Saturday, May 26, 2012

Whales is pricks

I'm not a big fan of whales, even though I'm an animal person.
 Let me explain. I like whale watching. I really like going whale watching. I mean, for a while there, I was getting more people to listen to me talk about marine ecology during whale watches than the pretty girls they hired to recite facts for the viewers. Back in college,knowing about whales got me laid, and therefore, you'd think I would wish to see them canonized, especially as a fairly competent journeyman-level marine biologist.
But no, don't like whales all that much, and I'll tell you why.
     Over the course of many lunch/dissections (the two CAN go together, if you're busy enough), we'd discuss the paucity of grant money to Look at Things, and I particularly was annoyed that I couldn't find anyone to underwrite my population model study of sea urchins, a tasty little creature that is popularly served as sushi. Maine at the time was fishing the hell out of them, and some very poor people were making a decent living harvesting them. I was 90% sure that I had a working population assesment tool that would let managers make the fishery more sustainable over time, by targeting high-value animals and leaving broodstock, simply by making it illegal to fish for sea urchins in certain small areas. I couldn't get finding, but my little assessment tool did get published in the end, and some other dick got funding to use my population model later on.
 Whales are classed by scientists who ignore mammals as 'sexy megafauna,' the animals that attract the big bucks and the big attention. Bloated bags of fat that they are, they're not much use for research purposes alive, as they wash up dead on beaches fairly regularly, and the only difference between a live whale and a dead one is that it's more socially acceptable to dissect them after they're already dead. Mammal behavior for a dead-end species (whales being retrograde marine mammals, having been marine animals millions of years ago, then becoming awkward land animals before quitting and moving back in the water) is scientifically interesting only to behavioral scientists. Meanwhile, the seafood we eat could be better managed, the shore and water, and all natural resources in the ocean, could benefit from more research bucks.
    One tacit advantage of whales, though: bimbette protoscientists are attracted to whales like a child to candy. This allows real scientists the opportunity to get work done without having to deal with the thousands of bubbleheaded college grads with a degree in marine biology but without the acuity to actually work in the field.
A focus on marine mammals is most often the kiss of death for aspiring marine scientists.
    That being said, one of my favorite memories of Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, back when she was  Disproportionately Hot Foreign Girlfriend, was the time we went out whalewatching on my friend Doug's boat up in Maine. My wife does NOT enjoy being on the water. To placate me, though, she went with us when I brought her up to Maine. We rode about a mile and a half offshore through Head Harbor Passage in Passamaquoddy Bay, and drifted back into the bay with the tide, with the engine off. About 20 minutes later, a half-dozen gray whales, 70+footers, came by to check us out, close enough that we could smell the stink of their breath and go eyeball-to-eyeball. It was an amazing moment, one that all of us could never forget, except for my wife, who tried very hard to forget it immediately, being scared out of her mind that either we'd get bumped or enter Canadian waters and she'd get arrested for not having a visa.
So it goes. She really is scared to death of the ocean. And yet she married me, a guy who has spent at least 300 days a year on a beach or on or in the water since I was 7.


Joe said...

"And yet she married me, a guy who has spent at least 300 days a year on a beach or on or in the water since I was 7"

I don't know Paul, it sounds like you may be her whale.... Big guy, shows up now and then, substantial appetite, likes to be in or on water, makes a mess when around.

Anonymous said...

So, why are "whales pricks." I can see the problem with funding agencies, but what about the whales?