Whales Are Featured in the “Crimes Against Nature” Series on the National Geographic Channel

Last week’s announcement by Iceland that it would not hunt endangered Fin whales this year was good news, appreciated the world over.  Iceland thawed its frozen heart on this issue due to economic realities, brought into public scrutiny by the undercover work of eco-detectives from London’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).  The resulting documentary promises to a fascinating look into the underworld of commercial whaling.
“With powerful and haunting images, criminals caught in the act by hidden filming and courageous investigators operating on the dangerous front lines of environmental crime, these films will dramatically show viewers just how much a small but tightly focused and endlessly dedicated organisation can achieve,” said EIA Executive Director Mary Rice.
Tune in 9pm Tuesday, September 6th for the show on Icelandic whaling – or better yet, watch the whole series starting at 8 pm:

Get on the front line with the Environmental Investigation Agency
LONDON: Three gripping new documentaries following the work of undercover investigators from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) will premiere in the USA on Tuesday, September 6, 2011.
Launched as a three-part special under Nat Geo Wild’s Crimes Against Nature strand, the programmes have been a year in the making and will take viewers into the murky and high-stakes underbelly of global environmental crime, from Scandinavia and Africa to Southeast Asia and China.
The full line-up for US viewers on September 6 is:
Crimes Against Nature: Blood Ivory
8pm ET/PT (Eastern Time/Pacific Time)
The EIA team heads to Kenya, Hong Kong and China to investigate the world of elephant poaching and the international ivory trade. Following claims of an upsurge in poaching and ivory smuggling, EIA wants to establish firsthand what’s really going on. Visiting Kenya’s national parks, it documents the horrific reality of elephant poaching, and in China its undercover investigations discover startling revelations about how the ivory smuggling underworld works.
Read about the investigation behind the programme at http://www.eia-international.org/files/news654-1.pdf
Crimes Against Nature: Making a Killing
9pm ET/PT
Only a handful of countries continue to 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 undercover cameras and attempt to locate and understand the driving force behind this trade.
Read about the investigation behind the programme at http://www.eia-international.org/cgi/news/news.cgi?t=template&a=649&source=
Crimes Against Nature: Chainsaw Massacre
10pm ET/PT
EIA’s undercover agents head to Laos and Vietnam for a new investigation into the notoriously dangerous timber trade. Vietnam is fast becoming a major global player in the timber industry, but with little forest left of its own it is largely dependent on importing timber from other countries. EIA suspects a lot of this timber is being taken illegally from Southeast Asia’s rapidly declining tropical rainforests and will stop at nothing to expose this devastating environmental crime which has the potential to affect us all.
Read about the investigation behind the programme at http://www.eia-international.org/cgi/news/news.cgi?t=template&a=651&source=
“With powerful and haunting images, criminals caught in the act by hidden filming and courageous investigators operating on the dangerous front lines of environmental crime, these films will dramatically show viewers just how much a small but tightly focused and endlessly dedicated organisation can achieve,” said EIA Executive Director Mary Rice.
The three Crimes Against Nature programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch http://www.eia-international.org/cgi/news/news.cgi?t=template&a=658&source=
for details!
Internet users in the US can see previews of two of the films on YouTube at:
Interviews are available on request: please contact EIA Press Officer Paul Newman at paulnewman@eia-international.org or telephone 020 7354 7960.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.
Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960
Fax: +44 207 354 7961

SeaWorld Has a Heart After All: The Last Rescued Pilot Whale Will Join The Calf From Her Pod

