Lolita the Orca – Caught, Bought, and Betrayed by the Hertz Family

  •  Lolita was captured from the wild population of endangered Southern Resident orcas, where her mother and extended family still swim in the Salish Sea.
  • If the sale goes through before she can be legally protected, she could wind up anywhere in the world.
  • Her new potential buyers are in turn owned by a mega-corporation, based in London, which is invested in offshore oil exploration.
  • Contact the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners and express your thoughts.
  • Comment on Lolita’s exclusion from endangered status by midnight 3/28/14.

Lolita's small pool has no cover and no way to escape the noise.
Lolita’s small pool.

Today’s announcement in the Miami Herald that Miami Seaquarium may be sold to a European conglomerate comes as a shock to those who have been following Lolita the whale’s story for decades.
Lolita is a member of the endangered Southern Resident orcas, and was seen in the film Blackfish as she was brutally caught and taken from her family, then sent to live in a small pool at the Miami Seaquarium. Most of her life has been spent without the company of her own species.
Lolita’s owner, Arthur Hertz, CEO of Wometco.

Now she is being sold before NOAA can rule on whether or not Lolita should be given the protections held by her wild family as part of an endangered population (she was purposely excluded from this designation). While many advocates were aware that the deal was in the works, the timing of the announcement coming on the day the comment period closes for the public to express opinions on whether Lolita should be given enhanced protections seems calculated to limit the backlash.

Owner Wometco Enterprises will close the deal and hand over the park after the Miami-Dade County Commission votes on a resolution approving the purchase, which is expected within a couple of months. The Seaquarium leases the land from the county, paying on a fluctuating scale based partly on revenues. In fiscal year 2012-13, the company paid $2.1 million. The lease runs through 2031.
The Seaquarium’s president and general manager, Andrew Hertz, told the Miami Herald on Thursday that talks with the buyer had been underway for more than two years. “We have never offered Miami Seaquarium for sale, period,” said Hertz, whose family owns the park. “In my 18 years here, at least two, three inquiries a year have come in.”
Hertz said Palace Entertainment “came to us and made an offer” that Wometco was willing to consider. He would not disclose terms of the deal.


At first blush it may seem that the financial resources of the purchaser, Palace Entertainment, will help provide Lolita with a better situation than her current cramped conditions. But what will this really mean for Lolita?
(Courtesy Orca Network)
(Courtesy Orca Network)
“We don’t expect the change in ownership to change anything for Lolita”, said Orca Network’s Howard Garrett “She’ll continue to be exploited for entertainment revenues while her attorneys will continue to argue for her protection as a member of her family under the Endangered Species Act, and for her return to the waters where she was born and raised to be a Southern Resident orca.”


The Hertz family seems to feel that the public is as indifferent to Lolita’s future welfare as are they. In 2012, Andrew Hertz remarked to the Miami Herald:
Hertz“Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for more than 42 years, and is as active and healthy as ever,” Andrew Hertz told the Herald in 2012. “Lolita will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium.”  Arthur Hertz said Tuesday the activists’ objections “are still going on,” but their demands that visitors boycott the Seaquarium had no effect.“The public doesn’t care.” Read more here


If the sale goes through before NOAA reaches a decision on Lolita’s status as an endangered species, she could wind up anywhere. Palace Entertainment owns many amusement parks in the U.S., and has ties worldwide through their parent companies. They will have the financial leverage to do whatever they wish – move Lolita away, build a huge lagoon and force her to live with incompatible animals, or do nothing. Andrew Hertz essentially grew up with Lolita in his life, and I believe the Hertz family will try to safeguard her future…but good luck in standing up to a powerful conglomerate that is not American, and obviously not terribly concerned about the environment.

It is hard to consider, but if she is placed with incompatible whales she would likely wind up with the broken teeth, rake marks, and miserable lifestyle of other captive orcas who are moved from place to place with little consideration.
Even harder to understand is that the Hertz family would choose this option for her rather than give her a chance to live in a sea pen, or to rejoin her family in the wild.
But that’s entertainment.

