Saturday, August 29, 2015

What....A Whale Of A Week!

Draw My Life: Orkid at SeaWorld
Draw My Life: Orkid at SeaWorld
peta2TV

Can Virtual Reality Help Orcas at SeaWorld?

Can Virtual Reality Help Orcas at SeaWorld?
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

EXCLUSIVE: Self-Mutilation by a Young Whale at Vancouver Aquarium.

A young whale has been observed with wounds attributed to the behavior of self-mutilation. Whale biologist Dr. Ingrid Visser, Founder of and Principal Scientist for the Orca Research Trust, recently observed the individual, known as Chester, and documented a wound on his chin from this behavior. Chester, a false killer whale, currently resides in a tank at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada.

Concern for Chester
Despite Visser’s observations and photographic evidence, Dr. Robin Baird, a false killer whale researcher and Research Biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective, has countered Visser’s concern for Chester’s well-being, maintaining that the false killer whale is simply young and clumsy. In an interview with One Green Planet, Baird stated, “What I saw in the photos was an abrasion on Chester’s lower jaw and I would call it a minor abrasion. I personally wouldn’t call it self-mutilation. He’s a year-old whale who was separated from his mother when he was a few weeks old and it is hard not to imagine that an animal in that situation is not going to be having a hard time adjusting to his new circumstances.”

He went on to say, “I think [Chester is] probably lonely, he’s also growing up at the same time and he’s exploring things in his new pool. It’s not surprising to me that he might interact with and rub up against things. The question is how you interpret why he is doing it. Is it because he is neurotic about being in captivity and self-mutilating or is it because he was separated from his mom at only a few weeks old and is still effectively an infant at this stage?”
Article 1 - to be inserted first
Vancouver Aquarium’s Communications Advisor, Deana Lancaster, responded to an email requesting information about Chester’s welfare and his wound. She stated there was “no one available to provide answers.” Coincidentally, within 24 hours of the email, Vancouver Aquarium published this blog in an apparent attempt to deflect the questions posed to them. Within the blog, the aquarium’s own veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena has now admitted that Chester has been exhibiting “attention-seeking” behavior, which resulted in the abrasion.

A Consequence of Captivity
Chester was reportedly deemed un-releasable by a panel of experts convened by the Canadian government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, although evidence now suggests the decision to keep Chester permanently in captivity was made prior to the panel being formed. Nevertheless, this panel also advised that Chester be housed with members of his own species as false killer whales are known to form strong, long-term social bonds. However, there are currently no other false killer whales in captivity on the North American continent. Despite this recommendation, Chester is instead kept in a tank with a Pacific white-sided dolphin known as Helen. Vancouver Aquarium purchased Helen from Enoshima Aquarium in Japan. Together, Chester and Helen perform daily shows for the paying public.

Visser explains that the decision to keep Chester in a concrete tank comes at a high cost for his quality of life and therefore his welfare. “I’ve spent many hours observing cetaceans [whales, dolphins and porpoises] in the wild and in captivity, but it is only in captivity that you see abnormal, repetitive behaviors, which are termed stereotypies.” She stated, “The animals’ biological needs are compromised and they cope with this in different ways. Some chew on concrete and in Chester’s case he has been banging his chin, apparently on a window. These stereotypic behaviors can lead to self-mutilation.”

Identifying Self-Harm
Self-mutilation is a term that describes self-inflicted physical harm and is a subcategory of stereotypy, although there does not seem to be any one accepted definition. The emphasis for self-mutilation behavior doesn’t appear to be so much on why an animal performs a behavior or what the behavior is exactly, just that that the behavior is born out of frustrated needs, that it is a typically repetitive behavior without apparent real function and that it causes the animal physical harm. Chester’s “attention-seeking” behavior seems to fit this description at least in part, as it appears to result from frustrated needs. It is, however, unclear in this instance whether the behavior is repetitive and neurotic.

In addition to cetaceans, self-mutilation has also been observed in captive birds, turtles and primates, as well as humans and domestic horses, just to name a few species. Depending on the species, self-mutilation can manifest in different behaviors, including feather-plucking, head-banging, rubbing, concrete chewing and bar biting.

