Weekly News Update - 26/03/07
26 March Monday, 3:03 PM

Nisshin Maru Returns from Whaling Shrouded in Mystery.



The Japanese whaling ship that was recently part of an altercation with environmental groups has returned to dock with 508 whales and many questions.


The well-publicised fracas with Greenpeace and the New Zealand government resulted after the vessel experienced a below-decks fire that crippled the ship and killed a crewmember. Already on a highly contentious whaling mission that had been subjected to protests by the group Sea Shepherd, the accident prompted concern over potential oil and chemical spills that could be a result of the blaze. The fire left the vessel stranded without power for ten days, before being able to make repairs and limp home.


The Nisshin Maru was one of a six-vessel fleet targeted to catch 860 whales this season, which is allowed as part of the scientific whaling program. Japan regularly states that the practice provides crucial data on populations, distribution, and feeding habits of the mammals to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and thus allowed, despite the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling implemented in 1986. Environmental groups have long held that the hunts are a pretext for keeping commercial whaling alive, as the meat is sold as a culinary delicacy after the research.


Japan’s Fisheries have stated that no press conference will be held until after the full investigation has progressed, but it speaks volumes about the current climate surrounding whaling, as the early return of the Nisshin Maru is the first time in 20 years that Japan has had to cancel a whaling mission.



French Court Fines Divers 



Four divers accused of removing artefacts from a Roman shipwreck have been fined €1,500 each. The divers had removed 30 objects from the wreck over a four-year period the court in Marseille was told, including a number of Roman wine vases. 

The wreck, located of the coast of Ciotat, was first discovered in 1984 and since then the French authorities have reported that of the 1,000 wine vases originally recorded, a 2005 inventory dive stated just under 280 remain at the site.

Scottish Seals Enjoy New Protection



Forty percent drops in common seal numbers over the last ten years has resulted in the Scottish Executive extending the closed season on shooting seals.


The areas of Orkney, between Dunbar and Stonehaven and Shetland have all been affected by the extension of the Conservation of Seals Order, and the shooting of seals here will only be possible with a licence.


Although the Scottish Executive has stated that shootings are not alone to blame for declining seal populations, it is hoped that this will at least slow their demise, giving scientists and biologist time to understand this dramatic change.



How to Defrost a Colossal Squid!


It has been reported on the bbc.co.uk website, that the best way to defrost a colossal squid is to use an industrial-scale microwave oven.


The squid in question was caught in February by New Zealand fishermen in Antarctic waters, and has been kept frozen since to allow detailed study by scientists. This has raised the issue of how best to thaw out this marine giant, without some parts rotting whilst others are still defrosting.


The 495kg, 10 metre long Mesonvchoteuthis Hamiltoni would take days to defrost fully, with parts of the exterior liable to have rotted by the time the interior had fully deliquesced.


The solution could be to use one of the industrial microwave equivalents used for treating timber, which should be large enough to hold the leviathan.


The fishermen had been fishing for Patagonian toothfish, a suspected favourite of the colossal squid, when they snagged something huge. After two strenuous hours, they managed to reel in the huge creature, quickly freezing it in their hold to transport back to New Zealand for examination.


It is believed to be the largest colossal squid ever caught, with officials at New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, in Wellington, hoping to embalm the squid and put it on display for all to examine and enjoy.



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