Tag Archives: entanglement

Dolphin Injury to Ribs May Lead to Death in Captivity, But Heal in the Wild

Photo from Dolphin Therapy, Bali
Photo from Dolphin Therapy, Bali

Chances are, the dolphins we see jumping through hoops in amusement parks everywhere may have undetected injuries, causing them pain as they are forced to entertain us. They are plagued by dental and skeletal injuries in both wild and captive circumstances, but interestingly – although not surprisingly – the dolphins heal significantly better in the wild. Scientists speculate that this can be due to the fact that captive dolphins are forced to do tricks such as pulling trainers through the water or beaching themselves while performing with injured ribs:

...None of the latter specimens has been observed to be the victim of severe crashes between animals, nor had any of them a big accident during performances.
From the state of healing, the fractures must have occurred only a few weeks before death, and they possibly have caused or aggravated the lung diseases they are so often suffering from. It is important to point out that such fractures are generally not recognized general autopsy. Only in one delphinarium specimen, whose skeleton has not been conserved for the study collection, broken ribs were recognized because they protruded into the thoracic cavity.
All these findings give the impression that rib fractures are more common in delphinarium specimens than often is believed; they should receive attention during autopsies.
Another important fact is that in the wild specimens the broken ribs nicely heal. In the delphinarium specimens, however, healing does not seem to follow that easily.  One may suppose that the jumps during performances, the swimming in a limited space and occasional beaching during performances or during examination are not favorable for healing.
If, after an accident, rib fractures can be suspected, it seems to be recommendable not to take the animal out of the water for some weeks. Their body-weight, no longer sustained by the surrounding water, could push the rib into the lungs and cause pulmonary lesions.
The old wild specimen with the many broken ribs also shows broken but completely healed lateral apophyses of two lumbar vertebrae. Another wild specimen, caught the river in 1960, had several broken and healed neural spines in the lumbar region. SLIJPER (1931 and 1936) reports several cases of broken apophyses in other species. Although such fractures may be quite common, they heal easily and apparently do not cause much harm to the animal. (Aquatic Mammals Journal).

This study was done in the late 70’s, yet more than three decades later not much seems to have changed in the management of dolphins in captivity. The veterinarians at the amusement parks are either unaware of this information or choose to ignore it – but in either case, dolphins continue to be forced to perform for their supper every day, day in, day out  – and no doubt, often in pain, possibly leading to lung problems and death.
According to a 2012 national report on marine mammals, the one park I scrutinized (Sea Life Park, Oahu, Hawaii), has records going back to the 60’s which show that fully a third of the dolphins for which there are records died of causes linked to lung problems – most of those were pneumonia.
Were the lung problems related to rib fractures?  It is impossible to know because there is no mention that the veterinarians knew to check the ribcage during postmortem examinations, and amusement parks are no longer required to report the cause of death to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Marine Mammal Protection Act was significantly reduced in scope in 1999.

Wiki Commons photo
Wiki Commons photo

As to why dolphins suffer from so many injuries to their spines and ribs, it is likely the result of aggression and accidents and in the confines of captivity they may not be able to find an escape from each other.
Many species of dolphins have been observed to ram or head-butt other dolphins, and in a study of 50 pilot whales who had beached themselves, roughly half showed healed fractures in the jaw, some had been fractured more than once at different points in their lives.  Among males the rate was 71%.  As with the ribs among wild dolphins, these fractures healed nicely.  Taken together then, it would appear that dolphin dynamics can be very aggressive and serious but the cetaceans are well equipped with natural healing ability in the wild .
Dolphins also suffer fractures from net entanglement, so some of the fractures observed in wild dolphins may be related to having survived a run-in with fishing apparatus:
Gross Evidence of Human-Induced Mortality in Small Cetaceans

Many dolphins killed in fishing gear also exhibit ante-mortem broken bones and associated blood clots and macerated soft tissue. Typically these bones include mandibles, flippers, ribs or the vertebral processes.

In any case, the poor rate of healing and high rate of complications illustrate once again the failure of captive conditions to provide adequately for the needs of dolphins and whales.

Dead Humpback Whale Found in B.C. Salmon Farm – Another Reason Not to Consume These Farm Raised Fish

Canada Press

Three great reasons to avoid farm raised Atlantic salmon; it is an unhealthy food choice, the farming practices trash the environment, and the nets kill marine mammals and birds.
According to The Globe and Mail, a humpback whale was found dead inside a British Columbia, Canada fish farm and so far no one knows how it got there. Some are claiming that the whale died at sea, but that seems unlikely.

“There is no visible trauma. It hasn’t been shot, thank goodness, it hasn’t been hit by a boat,” [Larry Paike, Director of Conservation and Protection] said Thursday. “So there are a number of possible scenarios. One it dies of natural causes, drifts into a hole in the predator net and once it bloats comes up underneath. That is kind of like trying to shoot a hockey puck from centre ice into a golf cup holder.
“A more likely scenario is it was feeding, became disoriented, confused … and somehow became encumbered with the ropes from the predator net, or the predator net itself, and then subsequently drowned.”
Mr. Paike said a necropsy would be done Friday to determine cause of death.
“Certainly water in the lungs would indicate to me it’s drowned,” he said.

Environmentalist David Suzuki says of the nets: “If net cages have problems keeping farmed salmon in, they also have trouble keeping out predators out. Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports that between 1996 and 2008, fish farmers killed 3,239 harbour seals and 7,678 Steller’s sea lions. Sometimes, the salmon farm nets themselves kill wildlife. In 2007, 51 sea lions got tangled in nets and drowned at a single farm.”
All to raise toxic fish: : Health details from the Environmental Defense Fund – Salmon » Atlantic salmon (farmed)
“This is an Eco-Worst choice. If you decide to eat it, we recommend the following due to elevated PCBs levels:

Women should eat no more than 2 meals per month
Men should eat no more than 1 meal per month
Kids age 6-12 should eat no more than 1 meal per month
Kids up to age 6 should eat no more than ½ meals per month”

Wildlife biologist Dr. Alexandra Morton has been working to save the once pristine waterways around Vancouver Island, B.C. where salmon farming takes place, and is passionate about saving the wild salmon from the ravages of the farming practices. She has created a fascinating film on the subject, Salmon Confidential (watch above, or on her website).

In the crowded farm conditions hundreds of thousands of farmed fish can quickly become infected by a pathogen and when a fish is sick, it emits the viruses, bacteria, or lice into the water around it. At the Cohen Commission one of DFO’s own scientists, Kyle Garver, testified that a single farm can emit 650 billion viral particles per hour during a disease outbreak.
The viruses, bacteria and parasites from these sick fish can quickly fill a channel. The inlets where these farms are placed are often around 1 km wide and 300 feet deep. 650 billion viral particles released per hour can quickly disperse through this small area.
Now when the wild salmon swim through these channels and inlets they are exposed to the plume of bacteria, viruses and/or lice- or whatever kind of outbreak the farms happen to be experiencing. The farms have become the gatekeepers to the wild salmon.
Sometimes the wild fish are lucky enough to pass when there is no outbreak on the farm, but in many cases they are exposed to some kind of pathogen (lice, bacteria, viruses). The same dynamics apply with the amplification of sea lice, bacteria and any disease- whether natural or exotic.

And in the end, the farms produce a product that is not safe to consume in quantity.