Day-Glo Pet Fish Are Genetically Engineered, As Are These Controversial Salmon

Zebrafish genetically engineered into fluorescent colors.

Two fish – one modified to resemble the colors of Play-Doh and the other designed to grow to market size quickly- exemplify the march towards releasing genetically modified animals into the environment. These fish have been developed quietly over the last decade or so, representing both the first GMO animal in the pet trade in one case and the first one designed for human consumption in the other.
Normal zebrafish evolved to blend into the environment

One is a Disney-esque version of the familiar gray/blue zebrafish that are found in many home aquariums. These modified fish are commercially available in most states in fluorescent hues and were created by scientists interested in developing sentinel fish that would change color when the fish’s environment became polluted.
The idea was that by inserting coral or jellyfish genes into the fish embryos the resulting unnatural colors would only appear and glow in certain circumstances, but so far the researchers have not been able to find the key that will trigger the color changes. Meanwhile these freshwater fish – which normally would never even contact the salt water coral and jellyfish – now contain genetic information from those other species, and are being marketed as entertaining oddities.
People are legitimately concerned about the consequences of placing genetically engineered aquarium fish in the hands of consumers because there are no guarantees that the fish won’t just get dumped where the conditions are right for them to survive and breed. The fish are patented so legally hobbyists can’t breed them, but unless someone tries to sell the progeny, who would know?

What makes the precedence of the psychedelic fish particularly onerous is that it opens the door for the creation of all kinds of strange things, including the possible FDA approval of the modified salmon which may soon appear on your plate without your knowing.  These modified Atlantic salmon, with genetic material from Chinook salmon (for size) and an eel-like fish called a ‘pout’ (chose for its year round growth) quickly grow abnormally large and make it to market in record time.

The Center for Food Safety has more detailed information on this issue, and is circulating a petition to encourage the FDA to be more vigilant before approving the genetically engineered salmon. Although the bioengineering company is fighting it, it is your right to have these fish clearly labeled

Gowanus Dolphin Knew a Moment of Compassion Before Dying

Gowanus Dolphin moment of communion from Aaron Stewart-Ahn on Vimeo.
Even though the authorities were reticent to help this dolphin (please see previous post), one man responded to the animal’s plight with courage and compassion, braving the frigid temperatures and polluted water to provide a few minutes of comfort. While it is technically not permitted nor advised, this man did what no one else could summon the nerve to do. Whoever he is (and I hope we can locate him), I think we can all express a collective sigh of relief – the best of humanity showed up for the poor dolphin as well as the most indifferent. Kudos.
Words from Aaron Stewart-Ahn, who filmed the moment of compassion:

Gowanus Dolphin moment of communion
from Aaron Stewart-Ahn Plus

On January 25 2013 a common atlantic dolphin was trapped in the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, a federal Superfund site that is one of the most polluted waterways in the entire United States. Decisions were made by NYPD & marine mammal rescue not to attempt a rescue of the animal but to wait and observe. A few hours later a man on a beat up bicycle showed up and decided to comfort the dolphin. Without saying a word he entered the water. The dolphin was extremely affectionate and responded to his touch. This lasted for quite awhile.
After awhile the man came out of the water and went home to have a shower, he said. The dolphin then headed up the canal and finally cleared the floats from the oil facility that had kept him penned in all day. But then he drifted to a group of onlookers where he stayed all evening before dying around 6pm, as snow fell.

Thanks to Elizabeth Batt for letting me know about this, what a cheerful antidote to today’s earlier reports!

Dolphin Dies While Authorities Stand and Watch

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The dolphin that appeared to have lost its way and became stranded in the Gowanus Canal died early Friday evening.
The wayward animal stopped moving shortly after 5:30 p.m. after getting wedged between a rock and a pillar below the Union Street Bridge, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
Witnesses said they saw the dolphin flop around and struggle and hit its head against a pillar before it stopped moving and began floating.
The NYPD Harbor and Emergency Service Units were on the scene along with marine mammal experts from the Riverhead Foundation.  CBS New York.