Having survived beaching, illness, and the stress of finding themselves constantly in the hands of humans, two lucky pilot whales will at least find themselves together in the capable hands of SeaWorld veterinary staff, and will be able to live out their lives together. Deemed too young/damaged to survive in the wild, the National Marine Fisheries apparently decided that placing the two whales in a facility where they could find solace in each other and the company of others of their own species was the best option, and in so doing they have opened a world of opportunity for SeaWorld to take the next step in husbandry.
The conceivable benefits of housing them together are huge, since these two pilot whales came from the same pod and will communicate in the same dialect, and may exhibit unique behavior patterns – all of which will be helpful in exploring more natural ways to maintain captive cetaceans in general. It really is an unrivaled opportunity, and hopefully SeaWorld will take a step back from their usual methods of controlling, training, separating whale families – instead choosing to observe behavior and listen to the vocalizations of the whales.
This video shows the last pilot whale where she is now, next to a hotel and surrounded by staff and volunteers in a more natural aquatic environment. Soon she will be living in a sonically sterile cement tub while she is quarantined and her health monitored, but after that she will be able to join the calf in a larger tank.

Orca Whale L90 Avoided Vessel Strike, But Her Health Has Researchers Concerned: Update 9/11/2011, L90 Possibly Gave Birth Today

Update 9/11/11: There are rumors that L90 may have recently given birth, if so it will be the second calf for the Southern Resident population this summer. I will update when more information is available.

L90 (Photo by Erin Heydenreich)

(8/26/11) From The Center:
“The Center for Whale Research received a report this morning of a potential vessel strike with a southern resident killer whale. The whale that was believed to be struck is L90, an 18 year old female.
Witnesses described the whale ‘logging’, or floating at the surface, for a prolonged period after a private vessel was observed passing very close to where the whale was thought to be. L90 was then reported to remain on the surface and was breathing heavily. Once we received the report we quickly departed and found L90 with her mother, L26 just off Lime Kiln State Park. She was moving slowly and spending several minutes resting at the surface. She was taking shallow dives and barely moving north with the rest of the whales.
We were able to observe her very closely and found no evidence of a vessel strike. On numerous occasions she spent several minutes hovering just below the surface of the water allowing us to get a good look at most of her body, and we did not see any wounds or scratches. We continued to follow her for a few hours and observed that she eventually began to travel at a more normal pace, although remaining behind the rest of the groups of whales. The other whales in the area were behaving normally, resting, foraging and socializing.
Based on our observations and descriptions of the event from witnesses, we do not believe that L90 was struck by the vessel. Based on her age and previous behavior we have concluded that she may be pregnant. It is also possible that she may be ill or have some unknown condition.”
For the full report on today’s incident and to learn more about this whale, please go to The Center for Whale Research’s website).

Orcas Eat What??? Maybe Something Was Lost In Translation…

Imagine watching a talk show – maybe you’re puttering around the  house or emailing a friend – when something comes on the TV that you find hard to fathom.  Your attention is now fully focused on the television screen and confusion enters your mind when you hear the what the orca expert says in answer to the hosts’ question – “yes”,  he says, “orcas eat humans”. So much for the effectiveness of amusement park education programs.

The absurdity of having the person in charge of the well-being of the little lost orca Morgan being so misinformed or disingenuous would have been impossible to miss and difficult to ignore, even if you’d never seen an orca or really new much about them. Some things are just wrong, and as time goes on it dawns on you that the Dolphinarium where Morgan is being kept has no plans to really help the young whale find her family.
Instead they are making plans to ship little Morgan to a Spanish amusement park off the coast of Africa where she will have to live her life in captivity, in the company of SeaWorld’s displaced orcas.
So what do you do? If you are Nancy Slot-Slokker you become increasingly concerned that nothing is being done to ensure that the orca is well cared for or will ever have an option to be released into the wild.
And one day you just decide to do something, the result of which culminated in the successful legal effort that has stalled the plans to send Morgan into a life of captivity.  (For more information on Morgan and the organizations  involved, go here).
The effort is huge, and like Nancy you can jump in and help. For more information about the legal defense for the orca Morgan, or to make donations (they have some terrific t-shirts for sale here) please go to The Orca Coalition website.
In Nancy’s own words:

Nancy Slot-Slokker

“Never in my life have I seen a killer whale, so I honestly don’t know what came into me…
Something very wrong was going on, that much was clear, and I hoped someone would do something for Morgan. Suddenly it came to me… why should I expect somebody else to take action?
One thing led to another and before I knew it I was having coffee with Wietse van der Werf to see what we could do. Neither of us really had the time (I have two young kids), so we agreed we would do something small, mainly to raise awareness.We each found people willing to join forces…if we’d all do something we should be able to pull this off.
Our group grew, and soon we were a coalition of several animal welfare organizations: The Orca Coalition.
I never expected it to be this difficult, time consuming and frustrating, but at the same time, the longer the battle lasted, the more determined we were to see that Morgan is released! I’m proud to say I am part of this fantastic group of inspiring people who are fighting relentlessly to save this magnificent creature from captivity!
In spite of all the setbacks we’ve encountered, we never lost hope, and recent developments have given me enough confidence to say: I look forward to the day I’ll see Morgan for the first time in my life, the day she is released into the wild, where she belongs…”
~Nancy Slot~

The Good News Keeps On Coming: Iceland Will Not Hunt Fin Whales This Year

According to the Iceland Review, the proposed take of 150 fin whales has just been cancelled. Their chief market, Japan, is not interested in buying the meat at this time, ostensibly because  last year’s earthquake and tsunami damaged their capacity to store and process the meat.
More good news:  last year, Japan abandoned plans to hunt whales in Antarctica, and is considering abandoning the hunt in southern oceans entirely.
This year, blue and fin whales showed up in record numbers along the coast of  California.  Harbor porpoises returned to San Francisco Bay, and New Yorkers have been treated to an unprecedented number of whales, dolphins, and seals just outside the harbor.
Increasingly, we are treated to unique and interesting encounters, such as this one (most likely it is a humpback, not a blue whale):

It may be true that for some nations the slaughter of whales is no longer profitable, that the tissues of marine mammals are laden with toxins and radioactive particles, that people have lost the interest in eating the meat, that other oils have replaced what can be rendered from whale blubber, jaws and “melon” (the melon is what gives cetaceans the round heads).

But it is also true that increasingly, humanity is wising up to the fact that the intelligent animals in the sea may turn out to be the only other intelligent life we may ever know – certainly in our solar system, if not our galaxy.  It is time we stop exploiting them and begin to learn more about, and from them.

“The Whale”: How The Life of One Little Southern Resident Orca Is Reaching Hearts Across The World

“The Whale” had its worldwide premiere in the Danish Faroe Islands, and will soon be opening in other locations, starting with Seattle and Tacoma on September 9th, 2011. For more information on the film and to find out about locations near you, go to The Whale Movie website.
Don’t miss this poignant film;  you will laugh, you will find tears pooling behind the curtains of your lashes, but most of all, you’ll experience what these animals are all about.  It is unforgettable.

From the filmmakers: “It was an amazing screening of THE WHALE at the Nordic House in Torshavn, Faroe Islands last night.

The film received two huge rounds of applause – in one of the last whaling nations on Earth. It was followed by a provocative discussion with some tough questions – I was grilled by a pro-whaling member of the Faroese parliament.

The message at the end was one straight from Luna: friendship is bigger than we know – and friendship must form the basis for relationships across cultures and species.”

We could either have a red-carpet premiere with celebrities at a theater in LA, or we could do something specific to help whales,” said Suzanne Chisholm, the film’s producer and co-director, who will be in attendance at the premiere on behalf of the film. “So when people in the Faroes invited us because they love what this story means, we jumped at the chance.”
The spectacular and remote Faroe Islands archipelago is a self-governing territory of Denmark, located between Scotland and Iceland. The Islands’ traditional pilot whale hunts have recently become the focus of international opposition to whaling. This opposition has dramatically increased this summer with the arrival of an activist ship and television crews.
“Having the world premiere of THE WHALE here will hopefully inspire people, enlighten everyone, raise awareness and increase the understanding of animals,” says Rúni Nielsen, a member of the board of the Faroese Animal Protection Organization, which invited THE WHALE. “The film is a very positive story about a whale. We agree with the theme of the film, that ‘Friendship is bigger than we know.’”
The Faroese Animal Protection Organization protects pets, wildlife, farm, and work animals on the islands.
“I would like to express my deep appreciation to the people of the Faroe Islands who have welcomed us to their country,” said Ady Gil, founder of Ady Gil World Conservation, a sponsor of the event. “They are giving us the opportunity to show the other side of whales, and how compassion can be built between humans and other species.”  (From the press release).

