Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Horrifying new Footage of Dolphin Hunt at Taiji

by Hardy Jones

Dieter Hagmann, a very brave German videographer has sent us footage showing what we believe proves the slaughter of bottlenose dolphins continues at Taiji, Japan. For a while it had been hoped that media exposure of the ghastly hunt had stopped or slowed the hunting of dolphins for meat. Then it was hoped that at least bottlenose dolphins would be spared. But it is now clear it is business as usual at Taiji.

We at BlueVoice are resolved that in 2010 we will deliver a blockbuster against the hunting of dolphins in Japan. I can't discuss the exact nature of this move but there are some very compelling reasons why humans should not eat dolphin meat. We will make these known backed up by hard scientific data.

The accompanying video is highly graphic. I publish it so the world will know what is going on in Japan.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


By Hardy Jones

Recently the capability of web networking enabled some opposed to the ghastly slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands to set this crime before the world. The tone of the communications that we at BlueVoice and so many others received was that this was the first revelation of these events. There was a desperate call to “do something.”
In fact, various environmental groups including
www.eia-international.org and www.animalfund.org have worked for decades to stop the “grind” as it is called. And yet it continued. But in 2007 something occurred that did at least slow down the killing. Danish and Faroes health authorities warned that pilot whale meat contains dangerous levels of mercury that can lead to Parkinson’s disease and heart problems among other health problems. That warning collapsed the market for pilot whale meat and the hunts subsided for a period of nearly two years.
There is some indication that there is a vast quantity of pilot whale meat in storage already so there is no need to carry out further hunts. But in early 2009 at least one took place.
As Bill Rossiter of Cetacean Society International recently wrote, “We're all concerned with the best way to deal with these bloody hunts, but, in the past, whenever NGOs go public against the hunt, the grinds begin again. There had been no hunts for more than sixteen months but at the very end of January 2009, when the emails started to circulate and get media coverage (especially in the UK and India) the grinds began again.”
There is no way to know if there is a cause/effect going on here but Danish environmental groups, very much in touch with the situation in the Faroes, advise against further protest at this time.


A similar case involves a request that letters of protest be sent to Japan’s new Minister of Health who has expressed concern about mercury in food sold in Japan, which would certainly include highly tainted dolphin meat.
It is my observation that protests sent to Japan to end whaling and dolphin killing have not worked over the course of thirty or more years. In the late 1970s and 80s a massive effort was made to organize a boycott of Japanese goods. This had no discernable impact on Japan’s whaling policy and coincided with an exponential growth in the import of Japanese products to the United States.
Furthermore, if a Japanese minister were to contemplate changing regulations dealing with dolphin hunting, protests from foreigners (gaijin) would be counter-productive. No Japanese official could appear to be bowing to foreign pressure.
It is my belief, now that the major impact of The Cove may have run its course and dolphin hunting continues as usual, that food safety issues will destroy the market for dolphin meat in Japan as it has in the Faroes.
That is where BlueVoice is putting our energies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Can Japan Continue Antarctic Whaling

Japan Vows to Continue Factory Ship Whaling

by Hardy Jones

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has threatened international legal action after the new Japanese government declared its intent to continue whaling.

Two weeks ago Japanese officials said the government would not support industries that were loosing money and required substantial subsidies to continue operations. That would have included the whaling industry and the withdrawal of subsidies would have forced a closure of Antarctic whaling operations based around the factory ship Nisshin Maru. Now Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada says there is no need to discontinue whaling.

The Japanese statement comes as the factory ship Nisshin Maru and its associated killer boats along with an escort of security ships, begins whaling in Australian Antarctic Territory waters.

Australia has traditionally been among those who have taken the strongest stand against whaling.
''Let me be very clear,'' Mr. Rudd said. ''If we cannot resolve this matter (whaling in the Antarctic) diplomatically, we will take international legal action.''

The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea could impose an injunction to halt whaling 14 days after a case is lodged.

Other factors may force the end of factory ship whaling. The Nisshin Maru contravenes new rules proposed by the United Nations International Maritime Organization for ships operating in the Antarctic in at least three ways: The heavy fuel oil it uses would be banned; its hull-strength and safety would fail new requirements; and its annual
dumping of thousands of tons of offal at sea is rejected in the global nature reserve.

The regulations were backed by the Antarctic Treaty System after a series of accidents involving cruise ships. The Nisshin Maru itself has caught fire at least twice, on one occasion in Antarctic waters. The potential posed by this out of date factory ship for an environmental catastrophe in one of the world’s most environmentally sensitive areas is obvious.

One factor holding Japan’s feet to the fire should all the above-mentioned regulations be enforced is that Japan desperately wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Violating UN regulations would hardly be helpful in achieving that goal.

It may well be that Japan will not want to appear to be knuckling under pressure from environmental groups but would silently be grateful for UN regulations that would force the end of its unprofitable and highly objectionable whaling practices.

Talks have continued over recent years at the International Whaling Commission in hopes of finding common ground between whaling nations and those nations that oppose it.

But there can be no compromise between those who kill whales and those who consider them sentient, intelligent beings. You cannot say “a little murder is OK.”

