Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hearing & Humpbacks

Hi everyone. In today’s class we began by meeting at the Statehouse and sitting in on a hearing in which Bruce testified. The hearing had to do with what started as a debate concerning Outer Brewster Island and whether or not the state should permit the destroying of it for industrial purposes. This issue expanded, after a decision was made in favor of maintaining that island, concerning proposed legislation to protect the Boston Harbor islands further and establish that no island should be sold for industrial purposes. After Bruce made his statement, pointing out that the 23 students that were with him valued the islands, we made our way to the whale watch.

After traveling 40 miles in the boat out to Stellwagen Bank, we spotted several Humpback whales. The first one appeared to just be floating at the surface of the water, but the woman speaking over the loud speaker explained that the whale was resting. She said that humpback whales are conscious breathers meaning that they need to consciously take in every breath. Therefore they do not sleep and when they’re resting like this at the surface of the water, half of the their brain is resting while the other half concentrates on breathing. She explained further that while at the surface, whales are either resting, looking for food, or eating. The dark, murky waters that we saw in this area were a result of the abundant plant life which is why the whales are there. There is no food for them at their breeding ground.

The second and third Humpback whales we saw were breaching and slapping their fins. The woman explained that the breaching, which was a kind of back flip leap, is done to knock off barnacles and parasites, be playful, digest the fish they ate, or attract the attention of other whales. This last one definitely proved itself since minutes later we spotted a whale breaching in the distance. I think we saw about three whales up close today.

As far as eating whales, I don’t really know if I think it’s acceptable. This is not something I have thought about before, and I need more than a few hours to really form an opinion. My instinct at the moment is to say that there is no reason to hunt whales for food because they aren’t serving purposes of solving or reducing hunger, for example. I mean that the people who probably end up eating the whales are not the hungry people. But I will also say, at least for now, that I don’t believe that the government has a right, or they should not have the right, to create legislation determining whether or not it be legal to eat whales. My opinion could definitely change over time once I think more about it and learn more, but for now I say that it is not necessary or totally acceptable to catch whales for this purpose, but I think that the government should stay out of this decision among individuals and private businesses.

See you all in the morning.

Leana Ovadia

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