Monday, February 13, 2017

A Whale Of A Week

BREAKING: As 200 More Whales Are Stranded In New Zealand, Heroics Turn To Heartbreak.
The day began with grim resolve, as volunteers descended upon a remote New Zealand beach to try to send some 100 beached pilot whales back to sea. By mid-afternoon local time, most of those whales — the survivors of country's third-largest stranding on record — had successfully swum back into Golden Bay.

It could have been a happy ending to a story that began tragically, with some 300 whales found dead after more than 400 stranded earlier in the week on Farewell Spit, a thin strip of beach that arcs like a bent finger into the waters north of New Zealand's South Island.

Hundreds Of Whales Die Stranded On A Remote New Zealand Beach
Hundreds Of Whales Die Stranded On A Remote New Zealand Beach
The volunteers' celebrations did not last long, though.

Another large pod, composed of approximately 200 whales, stranded just hours later near the original site. The members of that second group appear to be different from the original survivors, which had been tagged before being refloated. None of the new whales bore those tags, NBC News reports.

For the volunteers, it was a heartbreaking close to a Saturday filled with hope and hard effort. In two rescue attempts earlier in the day — both led by New Zealand's Department of Conservation and Project Jonah, a group dedicated to protecting marine mammals — volunteers had managed to send about 80 of the 100 survivors from the original group back to sea.

It was no easy task. It is common for whales, once they have been refloated, to nevertheless strand again shortly afterward on the same shore, according to the DOC's Andrew Lamason.
A bystander looks at a row of dead pilot whales after the mass stranding at Farewell Spit, on New Zealand's South Island, on Saturday. (Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

"We are trying to swim the whales out to sea and guide them, but they don't really take directions, they go where they want to go," Lamason told The Guardian. "Unless they get a couple of strong leaders who decide to head out to sea, the remaining whales will try and keep with their pod on the beach."

To combat this tendency, the volunteers formed a human chain in the water to block the whales' return — despite warnings that a shark was possibly in the area. And their early efforts were largely successful: Of the original 100, only 20 returned to shore.

The 20 that restranded would need to be euthanized "to relieve their suffering," the DOC said in a statement, explaining that "unsuccessful attempts at refloating the whales would likely lead to more injury and stress to them and prolong the whales' suffering."

Still, the outcome was largely positive — for a few hours, at least. Then, the new pod came ashore nearby on the same beach.

Experts with the DOC and Project Jonah do not know the precise reason for such mass strandings, one after another. Farewell Spit has been occasionally described as a whale trap, since its unusual shape and shallow waters often impair the echolocation of whales rounding the South Island's northern tip.

"It's a very difficult place if you get lost in there and you are a whale," the DOC's Herb Christophers told the BBC. And once one whale gets lost, the rest of the pod can follow into the same danger, led by that whale's distress calls.

DOC ranger Mike Ogle posited a different theory on a local radio broadcast, reports The Independent, which notes Ogle suggested a shark may have been to blame.

"There's one carcass out there with some shark bites in it — but not a big one, just a small one, but quite fresh bites," Ogle said, according to the British paper. "So yeah, there's something out there."

Nevertheless, the rescue efforts continue.

The DOC put out an urgent call for more volunteers to renew the efforts on Sunday. The agency also reminded prospective volunteers: Don't forget to bring your wetsuit, bucket and sheets.

Norwegian Government Increases Minke Whaling Quota as Demand for Meat Drops.Whaling is a notoriously brutal practice but old habits die hard. However, Norway seems to be weaning itself off of whale meat at long last. Most people in Norway see whaling as an antiquated industry and have no desire to eat whale meat. Even Truls Soløy, the head of the Norwegian Whalers Association, admits “people in Norway do not eat whale… there are too few players on the buying side.” Despite this fact, the Norwegian government has slotted 999 minke whales for slaughter in 2017, this is an increase of 116 whales from the previous years year’s quota.

That being said, in the recent years, whalers have consistently killed fewer whales than the quota allows for, in 2016, 590 whales were killed when there were allowances for 880 deaths. But if quotas are consistently going unfilled, and there is a massive slump in the demand, why is the Norweigan government getting behind the whaling industry?

