Navy Will Be In Friday Harbor 5/1/12 to Talk About Bombing Range and Whales

Come to the meeting if you can!

11:00 AM – Tuesday, May 1,2012
Legislative Hearing Room, 55 Second Street, Friday Harbor, WA
Update 5/1/12 – it was earlier reported that the Navy has extended the comment period, but this is limited to those who attended today’s meeting.

Times and dates for agenda items are subject to change. Updates will be posted as available.

Victoria (L - 112) with her mom.

Victoria (L 112), the young whale who died as a result of explosive force, now has her own FaceBook page, where you can find information on her death as well as  on the investigation (also see Marine Sanctuary and Whale Habitat is Being Used for Bombing Practice by the Military) :

Well it seems like people are starting to take notice. The Navy is going to do a presentation on this issue to the San Juan County Council on Tuesday May 1st at 11:00am in Friday Harbor. Please show up if you can.  Great job everyone! Keep up the pressure. Make sure to send out your letters and comments. Spread the word!

How to Make a Viral Video – Nyan Whales

There are so many serious issues concerning whales and dolphins that just never garner the attention the causes deserve – from the continued practice of whaling to the destruction of ocean habitats, the articles, blogs, films and videos on the subject seem to skip like rocks over mainstream attention. Curious about what it takes for videos to go viral and really captivate people’s attention, I found this video on the subject.
Presented by the trends manager at YouTube, this entertaining video illustrates the essentials shared by the most viewed videos – attention by taste makers, community participation, unexpectedness, significance – and points out that this media has the potential to revolutionize communication.

There are even a few Nyan whale versions out there, but the takeaway message is that the elements of the successful viral videos can be incorporated into videos with a serious message as well. They just have to capture the attention of the right people, invite participation, and do something unexpected – the subjects of the oceans and marine mammals are inherently significant.

Whales, War Games, and National Security – Whales as Practice Targets?

In World War II, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, America lurched into protectionist overdrive. Understandably fearful of attack to our west coast cities, people hunkered in their homes at night, blackening the windows lest the Japanese bombers use the lights as guides for attack. Eventually the fear grew to a hysteria that allowed decent people to turn their backs as Japanese-American citizens were marched off to internment camps.
The military response was to take draconian measures to protect our harbors:

When news reached San Francisco of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all off-duty personnel were recalled to their units and the harbor defenses put on full alert. Soldiers moved out of their barracks and into the batteries, and began filling sandbags, stringing barbed wire and constructing beach defenses at a fevered pace. Up and down the coast, observers in tiny concrete observation posts scanned the horizon for the approach of a Japanese fleet that would never come.
As the days and weeks progressed, the initial fear of imminent invasion settled into a long-term commitment to defend the harbor by every means possible. Mobile antiaircraft guns, searchlights and radars were positioned on virtually every hill and knoll overlooking the Golden Gate. The U.S. Navy stretched an antisubmarine net across the inner harbor extending from the Marina in San Francisco to Sausalito in Marin, and stationed a navy tugboat to open and close the net to allow friendly shipping to pass. Soldiers assigned to the fortifications and observation stations constructed extensive earthwork trenches on the hillsides near their batteries, and in some cases tunneled into hillsides to construct unauthorized but comfortable underground quarters. Everywhere, camouflage paint was daubed on concrete batteries and wood barracks, and acres of camouflage nets were stretched over fortifications to obscure their presence from high flying enemy planes. Overhead, navy blimps armed with depth charges patrolled offshore waters searching for Japanese submarines but only attacked the occasional unfortunate whale.

