Celebrating Shark Week by going to an aquarium is speciopathic

Originally posted in 2012 under the title “Celebrating Shark Week by going to an aquarium is, well, abhorrent.” Reposted to correct for some unknown server error that only my site host can fix. :D

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Yesterday, I finished watching the award-winning (31 International awards) Sharkwater again, this time via the nine 10-minute segments that are on YouTube.  And then gobbled up more shark and whale news at The Cyber Whale Warrior Daily Paperli.

I noticed that fellow blogger and publisher of the paper, Holise Cleveland, had posted something I said last year about Shark Week:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Dog Week at an animal shelter.

I think I later added a “dog pound” to the “animal shelter” version because I felt that was a more apt comparison.  But it got me to thinking about that analogy, and I came up with a slightly different version; but one that’s getting even closer to how I see it.  See what you think:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating dog week by going to look at, but not trying to rescue, the dogs living their lives out in cages at a puppy mill.  And saying, “How cute!” as you walk to the next crate.

I know.  It’s longer, and not so clever or quotable, but more accurate.  Having re-watched Sharkwater, another Shark Week simile variant came to me that I feel is even closer to how I see it.  Maybe some people won’t like this version as much as the shorter dog comparison – in fact, it may seem a bit harsh:

How is keeping a child locked up in a basement qualitatively different from keeping a shark or whale in a tank?

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Children’s Week by looking into the basement window of your new neighbor and discovering a child being held against its will, having been torn away from its mother, its family and everyone it knew.

Even though held in a 10′ by 10′ room, with only electrical lighting, you notice that the child seems happy when the caregivers come to feed it.   And even laughs when one of the adults teaches it how to cartwheel in that small space.

Then you notice that there are people coming to the house, and you see that they are standing outside a door in the basement looking into the 10-by-10 room, at the child.  And you see the people paying the caregiver money to come look at the child.

You overhear an inquiry about paying a little bit more money for cartwheels.  And maybe paying a little more for an interactive program, like a swim-with.

Now, that’s what celebrating Shark Week by going to the Georgia Aquarium is like to me.  Pity I can’t tweet that one.

So I thought I’d put the question to you:  What is Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium – or any aquarium – like for you? 

How to Celebrate Shark Week this yearWe’re a couple of months out from Shark Week, and I have no idea what is planned for this year. One idea for celebrating Shark Week would be to write our favorite “Celebrating Shark Week” sayings on a poster board, and pay a visit to our local aquariums during Shark Week (in July) to share our message.  No doubt the aquariums will have some promotion.  Let’s have one of our own.  I, for one, plan to go with a few copies of Sharkwater.

Celebrating Shark Week at an aquarium isn’t celebrating sharks at all; it’s really celebrating People Can Do Whatever They Feel Like to Sharks Week.

Whale shark is the world's largest shark species. Photo by Brian Skerry at smithsonian.com

Whale shark is the world’s largest shark species. Photo by Brian Skerry at smithsonian.com

 

Open Letter to the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville, Florida, is considering opening an aquarium. A group called Aquajax is actively promoting this project, with one of its stated goals to “[m]ake the city a desired vacation location for both local and foreign visitors.”

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

Please consider the following issues as evidence that in contrast to making Jacksonville such a “desired” location, the erection of an aquarium, at considerable financial cost, such a facility will doom Jacksonville to being out-of-step with the current and growing sensibilities of an increasingly ethical public.   Some of the problems of captivity for orcas were brought to the public’s attention by the book, Death at SeaWorld, by New York Times best-selling author David Kirby, and the award-winning film, Blackfish, but the problems of captivity extend beyond that one dolphin species.

SeaWorld, which showcases orcas but owns in its “collection” many other species.  These other species are doing little to redeem SeaWorld’s reputation, as the public, worldwide, becomes aware that exploitation of marine creatures, including but not limited to marine mammals, is an endeavor that we must begin to phase out, not encourage.  The public, which may recognize SeaWorld’s efforts in coordinated rescue efforts of stranded or injured marine animals, also recognizes that one good deed (rescue) does not offset a horrid one (captivity).  There is no balancing that will remove the blemish of captivity from SeaWorld.

