Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Whale/Dolphin Wednesday - Death at Sea World

Last week I had the incredible honor of meeting and talking with David Kirby, author of Death at Seaworld and Naomi Rose, PhD, the lead "character" of the book and the Senior Scientist of Humane Society International.

Death at Seaworld explores the dark side of Sea World and the captivity of whales. The book details the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well as other less known incidents in the history of the park.  Kirby follows the story of Naomi and former Sea World trainers who have turned into animal rights activists.

David started out the night talking about Death at Seaworld, which reads like a novel. David uses Naomi as his lead character, detailing her research and history with wild orcas.  David also researched the Sea World side of the story, talking with former trainers Jeff Ventre, Carol Ray and Samantha Berg.  Current Sea World staffers would not comment.

David Kirby has been a professional journalist for almost 20 years as a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the New York Times.  He lives in Brooklyn, NY and his other books include:

Evidence of Harm - Mercury in vaccines and the Autism Epidemic:  A Medical Controversy

Animal Factory - The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment

Death at Sea World - Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity

Click any of the links for more information about David's books.

Naomi was next.  Naomi Rose, PhD is the Senior Scientist for Humane Society International, specializing in international marine mammal protection.  She is a member of International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee, the Society of Marine Mammalogy and Sigma Xi (the scientific research society)  She has co-edited the State of the Cetacean Environmental Report since 2003.  
Naomi obtained her Doctorate in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her dissertation was on the social dynamics of male orcas in British Columbia.

Naomi opened things up for questions about not only orcas related to the book but anything related to her work.  Once I started asking questions, I just wanted to hang out and pick her brain all night!  What a privilege to have this opportunity!!!  
Naomi has personally worked on many of the issues that I have been talking about on Whale/Dolphin Wednesday, including my recent posts regarding the potential import of beluga whales.  Needless to say, I was in awe.

It was an amazing night indeed and I am thoroughly enjoying Death at Seaworld so far.  I will be posting a review in the future, but I can tell you already it will be 5 stars.

In Taiji this week, on Thursday between 26-28 Striped dolphins were brutally slaughtered in the killing cove.  One other was taken into captivity for the Taiji Whale Museum.  Three Risso dolphins were also taken for captivity on Thursday.
Yesterday, a pod of 40-60 pilot whales were driven into the cove. 

For anyone who missed the announcement yesterday, I have decided to move Whale/Dolphin Wednesday to it's own blog where I can post more often about these issues.  I will probably duplicate posts for a couple weeks, but if you have enjoyed these Whale/Dolphin Wednesday posts, please visit my new blog at Ocean Advocate

Ocean Advocate also has it's own facebook page.  You can "Like" it HERE


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Announcement - New Blog

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you know I have been posting Whale/Dolphin Wednesdays for the past couple months.  There is so much happening with the whale captivity industry and the dolphin hunts in Taiji, among other issues of the ocean, that I have started a new blog dedicated only to these issues.

If you have enjoyed Whale/Dolphin Wednesdays and want to be more informed and involved, please join me at Ocean Advocate
For the next couple weeks, I will probably post Whale/Dolphin Wednesday on both blogs 

You can also "like" Ocean Advocate on Facebook HERE

I hope to see you there!

I will return to posting Random Interruptions of the "writerly" kind on this blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Last Call for Beluga Whales

I realize that today is not Whale/Dolphin Wednesday but I wanted to put it out there that NOAA is accepting public comments related to the permit for the import of 18 beluga whales by the Georgia 
Aquarium through Monday, October 29.  

I have talked about this permit and the effects in previous posts:
September 26 
October 10
October 17

Originally I thought the opportunity for public comment was over but there is still an opportunity for further comments.  I submitted mine today.

If you are interested in submitting comments of your own, you can go HERE for more information and instructions.  This is a highly controversial permit request, the first of it's kind in over 20 years.  The request is for these 18 belugas to be shipped to Georgia Aquarium where they will then be dispersed to 5-6 different marine parks for "public display".  The reasoning is supposed research for breeding programs.  

