MBA member Karen Stockin delivered the Citadel Hill seminar this week on the often-overlooked human impacts on cetaceans in mass strandings.
Globally, whale strandings continue to fascinate and intrigue scientists and the public alike. New Zealand in particular, has an international reputation for its high frequency of mass strandings. Moreover, the extensive public engagements that occur during strandings of charismatic megafauna are unprecedented. For example, whale mass strandings bring together pākehā (non-Māori New Zealander) and Māori cultures in New Zealand in a way few other activities do.
Despite costly, and often logistically challenging attempts to rescue live whales, a lack of scientific evaluation underpins current decision-making processes. Notably, matters of conservation (survivorship/fitness) and animal welfare (impacts of refloatation), remain largely undetermined. In putting conservation into practice, scientists, managers and the public, may inadvertently induce significant detrimental impacts on the individuals they seek to preserve.
In a void of science-driven decision-making, how can managers be sure either conservation or animal welfare objectives are being met? While causation of mass strandings continues to dominate both popular and scientific literature, Karen's presentation challenges the current paradigm and asks at what cost should wesave the whales Karen is a former associate editor of the JMBA, and Plymouth University alumni.
Karen's current work at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand involves stranded pilot whales.Look out for an article on this subject in The Marine Biologist magazine.