“This type of behavior has been well documented in a variety of captive and domesticated animals and it typically escalates until you see wounds such as the ones I’ve photographed,” Visser states, explaining she has photographed self-mutilation in various individuals, including a young female orca known as Morgan. Like Chester, Morgan was also rescued and is now displayed permanently in captivity, but in her case at Loro Parque, Spain. Describing Morgan’s self-mutilation behavior, Visser says, “Morgan chews on concrete so frequently she has worn some of her teeth right down to the gums and she bangs her chin, which often causes the skin to rip resulting in open wounds. This has happened so many times that she has now damaged the tissue permanently; in photos this is seen as a darker area on the white pigment.  It isn’t possible to see if Chester has similar damage because of the already dark pigment on his chin.”
Self-Mutilation by a Young Whale at Vancouver Aquarium
Referring to orcas, Baird agrees it is “pretty much impossible”  to recreate the environment that such a complex social and wide-ranging species needs to thrive. The expert panel assessing Chester’s long-term fate have also identified that false killer whales have similarly complex needs, as exhibited in their recommendations for Chester’s long-term housing.

The Line Between Rescue and Captivity
Visser goes on to say, “I’m finding it harder and harder to continue to think of these ‘rescues’ as rescues. I think we have to be more realistic and refer to them as ‘salvages’. A true rescue would see the animals returned to the wild, whilst a ‘salvage’ takes something that is saved from destruction and puts it to further use. In these cases, both Chester and Morgan are used in commercial shows for the paying public to see. They are now being used in wet circuses and that is not a rescue.”

Stephen Marsh, Operations Manager for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, says, “A growing mass of people are sceptical about the real intentions of dolphinaria purporting to run whale and dolphin rescue and rehabilitation programmes. There’s a very real conflict of interest here as the rescue of whales and dolphins by the captivity industry may be for reasons other than the well-being of the individual animal.”

Concerns about the welfare of a cetacean don’t go away just because the animal is rescued. Such individuals are still able to suffer in the same ways as other individuals do in a captive environment when their physical and social needs are not met. Visser has been a long-time supporter of “cetacean sanctuaries” comprised of sea pens and netted off bays as an alternative for rescued cetaceans. She says, “We put a man on the moon, so surely we can build a facility that would cater better to the basic needs of these animals. One that would treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve instead of exploiting them because they were in need of help”.


You can also learn more about Vancouver Aquarium by visiting ‘Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered’ for updates on a soon-to-be released documentary of the same name. 

Banksy Blackfishes Seawørld.
Bansky's 'Dismaland' exhibition opens August 21 at a derelict seafront park in Weston-Super-Mare, England. The show is Bansky's first in the UK since the Banksy v Bristol Museum show in 2009 and will be open for 6 weeks at the Topicana site. 
Banksy is a pseudonymous English graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.

His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stencilling technique. His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.[1]

Banksy's work grew out of the Bristol underground scene, which involved collaborations between artists and musicians.[2] Observers have noted that his style is similar to Blek le Rat, who began to work with stencils in 1981 in Paris.[3][4] Banksy says that he was inspired by "3D", a graffiti artist who later became a founding member of Massive Attack, an English musical group.[5]

Banksy displays his art on publicly visible surfaces such as walls and self-built physical prop pieces. Banksy does not sell photographs or reproductions of his street graffiti, but art auctioneers have been known to attempt to sell his street art on location and leave the problem of its removal in the hands of the winning bidder. [6] Banksy's first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, billed as "the world's first street art disaster movie", made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.[7] The film was released in the UK on 5 March 2010.[8] In January 2011, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film. In 2014, he was awarded Person of the Year at the 2014 Webby Awards.[9]

More on this amazing installation and a video of the grounds HERE.
Tell Royal Caribbean to Remove Faroe Islands from Their Cruises!
 
