Under normal circumstances this bird would have been euthanased.to prevent suffering. However it appears that the parents of the Juvenile bird had kept the bird quiet and safe in the bush by dropping food on the ground. This I have seen many times. Wedge tailed eagle parents are extremely nurturing and protective of their young. While the bird was kept hidden in the bush on the ground the three breaks in that three week period, healed. The bird was only discovered when the parents had led the Juvenile to water and a dam. It was not until the bird was x-rayed that the truth was revealed. All three breaks had healed and vets advised that they could not do a better job with surgery, and considering that any suffering was no longer an issue for the bird, it was advised to give it a go.

It also appeared that none of the pellets had damaged air sacs or major organs, and to remove them would be an almost impossible task and risky. The bird was placed in a specially designed flight enclosure for Raptors and at times it appeared that learning to fly again took one step forward and two steps backwards. The bird had lost its confidence. Two days before Christmas of 2009 I shed a few tears when 'The King' began to fly and each day got better and better. It also became obvious in that time that the pellets throughout the bird’s body were not going to cause any problems. It ate its way through over a thousand dollars worth of food which was especially transported in. After such a long time in care the release is a soft release with the bird being support fed for a period of time with food being dropped at intervals throughout the property. The bird has been temporally marked for spotters in the area and already two wedgies have been seen in the area he was released, however a positive identification has not been made of our bird as yet.. Wedgies have been known to adopt an unrelated young bird. ‘Every now and again Wildlife gets a win against attempts by some members of the Human race to destroy what does not belong to them. *Central Queensland Carer


The Federal Government says it is very concerned by New Zealand's compromise proposal with Japan to allow a set number of whales to be killed. New Zealand has agreed to a plan that would give whaling countries the right to kill 1,500 whales a year, and its whaling commissioner plans to put forward the proposal at international talks in June. But Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says Australia will strongly argue its case for a blanket ban on hunting. Mr Garrett says New Zealand's proposal would destroy the moratorium on commercial whaling. "We think it's flawed and we're particularly concerned that it legitimises commercial whaling," he said. "That's why we're very concerned about a proposal of this kind being put forward by any country, including New Zealand. "This proposal effectively destroys the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been held together by like-minded nations, including Australia and New Zealand, for many years. "We don't see merit in a proposal which is just about numbers, but which would see whales killed in order that others wouldn't be."

New Zealand's whaling commissioner and former prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, says the plan is the only way to control large numbers of whales being hunted. "The problem here is that there is no effective international control over the number of whales that are being killed," he said. "If that could be secured, that would be very good. An emotional attachment to a moratorium that isn't working is not in my view realistic." Sir Geoffrey concedes whaling is an emotional issue. He says accepting the plan will not be a popular decision but it has to be done. "I've been the whaling commissioner for eight years and it's the only issue I've ever been involved in where people at the golf club say, 'now what are you doing to the Japanese this week?'" he said. "There's a great deal of unhappiness in New Zealand about killing whales. But the truth of the matter is that not all cultures or all nations see that issue the same way. "And because of that you have to arrive at an international accommodation. We have a treaty; it's defective. Over time, we think it could be fixed."

Japan, Norway and Iceland are currently allowed to kill 3,000 whales each year. The proposal New Zealand supports would halve that quota. The New Zealand government says there would be checks and balances in place to ensure the whaling nations do not exceed the new quota. The international adviser to New Zealand's foreign minister, Gerard Van Bohemen, says the deal is similar to already-implemented fishery agreements. "The agreement is that if you take whales under this arrangement, you don't take them any other way, and it's supplemented with monetary and supervision requirements of the same sort that apply to fishery agreements," he said. But environment groups in New Zealand are outraged, saying the plan legitimises commercial whaling.

Greenpeace's Karli Thomas wants the New Zealand government to take a tougher stance, more like Australia. "We're not against the idea of using diplomacy to try and get out of the difficult situation that the International Whaling Commission is in but we're extremely concerned about the draft document," she said. "The idea of capping a figure and - at the same time as perhaps reducing the number of whales killed - also trading away the greatest protections that the whales have is extremely worrying to us." Australian conservation groups want a blanket ban on all whaling. Nicola Beynon from Humane Society International says New Zealand is selling out. "There's been a ban on commercial whaling since 1986 and the New Zealand government is promoting a return to commercial whaling now," she said."It would be a disaster for whale conservation and the New Zealand people need to be shouting at their government to back away from this compromise." While Japan and New Zealand are doing deals on catching whales, there is no deal being done to free an anti-whaling activist. New Zealander Peter Bethune was already facing charges of trespassing on a whaling ship in the Southern Ocean. Now he is likely to face another charge of injuring a crew man. *ABC

A ship unloaded seven containers, believed to contain meat from endangered fin whales bound for Japan on Friday, after Greenpeace activists chained themselves to its anchor line to prevent it leaving Rotterdam harbour. Greenpeace spokeswoman Arja Helmig said the organisation had acted after receiving a credible tip that the ship NYK Orion was carrying meat, shipped by whalers from Iceland to a Japanese customer. The 15 activists unchained themselves after the contested meat was unloaded. NYK Lines spokesman Robin de Puij said the company is debating what to do next. "The refrigerated containers which led to a Greenpeace protest on the NYK Orion in Rotterdam this morning have been investigated by Dutch authorities," he said in an emailed statement. "As a result of this investigation, the cargo in the seven containers has been cleared as legal and duly authorised to be shipped."

