Project

Cetacean welfare

Goal: Examine different aspects of the welfare of cetaceans, including understanding the importance of sociality for the welfare of cetaceans and other marine mammals.

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Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
The stranding of cetaceans raises significant welfare and associated logistical issues. A survey of opinions on euthanasia methods based on the recommendations of an International Whaling Commission (IWC) workshop was conducted. Descriptive statistics showed that the workshop recommendations were generally supported and understood, and these included the use of specific euthanasia techniques, but important barriers to adherence were identified, including lack of governmental support, lack of resources, and lack of experienced or trained personnel. Conjoint analysis of factors identified that 'time to death' was considered the most important determinant of welfare outcome. In view of the findings of this study, it is recommended that the IWC should consider creating a training programme for responders (both veterinary and non-veterinary) to ensure that trained personnel are available who can implement timely and tailored euthanasia techniques, if required, when strandings occur. Further research on this topic is also advocated to ensure a better understanding of what is being applied in different nations.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added 16 research items
In 1990, 74 dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and 10 Burmeister's porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis) were examined for the presence of hyperpigmented marks and pinhole lesions on the skin (tattoo lesions) at the fishing terminal of Pucusana, central Peru. Prevalences of tattoo lesions were 8.1% and 30% in the dolphins and porpoises, respectively. Intracytoplasmic poxviruses were demonstrated by transmission electron microscopy in ultrathin sections of three of eight samples of infected epidermis from both species. The reason for the negative results in others is unclear but may be related to stages of infection with low virus density or even incorrect classification of some lesions as genuine viral tattoos. An irregular arrangement of tubules on the outer viral membrane, similar to those in orthopoxviruses, was visible in negative contrast preparations for P. spinipinnis. This is the first record of poxvirus in porpoises (Phocoenidae) and also the first report for dusky dolphins, and generally for cetaceans of the southern hemisphere.
Infections with morbilliviruses have caused heavy losses among different populations of aquatic mammals during the last 5 years. Two different morbilliviruses were isolated from disease outbreaks among seals in Europe and Siberia: phocid distemper virus-1 (PDV-1) and phocid distemper virus-2 (PDV-2) respectively. PDV-1 was characterized as a newly identified morbillivirus, most related to canine distemper virus (CDV), whereas PDV-2 most probably is a strain of CDV. Morbilliviruses were also isolated from porpoises--porpoise morbillivirus (PMV)--and dolphins--dolphin morbillivirus (DMV)--which had stranded on the coasts of Europe. PMV and DMV proved to be closely related to, but distinct from 2 ruminant morbilliviruses, rinderpest virus (RPV) and peste-des-petits-ruminants virus (PPRV). Serological surveys carried out among pinniped and cetacean species in the seas of Europe and North America indicated that infections with these newly discovered morbilliviruses or closely related viruses commonly occur among aquatic mammal species.
The prevalence of‘tattoo’skin lesions, characteristic of poxvirus infection, was examined in 339 small cetaceans captured in gillnet fisheries off coastal Peru: 196 Lagenorhynchus obscurus (34.7%, CI 29.0%–41.8%), 54 Delphinus capensis (61.1%, CI 46.6%–74.1%), 77 Phocoena spinipinnis (62.3%, CI 50.5%–73.2%) and 12 offshore Tursiops truncatus (41.6%, CI 15.2%–72.3%). Sexual variation in tattoo prevalence was significant only in P spinipinnis with males two times more infected than females. Prevalence of poxvirus infection was correlated with the body length class in all species. It peaked around weaning age, supposedly in part due to the loss of maternal protection, and then gradually decreased as immunity developed in the delphinids, but remained high in the porpoise. This pattern is indicative of an endemic infection equivalent to a children's viral disease. The generalized distribution of the tattoos in several animals suggests that viremia may occur. Indications are that the incidence of the disease in L. obscurs and P. spinipinnis may have increased since 1990, however additional research is needed to confirm this trend.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added a research item
We report on the emergence of the epibiotic barnacle Xenobalanus globicipitis in Guiana dolphins (Sotalia guianensis) from Sepetiba Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September 2018, six months after a lethal morbillivirus epidemic. Small boat surveys were conducted at the entrance and in the interior of the bay from January 2018 to February 2021. Dolphins were photo-identified and classified according to overall spatial use of the Bay. We examined the potential influence of the period and habitat on the prevalence of X. globicipitis. The overall prevalence of the barnacle was 38.7% in 214 dolphins. X. globicipitis was not observed in 99 individually identified dolphins from January to August 2018 (first period) but was seen on 83 of the 194 (42.8%) dolphins photographed from September 2018 to February 2021 (second period). Moreover, in 22 individuals repeatedly photographed during both periods, prevalence was 0% and 91% during the first and second period, respectively. Prevalence was the highest in the dolphins using the entrance of the Bay (55.0%, N = 140), intermediate in animals using equally both the entrance and interior area (42.9%, N = 47), and the lowest (6.4%, N = 7) in those using the interior area only. The calves of five females infested with X. globicipitis were free of barnacles. Based on repeated photographs of barnacles at different growth stage on six dolphins, the periods between first and last sight with the epibiont were (in increasing order) 29, 32, 40, 51, 68 and 78 days. A conservative estimation from the initial settlement to sexual maturity was around 40–45 days. Three individuals of X. globicipitis collected on a stranded dolphin measured 65 mm, 61 mm and 35 mm, the largest recorded size to date. The two large individuals had incubated embryos while the smaller one presented developing gonads. Poor health and an impaired immune response in the dolphins that had survived the morbillivirus epidemic may have favored the introduction of the barnacle, but biotic and abiotic factors could also had played an important role. This paper documents the colonization of an estuarine area by X. globicipitis following ecological changes.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added 6 research items
