Monday, November 30, 2009

Canada Does Right By Whales

Hello, I am back. Time for some more whale and dolphin talk. This week there is good news and bad news to report about North Atlantic Right Whales, who are among the most endangered of all whales. Parenthetically, they got their name from whalers who said they were the ‘right’ whales to slaughter because they did not sink due to their high percentage of body fat. These whales migrate annually across heavy shipping lanes in both U.S. and Canadian waters, and deaths from collisions with ships present a serious threat to the survival of the species. The good news is that the current population of approximately 400 whales seems to be gradually making a comeback, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Canadian government and industry groups who have worked together to significantly reduce these collisions. They have done so by changing shipping lanes and requiring slower speeds for marine traffic through whale migration areas. The bad news is that ships in U.S. waters have largely ignored similar restrictions, and the government has been slow to take action that would improve compliance. Therefore, for now at least, Canada is the only country doing right by these magnificent beings. If this bothers you as much as it does me, please write your congressional representative, especially those of you who live in New England. If you do not do so, one day North Atlantic Right Whales will be gone. And nothing you or anyone can do will ever get them back.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good-bye, Nico. God bless.

A spokesperson for the Georgia Aquarium confirmed that a third Beluga Whale belonging to the aquarium died suddenly this week. This whale, whose human keepers called Nico, had been temporarily living at Sea World in San Antonio while the Georgia Aquarium undergoes renovation. Nico was the third Beluga owned by the aquarium to die since 2007. In fairness, two of the Belugas who died, including Nico, had serious health problems when they were obtained from a sea park in Mexico. I am certain that the Georgia Aquarium keepers mean well, but these deaths are just three more examples of the spectacular cruelty that you humans continue to inflict on the whales and dolphins you keep in captivity. They live confined, mind-numbing and meaningless existences in your liquid prisons, and die long before their time: all for your entertainment. Do you really think it is worth it?
I will be traveling for the next ten days and there will not be another blog post until I return. But quite frankly, I do not feel like talking to you any more right now. Good-bye, Nico. God bless.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The PICWW 3: Snow White and the Unicorns.

This is the third edition in my Politically Incorrect Whale Watcher series. Today let us consider Belugas and their close relatives, Narwhals. They are medium-sized, highly gregarious whales that live in frigid Arctic waters. Belugas are snow white in color and among the most vocal of all whales, with glorious singing voices. Sadly, in addition to being beautiful, they are slow swimmers and easily captured, which makes them a common prisoner in oceanariums—but let us not go there (hint, hint). In contrast, Narwhals are mottled black and white in color but what makes them unique is the long spiral tusks of the males that inevitably links them with tales of the fabled unicorn. Males use these horns to impress the females. (Actually, some females also have them which is rather awkward to explain). These tusks are probably what keeps them from being captured. Can you imagine how tricky it would be for trainers to teach them to do stupid animal tricks without getting skewered? At any rate, I am particularly fond of my cousins, Snow White and the Unicorns, but I hope you only ever see them on Animal Planet or in the wild—dress warmly if you go.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spectacular cruelty.

The next time you and your family go to a marine park to gaze and gawk at the Orcas as they are made to perform demeaning tricks, I want you to remember this. The average life span of Orcas in the wild is forty years, and females can live well into their seventies and eighties. Now contrast this with the following fact: the average life expectancy in captivity of an Orca captured in the wild is less than six years. Yes, you read that correctly—six years! And for Orcas born in captivity, it is not much longer. The only blessing for the latter group is that they at least have never known the joy of freedom. Add to this disturbing statistic the fact that of the nearly two hundred Orcas held captive in man’s liquid prisons since 1964, less than one third lived longer than ten years, and only forty-one are alive today. If there is any shred of humanity in you, how can you interpret these facts as anything but spectacular cruelty? Sadly, I know that my voice, and those of the many caring humans who share my views, are but whispers on a stormy sea. But perhaps one day our whispers will become the tempest’s roar that will put an end to this atrocity forever.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Death of Innocents and Innocence.

A friend of mine in Los Angeles has made me aware of a tragic situation that occurred recently in the waters of Monterey Bay off Capitola, involving the murder of innocent Harbor Porpoises. Sadly, the killers in this case were not Transient Orcas or Great White Sharks, but members of my own species, Bottlenose Dolphins. This was only the most recent in a series of such occurrences and your scientists speculate it is because the male dolphins confuse porpoises with young dolphins, and murder them to make their females receptive to mating. This is a logical explanation but completely wrong. The reason is that over the past 100 years the continental shelf off northern California has been a dumping ground for toxic garbage including low-level radioactive wastes. This, when combined with the discharge of human waste from cruise ships, has coated the ocean bottom with a deadly sludge that quickly gets into the bodies of fish, which in turn are eaten by dolphins. These toxins poison the minds of the dolphins, and gradually bring out the most basic of killer instincts that exist deep within their souls. In November 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released final management plans and regulations to protect these waters. But it may be too little, too late. And so it is that through the actions of these dolphins, we are witnessing not only the death of innocents, but also the death of innocence.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Great Whites "Minding Their Own Business".

Marine biologists among your kind in Northern California announced this week that Great White Sharks swim much closer to shore than originally thought, including some that actually pass under the Golden Gate Bridge and enter San Francisco Bay. According to these so-called experts, this discovery, combined with the relatively low number of attacks on humans, proves that these sharks “are really minding their own business.” What! I have a news flash for these scientists; Great White Sharks are mindless eating machines, nothing more and nothing less: if you jump in the water near one you will be eaten. Period. The brain of a 20 foot, 2 ton female White Shark is the size of a human fist, and her entire body is simply a life support system for her mouth. I dare any scientist to come swimming with me off Año Nuevo Island, South Farallon Island, Point Reyes, or Tomales Point when these sisters are in town, anytime between September and Christmas, and we will see who minds whose business. By the way, the water is chilly so be sure to wear your wet suit—you know, the black one that has the word ‘lunch’ written on the back in indelible red ink. Minding their own business—give me a break!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where is the justice?

Now I am not usually one to be envious of my fellow marine mammals; goodness knows our lives are hard enough as it is, without wanting to take on someone else's challenges. However, this week I could not help being a little jealous of a Manatee that your kind has named Ilya. Apparently, for years now he has spent his summers wandering up and down the Atlantic seaboard, sometimes as far north as Massachusetts, which if you know how un-streamlined this big boy is, and how slowly he swims, is a feat unto itself. If he wants to roam northern waters in the warmer months and return south in the Fall, then I say good for him. But this year, after staying too long in New Jersey, he was flown home to Florida on a United States Coast Guard C-130 airplane. And therein lies the problem. Now that they have set a precedent, there are going to be thousands of marine mammals who expect the same treatment. For example, I know a cheeky little Harbor Porpoise named Pan (see The Tempest's Roar) who has always wanted to fly. How am I going to explain to him that only Manatees get to do this? Where is the justice?