BlueVoice has published a white paper entitled “A Shared Fate” detailing levels of contamination in people who eat whale and dolphin meat. Mercury poisoning is a well-known threat but there is also evidence from Japanese scientists that diseases such as brucellosis are developing in whales. These are diseases that could spread to humans.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Humpback Whale Rescues Baby Seal

Scientists Robert L Pitman and John W Durban sailed to the Antarctic in search of killer whales - killer whales that eat seals, catching them by forcing or tipping them off ice flows.

While they observed the unfolding of such an event, a group of humpback whales arrived on the scene. Pitman and Durban watched as one seal, swept into the water by the orca, swam towards the humpbacks.

As the killer whales moved in, the seal leapt onto the vast
ribbed belly of a humpback, and nestled in the animal's armpit. And when a wave threatened to put the seal back in harm’s way, the humpback used its massive fifteen foot long flipper to help it back on.

"Moments later the seal scrambled off and swam to the safety of a nearby ice floe," wrote the scientists. They believe the seal triggered a maternal defense mechanism in the humpbacks. Scientists have to talk that way. Normal people would say that the humpback which has a huge brain and lives in close societies had empathy for the seal just as any of us might. WE do not credit animals with higher brain functions, even though the anatomy of their brains shows they clear have that capacity. Here's a question for you: what would the consequences be if we really got it that animals have minds, emotions and feelings. Ponder that one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oceana's Hugely Successful 2009

December 1, 2009 by Hardy Jones

BlueVoice grew out of American Oceans Campaign which was later absorbed by Oceana. BlueVoice then became a fully independent 501 c 3 but continues to work closely with Oceana. Today I am sitting in as a member of the Oceana Ocean Council, on the annual Washington DC board meeting.

The work that Oceana does is stunningly impressive. As Ocean conservation NGOs go Oceana is well funded. And they use these funds to excellent purpose. The organization is highly dedicated to specific goals that are attainable.

By the end of the presentations on 2009 activities I was enormously encouraged. Oceana has proven that it packs a punch. Successes like this prove big battles can be won.

Some of the victories achieved during the previous year include:

Protection of Sea Turtles from longlines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearing passage of a bill that would prohibit landing sharks without their fins attached. This would prevent the deplorable practice of catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and dumping the rest of the shark back into the ocean alive to die a torturous death by drowning.

Winning protection for bluefin tuna.

Having contributed to converting five chlorine plants in the United States to processes that do not produce mercury, Oceana is working to convert the final four.

Currently working to get congress to pass a resolution that recognizes ocean acidification to be another of the damaging results of CO2 emissions.

Helped stop (for now) expansion of oil and gas expansion in the U.S. Arctic.

Closed the U.S. Arctic to industrial fishing.

Supported legislation that now protects krill in federal waters of the California current.

Reached agreement with fishermen to protect deep water corals off coast of Florida.

I always come away from these board meetings inspired by Ocean’s work. It is reassuring to know that a powerful ocean conservation organization is working so effectively to protect the seas and its creatures.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Japan Whaling May Be Doomed

by Hardy Jones
Humpback eye phto by Gene Flipsy

Two things may doom Japanese whaling, at least in the Antarctic.

The Japanese whaling fleet has just departed for its annual Antarctic whale
hunt but the enterprise operated by the Institute of Cetacean Research for the
Japan Fisheries Agency faces two huge problems at home:

a chronic lack of demand for for whale meat and possible UN regulations barring the antiquated Japanese whaling fleet from entering Antarctic waters.

More than 5-thousand tons of whale meat has been freezered from last year's hunt due to declining demand for the product. According to the Sydney Morning Herald (The Australian) the whaling business requires a subsidy of nearly ten million dollars per year to maintain operations.

A parliamentary waste-cutting panel, convened by the new government, has recommended the whaling business's main source of funding, the Overseas Fisheries Co-operation Fund, be shut down. This would end whaling in the Antarctic and possibly all factory ship whaling.

In addition, United Nations regulations mandate certain hull specifications for vessels entering Antarctic waters. The Nissin Maru, the factory ship on which Antarctic whaling depends, does not meet those standards and may be prohibited from entering the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

Fate moves in strange ways. As we fight whaling and dolphin slaughter we cannot predict which methods will be effective. It may be that either of the two factors cited above will provide the Japanese government with a face saving way to end this barbarous business. What a wonderful day that would be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby Boom among San Juan Orcas Killer Whales


The birth of the fifth killer whale calf this year within the endangered southern resident killer whales pods is spectacular news. The births bring the total number of animals in J, K and L pods to 87.

"It's a baby boom," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network. http://www.orcanetwork.org

But this news is countered by the fact that seven orca of these same groups died over the past winter. There is genuine concern about the survival of these highly beloved whales. The salmon on which these orca feed has been in low supply and the whales that died showed signs of emaciation. They are also some of the most toxic animals on earth, containing huge levels of chemicals such as PCBs.

Historically, the three pods had about 120 members. But that was before dozens of these magnificent animals were cruelly captured for the aquarium trade. In the late 1990s dredging in Puget Sound may have released plumes of toxic sediments that poisoned the animals downstream of the location.

Dr. Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, a longtime friend, was one of the researchers who first photographed the newest arrival. I’ve spent joyous times with Ken running with the J, K and L pods. In my film “The Dolphin Defender” Ken describes the crisis these orca face from lack of food and pollution.

