Tag Archives: pilot whales

Children raise their voices and stand witness for dolphins in Japan

Photo courtesy of Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project
Photo courtesy of Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

“The dolphins who had survived the ordeal were all young, comprised of babies and juveniles. They appeared lethargic and their breathing, uneven. Yet, they hovered close to the area where their family members were killed, refusing to leave. They took turns spyhopping as skiff after skiff of dead pod members passed them.” Cara Sands,  DolphinProject.net
Children question why people do the cruel, thoughtless, and destructive things people do…and grownups tell them that the problems are too big to solve, or that they will understand when they are older. But the kids aren’t buying that anymore – access to the internet has made them a bit savvy and world-wise, and what they don’t see at home they hear from their friends.
Then they take action in any way they can, and leave us inspired.

These annual Japan dolphin drives exist because of the small fortune the hunters make  by selling the dolphins to amusement parks and aquariums, and while the captive industry both denies past involvement and bemoans the annual butchery, they do little to stop it.
From BlueVoice.org:

Traveling into these villages where the dolphins are killed is always a heart-wrenching thing. But some good news came out of our trip — there is not the slightest doubt that the explosion of protest around the world against the brutality of dolphin hunting in Japan has had enormous impact on the Japanese government and the fishermen who conduct it. At both Futo and Taiji we were told the same thing — that foreign reaction is the main obstacle to the continued dolphin killing and that the fishermen fear the government will shut them down to avoid further international protest. We learned that the government suggested Futo suspend dolphin hunting operations until the public loses track of this issue. We will make sure this does not happen.
Again I stress, that from the fishermen’s own mouths we heard without any equivocation that foreign pressure may ultimately shut down the dolphin capture and slaughter operations.
The bad news is that at Taiji there is a firm intention to continue the catch of dolphins and small whales. At Futo there is some dissent among the fishermen as to whether to continue hunting dolphins, but there is a government quota for several species and the head of the fishing cooperative told us they expect to begin hunting again. We must be on hand with cameras.
Additional bad news is that the dolphin capture and export business in Japan has expanded into an assembly line process. There are two dolphin bases in Taiji and a new one at Iki. Dolphins are literally “packaged” for export – i.e. they are captured, trained and exported, accompanied by a trainer who introduces the dolphin into the new facility. A formidable dolphin packaging infrastructure has developed at Taiji, which contributes to the continuation of the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in that village alone.

While SeaWorld tries to hide their earlier participation in these drives, they and other facilities that profit from dolphin captivity have a duty to help put an end to the dolphin drives instead of circling the wagons in denial.

“In addition to empathizing deeply with the suffering of the cetaceans, we also feel the reverberation through history…we know how humanity must look back on the endurance in this age of such cruel and needless practices…its stains all our humanity.” Leah Lemieux,  author of Rekindling the Waters.
What you can do: go to any of the organizations that are actively engaged in this issue and find ways to contribute your ideas, time, energy, and talents. Of course non-profits are always in need of financial donations too.
Find a variety of Tweets here:  https://sites.google.com/site/londontaijidemo18dec

#Tweet4Dolphins  #1Voice4Dolphins
Share on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/145245015831005/
“London is key, the pressure in London is working” – Richard O Barry has said. It is at tipping point and so now the pressure needs to be higher than ever. Ask your friends in London to share and tweet this event.

“Total chaos. Bloody water. Whales dying. People getting arrested.”

(Title is the description by someone who shared the story, Melanie Jacobs).
This butchering of pilot whales is unsustainable and barbaric, and protesters have been arrested for entering the water and banging on poles in hopes of driving off the whales before they can be slaughtered.
Please sign this petition to help persuade the Faroese (who are supported by the Danish Navy) to join the modern age instead of clinging like limpets to past that is gone.

17 protesters were arrested.
14 protesters were arrested.