Most nations oppose hunting the fin whale, but Iceland and Japan do not accept the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species' provisions on whales. Commercial whaling is also banned by the International Whaling Commission, but Iceland, Japan and several other countries continue to hunt whales, exploiting exemptions for scientific research. Icelandic whalers are believed to have killed more than 100 fin whales in 2009. Rotterdam police spokeswoman Tine De Jonge said the company had voluntarily unloaded the containers and nobody was arrested. "It's an absurd situation," said Helmig, the Greenpeace spokeswoman. "It's illegal to import this meat into the Netherlands, but the authorities turn a blind eye when it passes through." It is unclear what will happen with the meat now. Helmig said the containers have been moved to a part of the harbour where Greenpeace is unable to track them further. She said police had promised the meat would not leave the port, but De Jonge said that was in the hands of customs officials.

The Rotterdam Customs office did not return calls seeking comment. De Puij said a decision "on whether to load the cargo will be made later today following further discussions with the cargo owners". He declined to identify the meat's owner. Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale, growing to a length of about 22 metres in the Northern Hemisphere. They are listed as an endangered species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List, meaning they are at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. The International Whaling Commission is meeting in Morocco in June and countries are expected to vote on lifting the moratorium on whaling that has been in place since 1986. Supporters of the idea say it would reduce the number of whales being hunted by closing the "scientific research" loophole and imposing quotas. It is fiercely opposed on principle by many nations, Greenpeace and other environmental groups. *AP


Australian scientists are baffled as to why enormous Queensland groper fish are washing up dead on North Queensland beaches without a scratch on them. The Townsville Bulletin reported today researchers have determined the Queensland gropers - the largest reef-dwelling fish in the world - were dying from septicemia caused by bacterial infections but are at a loss to explain why, a Fisheries Queensland spokeswoman said. Mystery surrounding the deaths continue after a 1.7m groper washed up on Saturday morning at Rowes Bay, a Townsville coastal suburb 1363km north of Brisbane, Queensland. Field Officer Jeremy Thompson said he and officer Vaughn Heath were alerted to the gargantuan fish on the beach by residents from a nearby caravan park.

Mr Thompson said the public then helped the officers get the fish on to the back of their truck and they brought it back to their office to freeze it for Biosecurity Queensland to collect and research. "The members of the public who saw it seemed a bit excited about the size of it," he said. "It would have to be about 70kg." A fisheries spokeswoman said although it was rare for the monster fish to wash up in Townsville, it was common in the far north. The problem became so bad between Cairns and the Daintree, the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries began researching why the problem occurred. In the past two years, more than 50 gropers have washed up dead on North Queensland beaches, mainly north of Cardwell, all infected with the bacteria Streptococcus agalactiae. * Townsville Bulletin

Exotic Marine Pests

More infestations of marine pests were discovered last weekend in local waters by volunteer divers participating in a Reef Watch event coordinated by the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board’s Coast and Marine Program. The 22 participants were split into two groups, with snorkellers travelling to the Bay of Shoals and SCUBA divers heading for the Kingscote Jetty.Prompted by the discovery of European Fan Worms (Sabella spallanzanii) on a yacht moored in the Bay of Shoals in late 2009, the snorkellers set about checking mooring lines and boat hulls, primarily for more fan worms. Despite forewarning, participants were nevertheless shocked to uncover yet another yacht with at least 100 Sabella stuck to its hull. These specimens were successfully removed, bagged and later disposed of by Steve Leske from Reef Watch.

Meanwhile, the SCUBA divers at the Kingscote Jetty, as well as seeing a host of marine creatures including leafy sea dragons, cuttlefish and wobbegong sharks, uncovered four more mature Sabella, which were also removed and bagged for later disposal. This serves as a reminder to all boaties to “check their bottom for worms” - a message that will be promoted through a new boat sticker, developed by the Board, that will be distributed at the American River fishing competition and the Penneshaw Farmers Market this Easter. *The Islander

Fraser Island Dingoes

Recently Wildlife Bytes ran the story about Jennifer Parkhurst, the photographer who had her house invaded by DERM thugs early one morning last year. Jennifer now faces a maximum two years' jail or up to a $300,000 fine under the Nature Conservation Act and Recreation Area Management Act, for allegedly interfering with the Fraser Island dingoes. The real reasons for the raid were that, like many others, Jennifer has been highly critical of the Fraser Island dingo mis-management strategies. Anyway, a rally or two are being planned, and Fund has been set up to help Jennifer and the dingoes. People can contribute to the fund at Westpac Bank, Pialba, Hervey Bay. Save Fraser island Dingoes Inc. BSB 034-136 Acct 303196.