 Palace Entertainment is the largest family amusement and waterpark operator in the U.S. with 32 parks and over 10 million visitors annually. Palace Entertainment waterparks include; Wet ‘N Wild in Greensboro NC, Raging Waters in San Dimas and San Jose CA, Splish Splash in Riverhead NY, Big Kahuna’s in Destin FL, Water Country in Portsmouth NH, Mountain Creek in Vernon NJ and Wild Waters in Ocala FL. Palace Entertainment also owns Boomers, Castle Park, Silver Springs, Malibu Grand Prix, Mountasia, and Speedzone family entertainment parks in CA, TX, FL, GA, and NY. For more information, visit

(Above, another of Palace Entertainment’s holdings)

But Palace Entertainment is not independent either, it is owned by Parques Reunides which owns the following venues worldwide (as of 2010):

Aqualud (water park), Le Touquet, France
Aquarium of the Lakes (zoo & nature park) Cumbria, UK
Aquópolis (water park), seven centers in Spain
Benalmádena Cable Car, Andalucia, Spain
Big Kahuna’s (water park), Destin, Florida
Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire UK
Bo Sommarland (water park), Bø, Norway
Bobbejaanland, Lichtaart, Belgium
Boomers (family entertainment centers), Locations throughout California, Florida, New York, USA
Bonbon-Land, Holme-Olstrup, Denmark
Bournemouth Oceanarium, Bournemouth UK
Castle Park, Riverside, Calif.
Delfinario Costa Daurada, (zoo & nature park), Spain
Faunia (zoo & nature park), Madrid
Idlewild, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Kennywood, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
L’Oceanogràfic (zoo & nature park), Valencia, Spain
Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut
Madrid Cable Car, Spain
Malibu (family entertainment center), Norcross, Georgia; Redwood City, Calif.; and Houston, USA
Aquarium Mar del Plata, Argentina
Marineland, Antibes, France
Mirabilandia, Ravenna, Italy
Mountain Creek (water park), Vernon, New Jersey
Mountasia (family entertainment center) Marietta, Georgia and Dallas, USA
MoviePark, Bottrop-Kirchhellen, Germany
Parque de Atracciones, Madrid
Parque Warner, Madrid
Raging Waters (water park), Sacramento, San Jose and San Dimas, Calif.
Sandcastle (water park), West Homestead, Pennsylvania
Sea Life Park Hawaii (zoo & nature park), Oahu, Hawaii
Selwo Aventura (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Selwo Marina (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Silver Springs (zoo & nature park), Florida, USA
SpeedZone (family entertainment center), Los Angeles and Dallas
Splish Splash (water park), Riverhead, New York
Story Land, Glen, New Hampshire
TusenFryd, Vinterbro, Norway
Water Country (water park), Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Wild Waters (water park), Silver Spring, Florida
Wet ‘n Wild (water park) Greensboro, North Carolina and Orlando
Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, Spain
Parques Reunidos is in turn owned by London-based Arle Capital Partners, whose over two billion dollar company focuses on “major energy players” (oil etc) as can be seen in this graphic from their website.


“Arle Capital Partners is an international private equity manager whose focus is on investing in businesses along the Energy & Natural Resources supply chain.

Our aim is to create market-leading businesses which are attractive to the major energy players.

Arle’s partnership model and extensive industry network enables the firm to source proprietary deals and deploy its expertise with each investment.”

 What can be done?  At this point, the best option is to contact the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners and express your thoughts, and watch for online petitions.  I will update this article when more information is available.

NBC News Reports 27 Million Marine Mammals May Be Impacted By Navy Practice – Comment Period Extended

NAVY EXTENDS PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD FOR NORTHWEST TRAINING AND TESTING. Please take a minute to express your opinion to the navy on their planned activities, using logical and factual arguments.

The Navy estimates that its activities could inadvertently kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California, mostly from explosives. 

