Category Archives: Dolphins

Dolphins are eating corroded metal resulting in having their stomachs pumped. Sea Life Park, Hawaii

A leak from a recent private inspection alleges the park covered up imminent building collapses, endangering the public and animals.
Photos and media release by Keiko Conservation:
WAIMANALO, HAWAII, Sept. 24, 2018 – Details of a building inspection at Sea Life Park were recently leaked, sparking serious public safety concerns. As to why the public hasn’t been alerted of this issue, “the engineer’s final report was not released, they were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement… The building is collapsing but the company doesn’t close the building according to the General Manager Valerie King, because it makes too much money.”
One building in desperate need of repair was reported to be the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the dolphin shows are held. “The structure is an open beam structure, with 12 glue-lams 40 feet long, weighing 10 tons or more,” the leak stated. Upon inspection, an engineer allegedly claimed “all of the brackets are deteriorated to the point when I touched one of the brackets it fell off in my hand,” and were told, “the dolphin’s stomachs have to be cleared due to them eating chunks of steal [sic] when it falls in the water…
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty
The brackets that tie the cross girders to the glue-lams are completely corroded due to contact to salt air as well, they have been left untreated for many years, and are no longer structurally intact.” The amphitheater surrounding the tank holds up to 700 people.
The engineer allegedly described it as “a disaster waiting to happen,” claiming, “when the wind was blowing, the building was moving, if this building collapses during a show, the dolphins, and possibly hundreds of people will be injured or possibly killed.” It was observed that General Manager, “Valerie King knows this building should be closed down for repairs, but it makes too much money to do that anytime soon, so it will someday be repaired, but it might be too late.”
It also claims Hawaii news agencies were contacted, but, “they know this park is a big attraction, draws a lot of tourism, impacts the local economy, and none of them have printed a word about this.”
This inspection was allegedly done by an engineer who “was hired from Seattle Washington, rather than a local company to keep the information from getting out locally.”
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty DLNR
The second main concern is the main entrance to the park, the shark/reef life tank building. The structure is an an enclosure which “is steel reinforced concrete, the structure is over 50 years old, the steel is completely corroded due to constant contact with salt water… The tank holds 500,000 gallons of water X 8 lbs = 4 million pounds of pressure being exerted to the sides of the building supports.” The alleged inspection also reported the ceiling is coming down in “large chunks… Large pieces of concrete as large as an estimated 1/2 ton or more are falling out of the ceiling. The building shear points are all cracked, and crumbling.”
This poses a serious safety concern to not only visitors, but employees. “There are about 20 places where the ceiling has come down, they have not been repaired yet, so they can still be seen by the public since it is directly above their heads, the building is coming down. The company plans to patch the holes in the ceiling, not tell anyone, but this is a band-aid approach to a mortal wound. This can only end badly, for the animals as well as those trapped when the building does collapse, either partially, or completely.”
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty
The third building of concern is the retail building which was reportedly in use at the time of the inspection despite having been previously condemned. “This building is said to be on the schedule to be replaced in 2 years, but that was said 5 years ago. At this point it is still in use despite the condemnation order.” A recent observation at the park found that the building has since been closed to the public.
Upon receiving this information in July, our partners contacted Hawaii’s Department of Land And Natural Resources Land Division and photographed the park a few days later. The department said they would look into it, but no further response was given, nor apparent action, despite the seriousness of the leak.
Photographs of Sea Life Park confirmed structural damage and the liability exposures. A Animal Plant And Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspection report ([link below]) from 2015 further supported claims, mentioning numerous concerns that matched the leak.
Shortly after inquiries were made, Sea Life Park quickly closed their Gift Shop and Hawaii Ocean Theater. No reported penalties to the park were given. The Shark/Reef Life Tank remains open to the public.

