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.

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

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

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 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 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.