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!

Morgan, the Orca Rescued From the Wild and Given to an Amusement Park is Being Attacked by Other Orcas

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‘.
The following text is translated from the Dutch original posted on the Orca Coalition website, and the video shows how the other whales behaving towards young Morgan in her new ‘home’:
More footage of the situation of Morgan.

We wanted to show the images to experts to properly determine what is going on in the footage. Several experts have therefore looked at the them. At the height of 39 seconds bites are clearly seen on Morgan. The footage also shows how the other orcas (Skyla and Kohana) are chasing Morgan and attack her. Morgan constantly endures attacks.

These images were taken by a tourist and on the video a comment in German is heard. Its been said that they are playing.
The experts, however, say that these are attacks and that these attacks are not to determine the hierarchy, but it’s clearly shown that Morgan is not being accepted.

Morgan has no way to escape.

The Dolfinarium is pretending that totally nothing is going on. On their site Kraamkamer.nl where they maintain a blog about Morgan it is said that she is fanatically playing with Skyla and Kohana. Experts who have analyzed the images however, state that they are not playing but attacks are taking place for which Morgan is trying to get away.
According to the Dolfinarium ‘everything is going just fine’.  If that was the case, then why does Morgan already have wounds so soon after her arrival in Loro Parque?
Why is Morgan victim of this experiment?

Pod of Orcas Rounds Up a Group of Sharks – Were These Sharks Related to Each Other?

Update 12/28/11 In reply to my request to identify the shark species involved,  Seattle Aquarium shark biologist Jeff Christiansen sent the following :

It is difficult to make a definitive ID from a partial view and with only one photo but I would hazard a guess the shark in the photo is a sevengill shark Notorynchus cepedianus or possibly even Heptranchias perlo. While I can’t rule out a sixgill the spotting pattern visible on the dorsal surface of the shark is characteristic of the sevengill. The photo is not sharp enough to tell if there are six or seven gill slits.  Its definitely one of the Cowsharks as the six and sevengill sharks are called and finding them in groups is not unusual for that species… pack hunting and association is documented in sevengills. The Sevengill can tolerate much higher light levels than its deep water cousin the sixgill.

I’ll update again when I hear back from a New Zealand orca researcher who may have more information on the orca pod that appeared to be hunting the sharks.
Update 1/5/12:  This has been confirmed to have been a sevengill shark, please check here for more information.

On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) in New Zealand a pod of orcas managed to corral at least a half dozen sharks and apparently gave them a good thrashing in the shallows off the beach.  Orcas are known to kill and eat sharks in many parts of their range – often eating the nutrient dense livers and discarding the rest – so  although witnessing the interaction must have been amazing, the news that the whales went after the sharks was in and of itself not surprising. 
But the fact that the orcas managed to get several sharks together in a group for the presumed mayhem is fairly astounding, and I was as curious about the sharks as I was the orcas as I read the article (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6193865/Orcas-sharks-in-feeding-frenzy/).

The sixgill shark is a deep water species.

Copyright protection prohibits me from being able to use the photo of one of the sharks thought to have been involved in the altercation with the orcas, but it is similar to this one, and is one of the few species that is easily identified with just a head shot.  If you look carefully you will see that the shark has six gills [note update above, this may have been a related species of cowshark, not a sixgill] instead of the usual five, and logically is called a six-gill shark (the sixth gill is thought to help extract oxygen from the deep water where the adult sharks are found).
The following video shows both the massive size this species can attain, and the depth to which it can be found. “This six-gill shark (Hexanchus) was filmed during a submersible dive off the northeast coast of Molokai at a depth of 1000m (3280ft). The 2 red laser dots are 6 inches apart, resulting in a length of about 18 ft for the shark.”

But if they were chasing this deep sea species of shark, how did the orcas manage to get several, albeit smaller, of these sharks rounded up in the shallows off the beach?
I found the answer through the Seattle Aquarium’s shark research program, and though I have not gotten a confirmation that this is the shark species involved in the New Zealand fracas, what I learned about six-gill sharks is fascinating and over-turns much of what we believe to be true about sharks in general.
The biologists have discovered that  in this local population, sibling six-gill sharks stay together for many years, at least until they become large enough to move out of the protected environment of the Salish Sea.
The mother shark can give birth to over 100 baby sharks (called pups), and each litter of brothers and sisters remains together for years in “loosely associated groups”, possibly finding food together and avoiding predators.

The eyes of six-gill sharks are adapted to low light conditions and they shun the bright light of the surface during daylight hours, so the orcas might have managed to find a group of the sharks in deeper water, driven them to the surface where the sharks would have been blinded and disoriented causing them to swim up onto the beach (the news article reported that observers thought the sharks swam up to get out of the water, certainly possible but not likely.)
Although six-gill sharks are opportunistic feeders often scavenging about anything they can find, humans are not on the menu, and fortunately for them these sharks aren’t usually on our menu either – what a shame it would be to kill off the sharks of the world without ever knowing their secrets.

Brother and sister sharks growing up together, who knew?
For more on orcas and sharks, please see Orcas and sharks, just who is hunting whom?”  Also this report on New Zealand orca expert Ingrid Visser’s discovery of orcas hunting thresher sharks: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1231454/Killer-whales-Death-karate-chop-deadly-tactic-used-orcas-sharks.html

Southern Resident Orcas Have a New Calf! (12/20/11)

J 16 with previous calf (2007) Courtesy the Center for Whale Research)

Orca Network has just announced that a new calf has been born to J pod, the most consistently seen pod in the Puget Sound/Central Salish Sea region of Washington state.  This brings the total to for J pod to 27, and the total number of whales comprising the Southern Residents to 89. It is only the second birth this year for the Southern Resident Orca population (K pod returned with a calf in July).
Here is the report from Orca Network:
“Big news! It’s been kept quiet to make sure all parties confirmed, but NOAA’s NW Fisheries Science Center and the Center for Whale Research have confirmed that on December 17, 39-year old J16 (Slick) gave birth to a new baby calf in Puget Sound, probably only a few hours judging from the fresh fetal folds, before being seen and photographed by veteran field researcher Candice Emmons of NWSFC.
This makes J16’s fifth calf since her first, J26, was born in 1991. She was the sixteenth J pod orca photographed and identified by Mike Bigg in 1972, and is among the oldest whose age is known exactly. Her matriline is known as the J7’s after J16’s late mother. Photos of the family can be found by scrolling down the Center for Whale Research matriline guide.”
Keep checking Orca Network for sightings of the new calf, and ‘Like’ them on Facebook.  You can also sign up for their email updates.  This time of the year the orcas are often seen near Seattle, looking for winter stocks of salmon:

“Things So. Res. orcas already know: Where there are herring there are blackmouth (resident Chinook salmon). Some hot spots include “beginning around Illahee, north through the entrance to Liberty Bay, both sides of Agate Pass, the Suquamish and Indianola shores, and most of the north end of Bainbridge Island. The herring are named the Port Orchard/Madison Herring Stock.”
Guess where J pod and K pod have been foraging lately.” (Orca Network).

Check The Center for Whale Research for more information on the Southern Resident orcas.

Ways of Whales Workshop; A Green Gift for Anyone Interested in Whales

Why not give someone the opportunity to spend a fun and educational day on Whidbey Island, where they will have the opportunity to meet some of the region’s whale experts?  Or better yet, take advantage of a 20% discount at the Captain Whidbey Inn and make a weekend of it with that special someone.