APHIS Inspection Reports 2010-2017

We urge members of the public to contact Barry Cheung of DLNR Land Division and ask for a building inspection to be done:

Office #: 1-808-587-0433
E-mail: Barry.W.Cheung@hawaii.gov

The “Unlawful Cetacean Captivity” Bill Makes Sense for Washington, Please Call and Let Senator Pearson Know Your Opinion

Risso's dolphin with Milton Santini, who caught the dolphins used in Flipper.
Risso’s dolphin with Milton Santini, who caught the dolphins used in the TV series, Flipper.

If you have ever dreamed of having your own dolphin or whale, you can still do it legally in Washington State – but you better hurry!  The permitting process takes a while, and the state government is now considering a bill that will close the loophole in Federal regulations that lets anyone who meets basic requirements keep their own dolphins.
The good news is that this Unlawful Cetacean Captivity bill (HB 2888) will not only prevent people from trying to keep a pet dolphin, it will also prevent roadside attractions and hotels from keeping dolphins and whales (collectively known as ‘cetaceans) too. [Please call Senator Pearson,  360.786.7676 and express your opinion by January 25th].
Kshamenk is not a SeaWorld whale, but his circumstance shows what ca
Kshamenk is an a whale in Argentina, but his circumstance shows what can happen without strong laws.

An unfortunate aspect of those privately owned dolphin exhibits is that they can be sold to anyone, anywhere. For instance both Miami Seaquarium (which has the killer whale Lolita, captured in Washington) and Sea Life Park in Hawaii are owned by a company in Spain, Parques Renunidos – technically they could ship Lolita or any of the cetaceans off to any of their dozen marine parks, worldwide.
Passing this bill will also make good economic sense for Washington  – it will save the headache and cost of permitting and overseeing the construction and maintenance of captive dolphin facilities, of addressing animal rights concerns, as well as the issue of having the federal government looking over the shoulder of the state to make sure that federal guidelines, as weak as they are, are met.
 
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Photo courtesy of the Center for Whale Research.

Washington state is also fully committed to maintaining and improving the enjoyment of wildlife and has successfully balanced the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, hunters, and fisheries and this bill definitely reflects the state’s willingness to juggle opposing interests.
From Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State January 2015:

“Outdoor recreation markets bridge urban and rural communities. Outdoor recreation provides opportunities for physical exercise, which keeps us healthy. Indeed, the recreation market is unquestionably one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building sustainable jobs in rural Washington State. Most outdoor recreation related expenditures trickle down to local economic sectors. Overall, investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure yields high returns throughout the entire state.”

In part because the state has done a good job in addressing the condition of Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea the abundance of cetaceans has increased to the point that we have gray whales coming close to shore and the stunning humpback whales have visited in increasing numbers. We can easily enjoy them from the shoreline or on whale watching vessels (which is a growing industry that brings economic gain to other businesses as well).

The Center for Whale Research has studied the Southern Resident orcas for almost forty years.
The Center for Whale Research has studied the Southern Resident orcas for almost forty years.

The endangered local population of killer whales has had a baby boom recently, and the state’s management of salmon will help insure that those whales have enough to eat going into the future while still leaving enough for anglers to enjoy.
There are no captive cetaceans in Washington State and there haven’t been for years so there are no negative consequences to any existing business.
Passing this bill is just good sense (and good cents), so please call Senator Pearson (who will decide in the coming days if the bill should go through to the next step in the Senate) and ask him to put the bill through so that the public can make comments.
[Please call Senator Pearson,  360.786.7676 by January 25th].
The bill, HB 2228:

Washington State House of Representatives Office of Program Research BILL ANALYSIS Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee HB 2888
Brief Description: Concerning cetacean captivity.
Sponsors: Representatives Van De Wege, Pettigrew, Stanford, Morris, Kuderer, S. Hunt, Appleton, Peterson, Fitzgibbon, Hurst, Pollet and Farrell.
Brief Summary of Bill Ÿ Ÿ
Creates the Fish and Wildlife Code offense of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity as a gross misdemeanor. Prescribes penalties for an Unlawful Cetacean Captivity violation of $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 364 days, or both. Hearing Date: 2/2/16 Staff: Rebecca Lewis (786-7339).
Background: Cetaceans are aquatic, marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits, with certain exceptions, the taking of marine mammals in United States waters and by United States citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States.
Permits and exemptions allow for incidental takes, scientific research, and for first-time import or capture of wild marine animals for public display. Under state law, it is a natural resource infraction to cause a vessel to approach or be in the path of a southern resident Orca whale (Orca). It is also an infraction to feed an Orca or fail to disengage the transmission of a vessel within 200 yards of an Orca. There are a few exceptions, including: engaging in a treaty Indian or commercial fishing operation that is actively setting, retrieving, or closely tending fishing gear; engaging in rescue of a beached Orca overseen, ––––––––––––––––––––––
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent. House Bill Analysis – 1 – HB 2888 authorized, or coordinated by a volunteer stranding network; or engaging in an activity permitted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Summary of Bill: The Fish and Wildlife Code offense of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity is created.
The following acts each constitute Unlawful Cetacean Captivity: Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ holding a wild-caught or captive-bred cetacean in captivity for performance or entertainment purposes; capturing or importing into the state a wild-caught or captive-bred cetacean with the intention of using the cetacean for performance or entertainment purposes; breeding a cetacean in captivity; or importing, exporting, or collecting semen, other gametes, or embryos of a cetacean for the purpose of artificial insemination.
A person may lawfully hold a cetacean for rehabilitation, rescue or stranding, or research purposes. If possible, a person or entity holding a cetacean for rehabilitation or research purposes must return the cetacean to the wild. If it is not possible to return the cetacean to the wild, the person or entity must hold the cetacean at a location approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and may not use the cetacean for performance or entertainment purposes.
A violation of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity is a gross misdemeanor and is punishable upon conviction by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment of not more than 364 days, or both.
Appropriation: None.

Miami Seaquarium and SeaWorld Celebrations Seem Inappropriate – It is Time to Retire Flipper and Shamu

snf05dol4-682_882318a ric o barry msq flipperSeaWorld is not alone in celebrating 50 years of using whales and dolphins as circus entertainment this year. Miami Seaquarium, the original film location of the popular TV series “Flipper,” is planning a year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the television program’s first broadcast, which actually featured 5 female dolphins in the role of Flipper.

Watching from the sidelines will be “Lolita”, the lonely wild-caught killer whale who lives alone with two dolphins as companions in the family run Miami Seaquarium.

“Miami Seaquarium is very proud of its association with ‘Flipper,’ the TV series, which is a classic among TV fans throughout the world,” said Andrew Hertz, president and general manager at Miami Seaquarium.

“This TV series forever changed our awareness of marine mammals and how we interact with them.  Our goal is to commemorate this momentous anniversary with a year-long celebration with special events, community initiatives and park activities.”

Activist Ric O’Barry found the series momentous as well as he caught and trained the dolphins for the Flipper show, then watched as one died in his arms. It changed the trajectory of his life. (The video clip below is from the Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove“).

The Miami Seaquarium is calling their event “A Year Full of Wonder,” and plans the following:

  • New Flipper Dolphin Show –The new Caribbean themed show, with a new set, music and behaviors will let everyone know what Flipper has been up to in recent years.  While the show demonstrates that Flipper’s surroundings may have changed, his core commitment to helping out when there is a need has not.
    New Flipper Splash Area –In the summer of 2014, the park will unveil a new water play area, located near the Flipper Stadium, designed especially for toddlers.
    “Flip it Forward, South Florida – What is “Flip it Forward?” In the popular TV show Flipper frequently “saved the day” by helping his human companions.
    The park will be encouraging everyone to ‘Flip It Forward’ through random acts of kindness. www.miamiseaquarium.com/flipitforward  provides details on how everyone can get involved in making South Florida a more caring community.

