Good News for Rescued Sea Turtles!

Parker 4

Last week, we reported that almost 200 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles from the Cape Cod area had been brought to various facilities in Florida for rescue.

Today, Keys News reported that nine of 30 turtles that were sent to Marathon Turtle Hospital have made a full recovery and will be released this week off North Florida.

The nine turtles were transported from the Marathon Turtle Hospital to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, where they are scheduled to be released later this week, according to Marathon Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach.

Unfortunately, three of the turtles died due to pneumonia-related illnesses last weekend.

We are wishing these nine good luck as they are released!

TAKE ACTION after another orca birth at SeaWorld

Yesterday, SeaWorld posted a video of Kalia giving birth to another Blackfish baby in captivity at SeaWorld San Diego. While the park celebrates, activists cringe.

Kalia is just shy of being 10 years old.  She was not given a choice, but rather she was artificially inseminated last year in order to be a “cash cow” for SeaWorld’s breeding program.  According to scientific studies, orcas in the wild do not produce their first calf until approximately 14-15 years of age.

Kalia’s calf will be the 11th killer whale housed at SeaWorld San Diego, cramped in a very small space.  Behind the Thrills seems “thrilled” at the new birth and proudly state “the calf will not be removed from it’s mother (contrary to popular belief) but will instead be kept with the mother at all times.”  It will be interesting to watch how long these two remain together before one of them is conveniently moved to a different park, perhaps overseas, Their housing together also depends on the mortality of the calf.  We are watching, SeaWorld.

Behind the Thrills goes on to give readers more “Baby whale fun facts”.  My personal favorite is “Calves are born in the water”. And we need killer whales in kept in prison to figure that out???


Please join me in taking action to ask SeaWorld to end their captive breeding program.  This needs to stop NOW!

You can sign (and share) the petition here.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles rehabbed all over Florida

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Last week, the Associated Press reported that 193 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles that stranded near Cape Cod will be shipped to Florida.

These turtles have arrived and are in rehabilitation in seven facilities across Florida.

Valley News reported

The nearly two dozen veterinarians, biologists, drivers and government officials, coordinated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, huddled in the rain waiting. As soon as the plane’s engines shut down, they went to work, counting out turtle numbers as boxes were loaded into vans.

Within 10 minutes, the first van left for a drive to an aquarium in the Keys. In all, seven aquariums from South to North Florida took some of the reptiles for rehabilitation. SeaWorld took 72 of them.

Turtles have also gone to other states recently, including 50 taken to North Carolina, 31 to Georgia, 20 to South Carolina and 14 to Pennsylvania.

The Florida turtles are likely to be released into the Gulf of Mexico, which is probably the survivors’ birth waters. More than 90 percent of nesting occurs along beaches of the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

BetaWired reported that the Florida Aquarium in Tampa will be treating 10 of these endangered turtles.

Cristy Barrett, a senior biologist at the Aquarium, says: “The point is to keep the species alive. When you lose that many turtles, you lose a lot of scientific diversity. It’s really important to save every single life that we can.” Now, Barrett and her co-workers are keeping watch over the 10 turtles they have under their care in Tampa, providing them with liquids, keeping them lubricated and tending to their injuries. The turtles will be there for at least another year, in order to ensure their survival.

The Turtle Hospital, a Keys-based facility in Marathon, is caring for 30 of the sea turtle patients according to CBS Miami.

Hospital officials said Wednesday that each cold-stunned turtle had a full physical examination, X-rays, a swimming test and was administered intravenous fluids and Vitamin D. Hospital staff is endeavoring to slowly raise the reptiles’ body temperatures with the goal of releasing them once they are deemed healthy enough to return to the wild.

Some of the turtles have secondary issues including head trauma and pneumonia.

My Panhandle reports that Gulf World Marine Park will be caring for 50 of the turtles.

Three other Florida facilities, including Sarasota’s Mote Marine Aquarium, are caring for the remaining 31 turtles.

Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the smallest species of marine turtle in the world.  They average about 2 ft. and 100 pounds in adulthood.  To learn more, visit the description at NOAA Fisheries.

Sea Turtles shipped to Florida and NOAA seeks help in Dolphin Shooting Mystery

TURTLE NEWS

The Associated Press reported yesterday that 193 sea turtles that stranded near Cape Cod will be shipped to Florida.

