Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Entangled Humpback Location Currently Unknown

Entangled Humpback Location Currently Unknown

I just received a call from Jamieson Smith of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) bringing me up to date on the status of the humpback whale entangled off Florida.

The humpback sighted off Ft. Pierce is the same one first seen off St. Augustine March 7. A concerted effort was made to rescue the whale on that occasion. But the whale has been highly evasive. It evaded placement of a satellite tag that would have enabled continuous monitoring of its position.

NMFS is advertising a hotline number for anyone spotting this entangled whale. 866-755-6622

The rescue team that was in St. Augustine has been moved to Ft. Pierce to be ready should another rescue attempt be possible.

There have been reports of entangled humpbacks off the Florida coast in recent days but the whales turned out to be unencumbered.

There was no calf with the entangled humpback. The captain of the party boat who reported that says he saw a large animal under the entangled whale. He assumed it to be a calf but in retrospect says it never surfaced so the shadowy figure must have been a shark.

We discussed the dolphin activity around the humpback and Jamieson told me that was not unusual. We both agreed that it is hard to impute motivation to dolphins under such circumstances. But he did say that having dolphins around an entangled whale makes it easy to find the whale.

I told him of my experience in the Bahamas where I was certainly protected by four juvenile spotted dolphins from a hammerhead shark. Judge for yourself in the accompanying video.

video

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dolphins Protect Entangled Humpback from Sharks

By Hardy Jones

Last week my friend Zach McKenna of St. Augustine Eco Tours told me of seeing loads of whales well of the coast of St. Augustine. There were right whales and humpbacks.

Tragically there was a humpback entangled in monofilament fishing line. A team from NMFS tried to disentangle the whale for many hours but was unsuccessful.

Yesterday a fishing boat out of Jensen Beach on the east central coast of Florida spotted a humpback entangled with the line cutting into her flesh. A calf was nearby. A Mako and a hammerhead shark were circling. The mother breached continually, apparently to drive off the sharks.

"(The whale) has polypropylene rope wrapped around its head and pectoral fin and its attached to an anchor," said Captain Patrick Price.

Price said he saw the larger of the two whales breach many times. Then, amazingly, a large pod of about 100 dolphins arrived on the scene. The dolphins circled the whale to protect it from the sharks. The dolphins accompanied the whale for over an hour until Price saw a whale breach a mile to the south. At that point the dolphins headed in that direction.

Captain Price remained on the scene for four hours until a NMFS team arrived on the scene. At 2:45 p.m. sea conditions deteriorated. The NMFS biologist on hand called off rescue efforts to avoid further injuring the whale.

NOAA whale scientist Jamison Smith said that if boaters see a whale in distress they should call call 866-755-6622. A team of biologists trained in handling whale entanglements is on standby.

I phoned Jamison Smith. I’m awaiting a return call as of 1215 Monday. Will report updates.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Did U.S. Head of Delegation to IWC Go Rogue?

By Hardy Jones

On March 16, 2008 President Obama said We must strengthen the International Moratorium (on whaling). “Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable,” he said emphatically. His delegation to the International Whaling Commission’s just concluded intercessional meeting did not support that position. The question is whether there has been a change in the president’s position or his head of delegation Monica Medina has gone rogue and the president is not aware of it.
The intercessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) assembled to hammer out a consensus on how the organization would move forward ended with no action taken due to lack of a quorum.

Meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida from March 2 - 5 the commission addressed the question of how to create a set of regulations and quotas that would satisfy both whale protectionists and whale hunting interests. Of course at the ethical level no such compromise is possible.

Whales are simply not products. They are not creatures to be “harvested” as so many of the whaling delegates describe the process of taking their lives. No one planted these magnificent animals. No one invested resources to grow them. Their taking involves using a small canon to drive an explosive harpoon into their bodies that detonates instants after contact and leads to agonizing death.

The second item to be negotiated was whether to grant a quota of at least fifty humpback whales to Greenland. Many excellent pro-whale organizations argued that there is not enough scientific data available to determine whether humpbacks can be hunted in a sustainable manner. To me this may be a tactic that is appropriate to IWC meetings but these facts do not represent the real reason we should not kill whales.

We should not kill whales because of who and what they are, highly intelligent and magnificent animals beloved of millions of people. In the cases of humpback and fin whales they are endangered species. We have wiped out more than 90 percent of many whale populations. In some cases humans have annihilated whole populations of whales.

The factual, rational and highly regarded New York Times published an editorial opinion that whales should not be killed for any reason.
Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico spoke strongly of a need to phase out whaling entirely in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The United States offerings were weak-kneed. Head of delegation, Monica Medina, was often at odds with the expert members of her own delegation and spoke platitudes and pleasantries that did not present a cogent American position.
Not a single environmental NGO supported Medina’s position. The reasons are as follows:

The proposed set of regulations called The Package would legitimize commercial whaling by suspending commercial whaling moratorium for a decade.
The Package does not prevent contracting governments from exercising their right to object to any or all of the Schedule amendments, or from leaving the Commission and returning with a reservation such as Japan’s current ruse of scientific whaling.
The Package legitimizes whaling in the Southern Ocean in a sanctuary established by the IWC itself.

The Package does not phase whaling down or out.

The Package is not based on sound science. Catch limits will not be calculated using the IWC agreed precautionary scientific approach, or even subject first to consideration by the Scientific Committee.