“Flip it Forward” ? I can imagine that activists will have a field day with that one, it is way too close to “Flip it Off”. ‘Random acts of kindness’ is a laudable goal – the world can use more kindness, including kindness to animals such as the parade of dolphins forced to play the part of the imaginary dolphin ‘Flipper’, or the orca “Lolita” who has lived there for nearly the entire time in a tiny tank:


SeaWorld is calling its event “Sea of Surprises” and has gotten a ‘sea of surprises’ as a tidal wave of public sentiment has turned against the confinement and treatment of the orcas in their care, as revealed in the film “Blackfish“.  My guess is that the Miami Seaquarium will have a ‘year full of wonder’ as they wonder why they thought the public would embrace a half century-old business model based on circus-like animal performances.

(Courtesy Orca Network)
Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium now(Courtesy Orca Network)

RELATED LINKS
http://www.miamiseaquariumdeaths.com
Save Lolita

SeaWorld, Russia, plus China Equals a Captive Dolphin and Whale Disaster

Will some of the recently captured orcas wind up in China?

Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods
Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods (captured for Miami Seaquarium, please see below).

SeaWorld, while  claiming that their killer whale shows are an exemplary blend of education and entertainment, has inadvertently managed to teach us that whales don’t belong in captivity, yet simultaneously they have also taught other countries – including countries such as China that have little respect for animal life – that there are huge profits to be had at the animals’ expense.
According to an article by Tim Zimmermann, A Surge In Wild Orca Capture for Killer Whale ShowsRussia’s recent capture of 10 wild orcas may result in some of them going to aquariums in China:

“It seems like China is becoming, or has become, a primary source of the demand for belugas, dolphins, and orcas alike,” says Courtney Vail, Campaigns and Programs Manager for Whale And Dolphin Conservation, which helps sponsor Hoyt’s and FEROP’s work. “Chinese facilities also source from the Taiji dolphin hunts. Twenty-four dolphins were exported from Japan to China in 2012, and CITES trade reports suggest over 60 wild-caught belugas were exported from Russia to China between 2008 and 2010 alone.”

The thought of orcas in Chinese hands is particularly onerous, as that country has no laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.  That fact, coupled with deeply held superstitious beliefs by large segments of the Chinese population means that animals in that country suffer on all levels – the fur trade, scientific research, medicine, dietary preferences, and amusement. Dogs are baked and boiled alive (thought to taste better), other animals are skinned alive for fur, then sprayed with water to keep them moist until killed for food. Bears are cut to produce bile for Chinese Medicine. (A simple google search will show you more than you want to know on animal cruelty in China.)
Live animals sealed in plastic for key chains, which will be discarded when the animal finally suffocates.
An orca in a Chinese aquarium may receive better care than most animals there are entitled to, due to the whales’ high price tag as well as to the standards set by other aquariums. In order to belong to an accredited organization, any aquarium or theme park must care for animals by certain minimum standards – but when you think about it, even in the U.S. amusement parks such as the Miami Seaquarium are able to dodge the minimum standards as set by law as well as by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In the photo of Miami Seaquarium below, one lone orca has been forced to live in a tank that is substandard in size for over 40 years. (Freelolita.org). As far as I am aware, there are no aquariums on mainland China that are even accredited at this point anyway (there are two in Hong Kong which is independently governed).

(Courtesy Orca Network)
Captured as a calf, pictured at the top. (Courtesy Orca Network)

Zimmermann points out that we can help stem the flow of wild orcas into captivity by refusing to visit the amusement parks entirely.

But as the Russian Far East threatens to become the next wild orca gold rush, tapping into a remote orca population that until now has mostly been left alone, [Researcher Erich Hoyt] sees only one way the wild orca hunts will truly stop. “A lot depends on how many people per year pay to get into SeaWorld in the U.S., as well as paying to get into the growing number of such facilities in China, Japan and Russia,” he says. “By last count, more than 120 facilities in these countries exhibit whales and/or dolphins.

