Friday, September 4, 2015

Latest From BlueVoice - Peru, Dolphin Birthing has posted a good story on our work in Peru, putting the situation there and in Taiji into context. Huffington Post has quoted my thoughts on dolphin assisted birth:

Monday, October 14, 2013


by Jonny Zwick @jonnyswick on Twitter HOW DOES ICELAND GET AWAY WITH HUNTING WHALES? • The International Whaling Committee (IWC) placed an international moratorium on whaling in 1986. Iceland found a loophole by creating a four-year research program so they could “provide advice” on future quotas. They whaled from 1986-1989 before officially cutting all ties with the IWC in 1992. Iceland rejoined in 2002 with a legally disputed reservation against the moratorium and began scientific whaling again in 2003 with a five-year “research” program. In 2009, just as the Icelandic government was voted out of office, the fisheries embarked on yet another five-year plan. The hunting was interrupted in 2011 by the devastating tsunami in Japan, which damaged whale-processing facilities. The 2013 season has now concluded, bringing an end to the five-year program. The Marine Research Institute will now provide advice to the government to help them decide whether or not there will be a whaling season in Iceland next year. • The Marine Research Institute is a governmental organization in Iceland. Scientists at MRI determine the quotas for whale hunting each year and collect population data on the whales that inhabit the Icelandic coastlines. QUOTAS, KILLS, AND RESEARCH: These statistics need to be prefaced. I understand that the following numbers reflected by the quotas may seem insignificant compared to the total populations of these two species of cetaceans, but we must remember the past. Humans have already driven whales to the brink of extinction many times. These giant marine mammals are currently facing more threats to their well-being than ever before. Pollution, depletion of food sources, loss of habitat, ship strikes, climate change, toxic waste, fishing net entanglement, and noise pollution are just a few, so how can humans justify tacking on one more to the list. FIN WHALES: • The quota for endangered fin whales was 184 this season. 134 were caught. • By comparison, 129 fin whales were caught in 2009 and 148 were caught in 2010. • The combined quota for all the past five years was 770 fin whales. Only 404, or 53%, were taken due to the missed seasons after the Japanese tsunami. • MRI proposes that in 2014 and 2015 a maximum of 154 fin whales are to be hunted annually around Iceland. • IWC estimated in 2000 that there were 50,000 fin whales in the North-Atlantic Ocean and that as many as 25,800 of those live in the ocean around Iceland, Greenland, Jan Mayen and the Faeroes. MINKE WHALES: • The quota for minke whales was set at 229 this season. 38 were killed. The small number is mostly due to terrible weather conditions and the brief implementation of a whale sanctuary (discussed below). • MRI has proposed that in 2014 and 2015 a maximum of 350 minke whales are to be hunted annually around Iceland. • The last two surveys on minke whale populations were conducted in 2001 and 2007. 2001 - estimated 40,000 minke whales in North Atlantic 2007 – estimated 20,000 minke whales in North Atlantic *Scientists attribute this drop to distribution of prey to colder waters. The most disturbing aspect of the scientific research that is done in Iceland is the fact that the scientists simply can’t study the animals well enough to make these estimations. The following quotations were made by Gisli Vikingsson, head of whale studies at the Marine Research Institute in Iceland (AKA the guy who determines the quotas): “We are so behind that we don’t know basic things like where they are in the winter. And what their migration routes are and such and this is because whales are extremely hard to study in that respect.” “Unfortunately in the last major survey, we couldn’t cover the whole population area well enough to be able to come up with reliable estimates for the whole area.” “Unfortunately our whale survey in these areas could not be conducted properly because of weather and ice conditions in that area.” “Yeah I’m just talking about internationally, the history of whaling is one of the worst examples of exploitation of a natural resource.” Yet, you continue to permit commercial whale hunting and publish population estimates, Mr. Vikingsson? WHO IS WHALING? FIN WHALES: • Hvalur HF is the only company in Iceland who hunts fin whales. • Kristjan Loftsson is the CEO of Hvalur, and refuses to stop hunting the endangered whales, calling them just another fish in the sea. • Hvalur has two active vessels that are capable of hunting fin whales. • Hvalur employed roughly 150 people this season. MINKE WHALES: • Gunnar Begmann Jonsson is the face of