Peace Doves Attacked by Birds in Rome – The End of Days, or Nature?


Doves released as peace gesture were quickly attacked by a crow and a seagull.
Doves released as peace gesture were quickly attacked by a crow and a gull.

The archetypal image could have come right out of the pages of a Harry Potter novel, resembling a classic battle of good versus not-so-good –  the white doves which were released at the Vatican as a gesture of hope towards peace in the Ukraine were quickly attacked by a hooded crow and a gull. The doves appear to have survived the attacks, but nonetheless the superstitious beliefs emerged over the internet in chat rooms and comments, fearing this event as a sign of the ‘End of Days’.
But crows  and gulls are opportunistic predators and no doubt are accustomed to finding easy meals from the lunches of the thousands of tourists who flock to visit the Vatican. They just happened to be there at the wrong time looking for a snack – to them the doves may have seemed just another tasty morsel thrown from the window.
Peace dove attacked by hooded crow (Daily Mail).
Peace dove attacked by hooded crow (Photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The strikingly white doves have been carefully bred for centuries – we are fascinated by the appearance of these  animals who lack the normal pigment of their species.  Their brilliant white color stands out and seems to command our attention, causing us to wonder about their origin and chances of survival in the natural world, and to marvel at what we are taught to believe about them.
In the case of wild animals, all too often that sense of wonder is soon replaced by a desire to capture these rare individuals for display, or to kill them for their hides. In other instances these unexpected white animals stir a deep and primal need to restore our inner equilibrium and often become symbolic in cultural beliefs.
white buffalo calfwoman
“Prophecies have been shared and sacred instructions were given. We, the People of the Earth, were instructed that the original wisdom must be shared again when imbalance and disharmony are upon Mother Earth. In 1994 the sacred white buffalo, the giver of the sacred pipe, returned to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people bringing forth the sacred message that the winds of change are here. Since that time many more messengers in the form of white animals have come, telling us to wake up my children. It is time. So listen for the sacred instruction.” Arvol Looking Horse, Lakota Tribe.

According to legend, the White Buffalo Calf Woman was a holy entity that visited the Oceti Sakowin [Sioux]  over a four-day period.  She taught them sacred ceremonies, songs, and dances.  She gifted the people with a sacred bundle containing the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, which still exists to this day and is kept by Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.  Upon appearing and leaving, the White Buffalo Calf Woman changed into a white buffalo calf, then changed in color from white to black, to yellow, and finally, red.  Prophetically, it is said that the White Buffalo Calf Woman will return at the end of an age, and she will appear as a white buffalo calf. (Native Times).

The images of white animals and the  ideas that they represent do seem to have a primal impact on us, but the question is, what do we do with our beliefs – do we obey our gut reaction to capture or kill the unusual white animals or do we choose to let them live free and wild, taking whatever message that we will just from having seen them?
whitewhale albino
There are several biological mechanisms which can cause a loss of pigment.  A true albino loses all pigment (including the eye color) while  mutations or defects can cause partial or complete color loss, and the animal usually retains eye pigment in the latter cases. The orca above appears to have lost just some of his pigment, while the dolphin calf below appears to be a true albino.

Rare albino is among hundreds destined for captivity or slaughter.
Rare albino is was taken for display.

This albino dolphin calf was recently captured in the brutal dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. Separated from her mother and the rest of her family she faces a tough adjustment to life in captivity, as there can be physiological complications that arise with albinos. Her mother was either released back into the wild, or more likely slaughtered in another classic parable – that of killing the golden goose – for she might have carried recessive genes that could have produced young who in turn may have carried the gene for albinism which appears to have been a high revenue capture.
Saving the mother dolphin along with the calf would also have helped the calf survive the trials of captivity – but then again the whole strategy behind the dolphin drives shows stupidity at every level…having over-fished their environment these fishermen see the dolphins as competitors for the dwindling fish stocks, and they also consume the meat from the dolphins which is known to be contaminated with heavy metals.
There is a correlation of heavy metals with increased albinism in fish:
Photo by Amber Young.
Taken for captive display, the fish soon died. Photo by Amber Young.