Again, the last sentence: “Overhead, navy blimps armed with depth charges patrolled offshore waters searching for Japanese submarines but only attacked the occasional unfortunate whale.”
While it may seem that the “occasional unfortunate whale” is an acceptable outcome of military over-zealousness, it was widely believed that the navy used whales as practice targets during WW I and WW II, and the massive detonations of naval warfare must have deafened and killed a multitude of whales and dolphins.
In 1956, the American Navy was sent to destroy the entire population of killer whales in Iceland:

Viewing these events through the lens of history shows us that while threats to security are real, thoughtless overreacting and fear mongering have no place in the modern world. Our fears allow us to be manipulated and controlled – by governments and corporations that reap the benefits of power and money:

Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. … the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. – Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg trials, April 18, 1946. (Wikipedia)

The recent death of an endangered Southern Resident killer whale by explosive force has underscored the need to curtail the military exuberance for war games.  It is not known at this point whether the American or Canadian navies were involved for certain, but both regularly discharge explosives and loud sonar in whale habitats.

ACT NOW!  Email,
With this in the subject lineNEPA scoping comments for Northwest Training and Testing
AND TELL THEM YOUR OPINION!  Midnight, April 27th 2012 is the deadline, but write them even if you miss the date.  Your opinion counts.

Trash Talkin’ Earth Day – Colbert Report and Much More

What Can You Do to Make a Difference for the Oceans?

The deadly permeation of plastic from our garbage in the oceans is slowly killing marine life and working its way up the food chain to our dinner plates, and while the problem seems overwhelmingly huge, we can all help.  Try to avoid using plastic, dispose of it properly, and pick up litter on the beach – it all adds up. Earth Day 2012 (Sunday, April 22nd)

Earth Day 2012 – “Mobilize the Earth” This year’s theme for Earth Day is ‘mobilization’ – the ideas is to think about what you can do and pitch in. From simple as making a pledge to turn off the lights when not in use, to involvement in major environmental campaigns, provides opportunities for everyone – there is even a special section for those who are interested in athletics or art.

Warmest Month on Record Everywhere (Else) – (Sunday Off Topic “Gotta Laugh or You’ll Cry” Category)

The lone blue state…

Only Washington State had below normal temperatures...

March’s 2012 weather for Seattle brought below normal temperatures, mostly cloudy skies, rain, wind, and snow after a cool, mostly cloudy, and rainy February. There were twenty-three days in March with cloudy sky conditions, seven days with partly cloudy sky conditions, and one day with sunny sky conditions.(

No wonder the whales go to California in the winter…

Southern Resident Orcas, L Pod. Photo by Howard Garrett

Dolphin Rescued by Two People, Reunited With Her Calf (Friday Happy Hour)

In a story with a happy ending, Kerrie Ware and her family pulled a stranded female bottlenose dolphin off a sandbar, then helped steer her and her calf to safety. With no time to summon authorities, Kerrie and her father, George Heheman, quickly reacted with compassion – and notice how the dolphin doesn’t struggle, almost as if she knows the people are trying to help her. (April 9, 2012)

“It was only about four inches of water left on the sandbar,” Heheman said. “When we got over there I knew we had to get that dolphin off the sandbar or we’d have never moved her. She would have never moved.”
They said the dolphin wasn’t light and think she probably weighed about 300 pounds.
The whole ordeal was captured on camera by Kerry’s son and George’s grandson, 11-year-old Justin Ware. (Local 10 News)

The family was boating near Fort George Island, Florida – a complex environment that is honeycombed with channels and sandbars which can shift with the tides, dangerous to the dolphins that occasionally strand in pursuit of fish.

Fort George Island, Florida, has a complicated maze of waterways.

(This week’s Happy Hour tip was sent to me by Laurel Stradford.)

Marine Sanctuary and Whale Habitat is Being Used for Bombing Practice by the Military

Marine sanctuary along Washington's coast.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) is a spectacular, dynamic, and largely undeveloped region of coastal Washington State. The region supports large populations of orcas, sea otters, seabirds, salmon, and is an important part of the migration routes of humpback and grey whales.
And it is regularly bombed and mined with explosives by the U.S. military – for practice.

Bombing range overlaps the sanctuary.