Sign my Petition

Each year, the coast off the Faroe Islands near Denmark becomes a literal blood bath -- waters are stained with the blood of hundreds of intelligent pilot whales as residents kill them as a part of an annual traditional hunt.
This event brings families and children out to the shorelines to watch as pilot whales are slaughtered in masses, with no consideration for the fact that these animals are widely considered more intelligent than dogs, and that eating them has been generally discouraged.
The international community is increasingly expressing outrage at this horrific "festival" and recently, a Scottish city has cut ties with the Faroe Islands, and two German cruise lines have removed the Faroe Islands from their routes.
By continuing to bring tourist groups to the Faroe Islands, Royal Caribbean is indirectly supporting the slaughter of these whales.

It's time to raise our voices even higher. Please tell Royal Caribbean to remove the Faroe Islands from their routes, so long as this horrific annual whale slaughter continues.
Wild Whale Spins on Command of Diver
Many would not think it possible for anyone outside a water park to make a 30 foot whale do what they like – well meet the man who can.
This amazing footage from the Caribbean shows “whale whisperer” Andrew Armour prompting an enormous sperm whale to spin – and it dutifully follows his commands.
Andrew, who runs whale watching tours from Rosaeu in Dominica, says it is “a joy” to be able to work with the graceful creatures.
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NOAA DECLARES DEATHS OF 30 LARGE WHALES IN GULF OF ALASKA AN UNUSUAL MORTALITY EVENT, INVESTIGATES. Since May, NOAA confirmed 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified cetaceans have been found stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. Below is their latest press release regarding the usual mortality event in Alaska. NOAA is declaring the recent deaths of 30 large whales in the western Gulf of Alaska an "unusual mortality event," triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause. An unusual mortality event is a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.

Map of unusual mortality event. Click on map to view a larger version.

Since May 2015, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula.

To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average.

The declaration of an unusual mortality event will allow NOAA and federal, state, and tribal partners to develop a response plan and conduct a rigorous scientific investigation into the cause of death for the stranded whales.
Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska, near Kodiak. Credit: NOAA

"NOAA Fisheries scientists and partners are very concerned about the large number of whales stranding in the western Gulf of Alaska in recent months," said Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries' marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator. "While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live. Members of the public can greatly assist the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover."
Experts from the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, which was established in 1991 and is part of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, determined that the high number of large whale strandings in the western Gulf of Alaska met the criteria for focused resources and research, and recommended the NOAA declaration.

The rigorous, collaborative investigation into these deaths will continue to involve scientists from NOAA and partner organizations, as well as members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

These kinds of investigations generally require months, or sometimes even years, of data collection and analysis, depending on the nature and duration of the event. NOAA will publish information on its unusual mortality event website as it becomes available.

Members of the public can assist in the investigation by immediately contacting the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 877-9-AKR-PRD (877-925-7773) if they see a stranded or dead marine mammal. Only specially trained marine mammal experts are authorized to respond to marine mammals in distress. The public should not touch stranded or floating whales.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or www.afsc.noaa.gov.


Maybe this is the reason?

Navy War Games in Alaska Would Impact Thousands of Marine Mammals

While it is important for the Navy to maintain readiness, its proposed war-games in the Gulf of Alaska would be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and would cause too many impacts to marine mammals.
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and..

US Navy War Games in Gulf of Alaska Threaten One of World's Most Pristine Areas
The U.S. Navy is set to begin a major war exercise in the Gulf of Alaska amid protests from local communities concerned about environmental damage. The Navy is reportedly unleashing thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen, marines and Coast Guard members along with several Navy destroyers, hundreds of aircrafts, untold weaponry and a submarine for the naval exercises. The Gulf of Alaska is one of the most pristine places left on Earth; the region includes critical habitat for all five wild Alaskan salmon species and 377 other species of marine life. The Navy's planned live bombing runs will entail the detonation of tens of thousands of pounds of toxic munitions, as well as the use of active sonar in fisheries. The Navy has conducted war games in the Gulf of Alaska, on and off, for the last 30 years, but these new exercises are the largest by far. They come at a time when scientists are increasingly worried about climate change causing Arctic melting. Meanwhile, the unprecedented melting has created an opportunity for the military to expand its operations into previously inaccessible terrain. We are joined by Dahr Jamail, staff reporter at Truthout, whose latest piece is "Destroying What Remains: How the US Navy Plans to War Game the Arctic."

