Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Arrives by Sea

By Hardy Jones, executive director
Author soon-to-be released book The Voice of the Dolphins

The Christmas season of 2010 brought a day of reunion for the officers and crew of a cruise ship and the sisters and children of a Catholic orphanage on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia. In late October Hurricane Tomas had slammed into the island interrupting supplies of water, food and transportation. Some Lt. Lucians had had no food or clean water in days. Noordam came to the rescue.
When hurricanes are bearing down on an island destination, the standard mode of operation for cruise ships is to run for calmer waters so passengers will not be disquieted by the tempest and their safety will be ensured. But when Captain John Scott of Holland America’s ms Noordam learned of the serious destruction caused by hurricane Tomas on St. Lucia he made full speed back to the island he had just departed. Tomas destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. The lack of drinking water was acute.
The situation was particularly dire at the Holy Family Children’s Home, an orphanage that had been adopted by Noordam and its crew. The kids were hungry, thirsty and scared.
On November 7 Noordam delivered some 50 thousand gallons of water to the main dock in Castries for the general population. This was no easy feat as ships are designed to take on water, not dispense it. But the officers and crew jury-rigged a system to deliver the life sustaining water. They also delivered food from the ships larder and clothing. Passengers chipped in with cash donations that went to the orphanage and an old age home.
I spoke with Captain Scott and hotel manager James Deering aboard the Noordam. “It was nice to be able to help people out when they are down,” the captain told me. And Holland America corporate had been totally behind his aid efforts. The ship was preparing to deliver on the requests for gifts made by the orphans to be delivered a couple weeks later.
After I left the ship James Deering wrote me about the special Christmas visit by Noordam in St. Lucia.
Every child from the orphanage received exactly what he/she had wished for from Santa Claus.
The pool party / brunch went over very well.
The teen girls had their first spa treatments.
The kids ate more than seemed humanly possible - and took the leftovers back home with them.
Our generous guests donated approximately US$1,500 cash, which was given directly to the Sisters who run the orphanage.
We sent boxes of christmas cookies and candies home with them as well to cover Christmas Day.

While on St. Lucia my wife Deborah and I were able to negotiate the washed out roads on the island to take an aerial tram through magnificent rain forest. It was encouraging to see many birds had survived the winds and rain. Some tourist activities were not yet operable but progress is being made in restoration. I have to say St. Lucia is one of the lovliest islands in the West Indies.
I guess I should also mention that I have no affiliation with Holland America Cruise Lines.

Monday, December 20, 2010


From the soon-to-be released book The Voice of the Dolphins
by Hardy Jones

In 1980 Howard Hall and I were on our way to Iki, Japan to attempt to stop the slaughter of dolphins there. En route we were diverted.

We woke up our first morning in Osaka and saw a story on the front page of the Japan Times, an English-language paper published in Japan. The story’s headline reported “200 Rare Whales Captured at Taiji.” The animals were melon-headed whales, actually a species of dolphin. The story went on to say that the dolphins would be killed to provide food for lions at the Shirahama Zoo. It struck me as extraordinarily perverse that these magnificent wild dolphins would be killed to feed captive lions.
We changed plans on the spot and headed for Taiji, a small village of some thirty-five hundred people on the coast east of Osaka. We arrived in Taiji, found accommodations in a small hotel, and walked out to the small bay where the pitiful dolphins were being held. The coast there is magnificent with endless bays and coves formed at the juncture of mountains and sea.
Our presence disturbed the fishermen who had driven the dolphins into the bay. They were aware of the international outrage provoked by the slaughter at Iki the year before and didn’t welcome any foreign observers—especially those with cameras.
There wasn’t much Howard and I could do directly, so we just hung around the bay with our still and movie cameras at hand. The fishermen seemed stymied. They held meetings. Two days passed. Some of the dolphins succumbed and sank into the depths of the cove, but most remained alive. Howard and I worried that while the fishermen were talking, the dolphins weren’t eating and might starve. Dolphins do not drink and depend entirely for their hydration on the fish they eat.
On the third day of captivity for the melon-heads, the fishermen informed us that as a gesture of goodwill, the dolphins would be released. I believe they were afraid of attracting the same kind of international outrage that had been focused on Iki. The following morning, the fishermen drew back the net separating the melon-heads from freedom. But the dolphins didn’t budge. Confusion or shock or the knowledge that members of their pod were sick or injured kept the group huddled at the end of the bay farthest from the net.
The fishermen brought a small skiff driven by an outboard motor in behind the dolphins and began revving the engine. The dolphins started to move. The skiff herded them until they were past the net line. Once out of confinement with a clear vision of open ocean ahead, the whole pod erupted into spectacular porpoising leaps across the face of the sea. I remained poker faced, but inside, I was wild with joy. Maybe our cameras were all powerful.But that was long ago.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are San Juan Orca Starving?