Fifteen fishing centres on the northern and central coasts of Peru, including large industrial fishing ports and smaller fish landing sites were surveyed for cetacean landings periodically over 29 months, from January 1999-May 2001. Monitoring effort, measured in port-days (pd), was for northern Peru 61pd (1999), 73pd (2000) and 19pd (2001); for the central coast, 24pd (1999), 7pd (2000) and 2pd (2001). Effort was largely opportunistic to other shore-based studies, but some was dedicated to cetaceans. We here document evidence for a minimum of 471 small cetaceans (310 identified to species) encountered in and around ports and landing beaches. Species composition of identifiable specimens include (% in triennium sample): Burmeister's porpoise Phocoena spinipinnis (42.6%), long-snouted common dolphin Delphinus capensis (24.2%), dusky dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus (20.6%) and bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus (12.6%). The number of specimens tallied often were a composition of the visible fraction of animals landed that day plus remains of other animals butchered on earlier days, whence no per diem landing rates can be deduced. Moreover a dramatic change was noted in landing procedures contrasting with 1980s-90s. Depending on the port, entire cetacean carcasses were rarely landed for being illegal. New practices include butchering captured specimens at sea and landing concealed, filleted meat. Uses are still predominantly human consumption and bait for elasmobranch fisheries (both longline and gillnet). Important numbers of specimens were encountered in the form of meat and identification requires molecular genetic analysis. From now onwards, direct shipboard monitoring will be essential to estimate total mortality. Three Burmeister's porpoises (and 12 green turtles) were incidentally taken in artisanal bottom gillnets (10-18cm mesh size) in 10 supervised overnight fishing trips off northern Peru. Gillnets were set for a total duration of 163 hrs. Porpoise catch rate per hour of net soaking was 0.018 or 0.3 porpoises/boat/night. Data suggest that the predicted (Van Waerebeek, 1994) long-term relative decline of L. obscurus in catch composition continues, the cause for which is unknown.
We report on the epidemiology of tattoo disease in a community of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from the Sado estuary, Portugal. The presence of tattoos (T++) and tattoo-like (T+) lesions was examined in 586 photographic records of 35 dolphins taken from 1994 to 1997. Images were rated into 3 categories: good (GI), average (AI) and poor (PI). Dolphins positive for T++ lesions were observed in 19 GI. Dolphins with T+ lesions were seen in 39 GI, 23 AI and 6 PI. For statistical analysis the dolphins were divided into 2 age classes (immature and adult) and the data grouped into 2 periods (1994-1995 and 1996-1997). Minimum prevalence of T++ lesions in 32 dolphins was 21.9% in 1994-1995 and 15.6% in 1996-1997. Variation in prevalence of tattoo disease between the 2 age classes was examined for each period, excluding animals with T+ lesions or considering them either positive or negative for tattoos. Prevalence of the disease was significantly higher in immature dolphins than in adults during both periods, except in the first one when T+ lesions were considered as true tattoos. Temporal variation in prevalence of tattoo disease was examined in 23 adults. Prevalence was significantly higher in 1994-1995 (39.1%) than in 1996-1997 (17.4%). Differences in the number and quality of pictures did not cause significant biases that could have favoured the detection of lesions between age classes or periods. Minimal persistence of the disease ranged between 3 and 45.5 mo. The lesions converted into light grey marks when healing, but may recur. The presence of very large lesions in 2 adult dolphins affected for years may be related to the contamination of the estuary. The high prevalence of the disease, its long persistence, as well as higher frequency in immature individuals, suggest that it is endemic in bottlenose dolphins from the Sado estuary. The contribution of tattoo disease to the decline of this community should be investigated. Three of the 5 dolphins that died during this study had T++ and T+ lesions.
A total of 308 skulls and 200 jaws from 20 species and one hybrid of odontocete cetaceans from the Peruvian Ocean were revised for anatomical description and evaluation of bone lesions. They were grouped into 8 types, plus those at the dental alveoli and osteolitic lesions caused by the nematode Crassicauda sp. From the total bone samples, at least 31.2% showed one type of craneo-mandibular lesion whereas the bottlenosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) was the most affected. Dental alveoli lesions were found in 13.3% of the samples and bone lesions caused by Crassicauda sp. were in 17.3% of the skulls. The most frequent lesions were hyperostosis and osteolysis, followed by osteomyelitis, malformations and occipitoatlantoaxial ankylosed joints. Adult males showed higher frequency of bone and dental alveolar lesions and it is suggested that the latter type of lesions could be associated with severe cases of osteomyelitis and osteolysis at the maxillar and mandibular level. The pterygoid bone was the most affected by the Crassicauda sp. nematode.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added 6 research items
Lobomycosis and lobomycosis-like diseases (LLD) (also: paracoccidioidomycosis) are chronic cutaneous infections that affect Delphinidae in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. In the Americas, these diseases have been relatively well-described, but gaps still exist in our understanding of their distribution across the continent. Here we report on LLD affecting inshore bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from the Caribbean waters of Belize and from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean off the southwestern coast of Mexico. Photo-identification and catalog data gathered between 1992 and 2017 for 371 and 41 individuals, respectively from Belize and Mexico, were examined for the presence of LLD. In Belize, 5 free-ranging and 1 stranded dolphin were found positive in at least 3 communities with the highest prevalence in the south. In Guerrero, Mexico, 4 inshore bottlenose dolphins sighted in 2014−2017 were affected by LLD. These data highlight the need for histological and molecular studies to confirm the etiological agent. Additionally, we document a single case of LLD in an adult Atlantic spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis in southern Belize, the first report in this species. The role of environmental and anthropogenic factors in the occurrence, severity, and epidemiology of LLD in South and Central America requires further investigation.