Or...?

Fukushima Radiation? – More Dead Whales Found In Gulf Of Alaska –...
Whales are continuing to die off in Pacific Ocean… As researchers try to understand the mysterious whale deaths more have been found in the Gulf of Alaska Approximately nine whale carcasses were sited in late May and early June. Now, fishermen, pilots and survey crews have reported... #fukushima



US Navy War Games in Gulf of Alaska Threaten One of World's Most Pristine Areas
The U.S. Navy is set to begin a major war exercise in the Gulf of Alaska amid protests from local communities concerned about environmental damage. The Navy is reportedly unleashing thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen, marines and Coast Guard members along with several Navy destroyers, hundreds of aircrafts, untold weaponry and a submarine for the naval exercises. The Gulf of Alaska is one of the most pristine places left on Earth; the region includes critical habitat for all five wild Alaskan salmon species and 377 other species of marine life. The Navy's planned live bombing runs will entail the detonation of tens of thousands of pounds of toxic munitions, as well as the use of active sonar in fisheries. The Navy has conducted war games in the Gulf of Alaska, on and off, for the last 30 years, but these new exercises are the largest by far. They come at a time when scientists are increasingly worried about climate change causing Arctic melting. Meanwhile, the unprecedented melting has created an opportunity for the military to expand its operations into previously inaccessible terrain. We are joined by Dahr Jamail, staff reporter at Truthout, whose latest piece is "Destroying What Remains: How the US Navy Plans to War Game the Arctic."

Whale Watcher Witnesses Whale Hunt in Iceland. Whale Watching Tourist Witnesses Hunted Whales Towed To Shore
Published August 22, 2015 by Paul Fontaine @pauldfontaine in the The Reykavic Grapevine - Two recent events have increased pressure on the Ministry of Fisheries to cut short the whaling quota, and end the practice altogether.

First off, representatives from whale watching companies in Reykjavík and Húsavík, along with volunteers from SEEDS, delivered 68,000 signed postcards to the Ministry of Fisheries yesterday. These postcards contain the pledge that the person signing will not eat whale meat during their visit in Iceland. Most of these cards were signed by tourists, but some Icelanders have signed them as well.
Second, American tourist Timothy Baker, while out on a whale watching excursion, did indeed see some whales. That is, fin whales, already harpooned, and being towed back to shore by the whaling boat Hvalur 8, which is owned by Kristján Loftsson. Grapevine was informed of the matter by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

"Watching the whaling vessel heading into port dragging the dead whales was the definition of a crossroad for Iceland," said Baker. "You can't have dead whales being the only thing seen by people who spend money on whale watching."
After learning of the incident from Baker firsthand, AWI, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Whale and Dolphin Conservation are calling on the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture to "immediately rescind all whaling quotas to protect the country's reputation as a premiere nature tourism destination", according to a statement to the press.
Numerous whale watching companies have already objected to the practice of hunting whales near whale watching areas. Icewhale (Hvalaskoðunarsamtök Íslands), an organisation of whale watching companies, points out that, according to data the Ministry of Fishing and Agriculture gave parliament, whale hunting companies make about 1 million ISK per each hunted whale. By contrast, this is about the same amount of money generated by just one whale watching trip with 125 guests. Given the number of trips made per day during whale watching season, and the dramatic increase in tourism, Icewhale says, the economic benefits of whale watching over whale hunting are even more apparent.

They also point out that, according to a study from the Marine Research Institute, the number of minke whales in the whale watching zone of Faxaflói Bay has greatly declined, with whale hunting named as one of the primary factor in this decrease. Furthermore, promises made by the institute to measure the length of time it takes a whale to die once harpooned have still not been kept.

How We’re Saving Blue Whales One Ship at a Time.
Researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other groups are working hard to stop more blue whales from being killed in ship strikes off the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

A team from IFAW, along with Wildlife Trust of India, Biosphere Foundation, the University of Ruhuna (Matara, Sri Lanka) and local whale watch company Raja and the Whales conducted a second field season of research earlier this year.