Heavy metals (As, Cd, Cu, Hg, Se, Zn) were shown to increase the incidence of albinism during 5 years of experiments with channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Metal-induced albinism resulted from exposure of both adult fish and eggs. In egg bioassays, exposed populations consistently exhibited higher percentages (up to 6.3%) of albinos than did controls, but frequencies did not vary significantly for the six metals or for exposure concentrations which ranged from 0.5 to 250 µg/1.
Metal contamination in a hatchery water supply yielded frequencies of albinos corresponding directly with those observed for metal-exposed laboratory populations. Inasmuch as albinism has proved deleterious to fish survival and production, caution is recommended in using metallic compounds in hatchery management. Tests for albinism may prove useful in screening aquatic contaminants for mutagenic potential.

ajun0807ravens061albino dreaming wizard
Science and mythology may intersect when it comes to the symbolism of albinos; the Sioux prophecy of the white buffalo tells that white animals will appear in a time of change, signalling a need for humanity to unite – and ironically, as we inch towards irreversible climate change our careless treatment of the environment may result in an increased incidence of albinism, but certainly does call for a need to unite across cultures.
flat,550x550,075,f.u1 migaloo jenny dean albino

 Photo from George Dvorsky.

A final cautionary tale about our tendency to project concepts onto wildlife: Ahab in Moby Dick lost sight of reason in his obsession to destroy a white whale, determined to dominate the forces of nature.  We now know what a perilous undertaking that has been as we face ecological problems on a global scale, and hopefully have learned to balance the comfort of superstition with perspective. If the crow attack symbolizes the ‘End of Days’, it is only what we read into nature, combined with our efforts to try to manipulate and control natural forces.

To some, the White Whale is a myth. To others, he is immortal. But one significant question is, What is the White Whale to Ahab? Ishmael grants that Ahab views the whale as an embodiment of evil. Ishmael himself is not so sure. The narrator often sees both sides of a question, never more so than in Chapter 42, “The Whiteness of the Whale.” There he tells us that Moby Dick’s whiteness might represent good or evil, glory or damnation, all colors or the “visible absence of color.”
For Ahab’s interpretation, it is helpful to consider the captain’s comments in the pivotal Chapter 36. There, the captain says he sees Moby Dick as a “mask,” behind which lies a great power whose dominance Ahab refuses to accept. Ahab sees that inscrutable power as evil.
Some scholars argue that it is not the whale, or the force behind the whale, that is evil; the evil is in Ahab. Others see the captain as simply insane. Ahab is out of control as he rants about attacking the force behind the façade of Moby Dick. He wants to kill the whale in order to reach that force. Ahab seems to want to be a god. As great and charismatic a man as he can be in his finest moments, the captain is destructively egocentric and mad for power. To Ahab, we might conclude, the White Whale represents that power which limits and controls man. Ahab sees it as evil incarnate. But perhaps it is just a big, smart [whale]. Cliffnotes.


Blackstone CEO Claims That Had He Watched Blackfish He Would Not Have Made a Mistake

Blackstone sold off much of their SeaWorld stock.
Blaming the victim while making a fortune.

Yesterday’s statement by the CEO of the Blackstone Group blaming SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau for her own death came as a surprise, and counters what SeaWorld representatives have stated under oath in the past – however it is in alignment with the initial statements put forth by SeaWorld in the days following the tragedy.

The top executive at SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.’s largest shareholder suggested that former SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau should be blamed for her own death, claiming that the veteran animal trainer broke multiple safety rules before she was pulled into a tank and killed by a six-ton orca in February 2010.
SeaWorld “had one safety lapse — interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had,” Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive officer of private-equity giant Blackstone Group, said in an interview Thursday on CNBC. Orlando Sentinel.

SeaWorld has spent a considerable amount of money and energy lately trying to undermine and deflect the effectiveness of the film Blackfish, but they are unable to make much progress – it just isn’t possible to rewrite history in this age of independent media. For instance, ABC news (see below) was able to obtain medical information on another incident in which a whale attacked a trainer and left him paralyzed. What SeaWorld doesn’t want you to know is that the whale was partially blind, and the trainers were not fully informed:

Schwartzman later recanted his statement about Dawn Brancheau’s death, and claimed to have been uninformed having never watched Blackfish – if that is true it means that indifference to the health and safety of the trainers goes all the way to the top of the corporate ladder, as long as the show goes on and billions of dollars are taken from families’ pockets to build corporate assets. And had he watched the film, he would have seen that a SeaWorld spokesman also blamed the victim in the days following the attack and that it was only after a thorough investigation by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) that they reversed their statements.

