Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week Two Dolphins and Sharks at Bimini

July 17. Left Miami and crossed stream into strong easterly winds on our nose. Made only four knots. Arrived Bimini 11am. I did some free diving to get my breath back. Divers enjoyed a 25 foot reef with loads of fish.

Afternoon we ran in dolphin grounds and had a ten minute close contact with seven spotters. Strong winds continue to make it a tough job to put people into the water and extract them.

July 18. Despite strong easterlies we had good dives Limited dolphin contact. Overnight at Gun Cay. Juliet is rock solid. Fellow travelers are wonderful grup, enjoying everything.

July 19. Morning dive at Stevie’s Wonder. Lots of fish but viz down to max of fifty feet. 4 – 5 foot swells made diver recovery an adventure. Sailed north in the pm. Found dolphins flying off the wave tops. Juvenile with flaming pink belly porpoise leaping beside us time after time. Ended the day at Bimini Road. No extraterrestrial contacts.

July 20. Weather too rough to look for dolphins. Nice dive in clear water in the morning then into Bimini to overnight. What a shame the Complete Angler burned down some years ago.

July 21. Weather still very rough. But again nice diving at Bull Run and other locations. Coral still vivid and alive. Plenty of small fish. Mellow sharks at Bull Run. Everyone enjoyed being with them and some cured their life long fear of sharks.

July 22. Still rough. Great diving. Had to run for Miami to arrive ahead of tropical storm Bonnie.

July 23. Debarked the Juliet and drove home to Saint Augustine through driving rain much of the time.

In a future blog I will write of the dangers of putting divers into rough water in the open sea.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Meeting Dolphin Friends

July 10. It’s been thirty 32 years since I first sailed into the world of the spotted dolphins who inhabit the northwestern Bahamas. This year we’re near Bimini, a location I first discovered in 1987 aboard Juliet, a 103-foot schooner with spacious, comfortable staterooms.

We left Miami at 4pm, passing through light rain. Giant black and gray cumulous hovered behind us over the highrises that face on government cut. Two massive cruise ships preceded us, the two carrying roughly three thousand passengers. Quite a contrast with Juliet carrying twelve plus crew of four.

At 2am July 11 we anchored north of Bimini and woke up to dolphins around the boat. There were approximately sixteen spotters, mostly juveniles.

My goal is to get as many identifications as possible of individuals here. Most of my work with dolphins in the Bahamas has been with the pods of the White Sand Ridge, north of Grand Bahama island. In 2004 and 2005 that area was hit by massive cat 5 hurricanes. Many of the dolphins previously identified in that area were not seen after those events. There is a possibility they moved to other areas and Bimini is not far from the northern schools.

It was even thought that Chopper, whom I first identified in 1979 and had known personally for nearly three decades, had been among the victims of the tempests. But Denise Herzing, a dedicated scientist who has studied the White Sand Ridge school, told me she had seen him in 2007. That was a relief.

The dolphins found us about 730 am. They were really engaged with the divers. I shot some nice video. After a midday break of diving and lunch we found dolphins at 4pm. They were playing wildly amongst themselves. They had no interest in us but they did not run from us. I found myself totally enveloped in dolphins during some of my freedives and the video came out nicely. So far we’ve only been able to identify one dolphin from this area – one with a shark bite that tore away half the dorsal fin.

July 12 we found dolphins early but disengaged when they seemed to want to be on their own. The weather is very hot – in the mid 90s and I’m urging everyone to drink water, take salt and keep slathered in sunscreen. Late afternoon we found dolphins feeding. Entered the water and a lone teenager came to a group of 8 of us passing very close to each diver, closing its eyes in a sign of trust. Maybe a smile. Gazed at itself in my camera dome.

July 13. Brilliant scuba dive on a drop off north of Bimini. In afternoon there were four boats looking for dolphins. Not a good scene. We had only minor contacts and I broke off in late afternoon. We will head for another location. It just didn’t feel good to me to see all those boats running around trying to pick up dolphins.

July 14. Dove Bull run. Friends very happy with the reef sharks. Ran to b-2 and found dolphins immediately. Two close encounters with them. One appeared to have been slapped with silver paint three times on right side. Another had deep cut in dorsal starting just forward of the peak. A lovely squall swept over Juliet just after dinner.

July 15. Seas came up over night. Three to four foot swells in the morning. Six playful young dolphins hit our bow after breakfast. One was silver paint. Divers had a phenomenal experience with this group for 45 minutes. Seas layed down.

July 16 Awoke in Miami harbor and said goodbye to the BlueVoice supporters who had accompanied us. Tomorrow a new group joins us and we head back to the Bahamas.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

BlueVoice Busts Illegal Whale Commerce in Greenland

Greenland Blog #3

BlueVoice Uncovers Unsanctioned Commercial Whaling in Greenland
by Hardy Jones

The word that the IWC had granted Greenland a quota to hunt nine humpback whales in each of the years 2010 – 2012 reached me in Iceland as I traveled to Nuuk, capital of Greenland.

The word that twenty-seven of these curious, intelligent, infinitely graceful creatures will be killed after years of protection is heart wrenching. Over the decades during which the approach of a boat did not mean a painful death, humpbacks have become friendly, approaching boats and even divers in the water.

Now that bond of trust will be broken. That is sad in itself but it may also impact the whale watching business that supports communities all along the east coast.

The IWC granted Greenland the humpback quota for whaling that would provide meat for ABORIGINAL USE ONLY. But in Nuuk I’ve discovered the meat in a super market, in the form of sushi at a Thai restaurant and as steak in a greasy spoon burger and pizza joint. Tonight I will head out to find whether there are other establishments purveying whale. Commercial sale of whale meat is not allowed under the IWC quota.

It is sad that humpbacks have just reappeared off Greenland after sixty years only to be slaughtered.

I am in Greenland to attend the Inuit Circumpolar Council. I want to learn what information is available on levels of heavy metals and organic pollutants in marine mammals killed for food and in the people who eat it what health problems have been identified and how the Inuit intend to deal with that information.

It’s an established fact that women who eat large quantities of dolphin, whale and seal meat give birth to a high ratio of girl babies over boys. In some villages the ratio is two to one. In one village no boys have been born in some time.

I discussed this issue with William L. Iggiagruk Hensley (Willy) an Inupiaq who has too many major league political and business credentials to list. He was a member of the Clinton transition team, a leader in several Alaska native organizations and author of Fifty Miles From Tomorrow, a brilliant work.

I was astonished to learn that he had no knowledge of the fact that eating marine mammal meat was causing such a bizarre impact on Inuits. It is literally suppressing the production of male children not to mention immune systems and mental development.

Among the speakers at the conference is Per M. Bakken of the United Nations Environment Programme. He warned that a chemical catastrophe faces the people of the north from contamination in some of the food they take from the sea – marine mammals in particular. I asked him if he felt the Inuit ignored or were in denial about these facts and he agreed that they paid little attention to it.

What they are really ticked off about is the fact that trade in seal skins is prohibited by many nations.