Consider these other “current events:”

  • The National Aquarium is ending its dolphin captivity after it recognized that phasing out its dolphin shows, which it had done only about a year previously, was not “enough”.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium Board has voted to end captive breeding.
  • Southwest Airlines ended its 25-year cross-promotion with SeaWorld.
  • The Georgia Aquarium has been denied a permit to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales.
  • Bills to end orca captivity are under consideration in both California and New York. These bills, with the support of over 1.2 million people, are a reflection of the recognition that marine mammals and other oceanic aquatic life should not be exploited for human entertainment.
  • A plan to release Lolita (Tokitae) from the Miami Seaquarium has been proposed by the Orca Network.
  • Facilities in the United States that hold marine mammals inspire the growth of such facilities worldwide, which, in turn, supports a horrific dolphin hunting industry in Taiji, Japan, and elsewhere, where thousands of dolphins, hundreds of entire families of dolphins, can be slaughtered each year, in order for a number of young, pretty dolphins to be forced to live a life forever in captive, money-making (whether for-profit or non-profit) facilities.
  • Other marine mammals, such as polar bears, seals and sea lions, have an equal right to live in their own natural habitat.  Zoos and aquariums that hold them are targeted for being unable to provide suitable habitat, and in any case, deny them their birthright.
  • Zoo Mendoza in Argentina is being called upon by nearly a million people to release Arturo, a polar bear living in desert-like conditions, to a better facility in Canada.
  • SeaWorld’s last remaining polar bear, Johnny, who lived an unnatural solitary life, finally succumbed to this life and died, even while being touted as being in good health.
  • Zoos are coming under more scrutiny as being incapable of providing the kind of life that actually teaches our children to respect wildlife.

It is becoming all too clear every day to more compassionate and ethics-centered humans that “education” at the cost of denying the birthright of animals who should have freedom is a cost that is inconsistent with a humane society.

To learn more about the reality of the captive marine mammal industry, please watch A Fall from Freedom, Blackfish, A Whale of a Business, Lolita: A Slave to Entertainment.

To learn more about the link between dolphin captivity and dolphin killing, please watch the Academy Award-winning film, The Cove, and follow the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its campaign, Operation Infinite Patience, dedicated to ending the horrific dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.  Here is one report from last year’s dolphin hunt, which is set to resume on September 1.

Do not invest your monies, or your ethics, in a dying industry.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

Photo Credit: James R. Evans / U.S. Pacific Fleet

We are Arturo; We are Jiyu

A video, “Zoo Mendoza, Un Ejemplo de por que no deben exister los Zoo,s” (Google translates as “Zoo Mendoza, An Example of a zoo that should not exist“), has been posted by Anon Vi Veri that reveals what appears to be the unsanitary dump being used to dispose of animals once they have ceased being useful to Zoo Mendoza.  The dump is literally littered with the on-surface remains of deceased animals – great ape, gazelle, birds, and others that are nearly beyond recognition – alongside other “refuse”, other useless and expired trash.  The text accompanying the video does not state the location of the dump.

Cher calls on Argentina's President to act on behalf of Arturo

Cher calls on Argentina’s President de Kirchner  to act on behalf of Arturo

Even though over 800,000 individuals from around the world have signed a petition, asking that Zoo Mendoza allow Arturo to be transferred to better conditions at the Assiniboine Zoo in Canada, Zoo Mendoza has refused the requests.  Cher, who needs no introduction, did not mince words, when in May she used Twitter to speak directly to Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

On July 12, The Mirror recounted the loneliness of his solitary life, after losing his companion Pelusa two years ago, and the “searing” desert heat, that claimed another polar bear named Winnie two years ago.  It also describes conditions that Arturo continues to endure, and ones that may have, ironically, resulted in the Zoo’s Medical Board’s determination that he is “unsafe” to make the journey to the more hospitable conditions at Assiniboine, despite the Zoo Director’s description of Arturo’s health as in “good condition.”

