Maui’s Dolphins are in Danger; We Need to Act Now!

I’m sure that you have all noticed that I have not been posting like I used to. I have started veterinary school, and it unfortunately is taking up all of my time. I hope that you are all doing well.

Maui's dolphin

Marine conservation is an important issue, and marine species are always in danger. This time, the plight of the Maui’s dolphin has caught my attention. With only 55 dolphins of the world’s rarest species currently remaining, the jeopardy that these dolphins are in is real. According to wildlife advocates, this species could “disappear within three decades [by 2031] if New Zealand doesn’t act now” (New Zealand Herald). WWF-New Zealand is trying to save these dolphins by organizing a petition that aims to collect 55,000 signatures before this year’s general election. “Today, WWF is saying enough is enough. We’re running out of time,” declared WWF-NZ executive director Chris Howe. “Maui’s are the rarest marine dolphins in the world; they only exist on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. We have an obligation to the world to do everything we can to save them,” he says.

Called “The Last 55,” the campaign’s aim is to extend the ban on set-netting and trawling within 100 meters of the coast. These practices kill about five dolphins per year. With only 55 dolphins left, even a number this small poses an extreme threat. This campaign doesn’t simply want to let fisherman fend for themselves; it wants to help them shift to dolphin-friendly practices. The campaign has created an app that allows people to simulate the experience of losing all but 55 of their facebook friends; it will help people to realize just how small this number really is. After using this app, people are encouraged to sign a petition. People that do not have a facebook account can still partake in this experience by visiting this website


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Situation Reversed

How would you feel if you were the one in captivity? If you would not want to be in this situation, think about how these animals feel!


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A Message from Hardy Jones about Dolphin Hunting


BlueVoiceDuring 2012, Hardy Jones traveled to the country and confirmed the gruesome truth for himself.

“And in 2013, BlueVoice funded surveys that document the widespread hunting and consumption of dolphin all along the coast of Peru.

Dolphin-hunting fishermen pour pesticides and other toxic chemicals into the water to immobilize the dolphins to make them easier to catch. They apparently are unaware that this cruel technique means that any meat eaten from such a dolphin would be extraordinarily contaminated and dangerous.

Based the gravity of this situation in Peru we have determined the best way to end this practice is to bring the facts to international organizations such as the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on Migratory Species.

Hunting dolphins is illegal under Peruvian law. But the law is not enforced. Exposing this ghastly situation in international meetings will bring pressure on Peru, a nation highly dependent on international tourism, to enforce laws already on the books and save the lives of thousands of dolphins.

I worked in Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer and have great empathy for the many poor and hungry people. But the solution to the poverty is not killing and eating dolphins. It is to initiate sound fishing practices and restore one of the world’s most productive fisheries.

Dolphin meat is highly contaminated with heavy metals and organic pollutants such as PCBs. It should not be consumed as food. Villagers who do eat it have an extraordinary level of diabetes, a disease associated with ingestion of high levels of pollutants.”

For more information on BlueVoice, please click here

The dolphins are magnificent creatures who don’t deserve this!




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Shark Finning is Big in Mozambique


taken by Fiona Ayerst

Yesterday, a female great white shark was killed, and her fins were brutally cut off by fisherman on the beach in Inhambane, Mozambique. The day before that, another female white shark become entangled in a fisherman’s net and subsequently suffocated. Later, her fins were cut off on the beach in Jangamo, Mozambique. The Chinese recently began targeting this area in order to get shark fins for shark fin soup. They have even been distributing heavy duty fishing nets to fisherman. Although shark finning is legal in Mozambique, the trading of GWS body parts is a violation of both Mozambique law and CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) appendix 2. In fact, great whites are endangered because of extreme hunting and unregulated trade. When sharks are killed for their fins, 95% of their body mass is often wasted. Sharks are valuable to the vitality of oceanic ecosystems because they function as key predators. If we don’t take precautions to protect these magnificent animals, they won’t be here for that much longer. Hopefully, we can convince the people of Mozambique why it is important to not let the existence of the great white, and other sharks, become a thing of the past. Please share what’s going on with people you know!