“Mr. Schwarzman was unaware of the precise circumstances of the incident, which occurred nearly four years ago, and his comments did not accurately reflect the facts of the accident or SeaWorld’s longstanding position on it. Dawn’s death remains a source of great sadness for her family, friends and colleagues and Blackstone regrets the error.”Orlando Sentinel.

The problem for SeaWorld and Blackstone is that there is no way to sugar-coat the fact that keeping whales in tanks is not healthy or safe for the people who work with them.  The question is, do they really care?

U.S. State Department Expresses Concern About the Japan Dolphin Drive, Supports Ambassador Kennedy

One of three false killer whales imported to Sea Life Park, Hawaii, from the Taiji dolphin drives in 1990 with her half-dolphin calf. Bottle nose dolphin in the back. Sea Life Park still has the offspring of this whale.
One of three false killer whales imported to Sea Life Park, Hawaii, from the Taiji dolphin drives in 1990.  With her is her half-dolphin calf. Sea Life Park still has the offspring of this whale.

Below is the audio recording from the National Public Radio interview with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. It is about three minutes long and worth listening to as they discuss Ambassador Kennedy’s fresh approach as Ambassador.

This is the transcript of the press briefing, it is interesting in the reaction to Twitter:

21 Jan 2014


State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf briefs reporters joining her teleconference on a range of international topics.

Looks like the next question is from Elizabeth Shogren of NPR.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I wonder if you saw that Ambassador Kennedy tweeted that she’s deeply concerned about – by the inhumanness of drive to hunt dolphins in Japan. I wonder if you know anything about why she decided to tweet this comment and whether there’s any other U.S. reaction to that drive.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, obviously, we – in general, in terms of why she tweeted, we communicate with the public in a variety of ways. So I don’t think I have probably more of an analysis of why she went to Twitter to talk about this. But suffice to say the U.S. does remain committed to the global moratorium on commercial whaling, and we are concerned with both the sustainability and the humaneness of the Japanese dolphin hunts. We have been very clear that this is our position, and we remain – excuse me – remain concerned about it. And the Ambassador was expressing our view that we’ve made public for a long time.
QUESTION: And was there any official correspondence with the Japanese officials on this issue?
MS. HARF: I can check and see. We have discussed our concerns directly with Japan. I can check and see what level we’ve discussed those concerns at.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thanks.

Taiji Dolphin Drives Started in 1969, and Are Not a Part of Japanese Tradition


Dolphin Drive Hunts Only Began in 1969

(Press release from The Earth Island Institute)

Claims being made by the Japanese government to the media and the public that the Taiji dolphin drive hunts, revealed to the world in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, are part of Japan’s “traditional culture” are completely false.
Worldwide condemnation of the dolphin drive hunts continues to grow.  US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy released an unprecedented public statement of concern over the Taiji kill.   And Japanese artist and activist Yoko Ono published a powerful open letter to people of Taiji calling for an end to the dolphin killing to avoid “making the children of the world hate the Japanese”.
One of Japan’s foremost defenders of the dolphins, our colleague Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, submitted a letter a few weeks ago to Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which includes as a member the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), one of whose members is the Taiji Whale Museum, which brokers dolphins from the dolphin hunts around the world.
Dr. Dick responded to Elsa stating that WAZA would not take action against the hunts:  “As you know, in some Japanese communities these drives have been part of the culture for centuries.”  This same false claim is now being made to the media by the Japanese government.
“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” stated Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project.  “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969.”
Ms. Hemmi has replied to Dr. Dick with an open letter stating that:  “In fact, the history of dolphin hunting in Taiji is short. According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45. Furthermore, in 1969, the main goal of the dolphin drive was to capture pilot whales as prized showpieces for the Taiji Whale Museum. In other words, the dolphin drive was purely for profit, having nothing to do with cultural history.”
Elsa and two other grassroots Japanese environmental organizations are asking WAZA, in their open letter, to eject JAZA members that violate the WAZA “Code of Ethics” in using the brutal hunts to catch dolphins for display, thereby subsidizing the slaughter of dolphins for meat.
“What is going on here?” Ric O’Barry asked.  “The dolphin hunts are being used by the captivity industry to supply wild dolphins to aquariums in Japan, China, Dubai, and other aquariums all around the world.  (Imports of dolphins from Taiji into the US were finally blocked by the efforts of Earth Island Institute and other organizations in 1993.)”
WAZA publishes a “Code of Ethics” and has given lip service to opposing the Taiji drive hunts.  But JAZA and the Taiji Whale Museum are still members in good standing with WAZA.
Ric O’Barry stated: “What kind of ethics condemns the dolphin hunts while taking advantage of them to help the Taiji dolphin hunters round up and slaughter hundreds of dolphins every year?”
“WAZA and ALL its members should be condemning the dolphin hunts in no uncertain terms,” Ric O’Barry added.  “If JAZA members continue to acquire dolphins from the drive hunts in Taiji, JAZA should be expelled from WAZA.”
Mark J. Palmer

