Sunday, January 7, 2007

A big difference in a short time.

Last Spring I was invited to the Biology Department at Dal to give a seminar, by a very old friend - Hal Whitehead. While there he introduced me to RAM. I had read his papers and knew of him but that was it. After my talk we sat down in his office and there was no option - the force was there to spill my cares and worries about survival of the North Atlantic right whale species. I really don't remember what exactly we talked about, but the upshot was that about a week later a draft paper arrived from RAM. I guess I had been complaining about the density of lobster gear in the US side of the Gulf of Maine especially in the summer, and what that represented in terms of gear entanglement risk. It is the chronic entanglement cases that really eat me up as I do many of the forensic right whale necropsies that have become all too common on the eastern seaboard. One of the things I have to do is recreate in my mind the likely sequelae that lead to their ultimate demise. It has become obvious that these animals, when entangled, are in excruciating pain for an average of about 6 months before they die. It is as if they were hanged over that period.

Well - RAM, Boris and others took that thought and translated it in to an elegant comparison of US and Canadian lobster fisheries and the result is a paper due out on Tuesday showing the ridiculous over capitalization of the US fishery, with some very real ways in which things could improve. I wish with all my heart that two things could happen. That we can a) fix the issues threatening the survival of the right whale species, and b) RAM has a miraculous recovery. We need him desperately.

The issues that ail the right whale are a microcosm of what ails the world. The world can survive the loss of that one species, but it can't survive the generic forces causing that loss.


No comments: