Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Whale Of A Week

SeaWorld’s Father of the Year

Stop Selling Whale Meat.
Minke Whale_By_Martin Cathrae
Target: President Park Geun-hye the Republic of Korea
Goal: Close a loophole that allows the legal sale of whale meat from whales that are caught accidentally.
Under Korean law, whaling is illegal. However, fisherman can legally sell the meat of whales caught and killed accidentally if they submit the body for inspection by the coastguard. As with every country that has agreed to ban whaling, South Korea must report how many whales were accidentally caught per year to the International Whaling Commission. The number of whales accidentally caught by South Korean fisherman every year has consistently remained between 80 to 100, ten times higher than most other countries. What’s more, according to the nonprofit Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the number reported is likely half the actual amount.
The current system lets fishermen sell the meat of whales to restaurants, which presents an opportunity for fishermen to also sell illegally caught whale meat. This is particularly advantageous as legal meat is often less fresh than illegal meat, and a single whale can net a fisherman up to $85,000. There is evidence that, due to the loophole in the law, the illegal whaling industry is flourishing in South Korea. Even as demand for whale meat is rising in the country, the price of whale meat keeps falling. There have also been reports of fisherman equipping their ships with harpoons, and some fisherman even catch whales at night. Sign our petition and demand that President Park Geun-hye close the loophole, ending the cruel practice of whaling forever.   
Dear President Park,
While demand for whale meat is rising in the the Republic of Korea, the price of whale meat is falling. This indicates that the supply of whale meat is increasing. However, the number of whales that were accidentally caught by South Korea has remained largely stable. Since bycaught whale meat is the only legal whale meat, it is clear that there is growth in illegal whaling in your nation. This is disturbing and would contravene South Korea’s commitments to the international ban on whaling.
The existence of a legal market for whale meat has produced incentives for illegal whaling, as well encouraged laundering of illegally caught whale meat. Furthermore, it has contributed to significantly higher rates of accidentally caught whales in South Korea than most other countries. I urge you to close the loophole allowing the sale of whale meat caught accidentally. It is the only way to uphold South Korea’s commitments under the moratorium on whaling and to prevent the cruel practice of harpoon whaling.
Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae
Orcas are often called ‘the wolves of the sea.’ And for good reason.
Help Make June National Orca Protection Month
Orca (c) R. Marate
They’re majestic. Their families are tight knit. They’re highly intelligent. They hunt together.
And their survival is jeopardized by human activity.
In an effort to draw public attention to the plight of the orca, Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA) has introduced House Resolution 773, which would declare June 'National Orca Protection Month.'
Of special concern is the fish-eating Southern Resident population of orcas, or killer whales, that inhabits the marine waters near Seattle, Puget Sound and the Washington and Oregon coasts. Fewer than 100 of these spectacular whales survive today. And their future in the wild is increasingly uncertain.
These orcas face multiple threats.
  • Poisonous chemicals in the food chain bio-accumulate in these top predators, affecting their developmental and reproductive processes;
  • Their main food source, Chinook salmon, are themselves threatened, and the killer whales are facing food shortages; and
  • Increased ship and boat traffic, including a huge surge in the number of whale-watching boats, poses a growing threat of collisions, noise pollution and chemical discharges into the waterways the orcas call home.
Like wolves, orcas capture our imaginations. They are ambassadors of the wild world that you and I want to leave to our children. It's up to us to make sure they survive and thrive in the years to come.
California Makes New Move to Ban Orca Captivity. A bill passed in the state Assembly would prohibit the holding of killer whales except for ‘educational’ purposes.
The California State Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban orca captivity for “display, performance, or entertainment purposes,” a move that activists hope will inspire similar actions in other states.

Legislators approved the California Orca Protection Act, a rider to an Assembly budget bill, on Thursday by a vote of 48–28, mostly along party lines, with Democrats favoring the legislation. Violators would face fines up to $100,000.


In addition to banning shows, the act would also prohibit the breeding of any captive orca in California and make it illegal to “export, collect, or import the semen, other gametes, or embryos of an orca held in captivity for the purpose of artificial insemination.”


The measure would also make it illegal to export or sell an orca in California to another state or country unless authorized by federal law, or if the transfer “is to another facility within North America that meets standards comparable to those provided under the Animal Welfare Act.”


Under that provision, whales could be retired to sea sanctuaries in the United States or Canada, as envisioned by groups such as the Whale Sanctuary Project.


SeaWorld, though, has no intention of releasing any of its animals.


“Could it be done to move whales to sea cages? Yeah, it technically possibly could be done,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said during an investor conference call on Wednesday. “But is it the safest thing for our animals? We do not believe it is.”


There are significant exemptions to the legislation.


Orcas could be held in captivity as long as there was an “educational presentation,” which the act defines as “a live, scheduled orca display in the presence of spectators that includes natural behaviors, enrichment, exercise activities, and a live narration and video content that provides science-based education to the public.”


SeaWorld, the only California facility holding captive orcas, announced in March that it would end its orca breeding program immediately and phase out shows by 2019 in favor of more natural and educational presentations.


Although the bill would ban orca performances beginning Jan. 1, 2017, SeaWorld did not oppose the measure, according to Sean MacNeil, chief of staff to Assemblymember Richard Bloom, D–Santa Monica, who introduced the act.


The bill would also permit orcas rescued from the wild to be held in captivity as long as the animals were returned to the ocean whenever possible. If that could not happen, the orcas could be used for educational presentations but not for breeding or entertainment.


The act is similar to legislation that Bloom introduced earlier this year. In 2014, Bloom also introduced an orca ban bill, which was later withdrawn. That bill called for the retirement of killer whales to sea pens.


Although the bill codifies into law what SeaWorld has already vowed to do, MacNeil said the legislation was still significant.


“Businesses can change,” MacNeil said. “The board could hire a new CEO who wants a new direction. By setting this into law, that wouldn’t happen.”


MacNeil added that the legislation might prompt lawmakers in other states, especially Florida and Texas, where orcas are also held in captivity, to approve similar measures.


Courtney Vail, campaigns and programs manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said the act could lead to an end to orca captivity in the United States and elsewhere. Orcas in Russia, for instance, are being captured to supply China’s rapidly expanding marine park industry.


“We shouldn’t underestimate what that might mean to the movement globally and to the ultimate fate of other whale and dolphin species held in captivity,” Vail said. “Incremental progress is how the world will change.”


Although a similar rider was passed out of committee in the state Senate, it is not included in its budget legislation. Negotiations over the budget bill, however, are ongoing.


Kevin Liao, press secretary to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said in an email that Rendon “hasn’t issued any thoughts on the latest budget development regarding orca captivity, but in the past has been very supportive of efforts to end the immoral practice of captive orca breeding.”


Gareth Lacy, a spokesperson for Gov. Jerry Brown, said his office does not comment on pending legislation.

Orcas With Jobs: Why There is Nothing Natural About Performing Marine Animals. In a statement on their blog dated June 4, 2016, Loro Parque argues that the footage shot by Morgan Monitors and released by Dolphin Project represents just a “few minutes” of Morgan on the slide-out. The park says it is “absolutely illogical and absurd” to draw any conclusions based on those two minutes.

Loro Parque thereby ignores the following: As clearly stated in our post, Morgan remained on the slide-out for a witnessed 10 minutes — possibly longer. This happened after the final show of the day had concluded. Loro Parque staff asked everyone to leave the stadium, which appears to be standard procedure after a show has ended. Morgan Monitors were among the final few that were shooed out the doors. Upon leaving the theater, they looked back and saw that Morgan was still fully exposed on the slide-out. They estimate that the time from the end of the show and Morgan exiting the water to the time that they were asked to leave and lost sight of her was at minimum ten minutes.


Loro Parque goes on to claim that, “A voluntary stranding is a natural behavior of orcas living in the wild.” The park likens Morgan’s stranding behavior to that of orcas in Argentina that hunt seals in the shallows near the shore. In doing so, Loro Parque ignores the intelligence of orcas and their ability to comprehend the limitations of their confinement. Morgan was not hunting for seals when she stranded herself on that concrete. In fact, Morgan is believed to belong to a fish-eating population of orcas from Norway, making the comparison with seal-eating orcas from Argentina insignificant.


There is nothing natural about the lives of the orcas confined at Loro Parque in Tenerife. During the loud circus performances that attract huge paying audiences, the orcas are instructed by their trainers to “dance” to ear-deafening pop music and beach themselves onto the concrete. They are rewarded for this abnormal behavior with dead fish and artificially-colored gelatin.

Tekoa dead fish gelatin
Further, even if Morgan had belonged to a seal-eating orca population, Loro Parque fails to recognize another critical flaw in its reaction to the video footage: When orcas in Argentina hunt for seals in shallow water, it is a foraging act. It is a display of their highly-evolved hunting skills, based on being at home and dominant in their marine environment. These orcas combine instinct with learned behaviors passed down in the orca communities, taught to young. In contrast, and like the other orcas confined at Loro Parque, Morgan is deprived of hunting for her own food, with no opportunity to learn hunting from her family. Her act of beaching herself on the concrete cannot be compared to the learned hunting behaviors of orcas in nature.

When a captive lion paces back and forth in his cage, you cannot point at that lion and say, “Look, he is behaving just like lions do in nature. He is walking!”

Morgan on concrete slide out
Loro Parque asserts that ”The orcas at Loro Parque are trained to leave the water on their own accord,” as if this somehow normalizes Morgan’s behavior. The statement is farcical. Loro Parque might as well have said, “The orcas at Loro Parque are trained to obey voluntarily.” If the orcas are trained to leave the water, then they are not doing it “of their own accord.” They are doing it at the direction of their trainers.

Loro Parque then talks about how the orcas at its facility, on numerous occasions, are given “free time” by their trainers. This is a revealing statement, as it demonstrates that Loro Parque is fully aware that the orcas, when they are not given “free time” are in fact working. This is what all captive dolphin shows are based upon. Animals are put to work to attract paying customers. During a captive-dolphin spectacle, the dolphins jump, dance, and beach themselves on command. The spectators are amused by it and are led to believe that the dolphins, too, are having fun. In reality, the dolphins are doing what they know they have to in order to obtain food rewards. In short, they work for food.


The assumption that humans have a right to take control of wild animal, force that animal to spend its life in an unnatural habitat, where it will dance for others’ amusement, and choose when it should be granted a free time, is high-handed and superior. It is not within our rights as humans to lord such power over the lives of these highly intelligent and complex beings. The idea of freedom in the “free time” is a poor illusion. There is no freedom to be found in a concrete tank. Captive orcas have no freedom to swim normally. They have no freedom to navigate, forage, explore, or engage in any of the multifaceted activities of their wild counterparts. There is no freedom from their dependence on their human keepers for food. Captivity is a full-time duty that has been forced upon them by humans, and there are never any breaks from it.

Morgan in medical pool
Loro Parque calls Morgan’s beaching behavior “totally natural.” In its statement, Loro Parque postulates, “To speculate that this represents a sign of stress demonstrates utter ignorance about the natural behavior of this species.” This arrogant statement comes from an institution that keeps ocean-roaming marine mammals confined to minuscule concrete tanks to perform abnormal behaviors for food rewards of dead fish. Nothing about the lives of captive orcas remotely resembles orcas’ lives in nature. There is nothing natural about their barren, lifeless tanks. There is nothing natural about the tricks they are trained to perform during loud circus performances. There is nothing natural about an orca moving its body from side to side to ear-splitting pop music. There is nothing natural about these free-ranging marine mammals swimming in endless circles. There is nothing natural about orcas trapped for life in an artificial world of loud music and yelling spectators. And there certainly is nothing natural about an orca stranding herself on a concrete floor or slamming her head into the bars of an iron gate. These are obvious signs of distress.

According to Loro Parque’s statement, in order to understand orcas, one must rely on “scientifically proven data.” One must conduct scans, scientific research and diagnostic tests in order to, as Loro Parque puts it, “make any correct conclusion.” But diagnostic tests of the animals’ blood or scans of their bodies ignore critical elements of their health: their mental and emotional well-being. Their behavior is more than just a pattern of circles in a pool.


In order to truly understand orcas, one must understand, admire, and respect them for who and what they are in nature, wild and free — free from yelling audiences, free from food control and trainers’ constant demands, and free from impenetrable concrete walls and iron gates.

How We’re Using Film to End the Antiquated Tradition of Slaughtering Thousands of Pilot Whales. Sea Shepherd has been working to shut down the Grindadrap in the Danish Faroe Islands since 1983. The Grindadrap (literally translated as “the murder of whales”) is considered a cultural tradition in this small group of rugged islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland.

Referred to simply as the “Grind” it involves driving entire pods of pilot whales and dolphins onto Faroese beaches where the animals are brutally slaughtered with spears and knives. It is not a commercial operation and there is no actual necessity to kill the animals for survival.


The Faroese enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world and although some Faroese claim that the meat is essential, the reality is that any product that can be found in any supermarket in Europe or America can be found available in the Faroe Islands.


Pilot whale meat is also heavily polluted with methyl-mercury and other heavy metals, so much so that health officials in the Faroe Islands advise that the meat only be eaten once a month and never by pregnant women and young children. The Faroe Islands have the highest concentration of methyl-mercury in their bodies of any group on the planet.


This toxicity is not enough to convince many to abandon this slaughter. Cultural tradition as a justification is notoriously difficult to address.

Sea Shepherd has sent ten campaigns to the Faroes since 1983, saving many hundreds of whales and dolphins from being slaughtered yet at the same time, we have suffered numerous arrests and the seizure of three of our boats. In the Faroes it is illegal to interrupt the killing and it is even illegal to sight a pod of whales and not report the sighting to the whalers.

Our success in lowering kills has caused the Faroese to respond with even stricter laws that now prohibit Sea Shepherd crew from entering Faroese waters or even wearing Sea Shepherd shirts on land.


As a result Sea Shepherd has devised a new strategy called Operation Bloody Fjords.

Sea Shepherd will now take all the video footage of the killings and the interventions to produce a documentary film in addition to launching legal, media, and economic opposition to the horrific annual massacre on Faroese beaches.
The legal challenge is based on the fact that killing cetaceans is unlawful under European Union regulations. The Faroese claim to be exempt from the regulations despite receiving huge subsidies from the EU. In addition, some 85 percent of Faroese citizens hold EU passports allowing them to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship without having to respect or abide by EU laws. In addition, Denmark is obligated to respect EU laws yet supports the killing of cetaceans with their police, military, and courts.

Sea Shepherd’s economic strategy is to target the primary industry of the Faroes – fishing and with a special focus on Faroese farm raised salmon.


Pilot whales and dolphins are slain close to these farms and one very troubling fact is that a large proportion of the meat from the Grind is unaccounted for. There is simply too much meat to feed the population of some 50,000 people when at least half report not eating the meat and the rest are restricted to 250 grams a month due to health concerns. Sea Shepherd has found numerous pilot whale bodies weighted down and dumped at sea and rotting on the bottom but even these moldering submerged corpses don’t cover the mystery of the missing meat.


I have asked the three main salmon farm companies in the Faroes if they are feeding pilot whale and dolphin meat to farmed salmon. Recently we discovered that the Norwegians are feeding whale meat to animals on fur farms and we suspect they also are feeding whale meat to farmed salmon.


In response to my queries to the companies Hidden Fjords, Bakkafrost and Marine Harvest on the question as to if they feed pilot whale and dolphin meat to farmed salmon, I have not received a single response and their fish food stocks are very closely guarded.


We have no absolute proof that Faroese salmon are fed cetacean meat but in light of the missing tonnage of meat, the close proximity to the killing beaches and the refusal of the companies to answer the question, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they do.

We also have many reports of employees of these companies participating in the merciless Grind and my question about this has also not been answered. Therefore Sea Shepherd has started a campaign to have consumers and distributors boycott the products of these three companies because there is a very real possibility that when people eat Faroese salmon they may also indirectly be eating pilot whales and dolphins.

Sea Shepherd will also be encouraging cruise ships to not stop in the Faroes and for tourists not to support a travel destination where the beaches run red with blood and the screams of dying whales echo across the fjords.


The Grind has no place in the 21st Century. Slaughter and cruelty based culture and tradition should no longer be tolerated. Marine animals are seriously threatened because of direct killing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change.


The Grind is ecologically destructive and offensively barbaric and Sea Shepherd is relentlessly dedicated to tossing this obscene tradition into the dustbin of history through education, direct action, economic pressure and legal challenges.

Heartbreaking Picture of Beluga Whales in Rusting Tank Displays What’s Wrong With CaptivityBeluga whales are amazing creatures, typically found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of our planet, who generally live together in small groups known as pods. Their language includes a wide range of vocalizations: clicks, whistles, and clanging noises. Belugas are expert imitators of sound, and have even been known to mimic human voices! They play a critical role in balancing their native ecosystems by feeding on the most common marine species in the ecosystem, preventing them from becoming overabundant. While searching for food, belugas can dive to a depth of up to 1,000 feet, but have been known to dive down twice as far as that.

Sadly, belugas’ way of life is under threat. Underwater noise pollution (driven by factors such as offshore drilling, sonar testing, and ship movement) seriously interferes with these animals’ ability to communicate, travel, hunt, and breed. Beluga whales are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List, but a specific subspecies called the Cook Inlet beluga is listed as “critically endangered,” with a 50 percent chance of going extinct within the next ten years.