Associate Director International Marine Mammal Project,  Director Wildlife Alive Subproject Earth Island Institute The Brower Center(510) 859-9139 (Berkeley Office)

Rare albino is among hundreds destined for captivity or slaughter.
Rare albino has been taken into captivity, separated from its mother.

Does SeaWorld Discriminate? Have You Seen a Minority Whale Trainer?

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

While the world watches and waits to see what will happen to the hundreds of dolphins who face slaughter in Taiji, Martin Luther King’s words of compassion and personal responsibility remind us that society will never be just if we don’t make an effort to right wrongs when it is in our ability to do so.

Even as SeaWorld sits mute on the annual dolphin slaughter, they also remain mute on their failure to represent persons of color in their high-profile trainer line up. Until recently, when people learned how miserable the whales can be in confinement,  becoming a whale trainer seemed to be a glamorous job, one that every child had the right to dream about.

Unless your skin was dark.

How often have you seen a minority trainer among SeaWorld's elite?
How often have you seen a minority trainer among SeaWorld’s elite?

According to Death at SeaWorldthere was only one African-American trainer, although I can’t verify if he was among the elite whale trainers or whether he was involved with the comical seal shows. SeaWorld doesn’t disclose information on its hiring and recruitment programs.

Jeff’s friend and confidante Samantha Berg was not about to give up her job either. She
loved working at SeaWorld, though she did feel out of place with her dark curly hair and the
only Jewish surname in the department (there was one African-American; the rest were white
and decidedly gentile). Nearly all the other female trainers were tall, fair-haired and willowy.
gentile). Nearly all the other female trainers were tall, fair-haired and willowy – except for one
other dark-haired New Yorker, of Italian descent, who worked at Sea Lion and
Otter Stadium. When Sam was transferred to the stadium, the two became great friends. They
both thought it was pretty funny they had been hired at all,
Two months after Dawn died, the Department of Labor cited SeaWorld parks for
employment records that showed a “disparate impact” on African-American and Hispanic
applicants. As a result, the company was required to contact nearly 1,000 qualified applicants
578 who had been denied employment and either offer them a job or a portion of the modest
settlement mandated by the government.

What makes this a painful fact is that SeaWorld has not problem pandering to children as can be seen with the Mattel SeaWorld trainer dolls – yet the reality is that minority children will come to believe that there is no place for them as equals at SeaWorld. That is the pain of prejudice at work.



From an article I wrote in 2011:

When I was looking through the witness reports on [trainer] Dawn Brancheau’s death, I noticed that witness after witness is listed as white. Of the 41 witnesses that were employed at SeaWorld, 3 were black. It looks like two of those were employed in the restaurant, though it is hard to be sure, and none were listed as trainers. None identified themselves as Asian or Native American.
That is less than 7%. The black population of Orlando is 27% (reference). Because SeaWorld has proven itself to be excruciatingly indifferent and obtuse about their statistics, I didn’t even bother trying to contact them this time, but the pictures, and the evidence don’t lie.
It is time to diversify or to face dwindling attendance by people who don’t see themselves represented fairly, and if SeaWorld can’t recruit minorities willing to go in the water with dangerous animals, then it is just another clue that whole segments of our population don’t relate to those circus acts. Instead, SeaWorld could hire people of all races and physical ability to reconstruct livable habitat for the animals and to figure out a way to make money from keeping the whales in sea pens instead of tanks.