The newborn calf has characteristic pink markings and folds behind the dorsal fin. The calf was swimming with Polaris, its mother, a 16-year-old aka J28. See video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIAT-DnD2ek

In my days with Ken he described how female orca offload lipophilic (fat binding) toxic chemicals into their newborns through their lipid rich milk. This reduces the mother’s toxic burden but has always struck me as among the most perverse results of how we treat the oceans as a dump for deadly chemicals. The new arrival will have a better chance of survival because its mother has already had a calf that died. Its death would have allowed Polaris to eliminate toxins such as PCBs and fire retardants from her system, according to Balcomb.

Another source of hope is that this year
has been much better for salmon than last. "I just hope they are well-fed from the summer and don't have to dig too far into their fat reserves. We'll do a roll call when they all come back at the
beginning of next season," Balcomb added.

More information on contaminants in the marine environment dangerous to both killer whales at humans at http://www.bouevoice.org

Monday, November 2, 2009

Booby Traps at Taiji

By Hardy Jones

A very brave young Canadian woman has reported from Taiji that the fishermen have booby trapped the hill from which we video the dolphin slaughters.

Leslie-Ann Gervais is now home in a small town in Ontario. It is very fortunate that she escaped serious injury. Here is what she wrote in an email to me:

“... the booby traps were set up with "razor wire" as the ends that grabbed onto my leg, ankle and shoe were very sharp, still have a few marks...and that was from a very cautious step. They had strung more at a head-high level the next day as well...which could poke out an eye...or worse slice into someone's throat.

“The Dawn of the killing...(which happened while it was still dark)....i counted 16 men in a boat leaving the scene (last time 9-10 men)....maybe they had herded-in more later that day which is why there were more men this time and I may have even missed out on counting others too. And this time, they did the killings in the dark and they took such pains with booby traps and trying to block the look out . . .”

“When i went back again today i could not get through that one area...in fact i got caught up in barb wire even though i was looking for it! It latched on to my pants, ankle and shoe...with just one cautious step. Therefore, since yesterday they have entwined EVEN more barb wire. It is tied around trees and stretches and entwines itself camouflaged within the trees and among bushes and leaves. Yesterday, found one which was ankle high, but tied between two trees... NOW, just now saw one head high...which could easily slice through a neck or take out an eye. Makes it very dangerous for anyone who is filming or taking photos and not paying attention to their surroundings.”

Went to the cove this morning...wanted to be present for this family of Pilot Whales. I arrived just as the dawn was breaking and the slaughter was ending. "Personal Space" was in my shadow, flickering his lighter, moping around me - he was sulky, perhaps because i did not have a camera in his face.

This morning they had three nets, two on the outside and one dividing inside the cove. Perhaps because last time they had a problem with the last brave Samurai Pilot Whale who fought so hard. This family of Pilot Whales seemed to slip away quickly....as there were more men this time ...counted 16 men out there on three boats.... After the slaughter they checked the nets as though they were looking for one that had been killed, but disappeared....and made me think of the baby:(. Just so awful. At the end, a speed boat of 11 men came towards shore - all looking my way...even though i may have been scared inside....showed no fear...and gave them my best Native warrior look, 9 men disembarked and left the scene.”

What an extraordinary young woman, operating alone in Taiji!

Sadly it is clear hunting dolphins at Taiji has not ended. It is now clear to me that the only way to end it is to prove the high toxic levels in marine mammals, in the people who eat them and then connect high toxic levels to disease.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toxins and Disease Threaten Catastrophe for Marine Mammals

Avalanche of New Diseases Hits Marine Mammals
Quebec City, Canada, October 14, 2009
By Hardy Jones

Dolphins and other marine mammals are often described as sentinels of the health of the seas. They are long-lived, coastal dwelling, top-of-the-food-chain predators, sharing those characteristics with humans. The news from these sentinels is that the oceans are contaminated to a degree that seriously threatens the health of not only marine mammals but humans as well.

At the previous meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy in Cape Town in 2007, a major theme was that dangerous levels of toxins have been detected in many species of marine mammal in locations around the world and that this is impacting their immune systems.

At the current meeting in Quebec the chickens have come home to roost. Actually they’ve been coming home for a log time but now scientists have caught up to it. Until we turned the oceans into a chemical soup a bacteria, virus or fungus, ubiquitous or commonly found in the environment, was taken care of by a healthy dolphin, seal or manatee immune system. Those immune systems are now being assaulted by high levels of contaminants building up in marine mammals globally.

The chemical industry has maintained that dilution of chemical waste was the solution to the problem. What they did not count on is the biomagnification of toxic chemicals by the marine food chain causing marine mammals to ingest and store dangerous levels of organic pollutants.

The following is a partial list of papers presented at the conference describing diseases emerging among marine mammals. Many of them have heretofore been unknown or rarely found among marine mammals. The sheer volume and variety of these diseases is highly alarming.

New diseases being found in dolphins: papilloma, brucellosis, morbillivirus, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, botulism, cholera, salmonella.

Toxoplasmosis in polar bears in Svalbard, Norway. Possibly due to warming waters and more diverse array of migratory birds arriving in the island.