“The local community heads out in small boats loaded with stones, hooks, ropes, and knives. Once they’ve approached the pod, the boats form a small half-circle behind the pod. Small rocks attached to lines are thrown into the water to create a wall of bubbles to reflect the sonar of the pilot whale. The cetaceans interpret the bubbles as a cliff wall that they must steer away from – because of this, the small boats are able to herd the cetaceans towards a low-lying shore. As the pod approaches land, the boats continue to harass and frighten the mammals until they’re washed up on the shore. Once beached, a knife is used to cut through the veins and arteries that supply blood to the pilot whales head. Some pilot whales suffer for as much as 30 seconds while others can take up to four minutes to die.
Fullscreen capture 8302014 112855 AM grind
Those pilot whales that do not wash ashore have a gaff hook beaten into their blowhole and are then pulled ashore by rope. As a result of public pressure campaigns spearheaded by groups like Sea Shepherd in the 1980s, the gaff hook no longer resembles its sharper predecessor, but the blocking of the cetacean’s airway is incredibly painful and results in panic and injury. The fear and suffering is no less mitigated by a sea that quickly turns red with blood in a bizarre ritual reminiscent of Roman gladiatorial violence. As the entire human community partakes in the blood orgy, the whale meat is divided up among the locals although many times the whale meat is simply left to rot on the beach. Up to 1,000 pilot whales are killed annually in this manner, primarily in the months of July and August.” About the campaign.
Injured, dying, and dead whales can be seen to the right as this protester was taken away.
Injured, dying, and dead whales can be seen to the right as this protester was taken away.

This video is in French, but the pictures tell the story – it is included here because what it reveals undermines the claims by the Faroese people that they have this brutal tradition in order to eat the meat.  If you can’t stomach the blood, then start at the 2:21 minute mark.

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson:
For the last 85 days, Sea Shepherd has been able to find and escort whale pods away from the Faroe Islands. We have documented the activities but have not released them so as to not anger the whalers. Today a pod of 35 pilot whales came so close to a killing bay on Sandoy that the thugs from that island were able to get to them rather quickly.
Sea Shepherd land crew made it to the beach and into the water as three Sea Shepherd three fast boats arrived on the scene before the killing began. Unfortunately a police helicopter from Torshaven and vessels from the Danish Navy made it to the Bay at the same time. The Danish Navy ordered the boats to stand off. We have not heard back from the boats so we do not know what their situation is. We do know the entire Sandoy land team has been arrested and 35 pilot whales are dead on the beach.
Maggie Gschnitzer Italy
Rorigio Gilkuri is from Mexico
Nikki Botha (south Africa)
Monnique Rossouw (South Africa)
Sergio Toribio (Spain)
Alexandra Sellet (France)
There are three Sea Shepherd fast boats in the water. Not yet fully confirmed that the B.S. Sheen, Charlie Sheens boat has been taken and three crew arrested.
Now that this slaughter has taken place, we can mention that over the last 82 days, Sea Shepherd boat crews have deflected three pods of whales away from the island before the killers could spot them. Unfortunately covering 18 islands is a difficult task but I am proud of the fact hat our volunteers saved those whales and made a valiant attempt to save these 35.
The positive side of this encounter is we now have evidence to implicate the Danish government and Sea Shepherd will take this evidence to the European Parliament to demand that action be taken against Denmark for collaboration with an illegal slaughter of whales. No European member of the EU may be involved with whaling and although the Faroese is not a member of the EU they receive massive subsidies from the EU through Denmark. The Faroese may be exempt but Denmark is not and now we have the evidence that pilot whale blood in on the hands of Danish sailors and Danish Police, What is rotten in the Faroes is also very much rotten in Denmark.
Short finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)
Short finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

Diver Dragged Underwater by Whale in New Zealand – What Species?

While the traumatized free diver claims that an orca swam over, grabbed a catch bag that was tied to his wrist, and dragged him underwater until he almost ran out of breath, it is highly unlikely that this was actually an orca.  For starters, orcas are unknown to attack humans in the wild, nor would they likely be interested in stealing a catch bag since the contents (which included crayfish) are not likely to be part of their diet.
It sounds much more like the work of a pilot whale, a species who have been known to drag humans underwater, always returning them to the surface just in time before drowning can occur. This appears to be how the whales send people a message when they feel harassed, and people don’t understand the warnings given by the whales.

In May 1992 a swimmer entered waters south off Hawaii and swam with a group of short-finned pilot whales. During the encounter one whale dramatically changed its behavior and finally attacked the swimmer by opening its mouth and grabbing the swimmer’s inner left thigh. Seconds later the human swimmer was drowned to 40 feet below the surface. Finally, the swimmer was brought back to the water surface. The scenario was filmed underwater and can be viewed on YouTube (…here…).The woman survived this life-threatening attack.  (From PilotWhales.org.)