This unfortunate dolphin wound up in a filthy river far from its companions, and contrary to the usual response to dolphins in distress, authorities stood around and did nothing, hoping that the dolphin would magically find its way back out to see when the tide came in.
Any marine mammal person could tell that this dolphin was injured, disoriented and highly stressed and the concept of its being able to find its way back to its pod were zero.  Mostly, I think they were hoping that it would die in the dark somewhere out of sight and out of mind – or better yet, they could put some cheerful spin on the situation such as “we presume it found its way out”.
True, it may not have been able to survive a capture attempt depending upon the nature of its internal injuries…but no one tried.
Why?  Perhaps it is due to the deplorable condition of the river, known to contain excess levels of toxins.
Once again, we have to ask ourselves what we are doing to this planet when people are afraid to get in the polluted waterways where other species are forced to swim.
And by the way, sooner or later, humans wind up eating the mess we throw away, it comes back to us in the fish we eat.
Please read this TakePart article for an eyewitness account by author David Kirby.

Taking Pets to Hawaii – Quarantine Not Required, But It Is an Adventure

A bit of work to get here, but oh so worth it!

UPDATE 11/28/14 : After so many requests, I put this information together as an ebook on It has a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process, and the supplementary chapters will save you time and spare you the frustration and confusion that can accompany the bureaucratic steps.  Take Your Dog To Hawaii: How to bring dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other pets to Hawaii.
The chapters on how to make the adjustment once you are here will help you find pet friendly lodging, beaches, and parks.
There are also sections on bringing other pets (who knew that you can bring guinea pigs, but hamsters are not allowed?) and domestic animals.
As I sat in the Honolulu Animal Quarantine waiting room with several other equally frazzled pet owners, a very unfortunate young man was trying to get his dog released but lacked the ability to pay the $165 fee.  He explained how he’d lost everything to theft, didn’t have the cash or i.d. needed, and couldn’t get to a friend on the island and back in time to keep from having his dog moved to the quarantine station.  He was upset but pleasant, the officials were empathetic, but it was a no go.
At that point the woman sitting next to me – who herself had experienced an arduous journey with a dog and cat – asked how much money he needed. Tired, aggravated, and flushed from the heat she muttered something under her breath then stood up, walked over to the window and said (with an expletive or two) that she would pay for the release of the dog.  Without pause she counted out the cash as we cheered.  She accepted the gratitude and a hug from the young man, and when he offered to pay her back she just told him to pay it forward.
That generous and kind person is now becoming a resident of Hawaii, and she is a stellar example of the type of person who would never have come here had the new rules not made it possible for her to bring her pets, leaving the state poorer for turning away people like her.  So why is it difficult for pet owners to move to Hawaii?
Back in 1912 Hawaii established a 120 day quarantine policy for carnivorous animals in order to keep rabies out of what was then the Territory of Hawaii.  The rules remained unchanged when Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959 up until 1997 when a 30 day quarantine went into effect – more lenient, but still a stumbling block for many pet owners.
In 2003 the present “five days or less program” replaced the need to quarantine pets in Hawaii at all, much to the relief of people who previously found the options of lengthy quarantine or giving away their pets equally untenable.  The new policy is also more in keeping with the warm, friendly and family oriented culture of Hawaii, so it just makes sense all the way around – yet Hawaii must still be strict to keep the state rabies-free.
Hawaii now puts the burden of proof on the shoulders of pet owners, and they provide clear yet inflexible guidelines on exactly how to go about bringing pets into the state.  It is a lengthy process which can be complicated, and woe to anyone who misses a deadline – but with careful planning anyone can do it.
I outline the process in detail (which you can download for free if you have a Kindle), but here are the main points:

  • Allow at least five months, even though the waiting period is 120 days. The waiting period starts after all the shots and blood work is done and received.
  • Dogs and cats will need original records of vaccinations signed by a veterinarian, and this can be hard to obtain if you have been lax about shots or have moved.
  • After the animals have two rabies vaccinations at least 30 days apart, the blood work is sent to the lab to be checked, and the results are then sent to Hawaii.  At that point you can find out online when the first day your pet is allowed into the state.
  • No more than 14 days before the pets arrive in Hawaii a veterinarian must apply a certain flea/tick preparation to the animals, and no more than 10 days before the vets must prepare a health certificate. Note that these are for the dates you are actually traveling.
  • Pets must arrive by 3:30 pm in order for them to be released directly, otherwise they are transferred to the quarantine site and held up to 5 days (for the “five days or less” option, which costs $225).

