Tag Archives: dolphin capture

SeaWorld May Have a Type of Dolphin New to Their Collection: Spotted Dolphin Rescued in Florida

Update 1/27/12:  The dolphin is at SeaWorld’s rehab facility in their Orlando amusement park – no surprise there.
A spotted dolphin was rescued Wednesday on a Panama City Florida beach, but where is she now?
Did she go to SeaWorld/Hubbs Research Institute, or to SeaWorld amusement park?

An article about SeaWorld’s latest attempt to rescue a dolphin relays that the dolphin was taken to Hubbs-SeaWorld Institute, Orlando –  but Hubbs is in Melbourne Beach,  east of Orlando, farther away from the beach where the dolphin was found. She may in fact be headed to SeaWorld’s new rescue and rehab facility instead.
Either way, they anticipate a long recovery and eventual release ‘if possible’:

PANAMA CITY BEACH — A dolphin stranded at St. Andrews State Park that was rescued by Gulf World Marine Park employees was on her way to the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Orlando on Wednesday for long-term rehabilitation.
Gulf World’s veterinarian Lydia Staggs found inflammation in the abdomen of the adult female Atlantic spotted dolphin. She said she was unsure what the cause was, but further testing would be done once the dolphin arrived in Orlando. She said the inflammation was not due to a live fetus.

“We say it’s a guarded prognosis because we haven’t diagnosed what is wrong with her,” Staggs said. “When they get down there, they’ll probably do another ultrasound and radiographs, which are X-rays.”
Staggs said if people find a dolphin stranded, they should never try to get it back out into the ocean.

“Don’t release them; call us. … Do not push them back out in the water. We would appreciate that,” Staggs said.

I’m sure that they would ‘appreciate that’ – but be careful who you call.  Gulf World is a privately owned company based in Alabama.  It is part of a stranding network, but these are not necessarily on the up and up.

For instance the Florida Marine Mammal Stranding Network Southwest Region,  although listing itself as a non-profit has had its status revoked by the IRS for not filing the appropriate forms for three consecutive years, and according to Guidestar “Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.”

Legitimacy Information

  • This organization is not registered with the IRS.
  • This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.

Instead, contact one of these individuals if you find a marine mammal that needs help in the Gulf/coastal areas of Florida :
Blair Mase-Guthrie (Blair.Mase@noaa.gov), Stranding Coordinator
National Marine Fisheries Service
75 Virginia Beach Drive
Miami, FL 33149
Phone: (305) 361-4586; Fax: (305) 361-1462

Erin Fougeres ( Erin.Fougeres@noaa.gov), Stranding Program Administrator
National Marine Fisheries Service
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: (727) 824-5312; Fax: (727) 824-5309

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.
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!

Horse Slaughter, Dolphin Slaughter – Isn’t There a Better Solution?

Last month’s passage of a budget bill that authorizes federal funding for USDA inspections of horse meat quietly gave the green light for the re-opening of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Over 100,000 American horses — both domestic and wild — are slaughtered each year, suffering the ultimate betrayal and cruelest of fates.  For more information, please read  ‘A Victory for the horse killers’
Whether the subject is dolphins or horses, it seems that a handful of humans can always manage to find ways to circumvent popular opinion in order to profit from the slaughter of some of the world’s most beloved animals.

Dolphin Slaughter

Helicopter Stampede

Whether slaughter is a viable alternative to the problem of excess horses is a question that merits consideration, but ultimately, as a nation, we have to decide how we can control the factory farms and corporations that are behind the slaughter. Mustangs are killed to keep their numbers in check – so that ranchers can run cattle on public lands, not out of any abstract concept that we humans know what is best for the horses.
Just as ranchers want to control mustangs, in parts of the world dolphins are killed because people think they are in competition for fish – and in the U.S. this argument has been used to ‘manage’ seal and sea lion populations. 

