Whale conductivity testing--does it justify killing the animal?

Arild Hestvik arild at milan.ims.uni-stuttgart.de
Wed Oct 19 09:08:03 EST 1994

I have a question about conductivity experiments on whales. This research
apprarently requires the killing of a whale, and I wanted to ask the net if
this is a common (and necessary) practice in such research.

A poster in eunet.politics justified the Norwegian scientific killing
of whales as follows:

>[...] Much of the science done on whales include conductivity ananlysis,
>which demands pieces of blubber taken from several different parts of the
>body. [...] The conductivity measurements are to be used in multi species
>stock management, so that more accurate knowledge of the neccessary
>population sizes of the species involved in this marine system can be2
>gained. If someone comes up with a better method for doing these and other
>tests, I am sure the scientists would be more than happy to use them. 
>...conductivity measurements are done to estimate how much heat loss a
>whale experiences, which will help in estimating its metabolic rate.
>Metabolic rate again influences the amount of food (read->fish) neccessary
>to keep a whale up and going. Put this data toghether with the number of
>whales and you have the size of the fish population neccessary to maintain
>a certain number of whales. 

It strikes me that if all that is needed is that "pieces of blubber be
taken from the whale", can't this be done without killing it? Is this a
common method? Are there other ways to figure out what and how much a whale
eats (which is the real goal of the research)? 

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