Police in Argentina Shoot Seagulls to Save Whales

Sometimes to save a whale, you must murder a bird.

Police in the Argentine province of Chubut have created a program shoot seagulls in order to stop the birds from pecking at the huge marine mammals.

Gulls have become a real hazard for Southern right whales in one of their prime birthing grounds in Argentina, a protected gulf off the Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn. Biologist Marcelo Bertellotti says seagulls are booming in number and have begun attacking whales as they surface for air, pecking and tearing at their flesh to eat their skin and blubber.

Whales bring tourists and tourists bring money, so provincial authorities are planning to have police shoot the gulls.

Police riding aboard motorboats will selectively fire specifically at the seagulls who attack the whales, according to the Argentine newspaper Clarín.

It's not clear what kind of ammunition police will use. It's possible police may fire upon the predatory birds with rubber bullets, Clarín reports.

Biologist Marcelo Bertolotti told Clarín that the seagulls attack whales for about a quarter of the time they spend near the surface of the water, which has caused the massive aquatic mammals to spend less time above water, reducing the frequency that tourists can catch a glimpse.

Environmentalists are crying foul, saying officials should instead close a nearby garbage dump and stop fishermen from dumping scraps to reduce the gulls' numbers.

The plan has drawn opposition from some members of Chubut's provincial legislature, according to Clarín.

Includes reporting from the Associated Press.

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