The next hurdle is getting your pet there – the airlines can only accommodate a few pets on each flight, whether they fly in the passenger compartment, as baggage, or as cargo. Because the pets must get to Hawaii in the afternoon the morning flights from the mainland book the animal spaces early- and information about pet bookings will not show up when you look online for tickets so it is advisable to contact the airlines directly for reservations.
You must make sure that the health certificate includes a statement by the vet that states that your pet can withstand temperatures of 45 degrees, and some airlines will demand a letter to this effect by the vet.  This is because the airlines have made changes to make sure that all pets arrive safely and in good health and can tolerate the cooler (but still climate controlled and pressurized) environment of the cargo hold.  Oddly enough, they do not require anything stating that the animals can withstand high temperatures even though dogs are documented to have died of heat stroke on flights.
If you are flying a big dog (more than 29″ from the top of the head to the ground) you may not be able to fly them as baggage on your flight or even as cargo because some plane cargo doors are too small to fit a larger crate.  If you don’t want your dog flown all over and kenneled overnight in some strange city, you must figure out which airlines will fly pets nonstop and still get them to Hawaii by 3:30.
Hawaiian Airlines does not take any dog over 70 lbs as baggage. They can fly a larger dog as cargo (which costs several times as much, even on the same flight), but you must arrange to have a backup contact in Hawaii in case your own flight is delayed.
Alaska, United, and Delta currently either don’t have flights that arrive in time (from Seattle) or have no capacity to fit a large crate, but flights on some of these airlines are available with smaller pets.  All airlines are not equal when it comes to safely transporting animals, so definitely spend time finding out which are the best.
Cats are easier to ship than all but the tiniest dogs, and the cost to fly them varies with airlines, but the airlines allow only a few animals of any kind on each flight (ie three or less). You will have to take them out of their carry-on container and hold them when you go through the security scanners, and because – unbelievably – people use pets to smuggle all kinds of things, further tests may be performed to make sure that your pet is not carrying drugs or other contraband. So if your cat will be freaked out by this, do bring a leash of some sort so that the cat can’t get away – remember, you will be standing there in bare feet with your valuables in bins, and chasing a frightened cat is a nightmare at best
The pets flying as luggage or cargo will need to get to the airport at least three hours early in some cases, and it is advised that you find deep water bowls and freeze water in them overnight so that the pets have water available on the flight as the ice melts.  You are permitted to put any kind of soft bedding in that is absorbent, and familiar blankets etc are always a good idea.

Bailey loves his new home in Hawaii!

My experience:
Overall, it was very positive.  My big dog had to fly cargo on Hawaiian, but they carefully explained their requirements in advance, offered tips to make the pet comfortable, and were friendly.  We were at the airport by 5:30 a.m. to get the dog settled for a 9 a.m. flight.  My cat flew with me as a carry on baggage on Alaska Airlines, and although it was cramped to have her at my feet and my overstuffed large handbag on my lap for six hours it was doable, and fortunately the cat was quiet. I arrived in Honolulu about the same time as my dog, and was met at the gate by an official who took the cat to the quarantine office.
Some glitches with family schedules meant that I had to plan last minute alternatives causing me to spend hours on the phone with the airlines, but as it turns out it prevented larger problems since the pet spaces were already booked on the original flights, which would not have accommodated my large dog.
A huge thing to note: the reservation agents often don’t know or don’t understand the pet flight rules themselves.  You need to check and double check the facts.
Finding the Animal Quarantine in Honolulu Airport was not straightforward, even though an agent met me at the gate.  This was experienced by others from different flights as well but is not a big deal unless you are short on time.  The agents in the quarantine office were very pleasant, and watched my bags when I went to pick up the rental car.  I had reserved a minivan in order to make sure that the dog’s crate fit, which turned out to be good because they will not let you take the animals out of the crate while at the airport.
Here were the highlights:
The wonderful, friendly, pet loving staff at the Edgewater Hotel where I stayed with the dog and cat in order to make the early flight. They were not bothered by the chaotic nature of my arrival, didn’t bat an eyelash at the battered old suitcase I brought, they lavished the dog with attention, and were careful with the cat. They took the pet water bowls to the staff lounge and froze them overnight and made sure we had them following the 3:30 a.m. wake up call the morning of my flight. I repacked my bags and left unwanted clothes etc, as well as the disposable litter pan and got no complaints. With winter rates and because pets stay free of charge it was competitively priced, and it felt like a luxurious reward after the packing, moving, planning, and traveling with the pets, but the whole experience was so positive and the staff so professional and friendly that I would do it again even at standard rates.
The vets at NW Veterinary Hospital who squeezed my dog in for the ‘letter of acclimation’ at the last minute, examined my dog and certified that he could withstand 45 degree temperature, and didn’t charge.
Learning that my cat, who turns into a whirling dervish of teeth and claws in the hands of strangers would be completely docile when I held her for exams and through airline security.
The Edgewater staff, the vets, the inspirational woman named Sandy who helped the young man get his dog from quarantine, the wonderful people where I live who offered to pick me up at the airport and welcomed me with flowers and a nice dinner, and my son who took a couple of days off work to help get me to two airlines with two pets on time, all helped transform what seemed to be an ordeal into what is turning out to be a wonderful adventure.
So to sum it up – allow plenty of time, read the fine print, double check the airlines, make sure you prepay all fees or arrive with cash, do what you can to make yourself comfortable, and enjoy your new adventure!
Bailey and his new buddy Rango play on the beach everyday, he loves it here!