minke whaling. He is the owner of Hrefna HF the lead minke whale meat distributor. • There are four active minke whaling boats in Iceland, most of whom independently hunt whales and sell the meat to Hrefna HF. • At least 50 minke whales need to be caught annually to fulfill the demand for the meat in Iceland for one year. WHALE WATCHING The whale watching industry has emerged as an eco-friendly way to utilize whales for the economic benefit of the country: • Whale watching is the largest tourist attraction in Iceland. • 800,000 tourists visited Iceland this Summer (Iceland pop. = 320,000) • Whale watching companies have calculated that 200,000 people went whale watching in Iceland over the last year. WHALE SANCTUARY: A whale sanctuary was established for the first time this year. The line prohibited whalers from hunting in Reykjavik’s main whale watching area. • Iceland’s new minister of fisheries revoked the line less than two months after it was established. • The sanctuary line was established 12 miles out to sea from Reykjavik harbor in Faxafloi bay. • 80% of minke whales that were hunted last season were killed where the sanctuary would have been. • Minke whalers left Reykjavik and traveled to the most northern area of Iceland after the sanctuary line was implemented. • Whalers were within 2 miles of whale watching vessels, killing the same minke whales that whale watchers were viewing. WHAT IS THE MARKET FOR WHALE MEAT? FIN WHALES: Fin whale meat is solely exported to Japan, although the market has plummeted severely. It has shrunk so rapidly that even primary shareholders in Hvalur have come out and said, “Hey, why the hell are we still doing this?” See link below: (use google chrome to translate) • Loftsson sold 870 tons of fin whale meat to Japan in 2012 . This load of meat was from the 2009/10 hunting season and had been sitting in freezers for two and a half years before it was recently exported. • If the whaling company caught the original quota of 154 fin whales this summer they would have collected a projected 1850 tons of meat. That’s more than twice the amount of meat that took them two and a half years to sell to Japan. • Loftsson is desperate to find any kind of market for the meat. This summer he sold endangered fin whale to a Japanese pet food company, claimed that it could be used as a sexual stimulant in the press, and promoted fin whale oil as an “eco-friendly bio fuel”. MINKE WHALES: Minke whale meat is only sold domestically to restaurants and supermarkets around Iceland. Tourists are conned into believing whaler propaganda that labels whale meat as a traditional dish. Many of them don’t make the connection that they are supporting the slaughter of these animals. • Less than 10% of Icelanders eat whale meat on a regular basis • In a 2009 poll 40% of tourists surveyed admitted to trying minke whale meat while visiting Iceland. • In a 2012 poll 22% of tourists surveyed said they tried the meat. • This drop may be attributed to the fact that 81 minke whales were killed in 2009 and only 52 were caught during 2012, making less meat available. CONCLUDING NOTE: • 58% of Icelanders agree with their countries decision to continue commercial whaling.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Message from the Southern Resident Orcas

By Jeff Friedman (@orcawild) I just returned from a week on San Juan Island and we really lucked out with some incredible orca sightings. We spent an awesome afternoon watching several groups of Biggs (transients), including the T036s, hunting harbor porpoises. We didn’t see an actual kill, but we were pretty sure we saw a few of them eating after a lot of quick direction changes followed by some serious thrashing. Afterwards we were treated to some incredible spy hops that really seemed to be them checking us out.
And we were extremely fortunate to see a superpod of resident orcas from all three (J, K and L) pods three different times. In past summers it would be typical to see the resident orcas frequently, but this summer they have spent less time, by far, in their familiar inland waters than at any time since at least the mid-1970’s when sightings data began to be recorded. They have been absent this summer for weeks at a time, so 3 sightings in one week was extremely lucky. Our first encounter with the residents, on August 22nd, included a full blown superpod with everyone from all three pods mixed into multiple groups as they traveled in from the Pacific to the west side of San Juan Island. It was breathtaking to see the groups spread out, all within our field of view, from a few hundred yards away out toward the horizon. Knowing how little they have been seen this year, it was sweet seeing so many orcas at one time. But within an hour of reaching San Juan Island they turned around and headed back out to open ocean.