The main Indian Ocean shipping lane runs close to the southern tip of Sri Lanka. It is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes with around 100 ships passing each day, including some of the largest tankers and container ships.

Ship Strikes and Endangered Whales 
08_13_15_bluewhale
Unfortunately, the ships pass through an area which is also home to one of the world’s highest densities of blue whales. Big ships and the planet’s biggest whales don’t mix. Sri Lanka has one of the world’s worst ship strike problems, with several animals washing up dead every year and many more likely unreported. This is both a major welfare and a conservation concern.

Since we returned from the fieldwork in April, the team has mainly concentrated on analyzing the data and presenting this to the international community.

Based on the surveys over two years, we now estimate that the collision risk would be reduced by 95 percent if ships were to travel 15 miles further offshore.

There would also be substantial benefits to maritime safety, mainly for the small whale watching and coastal fishing boats but also for the large ships themselves.

Our results have just been accepted for publication in the journal Regional Studies in Marine Science. In our paper, titled Distribution patterns of blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and shipping off southern Sri Lanka we estimated that more than 1,000 interactions between blue whales and ships were likely to occur each year. (An interaction is defined as an incident where a collision would have occurred if neither ship nor whale had taken avoiding action.)

Protecting Blue Whales
Moving the shipping lanes could reduce these interactions to around 50 (a reduction of 95 percent). Not all of these interactions result in a collision, but since 2010 the number of reported ship strikes off Sri Lanka is higher than for any other large whale population globally that we are aware of.

As well as publishing our own results we have also been working with other scientists through the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC is the global body responsible for the conservation of whales and has paid particular attention to the problem of ship strikes.

At the annual meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee in May, we were able to meet other scientists working on the issue and develop a plan to combine all the relevant information. It is critical that any proposals are based on the best science and that the scientific advice from all groups is clear and consistent.
08_13_15_bluewhalegraph
In the meantime, Raja has continued the survey work into the Southwest (SW) monsoon period. This is a difficult time to be at sea with frequent rain and strong onshore winds making for rough seas; so Raja has had to pick his days carefully.

Nevertheless, he did manage to get out on July 31st and saw 14 blue whales. These were all in the current shipping lanes. These surveys are particularly important because we know much less about what is going on during the SW monsoon than other times of the year. Encouragingly, all the surveys so far during this period have also shown that moving shipping offshore is an effective solution.

So far the shipping interests we have discussed this with have been very supportive. We have seen large ships trying to weave a course through groups of whale watching and fishing boats which must be extremely nerve-wracking for the officer on watch. Also, no mariner wants to hit a whale. A few minutes extra travel (a tiny fraction of a 10-day ocean passage) is a small price to avoid these situations. Routing measures implemented through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are generally well respected by the industry. Measures to reduce environmental impacts from shipping are usually proposed by the country that is being affected and then implemented by IMO following consultations with other countries and the shipping industry. This is the process we hope will now happen.

We expect to have all the information gathered together by the end of 2015 so that everyone with an interest, including the international shipping community, Sri Lankan authorities and the IMO, can agree to take effective action. Lead image source: fiatlux/Flickr

Cruise lines to abandon Faroe Islands following horrific mass whale slaughter

THE horrific mass slaughter of whales in the Faroe Islands has sparked protest from two cruise lines, who announced they will no longer send their ships there.
blood red sea following the whale slaughter
Shocking pictures from the islands showed the sea turn red with blood last week following the grusome hunting of 61 pilot whales, which caused worldwide condemnation from animal lovers.

Now two major German cruise lines are the latest to protest the annual bloody massacre announcing plans to abandon the Faroe Islands.

Hapag-Lloyd and AIDA cruise lines are looking at alternative destinations for their vessels.

AIDA has already announced its cruises will now stop in Kirkwall in Orkney instead.

The move will send shockwaves through the Denmark territory, which depends on tourism revenue, as many more cruise lines are expected to follow suit.

Hundreds of pilot whales and other species - including bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and northern bottlenose whales - are hunted each year on the Faroes for their meat, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
the blood aftermath of the whale killings
The killing of the whales sparked worldwide fury from animal lovers

Both AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd were contacted by Netherlands-based charity Sea Shepherd to immediately postpone cruises to the Faroe Islands in the face of the on-going slaughters.