The following is an excerpt from a  newsletter that weighs the pros and cons with respect to horses, yet it touches on the larger issues of social responsibility:
“Hello Island Trail Riders Club Members:
“The reason we fought against the selling of horse-meat so many years ago was because they were rounding up wild horses with helicopters, running them into the ground till babies dropped and the mares stayed with them in exhaustion. The rest of the herd ran till they dropped, broke a leg or were roped from the copters with tires attached to exhaust them. All for dollars from the pet food market.
“Our fight was a good fight for wild horses, I thought we won. I understand the argument for humane reasons, I just want to see the most humane treatment of the unwanted. All we can hope for is that we get good discussions going till we, the horse community, come up with a solution
This  is a thoughtful letter from one of our members;

“Another big stumbling block to my mind anyway, is that we have 2 very different horse  situations going on. But because they both have to do with horses they seem to get lumped together and make for such  an overwhelming dilemma that people throw up there hands and think yep, we got to have slaughter. With that kind of mentality what are we really going to end up with in the end?
Our wild horses  who can think And take care of themselves just fine, hardy as hell, great hooves, genetically diverse, provide food for other wildlife-oh,no wait a minute, we’re killing off their predators too) will be managed to unviable herds, losing all the high quality traits, social structure they are known for and truly be worthless. Managed to death. So that we can enjoy getting fat on hamburgers and have heart attacks. Oops, sorry, I’m getting off the point.
Our domesticated varieties are Our Responsibility and unfortunately we don’t always breed for quality traits. Don’t get me wrong, my hat is off to the credible breeders, but when you breed same to same, or, lets just see what those two will make, or, lets breed for  speed, color, size,  hair or trend, we are loosing the mind, stamina, hardiness of the horse. How many domesticated breeds have we bred to death ? Track horses, bred for one thing and it aint longevity. And if they aren’t lining somebody’s pocket , well, you know the rest of the story. Only the very fastest make the grade, I wonder how many lives are created and dumped to get that fastest horse and even he will be dumped in short time.
My point being that there are lots of reasons not to go along with Slaughter. If we really are Horse lovers- in the true sense- we’re going to one day want to go back to their God given traits . We won’t find them on public lands because they will have been “managed” down to retarded misfits. If we condone Slaughter we’re not only doing a disservice to the horse, condoning irresponsible behavior, setting a bad example to our children, the world,  but we’ll end up shooting ourself in the foot too. Where will we find genetic diversity?
I think Mustangs and the BLM round- ups are one issue and ownership of Domesticated animals is another. And to me factory farming is no different than inhumane horse slaughter. Animals in our care deserve Our Care. Wether they are raised for meat or pleasure there is no excuse to be cruel or negligent. Those that are should be dealt with accordingly, not the animal goes off to slaughter. We don’t send kids to slaughter because their parents are irresponsible —-ups.
It should be a privilege to have animals and if we abuse that privilege there should be consequences. If we buy it or breed it , it’s Our responsibility.
I’m a good listener but I can’t abide arguing for argument sake. Lets talk, be open minded and come up with a solution.
Horse lover, if you’re gonna eat hamburgers buy the meat that has been raised responsibly. If you’re gonna get a horse think of it like marriage (well, like we used to think of marriage- through sickness and health, till -natural or humanely- death do we part sort of thing). If you’d like to have a horse but can’t afford it, can’t make that kind of commitment, help out at a rescue, there’s so many ways to be with horses that don’t cost anything. If you have a horse but are struggling, Ask for help! If you see an abuser  report the situation. But let’s not take our shortcomings out on the innocent.” (Anonymous).

Happy Trails,
Theresa Simendinger”
What you can do:  http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6931/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8967

SeaWorld, Japan, and the Harderwijk Dolphinarium Linked in International Whale Exploitation Since the 1980’s

This video segment, taken from the feature length documentary “A Fall From Freedom” illustrates the way that marine amusement parks have skirted regulations for decades and continue to thumb their noses at regulations designed to protect wildlife.  SeaWorld is documented to have obtained whales from the brutal capture in Japan (see previous post), and then “laundered” them through the Middle East and the Dutch aquarium where the animals were used as barter.

