Norway Orca Whale Shot in the Head, Killed Too Quickly

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Yesterday a young orca stranded near the shore of Norway, and 24 hours later it was euthanized, two bullets to the brain.
It was a decisive action, a black and white choice for a black and white animal.  No options, no gray areas to explore. No serious rescue or rehabilitation effort. The whale had been moved to deeper water and given a grace period of one tide cycle to leave, but failed to do so and authorities determined that the whale’s condition had deteriorated by the afternoon.  End of story.
Except it makes little sense.  SeaWorld would love to have had the whale’s genes for their breeding program (though it would be difficult for them to get another European orca at this point, see previous post), researchers would like know what was wrong, and activists would have liked to rescue it.  Everyone would have liked to get more information – and perhaps the powers that be just didn’t want the conflict, didn’t want the whale to live in captivity, didn’t want to deal with activists – but is that reason to kill the whale?  Compared to other strandings, it does not look that bad off in this photo.
“Karmøy nature manager, Peder Christiansen, announced earlier Monday that he had been in contact with Food Safety Authority and the Directorate of Fisheries experts on whales.” to make the decision to euthanize the orca, as reported by this article.
Consulting the Directorate of Fisheries at least seems logical (though nothing about marine mammal management turned up on a cursory search through their website), but Food Safety Authority?  There is no apparent link to food other than the stranding site’s close proximity to a major fish processing plant, BioMar North Sea.

BioMar North Sea includes two factories in Norway and one factory in the United Kingdom. The head office is located at the Myre plant in Northern Norway, while R&D, marketing, and sales are located in Trondheim as well as number of sales offices along the Norwegian coast. The Karmøy factory is located in the Western part of Norway near Haugesund. Together with the factory in Myre the factory at Karmøy supply a number of different product ranges to salmon and trout, and to upcoming species in fish farming such as cod and halibut.

BioMar fish processing factory - sea pens not shown

Today Norway is a wealthy, sophisticated country, but they still hunt whales in defiance of the international moratorium, and back when the economy was based on fishing they had no fondness for orcas, who were seen as competitors. Although increasingly the Norwegian whale watching industry is offering a new kind of relationship with these fish-eating whales (including the option to swim with them), change is slow and is made worse when industry remains entrenched in outdated thinking.
But Norway’s wealth now comes not from fisheries, but from fish farming and from the oil it pumps from the ocean floor;  its oil reserves are rumored to match some of the areas in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, there happens to be a ship out in the area now doing transects in search of oil, presumably seismic surveys.

By Will Kennedy – Apr 8, 2013 6:30 AM GMT-1000 Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE) discovered oil in Norway’s North Sea, claiming a new field in an area that yielded one of the country’s largest recent finds. The Luno II exploration well discovered oil-bearing sands with a 40-meter (130-foot) column of “good quality” crude, the company said today in a statement. “Luno II appears to be another significant discovery,” Chief Executive Officer Ashley Heppenstal said.

Lundin, which holds 40 percent of the license, also owns a stake in the eastern half of the Johan Sverdrup field, which is potentially the biggest find off Norway since 1974. That deposit, which may hold as much as 3.6 billion barrels of oil, has revived interest in exploring the country’s coastal waters.

Research vessel the Polar Duke is currently running transects for the seismic survey company, the Dolphin Group

At this point we can only speculate on what went wrong with the whale, even if its body were to surface. Two bullets to the head probably destroyed the integrity of the hearing structures along with its life – but killing the whale didn’t make the problem go away, it just raised more questions.

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