Short finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)
Short finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

Pilot whales can be confused with orcas, they are both commonly called ‘blackfish’, and both occupy New Zealand waters.
In any case, this is such an odd occurrence that it may turn out to be an incomplete story.  Like orcas, pilot whales are not known to randomly approach human divers and drag them underwater when the people are minding their own business.
Quoted below is part of the article in which the diver expressed that he assumed it was and orca, although he never saw it because of bubbles that obscured his vision:

Diver survives death spiral in whale attack
By Amy Maas 5:30 AM Sunday Feb 23, 2014

Levi Gavin says the orca dragged him beneath the water for more than 40 seconds before he broke free. Photo / Doug Sherring

Levi Gavin says the orca dragged him beneath the water for more than 40 seconds before he broke free. Photo / Doug Sherring

A free diver who was dragged to the depths of the ocean by a killer whale has told how he got down to his “last breath” during the terrifying ordeal.
Levi Gavin, 23, was collecting kina and crayfish at Horahora Estuary, 30km east of Whangarei on February 10, when an orca grabbed a catch bag attached to his right arm.
It dragged him beneath the water for more than 40 seconds before a rope connecting him to the bag came undone and he was able to free himself from the death spiral. Remarkably, he escaped injury.
In an exclusive interview, the keen fisherman told how he had tried to relax as he was being dragged deeper and deeper by the giant sea creature.
“As soon as it got me under water, my goggles came off and kept flapping on my face and it just kept going,” he told the Herald on Sunday.

“I went to go open my eyes but all I could see was little white bubbles so I just closed my eyes and tried not to use my energy because then I use up my breath.

“I got to my last breath. I couldn’t really think at the time.”
Gavin popped off his weight belt and floated to the surface before realising his arm was “dead” and he was unable to swim.
“My cousin was about 30m from me and I could hear his flippers from a mile away trying to get out to me because he saw me pop up.

To Protect Dolphins and Whales, Look Behind the Masks of Industry


“Fed Up in Wyoming” reads the caption under this stunning photograph posted on a hunter’s Facebook page (reproduced here under Fair Use). The photo is yet more evidence that, two years after political reactionaries led a successful campaign in the House of Representatives and then the Senate to remove the North Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list, the slaughter of wolves continues to escalate as wolf hunters fall deeper in their paranoid fantasy that the wolf represents a liberal conspiracy against rural communities. (Earth Island)

You may be wondering what shooting wolves in the Rocky Mountains has to do with marine mammals, and the answer is that even though most of what people do to marine mammals occurs out of sight in the open ocean or underwater, the perpetrators are equally hesitant to show their faces as are these wolf killers. Standing up for your beliefs carries risks – someone, somewhere, is guaranteed to oppose your point of view – but hiding behind masks and walls of paperwork only serve to show an awareness of the wrongdoing.

 [Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
[Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
Out in the oceans, fishermen consider dolphins and whales to be competitors or bycatch (unintended when fishing)  and willingly kill them, the animals get tangled in crab and lobster pots or fishing nets, and are hit by ships. The ambient noise levels in the ocean is continually rising, interfering with the whale’s long-range communications. Navies worldwide engage in espionage and mock warfare movements involving loud sonar, and bombing practice occurs over wide swaths of the ocean.
Nations continue to hunt whales and dolphins for meat while pretending it is for scientific research. The oceans are increasing polluted with effluent and plastic debris. Our demand for oil has resulted in devastating spills, and nearly constant deafening sound from seismic surveys.
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/whale-watch/wildlife-rangers-watch-over-pod-of-whales-that-were-stranded-near-fraser-island-20130703-2pbia.html)
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (www.brisbanetimes.com.au)

There is no escape for whales and dolphins, other than to cast themselves on our beaches, which they appear to be doing in increasing numbers.
Unlike the wolf killers, the masks worn by the perpetrators of ocean destruction are more subtle – they hide behind international partnerships that protect them from each country’s laws. Currently Exxon/Mobil and BP are teaming up with Canada’s Imperial Oil to drill in the Arctic, and even though Exxon/Mobil is a U.S. corporation, they have a Canadian subsidiary and also own controlling interest in Imperial.  The upshot? Environmental protections that are drastically more lenient than the U.S., and where the only consideration given to marine mammals is in how the indigenous population will be effected in their hunts. 
canada oil eis
Perhaps most insidiously, they are hiding behind the issues that frighten us most – climate change, energy shortage, and the threat of losing all that we have spent lifetimes building. An example of this occurred last March when a pod of orcas were trapped in the ice at Hudson’s Bay, thought to have been caught off guard by shifting ice patterns. While this shift in conditions was initially blamed on climate change, it turns out that the local power company is probably responsible:

“There’s a connection between the freshwater plumes sent into Hudson Bay from the Quebec power corporation’s huge dams and the quick freezing of water in the bay which led to entrapments of eiders, beluga and killer whales this past winter, suggests Joel Heath, a biologist whose film People of the Feather about Sanikiluaq hunters and eider ducks, received acclaim.
The connection is worth studying, he said, because although entrapments occur naturally, this past winter there were at least three occurrences in southern Hudson Bay.”

