Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whales in the Balance

May 2007

At the current International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan is trying to re-open commercial whaling and has announced its intention to hunt Humpback Whales later this year. With its "bought and paid" for allies the votes are likely to be very close.

I am blogging the political machinations and back-room deals that will decide the fate of thousands of whales.

Read Hardy's blog from the IWC

The moment is critical. Please protest Japan's intended hunt of Humpback Whales by emailing to:,

Here is a sample letter. We encourage you to personalize the message.

I am appalled at the thought that Japan may begin hunting Humpback and Fin Whales. These animals are far too intelligent and magnificent to be harpooned and turned into meat. In addition, many of these whales are known to people across the entire Southern Ocean and they are the basis for many eco-friendly businesses. I urge you to stop the horrific slaughter of whales.

For the whales,

Hardy Jones,
Executive Director

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Threats to Dolphins

The health of many of the world’s dolphin populations are threatened by bycatch, pollution, habitat destruction, over-fishing and climate change. Other threats include activities that may frighten, displace or harm these species such as underwater noise pollution from sources such as shipping traffic, wind farms, seismic surveys and military sonars.Fisheries and bycatch Global fisheries are increasing in intensity and range. The introduction of more sustainable fishing techniques can reduce this pressure. However, the use of destructive fishing methods and the growth of many modern commercial fisheries continue to impact many dolphin populations around the world. The impacts can be both direct through bycatch and indirect through loss of prey species. Dolphins are known to become entangled in many gear types, including long-lines, drift nets, trap lines and mid-water trawls, but the largest problem remains with coastal gill nets, drift nets and purse-seine nets. The continued use of gill nets is endangering a number of coastal species of dolphin and porpoise. Some dolphin populations may also be threatened by the sheer scale of modern fisheries. As fisheries compete with one another for fish, less and less prey is available for dolphins and other wildlife to eat. Chemical pollution There are many different sources of chemical pollution, including domestic sewage, industrial discharges, seepage from waste sites, atmospheric fallout, domestic run-off, accidents and spills at sea, operational discharges from oil rigs, mining discharges and agricultural run-off. Many rivers, estuaries and coastal waters near large human population centres show signs of eutrophication and heavy metal contamination. Toxic algal blooms are increasingly common around estuaries and bays. The impacts of chemical pollution on dolphin range from direct physical poisoning to degradation of important habitats. The chemicals that are probably of most concern for dolphins are the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including pesticides, such as DDT, and industrial chemicals; most famously the PCBs. These substances enter marine food chains and accumulate along the chain to the marine top predators. Damage to the reproductive and immune systems of marine mammals (and other species) are the likely consequences of their extraordinary pollution “burdens’. Many dolphin populations are known to be carrying heavy contaminant burdens which may contribute to increased mortality.There has been a worldwide increase in reports of viral and bacterial diseases affecting marine species as well as an apparent increase in toxic algal blooms. Habitat degradation, in particular increased chemical contamination, is thought to have facilitated disease outbreaks and the immunotoxic affects of some substances has been associated with marine mammal mass mortalities.The increasing and cumulative pressures on dolphins and the current trends of climate change may make dolphins more susceptible to disease. The transport of pathogens around the world, through the movement of products and ballast water, may increase exposure to disease and environmental contaminants may be facilitating the emergence of new diseases. In addition, exposure to chemical substances that have immunotoxic effects may lower dolphin immune responses and algal bloom outbreaks may further increase the toll of weakened populations by reducing their food supply as fish die. Ship strikes, noise, disturbance and harassmentHearing is the most important sense for dolphins, and the ability to hear well is vital in all key aspects of their lives including finding food, navigating and social interactions. Any reduction in hearing ability – whether by physical damage or masking by other sound – may seriously compromise the viability of individuals and, therefore, populations.Human-created noise in the marine environment contributes to an already significant natural biological and ambient level of sound. Introduced noise pollution comes from shipping and other vessels, military activities, fisheries anti-predation devices, ocean research, and the air-guns used in seismic testing to find oil and gas deposits. An emerging threat to dolphins are the potential impacts of marine wind farms. Whilst many of the sources of introduced noise are localized, some recent military technologies have utilized powerful detection mechanisms that may radiate over thousands of kilometres of the ocean. Potential impacts of human-created noise on dolphins range from physical damage to these animals (especially to those in close proximity to the noise source) to altering behaviour, increasing stress and displacement from important habitats. In addition, the extent of harassment, whether intentional or incidental, may be an increasing and little understood problem in coastal waters. The impact of greatest consequence associated with noise pollution, harassment and ship strikes may be the cumulative and long-term impact that we are currently unable to assess and evaluate.Habitat loss and degradationIt is important to both the individual and the survival of the dolphins population (or species) that its habitats continue to be suitable to support it. Habitat loss is especially critical for dolphins with limited range, such as river dolphins. In many areas habitat loss is caused by dams, fishing structures and withdrawal of water for human use. In some parts of the world water management, flood control and major river modification, including the removal of surface water, has led to population decline. Dams prevent migration and create barriers which fragment populations. Prey species may be reduced, while sedimentation, nutrient over-enrichment and salinity, and in turn eutrophication, increase. Habitat loss is also a concern for coastal and offshore species. Changes in the atmosphere, weather patterns and marine ecosystems are currently being observed. Predictions include sea surface changes and sea level rise. Changes in the ice-caps may affect rainfall and salinity, and temperate changes may impact on coastal upwelling regions causing a possible reduction in nutrient concentrations and 'productivity' which in turn can impact whole food chains. The modification of habitats may cause shifts in dolphin food sources (through change in upwelling patterns and prey aggregation) . Species that have evolved to find food in a highly patchy environment may have difficulties securing prey.The implications of climate change for dolphins are compounded by the apparent rate of change (some 3 to 4 degrees celsius in higher latitudes in only 50 years) which is thought to be much faster than anything that dolphins have been exposed to in the past. When considered in the context of cumulative impacts, the ability of dolphin populations to adapt to this rapid change may be compromised. Deliberate hunts Some coastal communities have exploited dolphins for centuries. There are other documented dolphin harvests in South Asia, East Asia, South East Asia, and parts of Africa and South America. In some cases, dolphin bycatch has turned to directed nets or harpoon hunts by artisanal fishers. The impact of these new directed nets hunts is not known as very little data is available on the targeted populations or the number of animals being caught. It is likely that the hunts are not sustainable. The belief that dolphins compete with fisheries or damage fishing nets has prompted culls in some regions.