Opportunistic Antibiotic Resistant Organisms Cultured from Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins Inhabiting Estuarine Waters of Charleston, SC and Indian River Lagoon (Florida). Paper by Bossart et al.
Bossart et al have found high percentage of dolphins along the southeastern coast of the United States to have epidermal lesions. Same researchers have found lobomycosis in bottlenose dolphins in same area along with orogenital papilloma.

Unusual mortalities of marine mammals in the St. Lawrence Estuary associated with saxitoxin-producing red tide.

Giardia and Cryptosporidium found in North Atlantic and Southern Right Whales.

Streptococci in marine mammals stranded around the British Isles.

There has been first confirmation of Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) in sea otters in Alaska. There has been a huge decline in the Alaska sea otter population over recent years.
Tracy Goldstein.

Verminous pneumonia found in Saint Lawrence Estuary (SLE) Belugas. This derives from lungworm. One hundred percent of the adult and juvenile populations have this affliction.
Geuix et al.

PBDE concentrations in marine biota and people from North America are the highest in the world and are increasing. PBDE concentrations in marine biota and people from North America are the highest in the world and are increasing. Susan Shaw et al

Distemper has caused epizootics in Lake Baikal, the Caspian Sea and Northern Europe.

Organochlorine pesticides found in Galapagos sea lions.

There are many more and the whole problem is compounded by warming of the climate. Organic pollutants bound in ice are released when the ice melts. As waters warm prey species may decline or disappear. In many diverse locations marine mammals are reported to have thinner layers of blubber meaning that pollutants stored in fat have been released into the blood and organs of the animal.

President Obama has recently called for a massive strengthening of the laws governing production, distribution and disposal of toxic chemicals. The chemical companies will fight it tooth and nail but far stricter standards must be applied - not just to save marine mammals but humans as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Whale Researcher Calls Japans Scientific Whaling bogus

Phillip J. Clapham who directs research on large whales at Alaska Fisheries Science Center reported to the Society of Marine Mammalogy in Quebec that Japanese scientific whaling is without merit and a poor screen for continuing commercial whaling.

In addition he said the Japanese consider whales competition for fish and thus want to cull them.

Scientific whaling was originally designed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for small sample size. Nothing like the huge takes of Japan. The IWC Protocol allows sale of whale meat to covers costs.

1982 IWC passed moratorium to start in 1986. Japan immediately began scientific whaling.

Japan says they need to kill whales to study their position in the ecosystem. But it’s really because they think whales eat too many fish – too many of “their” fish.

The total number of whales taken by all nations, including Japan, prior to the moratorium was 2100 from 1952 – 1986. Total taken by Japan since 1986 is 12,581 whales and counting. So after the moratorium the number of whales killed skyrocketed due to Japan’s so-called scientific whaling.

The original scientific whaling self-awarded quota started at 300, went to 442, then 852. Japan is now hoping to take humpbacks and has taken fins.

Japan has also taken 200 minkes in Northern Pacific.

The argument that whales “eat too many fish” is preposterous. Not all whales eat fish – most in Antarctica eat krill.
There are so few whales today compared to prewhaling that this idea of whales consuming all the fish is nonsense.
Main predation on fish is other fish.

If you remove top predators from a system you disrupt the system. The real problem is human overfishing.

Japan said Minkes were eating too much krill to allow the blues to recover. So they justified killing minkes.

Then they said the minkes were victims and that humpbacks are driving the minkes out of business. So they now want to kill humpbacks. Anything that justifies their desires.

Clapham told the meeting of nearly 1,000 marine mammal scientists that after 18 years there is no valid scientific data from Japan’s work nor has Japan integrated its work into that of other studies.

Today there are far better non-lethal alternatives to study whales.

A highly interesting turn of events is that Australia will start a Southern Ocean Research Partnership that will employ no lethal methods and will be tied in to other scientific work. What effect will this have on the Japanese Antarctic Whaling fleet operating in the same waters?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dolphin Kills at Taiji Japan diminished

October 12, 2009
Hardy Jones

There is some good news regarding the level of slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. While some 80 pilot whales have been slaughtered during the first five weeks on the season this is far below the normal kill rate.

International pressure has been brought about by films such as The Cove. In addition revelations in international meetings that the Japanese government is subjecting its citizens to a major health risk by allowing the sale of toxic dolphin meat have put tremendous pressure on Japan to end the slaughter of dolphins.

Blue Voice will continue to test dolphins and dolphin eaters to show the extreme levels of contamination present in dolphin meat.

We are currently in Quebec at the biennial meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy where highly disturbing are being presented about the rise of new diseases among marine mammals and the danger of transmission to humans.