The Navy‟s Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Keyport operates and maintains the [Quinault Underwater Tracking Range] (QUTR) located in Navy Operations Area W-237A.
The Navy has conducted underwater testing at the QUTR since 1981 and maintains a control center at the Kalaloch Ranger Station. This range is instrumented to track and test surface vessels, submarines and various undersea vehicles.
Research work involves testing of equipment and technologies, including mobile targets, torpedoes, underwater mine shapes, and autonomous vehicles.
The Navy has proposed expansion of this range‟s area more than 50-fold to support existing and future needs in manned and unmanned vehicle programs development (U.S. Navy 2010a). The preferred alternative in the final EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] expands this range‟s boundaries to coincide with the existing W-237A Military Warning Area boundary and adds a surf-zone access site at Pacific Beach.
Within this area, the Navy conducts a variety of training activities, including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, electronic combat, mine warfare, strike warfare, and special forces training.
…To minimize cetacean disturbance, it is the policy of NUWC Division Keyport not to test when cetaceans are known to be present. The Navy was issued a Letter of Authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) for use of sound sources for Keyport activities in May 2011. (Source:  Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary – Final Management Plan and Environmental Assessment )

The concept of designating a sanctuary that allows for some of the worst assaults to living things imaginable is beyond belief.
Habitats that take decades to centuries to become established can be destroyed in seconds. Salmon and rockfish become instant sushi. And the mammals? After struggling to recover following centuries of exploitation, they are devastated by impact explosions and sonic disruption of their hearing apparatus.

L112 with big brother L106 Photo by Ken Balcomb on September 11, 2011

Explosive force killed L-112, and likely her brother as well.

This needs to be stopped – for more information on the specifics of the navy arsenals and marine mammals, please go to the Center for Whale Research website.

Orca Whale Killed by Explosives – Will NOAA’s Scandal Beleaguered Office of Law Enforcement Do Anything?

An endangered Southern Resident Orca, L112 (“Victoria”), was found on the shores of Long Beach, Washington State on February 11 , 2012. (See Orca Killed by Blast for more background information).

L112 with big brother L106 (Photo by Ken Balcomb on September 11, 2011)

Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research has been actively pressing to determine the source of the explosion that caused her death before the trail of accountability can be obliterated:
“The final results of analysis of her tissues and fluids found in her cranium may take some time”, he writes, “but it is important to note that ALL of the expert observations of her bloody and bruised carcass, and her head, concluded that there is strong evidence of near instantaneous lethal destruction of tissues, mostly on one side, consistent with blast trauma, as already reported. Her death was undoubtedly caused by humans, and we have to look for the source of the blast.”
“I have asked the Law Enforcement division of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to investigate so that there will be a clear set of rules concerning withholding, filtering, or losing evidence in this case.”
And finally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE) has launched an investigation. Vicki Nomura is heading the effort.  “The toughest part of conducting an investigation like that is proving the actual violation. When you have a dead marine mammal there’s very little information.”
Of course it does not help that there was a two month delay, and that this response came only after considerable pressure by Balcomb, the media, and the public.
Congressman Sherrod Brown & NOAA party boat

Worse is the fact that NOAA’s law enforcement is under current investigation by the Senate for misappropriations of funds and of turning an ill begotten boat into a “party boat’.  There has been a lack of transparency and accountability in the investigation that has shaken up that office.

Feb 20th 2012, New York Daily News: [Congressman] Tierney also pressed Bryson with questions about the misuse of the fund by NOAA’s Seattle Office of Law Enforcement, which drew $300,787 from the fund in 2008 to acquire a 35-foot luxury cabin boat with flat screen TV and built-in bar for undercover operations — then used it mostly for pleasure cruising in Puget Sound by law enforcement officials, friends and family, the Inspector General found.
NOAA conceded that the purchase violated the “spirit” of federal procurement law; The Inspector General’s report described the events as involving “misconduct.”
Tierney and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who separately obtained and released the IG’s report last week under the Freedom of Information Act, characterized the transaction as filled with improprieties, dishonesty and corruption.