The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the cetacean species most commonly encountered in the Strait of Gibraltar. A community of about 300 T. truncatus resides year round in the central and deeper part of the Strait. It is exposed to stressful anthropogenic factors including a very high maritime traffic and commercial whale watching activities. In an attempt to assess the health of this community we thoroughly examined the left upper body of 334 dolphins for evidence of skin lesions, physical deformations and other conditions using 13,763 images taken for photo-identification studies in 2004-2007. Emaciation was not observed. Deformation of the dorsal fin associated with a very large scar was seen in an adult female. Tattoo skin disease (TSD) was detected in 4,5% of the dolphins. Prevalence was significantly (χ 2 = 6,62, df = 1, P = 0,01) higher in juveniles (12,5%, n= 40) than in adults (3,4%, n= 290). None of the four calves were affected by TSD. This holo-endemic epidemiological pattern is typical of the disease in healthy populations of odontocetes. Other cutaneous disorders included orange blotches (n= 1), pale dermatitis (n= 2), punctiform marks (n= 3), expansive annular skin lesions (n= 1), nodules (n= 3) and patchy depigmentation (n=1). The occurrence of pale dermatitis and expansive annular disease may be indicative of a deteriorating coastal water environment and should be further investigated.
La lobomycosis (lacaziosis) es una infección crónica de la piel y de los tejidos subcutáneos que afecta a los seres humanos y a miembros de la familia Delphinidae. Es causada por un hongo patógeno que pertenece al Orden de los Onygenales, familia de los Ajellomycetaceae. La enfermedad se caracteriza por lesiones verrugosas, en alto relieve, de color blanco a rosado, y frecuentemente ulceradas. La "lobomycosis-like disease" (LLD) es una enfermedad parecida a la lobomycosis pero que no ha sido diagnosticada por histología. En Suramérica se ha encontrado en delfines nariz de botella (Tursiops truncatus) de Ecuador, Perú, Venezuela, Brasil y Colombia, y en delfines tucuxi (Sotalia guianensis) de Brasil. Los reportes se han realizado en cercanías a grandes ciudades costeras, con grandes desarrollos portuarios, y alta carga de contaminantes orgánicos y químicos en el medio marino.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added 9 research items
To complement legislative measures protecting cetaceans and other marine animals, the Peruvian Centre for Cetacean Research in the period 1993–2000 implemented an environmental education program at the kindergartens, primary and high schools of several fishing towns and in Lima, Peru. This program included environmental classes based on selected thematic videos and educational booklets, creative “marine” workshops, art competitions, guided visits to the Museo de Delfines' in Pucusana and other public events. Approximately 1,920 and 2,135 pupils attended at least one environmental class in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Between September 1997 and February 2000, nearly 1,700 children visited the museum. Five hundred and twenty-three children from Pucusana and Cerro Azul participated in workshops in 1998. In 1999, this number increased to 579 for Pucusana alone. In May 2001, personal interviews were conducted with 55 children in the sixth grade of a primary school in Pucusana to evaluate their knowledge on the conservation themes tackled during the classes. A mean of 77% (min. 40%– max. 98%) of the pupils answered correctly 16 questions on the basic biology of aquatic animals and their environment. The material displayed in the museum was well to very well remembered by 87.3% of the children. Forty-nine (89.1%) of those pupils thought that it is necessary to protect aquatic animals and 54 of them (98.2%) wished to receive more environmental classes and to visit the museum again. Children and adolescents from Pucusana and Cerro Azul, the villages where the program has run for the longest period, displayed an increasing interest, knowledge, and awareness for cetaceans and other protected marine species. The same tendency was noted in the more recently visited fishing towns of Chancay and Chimbote. We believe that our environmental education program is efficiently complementing existing legislation protecting cetaceans, sea turtles, penguins, sea lions, and other marine wildlife in Peruvian waters.
We report on the presence of lobomycosis-like disease (LLD) and nodular skin disease (NSD) in a community of Guiana dolphins (Sotalia guianensis) inhabiting the biologically and chemically contaminated Paranaguá estuary (Brazil) and on their absence in the community living in the cleaner Cananéia estuary. Prevalence rates of LLD and NSD were 3.9% and 12.6%, respectively, in 103 photo-identified (PI) dolphins from the Paranaguá estuary in the period 2006-2007. Adults and calves were affected. Lobomycosis-like lesions may be extensive and form large plaques. Skin nodules were sometimes ulcerated and associated with cutaneous traumas suggesting that traumatic injuries may play a role in the pathogenesis of this condition. In two adult dolphins, NSD evoked the beginning of LLD. In 1996-2007 none of the 200 PI Cananéia S. guianensis had LLD or NSD, a highly significant difference. Interestingly, these dolphins were reported to harbour relatively low concentrations of organochlorines. LLD and NSD are possibly indicators of environmental changes.
