SNS in the News - March 1, 2002

IT breakthrough shows whale watchers kill the killer whales they watch

Australian Financial Review ñ March 1, 2002
By Tony Boyd

One of the more unusual global news scoops to come out of the WCIT in Adelaide was released yesterday by US analyst and forecaster Mark Anderson.

Anderson, who was a keynote speaker at the congress on Wednesday, revealed that a study by David Bain from the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington has proved that noise from tourist boats is the cause of the sudden sharp fall in the number of killer whales in the waters near Anderson's home in Seattle.

The technology connection comes from the fact that a non-profit organization established by Anderson, called Orca Relief, is primarily funded by people working in the technology industry.

Microsoft is one of the largest single contributors to the fund because its matches on a dollar for dollar basis the contributions made by its staff.

Anderson established Orca Relief in 1996 after witnessing a drastic decline in killer whale numbers in Puget Sound, Seattle.

"We started Orca Relief to figure out why this was happening and I can tell you now that we have just figured it out," he said. "What it turns out to be is that the noise from boats prevents the whales from using their sonar to catch fish at a time when fish is already low in stock. It reduces their abilities by 95 to 99 per cent."

Anderson said the whale-watching industry was the cause of the problem but was unwilling to admit it.

"Most whale-watching fisheries are about Baleen whales. Of those that focus on toothed whales, which use sonar, most are looking at dolphins.

"So you have a few boats and 125 dolphins - no problem in terms of their sonar because dolphins are far-ranging. But what we have is a group of killer whales that are not far-ranging, they are residential, they travel slowly, they are easy to follow and they use sonar.

"When you put 50 to 100 boats near these guys, all day, every day, all season for six months of the year, it prevents them from eating.

"It's tragic because it's killing the whales. They (eco-tourist boat owners) make impassioned speeches about how much they love the whales but they are killing them." Anderson said that Bain's study, showing conclusive evidence that boat noise was the root cause of the decline in killer whale numbers, was in "peer review" and would be submitted for publication later this month.

Orca Relief receives royalties from Anderson's main operating company, Strategic News Service, for the use of a killer whale logo on SNS polo shirts and other merchandise.