As if this weren’t bad enough, these beautiful animals are often targeted by the marine captivity industry, which forces them to dwell in tiny tanks that can never replicate their wild habitat and perform inane tricks for members of the public. The experience of being torn from their wild habitat takes an enormous toll on the health and wellbeing of belugas. Last year, a White Arctic beluga whale named Nanuq passed away at SeaWorld Orlando after undergoing treatment for a jaw injury. Sadly, unusual injuries, illnesses, and infections – seldom witnessed in wild cetaceans – are rife among captive whales and dolphins.


Jo-Anne MacArthur is a world-renowned photographer whose pioneering work, “We Animals”, shed light on the unseen emotional intelligence of non-human animals. She recently shared a photograph that highlights the fate of captive beluga whales.


This photo – which was taken at Vancouver Aquarium in 2009 – shows that captivity can never compare to the wild.

Heartbreaking Picture of Beluga Whales in Rusting Tank Displays Exactly What’s Wrong With Whale Captivity
Vancouver Aquarium has been known to use its alleged “rescues” of certain animals to justify keeping other animals – such as belugas – in captivity. All of the whales and dolphins at the facility – whether “rescued” or not – are on a strict daily show schedule, with little indication that the aquarium intends to ever rehabilitate them for release back into the wild. Gary Charbonneau, director of “Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered,” states that “the Vancouver Aquarium expounds conservation, research, and education as one their key mandates and yet, in the past decade, although revenues have soared, their spending nearly half the amount of money towards those three areas. … Conservation is used as a deception to fool the public into allowing the Vancouver Aquarium to continue with this aquatic circus.”

By sharing this stark photograph, MacArthur hopes to educate people on the brutal reality behind beluga captivity. To see more of MacArthur’s work, visit her website or Facebook page. “We Animals” recently joined Patreon, where supporters can sign up to become a regular sponsor of MacArthur’s work, the Patreon link is available here. To learn more about the truth behind whale and dolphin captivity – and why you should never buy a ticket to an aquarium, marine park, or other facility that holds these animals in tiny tanks – check out the links below.

Image Source: Jo-Anne MacArthur/Facebook

GREAT GRAY WHALE MIGRATION EXPEDITION GIVEAWAY

Join the expedition of a lifetime to see the great gray whale migration in Baja, Mexico.
Travel with the Oceanic Society to experience magical, close encounters with the friendly gray whale mothers and calves of San Ignacio Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You and a guest will also visit the beautiful Sea of Cortez for snorkeling and whale watching on this weeklong Baja adventure.

Spend three full days with gray whale mothers and their curious calves in San Ignacio Lagoon. The expedition also explores the wildlife of the productive and diverse Sea of Cortez, which is home to more than 650 tropical and temperate fish (90 of them endemic) and one-third of the world's whale and dolphin species. In addition to this expedition of a lifetime, the grand prize winner will receive $2,000 toward airfare and accommodations and $500 to purchase camera equipment to make sure to document your extraordinary up-close interactions with these magnificent creatures of the deep. The Oceanic Society is a nonprofit organization, and every trip supports ocean conservation. The dates of the expedition are Feb. 24 to March 4, 2017.

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN →
Itinerary:

DAY 1: ARRIVE IN LORETO
Arrive in Loreto, Baja California Sur. You will be met at the airport and transported to our comfortable accommodations. Gather for dinner and a briefing with your guide.

DAYS 2–3: EXPLORE THE SEA OF CORTEZ AND LORETO
Enjoy two full days of whale and wildlife watching by private excursion boat in the Sea of Cortez, including island exploration with a picnic lunch on the beach. In your downtime enjoy the quaint, historic town of Loreto.

DAY 4: LORETO AND SAN IGNACIO
Depart from San Ignacio Lagoon by private van to your safari-style tented camp on the beach. Our leisurely five- to six-hour drive includes stops to observe bird life and sites of interest. Visit the town of San Ignacio and its historic mission before arriving in time for dinner. Lunch along the way is included.

DAYS 5–7: SAN IGNACIO LAGOON
Enjoy three full days observing gray whales from small pangas.

DAY 8: SAN IGNACIO AND LORETO
Spend a final morning with the gray whales, and then return to Loreto and check into your comfortable hotel. Have a farewell dinner.

DAY 9: FLY HOME
Transfer to the airport for your afternoon flight home.
No purch. nec. Void where prohib. Must be 18 or older. See Off. Rules