Wherever people are hiding behind masks, covering their tracks, or working below the public radar, a price is paid and the world as we know is quietly being changed.

Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013.  They were guided back to sea.
Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013. They were guided back to sea. (Huffington Post)

The good news is that although it may seem as though we are powerless to bring about change, we are not – an International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network is being created which will keep track of sightings of injured, stranded, and dead whales and dolphins on a global scale.  This will make it difficult for industry and military to deny the impacts of their activities, and it will help provide data to scientists to help determine why there are alarming numbers of dolphins and whales beaching and dying.

Overall, the experts pointed out that the dead dolphins may be alerting us to troubles in our oceans.

Said NOAA’s Spradlin, “Marine mammals are like the canary in the coal mine”—many bottlenose dolphins live on the same coasts and eat the same fish that we do.
“Our first mandate is to protect the dolphins, but the underlying bigger picture is if things are hurting these animals,” he said, “[they] could also be hurting people as well.”

While an outbreak of morbillivirus (related to measles) is known to be responsible for some of those dolphin deaths, it is important to be aware that there could be other causes as well, and not let the disease create a smokescreen. The scientists need our support. For more information, please visit the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network.

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.

Whale Blubber Fed to Unsuspecting Travelers – Could Whale Meat Wind Up in Beef? Or in Horse Meat?

Smyril Line's high speed ferry Norröna travels between Iceland and Denmark
The Faroese Smyril Line’s high speed ferry Norröna travels between Iceland and Denmark

The European society for the protection of whales and dolphins, ProWal, issued a press release on the latest European meat scandal, when it was discovered that travelers were fed pilot whale blubber without being informed of what they were eating while on the ferry crossing between Denmark and Iceland :

Andreas Morlok, CEO of ProWal is disgusted: “The pilot whale blubber is not labeled as such in the restaurant of the ferry. The guest has no idea what exactly is being offered to him. the chef only gives information by word when asked, that the dish the guest is consuming is actually pilot whale blubber, which was proven to be such by a scientist from the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, missing is a warning at the display of the buffet that the pilot whale blubber is highly contaminated with environmental poisons as PCBs and methyl-mercury, which can be rather dangerous to human health.
Scientific studies prove that children from the Faroe Islands have high amounts of learning deficiencies and have as well disorders in the development of motor skills and the central nervous system. As an infant they already absorb these poisons through their mother’s milk, which is showing the highest toxic saturation worldwide. The percentage of people afflicted with the nervous disorder Parkinsons disease is double than that on the Danish mainland and the quality of male semen is also heavily affected by these toxins. Therefore, it is hardly astonishing that the World Health Organization (WHO) is urgently trying to dissuade people from the consume of whale products. In the EU these products are regarded as “hazardous material”.

Pilot Whale
Pilot Whale

The Faroe Islanders cling to the typical antiquated belief of other backwards whaling nations – that they have a right to brutally slaughter pilot whales because they have done it in the past. Theirs is a particularly cruel and unnecessary ritual, where boys at the age of 14 are encouraged to participate in the hacking to death of entire whale families – mothers, babies included.

No matter how they feel about whaling smart consumers want nothing to do with whale meat, but the Faroe Islanders who have contaminated their own bodies with an impressive array of toxins are now sneaking the meat into the European food chain.

The fact that they are feeding whale to tourists on the ferry makes you wonder where else that whale meat might turn up. What is to prevent the meat companies from adding the surplus whale meat into beef products? After all,  Horse meat was recently found in chicken nuggets as well as in sausage, hamburger patties, and other products.

It really makes you wonder what you are eating when you sit down to a meal anywhere in Europe, because the stubborn whaling nations are running out of legitimate markets for a product that people just don’t want to eat. It was easy enough for the now bankrupt Willy Selten meat works to contaminate beef products with horse meat, so it is conceivable that a desperate or corrupt company would do the same the same with whale meat.