A few days later, on August 25th, they came back in and we saw them heading north along the west side of San Juan Island and later on coming out of Active Pass into the Strait of Georgia in B.C., heading toward the Fraser River, their favorite source of Chinook salmon. It was amazing to see them come out of the pass seemingly very excited, with a ton of tail slaps, too many breaches to count, and a lot of porpoising. Similar to a few days earlier, they spent a very short time, and by nightfall they were headed out to the open ocean again. There have been no resident orca sightings since. Speaking with whale watch operators, naturalists and locals on the island there is definitely concern over the infrequent sightings of the southern residents and their brief stays when they do appear, as well as hope the orcas are finding enough Chinook in the open ocean. Based on their behavior, it seems logical to assume they are not getting enough food in the inland waters, especially their preferred Fraser River Chinook. Some people are saying there are Chinook returning to the Fraser River, some are saying the numbers are dreadful, so it is hard to really know. But overall, the Fraser Chinook are in decline and this is known. The two likely culprits are commercial fishing and disease spreading from fish farms to wild salmon populations. The final 2 days of the trip saw the opening of commercial fishing. They are fishing for pinks, which the orcas do not eat, and fishermen are supposed to return any Chinook taken as bycatch. But no one believes they actually do this. I took photos of purse seiners dropping their nets next to the resident orcas as they were foraging, and we saw numerous seiners all over the inland waters. They were lined up 3 and 4 at a time across Haro Strait.
I think there is a message in the orcas pattern of absence this summer: Restore and protect the salmon runs that sustain them (and numerous other species including us) or they will go somewhere else to find food (hopefully). This impacts the economy and culture of the Pacific Northwest. Images of orcas are ingrained everywhere in the region, from Seattle through British Columbia. The orcas are part of the region’s identity. In addition to being a cultural icon they are a big driver of tourism. Business as usual with the salmon returns also impacts commercial and sport fishing and all other marine mammals that feed on the salmon. Losing a resource that should be “easy” to manage will have devastating consequences to the people of the area. The orcas may adapt and just leave for a new preferred food source, and what we are seeing this summer could be the beginning of that. Or they may not adapt, which makes this summer even more concerning. As Ken Balcomb, Director of the Center for Whale Research, noted in a recent blog: “We have demonstrated that the “resident” Orca survival is significantly linked to Chinook abundance, and the government managers on both sides of the US/Canada border should take more notice of this inconvenient truth before it is too late. This year (2013) during the summer when whale-watching is historically best, we have witnessed an unprecedented absence of “residents” around the San Juan Islands, and a continuing downtrend in their population number concurrent with a near collapse of Fraser River Chinook.” This summer leaves us with more questions than answers. Are the resident orcas finding enough food elsewhere? Will they adapt to a new food source and abandon the Fraser River and surrounding inland waters? Will the US and Canadian governments do what is needed to restore the Fraser River salmon populations? Time will tell if this summer is a message from the resident orcas and if all the stakeholders in the region can work together to mobilize US and Canadian government action to save the Fraser River salmon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Onboard a Whaling Ship Off Iceland

By Jonny Zwick (@jonnyzwick) It was mid-afternoon when I received an email I had been waiting for all summer. Gouholt Konradsson, son of long time minke whaler, Konrad Eggertsson, informed me that I was welcome to board their whaling vessel, the Halldor Sigurdsson, if I could make it to Isafjordur in time for the next hunt. I promptly rented a car and took off on a seven-hour journey to Iceland’s famously beautiful Westfjords area, astonished that these men had just granted me access to film the killing of a minke whale. I boarded the ship two days later, after some bad weather postponed the hunt. It wasn’t the rain or haziness that deterred the whalers, but the choppiness of the wind-blown ocean that held them back. The Eggertsson duo hunts whales independently, so they don’t feel the pressure of going out on a difficult day. They hunt when they want to and sell their meat to Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, head of the Minke Whaling Association and owner of Hrefna HF, the leading distributor of minke whale meat in Iceland. Before the engine started Goudholt looked me straight in