We're back again where we were thirty years ago, it comes in cycles doesn't it. We were making huge strides in the 1970's, passing the Clean Air Act, creating the Environmental Protection Agency and marching to "Save the Whales, Save the Earth!".
And we did save the Whales, it was not until 1986, but the International Whaling Commission put a Moratorium on Commercial Whaling that brought down the number of whales dying on an annual basis from around 10,000 to 3,000. Yes, I know, why three thousand? The Japanese were whaling under a loop hole in the ban that allowed whaling for "Scientific" purposes, which is still the way the Japanese meet their annual whaling quotas.
But that could change. The IWC could overturn that ban and allow commercial whaling again.
So, we are back to Saving the Whales Again, and the Dolphins too, and a lot of other animals that live in the ocean due to the human impacts on their populations their habitats.
And the Japanese still, steadfastly claim that they must use lethal means to study whales even though a joint study from non-whaling countries just returned from an extensive stay in the Antarctic to study whales.
During the voyage, Australian, French and New Zealand scientists used nonlethal techniques to study whales. It was a challenge to Japan's scientific program, which kills up to 1,000 of the mammals a year — an allowed exception to the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
The scientists counted mainly humpback whales, taking photos and biopsy samples from 60 of them, and attaching satellite tracking devices to about 30 of the animals to study their feeding and travel patterns.
The researchers found fairly strong recovery in some populations of humpback whales, but Gales said blue whale numbers are down around 2 percent from what they once were in Antarctic waters, after being "enormously heavily exploited during the industrial whaling era.
So other than commercial whaling, what are the other threats that face Whales and dolphins? I'm going to focus on some information that I've actually written about in previous diaries, in fact, I have three recent cases from a diary from last week.
The Whale didn't know any better, she just knew it was time to give birth to her beautiful baby calf. She was in the warm waters off the coast of Florida during her usual migration and it happened.. Incredibly, NOAA was there to take photos of this amazing event as it happened.
So what's the big deal? Well, this is only the second time it's been observed and it happened while a debate rages on about the building a Naval training range right off the coast where this incredible birth took place.
Scientists surveying the area near a planned Navy training range said Tuesday they witnessed an endangered right whale giving birth off the Northeast Florida coast.
The discovery was made within several miles of the rectangular patch of sea the Navy selected last year for construction of an undersea warfare range. The exact distance wasn't clear, but appeared to be somewhere near 10 miles.
"It was near the box ... [but] drawing a line in the ocean is a difficult thing," said William McLellan, a University of North Carolina-Wilmington research associate overseeing Navy-financed survey work done with Duke University.
The Florida-Georgia coast is the only known calving ground for right whales, which gather each winter after traveling from New England and Canada.
So you can see why this birth has thrown a huge wrench into things. The planned Naval training area would cover 58 miles of sea off the coast East of Jacksonville...
The Navy plans to install hundreds of devices on the ocean floor that can track vessels during combat training involving ships, submarines, helicopters and planes. Trainers located onshore would use the devices to give crews nearly immediate analysis and feedback on their performance, which advocates of the range say would help crews quickly learn from their mistakes.
That's bound to be productive to the whales calving area. And all of this would include year round Sonar activity by the Navy, which has already been proven to be disruptive to whales and dolphins ability to communicate and find food and even cause death. By the way, you can send a message to the Obama administration to push for more review.
The Right Whale is not just endangered, but extremely endangered and to willfully ignore our responsibility to protect these whales that come to our coasts to reproduce is beyond inexplicable and irresponsible.
Just today there is a story of a Fin whale being hit by a ship and washing up on the coast of Delaware.
"She did have some broken fragments in her skull," said Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute. "She was most likely hit by a large vessel."
Then there is the example of the Dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan. I got my title from the Whaleman Foundation's campaign of Save the Whales Again. And they also cover a few huge issues facing whales and dolphins (such as sonar issues, which is a huge part of the Naval issues on both coasts of the US where different species of whales migrate by, such as blue whales, grey's and humbacks, or in the case of orcas, they live there).
The Cove is an amazing film that covers the annual dolphin slaughter and The Save the Whale's campaign's spokesperson was also in the film, Hayden Panettierre. The Documentary won the Oscar for best Documentary and for good reason, it's heart wrenching and powerful and well done film making.
Japanese fishermen are killing over twenty thousand dolphins…
Help Us Stop Them NOW!!!
Every year, over 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed by Japanese fisherman. After driving pods of wild dolphins from the open sea into shallow coves with motorized boats and loud bang sticks, the fishermen kill the dolphins, slashing their throats with knives or stabbing them with harpoon-like spears. Thrashing about, many of the dolphins take several minutes to die an agonizing cruel death, turning the surrounding sea blood red.
