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

Taiji Week 10 – November 3-9

It has been a bad week for Risso’s dolphins in Taiji.  The week started out with more blue but ended up very, very red.

Sunday there was no hunting due to a “whale festival” in Taiji.  Day 28

Monday, the fisherman went out and found a pod, but they gave up before reaching the cove.  Day 29

Tuesday there was tragedy.  The killers found a pod of Risso’s dophins and herded them into the cove.  According to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, one Risso was chosen for captivity and the rest were brutally slaughtered under the tarps of shame.  It was a heartbreaking day in Taiji.

Wednesday and Thursday, the fisherman went out but returned empty-handed.

Friday the short streak ended.  According to Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, after a 6 hour fight, 9 Risso’s dolphins were herded into the cove.  Four were chosen for captivity, four were slaughtered and a baby was dumped back at sea surely not to survive.

The trend continued this morning as another pod of Risso’s were herded into the cove.  Every one of them were slaughtered under the guilty, yet heartless killers’ tarps, including a baby.  What a senseless act of cruelty!

Hearts are heavy this week with so many Risso’s dolphins losing their lives.

Taiji Week 8 – Oct. 20-26

Mainly due to heavy winds and rains, it has been a BLUE WEEK in Taiji all week, for a total of 20 consecutive days of no dolphin killing or capture!

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians report last Sunday, Dolphin Base in Taiji has added another drape to prevent viewing or photographing a lone beluga.  I can’t help but wonder how this beluga and the dolphins in the sea pens have coped with the storm, being slammed against the walls of the tiny enclosures.

Monday was the only day the fisherman were able to go out due to weather and thankfully they came back empty-handed.  I hope all in Japan stay safe during the storm, but I am thankful that the dolphins passing by have remained safe.

Have you seen the Dolphin Project’s new PSA teaser?

http://vimeo.com/77548465

Please sign Ric O’Barry’s petition to President Obama to ban all whale and dolphin captures from US waters.  This is SO IMPORTANT!

Taiji Week 5 – Sept. 29-Oct. 5

This has been a blue week for the most part in Taiji.  Sunday, the fisherman went out and came back empty-handed, and the blue trend continued for the next  three days.  This was particularly good news since the fisherman were officially permitted to begin the slaughter per their WAZA agreement starting on October 1.

Thursday, the banger boats found a pod and started driving them into the cove but the dolphins got away.  What a celebration – 15 days of blue!

Unfortunately the celebration all came to an end on Friday when a large pod of pilot whales were herded into the cove and netted off, left overnight.  Cramped, scared and hungry, this pod was left to await the slaughter that was surely expected this morning.  However, due to heavy rain and strong wind this morning, the slaughter was delayed.

According to Melissa Sehgal’s facebook page:

Heavy rain and strong wind delay slaughter. This family of Pilot whales continue to fight the strong current and keep getting tossed by high tides against nets and rocks. There are juveniles and many young babies less than a few months old within this pod. Chances of survival for the young are very slim after adult mother whales are slaughtered. For more details visit Imagewww.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/

I can’t imagine how panicked and hungry they must feel after being cramped and hungry for 2 days.  How cruel!

 Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians took a break from the cove this week to film this video of dolphins at night in the Taiji Whale Museum.  It is heartbreaking to watch them bored and calling out.
You can also read a commentary by Scott West regarding IMATA’s stand towards dophins being taken into captivity by drive fisheries.

The SeaWorld hole gets deeper

SeaWorld keeps digging themselves deeper and deeper in the hole.

Last month they came out with eight assertions regarding the documentary Blackfish. Those were soon proven wrong by David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, and the Blackfish film itself.  The controversy spawned a media flurry, only drawing more attention to the film and the absurdity of the assertions.

This week, Orlando Sentinel’s Jason Garcia reported that SeaWorld’s 2nd quarter earnings have tanked.  SeaWorld lost $15.9 million in their second quarter.  Total revenue slipped 3 percent.  Total attendance dropped 9% during the quarter.

In true SeaWorld style, they listed several excuses for the loss, mainly the unusual rain in Florida.  Really???  Neither Disney nor Universal cited weather as a factor in their earnings.  Poor weather in Virginia and an early Easter holiday were other excuses listed.

SeaWorld also said that part of the loss was intentional due to their recently raised ticket prices.  Costs associated with the recent stock offering also contributed to the loss.

SeaWorld believes that the new Antactica: Empire of the Penguin is going to make up for the loss in upcoming months, but the attraction has gotten mixed reviews and Blackfish continues to gain momentum, passing the $1 million at the box office last weekend.

The New York Times has reported that Blackfish has also caused Pixar to review and change the ending to the upcoming sequel of “Finding Nemo”, which initially had an ending involving a marine park.  Pixar has decided to rewrite that part of the story so that fish and mammals have the option to leave.  Although it is still confusing as to WHY an animal would CHOOSE to live in a marine park, but the change is still a positive one, none the less.

This could get very interesting as Pixar is included in Walt Disney Studios.  Disney’s Epcot theme park houses dolphins in it’s Living Seas exhibit.  Perhaps this will cause them to reflect on the inappropriate nature of having these dolphins on display.

What’s Killing Manatees, Pelicans and now Dolphins in Florida?

Florida manatees are already at risk, but with 80 reported deaths in Brevard County since July, there is major concern.  There have also been 230 pelican deaths in the past several weeks and 23 dolphin deaths since January.

In an article in Florida Today, Kevin Baxter of Fish and Wildlife Research Institute reports twenty five of these manatees have died between March 10 and March 21 alone.  They are drowning with signs of shock and intestinal problems.  Digestive tracts are filled with macroalgae and show little sign of their usual seagrass diet.

Seagrass has almost vanished after a phytoplankton “superbloom” in 2011 followed by a brown algae bloom.  Excess algae grows when too many nutrients from fertilizer runoff or septic tanks enter the estuary.

Tests run in February by US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for botulism in pelicans came back negative.

Biologists have not been able to identify any pathogen, algae toxin or other substance killing the manatees and pelicans.  At this point they are not even sure if the deaths are related.  The lab is culturing samples to test for bacteria and viruses, which should take a few weeks.

NOAA is examining whether the manatee and dolphin deaths are linked.  Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator, stated, “Right now, we have a correlation in location, but we’re not seeing much else.  We’re monitoring the area very close”.   The dolphins are reported to by very skinny and were mainly adult females.  A few had shark bites, but it is not clear whether the bites came before or after death.  Tissue samples have been sent to veterinary pathologist for testing to look for heavy metals, contaminants and toxins.

Typically 600-700 dolphins live in Indian River Lagoon.