It is not just the animals who are hurt at SeaWorld, prejudice and racism leave scars on the lives of those who are made to feel not good enough by prejudice in all its forms.
As SeaWorld celebrates 50 years of being in business, they appear to be celebrating 50 years of business as usual, even though they need riot police to protect them from what most people feel are unfair and unkind policies, as was shown in the recent Rose Parade fiasco.
It is a new era, one that SeaWorld just can’t seem to adjust to quickly enough, which is a shame given all the good they could do with their resources.
Why was a blond child chosen as iconic of SeaWorld?

SeaWorld, Sea Life Park, and Dolphin Quest Are Linked to Dolphin Massacre

Update January 20th, 2014 7 pm EST. The dolphins who were not chosen for captivity are now being slaughtered as the world watches. Please continue to voice your outrage, and consider boycotting the summer Olympics taking place in Japan in 2016.
If I had to pick just one aspect of the Japan dolphin drives that encapsulates all that is wrong with the annual dolphin slaughter, it would not be the fact that it is a function of greed.
Nor would it be the fact that the dolphins are normally just migrating through the area, by no stretch of the imagination are these “Japanese dolphins”. Sadly, the dolphins killed in Taiji may be the same ones that winter along the beaches of other countries where their presence would have been welcome.
It wouldn’t be the fact that the fishermen have the arcane idea that dolphins and whales are competitors for a dwindling fish supply either that is the most abhorrent. And no, not the obvious joy shown by the ignorant fishermen in upsetting the rest of the world.

And dolphins still don't harm humans...
And dolphins still don’t harm humans…

No, the one thing that takes this slaughter to heartbreak level is that the brutal fishermen, in their cowardice, have chosen a species that never attacks back, allowing the hunters to safely enter the water, their killing knives and skewing implements wielding destruction unopposed.
They don’t do this with sharks. Or rays, swordfish, or barracuda. But these fishermen of Taiji callously swim and wade out with the dolphins knowing that the dolphins won’t harm them, maiming and torturing the one species that is known to save humans in need.
Due to bad press, the dolphins now try to kill dolphins bloodlessly, but it doesn't work, often resulting in a prolonged death.
Due to bad press, the fishermen now try to kill dolphins bloodlessly, but it doesn’t work, often resulting in a prolonged death.

A few short days ago, the little white dolphin who activists have named ‘Angel’ was swimming free with her mother and extended pod. Today she is in a tank with a few other calves, their mothers left behind to face the possibility of slaughter unless the Japanese government steps in and puts an end to this barbaric practice.

Is there hope for these dolphins? Yes, given enough public pressure, and if the amusement parks would own up to their complicity in the carnage. The video below explains how these captures are driven by people who make a fortune from it.
SeaWorld claims that it no longer supports the drive fishery, but does nothing to intercede. Sea Life Park in Hawaii still has the whale/dolphin offspring of a false killer whale who came from the Japan captures. Dolphin Quest has two swim-with-dolphin facilities in Hawaii, both built with money from ‘blood dolphins’ caught in Japan.
Please watch this video, you can skip the first minute or two if it is hard to stomach, and still learn how the dolphin slaughter is driven by industry. The people of Japan have been unaware of the situation, but are beginning to protest, bringing hope that this will soon be stopped. Please see this website to learn why these hunts not reflective of the Japanese country as a whole, but instead is reflective of a heartless few.

RIC O’BARRY’S DOLPHIN PROJECT has prepared this list of resources for you to contact and have your voice heard, together we can end this:

The hunts for dolphins in Taiji must be stopped, and the captivity industry should be in the forefront of efforts to stop the hunts.  Instead, the captivity industry is subsidizing the hunts by paying top dollar for captive dolphins like Angel, while the mother is carted off to the abattoir.  They should be ashamed of themselves.
Please help in any way you can!  We need your continuing help to end the Taiji dolphin hunts.
Contact these leaders and ask them to release the dolphins in Taiji and Angel with his mother:
The Hon. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, Japan
Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae
Embassy of Japan in the United States
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W
Washington DC 20008
Tel: 202-238-6700, Fax: 202-328-2187
Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
WAZA Executive Office
IUCN Conservation Centre
Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland

250 Dolphins Face Slaughter in Japan Today, Including a Rare Albino – You Can Help!

Update January 20th, 2014 7 pm EST. The dolphins who were not chosen for captivity are now being slaughtered as the world watches. 
I am shocked and horrified by this, it is extreme even for the brutal Japanese fishermen in Taiji. The sorting and slaughter is set to start at 1 pm Pacific Standard Time, and will be live streamed by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Here is a list of Japanese Embassies if you would like to express your opinion: More information on the Japanese slaughter can be found at Save Japan Dolphins. (Please see video below).