Now Here Is Some Really Good News: Last of the Rescued Pilot Whales Will Be Allowed to Live (Updated 8/28/11)

Update 8/28/11:  “SeaWorld received federal approval today to provide a permanent, caring home for the remaining rescued pilot whale that has been deemed non-releasable,” SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said Friday.  (KeysNet.com)
Over the last couple of weeks there has been an increasing chorus drifting through the internet.  Those well-intended voices had begun to call for the euthanization of the last rescued pilot whale, clinically known as #300, because after months of round the clock care her condition seemed only to worsen.  300’s back is twisted from a combination of an unfortunate feeding regime and lack of exercise, and she suffers from damage to her lungs.  Three months of intensive care just seemed futile, and to so many it just seemed the kindest thing to do would be to put her out of her misery.

SeaWorld's new rehabilitation facility

It was all made much worse in the public eye when SeaWorld was able to secure the youngest, healthiest whale of the dozens that stranded in early May in the Florida Keys – most died, two were released, and two have survived – and took her to their brand new rehabilitation facility, leaving the sickest one behind.  Although it seems like just another attempt by the captivity industry to side-step government protocols, I held out hope – small though it was – that SeaWorld was planning to do the right thing and take 300 once the younger whale was processed through the rehab system.  This makes sense on many levels, from not trying the new facility on the most fragile animal, to waiting until the sicker one was healthy enough to move.
Now that the ‘powers that be’ have decided that 300 can’t be released, she deserves to go to the best facility possible, one where she can be with others of her own species and hopefully the calf from her original pod.  All the people who worked so hard to save her, enduring cold, wet, unhealthy conditions for hour upon hour deserve to know that the rest of us care enough to support the choice to keep, rather than euthanize this unfortunate whale.
Although 300 is up for bid to anyone with appropriate facilities, SeaWorld is the only place in North America with other pilot whales and is the logical place to send her, if for no other reason than to make it possible for all the hundreds of people who helped in her rescue to go visit her.
Pilot Whale

300 may never be able to jump through hoops or give birth to a healthy calf, limiting the financial gains possible – not that the captive industry won’t find other ways to use her – so it will be interesting to see what develops. Personally, I think SeaWorld and other amusement parks have already figured out that public sentiment is turning away from circus shows, and towards true rescue and rehabilitation.
We’ll be watching.

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.

Orca Whales Take Care of a Permanently Disabled Individual – For Years

Back in 1996, somewhere in the chilly fjords around Norway, a young orca calf was severely injured by what researchers believe was a run-in with a boat.  The accident left his spine damaged, his body bent, and the top of his dorsal fin was sliced off.  The scientists watched the calf, now called “Stumpy” as he hung at the side of his mother all season, but did not see him again for several seasons and it was assumed that the young whale had succumbed to his injuries.

Stumpy's injuries are permanent (Courtesy "Norwegian Killer Whales").