In Will SeaWorld tank after expose in ‘Blackfish’?  Commentary: Stock sinks as documentary makes a big splash, the author points out the decline in SeaWorld’s stock value, and explains that as a highly leveraged company, SeaWorld may be facing some tough times ahead, due to increased public awareness resulting in part from the documentary film, Blackfish.

Shares of Orlando, Fla.-based SeaWorld (SEAS -0.58%)  have been sinking with the gradual release of this independent documentary, and are now down about 25% from highs reached earlier in the year.

SeaWorld needs to survive this debacle, I personally take no joy in the prospect of them having to close their doors because they are uniquely poised to do immense good for whales and dolphins needing our help. But if instead they choose to move their whales offshore (as they have in Loro Parque, Spain), and to support amusement parks in countries that have few regulations, then they deserve to go down in history as a truly amoral and exploitative organization.

Whales and Dolphins: Updates on the Stories of 2011

Lolita in her small tank.

Listed below are updates on some of the most compelling stories about marine mammals that occurred in 2011:

*The captive orca “Lolita” (also know as ‘Tokitae’) continues to live in a substandard tank, but a recent lawsuit may bring an end to her captivity based on the fact that she was illegally and intentionally deprived status as ‘endangered’, the status that was granted her wild kin.
*Meanwhile Lolita’s family, the Southern Resident orcas, had a good year, with three new calves and no deaths (the iconic male, J1 who was called ‘Ruffles’ because of his wavy dorsal fin was listed as dying in 2010, although2011 is the first summer he was not seen since records began in the mid 70’s. His imposing presence was missed by all to went whale watching in the Salish Sea this year). J2, Granny, was granted an 100th birthday celebration because her age range is estimated to be close to 100, although she may be as young as 70 years old – still an impressive age.
New calf, J 48, first seen December 17th. (Center for Whale Research)

Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research reports: ” As far as we know, we should be at 89 whales in the population at the moment after J16 had a new calf (now 27 whales in J pod, 20 in K, 42 in L). The new J pod calf ( J48, first documented by Northwest Fisheries Service on the 17th of Dec) is the only new addition since K44 was born in the first week of July. L90 was seen the last time that group of Ls was in the area back in early November so there is still hope she will be around next year.
Morgan on her way to Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain

*Morgan, the young orca who was rescued but ultimately who lost her bid for freedom is under duress in her present circumstances, and appears to not be accepted by other orcas. She shows what appears to be bite marks from the other whales and is constantly chased, according to reports. (Note, the video showing Morgan’s harassment has been taken down from YouTube).
For more information about this young whale’s tale of woe – rescue, court battle, and eventual loss to captivity, please see ‘ Orca whale Morgan headed to life in captivity, loses court case, loses the chance of a normal life’ and ‘Orca whale Morgan’s fate follows the golden rule: those who have the gold make the rules‘.
Is this appropriate treatment of Tilikum?

*The court trial against SeaWorld in the case of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau has not been resolved, but arguments are closed and it is before the judge: See Now We Wait, by Tim Zimmermann
*Tilikum, the whale that killed Brancheau, has had an undisclosed illness for the last few weeks, and has not performed regularly. It has been reported that he is in the medical pool at SeaWorld, Orlando.
*Ikaika, the young male orca that SeaWorld won against Marineland (see The Orca Project) in a lengthy court battle seems to have adjusted to life bobbing endlessly in SeaWorld’s tanks. To experience 10 mind-numbing minutes of the life he leads 24/7, please check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7lzA_BIeyw. No need to sit through the whole thing, it barely changes.
*Pregnant orcas – SeaWorld may have three pregnant females sired by an Argentinian male, and rumors are flying that the female who was housed with Ikaika in Marineland is pregnant as well (not confirmed). For more information, see More SeaWorld Orca Pregnancies? :

The use of sperm from Kshamenk, a killer whale who was captured in Argentina in 1992 and now lives at Buenos Aires’ Mundo Marino, is a new wrinkle in SeaWorld’s captive orca breeding program. A majority of SeaWorld’s killer whales have Tilikum’s genes, and there has been a lot of concern about a genetic bottleneck within SeaWorld’s breeding pool. Training Kshamenk to give sperm donations, and using his sperm to impregnate Kasatka and Takara adds completely distinctive Argentinian killer whale DNA to the SeaWorld sperm pool.