This brutal massacre, the largest dolphin kill in the world, goes on for six months of every year, from October through April.
Even more shocking, the captive dolphin industry and marine parks around the world is a willing accomplice to the kill, paying as much as $100,000 per captured dolphin.
In Taiji, Japan, the annual dolphin slaughter starts October 1st and continues for six months. This massacre of dolphins is strongly encouraged by three local dolphinariums who purchase the “show-quality” dolphins and ship them off to marine parks in Japan and around the world. Annually, in Taiji alone, over a thousand dolphins are killed with some 50 or more captured and sold to marine parks.
The types of dolphins captured and killed include bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales, spotted dolphins, and Risso’s dolphins.
The Japanese fishermen’s principal justifications for killing dolphins is that it’s a tradition that they are proud of, yet they have gone to and continue to go to great lengths to cover up this insidious act. The fishermen physically confront Protestors and journalists and threaten them. What the actions of these fisherman are really saying is we have something to hide and are ashamed by our actions
Much of the dolphin meat from the slaughter is sold as pet food and some finds it way to Japanese markets labeled as whale meat. This meat contains extremely high levels of contaminates including mercury, PCBs, and Dioxin and Japanese health and government officials have declared it “unsafe” for human consumption while several major Japanese grocery store chains have pulled it from their shelves, yet the killing goes on. Why, because the captive dolphin industry is fronting this hunt while hiding behind the scenes.
But then there are other issues, such as Save the Orcas...
In the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, there is a place where hundreds of islands flow out of the forest green sea…a place where one of the world's most beautiful, powerful, and majestic creatures can be found, Orca, the killer whale. This is also a place where something insidious is happening….
In 1995, there were a total of 99 Southern resident orcas. Today, however, there has been a tragic decline, with nearly 25% of the population dying over the past 5 years. What is causing this crisis?
Although these inland waters on the surface seem quite pristine and undisturbed, nothing could be further from the truth, for surrounding what appears to be untarnished wilderness is our modern civilization including the industrial centers of Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, and Victoria, and all that that imposes. We are polluting the air, the land, and the sea with PCBs, DDT, and Dioxins. These poisons are entering the food chain, finding their way up from small fish, to larger fish, and finally to orcas, who are at the top of the food chain.
The orcas that live here, by no choice of their own, have become urban whales and are the most contaminated whales in the world, containing over 200 times more toxins than the average human being on the planet!
By itself, this toxic overloading is a major cause of concern, but couple it with a food shortage and you have a lethal combination. Chinook salmon, the main food source for the Southern Resident orcas, used to be plentiful here, but their numbers have been severely depleted, almost to extinction. This primarily due to the building of hydroelectric dams and habitat loss on the salmon's prime river runs and spawning grounds.
What's really insidious about this is the double whammy the orcas are facing: They don't have enough food so they have to live off their fat reserves and their fat reserves are loaded with toxins.
Add to this ever increasing impacts from the noise and exhaust of vessels, from huge Navy and cargo ships, to oil tankers, and cruise liners, to pleasure boaters and whale watchers…all of which only further complicates the orcas already precarious fight for survival.
The Southern Resident orcas are giving us a wakeup call. Like canaries in a coalmine, they are showing us that something is seriously wrong and that we need to take action now before they disappear forever!
Our short film "Orcas in Crisis!", which we produced in 2003, helped in getting Canada and the US government to place the Southern Resident Orcas on the endangered species list. In addition, the "Save the Whales Again!" Team will be leading a filming expedition back to Puget Sound for an updated segment that will become part of our feature length documentary.
Please join us in our quest to save this wondrous place!
And so it goes, more and more threats. Such as this story that came out in the last couple of days regarding mass die offs of the right whale, as mentioned prior, one of the highly endangered species of baleen whales. Its numbers were impacted by whaling during the early 20th century, just as the other large baleen species were, such as the blue whale, gray and humpback. We must continue to protect these amazing animals since there are other threats to their survival.
Mass death among baby right whales has experts scrambling to figure out the puzzle behind the largest great whale die-off on record.
Observers have found 308 dead whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdes along Argentina's Patagonian Coast since 2005. Almost 90 percent of those deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old, and the calf deaths make up almost a third of all right whale calf sightings in the last five years.
"This is the single largest die-off event in terms of numbers and in relation to population size and geographic range," said Marcela Uhart, a medical veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). She represents an associate director in Latin America for the WCS Global Health Program.
And then there are the threats to whales and dolphins that we can clearly prevent such as this issue I wrote about in the last few months.