Dr Monika Griefahn, a director at AIDA, confirmed the re-routing of the company's ships in a letter to the charity.

She said: "In the interest of our crew and our guests as well as for reasons for species protection AIDA Cruises has decided to stop making port calls to the Faroe Islands until further notice."

I congratulate AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd for standing-up against this cruel and unnecessary slaughter
Captain Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global

Negar Etminan, of Hapag-Lloyd, said in an email to Sea Shepherd: "We have already reduced the amount of port calls to the Faroe Islands. There is only one call of port scheduled for the Faroe Islands next year.

"We will refrain from further calls of port to the Faroe Islands for now and are currently checking possible alternatives for the scheduled itinerary next year."

Five Sea Shepherd environmental activists were convicted for trying to stop the traditional slaughter, known as the grindadráp.

The punishments ranged from a fine of €4,500 (£3,180) to fourteen days in prison.

Sea Shepherd was also fined €10,000 (£7,070).

It is understood the activists - from Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, France and South Africa - will appeal.
The pilot whales before they were slaughtered
CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, Captain Alex Cornelissen, said, "While our crew members have been found guilty of defending pilot whales, the fight against the continued slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands is rapidly gaining momentum.

"I congratulate AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd for standing-up against this cruel and unnecessary slaughter, and for sending a clear message to Denmark and the Faroe Islands that the world will no longer tolerate this bloody 'tradition'."

The Faroe Islands have been carrying out the annual hunt for hundreds of years, and although whaling is illegal in Denmark, it is allowed in the Faroe Islands.

All the hunted whales are used for their food, with pilot whale meat and flubber being the main products used by the Faroese.

The Faroe Island authorities defended the right to hunt whales because it is "sustainable and regulated, communal and natural".

Pilot whales slaughter: Now Faroe Islands bans protest ship activists

SEA Shepherd activists have been banned from taking their ship into the Faroe Islands in the latest round of the Whale Wars.

The Faroes' authorities say they stopped 21 crew members on the Sea Shepherd's Dutch-registered vessel, Bob Barker, from entering the Danish archipelago in the "interests of maintaining law and order".

This summer's "grindadráp" - the Faroese islanders' traditional harvest of whales - has been defined by the number of animals slaughtered and the bitterness felt by conservationists over the deaths of so many pilot whales.

Up to 490 whales have been butchered on beaches awash with blood in scenes that saw award-winning actor Martin Sheen writing to the Danish Prime Minister to condemn the slaughter.

The Sea Shepherd says 14 of its volunteers from the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, South Africa, Canada and the United States have so far been arrested for "standing in defence of the whales".

This year's Sea Shepherd defence operation is code-named Sleppid Grindini.

The Bob Barker is the third of its vessels to arrive in Faroese waters since June but when it docked on Monday it was boarded by Danish customs and immigration officials, searched and then issued with a refusal to entry notice.

It was then ordered to leave the islands' 12 nautical mile limit.

Captain Alex Cornelissen, chief executive of Sea Shepherd Global, reacted: "By some odd reasoning, Denmark seems to think that the best way to divert attention away from its complicit support of the grindadráp is to conduct further legally dubious activity.

By some odd reasoning, Denmark seems to think that the best way to divert attention away from its complicit support of the grindadráp is to conduct further legally dubious activity
Captain Alex Cornelissen, chief executive of Sea Shepherd Global
"By denying the crew of the Bob Barker entry to the Faroe Islands, Danish authorities have proven that they are more interested in supporting the slaughter of pilot whales than they are in upholding their EU responsibilities and maintaining their relationships with other EU countries.

"They have also shown how effective Sea Shepherd has been in holding Denmark accountable for the on-going slaughter of cetaceans in the Danish realm."

The Sea Shepherd said charges against two of its volunteers were dropped last week because of lack of evidence, although one of its small boats remains seized.

Last week, the Scottish town of Wick ended its twinning relationship with the Faroe Islands and West Wing actor Sheen, who plays the US president in the award-winning series, wrote to the Danish premier to condemn its part in the whale slaughter.