Rare albino is among hundreds destined for captivity or slaughter.
Rare albino is among hundreds destined for captivity or slaughter.

Sea Shepherd News – Five separate pods of Bottlenose dolphins were driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove yesterday and held overnight. This now massive pod of more than 250 dolphins includes babies and juveniles, including a rare albino calf who has been clinging as closely as possible to his or her mother in the stress and panic of the drive hunt.  If not killed, the albino will most certainly be taken as a novelty for Taiji’s local marine park attractions. In some cultures, it is taboo to capture or otherwise harm albino animals, as they are considered “spirit” animals and hunting them is thought to be bad luck.
Today, the members of the pod will face a violent and stressful captive selection process. Babies and mothers will be torn from each other’s sides as some are taken for captivity, some are killed, and others are driven back out to sea to fend for themselves. Taiji dolphin killers and trainers work side-by-side to choose those deemed suitable for captivity – the “prettiest” dolphins without visible nicks or scars. Those taken captive are forced to watch as the remaining members of their family are brutally killed for human consumption. The dolphin meat is sold by the Taiji Fishermen’s Union despite the fact that it contains high levels of mercury and other harmful toxins. We anticipate going online from the Cove with our live stream today at ~ 1 pm PT as the captive selection and slaughter begin. Please spread the world by sharing our URL widely:

The Tragedy of the Orca Tilikum Featured by Northwest Artist Kelli Clifton

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then this one suggests that we all remain silent and take in the message that it so eloquently brings to life: the whale Tilikum, who has killed three humans, suffers a tormented soul, his body and spirit bent but not broken, his life representing the rag-doll capture of a species long know to the native peoples of the world to be our equivalent in the ocean.

This image shows the dorsal collapse of the bent fin, and three faces representing those killed by Tilikum.
This image shows the dorsal collapse of the bent fin, and three faces representing those killed by Tilikum.

The artist, Kelli Clifton, writes about how profoundly upset she was by the life captive orcas are forced to live:

Last summer I traveled to Vancouver after hearing about a documentary film called Blackfish. Having worked as a whale watching tour guide, and coming from a [Native American] nation where the killer whale is one of our four crests, I’ve always had a fascination with these beautiful creatures.
After viewing the film, my heart felt broken. For months I couldn’t stop speaking about all that I had learned in relation to Blackfish. Eventually, speaking about it wasn’t enough for me. I needed to share the story in a way that was more familiar to myself-through my artwork. My latest painting, Tilikum, shares the sad story of a whale who lives in captivity.
About the design:
The head pointing down symbolizes death, while the collapsed dorsal fin is a result of being held captive. Many of the cut-out marks along the body are rake marks made by other whales’ teeth. The three faces are to honour those who lost their lives, and the colours used are inspired by those found in SeaWorld’s logo.
If you have not yet seen the film, I encourage everyone to do so. It is a powerful story about the exploitation of these animals, and I hope its message will both inform and move you as much as it did me.

Compare the respect offered to orcas by indigenous cultures to that of SeaWorld, it is a heartbreaking contrast as these trainers demonstrate:

From Occupy SW
Tilikum after the third death, from Occupy SW.

There is a dignity and grace in wild orcas that is muted and sad in the ones in captivity, a grace that has intrigued us from before recorded time. Early drawings show that people everywhere – the oldest known records are from Norway – have always held these whales in high esteem, a respect we held until corporations tried to turn them into circus clowns  over the last 50 years.
(From an earlier article):

Figures of animals, humans and geometric forms extend over hundreds of miles [in the Peruvian high desert], and it is believed that they were constructed over centuries. Why they were made is anyone’s guess, (current theory is that it is related to their spiritual beliefs), but the inclusion of an orca and another type of whale tells us that these animals were of importance to them.
Some of the oldest known images of orcas, however, were found in the granite fields of Leiknes, Norway, which is host to petroglyphs (rock carvings) believed to be [six to nine thousand] years old.
A cave on San Nicolas Island (one of the islands off the California coast) is known as ‘Cave of the Killer Whales‘, named for the numerous images of orcas carved into the sandstone walls. These drawings are believed to pre-date the indigenous tribes who later occupied the islands.
Petroglyphs depicting orcas can be found up the Northwest coast all the way to Alaska, and for a fascinating read on the subject I recommend Bill Leen’s website, A Gallery of Northwest Petroglyphs: Shamanic Art of the Pacific Northwest.