Disturbed, hungry and lost

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are facing increasing threats from climate change, according to a new report published by WDCS and WWF ahead of the 59th meeting of the International Whaling Commission.The report Whales in hot water? highlights the growing impacts of climate change on cetaceans. They range from changes in sea temperature and the freshening of the seawater because of the melting of ice and increased rainfalls, to sea level rise, loss of icy polar habitats and the decline of krill populations, in key areas.Krill – a shrimp-like marine animal that is dependent on sea ice, is the main source of food for many of the great whales.Accelerating climate change adds significantly to disturbances from other human activities, such as chemical and noise pollution, collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing nets, which kills some 1,000 cetaceans every day.“Whales, dolphins and porpoises have some capacity to adapt to their changing environment,” said Mark Simmonds, International Director of Science at WDCS. “But the climate is now changing at such a fast pace that it is unclear to what extent whales and dolphins will be able to adjust, and we believe many populations to be very vulnerable to predicted changes.”Climate change impacts are currently greatest in the Arctic and the Antarctic. According to the report, cetaceans that rely on polar, icy waters for their habitat and food resources – such as belugas, narwhal, and bowhead whales – are likely to be dramatically affected by the reduction of sea ice cover.And as sea ice cover decreases, there will be more human activities, such as commercial shipping, oil, gas and mining exploration and development as well as military activities, in previously untouched areas of the Arctic. “This will result in much greater risks from oil and chemical spills, worse acoustic disturbance and more collisions between whales and ships,” said the lead author of the report, Wendy Elliott, from WWF’s Global Species Programme.Other projected impacts of climate change listed in the report include: reduction of available habitat for several cetacean species unable to move into colder waters (e.g. river dolphins); the acidification of the oceans as they absorb growing quantities of CO2; an increased susceptibility of cetaceans to diseases; and reduced reproductive success, body condition and survival rates.Climate change could also be the nail in the coffin for the last 300 or so endangered North Atlantic right whales, as the survival of their calves has been directly related to the effects of climate variability on prey abundance.WDCS and WWF are urging governments to cut CO2 emissions by at least 50 per cent by the middle of this century. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed it was possible to stop global warming if the world’s emissions start to decline before 2015.The two conservation organizations further call on the International Whaling Commission to facilitate research on future impacts of climate change on cetaceans, including supporting a special climate change workshop in the coming year; elaborating conservation and management plans in light of the climate change threat; and increasing efforts and resources to fight all other threats to cetaceans.For further information:Fran Mallion, WDCS Press Officer, t +44 1249 449 534; m +44 7834 498 277, Benn, WWF Global Species Programme, t +39 06 84 497 212, Olivier van Bogaert, WWF International' s Press Office, t +41 22 364 9554, a copy of the full report, please click here.
Source: WDCS/WWF

