I'm not a big fan of whales, even though I'm an animal person.
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.
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.