With filmmakers such as those involved with Blackfish, and artists such as Kelli, humanity is waking up to see all that is wrong about keeping these magnificent animals in tanks.

Seismic Survey Ship Forced Off of Fishing Grounds by a Flotilla of Small Boats

“We don’t just want to hear about meagre compensation for our financial hardships. We want to fish, living the way we’ve lived for thousands of years. This is our legacy, our right and what we know best. It seems to be a case of feeding the rich and depriving the less privileged. We are scattered all over Trinidad and Tobago which makes it easy to divide, fool and conquer us to get us out of their way as they have done just last week with our fellow fishers on the south coast, who accepted the untruths and inadequate packages dangled at them, as we once did, because of their financial distress and ignorance, just as ours, distress which is counted on to weaken our resolve and fool you, the public.” Diane Christian-Simmons
Photo courtesy of Diane Christian-Simmons.
Fed up with trying to work through government channels, the fishing community of Trinidad Tobago has held a series of peaceful pickets to protect the fish that have fed their nation for thousands of years – fish that are known to be harmed by oil companies in the seemingly unquenchable offshore quest for oil and gas.
A research article (see page 205) speculates that humpback whales have not returned to that area because of the noise associated with the activities of oil companies, and the whales and dolphins of that region will also benefit by enforcing environmental constraints on big oil.

Photo courtesy of Newsday.
Photo courtesy of Newsday.

Now that the seismic surveys – which bombard the environment with loud noise for weeks or months at a time – have begun in spite of the fishing community demands, the fishermen decided to take their protest to the waves, and two dozen or so small fishing boats dodged police boats and slowed the huge seismic vessel.
According to the Caribbean New Media Group, a cat and mouse game ensued as the oil company police boats tried to block the local fishing boats, called “pirogues”:

Even with faster, bigger and more powerful vessels, the efforts of Petrotrin Police were frustrated. They could halt the progress of a pirogue or two, but they could not stop them all.
Several fishermen told C News they were prepared to face guns if need be to protect the fishery. But on Saturday morning, the only thing pointed in their direction from the authorities were cameras.
The convoy of fishing boats continued their pursuit of one of the ships being used in the seismic survey, with the Petrotrin Police boats in hot pursuit.
The police boats used their powerful engines to churn up wake, crossing in front of the bows of the smaller fishing boats to slow them down.
Coincidentally, it was a tactic that the fishermen planned to use as well. Using their greater numbers, they found their way into the path of the seismic survey ship and slowed their pace, forcing the ship to slow to a crawl to match their pace and allow the ship’s captain a chance to think of his next move.
Mr. Gary Aboud of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea said: “He cannot stop because the cables are in the water. He is doing the bombing already. But it is illegal so we are going to go in front the ship and stop it. But you have to be ready to pull out at a moment’s notice because the ship cannot stop.”
A maritime cat and mouse game ensued as the seismic survey ship turned and sped over to areas uncovered by the pirogues and Petrotrin’s Police offered whatever resistance they could muster to slow down the pursuit.

Eventually the seismic ship, the Sanco Star, was forced into rougher water where the small boats could not follow.
From a post I wrote last fall, explaining the significance of the problem fisheries have with the seismic search for oil:
Last November, a peaceful picket resulted in the dramatic arrest of Gary Aboud, head of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh and La Brea fisherman, Wayne Henry.
Gary Aboud, head of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (left), Diane Christian-Simmons, president of the Cocorite fishing association (center), and environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh (right). This statement accompanied the press conference.
The situation in Trinidad Tobago is particularly complex because that well-educated nation enjoys a good standard of living in many sectors as a result of the extensive oil reserves that have built the economy, and which created a government that is closely tied to the industry.
In a press release, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea note that the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has never required Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) before seismic surveys for oil and gas are undertaken. They understand that oil exploration will undoubtedly occur there, but they are requesting something very significant: They just want basic science to figure out the degree of impact on fisheries, and they want the fish stock restored.
“Bombing” is a colloquial term for the seismic surveys, the fishermen (colloquially referred to as ‘fisherfolk’) understand the science of seismic surveys. Photo courtesy of Christian-Simmons.
The fishing community demands reasonable compensation from the oil industry for loss of income. The next oil survey will keep them from the area for eight months, and studies show that the fish may disappear from the region due to the noise.
Arrested in last week’s protest, environmental engineer Cathal Healy-Singh has documented the situation there in detail, and provided the information to the government.