Guest Blog by Howard Garrett, Orca Network,

When the Southern Resident orcas were declared endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005 after a population drop of 20% between 1996 and 2001, a variety of research projects were launched to find out why. Effects of vessel traffic on orcas were studied, persistent toxins were described, and researchers studied what these orcas' eat and how much of it is available to them.

Research on the orcas' hunger problem has uncovered the clearest results. NOAA researchers have examined fish scales and fecal material in the wakes of the whales and have concluded that: "Chinook salmon, a relatively rare species, was by far the most frequent prey item, confirming previous studies."

Prey availability studies have repeatedly yielded convincing correlations: drops in Chinook salmon numbers preceded higher mortality rates of Southern Resident orcas. Using 25 years of demographic data from two populations of fish-eating killer whales in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, that population trends are driven largely by changes in survival, and survival rates are strongly correlated with the availability of their principal prey species, Chinook salmon.

Whale watch tour boats can at times disturb the whales and those incidents should be
reported widely and some reprimand should be, and is, delivered to the captains and owners. The Q13 story (a tv news report) almost completely failed to mention the lack of food, the primary factor resulting in starvation, although they promise to do another story entirely about how the depletion of Chinook is starving the orcas. The boats do disturb the whales at times, but that is minor in comparison to the lack of Chinook.

Some naturalists talk about the very complex and politically charged salmon issue, but much more needs to be done to make sure the boats provide a good overview of the environmental degradation that has reduced the availability of Chinook for the So. Residents.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Results of Tests for Pollutants in my Body

In 2003 I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. Medications have kept me in remission for more than seven years. One of the factors that can lead to this disease is exposure to persistent organic pollutants. A major source of these pollutants is large pelagic sea food such as swordfish and tuna. During the late 1990s I was eating large quantities of these fish thinking them healthy. After my diagnosis I decided to have myself tested for the levels of these pollutants. The results described below are excerpted from my forthcoming book "The Voice of the Dolphins." They were certainly shocking to me.

From "The Voice of the Dolphins" (c) Hardy Jones
The first task was to document correlations between high levels of toxic substances in the oceans, and clusters of multiple myeloma and other cancers in humans on adjacent lands. I decided to begin with myself and had my blood tested for environmental toxins. It wasn’t cheap – four thousand dollars. But if I was going to pursue this line of investigation, I needed to know whether I had high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in my own body that might have triggered the myeloma.
I contacted AXYS Analytical in Victoria, Canada, a company that analyzes the contaminant levels on both the Canadian and American orca that pass through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands. They sent me a kit with a return Fed Ex package and pre-addressed label. Getting my blood drawn was a simple matter. I went to the lab where I had my monthly blood tests done and handed them the instructions from AXYS. They sat me down, wrapped the rubber ribbon around my arm and drew the blood. Then it went into the hands of Fed Ex.

The report took three months in coming, but the results were staggering. I had hundreds of toxic chemicals in my tissues. The report showed significant levels of POPs, in particular heptachlor, nonachlor, aldrin, mirex, dieldrin, and dioxins. But what really jumped out were spikes of particular congeners (subtypes) of DDE ( a metabolite of DDT), hexachlorobenzene (a petroleum derivative known to cause cancer), chlordane (a pesticide known to cause cancer and banned in the USA in 1988), PCBs (the same chemicals found in declining populations of orca off Washington State), hydroxy PCBs, hexachlorbyphenyls, and PBDEs (flame retardants).

Not only were levels of some of the individual toxins high, but the combined total of all classes of specific chemicals, each of which could produce cancer by itself, was enormous. Beyond that, these chemicals synergize to produce effects greater than that of each individual chemical.

Where had all these chemicals come from?

I showed Dr. Durie (Dr. Brian Durie, International Myeloma Foundation) the results of the tests. He was amazed by both the variety of chemicals documented and the very high levels of some of them. But he further surprised me with the news that the levels in my body were not atypical in the relatively few Americans who have been tested for their toxic burden. But, he cautioned, just because certain values were “common” in the general population didn’t mean they were harmless, especially in combination. The very fact that they were common might mean the levels of pollutants in the American population were far more dangerous than imagined.

Author's Note: Vastly more is known about the levels of pollutants in marine mammals than in humans.

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