the eyes with a very austere look on his face. He said, “If anything goes wrong when we shoot the minke whale, I am going to tell you to turn off the camera. You must do it. It only happens one out of 100 times, but it could happen.” I agreed, nodding my head, while conjuring ways of capturing the moment things “go wrong” without the whalers noticing. Immediately switch the memory cards? Set up my GoPro in a hidden location? I was distressed enough with the thought of witnessing the brutal act of things going right, so the idea of a mishap really put me on edge. “Things going wrong” entails the explosive harpoon entering the wrong area of the whale, leading to a slow and miserable death. As we slowly drifted out of the harbor the two men scrambled to prepare the harpoon. They attached a rope to the end of the red-tipped explosive metal rod and ran it along the length of the boat. The rope wrapped around a circular beam at the end of the vessel that acted as a crane to drag the minke whale onto the back platform once it had been shot. After setting up the rope, Konrad ran inside the cabin to grab something. I followed him in and sat in the corner, filming him as he rummaged through a box. After he had found what he was looking for he walked back toward his son who was still fiddling with the deadly weapon at the front of the ship. All of a sudden Konrad turned on his heel, looked directly at me, and lifted a red object in the air before saying, “this is bomb” with a large, animated smile on his face. Shivers ran up my spine as the reality of the situation set in.
Konrad Eggertsson after showing off his new bomb, seen in his left hand. From an outside perspective the atmosphere would have seemed similar to that of a regular fishing expedition. The men drank cup after cup of steaming hot coffee, occasionally looking down at the radar monitor or grabbing their binoculars to scan the glassy water. Other boats in the small community knew them well and waved cheerfully as we passed. The whalers even received phone calls from other fishermen in the fjord who reported minke sightings. About two hours into the voyage we came across our first whales, but to the Eggertsson’s dismay, they were of the wrong species. Gouholt asked me if I had interest in filming the two humpbacks, a cow and her calf, up ahead. Any sighting of a humpback is a good sighting for me, knowing that they are currently protected by the government. Konrad and his son are big proponents of bringing back humpback whaling in the area, and have spoken to media sources, suggesting that it’s in Iceland’s best interest to resume the killing of this species.
After three months of whale watching all over Iceland, I found it incredibly ironic that my closest encounter with whales came from a whaling ship. The magnificent mammals rose to the water’s surface directly in front of me as if they were a friend of mine coming to let me know things would be ok. My initial reaction of enthusiasm must have been off-putting to the whalers as I momentarily forgot where I was. I looked over to them in awe as I was so accustomed to share my excitement with fellow passengers on whale watching tours. As if the beautiful beings spurred them on, they cranked the ship into high-gear and off we went, leaving the ever-so-peaceful humpbacks to roam their waters.
Unexpected chaos exploded in an instant when we saw a minke whale around 3:00 PM, seven hours into our journey. Konrad shouted “HREFNA!” (minke in Icelandic) to his son with eagerness as he grabbed ear protection and headed for the harpoon. I leapt to my feet and got into position atop the second story of the boat where I thought I had the best position for capturing the kill on camera. A siren rang loudly, warning others that a powerful explosive would soon be launched into the ocean. Gouholt stood next to me, driving the boat from the second platform, changing directions to keep the minke whale directly in front of the boat. Konrad swung the harpoon violently, changing directions as the minke whale continually broke the surface of the water. It seemed as if Konrad had at least four clear opportunities to shoot the whale, so I felt the need to ask Gouholt, “Is he going to shoot it?” Gouholt simply responded with, “You never know when he is going to shoot”. After about eight minutes of intense follow, the whale had vanished. We slowed down to almost a stand still and crept through the empty fjord for about an hour before the men gave up and continued onward. As relieved as I was, it was confusion that stood out as the dominant feeling in my mind. I had never seen a whale watching operator lose a minke whale. Once they are spotted it is almost always the driver who decides to leave the area after viewing the whales for long periods of time. How could someone who had been doing this for 40 years lose a minke whale that easily on a clear, glassy day? Why didn’t he shoot it when he had the chance? As the clock turned to 5:00 PM I realized we were heading back to the harbor. I was ecstatic that