Lobomycosis is a chronic mycotic disease of the skin and subdermal tissues caused by the yeast-like organism Lacazia loboi, which affects humans and Delphinidae. Cases of lobomycosis and lobomycosis-like disease (LLD), a disease very similar to lobomycosis but for which a histological diagnostic is missing, have been reported in small cetaceans from the Americas and Europe. Here we report on LLD in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins Tursiops aduncus from the tropical lagoon of Mayotte, between Mozambique and Madagascar. From July 2004 to June 2008, boat surveys were conducted in Mayotte waters. At least 71 adult dolphins were photo-identified. Six (5 males, 1 female) had multiple raised, greyish nodules on the dorsal fin, head, flanks, belly, back and tailstock that suggested LLD. The lesions were extensive in some cases. The calf of the positive female was also affected. LLD has been present in this community since at least 1999. As sampling was not possible, the aetiology of the disease could not be explored. The emergence of LLD in Mayotte may be related to degradation of the coastal environment associated with rapid urbanization, expanding agriculture and increased release of untreated freshwater runoffs. Other skin lesions included scars, healing wounds, whitish lesions and lumps.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
Some thoughts on the loss of a very well known solitary sociable dolphin - Fungie who lived in Dingle Harbour in Ireland for several decades.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added a research item
The causes of cetacean stranding and death along the Catalan coast between 2012 and 2019 were systematically investigated. Necropsies and detailed pathological investigations were performed on 89 well-preserved stranded cetaceans, including 72 striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba, 9 Risso’s dolphins Grampus griseus, 5 bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus, 1 common dolphin Delphinus delphis, 1 Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris and 1 fin whale Balaenoptera physalus. The cause of death was determined for 89.9% of the stranded cetaceans. Fisheries interaction was the most frequent cause of death in striped dolphins (27.8%) and bottlenose dolphins (60%). Cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV) was detected on the Catalan coast from 2016 to 2017, causing systemic disease and death in 8 of the 72 (11.1%) striped dolphins. Chronic CeMV infection of the central nervous system was observed from 2018–2019 in a further 5 striped dolphins. Thus, acute and chronic CeMV disease caused mortality in 18% of striped dolphins and 14.6% of all 89 cetaceans. Brucella ceti was isolated in 6 striped dolphins and 1 bottlenose dolphin with typical brucellosis lesions and in 1 striped dolphin with systemic CeMV. Sinusitis due to severe infestation by the nematode parasite Crassicauda grampicola caused the death of 4 out of 6 adult Risso’s dolphins. Maternal separation, in some cases complicated with septicemia, was a frequent cause of death in 13 of 14 calves. Other less common causes of death were encephalomalacia of unknown origin, septicemia, peritonitis due to gastric perforation by parasites and hepatitis caused by Sarcocystis spp.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
Human activities and anthropogenic environmental changes are having a profound effect on biodiversity and the sustainability and health of many populations and species of wild mammals. There has been less attention devoted to the impact of human activities on the welfare of individual wild mammals, although ethical reasoning suggests that the welfare of an individual is important regardless of species abundance or population health. There is growing interest in developing methodologies and frameworks that could be used to obtain an overview of anthropogenic threats to animal welfare. This paper shows the steps taken to develop a functional welfare assessment tool for wild cetaceans (WATWC) via an iterative process involving input from a wide range of experts and stakeholders. Animal welfare is a multidimensional concept, and the WATWC presented made use of the Five Domains model of animal welfare to ensure that all areas of potential welfare impact were considered. A pilot version of the tool was tested and then refined to improve functionality. We demonstrated that the refined version of the WATWC was useful to assess real-world impacts of human activity on Southern Resident killer whales. There was close within-scenario agreement between assessors as well as between-scenario differentiation of overall welfare impact. The current article discusses the challenges raised by assessing welfare in scenarios where objective data on cetacean behavioral and physiological responses are sparse and proposes that the WATWC approach has value in identifying important information gaps and in contributing to policy decisions relating to human impacts on whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Courtney S. Vail
added a research item
The dolphin drive hunts that occur annually in Taiji, Japan have received global condemnation on both welfare and sustainability grounds. The considerable ethical and political controversy surrounding these and other small cetacean hunts serves as just one example of a contemporary issue challenging experts in the field of marine mammal science. The ethical dilemmas facing the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) may become more pronounced as public and member interest in the protection of marine mammals grows based upon current scientific knowledge and heightened awareness and exposure through social media. We present a historical timeline of the SMM's response to the dolphin drive hunt issue as a case study to illustrate the intersection of science and policy, while exploring the human dimensions that often drive conservation and welfare policy. We evaluate the challenges associated with integrating prevailing scientific knowledge with ethical, social and cultural dimensions of controversial marine mammal issues and examine the roles, boundaries and potential of international marine mammal scientific societies in responding to policy issues and debates. We examine existing ethical guidelines within the SMM to explore the intersection of science and policy to assist in navigating increasingly complex threats to marine mammal conservation and welfare. As the SMM, should we develop policy positions regarding high profile marine mammal welfare issues? What are the barriers to translational science and related advocacy within the marine mammal scientific community?