Arturo exhibits sterotypic behavior in the sweltering desert of Zoo Mendozo

Arturo exhibits stereotypic behavior in the sweltering desert of Zoo Mendozo

As reported by The Mirror and seen in its video, Arturo is reportedly exhibiting the rocking and pacing characteristic of “stereotypic” behavior among caged and other captive animals.

Arturo’s behavior is a sad reminder of the stereotypic behavior exhibited by Jiyu, the namesake of this blog, in the weeks in late 2010 as she refused to eat and became emaciated before she was believed to have been killed at Dolphin Base in Taiji, Japan.

Arturo endures the sweltering heat, even as the Association of Professional Attorneys for the Rights of Animals awaits a hearing on its appeal to free Arturo from being illegally deprived of his liberty at Zoo Mendoza, after a motion to hear its appeal was granted in March.  Advocates are being asked to reach out to the Court to request that Arturo be granted relief from the horrid conditions at Zoo Mendozo.

Video taken by a guest and reported by another news outlet reveals more of the deplorable conditions and the few meters of nearly opaque, shallow brown water that is all Arturo knows of swimming.  Krista Wright, the Executive Director of Polar Bears International, finds Arturo’s conditions to be “wrenching” when compared with those at zoos that “meet or exceed” the standard of care set by Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but notes that issues of borders “complicate” matters for Arturo.

The only border that is of consequence is the border around Arturo’s enclosure.  We are Arturo; we are Jiyu. And we will not cease calling for his release.

What you can do:

  • Sign and share the petition to Zoo Mendoza.
  • Sign a petition to President of Argentina.
  • Polar Bear Rescues has provided a sample letter, in both Spanish and English, to send to the Court, the Criminal Chamber of Mendoza, to call for a ruling that upholds Arturo’s right to live in a habitat that supports, not threatens, his life.
  • Be on the lookout for the next coordinated effort (aka “Tweetstorm”) using social media.  Sharon Kelly, Lorraine Hammond and Steve Jack have organized a event using the hashtag #Storm4Arturo, beginning on July 18 and is ongoing through November 1. In the meantime, keep using Facebook and Twitter to express your outrage and your demands for a better life for Arturo before it is too late to do anything for him.

SeaWorld adds new boat to its Flotilla of Fabrication and it’s NEWS!

A new statistical evaluation by the Associated Press of survival rates of marine mammals in captivity asserts that marine mammals live longer in captivity than in the wild.  While one might be called a heretic for considering a statistical evaluation by a “news” organization to be inferior to one conducted by scientists, readers or viewers of “news” reports should know enough to be skeptical about “glommy” statistics, whether by a news organization, or scientists whose livelihoods depend upon maintaining a captivity industry, or scientists whose job is the welfare and study of wild marine mammals and their habitats.   I am not a statistician, any more than is ABC or the Associated Press, so I’ll leave the statistics dialogue to the scientists.  But it does leave me asking, “Who ees thees Associated Press?”

But perhaps it is appropriate, then, that ABC News then followed the “launch” of the Associated Press’ new-found expertise in marine mammal statistics by a story about SeaWorld launching a new boat in its latest effort to rehabilitate its image.

SeaWorld's latest effort to rehabilitate its image.

SeaWorld’s latest effort to rehabilitate its image.  Okay, I added the quotation marks.  Original photo by ABC News 10.

While I am not an expert in boats either, I do have at least five senses, a brain, a heart and the ability to use all of them in evaluating “news” stories.  It must be big news that SeaWorld is using boats.  Big news that SeaWorld has veterinarians on staff whose job it is to keep captive marine mammals alive, and have had 50 years to perfect their craft.  Big news that SeaWorld is doing rescue.  Big news that SeaWorld now has new boat technology.  Big news?