In his open letter to Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the American actor wrote: "I was appalled to see the Danish Navy being used to defend the killing of hundreds of defenceless pilot whales.

"Does it really take a frigate, a patrol boat, commando units and a helicopter along with Danish police officers and a Faroese patrol boat to stop a group of compassionate, non-violent people?"

Sheen said he had seen children mutilating the carcasses, and suggests to the Danish leader that the reason his country could be "willing to tolerate this atrocity" is because of the exploration for oil in the waters around the Faroe Islands.

He added: "I am surprised that a nation that has such a wonderful record of positive social and environmental policies would support an annual massacre of whales for which there is no subsistence need."

In an official statement, the Faroese authorities explained why its police made the decision to deny the Bob Barker entry.

"In recent weeks, anti-whaling activists representing the animal rights group Sea Shepherd have deliberately attempted to disrupt the legal and regulated activity of driving and killing pilot whales for food in the Faroe Islands, leading to the arrest, prosecution and expulsion from the Faroe Islands of a number of these activists," it stated.

"The Government of the Faroe Islands places great importance on freedom of speech and the democratic right of all citizens, both in the Faroes and in all other countries, to express their views openly.

"Deliberate disturbance of the Faroese utilisation of marine resources for food will not be tolerated. Obstructing a whale drive can be dangerous and can put people and property at risk.

"The police must use legal procedures available to ensure that law and order is upheld and that the people of the Faroe Islands can go about their daily lives without the threat of illegal disruption of their activities.

"The illegal and potentially dangerous actions by activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, combined with attempts to spread deliberately misleading information to the media, continue to be the hallmark of this group's activities."

Release Was Never Considered for Rescued Whale at Vancouver Aquarium, Despite Claims
“If this animal goes to the Vancouver aquarium rehabilitation centre and survives it would not be released back to the wild because of its age. It would become a captive animal,” Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammal Coordinator for the Canadian government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), stated in an email sent on July 10th 2014. Cottrell was referring to a young false killer whale, now known as Chester, who stranded that day, alone, injured and emaciated on North Chesterman Beach in Tofino, Canada.

This revelation calls into question whether the unidentified scientific panel, convened by DFO to decide whether Chester would remain permanently in captivity, knew that the decision was in fact out of their hands. It took ten months before the panel publicly stated that Chester was not a candidate for release back into the wild, even though the DFO and Vancouver Aquarium had already decided on the day Chester stranded that he would never be released.

Vancouver Aquarium claims it had nothing to do with this decision to transport Chester to its facility for rehabilitation, a course of action that Cottrell described as Chester being “rehabilitated to become a captive animal.” However, in another email sent by Cottrell on the day of Chester’s stranding, it is apparent that Vancouver Aquarium’s input was sought in the form of its Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, who was called upon to provide an “in field assessment.” In the email, Cottrell tells Haulena that it needs to be determined if Chester “is a rehabilitation candidate who can… eventually live in captivity.” He indicates that Haulena and a second veterinarian should make the joint decision whether or not to take Chester into captivity – knowing already that the young whale would never be released. Cottrell did not seem to recognize who the second veterinarian was or even if this person was experienced as a marine mammal veterinarian. However, Haulena’s working relationship with the DFO appears to date back several years.

Chester’s Beginning
Stephen Marsh, Operations Manager for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, is not surprised by this disclosure. Marsh explains, “It was obvious pretty early on that Chester was probably maternally dependent, having no teeth and showing visible lingual papillae on his tongue – these allow young whales and dolphins to attach to their mothers’ teat to suckle. Unless his family pod could be found, he wouldn’t have survived in the wild and Vancouver Aquarium and the DFO would have known this from the outset.”

At an estimated four to six weeks of age, Chester weighed 168 pounds and was under two meters in length, (which is a normal length for a false killer whale at that estimated age). Cottrell told reporters at the time that Chester was “brand new.” Permits were granted to Vancouver Aquarium by DFO so that Chester could be transferred to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre for treatment. Chester remained at the Rescue Centre until December, when he was moved to a larger pool in Vancouver Aquarium’s research area, all the while hidden from public view.