Southern Resident Orcas, L Pod. Photo by Howard Garrett

Ways of Whales workshop – Save the Date!
Saturday, January 28, 2012
9:30 am – 4:30 pm
Camp Casey Conference Center
1276 Engle Rd., Coupeville (1/4 mile west of Keystone Ferry)
Whidbey Island, WA
Some of the region’s best experts on Pacific Northwest whales will present new information about orcas and the habitats that support them. Educational displays and materials will be available throughout the day as well.
This annual workshop has become a favorite regional gathering of whale experts and those who want to learn more about the whales. Naturalists, researchers, educators, or anyone who thrills at seeing whales and wants to know more about the amazing cetaceans that frequent our shorelines is welcome.
Cost of the workshop is $25. Lunch will be available on-site for $10. More information & registration online at: http://www.orcanetwork.org/news/events.html or by contacting Orca Network at 360-678-3451 or info@orcanetwork.org.
The Capt. Whidbey Inn is a sponsor of the Ways of Whales Workshop, and workshop participants are invited to a no-host gathering at the Captain Whidbey Inn lounge after the workshop. For off-island workshop attendees, the Captain Whidbey Inn offers a room discount of 20% if you mention you are attending our Ways of Whales workshop.
Susan Berta & Howard Garrett
Orca Network
Orca Network – Connecting whales and people in the Pacific Northwest
Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest,
and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.
Projects include the Whale Sighting Network and Education Programs, the Free Lolita Campaign,
and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Japanese Whalers Engage Seattle Law Firm Miller Nash to Sue Sea Shepherd

Donald A. Burns, Managing Partner 3400 U.S. Bancorp Tower 111 S.W. Fifth Avenue Portland, OR 97204-3699 T: 503.205.2319

Appallingly, the Seattle office of the Portland based law firm Miller Nash has brought a lawsuit against Sea Shepherd on behalf of Japanese whalers.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has gained notoriety through the years by their efforts to block illegal whaling on the high seas, and many believe that their efforts contributed to Japan’s decision to halt whaling earlier in the year.
This season, in spite of the devastating blows by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, Japan has managed to scrape together $30 million dollars for their Antarctic whaling effort – and are dropping a chunk of change into the pockets of the Nash law firm to bring the suit against the Friday Harbor based Sea Shepherd.
Guy towle, partner in charge of the Seattle office, 4400 Two Union Square 601 Union Street Seattle, WA 98101-2352 T: 206.777.7479

“Today, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha and the Institute of Cetacean Research along with research vessels’ masters filed a lawsuit against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and Paul Watson,” they said in a statement.
“The Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku are seeking a court order in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington that prevents SSCS and its founder Paul Watson from engaging in activities at sea that could cause injuries to the crews and damage to the vessels.” (Japan Times)
Sea Shepherd is not too concerned about the lawsuit:
This seems like a frivolous lawsuit to me,” said Captain Watson. “We have the images of the Japanese whalers destroying one of our ships, ramming our ships, running over our crew, firing upon us, throwing concussion grenades, deploying acoustical weapons, hitting us with water cannons and bamboo spears and they are suing us because they are accusing us of violence towards them. We have not rammed them and we have not caused a single injury nor have we been charged with a crime or even reprimanded by anyone for our actions. We have cooperated with every inquiry. They have not. This is simply a case of using the courts to harass us. I don’t believe they have a case and I doubt a U.S. court would take this seriously. Unlike Japan, the courts in the United States don’t automatically do what the government demands that they do.”
“An American law firm defending Japanese outlaw whalers from American whale defenders seems to be very un-American,” they add. “It is most certainly inhumane and disgracefully insensitive to the agonizing, cruel death inflicted upon these highly sensitive, intelligent, and socially complex, sentient victims of their ruthless clients.” (ecorazzi)

Please call the Miller Nash firm and let them know how you feel about their support of Japanese illegal whaling practices.
Guy Towle  206-777-7479 (Seattle, Wa)

Donald Burns 503-205-2319 (Portland, Or)

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

How Did the Orca Morgan Wind Up in The Netherlands in the First Place?

Morgan was moved to Loro Parque despite the effort to have her freed.