In the U.S. a sushi restaurant was indicted for selling the meat from the endangered Sei whale in the Los Angeles area:

Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of the Hump, and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda were named in the nine-count indictment. Other charges include conspiracy to import and sell meat from the endangered sei whale and lying to federal investigators. 
The Hump closed in 2010 after an associate producer of the documentary “The Cove,” which investigated the killing of dolphins in Japan, orchestrated a video sting. The Times reported that two participating activists asked if they could order whale meat as part of an omakase meal and a waitress served eight pieces, according to a federal affidavit. DNA tests confirmed the meat came from a sei whale, which is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It’s illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the U.S.

The whale meat could just as easily have been served ground up in a burger patty, had it not been considered a delicacy.

Taiji, “Look Not Upon a Right Whale”; In 1878 Greed Cost the Lives of Over One Hundred Japanese Whalers

The Taiji whalers now only hunt the gentle dolphins that they know won’t hurt them, even as the dolphins are stabbed to death. (JapanProbe photo)

The superstition:

Some years ago there lived a wealthy fisherman called Matsushima Tomigoro at Matsushima, in Nagasaki. He made a large fortune by whale-fishing. One night he dreamed a strange dream. A whale (zato kujira), carrying a baby whale, appeared before his pillow, and requested him to let her and the baby go safely–they were going to pass a certain part of the sea at a certain time and date. Matsushima heartlessly did not accede, but took advantage of the information. He put a net in the said sea at the due time, and caught a whale and her baby. Not long after, the cruel fisherman began to reap the harvest of his mercilessness. Misfortune after misfortune befell him, and all his wealth disappeared.
‘It must be the result of his cruelty in killing the whale and its baby,’ said the neighbours; and for some time they never caught whales carrying babies.

The event that occurred in 1878:

As the year of 1878 dragged into winter the beach-master or ‘ami-moto’ was getting desperate. At that time there were two hereditary leaders in Taiji. One was Taiji Kakuemon, who ran the business operations, and the other was his relative, Wada Kinemon, the advisory head. On December 24, 1878, after a bleak, poverty-ridden period of poor catches, a big female right whale and her calf were spotted by the lookouts. The triple black and white pennant was raised and the whalers momentarily relaxed, for the whalers knew that a female and her calf were not to be hunted. It was late afternoon, and for a successful hunt, a whale would have to be killed and secured before nightfall.
At the beach in front of the shrine of Asuka, the two leaders argued. Kakuemon insisted that the village needed a whale, and needed one before the New Year. Kinemon said no, it was not their custom to hunt a female with calf, and that it drew late, that bad things would befall them if they broke this rule.
Nevertheless, Kakuemon gave the order to hunt, and as the red signals went up and the conches blew from the lookouts, the surprised whalers jumped to their long sculling oars and the gaudy, sleek boats darted forward. The whale was enmeshed and harpooned, but she fought with great fury, and dragged the boats out to sea. Cold winds were blowing from the shore and the men became cold and exhausted. It got dark. By morning the fleet was scattered, and no matter how hard the men in the boats attempting to tow the whale struggled at their oars, the winds, current, cold and the sheer size of the whale was too much for them. Finally, in tears, they cut the whale loose. The storm grew worse.
Within a few days, the cream of the Taiji whalers, and the best of their boats, had been swept far out to sea and had died from exposure or drowning. Some drifted as far as the seven islands of Izu. Estimates of the death roll vary from 111 to 130 men killed. Only a handful survived.
Taiji Kakuemon, in his grief, gave his entire family estate to the bereaved families, and eventually left Taiji for good. The village was plunged into an awful depression, and many young men left for foreign shores, for Hawaii, California, Canada, Mexico. Many of the dances, skills and sea lore of the whalers died with those men who chased the taboo female, and although there were attempts over the next two decades to rebuild the net whaling fleet, they had small success.
C.W. Nicol
February 1979
Taiji, Japan

(From the Taiji Action Group)

Background on the Taiji controversy-
The villagers of Taiji, Japan persist in the slaughter of whales and dolphins, primarily to feed the captive display pipeline (see Save Japan Dolphins for more information). The country of Japan supports the activity of this village, and as a nation continues to kill more whales than they consume. They believe that the whales eat more than their share of fish, and so Japanese whalers are motivated less by the desire to eat whale meat as they are to kill off the competition for resources. From the Consulate-General of Japan, Sydney