Video of Orcas Trapped in Ice Keeping the Breathing Hole Open

(Please check back here or other reliable sources for information on how to help. De-icers are on their way, and a team of biologists is due to arrive today (1/10/13)).
Update 6:30 a.m. 1/10/13, the whales are no longer at the breathing hole. There is a good possibility that they have made it to another breathing hole or to open water, we are waiting for more information as the day progresses, but it sounds like this is really good news!

You may read that these orcas (please see previous article) are struggling to breathe by poking their heads out of the hole in the ice, but although obvious stressed by their predicament there appears to be much more going among these highly intelligent whales – it looks like a coordinated, cooperative survival technique.
We will need to wait for confirmation from the experts, but as you watch this video keep in mind that orcas are essentially swimming machines and rarely just lounge on the surface – calves in particular must keep moving to generate body heat and to stay afloat. So what appears to be hyperactivity and inability to get enough air is a much less likely explanation for this behavior than is the concept that the whales are working together to keep the hole from freezing over.
Once again, these magnificent animals show how very intelligent and cooperative they are, even though they cannot keep this up for long without the ability to hunt, and they may be no match for the brutal temperatures there.
Hopefully they can hold on until help arrives.

12 Orca Whales Trapped by Ice May Be Saved by De-icers: Generators Desperately Needed

Orcas trapped in ice (Monteal Gazette Photo)

January 9th, 2013
(Update 10 pm: Your response has been terrific, and because Kasco Marine is a small company who just stepped in to do the right thing at the right time their system is overwhelmed by all of your inquiries. They have no dedicated web pages or staff to handle this and are working hard to get the equipment and people out to where the whales are trapped, and ask that you support them in this effort by going through the FaceBook group listed below). You just gotta love those guys at Kasco…
The family of orcas who have been trapped by ice in Hudson Bay, Canada may survive if generators reach the people struggling to help the whales in time. Reported in detail on TakePart by David Kirby (author of Death at Seaworld) in Pod of 12 Killer Whales Trapped in Quebec Ice Likely to Die Without Human Intervention,  this situation resembles the plight of three gray whales which were trapped in the movie “Big Miracle”, and saved by a multinational coalition comprised of environmentalists, commercial interests, the U.S. and Soviet militaries, and a couple of inspired inventors from Kasco Marine. (Contact information for Kasco Marine removed to save the saviors!)
Also a FaceBook page has been established to keep you up to date on the plight of the orcas ,  and is spearheading a Twitter campaign to bring the situation to public attention, (use the hashtags #SaveQuebecWhales and #BigMiracle in your Tweets on this). Also please Tweet the following to ask for supplies –

Once again Kasco has stepped up and is sending the equipment that will keep the whale’s breathing hole open until another solution can be found, but generators and fuel will be needed.

Major motion picture, Big Miracle, puts the Hootkin (aka Kasco Marine) De-Icer center stage.

The Big Miracle, starring Drew Barrymore, is inspired by the events that unfolded on a huge ice-sheet near the northernmost town in the United States, Barrow, Alaska. The real-life events starred the Kasco Marine de-icers!
In October 1988, three young gray whales were trapped under the ice near Barrow, and the rescue mission that unfolded captured the world’s attention. It also caught the attention of Greg Ferrian and Rick Skluzacek, part of the Kasco Marine family. The two were sure that their Kasco Marine de-icers could help save the whales by keeping their breathing holes ice-free. The head of the rescue mission told Greg to stay home in Minnesota, which he took as a challenge, and dragged two Kasco de-icers and his brother-in-law, Rick (a Kasco Marine engineer), 300 miles above the arctic circle to Barrow and literally saved the day.
Greg and Rick’s story is portrayed in Big Miracle and Kasco Marine de-icers become Hootkin de-icers, made by the fictional Hootkin Company. Movie characters Karl Hootkin and Dean Glowacki are inspired by Ferrian and Skluzacek, however, neither speak Minnesotan quite the way they are portrayed in the movie!