More on this in blog tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zoonosis: Transfer of Disease between Dolphins and Humans

October 11, 2009. Quebec City, Canada
by Hardy Jones

The following is taken from my hastily scratched notes during the Environmental Health Workshop.
In the early days the Society of Marine Mammalogy bi-ennial meetings were devoted to identification and distribution of whales, dolphins, manatees, and analysis of feces of various species of marine mammal from Patagonia to the Arctic. There were always a few reports on the songs of humpback whales.
At the Cape Town meeting two years ago there was a marked increase in the number of papers on contamination of the marine environment by toxic chemicals and their impact on the health of marine mammals and even humans. It was the first time I’d heard discussion of the concept of zoonosis - the transfer of disease between species, including animal to human animal and human animal to other animal species.
Here in Quebec environmental contamination and zoonosis are among the principal topics in the Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Marine Ecosystem workshop. The bottom line of the discussion is that unprecedented environmental changes are taking place worldwide brought about by urbanization, rapid global transportation and global climate change.
Interspecies disease transfer is not a new concept. AIDS is thought to have arisen through blood contact when a human killed a monkey in central Africa for food. The same is thought to be true for Avian Influenza (bird flu) and swine flu (H1N1).
Trichinella, a member of a genus of parasitic roundworms, causes trichinosis, a disease once feared among those eating pork. Trichinella is now being found in Ringed Seals and possibly in Walrus that have been forced to eat ringed seals due to a decline in their normal prey due to overfishing and climate change. Inuit hunt Walrus for food. It is unknown whether eating walrus constitutes a health threat for those Inuit.
Carlos Yaipen-Llanos of the Peruvian group ORCA, reports an increase in diabetes in northern Peru among fishermen who eat dolphins. The increase in disease incidence does not occur among members of the same village who do not eat dolphin meat. Incidence of diabetes among Peruvians in general is quite low.
Japan was listed among those nations that are hot spots of risk for zoonotic events. Drug resistance has been identified in Japan along with many new pathogens. The combination could lead to a superbug that would not respond to antibiotics.
The conference itself begins October 12.

Belugas and Blues: Whale Watching St. on the Lawrence

October 6, 2008
Deborah and I arrived in Quebec airport at 1030pm – an hour late. Canadian customs is one of the most annoying systems on earth. The length of lines is usually atrocious, worse than Narita airport at Tokyo. But this time we were at the head of the line and checked through quickly. Ah, in the clear for a decent arrival at our hotel and a good night sleep.
When we reached the final official to whom you normally hand your customs declaration, virtually anywhere in the world, you are into the country. But no, the young lady with the big iron on her hip in a blue para military uniform put us into a special holding area and we wait and wait and wait. Behind us about ten individuals or couples singled out for one reason or another lengthen the line. We at least are at the head of the line.
For an hour and fifteen minutes, as I decline into a hypoglycemic torpor, we wait for someone to come and deal with us. When an official finally addresses us he has many questions. He wants to know if we are working in Canada and if we are going to sell our gear. We talk for a long while explaining that we are attending a conference on marine mammals and are not traveling second-hand camera salesmen. Eventually the pressure of the people behind us sighing and shuffling forces him to let us through. Why the hell would I want to sell my camera? To be fair the customs agent was perfectly courteous.
And from that point on the French Canadians defied their reputations as some of the world’s most unfriendly people. Maybe it is because I speak a bit of French but we have been greeted in an unusually cordial and friendly manner through our entire stay so far.
October 7. It’s raining in the morning as we drive toward Tadoussac. The fall colors are radiant, even in the rain and fog. The hotel Tadoussac is one of those classics you find in National Parks, anyway a mini version of them. The living room with fireplace looks out over the St. Lawrence. Food is excellent and the rooms adequate.
It’s exciting to think we are so close to Belugas, not to mention blue whales, humpbacks, minkes and many other cetacean species. The area looks pristine. It is not. The St. Lawrence is vast but not big enough to handle the flood of pollutants that have come from upstream
We take a commercial whale watch and immediately spot belugas - pretty far away but still my first sighting of this species that has intrigued me so long. I will save a discussion of the survival prospects of these dolphins (though they are called beluga whales they are a species of dolphin) for a subsequent blog. New information will be released at the forthcoming conference.
During the trip we also see minkes feeding right by our boat and blue whales a couple hundred yards from us. It’s October and generally the true whale species would have departed but we’re lucky and they’re still here.
Without exaggeration the St. Lawrence is one of the great whale watching venues on earth.
Once in Quebec at the environmental health workshop I describe my experience whale watching to two young Japanese scientists who were delighted at the prospect of similar encounters the following day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My First Dolphin Massacre, Iki, Japan

My First Massacre
The Tragic Story of Dolphins at Iki

In 1978 I first heard of the terrible slaughter of dolphins at Iki Island, Japan. In Hawaii filming my first film on dolphins, I saw a picture in the local paper of hundreds of dolphins dead on a beach on an island off southern Japan.

By that time I was a bona fide dolphin lover, having just spent time swimming with and filming a pod of spinner dolphins off Lanai. The pictures from Japan shocked and horrified me. I could not imagine how people could deliberately kill dolphins.

I went to Iki in 1979 and 1980 as well as in later years, most recently 2006. Some interesting facts emerged from those visits.

Until 1971 dolphins had not been a problem at Iki. But in that year a current broke off from the main Kuroshio Current running from the Philippines past the eastern coast of Japan and changed the distribution of fish around Iki, bringing fish dolphins prey upon. At the same time the Japanese were overfishing their own waters and the Shichiriga Banks off Iki were one of the few areas where abundant quantities of fish could still be found. The dolphins may have been forced to Iki by shortage of fish elsewhere.