Now SeaWorld is again working with the Harderwijk Dolphinarium in The Netherlands in an attempt to get the young orca that was found separated from her family in the Wadden Sea last year. After originally stating that they intended to restore the little orca to health and release her back to the wild, the aquarium quickly called in SeaWorld veterinarians and it was not long before the aquarium began to reverse its initial position.
Plans were laid to transport the whale, now called Morgan, to the Loro Parque amusement park in the Canary Islands (off the coast of Africa) where SeaWorld houses, and breeds, some of their whales. For a while it seemed inevitable that Morgan would wind up another captive, destined for a life of circus shows and as a cash cow for SeaWorld’s captive breeding program.
But Morgan has a team of attorneys fighting to give her a chance to be returned to the wild – to live free with her family – and the government of The Netherlands is now debating what to do. If they decide to cave into SeaWorld and send the young orca to Loro Parque, Morgan’s legal defense team will appeal the decision.
They need your help – please go to Morgan’s Legal Defense Fund at the Orca Coalition to make a donation or to learn more about the importance of this young whale’s legal appeal.

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.


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

SeaWorld Is Tied to the Annual Taiji Dolphin Slaughter In This Provocative Film: Watch It For Free Then Share With Your Community

The full-length version of this visually stunning and emotionally engaging film, A Fall From Freedom, is available for free viewing on the movie’s website here (it may take a few minutes to load). Better yet, you can download it for pocket-change or purchase the dvd to share with friends, family and colleagues at a screening party in your home, and spend some time discussing what you can do to help stop the brutality towards the gentle whales and dolphins that share our planet.
Most crucial right now are the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, due to start next month, and the effort to return the rescued orca Morgan to the wild. The filmmaker, Stanley M. Minasian, is dedicated to educating the public on these and other critical issues, and is fully supportive of any efforts made to help these animals that have no voice of their own. And remember, there is nothing that you might choose to do that is so small that it won’t make a difference.  It all matters – from signing petitions to showing up in person in Taiji – it will help.

A Fall From Freedom trailer from OdyseeTV on Vimeo.

Narrated by Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H, Providence), A Fall From Freedom digs deep into the history of the captive dolphin and whale industry. Topics covered in the film include:
-Sea World representatives secretly promoted the Japanese dolphin drives where thousands of animals are driven to shore and brutally killed, in order to provide their parks with replacement animals, says Dr. John Hall, former Sea World biologist.
-There is no educational value to having whales or dolphins in a captive environment, states former Sea World biologist Dr. John Hall and former Sea World killer whale trainer Dr. John Jett.
-Contrary to the claims of many marine parks and aquariums, captive killer whales die far more frequently and at a far earlier age than they do in the wild, says Dr. Naomi Rose, biologist for Humane Society International.
-Sea World has been involved in illegal and unethical actions to assure their parks are well stocked with killer whales, states former Sea World biologist Dr. John Hall.
-The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums has worked tirelessly to reduce government oversight on the health and well-being of captive whales and dolphins, states Dr. Naomi Rose.
-Sea World representatives have claimed that whales and dolphins are not highly intelligent, sophisticated, and social animals. Dr. Lori Marino, a leading expert on killer whale intelligence and social dynamics, asserts that their intelligence and social dependence is second only to humans.
-Sea World and other marine parks claimed that the rehabilitation and release back to the wild of Keiko, star of the Free Willy movie, was a failure from the start. Dave Phillips of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation argues that the project was a rousing success, which proved that these animals can be taken from captivity, rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

Japan’s Swim-With-Dolphins Programs: A Paradox

(Photo from Tamagide)

While researching the possible effects of nuclear contamination on coastal bottlenose dolphins in Japan, I happened to stumble across websites that promote eco-tours to swim with wild dolphins offshore of Tokyo, and also a program to swim with a captive Risso’s dolphin in Taiji.  At first glance this seems paradoxical, given Japan’s reputation for viewing dolphins as food, and Taiji’s documented cruelty (savejapandolphins.org).
Yet in many ways that is not so different from our own country – we have only to look back forty years or so to find an era when whales were killed for dog food and plant fertilizer, orcas were shot or driven away with underwater explosives by fishermen who saw them as pests, and all marine mammals were considered fair game.  At the same time we watched episodes of ‘Flipper’ on TV, and the navy started to use dolphins in underwater work.  And now, even with public sentiment against it, we allow government officials to kill the sea lions that lurk near dams and eat “our” salmon. We allow for native “subsistence” whale hunts with modern equipment.
Nope, the Japanese are not so different from us, really.
What is different is what we have learned from observing dolphins and whales in the wild, either through field research or  whale watching excursions (as well as other eco-tours), and Japan is just beginning to encourage these interactions. When there is more profit in tourism than in selling the meat, dolphins  and whales will enjoy more protection worldwide.
Location of swim-with-dolphins (wild) in Japan.