I've included my comment below to give ideas for talking points:

I find the request for a permit to import the 18 beluga whales for the purpose of “public display” utterly unnecessary and downright offensive.  These whales have sadly already been taken from their home, away from their natural food sources and away from their pods and other available breeding pods.  That alone has an impact on the future of this animal.  Taken by being caught off guard with motorboats and being netted in shallow waters is not humane.

If the permit is approved, they will again endure between 23 and 30 hours of undue stress being separated once again and flown across the globe.  It has been documented in stress hormone studies that the animals suffer with this transport.

Historically beluga whales do not thrive well in captivity.  Almost half of those currently on “public display” have died prematurely.  The average lifespan in captivity is much shorter than those who are left in the wild.

Currently there are 40 beluga whales held captive in Marineland of Canada that are in need of rescue from deplorable conditions.  If the list of these aquariums wanting beluga whales for “public display” have the whales’ best interest in mind, they could help make a difference for these whales instead of encouraging the Russians to continue capturing wild whales for captivity.  The beluga whales in Marineland are in need of help and transport would be shorter and less stressful than essentially starting over with wild caught whales.  With no permit request in over 20 years to import wild caught whales, this would be a huge step backwards from true research and education. 

Beluga whales also have highly complex social systems and communication systems.  They are able to make clicks, squeaks and other various sounds in order to communicate with each other.  With the capture of these 18 belugas taken at 3 different times and then again potentially being separated out to six new locations, they not be able to communicate with each other.  Each pod has its own language and combining whales from separate pods will complicate their communication.  When they are put into a concrete tank, the sound will not travel as it would in the wild, bouncing off the walls, and further throwing off this advanced communication system.

The idea of holding these whales captive for research and breeding programs defeats the purpose of the research.  There is no reason for researching an animal out of his natural setting.  The life of these whales in captivity resembles nothing of their life in the wild.  The eating habits are different, being fed frozen fish and additional vitamins in captivity to balance their needs.  The breeding, whether natural or by artificial insemination, would lose valuable information about these animals.  In the wild, they travel thousands of kilometers to go to warmer waters in order to breed and raise their young.  To educate people on captive breeding would provide false information, and there is no reason to breed captive beluga whales for further false information. 

These whales should be studied in their natural habitats in order to truly understand their eating, migration and breeding patterns.  Captivity will never give us a clear picture of these highly intelligent creatures.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Whale/Dolphin Wednesday

As I was watching the news Monday night I saw a story about beluga whales mimicking human voices.  This sounds a little hokie to me.  It reminds me like the guy who claims his dog says "I Love You".  Have you ever heard this one?

According to scientists at the National Marine Mammal Association, in 1984 in San Diego they started noticing unusual sounds by beluga whales in captivity that were similar to humans from a beluga whale named "Noc".  After further study, and reinforcing treats for Noc, they were able to record these sounds.  Noc passed away five years ago after 30 years in captivity and it was reported that his vocalizations slowed after he matured.

Whales make these sounds completely different from humans by using their nasal tracts and not their voice box or larynx as humans do.  Air pressure has to vary in the nasal tract while adjusting lip-like valves and over-inflating sacs below the blowhole.  

According to Sam Ridgeway, neurobiologist, research veterinarian and president of the National Marine Association, further research could discover whether anything can be achieved at a conversational level.

The scientists detail their discovery in the current issue of Current Biology  

My thoughts?...Who cares!
I really wonder how much of this is truth and how much is wishful thinking.  It is sad that "researchers" are: 
1.  Forcing these animals to live in captivity at all
2.  Trying to justify it by "researching" whether or not they can communicate with humans.  

Why should they?  Why not just let them be whales?  Free!

Taiji Update

A pod of 10-15 Risso dolphins were brought into the cove on Friday.  Three were chosen, two adults and one juvenile, for a life of captivity while the rest were killed for their meat.  This was the first capture in three weeks but I'm sure it won't be the last.  The season continues until the end of March.