Competition between whales and fisheries
Research by Japan’s Whale Research Program in the Northwest Pacific has revealed that whales eat huge amounts of fisheries resources.
It is estimated that whales consume approximately three to five times as much marine resources as the world’s yearly marine fisheries production volume. (The exact amount varies depending on the yearly marine fisheries production output).
Besides eating Krill, which is also food for fish, whales eat a large amount of Anchovies, Mackerel, Saury, Salmon, Squid and Walleye pollack. Furthermore, it has become clear that whales feast on certain types of fish during their most prolific season. Japan as a fishing nation cannot overlook this issue.


Pilot Whales Recently Beached in Florida, Taiji, and the U.K. – What Made the Difference?

  • September 1st – 22 pilot whales stranded in Avalon Beach State Park, Florida. Five juveniles were taken into captivity, the remaining whales were euthanized, no effort was made to return them to the ocean.
  • September 2nd, 2012 – 26 pilot whales stranded in Fife, Scotland, of these 10 were rescued and successfully returned to the ocean. None were taken for captivity.
  • September 7th – 22-24 pilot whales were artificially ‘stranded’ in Taiji, Japan when fishermen drove them into a netted cove. Three juveniles were taken for captivity, the remaining whales were brutally slaughtered.

What exactly is the difference in these cases? In the UK, there was no bid by the captive industry to keep some of the whales, so whether by an advanced attitude towards keeping cetaceans captive (it is getting phased out of many European countries) or by a sense of compassion, the people there coordinated a remarkable effort to save the whales, then followed the whales to make sure that they did not re-strand.
That leaves the Florida stranding versus the Taiji capture – in both cases the young pilot whales were taken for captivity and the rest slaughtered. The difference is that the officials here did it quietly, kindly, and bloodlessly.
Because of public sentiment, the disgrace of Taiji has made it impossible for American amusement parks to be connected to the Japanese dolphin drives so places like SeaWorld opt to take a patient approach to obtaining whales and dolphins for their shows – they know that sooner or later these benign animals will toss themselves up on nearby beaches. The executives at SeaWorld are not dummies – they just need to make sure they are informed of seismic testing or military activities, then bide their time. It is not rocket science, just logic and experience.
For instance in the Gulf of Mexico, the combined sonic cacophony of seismic oil exploration and military detonations frightens, disorients, and often destroys cetaceans, while the contours of the seabed off of Florida are a natural trap for the cetaceans who might have been injured or confused. If the pilot whales are offshore along the perimeter of coastal shelves and are suddenly disoriented they can find themselves in a relatively featureless environment making navigation difficult, the equivalent of you being lost in the woods in a pitch dark night – particularly if their hearing is damaged.
While it may seem to be a bleak situation for the whales and dolphins in this environment, it is possible for anyone to make a difference for them by voting – with your pocketbook by not going to amusement parks that keep cetaceans captive, and in the elections by choosing candidates who care about the environment.
It is up to you.

Recent explanations for such strandings include bottom topography, coastal configuration, or geomagnetic topography; meteorological or oceanographic events; extreme conditions in the environment; auditory trauma; toxicity of pollutants in the environment; and parasitism. Contributory factors may also include unusual tides, sea state, nature of the adjacent seafloor, and meteorological events such as
electrical storms…Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) mass stranded more frequently than all other species (32 of 76 events).

Sea floor depth (Dark blue is the deepest). (NOAA)

Locations of mass cetacean strandings, 1977 to 2001 off Florida.
Mass cetacean strandings (Edward Keith)

Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base and the Pensacola Naval Station military ranges.
Joint-Gulf Range (1000friendsofflorida)

This spiderweb over the Gulf (below) represents acoustically invasive seismic explorations for oil:


FloridaSPAN includes newly acquired offshore data and an onshore grid of reprocessed legacy data from Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI) and Geophysical Pursuit, Inc. (GPI). The offshore data covers the shelf margin and deep water in the eastern Gulf of Mexico while the onshore grid transects four states to reach the east coast. These lines connect to the GulfSPAN onshore and offshore grid and will connect to the East Coast Atlantic Margin program (USAMSPAM). FloridaSPAN covers an important part of the history of the Gulf of Mexico rifting events as Florida breaks away from Africa.

