Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Sad Day For The Sea And The Planet

Friday, April 22nd, 2011, was a sad day for those of us who love the sea and the whales and dolphins who rule over its dominions. On that day, SeaWorld Orlando debuted their new Killer Whale show, which they have presumptuously and insensitively named 'One World.' Their spin-doctors describe it as a grand spectacular of lights, and music, and fountains...and oh yes, Killer Whales, who they call the 'ambassadors of the sea.' They go on to claim that its purpose is to excite, and educate, and inspire their guests to make a difference in the world.

Wait! What? To make a difference how? By paying huge sums of money to sit on bleachers and gawk and guffaw while intelligent and sentient beings, who God created to roam the open oceans of the world, perform stupid and demeaning tricks.

The people who own and operate SeaWorld do it because they can: they can because the government allows them to; and they can because their "guests" don't understand the difference between a Killer Whale and a trained monkey in the circus. But Killer Whales know the difference and that's what makes their imprisonment so very sad.

And while these ignorant and uncaring audiences continue to pay money to the wardens of these liquid prisons, magnificent ocean beings remain locked away in tiny concrete tanks where they lead shortened lives of mind-numbing boredom and mental anguish. For this, we are a lesser race and this is a lesser planet.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Humpback Hit Parade

Building upon the musical theme of my previous posting, albeit on a happier note (pun intended), a study conducted by graduate students at the University of Queensland, and reported online in Current Biology, reveals that male Humpback Whales within a specific population all sing the same mating song at any given time. (Gosh, you'd think that at least one of these big boys would want to sing his own tune to stand out from the rest of the gang; but then again, perhaps female Humpbacks aren't too particular as long as their prospective mates can carry a tune, any tune.)

The researchers report that these "cultural waves" spread across the ocean as they are copied by whales in other populations, in what amounts to a Humpback hit parade. And just like with their human counterparts, when one song has gained ocean wide popularity a new song will appear to replace it.

As Pan, the little Harbor Porpoise, and co-star of my book, The Tempest's Roar, might say, "Pleases us. Pleases us," because to him, whalesong is the most beautiful sound any sentient being can hear on this tiny blue space marble that we call Earth but whales know as Planet Ocean.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Amazon River Dolphin Song

In 1946, Frank Sinatra was the first to record "The Coffee Song," a novelty song that contains the well-know line, "They've Got An Awful Lot of Coffee In Brazil." Over the years numerous other artists have performed the song, including Louis Prima, Sam Cooke, Rosemary Clooney, and the Muppets to name a few. The song's humorous lyrics and catchy tune can always be counted on to bring a smile to those who hear it. But sadly, today far more depressing lyrics could be put to that familiar tune because catfish fishermen on the rivers of the Amazon rain forest have discovered that the strong odor given off by the flesh of the Boto, or River Dolphin, attracts catfish: as a result, thousands of these beautiful pink, bluish gray, or off-white creatures are being slaughtered every year to be used as bait. Recently, one fisherman joked that he often harpoons these dolphins "just to be mean." Such brutality is illegal in Brazil but the government's environmental protection agency has too few agents to cover the entire country and the killing goes on unabated. So the next time that you hear this song, I suggest that you substitute the following lyrics to remind yourself of this tragic reality because "They Kill An Awful Lot of Dolphins In Brazil"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Orca Watching Is Cool, Eh?

First, let me state that I was born in Canada and although I have lived in the United States for most of my adult life I still love the land of my birth. There are too many good things about that majestic country north of the 49th parallel to list here...but the regulations that the Canadian government currently has in place regarding Killer Whale watching are not among them!

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has so far not announced whether they will adopt the same regulations recently put in place by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: specifically, starting next month all boats are prohibited from approaching Orcas any closer than 180 metres(commercial vessels are exempt which is another story)whereas in Canadian waters boaters may still come within 100 metres.

Since Orcas know no international boundaries, I hope that the Canadian government will adopt the same restrictions, and I urge the many Canadian readers of this blog to contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada and urge them to do so.

Watching Orcas from a boat or kayak is cool: I know because during the summer that I worked in Namu, B.C. when I was in college(a very long time ago), I got up close and personal to Orcas many times; but if I were to do it today I would do so from afar. Let's hope everyone, Canadian and American alike will follow suit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Norwegian April Fools' Joke

April 1st was the start of the annual whaling season in Norway, one of only three countries that continue to defy the 1986 ban on commercial whaling; the other two being Iceland and Japan. Since Norway allowed whaling to begin again in 1993, nearly 10,000 whales have been brutally slaughtered. Contrary to what the captains in their 20 ship fleet would have you believe, the killing of whales is a cruel and brutal procedure that but for the fact that it occurs miles at sea, would sicken any decent human being who witnessed it. However, in an outrageous display of arrogance, intolerance, and stupidity, the Norwegian government does not consider such cruelty as sufficient grounds to halt this barbaric practice.
My ancestry is Norse and the male line of my family can trace our history in an unbroken line back to the first recorded Earl of Orkney, Rognvald the Powerful, a Norseman who lived in the 9th Century A.D. However, as this slaughter is once again being perpetrated upon these magnificent and sentient beings, I am not proud of my heritage.
And the irony in all this is that less than 5% of Norwegians eat whale meat. So who is the bigger fool; the Norwegian government that allows this unwanted slaughter to continue, or the other 95% citizens who enable it through their apathy?