Else why would the Associated Press and ABC News cover it?

I cannot claim to know, but it certainly begs, on its knees with a mournful plea, the question.

Using the “news” to turn the conversation on the uncertain statistic of life expectancy is tricky, as is a suggestion that medical care should be improved, as if resolving those two issues also resolves the “problem” of captivity for marine mammals . . . as if saying, “If we can make them live longer in captivity than in the wild, we have a right to and we should,” when that is based in an ethical as well as logical fallacy.

That conclusion omits the entirety of the notion that animals have a right to live their birthright, not a plasticized, containerized, medicated, jelloized – that  is, captive – version of it.

What you can do:  Support the efforts across the nation to find a legislative solution to the real ethical problem injected into our culture by marine mammal captivity.  One easy first step is to sign three petitions.

  • Support California orca legislation, the Orca Welfare and Protection Act, by signing the petition at SumofUs.org.  Over 1.2 million people have already signed.  Add your voice to this groundswell.
  • Support Senator Greg Ball’s effort to ban orca captivity in the state of New York (can be signed by New York residents only).
  • Sign Florida fifth grader, Marissa’s, petition to Senator Mark Rubio to introduce a bill banning captivity.
  • Reach out to your own state leadership and find the ones who are the true advocates for ethics and compassion for animals.  Find the ones who are willing, as are California Assemblyman Richard Bloom and New York State Senator Greg Ball, to request that an industry that has literally banked on our inability to see through the spandex and the splashing to the horrific nature of captivity for marine mammals retire its business model of exploitation.

Because this is worth fighting for.  When SeaWorld ends its current exploitative business model, that will be news.

Celebrate life by working to preserve habitat, not by going to see orcas held in small concrete tanks.  Photo by NOAA.

Celebrate life by working to preserve habitat, not by going to see orcas held in small concrete tanks. Photo by NOAA.

 

Obstruction is Justice by Madison Stewart

One of the most pointed and poignant statements that lies behind the motivation of every animal activist:

The day we begin to back down in the face of injustice and not expose the negligence of the very people appointed to protect the animals they have now been hired to kill is the day we lose more than our sharks; we lose our ability to distinguish right from wrong.

And in a world full of so much wrong, where the rules are made to justify the decay of our last wild things, that is not a trait our society can afford.

Kudos to Madison Stewart, Sea Shepherd Australia and Animal Amnesty.

Nellie

Nellie

I hear your call to the water,
The roll and swish and wish of the mother
Not the decimated, chlorinated, death-indoctrinated stuff of this other
In a tank.

Made to suppress the life inside
Leaving the urge, the call, the jump for true joy behind
In some memory of a birthright
From a tank.

A thousand cuts upon your soul
A thousand children cheering the knife
That took away your life
In a tank.

What language you speak
We need not learn.
Merely another tool of the master
Of a tank.

Leave your boats on the shore
Leave us to the language of the sea
A million questions we can ask in the wild
Only a few
In a tank.

Can you see me at all
Can you hear my cry
Can you save my children
From a tank?

Nellie. February 27, 1953 - May 1, 2014

Nellie. February 27, 1953 – May 1, 2014

SeaWorld reprised its 1976 rhetoric to oppose 2014 legislation

SeaWorld has the potential either to earn the support or the opposition of conservationists.  It has the potential for conducting genuinely educational work, but the evidence to date suggests that the business rather than the educational interests are dominating management decision . . .

This statement of the Florida Audubon Society does not refer to California’s proposed legislation, AB2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Assemblyman Richard Bloom.  Rather, it was written in the Lakeland Ledger nearly 40 years ago when, as federal legislation was proposed in 1976 for the protection of orcas, SeaWorld took the same position then as now in opposition to legislation which would limit and even end the practice of exhibiting orcas.  SeaWorld’s familiar refrain is from the same songbook that we heard them consult during this week’s hearing in the California Assembly conference room, despite the evidence of increased mortality and health risks among captive orcas.