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added a research item
Lobomycosis-like disease (LLD) is a chronic granulomatous skin disorder that affects Delphinidae worldwide. LLD has been observed in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador, for 28 years. Although exogenous factors such as salinity and pollution may play a role in the pathogenesis of this disease in estuarine and coastal dolphin communities, we hypothesized that demography and social behaviour may also influence its epidemiology. To address this issue, the role of social behaviour in the distribution and prevalence of LLD was assessed through hierarchical cluster analysis and spatial distribution analysis in seven dolphin communities inhabiting the inner estuary. Individuals with LLD lesions were observed in five of the seven dolphin communities, with 15 of the 163 (9.2%) animals being positive, all adults. Among eight dolphins of known sex, LLD affected mostly males (86%), who usually were found in pairs. Prevalence was low to moderate (5.1-13%) in dolphin communities where low rank males had LLD. Conversely, it was high (44.4%, N= 9) in a small community where a high rank male was infected. LLD affected both dolphins in two of the four male pairs for which large time series data were available, suggesting horizontal transmission due to contact. Thus, association with LLD positive males seems to be an important risk factor for infections. Additionally, low rank males had larger home ranges than high rank males, indicating that low status LLD affected dolphins are likely responsible for the geographic dissemination of the disease in this population.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added a research item
This chapter reviews viral infections of marine mammals worldwide and provide references for further studies.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added a research item
The presence of cryptogenic gray cutaneous (CGC) lesions is re-ported in Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) occurring in La Herradura de Guayacán Bay and surrounding waters in the Coquimbo region, Chile, in 2011-2012. Images were examined for skin lesions, body condition and state of the dorsal fin. For epidemiological analysis, individuals were split into three categories: adults, immatures and calves. For the calf category, the number of individuals and prevalence of skin conditions were calculated separately for the right (RS) and left (LS) sides, as it was not always possible to accurately match their sides. A total of 749 adults, 44 immatures and 81 (LS) and 99 (RS) calves were photo-identified. Forty-three calves had both sides matched. CGC lesions appearing as small to very large, oval or rounded light gray lesions, sometimes in relief or ulcerated were observed on all visible body areas of 24 (LS) to 36 (RS) calves, five immatures and one adult. At least nine positive calves were neonates. In two calves the CGC lesions persisted for a minimum of 11.5 months. The health of seven to nine calves was visibly degraded. Prevalence of CGC lesions in 43 calves with both sides matched was 23.3% but varied between 29.6% and 36.4% in 81 LS and 99 RS calves, respectively. It was lower in immatures (11.4%, N= 44) and adults (0.14%, N= 749). Pollution of the bay and surrounding waters may affect the immune system and skin barrier in calves, facilitating the entry of micro-organisms and infection.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
Whilst studies on cetaceans have focused on a few populations of just a few species, various complex behaviours and social structures that support the notion that cetaceans should be regarded as intelligent animals have been revealed. The evidence to support this is reviewed here and is best developed for some odontocete species, although recent studies on minke whales show that the behaviour of baleen whales may be more complex than previously thought. As one consequence of high intelligence, the potential impacts of whaling and other removals may be far greater than they appear and a new approach to the conservation of these species – which takes into account their intelligence, societies, culture and potential to suffer – is advocated.
Marie-Francoise Van Bressem
added 4 research items
ABSTRACT: From November 2017 to March 2018 a cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV) outbreak caused an unprecedented mass mortality among Guiana dolphins in Ilha Grande Bay and Sepetiba Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Small boat surveys were conducted to document the behavior and clinical signs presented by diseased dolphins. We observed five abnormally behaving, disoriented Guiana dolphins on separate days, one of which died stranded and two sank. Signs of ataxia included difficulties with swimming and maintaining a course, balance and buoyancy. At least 40 other individuals were emaciated and 10 photo-identified dolphins had miscellaneous skin lesions, some ulcerated. Laboured breathing suggestive of airway obstruction, was heard in several groups. These neurological, respiratory and cutaneous signs may comprise part of the clinical constellation of CeMV infection in dolphins. The combined threat of anthropogenic pressures and CeMV lethal disease is of concern for the survival of Guiana dolphin population from Sepetiba Bay.
Clinical and epidemiological features of tattoo skin disease (TSD) are reported for 257 common bottlenose dolphins held in 31 facilities in the Northern Hemisphere. Photographs and biological data of 146 females and 111 males were analyzed. Dolphins were classified into three age classes: 0–3 years, 4–8 years, and older than 9 years. From 2012 to 2014, 20.6% of the 257 dolphins showed clinical TSD. The youngest dolphins with tattoo lesions were 14 and 15 months old. TSD persisted from 4 to 65 months in 30 dolphins. Prevalence varied between facilities from 5.6% to 60%, possibly reflecting variation in environmental factors. Unlike in free-ranging Delphinidae, TSD prevalence was significantly higher in males (31.5%) than in females (12.3%). Infection was age-dependent only in females. Prevalence of very large tattoos was also higher in males (28.6%) than in females (11.1%). These data suggest that male T. truncatus are more vulnerable to TSD than females, possibly because of differences in immune response and susceptibility to captivity-related stress.