*Rave Dolphins – no published results for the cause of death of the dolphins that died following a Rave event at a European amusement park.

8 week movement pattern of the released pilot whales.

*Pilot whales – of the 23 that stranded near Cudjoe Key, Florida in early May just four survived, two male whales were fitted with satellite tags and were  released after being deemed healthy enough to survive in the wild.  One tag stopped working, but the other was tracked for two months.
He moved “a total of about 4100 miles (6022 KM). It moved from the Keys north to off of the South Carolina coast, and back down into the Caribbean. The last few weeks  before transmission was lost were spent off the northeastern coast of Cuba.
The whale made occasional dives to 1,000-1,500 meters, and occasionally stayed down for more than 40 minutes. These are among the deepest and longest documented dives for this species.”  http://sarasotadolphin.org/2011/09/15/freed-pilot-whale-final-update/
Two female pilot whales, Fredi and “300” are the only other survivors and they were both given to SeaWorld. Fredi, the youngest captive, seems to be healthy, but 300 developed a spinal curvature during treatment. Attempts are underway to repair the damage.
*No response from SeaWorld as to the identity of the pilot whales they claim is the original “Bubbles” from the 1960’s. (See earlier post)
*Whaling persists, against all reason. (See Environmental Investigation Agency updates.)
“Only a handful of countries still practice industrial whaling; Iceland is one of them, pursuing endangered fin whales in order to turn a profit. But rumours have persisted that there is a lack of demand for this whale meat in both Iceland and Japan, its main export market. With this in mind, EIA investigators pack their hidden cameras and attempt to locate and understand the driving force behind the trade.”

*Dolphin/whale slaughter continues in Taiji, Japan please sign the petition at Save Japan Dolphins.

*Japan has resumed their whaling sham in the Antarctic, where they claim they need in excess of 900 whales for “research”. Contact http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/whaling/

The Sea shepherd has three ships in the Antarctic in an effort to stop the whaling, one was just damaged by a rogue wave, so two of their ships are out of play while the damaged boat is escorted to Australia for repairs, so one ship remains.
*The Grey whale that spent weeks in the Klamath River died of fungus from being in fresh water so long http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/29/BA401MI7AL.DTL
*Fukushima, Japan, following the nuclear incident:Fukushima radioactive ocean pollution update:

It is highly likely that there were continued direct releases from the reactors or storage tanks, as well as indirect releases from contaminated groundwater or coastal sediments, according to the report.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owners of the Fukushima reactors, disclosed that 45 tons of highly radioactive wastewater containing strontium escaped from a treatment facility this past weekend.
“This latest news suggests that the releases have not ended, so that is of concern. If the contaminants end up in the marine sediments/muds, then they will remain there for decades to come, and thus potentially be of concern for benthic biota and consumers of benthic fish/shell fish, i.e. any local filter feeders near the source waters at the coast,” said Buesseler

Belugas are highly vocal and are nicknamed “Sea Canaries”.

*The approximate 100 belugas trapped in the ice are still able to find breathing holes and fish to eat, so may survive until a Russian icebreaker can come release them when the weather improves.
Courageous rescuers were honored for their bravery.