The effect of this legislation will be to prevent you and your children from experiencing, enjoying and learning about marine animals.  It would prohibit the valuable research and educational activities carried on by SeaWorld and other zoos and oceanariums. – SeaWorld flyer distributed to patrons

The Florida Audubon Society foretold this outcome, not as a prediction, but as a justification for the precautionary steps that supported the passage of the 1976 legislation:

If, despite careful veterinary care the whales die prematurely, as has happened at SeaWorld, the possibility should be faced that the Orlando area is not a suitable habitat for the species.

Unfortunately, we did not heed that warning.  Instead, the Congress did not pass the legislation and many lives have been sacrificed just so we could see an orca in a concrete tank.  The truth is, this only allowed 40 more years of SeaWorld teaching us to teach our children that we “deserve” to see them in the morbidly small and barren tanks, to teach humans that we have an “entitlement” to see them and have them splash us, as our innocent children giggle while being corrupted to accept without realizing it a worldview of domination and exploitation.

What is more disturbing in 2014 than in 1976 is that the last 40 years have borne out what we feared might be the case in 1976: increased mortality, ill-health and denial of a birthright to live in the ocean are the costs paid by an unwilling orca to line the pockets of SeaWorld with money and children’s mouths with cotton candy.

Not all the orcas on the following list were captured by SeaWorld.  They are included because they were either captured by/for or sent to United States aquariums.  But what if the legislation had been passed in 1976?  What if other countries had followed suit with similar protections in 1976 and the years preceding the captures of the ensuing years?

The following list includes those orcas captured in or after 1976 (information from Orca Home and Ceta-base) or born (including stillborn/miscarriage/fetus) to mothers or out of fathers captured in or after that year, who might not have been in captivity if the 1976 legislation had passed not only the Senate, but also the House.  For comparison, the oldest known orca living in the wild is Granny, the oldest member of the J pod, and is estimated to be 103 years old.  Deceased orcas are shown in bold text.

Dedicated to all the orca mothers and fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers who have found themselves in captivity and have lost children, parents and siblings, or seen them live only to be taken away and shipped to another tank in another city or country as a result of the morbid thing that is orca captivity:

  • Kenau (F, captured in 1976; died after 15 years of captivity)
    • Baby Shamu 2 (F, died in 1986 at 11 days old)
    • Kayla (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
      • Halyn (F, born in 2005; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed, unborn child  (both Kenau and her baby died in 1991 during Kenau’s 12th month of pregnancy)
  • Gudrun (F, captured in 1976; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
    • Taima (F, born in 1989; died after 21 years of captivity)
      • Sumar (M, born in 1998; died after 12 years of captivity)
      • Malia (F, born in 2007; has lived 7 years in captivity)
      • Stillborn child, in which Taima also dies during labor, 2010
    • Nyar (F, born in 1993; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1996
  • Canuck 2 (M, captured in 1977; died after 4 years of captivity)
  • Kona 2 (F, captured in 1977; died after 10 years of captivity)
    • unnamed fetus discovered during Kona 2′s necropsy
  • Kandu 5 (F, captured in 1977; died after 12 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillbirth, 1986
    • Orkid (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
  • Winnie (F, captured in 1977; died after 24.5 years of captivity)
  • Shawn(?) (F, captured in 1978; died after 1 year of captivity)
  • Katina (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Kalina (F, born in 1985; died after 25 years of captivity)
      • Keet (M, born in 1993, has lived 21 years in captivity)
      • Keto (M, born in 1995; has lived 19 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (Stillborn in 1997)
      • Tuar (M, born in 1999; has lived 15 years in captivity)
      • Skyla (F, born in 2004; has lived 10 years in captivity)
    • Katerina (F, born in 1988; died after 10.5 years of captivity)
    • Taku (M, born in 1993; died after 14 years of captivity)
    • Unna (F, born in 1996; has lived 18 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (F, stillborn in 2006)
    • Ikaika (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
    • Nalani (F, born in 2006; has lived 7.5 years in captivity)
    • Makaio (F, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
  • Kasatka (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Takara (F, born in 1991; has lived 23 in captivity)
      • Kohana (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
        • Adan (M, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
        • Vicky (F, born in 2012; died at 10 months old)
      • Trua (M, born in 2005; has lived 8.5 years in captivity)
      • Sakari (F, born in 2010; has lived 4 years in captivity)
      • Kamea (F, born in 2013; has lived 5 months in captivity)
    • Nakai (F, born in 2001; has lived 13 years in captivity)
    • Kalia (F, born in 2004; has lived 9.5 years in captivity)
    • Makani (M, born in 2013; has lived 1 year in captivity)
  • Kahana (F, captured 1978; died after 12.5 years of captivity, six months after miscarriage of only child)
    • Unnamed child (died during miscarriage, 1990)
  • Kotar (M, captured in 1978; died after 16.5 years of captivity)
  • Surfer Girl (F, captured in 1979; died after 9 days of captivity)
  • Vigga (F, captured in 1980; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
  • Bjossa (F, captured in 1980; died after 21 years of captivity, originally captured by Vancouver Aquarium)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1988 at 22 days old)
    • K’yosha (F, died in 1991 at 96 days old)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1995 at 1 day old)
  • Ulises (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Tilikum (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Nootka 4 (F, captured in 1982; died after 12 years of captivity, originally captured by Marineland of Ontario)
    • Unnamed (M, died in 1992 at 33 days old)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1994
  • Haida 2 (F, captured in 1982; died after 19 years of captivity)
    • Kyuquot (M, born in 1991; has lived 23 years in captivity)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1994 at 38 days old)
    • Unnamed fetus dies in 2001 with his mother in her fifth month of pregnancy
  • Samoa (F, captured in 1983; died after 8.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed near full-term baby dies in 1992 during labor with his mother
  • Splash (F, born 1989 to Nootka  5 (captured 1981) at Marineland of Canada; taken from her and transferred to SeaWorld of California in 1992, she died in 2005 after 15.5 years of captivity)

The shame of these lives and deaths should sit heavy on all our hearts.  When we have an opportunity to support legislation, whether federal, state or local, to limit and ban marine mammal captivity, we owe it to these and many other marine mammals all efforts to secure them as much of their birthright as we can.  We have denied it for far too long.

Sign to support the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.

orca

They each and every one of them had the right to live this life, but the captivity industry and its patrons took it away. Photo by the Center for Whale Research.

 

 

Deadline today to comment to NOAA: Ship-Strike Rule

Dead Northern Right Whale with the propeller marks of a ship strike. Photo by wheelock.edu

Dead Northern Right Whale with the propeller marks of a ship strike. Photo by wheelock.edu

TODAY, March 3, 2014, is the deadline to comment (click “submit comments” on link) on the “petition” to  create exceptions in the “Ship-Strike Rule” that exclude Federally-maintained dredged entrance channels and pilot boarding areas for ports from New York to Jacksonville from Vessel Speed Restrictions.

As the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finalized the Ship-Strike Rule in 2013, it received comments expressing concern for the safety of ships and pilots.  While it was not required to do so, NOAA treated those comments as a petition for rule-making, resulting in this public comment period, ending TODAY.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) provided an opportunity to add one’s name to its comment, but this opportunity ended Friday, February 28, 2014, and just in case folks missed that or if they would like to write an individual comment, I just wanted them to know that comments can be submitted by today’s deadline of March 3, 2014.

My comment, which is quite short, is far from exhaustive, and even though I am pretty certain that I signed WDC’s statement, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to send a few words and participate in the really lovely review and comment process of U.S. Federal rule-making.