A novel method with underwater images was used for a general health assessment of 86 white-beaked dolphins photo-identified off the Northumberland's North Sea coast (UK) in 2011-2016. Tattoo skin disease was observed in 10 dolphins. Sixty-six dolphins (76.7%) had at least one type of nonlethal injury, including white marks, non-linear incisive injuries and linear marks. Injuries of anthropogenic origin, mainly from fisheries related interactions and vessel strikes, were suspected in 15.1% of dolphins. Such injuries are increasingly reported in small cetaceans worldwide, affecting fitness, welfare, longevity and reproduction. Their high prevalence in white-beaked dolphins from Northumberland is of concern.
Philippa Brakes
added a research item
Drive hunts are a method to herd, capture and kill small cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in coastal waters of some countries including Japan and the Faroe Islands. In Japan, these methods are often associated with the acquisition of live dolphins for international marine parks and aquaria. During the hunts, dolphins are herded by a flotilla of fishing vessels and loud underwater noise created by fishermen banging hammers on metal poles. The prolonged and strenuous chase and use of sound barriers to herd, capture, and restrain the dolphins can result in acute stress and injury. The authors review physiological and behavioral data pertaining to chase, encirclement, and live capture of dolphins and draw comparisons between chase and capture data for marine and terrestrial species. This analysis raises substantial welfare concerns associated with the hunts and acquisition of dolphins from such capture operations. The authors assert that this data detailing the negative impacts of chase, herding and handling (capture) of small cetaceans renders these hunts inherently inhumane and should inform policy relating to the collection and management of dolphins in the wild.
Mark P Simmonds
added 2 research items
Marine mammals face many threats in the 21st century, and an introduction is provided here to these threats and some efforts to try to study their combined effects. This draws mainly on work undertaken under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission and, most recently, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The consideration of combined or cumulative effects is complex, but progress is being made, leading, potentially, to improved conservation policy. However, the pathway from better scientific understanding to real conservation action in the field is frequently fraught, and precautionary action to address stressors is advocated, including addressing those that might not even be of primary concern, to try to make populations more robust. In addition, the potential of veterinary sciences, including health studies of wild animal populations, to identify problems and stressors is noted, and a cross-fertilization between conventional conservation focuses and wild animal "welfare science" is encouraged. The problems inherent in addressing multiple stressors make the need for precaution in marine mammal matters all the greater. However, in order for decision makers to properly respond to complexity, they need to have the limitations of science clearly and honestly explained.
Marine mammals face many threats simultaneously. How do we best consider them in combination and how do we best manage multiple threats from a conservation perspective?
Philippa Brakes
added a research item
Emergent evidence of aspects of sociality, such as social structure and social learning, across many vertebrate taxa, warrant more detailed consideration of their influence on welfare outcomes for wildlife. Sociality can be dynamic across organismal development, it can: provide protection through safety in numbers; may influence breeding outcomes via mate choice and alloparental care; can influence foraging success through transmission of social information and co-operation; and it can provide opportunities for the spread of novel behaviour. Social learning itself provides an important mechanism for resilience in changing environments, but also has the potential to increase vulnerability or facilitate the spread of maladaptive behaviours. The welfare consequences of vertebrates living in social groups are explored using Wilson’s 10 qualities of sociality as a framework, and the implications of human activities are discussed. Focus to date has been on the importance of social networks for the welfare of farmed or captive animals. Here I consider the importance of social networks and sociality more generally for the welfare of wildlife and explore Mellor’s five domain model for animal welfare within the context of wildlife sociality.
Philippa Brakes
added 11 research items
The Workshop was held in Kruger National Park, South Africa from 3-4 May 2016. There were 33 participants from 12 different countries. Participants included individuals from a wide range of stakeholders including national authorities from IWC member countries; veterinarians and veterinary pathologists; animal welfare specialists; biologists and academics working on aspects of cetacean welfare; and experts from animal welfare organisations. This Workshop was held back to back with the Workshop Developing Practical Guidance for the Handling of Cetacean Strandings Events held from 5-6 May 2016 (IWC/66/WKM&WI Rep02). The primary objectives of the Workshop were to: (i) facilitate coherent discussion of the welfare aspects of non-hunting threats to cetaceans within the IWC (Commission and the Scientific Committee) by synthesising the state of current knowledge and identifying priority issues on which the IWC should work to develop management advice on and/or work to address knowledge gaps; (ii) provide clarity on the role of the IWC and other organisations in addressing non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare; and (iii) to support the IWC in becoming a leading body for the provision of advice on this issue. Key principles established by the Workshop at the outset were: (1) the term ‘cetaceans’ was taken to refer to both large and small cetaceans; (2) discussion of threats was confined to non-hunting threats and did not include discussion of the impacts of scientific research; and (3) the Workshop focus was on the welfare of individual animals, though it also sought to identify where this may translate to a conservation concern. The first part of the Workshop explored the concept of animal welfare, its ethical and philosophical dimension and its development as an academic discipline. It reflected on the relationship and differences between welfare and conservation. The Workshop reviewed national perspectives on welfare including legislation, policies and responsibilities and explored international organisations’ efforts on animal welfare including those of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Drawing on a series of expert presentations, participants considered a range of non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare including entanglement in active fishing gear and Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG); ship strikes; whale watching; marine litter and matters related to habitat degradation (climate change, chemical and noise pollution and prey depletion). The Workshop considered the science of animal welfare and how welfare status can be assessed. In particular, the Workshop reviewed the Five Domains model for assessing welfare status (Mellor and Beausoleil, 2015; Mellor and Reid, 1994) and its potential application for the consideration of non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare. The use of the Five Domains welfare assessment model within the Workshop also represented the first time that it had been considered for wild cetaceans. The Workshop tested the model against a range of welfare threats and applied it to a series of defined welfare scenarios. The Workshop also explored means to assess welfare status over time, in order to consider the implications of a welfare-impacting event against ‘normal life’ and to examine long-term cumulative impacts. The Workshop considered the potential application of a welfare assessment framework, adapted from the Five Domains model in informing: (i) the assessment of welfare threats to inform the case for (or against) action; (ii) the review of policy and mitigation options, including to ensure that welfare issues are appropriately addressed in conservation strategies; and (iii) the development of response and rescue guidelines, for example entanglement and strandings response. Finally, on the basis of the above considerations, the Workshop created a version of the Five Domains model adapted specifically as a framework to consider and guide the assessment of welfare in wild cetaceans. The Workshop proposed this for further development and use by the IWC and its member countries.