Friday, May 25, 2007

Living Responsibly

Do you love the oceans and ocean life? If so, help to promote wild, healthy oceans for the future by living an ocean-friendly lifestyle. Here are some everyday actions you can take to benefit oceans and marine life.

1. Cast your consumer vote.
The average American consumes more than three times the global average and generates more than 1,460 pounds of trash each year. Thirty percent of our waste consists of pure packaging. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled.
How does our behavior affect the oceans? Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers remove as many as eight million pounds of trash from beaches, reefs, underwater areas, and waterways on a single day during the International Coastal Cleanup. This trash degrades habitat and can strangle, poison, or otherwise harm ocean wildlife.
When you purchase an item, you're casting a vote-saying that you're comfortable with the way the product is produced, with its packaging, and with how it affects the environment when its usefulness is over. Here's how to cast your consumer vote for the oceans.
Buy items in bulk with less packaging. Avoid individually wrapped food servings.
Remember that durable is better than disposable; more throwaways means less landfill space and more marine debris.
Buy items made of recycled materials and those that can be recycled in your community.
Buy food that is produced locally, in accord with conservation principles. Transporting food over great distances uses more energy.

2. Energy: start with your own.
Every two minutes, Americans burn one million gallons of oil. And the burning of fossil fuels (gasoline, oil, coal) helps to contaminate the oceans in many ways. Air pollution particles drop onto the ocean in raindrops. They pollute ocean waters with excess nitrogen and contaminate our fish with toxic mercury. The carbon dioxide emitted causes global warming and rising ocean temperatures, which, in turn, contributes to the collapse of ecosystems, whether tropical coral reefs or arctic ice sheets. How can you help reverse these trends?
Bicycle, kayak, canoe, sail, ski, or walk more often to get where you're going-these methods of transportation use no fossil fuels, and don't pollute the air and the oceans.
When these methods aren't practical, use transit or carpools, which cause much less pollution per person per mile.
Consider purchasing a hybrid gas/electric vehicle. It can cut your carbon dioxide emissions in half.
Send a letter to your electric company requesting that they use clean energy sources such as wind power; if you have the choice, choose to purchase clean power over that generated by fossil fuels.

3. Consider the land-sea connection.
What we do on land directly affects the oceans. Runoff from lawns, farms, streets, parking lots, and construction sites is a major source of ocean pollution. In the bays and estuaries around nearly every populated area, chemicals and fertilizer from lawns, gardens, and farm fields is creating "dead zones," where nothing can live. Runoff-silt, nitrogen, and phosphorous-rob ocean waters of light and oxygen, and are especially harmful to coral reef ecosystems. You can control the polluted runoff from your neighborhood by taking the following actions.
If you live right on the water, plant a buffer zone of trees, tall grasses, and shrubs to filter runoff and to provide shelter and habitat for turtles, shorebirds, and other animals.
Use less fertilizer. Instead, mulch grass clippings to enrich your lawn and create a compost pile that will provide natural nutrients for your gardens.
Wash your car on the grass, not the driveway. That way, harmful chemicals will be filtered by grass and soil before they reach local waterways, where they can harm delicate aquatic life.
Make sure that construction sites in your neighborhood use silt fences, storm wattles, and other means of keeping sediment and other harmful runoff out of storm drains.
Plant trees. Trees contribute to clean water; they are the oceans' best filters.