To sign the petition to stop this horrible murder, CLICK HERE

Last week I had told you about the book signing last night by David Kirby, author of Death at Sea World.  I had hoped to post about the signing today but I didn't have time to prepare a post that would give proper attention.  I will plan on posting that next week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whale/Dolphin Wednesday

This has been quite a week in Taiji.  The Cove has stayed blue with no dolphin killing for 18 straight days!

On the flip side, last Friday the Japanese police raided the hotel rooms of all the Cove Guardians taking SD cards, phones and computers.  The raid was in response to damage to a statue in Taiji caused by one of the Cove Guardians, but more likely it was an excuse to cut off communication.  With no equipment, they are unable to document the hunt and killing of the dolphins.

The Cove Guardian who had tampered the statue, Nils Greskewitz, was a German national and had only been in Taiji for a few days when he climbed the statue of a harpooner at the Whale Museum park.  He was found hanging from the harpoon, causing it to bend.  He has been removed from the campaign.  

Yesterday, the equipment was returned but computers had been tampered with and were unusable.

The public hearing for the 18 beluga whales who will potentially be imported from Russia to the United States was held in Maryland last week.  Ric O'Barry was there to present the following talking points.  I looked for an outcome, but so far have not heard anything.  I will report it here as soon as I do.

I'll leave you today with a great video of the Humane Society of the United States' marine scientist Naomi Rose, David Kirby - author of "Death at Sea World" and three former Sea World trainers observing wild orcas in Puget Sound.  

David and Naomi are going to be in Orlando next Tuesday for a book reading/signing and I am planning to attend.  Stay tuned next Whale Wednesday for a full report!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Last week I got a haircut.  I am really bad about recognizing that I need a haircut until I want it cut right now.  Well, this was already 4 days past my “right now” because my schedule didn’t allow for anything sooner.

By the time I got there, it was out of control and I was frustrated.  I told my stylist that I wanted it a little shorter and out of my face. 

The next thing I know, she made the first cut at the hairline on the nape of my neck.  I watched my once shoulder-length hair slowly fall, section by section.  Every time I said something the least bit unsure about the cut, the stylist quickly responded, “It’s too late now” as she kept snipping away.

The finished product was a closer cut than I have ever had in my life!  It transformed me into a completely different person. 

I pulled into my driveway from the salon and quickly ran into the house.  I didn't want to see daylight for the next 6 months until my hair has a chance to grow out to a respectable length.  The neighbor was outside waiting for our customary wave but all I could think of was how to get inside before he saw me. Could I get a leave of absence from work for a while?

It’s been a few days since the drama and the initial shock is over, but I’m still not sure about the cut.  I feel like a different person, which has got my wondering…

Is the way you look a reflection of who you are inside? Or has your personality been influenced by the way you look on the outside?

One thing is for certain…if I ever need to transform a character’s personality I will start with giving him/her a new haircut!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whale Wednesday

In Taiji this week

The waters of the  cove remained blue all week with no killing.  That's the good news.

The bad news...
Yesterday a buyer from Aspro International, one of the largest operators of Marine parks in Europe purchased 6 bottle-nosed dolphins captured in Taiji 3 weeks ago.  The dolphins were loaded into airline transfer containers likely to end up in marine parks in Europe.

Aspro International operates 41 leisure and entertainment parks in Europe.  Over half of these are thought to be marine parks.

For more information, click HERE

To sign petition, click HERE

A couple weeks ago I talked about the controversy with the 18 beluga whales in Russia that were scheduled to be transported to various marine parks.  If you missed that post, you can find it here
This continues to be a huge issue gaining continued attention in the past weeks.  
These 18 belugas are currently being held in holding pens in the Black Sea.

There are approximately 150,000 beluga whales in the wild, considered nearly threatened.  There are 31 kept in captivity, down from 40 in the 90s.  After 50 years of holding belugas captive, breeding has been unsustainable. 