Here is a sampling of the Japan tours (they take place in a region that is safe from long term radiation contamination – more on that soon) followed by a video of the Taiji experience:
Diving with dolphins in the Izu Islands “There are around 150 dolphins living in the area,” Taguchi explains on the choppy boat ride to Mikura. “Most of them we can recognize by scars or the shapes of their fins.” My guide, as it turns out, is both an animal lover and a passionate conservationist with an informative blog and educational children’s book to his credit. He became hooked on Mikura’s dolphins after a diving trip in the 1990s with the late Jack Moyer, a leading American marine ecologist and former resident of Miyake who pioneered efforts to protect the fragile ecosystems of the Izu Islands.”
Swim with Wild Dolphins in Japan “Mikura’s dolphins are the species of Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins but they are different from the bottlenose dolphins that are widely known in some points.(For example, they are smaller than bottlenose dolphins and their beak is relatively longer and more slender.)
About 200 dolphins inhabit around Mikura island.
And 160 dolphins are identified.
They generally live in groups.
You might see three kinds of groups of dolphins.
1.Group of mothers and children. In this group, young females often join them.
2.Group of young males.
3.Group of adult males.
But the each groups are loose and could have dolphins of the other groups in it.”
The Taiji experience borders on Fellini-esque (Fellini made films that were bizarre, in a normal way)-


swim with whale by daysinjapan
“The dolphin is usually kept in an enclosure by the Taiji whale museum/aquarium. However, for two times a day in the summer, they enlarge the enclosure to include a beach area, allowing tourists to get into the water and swim alongside the big dolphin.”

American Dolphin Observers Experience Hospitality in the Midst of the Japan Earthquake

The people of Japan are showing the world how to face cataclysmic tragedy with dignity, even as they continue to be pummeled by the trifecta of earthquake, tsunami, and damaged nuclear reactors.  Short on food and water, the people of Japan stand in orderly lines and wait patiently for aid.  The winter temperatures reach down to freezing, and parts of the country are without power.  Yet there is no looting, no gangs, no violence among the citizens.
A group of Americans who were in that country to observe dolphin capture narrowly missed being in the path of the tsunami, and in the midst of their own difficulties the Japanese people reached out to help.  The following is taken from dolphin activists Ric O’Barry’s account of the events, be sure to visit the web page to get the full story.

COVE Volunteers Safe After “Apocalyptic” Experience; Taiji Dolphins Perish

March 13, 2011

By Ric O’Barry Save Japan Dolphins

As we reported yesterday, volunteers from Save Japan Dolphins and Sea Shepherd were in Iwate Prefecture, which was one of the areas hit the hardest by the earthquake and tsunami.   They were monitoring the Dall’s Porpoise hunts when the earthquake hit.  Thankfully, today we can report that they are all safe, and on their way home!
After the earthquake hit, both teams headed for the mountain overlooking the city of Otsuchi.  The tsunami hit almost immediately after Brian’s last video post, http://media.causes.com/ribbon/1032459.  They watched in horror as the tides rescinded and then came back with such fierce velocity that the city was quickly submerged.  When it ended, they descended into absolute turmoil.  The city was ravaged – cars toppled, houses and buildings totally destroyed.  Bodies were strewn about – one in a tree, others in cars, several in the wreckage.  We can’t begin to imagine how horrible it must have been.
…It was impossible to drive, so the teams opted to walk to Tono, roughly 30 miles away.  All along the way they ran into locals, who in the midst of their own nightmares, went out of their way to help, offering food, shelter and complete compassion.  Imagine – at this dire moment when they are facing such loss and an uncertain future – they reach out to complete strangers and offer their help.  We are so grateful to them.  Several times our volunteers were given rides towards Tono.

*The bottlenose dolphins which had been captured in Taiji were not able to survive the wave action generated by the tsunami.