4. Remember that everything flows downstream.
The oceans are downstream of everything. And they don't have an endless capacity to absorb waste. In fact, every year people dispose of 161 million gallons of used motor oil-an amount greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill-improperly. Much of this oil ends up in waterways and the oceans, where it takes a tremendous toll on aquatic life. By being careful about oil, water and other substances that you use on land, you can help keep ocean waters clean. Here are some things to consider:
If you decrease your water use at home, you'll decrease the amount of water that must be treated with chemicals before entering rivers, streams, and the oceans.
Don't use the toilet as a trashcan or garbage disposal. Doing so contributes to overload sewer and septic systems, which release their effluent into local waterways and the ocean.
Sweep walks and driveways rather than hosing them down. Water picks up chemicals and transports them to the nearest storm drain, creek, or waterway. Often, these hard surfaces contain oil, antifreeze, lawn chemicals, and other substances.
Empty your swimming pool or hot tub on the grass, not into the street. Chlorinated water is harmful to aquatic life. By emptying it into a wooded or grassy area, you are making use of nature's natural filtering action.
Don't fill your gas tank to the top; by not topping off, you'll avoid spills.

5. Recreate-but not recklessly.
Ocean lovers spend a lot of time on-and under-the water, swimming, boating, fishing, diving, and enjoying the beach. These activities are often the most direct contact we have with ocean life, so how you engage in them determines whether your impact is negative or positive.
Retrieve all fishing line, lures, or gear-even if tangled or broken. Fishing gear can entangle or injure seabirds, turtles, dolphins, manatees-even divers and swimmers. And because it is durable, it can continue catching and killing fish indefinitely.
Drive your boat as though life depended on it. Be aware that there is life under water! Damaging wake can tear up plants and erode shoreline; boats' slashing propellers injure countless sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and whales every year.
When you haul your boat out of any waterway, rinse your boat on the spot to remove hitchhiking plants and organisms. By doing so, you help prevent the spread of harmful invasive species.
On trips to the beach, carry out whatever you carry in. Wildlife can ingest, or become entangled in, trash left behind.
It takes all kinds of life to keep an ecosystem healthy. When snorkeling and diving, don't touch, break, stand on, or attempt to collect coral or other marine organisms. Instead, take only pictures and leave only bubbles.

Got Happy Feet? Warner Bros. and Ocean Conservancy Team UpHappy Feet, the Warner Bros. animated feature about a tap-happy penguin confronting the consequences of marine debris and overfishing, was released on DVD on March 27, 2007. Ocean Conservancy was invited to be conservation partner for the release. Our name and Web address is featured prominently in a public service announcement at the beginning of all 7.5 million DVDs pressed. Get your copy today. To learn more about marine debris, overfishing and other important ocean conservation issues, visit our website >>

Right Whales In Trouble

We need your help right now to protect highly endangered North Atlantic right whales from entanglement in fishing gear. Since it’s estimated that there are only about 350 of these whales left in the world, each one we can save has the potential to rescue this species from the brink of extinction.
Unfortunately, it’s been a tough year so far for North Atlantic right whales. Fishing gear entanglement has been a factor in the death of two right whales since January. One was a male entangled in fishing gear for five years, and the second was a young calf making its way north from the calving grounds off Florida for the first time. Even now, a third whale, a female last sighted free of gear in September, 2006, was seen entangled off Cape Cod. She’s still alive, but attempts to remove the gear have so far proven unsuccessful.
We need your help in getting the word out about this problem. Learn how you can help save North Atlantic right whales >>
Good Mate Asks Boaters To Pitch InIn 2006, over 7.5 million pounds of marine debris were collected worldwide along our coastlines, rivers, and lakes. These same waters provide relaxation, adventure, escape and recreation to the boating community.
Ocean Conservancy is expanding our “Good Mate” boater outreach program to engage recreational boaters as environmental stewards through the International Coastal Cleanup. The ICC is just one step among many that boaters can and should take to be stewards of the waterways they enjoy.
Ocean Conservancy is also busy developing a kit of promotional materials tailored to boaters. Decals with tips on clean boating, new ICC posters and brochures specifically targeting boaters and an educational CD about other pollution such as sewage, fuel and oil will be available. With these new materials and new partnerships with National Marina Day (August 11, 2007) and the US Power Squadron, Ocean Conservancy will encourage boaters and marinas to be ICC Site Captains and coordinate cleanups in the waters they care so deeply about. Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate program is supported by the Brunswick Public Foundation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Help Protect the Caribbean Coast from Mega-Resorts