It has been proven that the lifespan of bottle-nosed dolphins and orcas held in captivity is shorter than that of the wild.  With no predators, pollution or hunters, over half of belugas held in captivity die by the time they are 8 years old, less than half of their life expectancy.  Stress and unhappiness is thought to be the contributing factors to their short lifespans.

For more info, check this out.  Public comments are open until Friday.

Why do I go on about this every week?  While it is an awesome experience to see these whales and dolphins close up, it is torture for these creatures.  Their intelligence is close to that of humans and they are kept in tanks smaller than the average living room for a human if done by scale.  

Prison inmates have opportunities to leave their cells throughout the day.  Imagine living in a prison cell and never being able to imagine your innocent and living that way.

Or think of it this way, imagine your dog, a highly intelligent, social animal, being locked in a bathroom all day, every day.  They are "walked" in a small circle of the room for exercise and forced to do tricks for food.

Would that stress you out?

These parks claim that this is for research, but how can you research such an unnatural situation?  Really?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sorry, but I don't do real estate

Happy Monday! or at least I was trying.  My email contact list has been hacked.  Anyone who is on my contact list got an email "from me" today saying that I was recommending properties in your area.  No, I am not a real estate agent.  No, this email was NOT from me.

If you click on the link or respond (unfortunately I did both), your contact list will receive the same email showing that it is coming from you.

I'm sorry for the inconvenience.  The person that was listed as the sender for me would have potentially been emailing me properties so I opened it without thinking about it.  What a headache!  

Hopefully none of you fell for the scheme.

Have a great week!  I know I have been MIA for a while now but I am hoping to return soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG and Whale Wednesday

I took a 10-day "stay-cation" at the beginning of September.  I was able to get a lot of writing done and the inspiration was rolling in.

Then, the inevitable came.  I had to go back to work.  Not only did I have to go back, but I had to catch up on everything I had missed for the past 10 days.  Since all of our work is done monthly, it still had to be done by the end of the month.

I was so overwhelmed at work that I lost my momentum.  I had nothing.

The last small fiction piece I wrote during that period has potential.  I want to expand on it.  I was able to get an honest critique, which I am forever grateful for.  

I love the support I get from bloggers but sometimes I wish everyone wasn't so polite.  Sometimes I need brutal honesty.  

Nothing lights a fire under me better than telling me I'm not good enough or I can't do something.  That is the guarantee I need to get it done.  This has come with years of my dad, a former band director, telling me I will never make it unto whatever group I was auditioning for, etc.  I always made it because it made me work.

So, in the future, tell me what you really think.  I want to know.  
And, one of these days when I am back on my feet at work I will finish that piece.  I'm getting there.

Does anyone else work like this?

In whale news this week

Sea World is in the hot seat again.  According to Huffington Post, Nakai, an 11 year old male orca, was injured by two other whales during an evening performance at Sea World San Diego.  Nakai has a serious, dinner plate sized gash on his lower mandible.  It is so deep that you can see the bones.  

PETA has filed a complaint claiming a violation of the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates that they are required to house orcas who are not compatible in separate spaces.

According to Sea World officials, Nakai is receiving antibiotics and veterinarians are pleased with the healing process of his wound.

My thought is that if Nakai wasn't in captivity and had room to get away, this probably wouldn't have happened.

In dolphin news

Sea World Orlando and the Miami Dolphins have announced a multi-year marketing agreement.  The new slogan is "Sea World, Where the Dolphins Play".  Gag!  This deal will include special deals on Sea World tickets and stays for Miami Dolphins fans.  I think it's sickening.  Just another way to capitalize on the exploitation of captive dolphins.

In Taiji

Last Thursday, the Japanese fishermen were able to lure a pod of pilot whales into the cove.  They were kept overnight and slaughtered on Friday.  With a typhoon over the weekend, they thankfully have not had any luck since.