  • Offshore Data Example
  • Onshore Data Example

Newly Acquired Eastern Gulf of Mexico Data

The offshore data includes seismic data newly acquired in the eastern Gulf and depth imaged to 40km with both Kirchhoff and Reverse Time Migration (RTM) to integrate gravity, magnetic and well data. They are positioned to cross the Florida shelf and escarpment and extend into deep water with special emphasis on crossing the continental to oceanic crustal boundary, tying important wells and transecting Jurassic basins and highs. The deep imaging on this dataset reveals more criteria to assist models of crustal structure and show the nature of the boundary between continental and oceanic crust as a
crustal boundary detachment feature.

Click on the data example to zoom and pan over the data.
Click on the image to zoom and pan over the data.
This key offshore line shows the Florida shelf to deep water and crustal structure. The line is merged to GulfSPAN on the left.

When your success depends on quality seismic data, turn to the professionals and vast multi-client library at Geophysical Pursuit Inc. (GPI). For more than 27 years, both large and small energy companies have counted on GPI to supply the seismic required to make the right decisions.
GPI owns what it licenses. Through joint ventures or on our own, we’ve acquired approximately 21,000 miles of 2-D data and approximately 12,000 mi2 of 3-D data. Quality data in mature and pioneer regions could make GPI your primary seismic provider.
Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI®) is a full service 2D seismic and 3D seismic data marketing firm established in 1975, with offices located in Dallas, Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi and Tulsa, and with a strong presence in Lafayette, Jackson, Midland, and Bakersfield.
SEI owns over 1,850,000 miles of domestic proprietary 2D seismic data and has over 54,000 square miles of domestic proprietary 3D seismic data located onshore, throughout the Gulf Coast, Permian Basin, Mid-Continent and Rockies and Alaska Regions, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. We offer a comprehensive seismic search department to expedite requests for data availability.

Rescued Juvenile Pilot Whales Were Shipped to SeaWorld at 3 a.m. 9/5/12

Why the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and SeaWorld chose to ship four young, vulnerable whales in the middle of the night is anyone’s guess – but mine is that they wanted to avoid potential protest. If that is so, it just means that the captive industry acknowledges the unpopularity of their treatment of whales and dolphins. The amusement parks are very well aware that public sentiment is shifting away from keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, and although as usual SeaWorld is claiming that they plan to release these whales their track record on following through is poor.

Young whales are now in SeaWorld.

Update: After being stabilized at here at Harbor Branch, the four juvenile short-finned pilot whales have been transported to SeaWorld Orlando for the next phase of their rehabilitation. Our veterinarian and animal care experts, in partnership with Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, and SeaWorld Orlando began preparations late Tuesday for transport of the whales. At approximately 3 a.m. on Wednesday, September 5, the whales were carefully moved into a transport unit and safely arrived at SeaWorld Orlando at approximately 6:30 a.m. The whales will remain at SeaWorld Orlando for long-term rehabilitation, and their prognosis remains guarded.

People are seriously questioning the decision making that went into the whole rescue operation (22 pilot whales beached themselves on Saturday near Avalon Beach in Florida, more on this can be found here), when most of the whales were euthanized while four juveniles and a still nursing calf were taken to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. In other words, the mothers and families of these whales were euthanized while the young were kept.  No satisfactory explanation has been given as to why more of an effort was not made to help the stranded adults.  The officials offered only the usual song and dance about how the whales somehow chose to “drink the KoolAid” and follow their sick leader in mass suicide – there is no scientific proof that these intelligent animals would find this an effective survival strategy, clearly it is anything but.
SeaWorld has another opportunity here to reinvent itself into an organization that really is about education, rescue and rehabilitation. We’ll see.

One of the Rescued Pilot Whales Died, Four Remain (Video)

(He mistakenly says ‘five’ instead of ‘four’)

About the initial rescue:

Update from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Tuesday September 4th:
“UPDATE: FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s (HBOI)Rehabilitation Center continues to treat four juvenile whales that were transported to HBOI after a stranding event Saturday, September 1 that included 22 short-finned pilot whales at Florida’s Avalon State Park Beach in St. Lucie County. The whales continue to receive 24-hour care from experts and volunteers, and feedings every four hours.
FAU HBOI Staff Veterinarian Dr. Juli Goldstein and Sea World Veterinarians Dr. Michelle Davis and Dr. Stacy DiRocco continue to take biological samples to better characterize the clinical profile and advance the medical treatment plan for the whales. Their prognosis remains guarded as the whales remain compromised.”