Two mega-resorts are putting one of the Caribbean's last great unprotected areas at risk. The Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC), on the eastern corner of the mainland of Puerto Rico, is home to many tropical habitats and endangered species.
You can help protect the Corridor, its endangered sea turtles, coral reefs, and other natural habitats! The government of Puerto Rico will soon vote on a bill that would designate the NEC a nature reserve. This would ensure protection for this extraordinary area once and for all.
Send an email! Urge Puerto Rico's Senate to support House Bill 2105 and protect the NEC and its ecological wealth.

The Whales and Anthony Hopkins need your help!

Dear Greenpeace Activist,
May 22, 2007
There are only two weeks left before the International Whaling Commission meets in Anchorage, Alaska, and everything hangs in the balance. Now Anthony Hopkins is doing his part with a new TV ad to help save the whales and we need your help to get others to do their part too. With your support, we can get our powerful TV ad on the air across the country, including Anchorage, Alaska where delegates from around the world will see it before they cast their votes.The pro-whaling nations of Japan, Iceland, and Norway are once again on the verge of winning the majority of votes, which could lead to the resumption of commercial whaling for the first time in 20 years -- our government MUST act now to stop this from happening.Our goal is to raise at least $46,549 to saturate the airwaves of CNN, Discovery Channel and the Animal Planet and to mobilize thousands of concerned individuals like you to take action to save the whales. You can make this happen with your gift of $30. The more money we raise, the louder our collective voice.
Donate Now Your support can get our TV ad aired in time to influence the ultimate decision for whales.It's time to pull out all the stops. Without significant public pressure, the Bush Administration may not take the strong stance we need them to. We need YOUR help to make that happen.Thank you for your help, Karen SackOcean Campaignerp.s. No matter what you can give, together, we can raise enough money to raise awareness. Please, make a contribution today to save the whales.

2 Ways to Help
1: Donate Now Help Greenpeace Take a Stand. Become a Member Today.
2: Tell a Friend Forward this message to a friend. Help spread the word.
702 H Street, NW Suite 300Washington, D.C. 20001 (800) 326-0959