It calculates more than 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California, along with nearly 2 million minor injuries, such as temporary hearing loss, off each coast. It also predicts marine mammals might change their behavior — such as swimming in a different direction — in 27 million instances.  (NBCnews)


SILVERDALE, Wash. – The U.S. Navy is extending the public comment period for the Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT) Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) until April 15, 2014, to allow the public more time to submit comments.
The Navy prepared the Draft EIS/OEIS to evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with military readiness training and testing activities conducted primarily within existing range complexes, operating areas and testing ranges in the NWTT Study Area. The Navy invites the public to submit comments on the Proposed Action and alternatives, and the accuracy and adequacy of the Draft EIS/OEIS analysis. The Draft EIS/OEIS is available for public review online at
The Navy is accepting comments throughout the extended public comment period, which began Jan. 24, 2014, and now runs until April 15, 2014. All comments must be postmarked or received online by April 15, 2014, for consideration in the Final EIS/OEIS. Written comments may be submitted via the project website at or by mail to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
Attention: Ms. Kimberly Kler – NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

Eight public meetings were recently held in Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Southeastern Alaska to inform the public about the Navy’s Proposed Action and findings in the Draft EIS/OEIS. Public comments on the environmental analysis were accepted during the public meetings. All comments received by April 15, 2014, will be considered in the development of the Final EIS/OEIS.
The Navy’s Proposed Action is to conduct training and testing activities, to include the use of active sonar and explosives, within the NWTT Study Area. The Proposed Action also includes pierside sonar maintenance and testing within the NWTT Study Area.
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to ensure that the Navy accomplishes its mission to maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas. This mission is achieved in part by training and testing within the NWTT Study Area. The NWTT EIS/OEIS also supports the renewal of federal regulatory permits and authorizations for current training and testing activities and future activities requiring environmental analysis.
The NWTT Study Area is composed of Navy training and testing range complexes, operating areas, testing facilities, and select Navy pierside locations in the Pacific Northwest. Aircraft training and testing activities that take place on or within established Navy airfields at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., or Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility Boardman, Ore., are not included in this NWTT EIS/OEIS.
Visit the project website at to download the Draft EIS/OEIS, view a map of the NWTT Study Area, learn more about the project and submit comments online.

So, the question is…HAS BEING PREPARED FOR WAR EVER PREVENTED WAR? World War I was to be the war that ended all wars – one hundred years and many wars later here we are.  It is time for a new world strategy, but until we figure that out please take action to help minimize our impact on the environment.

The war to end war” (sometimes called “The war to end all wars“) was a term for World War I. Originally idealistic, it is now used mainly in a disparaging way.In later years, the term became associated with Woodrow Wilson, despite the fact that Wilson used the phrase only once. Along with the phrase “make the world safe for democracy,” it embodied Wilson’s conviction that America’s entry into the war was necessary to preserve human freedom. (Wikipedia)

“Strange game. The only way to win is not to play.”.

SeaWorld is a Contender for “Worst Company in America” in a Contest Run by a Consumer Reports Subsidiary

  • The Consumerist runs an annual contest for the public to choose the company that they feel is the worst in the country.
  • Corporations are paired off, and each day a few of these pairs are available for voting.
  • The initial list is based on consumer input.
  • This year SeaWorld is included in the match-up, presumably due to the surge of awareness brought by the film Blackfish.

Injury and deaths of both humans and animals at SeaWorld make this company a contender for "Worst Company in America". (Photo courtesy of
Injury and deaths of both humans and animals at SeaWorld make this company a contender for “Worst Company in America”. (Photo courtesy of

When an organization such as Consumer Reports runs a contest, you can fully trust the honesty and reliability of the results – so the fact that SeaWorld even appears on this contest is significant, regardless of the outcome.  This contest becomes a permanent record, so win or lose, all the nominees for each year are retained in the records.

The Consumerist’s parent company, Consumer Media LLC, is a subsidiary of Consumer Reports, the nation’s leading not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization. Since its founding in 1936, Consumer Reports has fought for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.

The results of today’s (3/19/14) voting: Chase, Comcast, and Abercrombie & Fitch will move on to the next round.  SeaWorld is paired against the pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson, which has had major issues with quality control in recent years.
You can participate, and vote for all the corporations you truly think need significant improvement.  Just check back to the website daily, and early in the day since it appears as though the contest is open according to Eastern Standard Time work hours.  When the poll is open, a check-box will show up on your screen and you will be able to vote on just one pair at a time.


Are Orca Whales Too Smart for Captivity? Why California’s Possible Legislation Against Captivity Makes Sense

Smart? You bet!