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Dolphin Slaughter in Peru

A butchered dolphin.

A slaughtered dolphin.

Each year, around 3,000 dolphins are cruelly killed along the Peruvian coast, even though this has illegal since 1995. Unlike in Taiji, Japan, these innocent animals are not hunted within view of the shore. Rather, the illegal slaughter is hidden from public view, and conducted out at sea. The dolphins are corralled into nets, and then harpooned and brought aboard the boat. As if that weren’t bad enough, the defenseless animals are then brutally clubbed to death by the eager fisherman for over five minutes, or however long it takes the dolphins to die. Before the fisherman return to shore, they remove the meat and dump the rest of the body overboard. Stefan Austermühle, Executive Director of Mundo Azul, always finds the sight of dead dolphins to be a “horrific experience. The head and the fluke of the animal are the only parts still being intact. They are connected to each other only by the spine. All the meat has been stripped of the body and the intestines have been fallen off while the body was floating in the sea. The deep cuts of a knife around the head and fluke prove that the animal had been butchered.” The mercury-laden dolphin meat is sold for a little over one dollar at local black markets. The consumption of dolphin meat has been suggested to be linked to diabetes in humans, which has been proven in 240 scientific papers. In fact, research has shown that communities where people consume dolphin meat have an increased incidence of diabetes. Recently, the mayor of Peru has pledged to do all he can to end this sad slaying of dolphins. This is positive news for both the dolphins and the health of the Peruvian people! Please help to spread awareness of this merciless slaughter. That is the only way it will be stopped.


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Less Than Two Weeks Into Killing Season

Less than two weeks have passed since Taiji, Japan’s annual dolphin hunting season began and already, the lives of 22 dolphins have been unjustly taken for meat; 24 were taken into captivity for a life behind glass walls. Each season, the Taiji fisherman catch up to 2,300 of Japan’s annual quota of 20,000 dolphins.  The cetaceans put up the fight of their lives in order to escape from the merciless fisherman. It’s depressing to imagine the anxious dolphins spy hopping in the Cove as they await their fate, and it is even more horrific to know the inhumane manner in which they are killed. For many, their death is drawn out as long as 10 slow, agonizing minutes. Sakae Hemmi, a spokeswoman for the Japanese environmental protection group, Elsa Nature Conservancy, has commented, “Even if they let them go, the structure of the dolphins’ group is disrupted.” 

Please act now to end this brutal slaughter by signing the petition to Save the Taiji Dolphins

For more information on the dolphin hunt, please go HERE

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Risk of Infectious Diseases vs. Marine Conservation

Along with directly impacting the well being, humans also have the potential to indirectly threaten marine populations. The ecologic and climactic changes that arise due to human activities can result in the spread of infectious diseases.

As marine life becomes more increasingly exposed to humans and domesticated and feral animals, the prevalence of infectious disease will increase. Animals that forage close to areas of human activity could be increasingly affected by exposure to contaminated waters from sewage and freshwater runoff. For example, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is transmitted primarily through cat feces and reaches ocean waters through contaminated runoff. Over the past decade, there have been incidences of monk seal mortality due to T. gondii infection. Because the overall population of monk seals is declining, it is even more troublesome that the risk of encountering diseases and contaminants is likely to increase. In 2010, there were only 1,100 monk seals left in the wild. If you have a cat, please do not flush its litter down the toilet; sewage treatment doesn’t always kill the parasite’s eggs. 

Exposure to environmental contaminants such as pollutants and certain trace elements can compromise animals’ immune responses, which will result in increased risk of infectious diseases. For example, in the late 1990s, high adult mortality rates were seen in sea otters, with the major cause of death being infectious disease.

As inhabitants of this planet, we have a responsibility to help these creatures that we live with. We need to be more responsible about the impacts we have on both the environment and animal life.

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A Surprising Great White Shark Attack

Orcas are the big, magnificent creatures that you see blasting out of the water at Sea World. But they’re more than that; they’re clever, courageous creatures that love their freedom. Unrestricted in the wild, they even have ingenious hunting methods, which they teach to their offspring. For instance, orcas in the Antarctic Ocean create waves with their tails in order to knock seals off floating blocks of ice.

In October of 1997, a great white shark was attacked by an orca at the Farallon Islands, which are located outside of San Francisco. This orca was a member of the L.A. pod, also called “the odd pod,” because it was more opportunistic, and didn’t stick to one type of food source as other pods do.

What was remarkable about this incident of predation was that the great white shark didn’t put up a struggle, and there was no blood at the scene of the crime. The orca, also known as CA2, subdued this formidable predator by inducing tonic immobility, which is a trance-like state. After colliding with it underwater, she held the dazed white shark upside down at the surface for fifteen minutes.

An orca hunting a mako shark in New Zealand.

There is a possibility that this female orca knew that holding the shark upside down would result in tonic immobility from past experience with sharks. In fact, other orcas have been known to employ the same technique of turning sharks over in order to render them easy meals.

Every fall, great whites come to the Farallon Islands to prey on the elephant seals that gather there. However, during the remainder of the feeding season, no sharks were observed at these islands, even though there was an abundance of seals. It appeared that they had become fearful of orcas. In November of 2007, an orca pod ventured close to the Farallones, and a male was observed predating on a white shark. Just like before, no blood was seen in the water, and the sharks disappeared from the area for the rest of the feeding season. Data from the satellite tag of a male white shark called Tipfin showed that he dove down to a depth 500 meters and then swam to Hawaii, located more than 2,000 miles away. To this day, the “flight of the sharks” is still a mystery.

    I believe provides a good case for why orcas should not be held captive in marine parks such as Sea World. Why would we want to deprive them of their right to pursue such innovative hunting techniques?

National Geographic did an episode on this incident, so if you are intrigued as much as I was, I suggest you watch it.

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Minds In the Water, Dave Rastovich’s Journey to Activism

I am sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve written. I’ve been having health issues, but I will hopefully be blogging more often from now on.

Today, I attended the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles to see the film “Minds in the Water.” I previously blogged about this movie when I first heard about it (“Surfing For Thought: Minds in the Water”). Now that I have seen it, I can give you my account and more insight into the movie.

Dave Rastovich, known by his friends as ‘Rasta,’ is more than just a professional surfer. He spends much of his free time as an activist, defending the rights of dolphins and whales. He founded the organization, Surfers For Cetaceans, to promote and support the conservation of cetaceans. On the show’s site, Rastovich lists the “Universal Declaration of Marine Mammal Rights.” Any proponent of captivity would be well-advised to read them.

The film begins with images depicting dolphins and whales swimming free in their natural environment, unconcerned with the anthropogenic dangers that lurk around them. If only this depiction could become a reality.

Rastovich’s commitment to the cause started when he felt a calling from the ocean. One day while he and a friend were surfing, they spied the dark shape of a shark coming towards them. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a dolphin had careened toward them and rammed into the shark’s gut. The dolphin’s act of heroism saved their lives. Rastovich, it was almost as if the universe had spoken to him, urging him to give back in return for his life being spared.