This endangered Maui's dolphin is caught in a gil net. Only found on the North Island of New Zealand the Maui's is smallest dolphin species that can only hold its breath for a mere three minutes. It's only threat, is man. And there are only around 100 left. The New Zealand Government is attempting to protect the area the Maui's dolphin frequents, which is very close to the coast. Keep the gill nets away and keep the dolphins safe, it really is that easy. But they still lose a few each year which can be devastating for such a small number left of a species and they are only endemic to New Zealand, it's the only place you will find these lovely little dolphins.
There are so many threats to the ocean's and her creatures it's probably why the TED Prize went to a vision of saving the Oceans entitled, Mission Blue although it really is code red.
The world's oceans are in trouble. They've become a dumping ground for pollutants; acidity levels are on the rise. 90 percent of the big fish have disappeared. Destructive fishing practices are killing countless numbers of marine mammals each year. Although environmental groups have done impressive work toward making the world greener, up until now the blue part of our planet -- 71 percent of the Earth's surface -- has been largely ignored.
Deep-ocean explorer and TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle is changing that. Earle has been at the frontier of deep ocean exploration for four decades. She's led over 70 expeditions and has logged more than 6,500 hours underwater. To this day she's walked deeper on the ocean floor, untethered, than any other human. A dedicated advocate for the health of the ocean, Time Magazine has called Earle "a hero for the planet."
The first step in granting Sylvia Earle's wish is The Mission Blue Voyage. On April 6-10, TED will host a one-of-a-kind conference on the National Geographic Endeavor, sailing across the Galapagos Islands to raise awareness about the urgency of ocean conservation issues, and to call for governments to establish more Marine Protected Areas. TED is bringing together marine scientists, deep-sea explorers, technology innovators, policy makers, business leaders, environmentalists, activists, artists and celebrities for this epic adventure into the blue.
Today, less than one percent of the ocean is protected -- while over twelve percent of land is. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are defined as "areas where natural and/or cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters." Mission Blue's focus is to begin securing MPAs in a few crucial areas. Sylvia refers to these places as "hope spots," because, in her words, "If we can embrace them and protect them, there is hope -- not just for continuation of these wonderful, extraordinary places -- but there's hope then for humankind."
Unfortunately Mission-Blue.org isn't up and running yet! But it's obvious that something must be done and there is a lot you can do. You cansupport Senator John Kerry's Bill to protect whales.
US Senator John Kerry on Monday introduced a bill to protect whales, sending a message as nations debate a compromise that critics say would end a moratorium on commerical whaling.
Kerry's bill, which is similar to a bill before the House of Representatives, would affirm US support for a 1986 ban by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on commercial whaling.
It would also call for research on whale habitats and look for ways to end harm and harassment of the ocean giants.
"Thousands of whales die each year from commercial whaling, ship strikes, and habitat disruption," said Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has led legislation against global warming.
"We should be leading the effort to protect them," said Kerry, the Democratic Party's unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2004.
There's writing letters and supporting causes like that of The Cove, which has had an impact. ‘Darth Vader of dolphins’ to release 17 bottlenose dolphins.
Chris Porter, known internationally as a dolphin slave-trader for his lucrative business capturing dolphins in the Solomon Islands and selling them to aquariums in such locations as Dubai and Mexico, says he has had a change of heart and is planning to release his last 17 bottlenose dolphins.
The controversial dolphin broker and marine mammal trainer, who trained Tillikum the killer whale when he was at Sealand in Victoria and then became Vancouver Aquarium’s head trainer, has sold 83 dolphins around the world over the last nine years and drawn the fury of animal- rights groups.
“To be sure, I have a bad name. I have been deemed the Darth Vader of dolphins,” said Porter in an interview.
“But I have decided to release the remaining animals back to the wild. It’s driven by the incident with Tillikum and I’m disillusioned with the industry,” said Porter, who splits his time between Victoria and the Solomon Islands.
People can change their minds. We can change how things are even though it may seem overwhelming. I will no longer take my daughter to Sea World. I will talk about the importance of protecting our oceans in anyway I can.
You can too.
We can save the whales, again. And we can save ourselves by protecting biodiversity, habitats and our planet.
H/T to bob in ny for this tip. I've heard of this film and wanted to watch it. It's a great way to learn more about whales.
Check out this film at this address -- and buy or download a copy to watch yourself and to share with friends. This really is important stuff, and it's very important to get a glimpse of the science of it all. (Plus the photography, like the images in this post, is gorgeous and a little beauty can be helpful on a rainy day!)
A Life Among Whales
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