Yesterday (March 7th, 2014) California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) gave a press conference on a bill known as the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB-2140), which he submitted to the California Assembly. It immediately created a fervor on the internet.
In essence, the bill is designed to change our relationship with captive orcas and to prevent the capture of wild ones. It is not against SeaWorld specifically; for instance it would protect orcas from becoming part of Disneyland or resort entertainment in the future.
But SeaWorld will feel the impact and predictably took it as a personal-corporate threat (please see the last video, below). Yet that amusement park still fails to understand that people want real factual information  so that they can make their own decisions on whether or not orcas belong in tanks.
Luna tries to imitate the boat engine:

In much of the recent internet buzz generated by the legislation (nicknamed #blackfishbill) I noticed the question  of orca intelligence surface over and over because people feel that animal intelligence is a huge factor in how they should be treated. Below I have re-posted two previous articles to help demonstrate mental capabilities of these sentient beings.
Interpreting Orca Intelligence
Posted on August 19, 2009

Cetacean brain development is an example of parallel evolution, adapted to the ocean environment.

Comparison of Human and Orca Brain (Creative Commons)

The brains of orcas are roughly four times larger than ours, have a greater surface area relative to brain weight, have enhanced development in different areas, and some of their nerve transmission speeds greatly exceed ours.
Naturally enough we humans don’t much like the idea that another species might rival us in that which we feel sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom: our intelligence. And so we have come up with many ways to explain it.
At first people pointed out the difference in our body sizes, and thought that it was obvious that bigger animals needed bigger brains…except that animals like the stegosaurus, close in size to orcas, had a brain about the size of a walnut. Not that they were mental giants, but they got by.

Picture(Creative Commons)

The next idea to come along was a comparison between the size of an animal and how large it’s brain is, and by that measure an orca would clearly be smarter than a stegosaurus, but not as smart as we humans.
Unfortunately for us, both hummingbirds and squirrel monkeys beat us in that measurement (we are about 2%, while hummingbirds are about 4%).
Now we have come up with a way of comparing brain size called “Encephalization Quotient”, or EQ, in which we compare how big an animal’s brain is versus how big you would expect it to be relative to the overall size. At last we win, our brains are 7 times bigger than you would expect them to be for our size, while our closest rivals are dolphins and toothed whales, which come in at the 2 to 5 times range. Whew! Except…
Their brains have a greater surface to volume ratio than ours. What this means, basically, is that the part of the brain that integrates information is much greater. Although scientists at first dismissed this by assuming that the tissue was ‘primitive’, current research disputes that. Research also overturns the notions that the types of cells are related to adapting to ocean temperatures, or that the large brains are completely dedicated to processing echolocation information. The layout of their brains is different from ours – some regions (such as those associated with smell) are diminished or absent, while others, such as the vision center, are moved around, and the structures associated with hearing are enhanced.
Fortunately, scientists are beginning to concentrate more on learning how the cetaceans use their massive brains, and less on coming up with ways to dismiss and diminish the evidence that we share this planet with other intelligent beings. The recent discovery that cetaceans have a special type of cell (called a spindle cell) previously found only in humans and the great apes implies that they aren’t just intelligent, but they are sentient and feeling as well: those cells are associated with our deeper emotions and social bonds.
This post goes into more detail on the orca’s ability to imitate:
Orca Whales Imitate Each Other and People – Scientists Correlate Imitation with Intelligence

Posted on June 24, 2013 | By 
Even though the young orca in the video above is likely  being cued and rewarded for imitating people, it shows the whales’ remarkable similarity to humans in that the orcas possess the ability to copy what they observe – and in this case, the behavior of another species (humans) behind a glass barrier where the whales are not even able to use their full senses.  Their phenomenal sound perception is useless to them in this task.Scientists acknowledge that this ability most likely contributes to their development of different cultures in the wild throughout the world:

Experimental evidence for action imitation in killer whales (Orcinus orca)

