Keiko: Statement of concern

von | | | 14. September 2002

Nachdem bekannt geworden ist, dass Keiko eventuell in den Tysfjord umziehen soll, regen sich Proteste gegen einen unvorbereiteten Umzug. George McCallum, Walphotograph, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter des Tysfjord-Schwertwal-Projektes und Kenner der Örtlichkeiten formuliert seine Sorgen detailliert.

Berlin, 14. September 2002 – Statement of concern regarding the welfare of Keiko and the proposed Ocean Futures move of the animal North to Vestfjord, Norway
I am writing to express my extreme concern at the proposed move by Ocean Futures and HSUS of Keiko north to the Tysfjord/Vestfjord area in Norway so that he can have access to wild killer whales and the abundant herring schools in the area.
Local killer whale researchers are extremely concerned that the animal will be allowed to roam free amongst the hundreds of herring fishing boats in the area. This is not only a danger to the whale itself, but would also cause considerable disruption to boat traffic and the herring fishery in the area. In practice, any 50m buffer zone around Keiko would not be able to be followed by fishing boats.
Keiko´s walk/herding boat (as well as any media/TV boats following them) and Keiko´s clear interest in seeking contact with boats represent a major potential problem not only for the fishing fleet, but also for the Walk team in maintaining control of the animal in the event of incidents. High speed local ferries also traverse the Vestfjord/Tysfjord area, raising other potential hazards.
I am also concerned by the fact that no contact has be made to local killer whale experts, the local community council, the local whale-watching industry, local veterinarians and local fisheries interests, by Ocean futures or HSUS to determine:

  1. The impact such a move may have on the local killer whale population.
  2. The impact on the herring fishery fleet in the area as well as the local fish farming interests.
  3. The impact on the local whale watching industry, which is run in a regulated manner – recent scenes in Skålvikfjorden suggest the likelihood of a large media presence, which would entail increased boat traffic in an already busy area and certainly affect the local whale watching industry in a negative manner.
  4. The ability of the Ocean Futures/HSUS keiko keepers to retain control of the animal in the midst of 100 – 200 fishing boats and nets.
  5. The ability of the Ocean Futures/HSUS keiko keepers to retain control of the animal during the winter storms and extreme weather that frequently occurs in the area.
  6. The ability of the Ocean Futures/HSUS keiko keepers to retain control of the animal in the vicinity of the many “ live herring “ net pens where fishermen store the catch for later collection.
  7. The ability of the Ocean Futures/HSUS keiko keepers to retain control of the animal if any of the wild killer whale population become agressive towards Keiko.
  8. The ability of the Ocean Futures/HSUS keiko keepers to retain control of the animal if and when the animal gets caught in a herring net.
  9. What effect NATO naval exercises held in the area with full active sonar will have on the Keiko´s behaviour.

Other concerns include: examining the animal to determine if he any possible parasite/virus infection from his stay in Icelandic waters – such an examination should be done immediately so as to rule out any possibility of introducing a non -native parasite/infection into the local killer whale population.
The absence of any proposed protocol or plan to determine:

  1. Where the animal will be held in the Vestfjord/Tysfjord area.
  2. Whether or not the animal will be kept in an area where he can be prevented from having access to open fjord (via a barrier/seapen/netted off area) when the necessity arises.

raises serious concerns, not only for the welfare and health of Keiko, but also for the local Killer whale population.
I strongly recommend that, if Keiko is moved to the area, he be placed in an area where he does not have access to open water until these concerns are met and that appropriate protocols/plans be prepared BEFORE the move takes place.

My name is George McCallum, I have approximately 20 years experience with Marine mammals, both as a trainer with captive marine mammals (1978-1988) as well as extensive experience with the Killer whale population in the Vestfjord/Tysfjord area through both the local research team as well as the local whale watching industry (1993 – till today)
Contact 0049 – (0)30 4533852 or mccallum@whalephoto.defor more detailed background information/specific questions.
George McCallum – Whale and Marine Photography