The New England Aquarium says the U.S. Coast Guard will ship the Kemp’s Ridley turtles to Orlando before the animals are sent to marine rehabilitation facilities.

CBS Miami reported that after the animals arrive, they are to be divided and ground-transported to the Turtle Hospital, and other Florida facilities at Disney World, SeaWorld, Gumbo Limbo and Miami Seaquarium.

DOLPHIN NEWS

NFW Daily News reports that NOAA is seeking help from the public in solving the fatal shooting of a pregnant dolphin that washed ashore on Miramar Beach on November 13.

The dolphin, which was found on the banks of Choctawhatchee Bay, was within weeks of giving birth, said Gregg Houghaboom, supervisory special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement.

“Somebody knows something,” he said. “Somebody probably heard it or was with the person who pulled the trigger.”

Houghaboom said his office is investigating the shooting as deliberate act. NOAA is accepting anonymous telephone tips to its hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

Good news for Right Whales, not so good for dolphins in the Keys

For Immediate Release, November 24, 2014 by Center for Biological Diversity

 Feds Agree to Protect More Habitat for East Coast’s Most Endangered Whales by 2016

BOSTON— A deadline for expanding critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales — has been set in response to a legal settlement agreement. Each year most of the 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining on Earth migrate from their feeding and breeding grounds off the U.S. Northeast to their nursery areas off the Southeast. But only a tiny portion of this expansive range is protected as federally designated “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act, making the whales more vulnerable to threats that include commercial fishing gear, ship strikes and oil drilling.

The settlement requires the federal government to make a final decision by February 2016 about where and how much additional habitat should be protected.

Animals in captivity didn’t fare as well today.

British Airways refuses to cut ties with SeaWorld.  With over a quarter of a million signatures on the petition, Jonathan Counsell, British Airways head of environment sent out the following update:

We have actively sought the views of and evidence from a range of people and organisations including the leading NGOs in this field on the issue of cetaceans in captivity. 
We welcome the extensive work undertaken by ABTA in publishing best practice guidance for the welfare of animals in tourism, particularly in countries where laws do not govern animal welfare. SeaWorld has assured us that its animal care standards exceed this best practice guidance and are governed by US federal and state laws alongside accreditation standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Further, SeaWorld does not collect cetaceans from the wild and has not done so for nearly three decades.

On this basis we currently see no reason to end our relationship with the organisation. We will continue to offer our customers the option to make their own decisions on whether to visit SeaWorld.

We recognise that the science of cetacean welfare is evolving and we encourage further study in this area.

Dolphin Research Center, located in Marathon, is offering “Holiday photos with a dolphin”, the very definition of exploitation.  According to Virtual-Strategy Magazine,

Holiday Photos with a Dolphin takes place now through Dec. 19 at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon. Visitors can bring their own Santa hats, reindeer antlers or other accessories to use while posing. The Dolphin Research Center’s experienced photographers will shoot the photos using high resolution digital cameras. Guest can go onto a floating dock to give backrubs and share a “flippershake” with a dolphin while having their photo taken.

Feel free to contact DRC to ask them to stop exploiting dolphins at drc@dolphins.org

Conservation groups file lawsuit for Sea Turtle Protection

turtle release

According to the Associated Press,

SARASOTA, Fla. – Several conservation groups filed lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. They alleged the government’s role in allowing the deaths of thousands of imperiled sea turtles and countless other marine animals outside of power plant cooling systems.

The Center for Biological Diversity said it filed the lawsuit in federal court on Friday.

The groups say thousands of sea turtles get sucked into power plant cooling systems each year, including at the Big Bend, Anclote, Crystal River, Bayside and P.L. Bartow plants in Florida.

Sea turtle species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

SeaWorld Tries, and Fails, to Improve Their Image

Just another day at the office?

Orca Cow Office

SeaWorld is desperate.  Last week, the park reported dismal 3rd quarter earnings.  Orlando’s WESH 2 put things into perspective:

While SeaWorlds’ dismal earnings reports may be the result of a combination of factors, a look at the performance of SeaWorld Shares since  “Blackfish” was released is revealing.

When “BlackFish” was released in July 2013, the share price was around $38, but a decline begin and in August 2014, after a discouraging second quarter earnings report, the stock dropped to $27. As of Wednesday, it was down to $16, which is a 43 percent decline.