The Workshop was held in Kruger National Park, South Africa from 5-6 May 2016. There were 34 participants from 13 different countries. Participants included individuals from a wide range of stakeholders including national authorities from IWC member countries; veterinarians and veterinary pathologists; strandings biologists; animal welfare specialists; biologists and academics working on aspects of cetacean welfare; and experts from animal welfare organisations. This included participants who are actively involved in strandings response and animal rescue efforts. This Workshop was held back to back with the Workshop to Support the Consideration of Non-Hunting Threats to Cetacean Welfare (IWC/66/WKM&WI Rep01) which took place from 3-4 May 2016. The primary objective of the Workshop was to assist the IWC in its efforts to build global capacity for effective cetacean stranding response and promote the IWC as a leading body for the provision of advice through the development of practical guidance for responders. It aimed to assist the IWC in taking forward relevant actions in the IWC Welfare Action plan, particularly Objective 2.4. To work through existing strandings networks to produce specific recommendations to the Commission in relation to the welfare implications of responding to cetacean stranding events and Action 2.4.1 To organise a mass strandings Workshop to progress the development of shared best practice and guidance in responding to such events. The Workshop was informed by existing efforts to build strandings response capacity including the outputs of a Workshop To Develop An International Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Response Toolkit, held in June 2014, organised by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); and by the joint IWC/Society for Marine Mammalogy Workshop on Investigations of Large Mortality Events, Mass Strandings, and International Stranding Response, 11-12 December, 2015 (SC/66b/Rep09). In addition, the Workshop received a series of case studies and presentations illustrating examples of national strandings response, identifying existing strandings guidance and protocols and exploring the challenges faced by countries in developing an effective strandings response. These included submissions relating to Argentina, Spain, the Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and USA. The Workshop considered in some detail aspects of the strandings response relating to: (i) prevention of strandings (for example, through herding and acoustic measures); (ii) live strandings response (veterinary assessment, refloat/rescue, relocation/release, rehabilitation and euthanasia); (iii) post-release monitoring; (iv) mass stranding considerations; (v) health and safety; (vi) handling of public and the media and cultural considerations; (vii) post-mortem investigation and tissue sampling; and (viii) carcass disposal. The Workshop used a case study (stranding of a fin whale in Baltimore Harbour, Cork, Republic of Ireland) to explore the welfare aspects of a particularly difficult situation in relation to key decisions facing responders and to help explore how public expectations and the media might be dealt with. Finally, the Workshop discussed the potential role of the IWC in further developing guidelines and protocols for strandings and in acting as a repository for the identification and dissemination of best practice.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
This 273-paged book outlines a number of the key dilemmas in animal welfare for today's, and tomorrow's, world. The issues discussed range from the welfare of hunted animals, to debates around intensive farming versus sustainability, and the effects of climate and environmental change. It explores the effects of fences on wild animals and human impacts on carrion animals; the impacts of tourism on animal welfare; philosophical questions about speciesism; and the quality and quantity of animal lives. The welfare impacts of human-animal interactions are explored, including human impacts on marine mammals, fish, wildlife, and companion and farm animals. Salient features of this book includes being concise, opinion-based views on important issues in animal welfare by world experts and key opinion leaders. Pieces based on experience, which balance evidence-based approaches and the welfare impacts of direct engagement through training, campaigning and education. A wide-ranging collection of examples and descriptions of animal welfare topics which outline dilemmas in the real world, that are sometimes challenging, and not always comfortable reading. This book is highly recommended for animal and veterinary scientists, ethologists, policy and opinion leaders, NGOs, conservation biologists and anyone who feels passionately about the welfare of animals.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
The poster outlines this key conservation issue, the previous lack of coherent international action and the role of the International Whaling Commission.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
To date, at least seventy sociable and solitary cetaceans have been recorded worldwide and they seem to be part of a growing phenomenon of individual cetaceans that live in isolation from their societies and which actively seek contact with people. Such animals are very vulnerable to being injured or killed as a result of human actions. In a previous submission to the IWC Scientific Committee we provided an overview of the situation in UK waters (Simmonds et al ., 2006). Subsequent to this, one of the solitary bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus , previously reported on has died and another appears increasingly at risk. This paper provides a short update about this perplexing situation.