By the mid 1970s so many dolphins migrated through the area off Iki that fishermen began to worry they would consume too many fish. Their catch was falling and they were terrified. But overfishing was the culprit (plus pollution in the breeding areas) not dolphins. The Iki islanders brought in a fisheries expert who said there might be as many as 300-thousand dolphins passing by, each eating 20 pounds of fish a day. The fishermen did the math and concluded they were at war with the dolphins – a typical resource war. They began by shooting and harpooning them. Then they learned from fishermen at Taiji the Oi Komi technique of banging on metal poles stuck in the water to make painful sounds that would drive the dolphins into a bay where they would be slaughtered.

In 1978 the first mass murder of dolphins took place. The fishermen, surprisingly, had invited the media to record the event which resulted in the photos syndicated around the world, one of which I saw in Hawaii. Amazingly the fishermen thought that showing how many dolphins were in their fishing grounds would spur the government to action to eradicate the dolphins or to pay a bounty on them. Follow the money!

In 1979 I brought a film crew to Iki. We interviewed the fishermen, went out on their boats but never saw a dolphin. I made a film in which I tried to understand (not agree with) why these fishermen, who were astonishingly decent and hospitable people, would brutally slaughter as many as two thousand dolphins. They did it to protect their livelihood. It was a them or us mentality.

In 1980 I returned with Howard Hall, then a neophyte underwater cameraman, today one of the preeminent marine cinematographers in the world. We went first to Taiji where we turned our cameras on a group of 200 melonheaded whales that had been captured and were slated for slaughter. Fearing a worldwide scandal if the killing were filmed they let the dolphins go.

Howard and I then went on to Iki where we walked straight into a brutal massacre of up to 2,000 dolphins. We shot film. I got it to Tokyo where CBS News processed it and satellited it around the world, causing a massive backlash against Japan.

Dexter Cate, an environmentalist from Hawaii, untied some of the nets holding those dolphins not yet killed. He was arrested, tried and sent to prison but released fairly quickly. His action brought further attention to the situation at Iki.

Late in March of 1980 local and prefectural governments told the Iki Islanders they should not hunt dolphins – at least until things cooled down. There was no hunting until the mid 1980s when dolphin slavers came to Iki with money in hand and incited an oi komo roundup resulting in the taking into captivity of dozens of dolphins and the slaughter of hundreds.

During my most recent visit to Iki I learned that there are no dolphins in the waters around Iki today. There is no consensus as to why. One plausible answer is that water temperatures have changed, removing the prey that first attracted dolphins to Iki during the 1970s. Squid boats now find their catch far to the north of Iki and report there are dolphins in those waters. The fish that have left Iki waters have been replaced by more southerly species as the waters warm. The fishermen are catching tuna for the first time.

The irony is that dolphins for captivity have become so valuable that the Iki Islanders wish they would come back so they could capture and sell them.

At Futo, where dolphins had been hunted for years, the latest hunts occurring in 1999 and 2004, bottlenose dolphins have disappeared and are found on the other side of the Izu peninsula. This certainly has to do with a change in water temperatures. I can’t say the dolphins learned to avoid Futo because they were hunted for decades and always appeared offshore until very recently. But larger forces are at work in the oceans today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taiji - No Time to Relent Pressure

No Time to Relent at Taiji – A Thirty Year Perspective by Hardy Jones, BlueVoice.org

I’ve been going to Taiji since 1980 as well as to other ports where they kill dolphins such as Futo. My first visit to Japan was in 1979 to the island of Iki where a horrific massacre took place before our eyes and more importantly our cameras.

The huge international pressure brought about by the release of our film footage caused the Japanese fishing authorities to withdraw quotas to kill dolphins at Iki and there was no further killing there until the mid 1980s when an emergency permit was granted because dolphin captors from several countries came to the island with money in hand.

When I last visited Iki two years ago I was told there are no longer dolphins in the waters of Iki. I don’t know if they were exterminated or whether warming waters has driven the prey elsewhere. At Iki they would love to have dolphins again – to sell to aquariums.

In 1999 approximately 100 dolphins were captured at Futo, Japan. Some 14 were taken into captivity, others were killed for meat but many were released – probably due to quota restrictions.

THE COVE has caused a huge international outcry and the Japanese are very sensitive to this. Japan is not monolithic on dolphin hunting and whaling. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Tourism all oppose those bloody businesses. But the hugely powerful Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) prevails and encourages the hunts to continue.

A major fear they have at JFA is that the bloody pictures of the dolphin slaughters will further swing international opinion against whaling which is of far greater importance to them than dolphin hunting.

When the dolphin hunting season opened this year Ric O’Barry brought a busload of reporters to Taiji. No hunting took place while the press was there but very little can be read from that. The dolphin hunters would not kill in front of such a gathering of world media.

Then a group of dolphins and pilot whales was taken. The fifty pilot whales were killed. Some thirty bottlenose dolphins were taken for captivity and the rest let go. This release may or may not indicate a change in policy.

It may help to clarify Taiji’s and the Japan Fisheries Agency’s intentions at Taiji to know that the Japanese use the following words:

Dolphin: iruka - bando iruka for bottlenose dolphins
Pilot whale: ma gondo
Risso’s dolphin: hana gondo

They define the latter two as whales. So they could say they are giving up killing dolphins and still kill pilot whales and other “gondo” in large numbers.