Comparative experimental studies of imitative learning have focused mainly on primates and birds. However, cetaceans are promising candidates to display imitative learning as they have evolved in socioecological settings that have selected for large brains, complex sociality, and coordinated predatory tactics. Here we tested imitative learning in killer whales, Orcinus orca. We used a ‘do-as-other-does’ paradigm in which 3 subjects witnessed a conspecific demonstrator’s performance that included 15 familiar and 4 novel behaviours. The three subjects (1) learned the copy command signal ‘Do that’ very quickly, that is, 20 trials on average; (2) copied 100 % of the demonstrator’s familiar and novel actions; (3) achieved full matches in the first attempt for 8–13 familiar behaviours (out of 15) and for the 2 novel behaviours (out of 2) in one subject; and (4) took no longer than 8 trials to accurately copy any familiar behaviour, and no longer than 16 trials to copy any novel behaviour. This study provides experimental evidence for body imitation, including production imitation, in killer whales that is comparable to that observed in dolphins tested under similar conditions. These findings suggest that imitative learning may underpin some of the group-specific traditions reported in killer whales in the field.

But what about in captivity? Do the orcas have an opportunity to learn by observing each other? Or does the constant shuffling of whales from place to place make it even harder for them to adjust to captive conditions.
At Seaworld, San Diego, the orcas have a hobby of hunting birds by baiting them with fish. At least three different whales do this – did they learn from each other?

If the orcas do learn this hunting technique from each other, what other behaviors do they learn, unperceived by people?
Dr. Ken Norris, a pioneer in the study of marine mammals, often speculated on how whales and dolphins might use their sonar to look into each others bodies and therefore be able to observe subtle physical cues that we can’t see. (Personal communication).
Ultimately, this ability to imitate is another reason why captivity fails these whales – a young whale who learns a language of behavior and sound in one park probably finds it worthless when moved to another, perpetuating the cycle of aggression.
And who knows what they teach each other about people…
Below is a CNN segment with the zookeeper speaking on SeaWorld’s behalf, included here to show why people want real facts from SeaWorld executives – spokespersons in safari outfits just isn’t going to do the job anymore:

[Predictably, SeaWorld executives do not comment themselves but have former employees speak on their behalf, often resulting in a mystifying blend of nonsense and double-speak. For instance, this video from CNN includes an interview with a the zookeeper who claims that “out of sight is out of mind” (implying that people are so shallow that they won’t think of whales if they don’t see them in tanks) and also stating that wild orcas are in trouble in the wild and so captivity will  somehow help save the whales – but if that is so, what exactly has SeaWorld accomplished in the last 50 years as the populations of wild orcas have continued to struggle?]

Blackfish Generates Another Bombshell: California Assemblyman Introduces Legislation to Phase Out Orca Whale Captivity

UPDATE: Bloom will hold a press conference today, Friday March 7th 2014, at the Santa Monica Pier at 11:30 am.
Already social media is abuzz about this proposal, including comments by other California lawmakers such as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego): “SeaWorld’s reputation of treating its workers poorly dates back to its opening 50 years ago. It’s about time we continue this conversation about job quality and workplace safety at SeaWorld – whether it involves groundskeepers, concessions workers or killer whale trainers. Recent evidence suggests its record with orcas isn’t much better. I’m looking forward to having an honest conversation about SeaWorld’s business practices and how they can really be an icon that makes San Diego proud.”
Apparently SeaWorld is unable to comment at this time as they have not seen the documents.
Richard Bloom chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation.  He represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacifica Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.
Thurdsay Mar 6th. Tomorrow, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom will introduce sweeping legislation designed to transform the discussion of whales and dolphins in captivity from ‘should orcas be kept in captivity’ to ‘since captivity is inhumane for orcas, this is what we propose to do”.
Following the release of the documentary Blackfish – an engaging documentary that disclosed the suffering endured by orca whales in captivity – an increased public awareness is encouraging politicians and lawmakers to submit legislation that will curtail the ability of theme parks to capture or display these large, social animals for entertainment.
Even before the recent awareness raised by the film, states were moving in the direction of eliminating captive display of whales and dolphins. A 1992 law in South Carolina  prohibits“the display of dolphins and porpoises. It was approved after pressure by the South Carolina Humane Society to stop a dolphin park in Myrtle Beach.
The island of Maui, Hawaii passed legislation making it captive-free in 2002.
Recently  New York senator Greg Ball (R), introduced a bill to outlaw the confinement of orcas in that state, and it caused more of a flap over the fact that an aid (now fired) copied and pasted someone else’s work than it did over the legislation itself, for the reason that orcas are not displayed in that state in the first place.