Paul Watson, the spearhead behind Sea Shepherd, makes an appearance in the film. Rastovich spent a few days aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel, learning about whaling and Sea Shepherd’s efforts. The film describes the profitable industry that was established when whale hunting was converted to whale tourism. In comparison to whaling, not only is ecotourism sustainable, but it is a humane alternative.
Rastovich became so committed to the plight of the cetaceans that for a couple of years,

The “smile” of a killer

everything else in his life, including his family, became secondary. He believes that we all need to become caretakers and defenders of our coastlines and the cetaceans. Rastovich’s journey led him to becoming acquainted with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) and Ric O’ Barry, who created the movie “The Cove.” Rastovich traveled to the “killing cove,” which is located in Taiji, Japan. It is the here where thousands of dolphins each year pay for their popularity with their lives. A select few are chosen to become exhibitions at aquariums, while the others are brutally murdered. In the cove, Rastovich and five other surfers/activists, including Hayden Panettiere and Isabel Lucas, formed a paddle-out circle, to protest the dolphin hunt.

Traditionally the surfer’s circle is a memorial ceremony, done to show remembrance to a departed friend. But this circle was formed to show remembrance to the dolphins that annually lose their lives in Taiji. The six activists returned to shore only after being forced back by the threatening jabs of forked poles. It was an emotional scene, haunted by dolphins’ screams and Panettiere’s cries. Rastovich describes his feelings of defeat, and how difficult it was for him to turn around, when he wanted nothing more than to free the frightened mammals.

This movie details Rastovich’s journey to activism, but he represents all of our voices. Rastovich was inspired to act about a cause that he was passionate about, something we should all do. If you want to help, you don’t have to do something as monumental as starting an organization or travelling to distant countries, but if we each changed one small thing about our lives, we could help change the world. We can all be courageous in our own ways. In fact, if you haven’t already, I invite you to (please) “sign” the Minds in the Water Visual Petition. All you have to do is  upload a picture of yourself holding a picture of a dolphin or whale. The petition serves as a reminder that the world hasn’t given up on defending these creatures.

I urge everybody to see this film. It is an honest and inspiring account of a surfer turned activist.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Related: “Surfing for Thought: Minds in the Water” & “Taiji Cove

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Potential End of Dolphin-Hunting Season And Taiji Whale Ranch

The "smile" of a killer

With the exception of the slaughter of pilot whales, dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan may be over for the season (Save Japan Dolphins). Don’t start cheering, yet; our work isn’t over. The slaughter will resume next September. But there is reason to be hopeful: The season usually continues until May, so the efforts to end dolphin killing in Taiji seems to be paying off. Finally. Further, demand in Japan for such mercury-contaminated meat has declined, and the numbers of dolphins killed each year have declined from about 20,000 to estimated 728-786 dolphins. While there is cause to celebrate this reduction in number, it still means that almost 1,000 dolphins are needlessly and cruelly being killed. Watch any video about the killings (for instance, below), and you will understand what I mean. As I have previously blogged (“Killing Taiji Dolphins is Anything But Painless“), these dolphins are subjected to absolute agony before finally being allowed to die in “peace”; they are first forced to watch their family being killed, and then they slowly suffocate and bleed to death. While reading about or even watching this may be difficult, think about how much harder it must be for them to suffer through it. 

As Save Japan Dolphins pointed out in a blog post on March 1, the Taiji town fathers are getting desperate due to the decline in demand for dolphin meat. They have set in motion building plans for a “Petting Whale Farm,” where visitors will be able to interact with minke and pilot whales and dolphins.  As documented by the Daily Yomiuri on February 27 (English translation):

Because of the negative image of the drive hunt painted by the Academy Award winning US movie “The Cove,” there has been interference by foreign anti-whaling organizations.

The town Mayor Kazutaka Sangen said, “We see the unfavorable circumstances as our opportunity to promote our town because we have co-existed with whales for generations. We will turn Taiji into a national park and museum with a whale theme.”

Naomi A. Rose, Ph.D, who has studied and condemned the captivity of dolphins would have much to say on this topic. While the ‘whale ranch’ has been proposed to include an area around the park that is reserved as a “scientific research area” for researchers to observe the reproduction of the cetaceans in the bay, to advocate that this ranch would be built for the benefit of the cetaceans is a contradiction in itself. There are better alternatives, such as ecotourism.

To read more about how YOU can help these innocent creatures, please click here.

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