Gratitude Towards Japan; We Should Be Showing Appreciation for Their New Stance on Whaling

Japan’s recent decision to halt whaling efforts deserves our appreciation, and in my opinion that proud nation is worthy of respect for choosing to back down on such a polarizing issue.  Yes, all those who campaign so arduously to see the end of commercial whaling have reason to celebrate, and I think those who put their lives at risk to intercede on the whales’ behalf are heroes, for they represent all that is noble about standing up to protect what is vulnerable in this world.  But I am somewhat appalled by the tone of gloating that has cropped up in some of the news articles and blogs, and I just think that it is time we all look to reaching across the ocean and giving Japan a virtual bow and a handshake.
The reasons behind Japan’s decision are no doubt complex, and include the fact that the Japanese people are learning that whale meat is highly contaminated and are less inclined to purchase it than they have been in the past.  So once again, economics plays a huge part…but then so does the Japanese’ unwillingness to ramp up the game against the protesters, an unwillingness to take human life in order to pursue commercial hunting.  They risked ‘losing face’ in that move, and I think we should offer it back while the time is still fresh.
And least we forget, it has only been a matter of decades since the U.S. closed the last whaling station. “The United States closed its last whaling station in 1971, the Del Monte Whaling Station, at Richmond, California (near San Francisco). These last whales were primarily ground up for dog food.” http://www.marinebio.net/marinescience/06future/whmod.htm

QUEST on KQED Public Media.
The United States and other anti-whaling nations often have difficulty in understanding the stance of Japan, as explained in this article from Japan Intercultural Consulting:

Mar 23, 2010
By Rochelle Kopp, Managing Principal, Japan Intercultural Consulting
“…In American culture, there is an underlying assumption of equality, that even people of different ranks are basically the same and should be treated in a similar way. Thus, even someone who is higher than you in the hierarchy is someone who is ok to disagree with. However, Japan along with other Asian cultures has the concept of “face” (mentsu). To disagree with someone in public, thus causing them embarrassment, is to make them “lose face” (mentsu wo ushinau). On the other hand, something that helps to build up a person in front of others can be said to “give face” (kao o tateru). The VIP treatment that Japanese are so good at giving to honored guests and high-ranking people can be seen as an example of “giving face.”
The desire to avoid causing loss of face for oneself, one’s organization, or for others can be said to be the motivation behind many things that Japanese organizations do that are puzzling to Americans. For example, some Americans report that Japanese companies seem reluctant to admit mistakes or discuss problems publicly. Or that Japanese will avoid expressing disagreement with their boss, even if what the boss is proposing is something that they think is not a good idea. Or that Japanese stationed overseas will avoid criticizing the parent company even when, in the eyes of American employees, such criticism is clearly deserved. The persistent fear of loss of face is behind these otherwise inexplicable behaviors.
The instinct to preserve face is something so ingrained in Japanese culture that many Japanese are not aware that it influences their behavior. It’s not something that Japanese often talk about – it’s just that when it comes to the realm of face, the warning bells automatically start to flash.
“Face” was not a concept that even existed in English before westerners encountered Chinese and Japanese cultures in the 19th century. American and other western cultures tend to put a lot of focus on straightforwardness — “telling it like it is” and “calling a spade a spade.” Worrying about someone’s feelings – which is basically what “face” is –is not something that is considered to have the first priority in western business culture. Rather, facts and the truth are given the highest degree of emphasis, feelings be damned. What many Americans fail to realize when working with Japanese, however, is that failure to pay attention to matters of face can cause such offense that it may completely sour the business matter at hand. In other words, feelings truly are important.”
This article originally appeared in Asahi Weekly.
My guess is that there is still a huge battle ahead, within Japan as well as internationally about what happens next.  Japan may lobby to restore their right to hunt whales and kill dolphins, but right now we have a golden opportunity to help that country find alternatives, and to show them our gratitude for taking a step towards resolution.

Jennifer Aniston and Other Celebrities Speak Out Against Dolphin Capture

The capture of orca L-pod member “Lolita” 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 all of us need to find what we can do to help to stop it – and increasingly, celebrities are doing just that.

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.
Volunteers have been on the ground since September 1, 2010, monitoring the fishermen, documenting as much as possible. While the footage has been devastating, what was missing was the actual kill, which happens behind a cold blue tarp. But our supporters are patient, and the other day Save Japan Dolphins volunteer Leah Lemieux was there when the tarp fell.
What she caught on tape is devastating. 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.

For information on how to watch the entire film The Cove for free online, go here.
For information on what you can do to help, go to Save Japan Dolphins.