Photo courtesy of

But the legislation introduced in the state of California by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D) is in another league entirely, because that state is home to SeaWorld San Diego, and Six Flags, Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. While Six flags is not currently displaying orcas (they sent their last surviving whale, Shouka, to SeaWorld in 2012), under existing laws they could house another orca in their small pool in the future.
SeaWorld, however, has made a fortune off of displaying orcas in circus type shows while claiming to be educational, and their orcas have caused the death of four  human beings. They are unlikely to be happy about this bill.
If the bill passes into law, it will allow for the gradual transition of orca confinement from entertainment purposes to solely keeping orcas captive for research, rescue, and rehabilitation.  It would prevent the breeding of captive animals, and require that those animals maintained in captivity either be released to the wild or be kept in sea pens, which are defined as open water enclosures, anchored to the seafloor and the shoreline. The sea pens must be accessible to the public, but shows and entertainment are not allowed.
Overall, it is a progressive and fair piece of legislation that will give California theme parks ample time to re-invent themselves as the educational and rescue organizations they claim to be.
Bloom’s move on to protect killer whales from the trauma of captivity does not appear to have been lightly undertaken, and seems to reflect the true character of the man.  After a career in family law, he became involved in politics, first in Santa Monica city council, then as mayor of that town for three terms.  He was Chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and in 2002 was appointed to the California Coastal Commission.
Bloom is a dedicated family man.

As a legislator, he has been involved in civic, environmental and animal issues (he is part of a bipartisan group of 26 legislators that make up California’s Animal Protection Caucus.
Bloom was involved in the following, among others:

  • Extending an existing law that prohibits glass beads containing high levels of hazardous heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from being imported into and used in California.
  • Improving 911 Emergency Response
  • Restoring Local Redevelopment Funds
  • Sustainable Communities & Climate Protection Act Funding
  • Helping our Homeless Youth
  • Hazardous Waste Transportation
  • Bobcat Protection Act
  • AB 1301 – Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing Imposes a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing operations until appropriate laws and regulations are developed that protect the public health and safety and the natural resources of the state. Like all oil and gas extraction activities, hydraulic fracturing poses significant public health and safety and environmental risks. However, unlike all other oil and gas extraction activities, hydraulic fracturing activities are completely unregulated by the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). There is no reason why this practice should continue unregulated.

If this bill becomes law, a huge step forward will have been made, and if it doesn’t make it through this time, it is certain to keep the issue alive in the minds of those who consider spending their money at parks that display orcas. The captures are brutal, and it is time to relegate the era of captivity to the history books.

Hear Ear-splitting Navy Sonar, and Watch the Orca Whales Respond

From Beautiful Whale Courtesy of Beautiful Whale
Imagine that you are walking down a city street at night – suddenly an ear-splitting siren goes off and simultaneously you find yourself in pitch black darkness, so dark that you can’t see your hands in front of your face or find your companions. What would you do? Most likely, if you knew how you would run for where you thought you could find light to see, and away from the noise.
Similarly, when loud noise from sonar or seismic surveys suddenly goes off, whales and dolphins have no ability to “see” since their sonar is useless, so they panic and head for the surface – often separated from pod members and calves. And sometimes they destroy their hearing apparatus and body tissues in the process.
Warning – this noise is loud and it is recommended that you turn the volume down if you are listening on earphones. 

A Navy destroyer, the USS Shoup, was using active sonar as part of an exercise in Haro Strait, generating pulses of 140 decibels or more. That’s as loud as standing near a fighter jet during take-off.
In the following days, at least 10 harbor porpoises were found dead in the area, some with blood coming from their heads. Some frozen bodies were sent for analysis, but it couldn’t be conclusively determined if the sonar contributed to the deaths.
For Ken Balcomb, it felt like deja vu. Three years earlier, he’d studied a mass stranding of dolphins following a Navy sonar exercise in the Bahamas. Balcomb says he suspected the intense pressure of the sonar pulses played a role.
Balcomb explained, “So I collected and froze heads and took them to Harvard Medical School and we CAT scanned them and showed they had hemorrhagic damage in the brain and ears.” (OPR, see below).