one more minke whale would be roaming the North Atlantic, but baffled by the behavior of the minke whalers. Were they putting on a show for me? Was this whole day a charade put on for the viewers of my film? While interviewing the two men for my documentary about Icelandic whaling, they repeatedly told me that they don’t have anything to hide. I will never get a definitive answer, but I believe their motivation was to have me capture them on a hunt, showing people that they are not afraid to kill on camera, without actually having to kill on camera. Other supporting facts for my argument go as followed: • This duo usually hunts with three men, not two • We went in earlier than they usually do • Had very different tracking patterns than all other hunts this season. They went straight instead of circling after seeing the whale. You can track their boat on (AREA: Iceland VESSEL: Halldor Sigurdsson) As we pulled back into the harbor Gouholt began ranting to me that my country, The United States, is responsible for killing more whales than Iceland. I could tell he wanted to leave me with some nonsensical, concluding argument. I thanked the men for allowing me on their ship and hopped off of the Halldor Sigurdsson, bewildered by my day on a whaling ship.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sanctuary in North Iceland Could End Whaling

By Jonny Zwick (@jonnyzwick) There are reasons for anti-whaling supporters to stay optimistic about the prospect of abolishing the archaic industry of whaling in Iceland. Despite the estimated 21 fin whales and 20 minke whales that have been slaughtered along the coast lines of the island nation this Summer, murmurs of a possible sanctuary in the North provide hope for those opposed. The primary reason that minke whalers have been pushed north this season is the implementation of a whale sanctuary in Faxafloi Bay. Faxafloi Bay lies right outside of the capital city, Reykjavik, and is famous for it’s fruitful whale and puffin watching. Although the invisible sanctuary line doesn’t run as far as whale-watching companies hoped that it would, it has restricted whalers in their deplorable practice. The significance goes beyond the recognition from Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries that whale watching may be more economically beneficial than whaling; it greatly depletes whalers already limited areas to hunt. I use the words, “already limited” because minke whales are mostly coastal/inshore marine mammals. Whalers can’t simply ignore the sanctuary by travelling further out to sea. Well, they could, but they wouldn’t find any whales to hunt. A sanctuary in the North, where whale watching is growing at an extreme rate, should surely put this controversial industry to bed. With a slowing consumer market and a shrinking hunting zone, I would recommend minke whalers start buffering their resumes if the line is put in place.
Let it be clear that the sanctuary in the North is in preliminary stages and may just be speculation. However, I am preaching this optimism due to the fact that I recently spent four days in the most important territories regarding the sanctuary and what I found out was very promising. An Icelandic colleague of mine recommended I travel with him as he promoted whale welfare by speaking with whale watching companies, restaurant owners, and the citizens who define these communities. We visited Akureyri, Husavik, Dalvik, and Siglufordur. The following developments signify the positive indications that a whale sanctuary is on the northern horizon:
*Husavik - The fjord is narrow, and massive snow-capped mountains serve as a remarkable backdrop for an ideal trip to see the majestic creatures in their natural habitat. There were only two companies, Gentle Giants and North Sailing, who ran whale-watching expeditions until last month. The introduction of a third company, Salka, not only proves that the whale watching market is growing outside of Reykjavik, but will also help transform the other two companies from competitors to teammates. We spoke to all three companies and they agreed that now is the time to unite and work together to ensure there are whales in the areas they are bringing tourists. *Akureyri – Another new company, Ambassador, has emerged in Akureyri. *Akureyri - My colleague and I spoke with restaurant owners who promised they would not sell whale meat, acknowledging that serving these dishes in their newly identified whale watching community would be a massive contradiction. Six restaurants now have stickers on their front doors stating that they are “whale friendly” and don’t offer whale meat. The stickers help introduce tourists to the notion that eating the marine mammals they recently appreciated is not an Icelandic norm. *Dalvik – We spoke with a whale watching CEO who, last year, was a proponent for whaling. He was convinced that the two industries could co-exist, but now revokes those beliefs, and is committed to promoting a sanctuary. *Dalvik – Arctic Sea Tours, a small, family run