Philippa Brakes
added 2 research items
In this chapter, we discuss in detail an example of a small toothed whale hunt, with the aim of illustrating the methods used and the welfare questions that can arise in these cetacean hunts. Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in drive hunts with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method utilized in these specific hunts that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord. Reports claim that this method reduces the time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. This method does not appear to lead to an immediate death. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod and leads to significant haemorrhage, but this damage alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. We discuss in this chapter how this killing method compares to the recognized requirement for ‘immediate insensibility’ adopted in killing procedures utilized or considered acceptable in slaughter of farmed animals.
Mark P Simmonds
added 2 research items
SECTIONS: Perceptions and timelines Whales in an increasingly noisy ocean Whales in a tainted ocean Whales in a warming ocean Whales in an increasingly acidic ocean Whales in a busy ocean Whales in a netted ocean Whales in the 21st century and beyond
Persistent organic pollutants were recognised decades ago as significant threats to wildlife including marine mammals. Efforts to control certain pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and associated successful declines in environmental loadings followed. However, it has very recently become apparent that PCBs continue to pose a significant threat. This is especially the case for certain cetacean populations in Europe which now seem to be heading towards extinction because of PCBs-induced reproductive failure. The effects of such pollution on marine mammal health are a significant welfare concern, and urgent efforts to stem any further movement of PCBs into the oceans are now required. In addition, marine debris is a fast-growing threat to marine wildlife, bringing with it severe welfare concerns for some marine mammal populations. This is only set to get worse as more discarded plastics enter the oceans; again urgent action is advocated.
Mark P Simmonds
added a research item
Consideration of the implications of climate change for wild animal welfare is still relatively novel. The cetaceans are a very diverse group of mammals occupying a range of habitats across the world’s oceans. Whilst this makes generalisations difficult, there is a growing body of scientific literature which anticipates and reports impacts. These include prey loss and associated prey stress, changes in cetacean foraging locations and other distribution shifts (including movement into higher latitudes), the use of extra energy to try to maintain body temperature and the loss of habitat for ice-dependent species. Climate change-driven changes in human behaviour, such as the introduction of new activities into increasingly ice-free polar waters, also offer challenges to marine mammals. All these impacts are predominantly considered in the literature from a conservation perspective. However, habitat destruction, pollution and the spread of disease and noise have already been cast as causes for animal welfare concern, and it is argued that climate change will further exacerbate these and other issues in many instances. Assessing the full welfare implications of climate change calls for innovative and careful application of welfare science and will be challenging, but a promising start has been made.
Mark P Simmonds
added an update
Of Poisons and Plastics: an overview of the latest pollution issues affecting marine mammals.
DOI 10.1007/978-3 319-46994-2_3
 
Philippa Brakes
added a research item
Historically, Contracting Governments to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have reported composite1 data on whale killing to the Commission on an annual basis2. Summary statistics and measures calculated from composite data include: sample mean and sample median Time To Death (TTD); Instantaneous Death Rate (IDR); and, in some cases, maximum TTD and total number of animals that were recorded as struck and then lost. Japan also provides the standard deviation of the data sets for some of its hunts. However, presenting only mean and median values for the data set may mask data points at the extreme end of the data set. These data points may be significant in welfare terms.
Philippa Brakes
added 13 research items
Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in "drive hunts" with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord and purports to reduce time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. To date, a paucity of data exists regarding these methods utilized in the drive hunts. Our veterinary and behavioral analysis of video documentation of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for "immediate insensibility" and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.
Group living has a number of potential ecological and animal welfare benefits. The social environment of the 90 or so species of cetaceans is highly diverse, ranging from the complex third-order alliances of male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.), to the matrilineal societies of pilot whales (Globicephala sp.), to the apparently less social beaked whale species. Nevertheless, even for some beaked whales, there is evidence of stable group associations. For larger, long-lived or wide-ranging species, such as blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), there are also important spatio-temporal considerations for interpretation of behaviour and associations. As a result of the differing social structures and the opportunity for the transmission of social information, the relationship between sociality and welfare in this order of mammals is multifaceted. Sociality and social dynamics have the potential to influence individual and group welfare in both a positive and negative manner, and there are complex relationships between sociality, the impacts of human-induced rapid environmental change and the welfare of cetaceans. E.O. Wilson listed ten ‘qualities’ of sociality. Although used to classify animal societies according to their degree of sociality, some of these features also provide a useful roadmap for evaluating the importance of sociality for individual and group welfare. They are used here to examine the interplay between sociality, welfare and environmental change. The importance of the transmission of social information, culture and specific behaviours, such as play, is also explored within the context of environmental change and cetacean welfare. It is concluded that a more comprehensive understanding of the social mechanisms operating within and between cetacean social groups will enable a fuller understanding of the welfare implications of human-induced rapid environmental change. Alongside more traditional measures of welfare, such as body condition and disease, aspects of sociality may also provide important indicators for establishing welfare condition in these highly social species.
Philippa Brakes
added a project goal
Examine different aspects of the welfare of cetaceans, including understanding the importance of sociality for the welfare of cetaceans and other marine mammals.