While the event involving J-pod of the Southern Resident orcas occurred a few years ago and the Navy no longer uses this type of sonar when the orcas are present in the Salish Sea, Navy exercises using loud sonar and explosives still go on anywhere in the ocean where safeguards are not in place. In spite of the best available science that shows the negative impact of these activities on marine life, in December the National Marine Fisheries Service approved the Navy’s request for a permit that appears to be in violation of the law.
At the end of February 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Navy.  “Court documents can be found here, where it is stated:

In authorizing the Navy’s training and testing activities, the Service and the
Navy have committed these and other specific violations of the Marine Mammal
Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the
Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit clearly says that the NRDC does not seek to stop the military from essential practice, but instead want to see that strong mitigation measures are implemented.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has been in court for several years, trying to force the government to put stricter limits on the Navy’s use of sonar in coastal waters where whales are present. Smith points to documents in which the Navy concedes that, despite its efforts to avoid harm, it expects to impact marine mammals hundreds of thousands of times over the five-year permit period. He says that shows the effect of the Navy’s safety measures is limited.
Smith explained, “And that limitation is, it only really works to limit the most serious harm.”
Smith says the number of whales and other marine mammals outright killed or permanently deafened may be decreased by the lookouts and other Navy precautions, but other impacts that damage the animals’ ability to feed or reproduce won’t.
Smith said, “Temporary hearing loss will continue, behavioral disruption will continue, and their lookout regime doesn’t do anything to limit that.”
Smith says the Navy should be restricted from using sonar during times of the year when seasonal migrations bring concentrations of whales into coastal waters.
The Navy is holding a series of public meetings on the environmental impact statement for the Northwest Training and Testing Area. Meetings will be held in communities from Oak Harbor, Washington to Fort Bragg California.

Although the public meetings were few and far between (remaining meetings are listed below), you can still express your thoughts. Please remember to use logical and provable points, and make comments here – the deadline for comment is March 25.

(From Oregon Public Broadcasting  (OPR)-  full audio is below.)

Open House Information Sessions: 5-8 p.m. Navy Presentation: 6:30 p.m.
Monday, March 3, 2014 Astoria High School Student Commons, 1001 W. Marine Drive Astoria, OR
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, Isaac Newton Magnet School Gym 825 NE 7th St., Newport, OR
Thursday, March 6, 2014, Red Lion Hotel Redwood Ballroom, 1929 4th St.Eureka, CA
Friday, March 7, 2014, Redwood Coast Senior Center West Room, 490 N. Harold St., Fort Bragg, CA

SeaWorld Protesters Bullied by Corporate Activists

This video makes you wonder who SeaWorld’s die-hard fans are, really.
On February 17th, 2014, corporate activists supporting SeaWorld showed up and held their own little rally across the street from where families were peacefully demonstrating against SeaWorld’s policy of keeping large animals in small tanks.
Who spends their weekends demonstrating against demonstrators who don’t like the business where you work or play?
According to one commenter on the video’s YouTube page, the large vociferous fellow with the sunglasses has been seen at San Diego and Orlando protests. When the video was first posted I checked the link and the claim that he was in the photo is true, but the original photo has since been taken down.

He is definitely on SW’s payroll. You can see his picture on Protest the Protester’s event page. The picture is taken in Orlando. The guy with black shirt on the left. He has been antagonizing SD protesters in their last two protests. So SW must be sending him down to SD just to start a fight.

The captivity industry seems to have spawned an angry fan base of what are becoming known as ‘corporate activists’, who dedicate themselves to ‘protesting the protesters’.  These new activists are demonstrating (although it looks more like trying to intimidate others ) their own right to assemble… while trying to deny the same right to those who believe SeaWorld should end its policy of keeping whales in tanks for our amusement.

Activist in black (right) supports SeaWorld.
Activist in black (right) supports SeaWorld. (From video).