*43 year old Michael Cohen, who was bitten by a great white shark and saved by the heroism of strangers (and possibly the presence of a fur seal), may be confined to a wheelchair for the duration of his life due to the loss of one leg and traumatic injury to the other.  His rescuers were awarded recognition for their bravery.
*In the recent New Zealand orcas vs sharks incident it appears as though a pod of orcas was ‘fishing’ for the sharks:

The facts as  I have been able to establish them are as follows:
Location: Blue Cliffs Beach near Tuatapere, Southland
Date: 26 December 2011
No. of killer whales: 6
No. of sharks: at least 6, only one beached but others seen and filmed in the shallows
Species of shark: broadnose sevengill (Notorhynchus cepedianus)
The film and still images I have seen show a large, probably mature female sevengill stranded alive on the beach; an adult male killer whale pursuing and probably capturing at least one other in the surf zone; and a third in the wash. The whale was shallow enough that at times you could see that it was momentarily grounding as the waves drew back.
What appeared to be happening was a co-ordinated hunt of the sharks by a group of up to 6 whales, resulting in a number of sharks attempting to escape them by swimming into shallow water, several of which following the wave run-up into water so shalllow that they risked being stranded (only one did and it was left there to die by the witnesses and the carcass washed out on the next high tide).
I have seen a group of five killer whales hunting this way in Hawke Bay, North Island. They send a ‘sweeper’ in along the shore to flush fish out to the other whales which are swimming line abreast or in an arc offshore. Very effective! In the instance that I saw the ‘sweeper’ was also an adult male, and it possible that the whales involved in the Boxing Day hunt was the same pod.
Regards
Clinton Duffy
Scientific Officer (Marine Species-Fishes)
Marine Conservation Team
Department of Conservation

Please email me at candace.whiting@gmail.com if there is a cetacean story that might have been missed, and have a terrific new year!
Thanks to the Orca Network for catching a typo, and for all the great work you do!

Violent Dolphin Capture Caught On Video

(Update of a previous post)
The capture of the Southern Resident orca L-pod member, now known as “Lolita” and living at the Miami Seaquarium, was a horrifying event in which several of her family members were killed, their stomachs slit, filled with rocks, and the bodies allowed to sink. Those readers who follow this blog have probably noticed that I try to stay away from this type of really graphic information, and I do find solace in knowing that the Southern Resident orcas are now protected from that kind of violence at human hands. But the cruel practices of whaling and of capturing cetaceans continues to take place in other regions, and SeaWorld and other amusement parks have been tied to this international trade.
Two days ago (9/7/11), the violent capture and killing of dolphins resumed.  Below is a celebrity plea for you to get involved, and below that is actual video of the capture and killing method.


DOLPHIN – MY FRIEND – PSA — WATCH IT! from Dolphin Project on Vimeo.
From activist Ric O’Barry (savejapandolphins.org):

The Japanese government allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year and defends the hunts as traditional, but most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat.
The fisherman does appear to stab the dolphin behind its blowhole. But the dolphin’s death is far from quick, and couldn’t under any circumstances be considered humane. You’ll see how many of the dolphins desperately throw themselves on the rocky coastline in an effort to escape, or perhaps hasten their own inevitable death.
According to a spokesperson with the Japanese Fisheries Agency, this method “kills the dolphins instantly.” In fact, the video footage shows dolphins thrashing in agony for long minutes, amid their own blood and the screams of other dolphins being killed.

*****WARNING*****GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING VIDEO*****BUT IT IS THE REALITY OF CAPTURE*****


*For information on what you can do to help, go to Save Japan Dolphins.

The National Marine Fisheries Service Is Proposing Changes To The Regulations Concerning Captive Marine Mammals

Orca Network relayed that NOAA/NMFS has posted a notice calling for public comment on much of the verbiage and some of the rules governing their role concerning captive marine mammals. I read the 86 page document, and if you are feeling equally masochistic you can find it here, but be forewarned: it is a formal document full of cross-references and inferences.

Their official announcement is below, but even that doesn’t quite get to the heart of the matter – which is that NMFS has very little control over what happens once the marine mammals are in captivity; that responsibility rests with the Department of Agriculture (!). What they do have control over, and what is important here, is the permitting process and how thoroughly the animals are tracked once they are in captivity. If those of us who are concerned about the welfare of the orcas don’t send in comments, then the “captive display community” (theme parks such as Seaworld) will encourage NMFS to loosen the regulations because theirs will be the strongest voices.