I urge NOAA to not proceed with a rule-making that will undo the protections of the “Ship-Strike Rule,” that is, to “Exclude Federally-Maintained Dredged Entrance Channels and Pilot Boarding Areas for Ports From New York to Jacksonville From Vessel Speed Restrictions.” As noted in the Federal Register notice, the purpose of the original rule was “to reduce fatal vessel collisions with North Atlantic right whales.” Specifically, NOAA enacted the ship strike speed rule requiring vessels 65 feet and larger to slow to 10 knots or less during the seasons right whales are expected to be present in designated areas along the East Coast

Since the rule was initially promulgated, ship-strikes have reduced and may have been instrumental in a mild rebound of the Northern Right Whale population (although NOAA in this petition might have retained its 2008 number of 300-400, at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/shipstrike/pressrelease_effective.pdf, instead of less than 500), since it reached its ebb in the mid- to late-1990s. Since the petitioner makes no credible demonstration that the recall of the Ship-Strike Rule (1) will not result in undermining the very purpose of that Rule and (2) is necessary for safety of ship navigation, NOAA is without basis for a termination of the Rule.

The following study links ship speed directly to injuries to whales, in particular, the North Atlanta Right Whale: http://www.phys.ocean.dal.ca/~taggart/Publications/Vanderlaan_Taggart_MarMamSci-23_2007.pdf

The existing rules for governing navigational safety, Rule 2(b) of the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea, 1972 (72 COLREGS), provide sufficient flexibility to deviate from the ship speeds for purposes of safety.

Any undoing of the Rule without a clear demonstration that its rescission is necessary for a clear purpose factually supported by as a direct cause and effect relationship and that will not result in a significant resurgence of ship-strikes would be arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with law.

I therefore urge NOAA to deny the petition to create exceptions for Federally-maintained dredged entrance channels and pilot boarding areas for ports from New York to Jacksonville from Vessel Speed Restrictions.

Write a comment.  Give the Critically Endangered Northern Right Whale as much of a fighting chance as we can muster, so that we truly support their chances at avoiding extinction and making a successful annual migration from the Bay of Fundy, where they mate, to the border of Florida and Georgia, where they calve.  We owe it to them.

Northern Right Whale mother and calf. Photo from biology-blog.com

Northern Right Whale mother and calf. Photo from biology-blog.com

What other comments are outstandingWe can and should all begin to flex our review-and-comment muscles. Currently open is the comment period for the Petition To Include The Killer Whale Known As Lolita In The Endangered Species Act Listing Of Southern Resident Killer Whales. Comments for Tokitae’s inclusion on the listing with her family are due by March 28, 2014.

Thankful that the 2013/2014 Taiji Drive Hunt Season has ended

2013/2014 has been a horrid, but “point-tipping”, Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt season.

Much gratitude to the heroes that are the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, led by campaign leader Melissa Sehgal, who on a daily basis documented for all the world to see the truth of the hunt, the facts of the hunt, the CHOICES of those who support the hunt: not only the fishermen who conduct the hunt, but also the legal system that provides a “color of law” to shield the hunt, and the captivity industry in any country that provides the financial incentive for the hunt.

Much gratitude to the press with special thanks to Jane Velez-Mitchell and CNN, Reuters and other media outlets who covered the horrific nature of the hunt and made the connection between the hunt and the captivity industry.

Many thanks to the celebrities who took a clear stand against dolphin hunting and captivity, focusing on both Taiji and SeaWorld, including the very special Sam Simon, Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, David Crosby, Shannen Doherty, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett and Heart.

So proud of the individual activists who daily write letters and emails, make phone calls, stand on the front lines to protest, and use social media to spread the message: the Voice of the Orcas, the Blackfish Brigade, Sandy McElhaney, Paige Nelson, and so many others – thousands – that I could not mention them all without leaving too many out.

Finally, much pride and gratitude for the statement of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, whose tweet heard ’round the world gives significant hope that the world conversation has been forever changed by this season.

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

Be part of the solution to end dolphin hunting and captivity.  Join the communities on Facebook and Twitter to find opportunities to join the movement, to put your voice and your feet to work to free these creatures from exploitation by humans and to restore them their birthright.