But a fascinating surprise awaited.  In the orca cultures that have been studied males stay with their mother and/or siblings for their entire life, but in 2002, now 7 or 8 years old, Stumpy showed up again, not with his natal group, but instead a group of what was likely distant relatives, and he was accompanied by an adult male which was known to be from yet a third group.  Stumpy was cared for by these whales – on at least two occasions other orcas brought him fish, and often they shielded him from passing boats.
And it wasn’t just those groups of whales that took care of him, Stumpy has been seen with eleven different groups, hanging out near the surface as the rest gather herring and allow him to join the feast.  It appears as though Stumpy has found a way to participate in the fish hunts, at least in some limited way near the surface.
It may be that Stumpy can’t keep up with any one group as they travel, and instead hooks up temporarily with whatever group he locates.  What is amazing is that all these whales recognize that Stumpy needs help, they take care of him, and may even help him find other groups when they depart an area.
Stumpy’s  full story can be found by going to the Free Morgan website.  It was posted there by the folks dedicated to returning the young rescued orca Morgan to the wild, instead of allowing her to be taken into the machinery of SeaWorld – and they use this story to point out that at that even if Morgan is unable to locate her birth family, this population of orcas would likely take care of her.
It’s hard to imagine that anything could be better.

Iceland’s Pirate Whaling Policies – Update 9/17/11 U.S. Imposes Sanctions

Update 9/17/11 President Obama begins sanctions:

I direct the Secretaries of State and Commerce to continue to keep the situation under review and to continue to urge Iceland to cease its commercial whaling activities. It is my expectation that departments and agencies make substantive progress towards their implementation. To this end, within 6 months, or immediately upon the resumption of fin whaling by Icelandic nationals, I direct departments and agencies to report to me on their actions through the Departments of State and Commerce.

I believe that these actions hold the most promise of effecting a reduction in Iceland’s commercial whaling activities, and support our broader conservation efforts. BARACK OBAMA
Iceland thumbs its collective nose at the rules, agreements, and standards of conduct that most of the rest of the world believes is necessary to ensure the survival of whales and dolphins.
They slaughter endangered fin whales and send the meat to Japan.
They slaughter the little Minke whales, and in what is just twisted and grotesque, serve the meat to unsuspecting tourists in their ‘look and cook‘ program – in which they combine whale watching trips followed by samples of “traditional” Icelandic food – However, prior to 1914 Icelanders did not hunt Minke whales. Superstition held that Minke whales were sent by God as protectors.” (Wikipedia)

Icelandic whaling takes this…

and puts it here:

Canned Icelandic fin whale on sale in Japan (c) EIA

It exchanges this experience…
Minke Whale (Scuba Centre Photo)

for this one:
Harpooned Minke Whale

“In the long and bloody history of commercial whale hunting, Iceland is one of the most notorious and persistent protagonists, killing more than 35,000 whales since the late 19th century and opposing or circumventing efforts by the international community to regulate whaling and prevent the decimation of whale populations.”  (EIA Iceland Whaling Report)

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling for economic sanctions against Iceland until that country complies with the rest of the world.  More information can be found here.

By taking strong action against Iceland, not only will the Obama Administration live up to its promises to strengthen the commercial whaling moratorium, but it will also help to ensure a real future for the IWC.
In 2009, following the collapse of its economy, Iceland applied to join the EU. Iceland’s EU accession negotiations provide a unique opportunity to end Iceland’s whaling and trade in whale products for good.
Although EU Directive 92/43/EEC (the Habitats Directive) prohibits “all forms of deliberate capture or killing” of whales, as well as sales of whale products in the EU, it provides an opportunity for member states to ‘derogate’, under defined conditions, from the Directive’s prohibitions.
It is therefore crucial that EU Member States take a zero-tolerance position to Iceland’s whaling and trade in the negotiation of its accession, to ensure that Iceland does not take a derogation. WDCS and EIA commend the Dutch and German Parliaments for passing Resolutions in 2010 stating that Icelandic whaling would be unacceptable under EU law, and urge all other EU countries that are members of the IWC to take similar action.

Please support all economic boycotts of Iceland.

"By 2010, two minke whaling companies were operating in Iceland, and sales of whale meat continued to improve with more than 100 shops and restaurants throughout the country offering minke whale meat." (EIA Icelandic Whaling Report)