There is a plethora of scientific data worldwide which concludes that Seismic Surveys (SS) are damaging to not only marine mammals but also to fish and other marine organisms. In 2011, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, presented to the EMA (and all relevant government agencies and fishing groups) a substantial technical document which compiles the results of scores and scores of research papers from scientific groups around the world which clearly and unequivocally recognizes the damage that SS does. “During the last 20 years there has been growing concern with respect to the impacts of offshore SS activities on marine life”

From the press release:

Since they [EMA] failed to require EIAs in the past, there is no documented evidence of where, how much and what types of fish are being caught, and what the impacts of previous specific Seismic Surveys have been on national fisheries and particularly commercial fisheries, since only the landing sites and gross quantities caught are intermittently documented by the Fisheries Division (according to fishermen).As a result, the EMA is not in a position now, nor will they be after the Guidelines are written, to “ensure that offshore activities are conducted in a regulated manner”. Hence they would have failed to “uphold principles of sustainable development”
Everyone is now fully aware of the grave concerns of fishermen forced, precisely because of a lack of consultations, to have to come into the full public gaze and demonstrate peacefully at the POS waterfront. They are reporting up to 70% drop in catch; lasting months after the Seismic Surveys are completed.

Miami Seaquarium and SeaWorld Celebrations Seem Inappropriate – It is Time to Retire Flipper and Shamu

snf05dol4-682_882318a ric o barry msq flipperSeaWorld is not alone in celebrating 50 years of using whales and dolphins as circus entertainment this year. Miami Seaquarium, the original film location of the popular TV series “Flipper,” is planning a year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the television program’s first broadcast, which actually featured 5 female dolphins in the role of Flipper.

Watching from the sidelines will be “Lolita”, the lonely wild-caught killer whale who lives alone with two dolphins as companions in the family run Miami Seaquarium.

“Miami Seaquarium is very proud of its association with ‘Flipper,’ the TV series, which is a classic among TV fans throughout the world,” said Andrew Hertz, president and general manager at Miami Seaquarium.

“This TV series forever changed our awareness of marine mammals and how we interact with them.  Our goal is to commemorate this momentous anniversary with a year-long celebration with special events, community initiatives and park activities.”

Activist Ric O’Barry found the series momentous as well as he caught and trained the dolphins for the Flipper show, then watched as one died in his arms. It changed the trajectory of his life. (The video clip below is from the Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove“).

The Miami Seaquarium is calling their event “A Year Full of Wonder,” and plans the following:

  • New Flipper Dolphin Show –The new Caribbean themed show, with a new set, music and behaviors will let everyone know what Flipper has been up to in recent years.  While the show demonstrates that Flipper’s surroundings may have changed, his core commitment to helping out when there is a need has not.
    New Flipper Splash Area –In the summer of 2014, the park will unveil a new water play area, located near the Flipper Stadium, designed especially for toddlers.
    “Flip it Forward, South Florida – What is “Flip it Forward?” In the popular TV show Flipper frequently “saved the day” by helping his human companions.
    The park will be encouraging everyone to ‘Flip It Forward’ through random acts of kindness.  provides details on how everyone can get involved in making South Florida a more caring community.

“Flip it Forward” ? I can imagine that activists will have a field day with that one, it is way too close to “Flip it Off”. ‘Random acts of kindness’ is a laudable goal – the world can use more kindness, including kindness to animals such as the parade of dolphins forced to play the part of the imaginary dolphin ‘Flipper’, or the orca “Lolita” who has lived there for nearly the entire time in a tiny tank:

SeaWorld is calling its event “Sea of Surprises” and has gotten a ‘sea of surprises’ as a tidal wave of public sentiment has turned against the confinement and treatment of the orcas in their care, as revealed in the film “Blackfish“.  My guess is that the Miami Seaquarium will have a ‘year full of wonder’ as they wonder why they thought the public would embrace a half century-old business model based on circus-like animal performances.

(Courtesy Orca Network)
Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium now(Courtesy Orca Network)

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