Picture
Lolita performs for sparse audiences in a sad theme park.

Please write, call or email NMFS and ask for changes you would like to see, even though your concerns may not address the specific items being considered at this time. The window of opportunity may be open just enough to make more changes to the rules while they are undergoing modification, and it may be more difficult to get the government to go through this process again soon.

Send comments to:

P. Michael Payne
Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Room 13705
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226
Phone: 301-713-2289
Fax: 301-713-0376
Email: mmpermitregs.comments@noaa.gov

The official announcement:

NMFS is considering changes to the regulations implementing the Section 104 permit provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to clarify existing permitting procedures and to codify procedures being implemented through agency policy.

These regulations govern issuance of scientific research and enhancement permits for marine mammals, including threatened and endangered species. These regulations also cover the General Authorization for Scientific Research, photography permits, and public display permits.

Public Participation Opportunities
As part of the process, NMFS is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of promulgating revised regulations governing permit procedures and conditions. NMFS requests public participation in the scoping process that will help identify alternatives and determine the scope of environmental issues to be addressed in the EA.

NMFS has developed a Scoping Document [pdf] with proposed revisions, additions, and restructuring of the marine mammal permit regulations. This Scoping Document contains proposed regulatory language but does not necessarily represent a preferred alternative.

More information about opportunities to comment on this phase of the process can be found in the Notice of Intent [pdf] published in the Federal Register (75 FR 11130).

Comments about the EA or on the Scoping Document must be received by May 10, 2010 and should be directed to:

Mail: P. Michael Payne
Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Room 13705
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226
Phone: 301-713-2289
Fax: 301-713-0376
Email: mmpermitregs.comments@noaa.gov

Background
On May 10, 1996, a final rule was published establishing requirements for issuing permits and authorizations to take, import, or export marine mammals (including endangered and threatened marine mammals) and marine mammal parts under NMFS jurisdiction for purposes of scientific research and enhancement, photography, and public display.

NMFS published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register (72 FR 52339, September 13, 2007) proposing changes to implementing regulations (50 CFR 216, Subpart D) governing the issuance of permits under Section 104 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and solicited public input on the proposed changes or any other changes commenters deemed appropriate.

The ANPR solicited input from the public on specific recommended changes to the regulations (as listed below) and how NMFS can streamline, clarify, or change sections of these regulations to improve the process for obtaining a permit (see 50 CFR Subpart D-Special Exceptions, sections 216.30-216.45). We also considered recommendations regarding changes to any of the sections of 50 CFR part 216 prior to proposed rulemaking.

Specific recommended changes proposed in the ANPR include the following:

* Changing requirements regarding National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) determinations such that NEPA documentation is not required at the time an application is made available for public review and comment.
* Allowing only minor amendments to original permits, not major vs. minor as currently exists; any proposed change such as an increased level of take would require a new permit since the regulatory process for issuing a major amendment is currently consistent with processing a new application.
* Applying the General Authorization (GA) to research activities involving Level A harassment of non-ESA listed marine mammals; currently the GA only applies to research activities that result in Level B harassment.
* Implementing a “permit application cycle” for application submission and processing of all marine mammal permits;
* Consolidating sections of the regulations that pertain to the transfer of marine mammal parts (including those taken from non-listed stranded animals and those taken under permit from both listed and non-listed marine mammals) to provide consistency and eliminate confusion in interpretation.
* Adding provisions for long-term captive maintenance of non-releasable ESA-listed marine mammals.
* Writing regulations for photography permits such that it would be similar to the GA process.

More Information

* Permit Regulations ANPR [pdf]
(72 FR 52339, September 13, 2007)
o Text Version of Permit Regulations ANPR [txt]
* MMPA Regulations: 50 CFR 216 [pdf]
o Text Version of MMPA Regulations: 50 CFR 216 [txt]
o 50 CFR 216 by Section (with Text and PDF options)
* Summary of Public Comments [pdf] [284 KB]
* Public Comments Received [pdf] [3.8 MB]