Do not go to a dolphin park, aquarium or swim-with program anywhere in the world.

 

The “Hope” of the dolphin captivity industry

While not news, a story reported this week in the Tampa Tribune Online reminded us of the ways that monies move around to support the institutions dedicated to dolphin captivity.  The story recognizes that the movie industry often demands, or perhaps expects, tax incentives to arrive in “your town” to film its highly lucrative product.  These incentives do not appear out of thin air.  They are accomplished by funneling the hard-earned money of taxpayers to support selected corporate endeavors.

About midway through the article, is a recognition of how this was accomplished to support both the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the makers of the upcoming film, A Dolphin Tale 2.

The movie sequel “Dolphin Tale 2” faced a similar dilemma last year. Producers wanted to film in Clearwater but tax credit money was an obstacle.

So backers persuaded the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on $5 million in state money for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium turned over the money to producer Alcon Entertainment.

It isn’t clear whether the real shame here is that the aquarium industry is being supported, or, rather, whether it is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), in particular, is.

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds of a movie

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds incited by a movie

The shame is that the CMA and Hollywood use Winter, a dolphin whose tail fluke was so damaged by being caught in a crab trap that her fluke was removed, to make money. It really isn’t complicated.  Winter pulls on the heart-strings of people who rightly feel compassion for this unique, handicapped dolphin.  Of course she does.  All dolphins should.  But rather than have our compassion support an industry whose primary goal is to maintain captivity, we should open our eyes and find those institutions whose goal is to end the notion that captivity teaches us anything like respect for the wild ones.  That the CMA is willing to pass the $5 million to the film-maker should tell you something.

The new movie, paid for in part by that $5 million in taxpayer monies, will focus on yet another dolphin, this one named Hope, who was reportedly rescued three years ago as a baby after she stranded in the Indian River.  The rescue of stranded dolphins is a noble undertaking.  But rescue should come with the remainder of the “Rs” : Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release.

But one should consider that the same industry that wants us to believe its commitment to all three of the Rs, has seen – and been a proximal cause  for – the deaths of  91% of orcas captured since 1961 by and for their industry.  The numbers of dolphins who have died in captivity is mind-boggling when one considers that their captivity only became significant during this human generation’s lifetime.  In its defense, the CMA has released a significant number of dolphins that it has rescued. Far more, however, have died at CMA, likely because once stranded, the odds against successful rehabilitation of dolphins are low.

But it is also undeniable that Winter’s “uniqueness” is being used as capital for those who charge admission, whether to aquariums or to movies.  So, is Hope also “unique”?  Does Hope have an infirmity that prevented her release to a wild Indian River pod? Or does she, like Winter, merely “‘have that . . . something particularly interesting and readily visible’ to keep attracting visitors?

The fact remains that each dolphin is unique.  While we may not know their real names, it has been demonstrated that dolphins do know each other by something that we call “names.”  In the meantime, we call them “Winter”, “Hope”, “Tilikum”, “Lolita”, “Shaka” and we use whatever “uniqueness” we can invent via our language to justify their retention in the captive quarters of concrete tanks.

The “hope” that we should have for the dolphins is not found in a movie, the aquariums that those Hollywood productions support, or even in the successful rescue of a flukeless individual.  The real hope for the dolphins is in their freedom from captivity and in safeguarding their passage through life in an uncontaminated habitat.

While those who would put tax monies on the production of a movie, perhaps those tax monies should be utilized to find the reason that dolphins are dying in record numbers in Florida’s Indian River, to clean up the mess that has been made by years of discharge into that water body, and to stop the polluted run-off from pesticide- and fertilizer-enhanced agriculture-water.

Instead of being hope for the dolphin captivity industry, that would provide real hope for the dolphins.

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

To learn more about the captivity industry, go see Blackfish (available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon), winner of the 2014 Genesis Award for outstanding reporting and creative portrayals of animal-protection issues.

For JerryLee.  Thank you for your unwavering support for the real welfare of dolphins.