Also, it may be that the Taiji coop is now realizing that they should not kill bottlenose dolphins for meat as they fetch such a high price in the captivity trade. Remember the Iki islanders now wish they had dolphins back and the lesson may not have been lost on the fishermen at Taiji.

Finally, it is not unprecedented for dolphin hunters to release bottlenose dolphins after taking a number of them as captives as at Futo in 1999. Many bottlenose dolphins were released after some taken for captivity and others slaughtered for food.

There is a quota limit on each species which factors into the decision of whether to kill or release so they may release in order to be able to capture more for captivity later in the year.

The Cove has been a bombshell in the faces of dolphin hunters but they may stop killing “dolphins” and turn their blades on “gondo” or simply tone down the kills in the expectation that The Cove will run its course.

The final nail in the coffin of dolphin hunting may be the growing recognition that dolphin meat is highly toxic. The market for it is dwindling. At BlueVoice we continue to test dolphin meat for mercury and organochlorine contamination. We also test human hair for mercury and will soon test the blood of dolphin eaters for organochlorine contamination.

For now it would be a grave mistake to tell the world that the killing of dolphins at Taiji is over.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Testing Monterey Dolphins for Toxicity

We set out onto Monterey Bay at 7am each of the last two days into heavy fog. On day 1 the fog lifted and we had magnificent weather on a flat sea with no wind. Yesterday the fog never relented and the swell was higher but expert boat handling allowed us to carry out the work.

The bottlenose here in Monterey Bay live literally in the surf line or just outside it. We frequently saw them ride waves towards shore and then come blasting thru the backside of the waves. It was a joy. And to make the miracle of Monterey Bay even more there were sea lions and sea otters everywhere.

As we continually report the levels of organochlorine and heavy metal toxicity in dolphins worldwide has grown at an alarming pace. This induces immunosuppression in the dolphins opening them to serious disease and reduced reproduction.

In Monterey a non-profit group known as Okeanis (daughter of Poseidon) is testing bottlenose dolphins which have presented wide spread skin lesions, an indication of suppressed immune resistance. These tests are essential to discover the levels of contamination in the dolphins, which act as sentinels of the condition of the oceans because they are feed at the apex of the marine food chain and are coastal dwelling. Once the tox levels are determined the obvious next step is to look for ways of cleaning up the waters that flow into Monterey Bay which lays adjacent to intensively cultivated agricultural areas - obvious sources of pesticides.

I really enjoyed my time on the water with Daniela Maldini, president of Okeanis, Mark Cotter who does the photo IDs with an astonishingly acute eye and Tom Jefferson who does the tissue sampling. These are highly dedicated people doing extremely important work. www.okeanis.org

The work by Okeanis is being carried out under permit by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whale Watch Boats Help Stop Humpback Hunt

Photo (c) Lawrence Curtis

We were shocked at the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)to learn that Greenland is seeking a quota to hunt fifty humpback whales. The IWC didn't vote on the matter but put the decision off until Dec. 8 when a special meeting will be held.

BlueVoice http://www.bluevoice.org has organized whale watch captains to distribute flyers which allow whale lovers to protest the bloody business of killing humpbacks. Humpbacks are highly endangered and very slow and easy to kill. They face challenges from a changing global climate which redistributes their food sources.

The whale watch operations that are distributing our flyers are:
Granite State Whale Watch - gsww@myfairpoint.net www.granitestatewhalewatch.com
Monterey Bay Whale Watch - mbwhale@aol.com gowhales.com
Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch - orders@whalewatch.com www.whalewatch.com
Cape May Whale Watch Research Center - www.capemaywhalewatcher.com
Bar Harbor Whale Watching Company - www.barharborwhales.com

We thank all who are contributing to this effort to save the singing whales.

Hardy Jones

Thursday, August 27, 2009

50 Humpbacks Face Death

The International Whaling Commission has set Dec. 8 - 10 in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA for a meeting that will decide whether Greenland will receive a quota to kill 50 humpback whales. BlueVoice opposes this quota in the strongest terms. Most people are not aware of this impending slaughter. We are distributing flyers suggesting ways to protest the hunt on whale watching boats around the United States and will soon begin efforts to get state governors to declare humpbacks animals of high cultural and economic importance to their coastal towns. To help us distribute flyers email us at contact@bluevoice.org.

Humpback whales are large brained, highly communicative sentient creatures. We must make the oceans safe for such magnificent creatures.

Hardy Jones

Monday, August 17, 2009

Genetic Links between Toxins and Cancer

The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) has published a report that describes a genetic link between environmental toxins and bone disease in multiple myeloma, a form of blood/bone cancer. Once considered a disease of the elderly, and a rare one at that, myeloma is increasingly being diagnose in patients under 45. The big question is "why, when many cancers are being reduced in incidence, is myeloma increasing and penetrating lower age groups?

One possible explanation is the increase in environmental toxins. But what is the connection between the toxins and the disease?

Researchers with the IMF gene bank (Bank on a Cure) have identified changes in SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that are part of DNA sequences. These changes reduce a person's ability to process chemical toxins such as Dioxin and may lead to cancer.