The Package fails to require the whaling nations to give up their reservations to the CITES Appendix I listing of whales. It provides an incentive for the whaling nations to continue trading with each other under reservation and to develop new commercial products from whale tissues and oils and develop new markets for the trade in whale products in the future.

But more than any and all of these flaws in the Package there is one simple truth: Whales are not for killing.

Link Between Dolphin Slaughter and Whaling


By Hardy Jones

When I was in Iki, Japan three years ago the former head of the fishermen’s union told me something important. Iki had not been granted any further quotas to hunt dolphins because the Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) felt Iki had gained too much notoriety from the footage Howard Hall and I took of the 1980 slaughter.

He said the JFA feared the dolphin slaughters and whaling would be linked in peoples’ minds and that whaling was vastly more important to Japan than the dolphin hunt.

Now I don’t know how this squares with the worldwide ignominy Taiji has suffered from films over the last few years, most recently The Cove and prior to that When Dolphins Cry, a film I did for National Geographic. But I believe the linkage exists.

It is important to see the connection between the two issues. The killing of whales at sea, while it has been filmed by Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace, does not compare in graphic intensity with the ghastly slaughter of dolphins that can be videotaped from the shores of Hatagagiri Bay at Taiji.

The two hunts – for dolphins and whales – meld in the mind. They are rightly seen as a common policy of the nation of Japan. In addition there is the fact that dolphin meat is often sold as whale meat.

Ultimately there is the image of a modern industrial nation countenancing the hideously cruel and primitive killing of animals of high intelligence – animals that are beloved around the world.

Finally there is the perfidy of the Japanese government denying the findings of its own scientists – that dolphin meat and whale meat contain high levels of contaminants that threaten human health.

For those of us who write about these issues keep the linkage in mind. Japan would sacrifice the dolphin hunt to save whaling. And the blood of the dolphins is the blood of the whales in the mind of all who care about both.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Decision on Fate of Whales Postponed

March 3, 2010. St Peter Beach, Florida

By Hardy Jones


The intercessional meeting of International Whaling Commission (IWC) assembled to hammer out a consensus on how the organization would move forward has ended with no action taken.

Meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida from March 2 - 5 the so-called Small Working Group addressed the question of how to create a framework and set of regulations and quotas that would satisfy both whale protectionists and whale hunting interests. Of course at the ethical level no such compromise is possible.

Whales are simply not products. They are not creatures to be “harvested” as so many of the whaling delegates describe the process of taking their lives. No one planted these magnificent animals. No one invested resources to grow them. Their taking involves using a small canon to drive an explosive harpoon into their bodies that detonates instants after contact and leads to agonizing death.

The second item to be negotiated was whether to grant a quota of at least fifty humpback whales to Greenland. Many excellent pro-whale organizations argued that there is not enough information available to determine whether humpbacks can be hunted in a sustainable manner. To me this may be a tactic that is appropriate in the confines of the commission meetings but these facts do not represent the real reason we should not kill whales.

We should not kill whales because of who and what they are; highly intelligent and magnificent animals beloved of millions of people. In the cases of humpback and fin whales they are endangered species. We have wiped out more than 90 percent of many whale populations.

Even the factual, rational and highly regarded New York Times published an editorial opinion that no whale should be killed for any reason.

Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico spoke strongly of a need to phase out whaling entirely in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The United States offerings were weak-kneed. Head of delegation, Monica Medina, was at odds with the expert members of her own delegation and spoke platitudes and pleasantries that did not present a cogent American position.

The meeting in St. Pete did not attract a quorum so no decisions could be taken. That is a blessing as it will allow BlueVoice and likeminded organizations to present forcefully to President Obama the argument that no whales should be killed and that he should demand of his delegation that they not push for consensus on issues for which no consensus can or should be reached. Whales are not for killing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

U.S. TO SUPPORT DISASTROUS RETURN TO COMMERCIAL WHALING

FROM THE SESSION ROOM
URGENT ACTION REQUIRED.

By Hardy Jones
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Obama Administration, through its delegation to the International Whaling Commission Small Working Group, appears ready to sign off on a deal that would permit a return to legal commercial whaling. Japan, Iceland and Norway’s whaling has heretofore been conducted under reservations to the moratorium on whaling that has been in place since 1986.

The only chance to derail this backroom deal appears to be direct protest to President Obama. All environmental groups are united in their opposition to the plan to legitimize whaling. In this way the president who promised a new way of doing things is vulnerable but only if those of us who love and revere whales make our outrage known to the White House.

If the United States were to vote for a resumption of commercial whaling it would represent a 180 degree turn around from the position the president took just a year ago.

On March 6, 2009 the Obama administration pledged it would firmly oppose whaling. Environmentalists thought Obama was signaling a tough US position approaching meetings to examine the proposal that would open the door to legal whaling.

One of the results of this deal would be a quota for Iceland and perhaps Japan to hunt endangered fin whales.

It is BlueVoice’s position that there is no justification for whaling whatever. Absolutely. Whales are sentient beings with high degrees of intelligence and self-awareness. They are magnificent and inspiring, beloved to millions around the world.

TO PROTEST THIS RECKLESS POSITION EMAIL THE WHITE HOUSE. On the web go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

You can paste the following into your email message and add your own thoughts. It is very important to personalize the message so it does not appear mass produced.

President Obama, you have previously indicated you would strongly support the protection of whales. The statements of your delegation to the NGO caucus at the IWC in St. Pete, FL belies your commitment. I urge you to oppose legalization of commercial whaling. Whales are intelligent and sentient creatures that should not be killed. Thank you.