Financial analysts agree.  SeaWorld Flops It’s Most Important Quarter of the Year…the headline says it all.

The first performance indicator which is suffering is park traffic. Attendance in the summer quarter fell from 8.9 million last year to 8.4 million this year, a 5.6% drop. The third quarter of the year is SeaWorld’s most profitable season, but it’s impossible to make money if guests aren’t spinning the turnstiles.

The next place to look is revenue. The 5.6% drop in park attendance carried over to an 8% decline in total sales. That’s a pretty bad sign. Not only are fewer people showing up to SeaWorld, they’re also spending less money.

SeaWorld is trying desperately the improve their image.  However they continue to miss the boat.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Atchison told analysts last week that SeaWorld has hired new people with expertise in public affairs, along with outside advisers “to help us navigate some of this.”  SeaWorld plans to spend an additional $10 million on marketing next year.  SeaWorld points out it is also embarking on a “major multimillion-dollar partnership focused on protecting the ocean” but is not yet providing details. Earlier this year the park committed $10 million for killer-whale research at the same time it announced plans to nearly double habitat for its orcas (although specific plans have not been revealed).

None of this changes that fact that SeaWorld has NO PLANS to stop breeding their killer whales in captivity, retire their collection or phase out their shows.  In fact, according to Businessweek today…

For Atchison, there’s no tension between his responsibility to shareholders and the welfare of SeaWorld’s animals. “Our killer whales, our killer whale program, and all of our animals are emblematic of the whole brand. I have to protect our brand. I have to grow our brand. How we care for those animals may make me feel good morally, but that is also my fiduciary responsibility.”

Atchison says SeaWorld will continue with its killer whale shows and its captive killer whale breeding program, though it’s promised larger habitats and better safeguards for trainers. The Blue World Project, a 1.5-acre, 50-foot-deep killer whale habitat to be built in San Diego, will cost about $300 million. Atchison insists that whales at SeaWorld enjoy “great lives, full lives. I think they have enriching and socially well-adjusted lives, but you do not know what animals are thinking or feeling. You cannot know. What’s interesting to me is that so much of those who criticize us are basing that on their own opinions.”

But the story gets even more disturbing.  Writer Karl Taro Greenfeld shares his story of grabbing a cup of coffee with Fred Jacobs, vice president of communications, at a town hall meeting in September.   As Greenfeld adds milk to his coffee, Jacobs shares “I once had killer whale milk. I’ll starve to death before I have that again. It tastes like fish. It’s got like 15 times more fat than cow milk.” SeaWorld’s domestic breeding program, in addition to frequent testing of pH levels to see when female whales are ovulating, also stores plenty of killer whale milk in case a mother rejects her calf. Apparently, the staff used to taste the milk, and nobody gave much thought to that.

SeaWorld execs drinking killer whale milk and veterinarians collecting semen is not the way to win over the public. If they truly want to revive their image they need to take a close look at why people are not visiting the park.

Yes, SeaWorld does great work in their rescue and rehabilitation program.  Turtle Trek is the most educational and informative exhibit in their Orlando park. Sadly, it is also the smallest exhibit and it is tucked in the far back corner away from traffic. Turtle Trek houses manatees and sea turtles who are either in rehabilitation and awaiting release or deemed unfit for release.  These animals are not performing shows and are not bred in captivity.  To truly reinvent themselves, these local animals’ stories should be brought to the forefront.  Manatees and sea turtles suffer greatly due to boat strikes, fishing line, crab traps, cold stress, etc.  Engaging the public on these issues would be meaningful, tangible education.

In the meantime, SeaWorld needs to wake up the fact that the PUBLIC, not just animal activists, are over watching killer whales doing tricks for food.  It is a tired, old way of thinking that does not give a true perspective of who killer whales are or any real challenges they face.  If the park was providing accurate education about killer whales, it would be obvious that animals who travel in family pods, hundreds of miles per day, with incredible intelligence do not cope well with captivity. Instead, lets concentrate on the face that the Southern Resident population is dwindling due to lack of chinook salmon, boat traffic, and simply still trying to recover from the captures of decades ago.

There is a simple, quick fix to the problem.  Stop breeding, stop shows, and retire your collection.  The decision to do the right thing would not take $10 million in marketing or PR to improve their image, money which would be better spent on building sea pens to retire their whales.  Only then will everyone be comfortable visiting the park again…and SeaWorld will be the hero.