company, expressed their joy to us about how well their business was doing. Freire, who started the company, told us there has been a 100% increase in clientele for three successive years. They have purchased a second boat and have hired local citizens outside of their family lineage. *Siglurfjordur – This is where the minke whaling vessel, the Hrafnreydor, is docked. We looked for the vessel upon arrival, but couldn’t find it in the picturesque harbor where every other ship in the small town resided. We eventually discovered the ship completely isolated, hidden behind desolate industrial buildings closer to the mouth of the fjord. Speaking with locals revealed that our suspicions were correct and the whaling boat had been purposefully hidden. Members of the community seemed shocked when we informed them of the ship’s presence. They vehemently told us the whalers were not welcome. These discoveries provide an insight to the current status of the booming whale watching industry. Attitudes are shifting and jobs are being created. Whale watching companies understand the threat that whalers pose to their business, and are teaming up rather than competing, to ensure there are whales for their tourist clientele to observe. Their growth and unification plays a vital role in demanding the imposition of a northern sanctuary, subsequently ousting whalers from the North, and ending whaling as a whole in Iceland.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dolphin Assisted Therapy is Bogus

“Imagine this. Jay, an eight-year-old boy with autism, whose behavior has always been agitated and uncooperative, is smiling and splashing in the pool. A pair of bottlenose dolphins are hovering on the surface next to him, supporting him in the water. With all the attention he’s getting, Jay is excited and in high spirits; he appears more aware and alert than ever before. Jay’s parents, who had given up hope, are elated to have finally found a treatment that works for their son. They sign up for more sessions and cannot wait to get home and tell their friends about the experience.” (Excerpted from Dolphins Are Not Healers, Aeon magazine). In this new review of dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) in Aeon Magazine ( Lori Marino tells us that while the above scenario looks benign and encouraging – looks can be deceiving! Marino discusses her work with clinical psychologist Scott Lilienfeld showing that there is no therapeutic value to swimming with dolphins. She details the history of dolphins in mythology and how these ancient beliefs have fueled modern-day pseudoscience practices like DAT. The bottom line? DAT is a form of exploitation of both dolphins and desperate parents of disabled and sick children. Buyer Beware!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Toxics and Blood Cancer, a Diabetes Link?

This blog was written on the site of the International Myeloma Foundation in response to a posting by the eminent Myeloma authority Dr. Brian Durie. By Hardy Jones I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2003. In 1997 I had been diagnosed with chronic mercury poisoning attributed to a diet high in tuna and swordfish - large predatory fish known to carry high levels of heavy metals and organic pollutants. In 2005 I was tested for organic pollutants such as those derived from agent orange, benzine, DDT, flame retardants etc. I was found to be quite high in some of the congeners. The story is best told in my book, The Voice of the Dolphins, but is also covered on the Bluevoice web site. I would say (in response to Dr. Durie's intention to test 911 victims) the sooner the better on testing 9/11 victims. Even though it’s slow, POPs (persistent organic pollutants) do break down and diminish. Also, if a person loses weight they will mobilize POPs, which are lipophilic, and excrete them. When I asked toxics expert Arlene Blum about my POPs levels she said “Oh, too bad you didn’t get tested when you were still eating lots of tuna etc. because your values would now be only a shadow of what they may have been.” I had stopped eating large predatory fish in 1997 after being found to have high mercury levels. My test for POPs was run in 2005. I’m thinking of having myself tested again - 7 years after the last test but the tests are expensive. I’ve just heard from a top marine mammal toxicologist that there is likely a correlation between levels of mercury and other heavy metals and POPs. There are confounding problems but as a general rule this analogy works. I will be getting test results from Peruvian dolphin-eating fishermen by Feb. 21. Our tests for mercury etc. should/could be a proxy for POPs. These fishermen have epidemic incidence of diabetes which Dr. Durie has tied to MM incidence. Anyway, it's great the IMF is doing this work. Prevention of this disease is better than suppressing it with drugs, even though these drugs have been a godsend to me. I would be happy to receive information from people who eat a lot of high food chain predatory fish who have MM. Hardy Jones