Whaling was big business in Norway before it was outlawed in 1986 by the International Cort of Justice and when the nation announced that they would reopen their waters for whalers in 1993, using a loop-hole they sighted as an “objection,” they hoped to revitalize the once booming industry. However, global appetites had changed. Due to the

Due to the widespread public outcry against the cruel industry, the demand for whale meat within Norway has plummeted though they have tried exporting whale meat to Japan, demand for the product is tanking there as well. The Norwegian government subsidies about 50 percent of the cost of whale meat stating that the culling of whales helps to preserve the fish populations in the region – this claim is dubious at best.

On top of that, most whale meat is highly contaminated. In 2015, Japan dumped a large shipment of whale meat from Norway because at least three toxic pesticides were found trapped in the whale blubber. Because its growing reputation as a tainted meat, the whaling industry has started to sell it as an ingredient for pet food but they have not been met with much success.

So how do we end the pointless slaughter of minke whales in Norway? First, share this article and help get the word out about the meritless nature of whaling industry. You can also contact the Norwegian embassy in your country or write to the Norwegian Prime Minister and let them know how upsetting and senseless their continued support for this barbaric practice is. If we all come together, we can stop whaling in Norway and save these important creatures.

Congressman Backs Groundbreaking Bill to End Orca Captivity in the U.S. Since the release of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary Blackfish in 2013, the way that the world views orcas has undergone an amazing transformation. The documentary revealed the story of the late Tilikum, an orca who was responsible for the death of three humans while being held captive at SeaWorld, and it sparked conversations that many people had never had before. All across the United States, people began asking if creatures as highly intelligent and sentient as orcas truly belonged in captivity, where they are often forced to perform before an audience. As a result of the changing public opinions, not only has SeaWorld seen a steady decline in ticket sales, they have also made enormous changes, such as agreeing to end the captive breeding of orcas in all of its parks. Recently, SeaWorld San Diego officially ended their orca shows. There is no denying that these are huge victories for orcas, but there is still a long road ahead of us if we are to ensure a future for wild orcas.

Recently, United States Congressman Rick Larsen of Washington announced his cosponsorship of the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA). This groundbreaking act would put a permanent end to orca captivity and breeding in the U.S., the capture of wild orcas, and ban the import and export of orcas for the purpose of public display. According to Larsen, “orcas are an iconic and beloved part of Pacific Northwest culture. Passing the ORCA Act will ensure future generations of orcas stay where they belong: in the wild, not in captivity.”

We could not agree more. Captivity is no place for any animal, let alone orcas, who are one of the most intelligent, emotionally complex, and socially sophisticated creatures on this planet. Orca brains are four times larger than human brains and comparatively, the brain lobe that handles the processing of complex emotions is larger in orcas than it is in humans. Orcas in captivity, like Tilikum, have been known to suffer from zoochosis, a mental illness common in captive animals that is identified by pacing, stereotypic behaviors, self-harm, and violent tendencies towards others, including other orcas. SeaWorld has been fighting a losing battle since people began to question the ethics behind keeping orcas in captivity but should an act like ORCA pass, we can ensure a better future for all orcas, wild and captive. Way to go Congressman Larsen!

WDC Successes 2016

In Defense of Animals
Parks Board Delays Vote to End Vancouver Aquarium's Cetacean Captivity. The Vancouver Parks Board in British Columbia surprised everyone at a January 23 public meeting when it decided not to vote on whether keeping cetaceans in captivity within Vancouver should go before city voters in 2018. Instead, a new motion was proposed and approved to have the board staff create and deliver a report in thirty days that will describe alternatives to the referendum. READ MORE
Orca in Tank at SeaWorld

Why Are Entertainers Still Supporting a Park That Abuses Orcas and Other Animals? Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, Village People, and several other acts are scheduled to perform at the notorious abusement park, and we need you—the fans—to tell them to cancel their appearances. E-MAIL THE MUSICIANS