March 8th:  At a budget hearing yesterday before the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco was asked about the boat scandal in Seattle, but except for describing herself as “appalled” to learn about the episode, she provided no details.
Lubchenco reiterated information issued in a NOAA press release last month that the boat had been “surplussed,” and that the incident had sparked improved vessel acquisition policy and retraining. But, as she has done in multiple congressional hearings, Lubchenco cited “the Privacy Act” as a bar to informing Congress about any personnel punishment.
She described herself as frustrated by the impediment to providing a public report, while emphasizing a “top-to-bottom” overhaul of policy and personnel — though key figures have been given new jobs.

March 28–Questioning its “accountability and integrity,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has launched an effort to break through a wall of silence erected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration surrounding the abuses of its authority while overseeing the nation’s fishing industry.
Collins has requested a meeting at the staff level between the administration and Senate and House Appropriations and Oversight committees in an effort to crack the silence she said has been erected via the misuse of the Privacy Act.
Among the overriding questions posed by Collins, a Maine Republican, in her March 22 letter to Commerce Secretary John Bryson was abuse of the Asset Forfeiture Fund, made up of fines paid by fishermen, and an apparent lack of consequences for abuses by NOAA law enforcers identified by the Commerce Department inspector general’s office in multiple reports beginning January 2010 through late last year.

…U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, chaired the hearing that was organized by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the ranking Republican.
Collins said Carper and Brown, among “several of my colleagues, … have experienced considerable difficulties getting answers from NOAA regarding the management of the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the integrity and accountability of those managing the fund, the disposition of the $300,000 luxury boat and what, if any disciplinary actions have been taken against employees found culpable in the misuse of the fund.”
Collins made a point of questioning the chronic use of the Privacy Act by NOAA to insulate itself against congressional inquiries. “NOAA officials’ use of the Privacy Act as a sword to protect its reputation rather than as a shield, as Congress intended, to protect the privacy rights of private citizens, is unacceptable,” she wrote.

I have omitted the names of people who may have been involved, there is no point and this kind of boondoggle is rampant in government and in industry.  But NOAA’s law office has a prime opportunity to demonstrate that it can operate effectively, openly, and transparently by engaging in a thorough investigation that does not cover up, mislead, or otherwise try to protect those who were involved in the death of one, or maybe all, of a family of highly endangered whales.

Whales Are Peeple Too – Whale Sized Peeps?

I couldn’t find much in the way of creative Peeps dioramas (where the familiar sugary marshmallow treats, “Peeps”, are amusingly displayed) with whales and dolphins as the theme, but I did find this rant by someone who fell for an April Fool’s joke about Peeps.

This goes in the “I couldn’t even begin to make this up” Sunday Funnies category.

An example of a beautiful underwater Peeps diorama, so much could be done to include whales or dolphins in an underwater scene next year…

Great Barrier Peeps

(By the way, this year’s winner is “Occupeep DC“.)
Link to the original whale sized peep joke is here.

Shark Bites Surfer in Hawaii – Attack or Mistake?

This shark attack occurred Tuesday (4/3/12) on Oahu’s famed north shore, which is one of the world’s surf meccas – one where surfers have an uneasy relationship with the tiger sharks that patrol the area. For their part, the sharks are looking for sea turtles, seals, and fish, and seldom bother the humans that swim, snorkel and surf in their domain – but occasionally the sharks mistake someone, or someone’s body part, for a meal.
In this case the victim was alone and in murky water – two things that both made him more vulnerable and made it more difficult for the shark to assess the prey before moving in, and are mistakes that might have cost him his life had he not educated himself on what to do.
The experts all say that no matter what, you need to fight back.

While statistics show that bites from tiger sharks can be fatal even if the victim was unintended, the ‘shark attack capitol of the world‘ in Florida has never had a fatality even though more people are bitten there (by other species) than anywhere else in the world. Even though tiger sharks and other aggressive species are found in the region, they don’t seem to cross paths too often with humans in that area.
Worldwide there are fewer than 70 fatal shark attacks, most due to people being mistaken for prey items. We kill 70 million sharks every year out of fear, for fun, for their fins.
Something is out of balance.