The finding, published in the latest issue of the journal Leukemia, authored by Dr. Brian Durie, chair of the IMF, - http://www.myeloma.org - provide a possible link between myeloma and environmental toxins.

As these toxins rise in the marine food chain we are seeing more cases of cancer in dolphins, types of cancer never before identified in these marine mammals. Dolphins should be seen as sentinels warming us to the dangerous levels of pollution accumulating in our oceans.

If we analyse the status of disease and pollution in dolphins worldwide we can conclude only that a global pandemic exists that now threatens dolphins and more and more is a menace to human health.

Hardy Jones

Monday, August 10, 2009

U. S. Military Says Climate Change A Threat

An ultraradical left wing group is saying that global climate change poses a security threat to the United States. Oh WAIT! That's actually the National Intelligence Council and the Pentagon saying it. They're concerned that whole regions may become destablized by extreme weather, including drought, violent storms and mass migrations of people - even pandemics. That's not to mention food and water shortages, and catastrophic flooding. The military and intelligence experts who produced this information will testify next month when the Senate addresses new climate and energy legislation already passed by the house.

There are still some nitwits who argue that global climate change has nothing to do with combustion of fossil fuels. They have their paid experts who try to obfuscate the climate debate the way "scientists" paid for by the tobacco companies cast doubt on the dangers of smoking. They claim that the current rise in temperatures is a natural and cyclical event. And they are partially right. But also dead wrong.

The fact is the earth tracks around the sun in an elliptical rather than circular orbit. Earth is now moving closer to the sun and thus will experience warming. Another factor is that the earth wobbles a bit on its axis, not something we'd notice at the individual level, but important in that it tilts the Arctic closer to the sun.

So now is the worst time to add the creation of greenhouse gases to an already warming planet. Do we want to create a perfect storm of climate change?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dolphins Show Exposure to West Nile Virus

During the past two years highly alarming reports have appeared showing dolphins have developed resistance to many antibiotics. The work, conducted by Dr. Greg Bossart et al reflect research on dolphins in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina and the Indian River Lagoon, Florida. The research shows that common antibiotics have been ingested by dolphins to the extent that the dolphins have developed resistance to them. This leads to the possibility that super strains of viruses or bacteria could develop among dolphins.

Now Dr. Bossart and his colleagues have detected evidence of Eastern, Western and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses along with West Nile Virus in at least one of the two dolphin populations. The research team also detected Brucella or brucellosis, a widely feared disease in cattle, caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals, or close contact with their secretions. Brucellosis is a zoonose - an infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals, both wild and domestic, to humans or from humans to other animals.

The combination of these two discoveries indicate the possibility of health problems of an alarming nature.

The entire report may be found at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/eaam/am/2009/00000035/00000002/art00002

Hardy Jones

Monday, August 3, 2009

Scientists Study Massive Debris in Pacific

Marine scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography are en route to the middle of the North Pacific for a study of plastic debris accumulating across hundreds of square miles of sea north of the Hawaiian Islands called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

The expedition will study how much debris is collecting in what is known as the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, and how that material - mostly tiny plastic fragments - affects marine life.

The debris is concentrated by circular ocean currents within a vast "convergence zone" roughly midway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

"The concern is what kind of impact those plastic bits are having on the small critters on the low end of the ocean food chain," Bob Knox, deputy director of research at Scripps, said after the ship had spent its first full day at sea.

Besides the potential harm to sea life caused by ingesting bits of plastic, the expedition team will look at whether the particles could carry other pollutants.

Pesticide tied to Obesity and Diabetes

A new report indicates a tie between the widely used pesticide Atrazine and obesity and diabetes. Atrazine, according to Mary Turyk et al, affects insulin signaling and induces insulin resistance. The report says "Atrazine or its metabolites might be introduced into humans through corn syrup and other corn-derived foods. Turke had previously found the odds of developing diabetes is highest in persons with high levels of DDEs and PBDEs. For details: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/diabetes-and-environmental-contaminants

by Hardy Jones

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite and the Whales

I worked at CBS News from 1968 through 1971, most of the time in the CBS News HQ on West 57th Street in NY. I had the honor and pleasure of working with Walter Cronkite on many occasions, especially during the Apollo 11 moon landing when the whole space unit decamped from New York to Houston.

But my favorite memory of him took place in 1982, long after I'd left the news business. We were on a whale watching boat out of Boston cruising the Stellwagen Banks on a gray day during which numerous humpbacks popped up for a breath of air and then dove. Nothing spectacular but Walter was thrilled. His huge and genuine enthusiasm for the whales was marvelous to see.

On the way back to Boston we saw three humpback whales breaching in tandem almost directly in our path. During the 45 minutes it took us to close with the flying whales one dropped out, leaving two whales still breaching, rising to breathe and then diving for yet another breach. When we were within 100 yards of the whales there was only one breacher but the whale flew out of the water so close to the boat that we all screamed, Walter Cronkite no exception.

Five years later I interviewed him in his well appointed offices at Black Rock, CBS's corporate headquarters on Sixth Avenue and 52nd St. He spoke with great passion and deep knowledge of the environmental issues facing us in those days, which of course have only grown more threatening in the succeeding years.

Walter Cronkite was a great man who really did know "the way it is."

Hardy Jones, July 18, 2009