Friday, May 18, 2007

Accusations fly as rescuers prepare pregnant dolphin for birth. FL, USA

What has the hallmarks of a touching story of humans attending to a deaf and pregnant Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has been tainted as dolphin advocates accuse rescuers of mistakes, exploitation and bad intentions. The pregnant female dolphin, named "Castaway" after the east coast Florida beach where she was found stranded last November, is under the care of the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo. After spending over two months rehabilitating at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Castaway was brought to the 2-acre rehabilitation site adjacent to the Doubletree Resort near mile marker 102.3 at the end of January. "When she got here she was very aggressive, but she is much better now" said Robert Lingenfelser, president of the Marine Mammal Conservancy. "She is due to deliver any day." Contrary to rumors circulating that the mother will be euthanized after giving birth, Lingenfelser said after six to nine months both the mother and her calf would be turned over to Dolphins Plus in Key Largo and become their property. "Dolphins Plus has the best record in the world for the care of their animals," he said. Since Castaway is deaf and her calf will not be taught basic ocean survival, neither animal are eligible for release. How Castaway became deaf is a big issue for dolphin advocate and director of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation Russ Rector. He blame rescuers. After being found at Castaway Cove near Vero Beach, the 10-foot-long deep-water mammal was turned over to Mote and transported across the state to Sarasota. There, she was aided in her recovery and on Jan. 30 she was transported back to the ocean for release. Mote Chief Veterinarian Charlie Manire injected Castaway with the sedative, Midazolam, before the dolphin was transported. Soon after they arrived Manire gave her a reversal drug, Romazicon, which Manire said he considers standard procedure. Mote made four attempts to release the animal, but she was lethargic and would not swim. "They tried to release a stoned animal four times, but it swam back to shore from eight miles out in the ocean," said Rick Trout, a dolphin advocate and the founder and former member of the Marine Mammal Conservancy. Eventually the rescuers gave up and were told by the National Marine Fisheries Service to transport Castaway to the Marine Mammal Conservancy where she is today. "Charlie admitted the drug caused [deafness]," Rector said. "They use this in surgical procedures and it causes loss of hearing." Manire dismissed Rector's allegation. He said there was no way to know when the stranded dolphin became deaf. "We were not able to test the animal's hearing prior to release," he said. Manire attributed that to delays in securing permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which authorizes and oversees dolphin rescue operations. "There is only one scientist in Florida who can test hearing. He had no permit until late December. When [the Fisheries Service] found that Castaway was pregnant, they said the scientist needed an additional permit. We spent a month-and-a-half trying to get that permit in vain." Trout says the oceanographic institution that found the animal in the first place should have kept it in Vero Beach. "Harbor Branch dropped the ball," Trout said. "They should have never transported her four hours across the state." Manire said Harbor Branch has no rehabilitation facility. Trout also said the animal should have been kept at the Mote facility once transported there."The animal should have gone back to the veterinarian who tried to release her," he said. Manire, however, said the National Marine Fisheries Service made the call to send Castaway to Key Largo since Mote has no birthing facility. Dolphin advocate Rector said even that facility is inadequate. Shrugging off such criticism, Lingenfelser says he remains focused on providing the best care he can to Castaway and her calf. The Marine Mammal Conservancy, he said, is preparing to use a special telephone hook-up to pipe in the vocal sounds of dolphins located a few miles down the highway at Dolphins Plus. He says this one-way "chat line" will help the baby learn to communicate. "We will give the calf a chance to learn communication skills and Castaway a chance to teach him what she can," he said. "We will keep the mother and child together. They raise their young and nurse them for up to four years." As for allegations from Trout that the conservancy is using Castaway for publicity, Lingenfelser says his operation is all-volunteer and is not a public-display facility. Last Thursday, Lingenfelser said his staff filed a complaint against Trout with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. "We're tired of his harassment. He stood across the canal yelling that he is the reason we are all here and taking a video of our work," Lingenfelser said. Source:

Endangered Species Day

Today is Endangered Species Day. In honor of this very special day dedicated to increasing awareness of the threats to our planet’s most imperiled species and promoting efforts to help them survive—we’d like to ask your help saving the white whales of the sea.

Help us reach our goal of submitting 7,000 public comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service.Together, we can make a difference.Beluga whales can be found swimming in the chilly waters around Alaska—but they may not be around for long. Cook Inlet beluga whales, a distinct population found near Anchorage, Alaska, are in danger of extinction.

The number of Cook Inlet beluga whales has plummeted nearly 60 percent in the past 15 years. Currently, only about 300 of the white whales are still alive. They are the unfortunate victims of human interference through hunting, industrial pollution, boat traffic, and the simple over-development of their habitat.
Ocean Conservancy originally petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the beluga as endangered back in 1999, but the agency turned us down. After years of scientific studies and more petitions from environmental organizations, however, the National Marine Fisheries Service is again considering listing Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species.
An endangered listing would give the species a fighting chance by requiring the government to consider the impacts of its actions on the beluga, and ensure that those actions won’t cause the species to go extinct. An endangered listing would also require the government to develop and implement a recovery plan to protect Cook Inlet belugas to make sure that belugas not only survive, but that the population returns to a healthy level. It’s critical the government do the right thing this time or we might lose this species forever!
As climate change and population pressure continue to increase and stress the Alaska ocean environment, the Cook Inlet beluga whale needs the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act to ensure their survival. Please take action today—the government needs to hear that protecting the Cook Inlet beluga is important to YOU.
Sincerely,Vicki CornishDirector of Marine Wildlife ProgramsOcean Conservancy
P.S. Click here for more information on the beluga whale’s plight.