From time to time events seem to fall into place just a little too neatly, into packages that are a bit too tidy. The story of Morgan the orca is one of those, and in the end, when all is said and done, the question remains:  how is it that this young wild orca swam right into a web so conveniently spun by an international consortium of the amusement park industry?
This story starts in late June, 2010.  I was chatting with a new acquaintance, Dr. Astrid van Ginneken, while I put together a plate of cupcakes to send to the Center for Whale Research.  She had just arrived from The Netherlands for her annual summer research at the Center, and Ken Balcomb, the senior research scientist from the Center, had brought her by to see if I wanted to accompany them out to observe the Southern Resident orcas.
Dr. van Ginneken has been coming to the San Juan Islands for years, and as co-principle investigator of The Center for Whale Research she makes an important contribution to the ongoing research there each summer.  I remember distinctly that as I slid my latest culinary cupcake experiments onto a plate I asked her if there were orca populations in The Netherlands, and her response was that it had been decades since an orca had been seen there.
Two days later the announcement came that a young orca had been found in the shallow Wadden Sea bordering The Netherlands.
The irony hit home with me, and when I saw van Ginneken a few days later she had already started efforts to gain access to the whale when she returned home, however it would be a month by time her work at the Center was completed.  By then the orca had been given the name of ‘Morgan” – which is derived from the Welsh and means ‘from the sea’- and the wagons of captivity had circled around her.
Nothing has ever added up about how this whale wound up where she was found.
The more I ponder about how she wound up at the doorstep of a Dutch aquarium that is known to have ties to SeaWorld, the more I question how she got there.
Here are some pertinent facts:

  • On June 23rd, 2010 staff from the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk along with a group known as ‘SOS Dolfijn’ captured the young orca which had been swimming between the resort of Lauwersoog and the island of Ameland in the Wadden Sea, The Netherlands.
  • The last orca to be seen there previously was in 1947.
  • The Harderwijk Dolfinarium has been tied to the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, and has allegedly helped SeaWorld to dodge U.S. law to bring in whales in the past.
  • SOS Dolfijn, which participated in the capture of Morgan, is part of  the European Association for Aquatic Mammals (EAAM), founded by the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk in 1972.
  • Even though a U.S. resident, University of Southern Mississippi professor Dr. Stan Kuczaj is currently serving on the EAAM research board.  Kuczaj has co-authored with SeaWorld several papers on the benefits of using captive cetaceans for research.  He is also on the Advisory Group to the Florida based  Marine Mammal Conservancy (along with ex-SeaWorld employee Mark Simmons)- the group who recently rescued pilot whales in south Florida, the survivors of which landed in a tank in SeaWorld, Orlando.  Kuczaj is the director of The Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi in the Department of Psychology.
  • As previously reported, SeaWorld is owned by the Blackstone Group which is invested in marine amusement parks throughout Europe. The Harderwijk Dolphinarium is also owned by a conglomerate that operates marine parks and other leisure facilities in several European countries. Together with Marineland, those corporations have a significant presence in the European marine mammal trade.
  • In Lisbon in March of 2010, EAAM partnered with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” designed to facilitate issues with captive marine mammals.  Instrumental in this was Niels van Elk of the Harderwijk Dolfinarium.
  • The research committee for this conference was composed of Stan Kuczaj, Sabrina Brando – who among other things worked as a marine mammal care specialist at the Dolfinarium Harderwijk between 1992 and 1994 – and Manuel G. Hartmann, a veterinarian at Marineland Antibes who specializes as a vet for stranded whales and dolphins, and who also has ties to organizations involved with marine mammals in The Netherlands.

The upshot of this is that by mid March 2010 – quite coincidentally – all circuits were wired to ensure that any marine mammal that needed to be ‘rescued’ would be netted into this conglomerate power base.  Although taking place in Europe, SeaWorld and other U.S. interests are deeply involved.
Three months later, in June 2010, the young female orca Morgan  happened to wander a thousand miles from where scientists believe her family lives, into waters where orcas are extremely rare.  She just about swam right up to the Harderwijk Dolfinarium.
How she got separated from her family is a mystery, and why she turned up in the Wadden Sea is curious, but hopefully someday she will be reunited with her wild family.
I’m still trying to determine who is responsible for overseeing the captive industry in Europe, and will let you know when that information is available.