The Question of Release
On June 25th 2015, Chester was moved again, this time to Vancouver Aquarium’s “Wild Coast“ habitat, which is a tank exhibit open to public viewing.  Shortly after his relocation, Helen was introduced to Chester. Helen is a Pacific white-sided dolphin who Vancouver Aquarium purchased, along with a second individual known as Hana, from Enoshima Aquarium in Japan. Hana died earlier this year, at the age of 21, after Vancouver Aquarium performed surgery on her in an attempt to try and correct a problem with her small intestine.

After a week of staff monitoring interactions between Chester and Helen, the Aquarium announced that the two animals had successfully integrated. Vancouver Aquarium now advertises Chester and his smaller dolphin companion as part of the facility’s exhibit that the public can pay to go and see.

Dr. Ingrid Visser, Founder of and Principal Scientist for the Orca Research Trust, has recently expressed concerns for Chester’s welfare. When shown Cottrell’s emails, she said, “DFO Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium have lied to the public about their intentions for Chester. Furthermore, it took them ten months to divulge the truth – that Chester would not be released.”

Visser added, “If their actions were carried out with Chester’s welfare interests in mind, what did they have to hide? This lack of transparency deeply worries me and makes me question what else they are hiding.  Aquariums around the world are being exposed time and time again with their duplicitous behavior and they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.” No comment was received from DFO or Vancouver Aquarium regarding who was on the scientific panel or any other aspect of Chester’s relocation into captivity, despite repeated requests.

Gary Charbonneau, Director of a documentary that exposes other deceitful practices of Vancouver Aquarium, stated that “although this film is one hour long, it could have been three and still not covered all the issues.”

“The Vancouver Aquarium is not the only aquarium to use rescued cetaceans [whales, dolphins and porpoises] as salvaged items,” Visser explained, referring to several other cetacean species, including pilot whales that now live in permanent captivity at SeaWorld Orlando. The rehabilitation attempts for these young whales, after they were rescued from a stranding, have been called into question, as have the rescue procedures in place for cetaceans in need of rescue in the USA. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate Canada’s cetacean rescue procedures too.

SeaWorld's International Orca Abuse Exposed at Loro Parque

Adán the Orca

Spain's Loro Parque, a SeaWorld-inspired abusement park, is home to several orcas "on loan" from SeaWorld who made the journey after being torn away from their families at young ages, lifted by cranes, and flown thousands of miles in the cargo holds of airplanes. Because of this troublesome partnership, even more orcas have been imprisoned in cramped enclosures and denied everything that is natural and important to them. Share this disturbing news, and then take action to stop SeaWorld from expanding into DubaiREAD MORE

Meet the friendly gray whales of Baja!
When you come eye to eye with a giant gray whale, you'll know there is something mystical in that rare and wondrous encounter.

Our travelers often have that opportunity when they spend time with the Great Gray Whales of Baja. We frequently come within arm's length of these gentle giants during open skiff excursions in San Ignacio Lagoon on the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula. 
 

Each winter, gray whales make the world's longest mammal migration, traveling more than 5,000 miles from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to these warm Mexican waters where they mate and give birth.

The whales delight us as they spy-hop and breach into the air, landing with a mighty splash. We often witness their behavior at surprisingly close range, unlike most other whale-watching experiences. Females may even "show off" their young, swimming right up to our boats with their calves.

The base camp for our adventure is ours alone, with private, ecologically designed accommodations. You'll stay in rustic yet comfortable "whale cabanas" at water's edge, surrounded by the silence of the Vizcaino Desert wilderness, which is protected along with the lagoon as a UN Biosphere Reserve.

In addition to six whale-watching outings, we also explore the saguaro forest and salt flats, looking for fossils and observing abundant birdlife. And at the end of each day, enjoy a convivial dinner in the thatched dining palapa where we feast on fresh seafood and other local fare.

If you're looking for a remote Baja immersion featuring the best whale watching on the planet, this is your winter nature adventure. But the whales are only here seasonally, and we offer just three February departures, timed for peak numbers. Call an Adventure Specialist today to join us! 1­-800­-543­-8917.