Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas/Holiday Blog for the Whole Family!

Greetings once again to all. Tonight I'm happy to bring to you all something completely different! For the first time ever I can say gather the family for this blog! I'm sure you all remember Chelsey who did a very, very interesting blog on overfishing earlier on in this campaign. Well she is back and has a very entertaining blog to share with you all. So with that being said, I will turn it over to her and will catch back up with you guys after her blog! So here it is!

Hello everyone! I did a blog a few weeks back (see, “If Humans Do Not Change…”), and enjoyed it so much, I’ve decided to do another one. This blog is a little bit different- I won’t be reporting any news or commenting on current events. With the holidays here, I feel the need to take you all a step back to look at what’s really going on, and what better way to do that with a little story? I know it’s very silly, but I’m trying to make light of a serious subject. If you cannot stand corny rhymes and horrible attempts at artwork, you may want to stop reading here. You have been warned.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the sea, all the creatures were out and happy as can be. In his chair, with the kids, was wise Grandpa Shark- it was his job to teach them, as the family’s patriarch.   

“The circle of life is important to know, keep this in mind as you continue to grow. Each animal eats the next that is smaller in size, and to mess with this balance is very unwise. Without us at the top, the algae will bloom, and then the whole ocean will be sealed in its doom.”

“Well that’s the humans fault then, for killing so many!”, said a young shark, “Before that, of us, there were plenty!”
“What the humans don’t understand,” said Grandpa, “they fear. And the consequences for us have been quite severe.”
“We sharks make mistakes just like everyone does, but since they fear us already, it makes quite a buzz.”
“But people don’t realize that they are the real monster, and kill other beings just so they can prosper. Their wealth will be short, and though they may try, without other animals, their species, too, will die. Planet Earth has a balance that keeps us all together, but this may be a storm that Nature herself cannot weather.”

The wise shark is right: our home may be destroyed in our lifetimes, we simply can’t sit here and watch from the sidelines. What will happen to our children, and their children in time? They may have no home- so our ignorance is a crime. Tell your friends and your family, for our Earth, we must fight! On that note, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Well wasn't that a fun little blog to get you all ready for Christmas or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate this time of the year? Chelsey asked me about doing a little cartoon blog and at first I was intrigued. When I saw the result I couldn't help but post it. It is a fun and yet educational story that really is good for a family audience! So with that being said it is time for me to wish each and every one of you a safe and merry Christmas. I hope Santa treats you all well and that you all have a good and safe time with whatever it is you are doing tomorrow. Also, I ask that you just keep in mind that there are people who will not be able to be with their families for one reason or another. It could be they are in the military or they are on a ship going down to the Southern Ocean to defend whales from poachers. Regardless the reason, think of them at least for a few minutes. Once again, Merry Christmas to all of you and In closing...


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Voice for the Voiceless Blog Number 100!

Greetings everyone and welcome to blog number 100 of A Voice for the Voiceless!!! 

As you can probably tell by the picture above, I am quite excited to be typing this blog right now. So here we are blog number 100. I've got a lot to go over with you guys so I guess I'll start with myself. It's occurred to me that I never really explained where I came from or how this blog even came to be, so I guess that's a good place to start.

My name is Doug Hack. I have lived near the ocean my entire life. In fact it is withing easy walking distance so you could probably guess the amount of time I've spent at the beach/in the ocean. I've always had an interest in marine life, but it wasn't until my later that I really wanted to protect it. So when did my interest in protecting marine life start? It was sometime in late 2008 or early in 2009, but I was watching a replay of the first season of Whale Wars on Animal Planet. At the time, I had no idea that whaling still existed in the world and when I saw real people taking direct action to defend marine life, I was quickly inspired. I did a bunch of research, read a few books (I don't typically read) and really found myself admiring the people on those ships and those of the past who had done the same thing to defend marine life. I used to have another blog which is no longer active that I used more like a journal, but I found myself updating it with Sea Shepherd relating things from their campaigns. Kind of what I do now, except with less detail, but nonetheless, it was a start. Fast forward to the summer of 2009.

Have you ever heard of a movie changing someones life? Well in the summer of 2009 that is exactly what happened. I had watched the movie The Cove. Throughout most of the movie I figured I'd eventually see a couple dolphins get shot or taken into captivity. What I saw though absolutely changed my life and certainly my views on how dolphins wind up in captivity. If you don't know what I mean and say that you care about dolphins. I want you to do me a 3 minute favor. Watch this clip from The Cove. It is incredibly graphic, but it is 3 minutes that changed my outlook on dolphins.
From then on, dolphins joined my old blog that was slowly becoming less about myself and more about these animals.

During the summer of that same year while establishing a Shark Week program at my job, I had stumbled upon the practice of shark finning. To say that I was horrified, mortified, angered, and about to fly off the handles was an understatement. I remember sitting at a computer desk and seeing a hammerhead get it's fins cut off and then be thrown back into the sea. Something inside me snapped that day. It really did. I don't know what it was, but whatever it was that was the end of it. My personal Facebook account started to become flooded with news articles, pictures, etc in an effort to spread awareness for sharks specifically. Yet again, my old blog became more about these animals and less about me, this time with a fury not seen before.

This is actually the first image of shark finning I had ever seen. I looked up shark conservation on google and this was the first thing that caught my eye. Hammerheads are one of my favorite species of shark so to see one with no fins instantly drew my attention. It also instantly stirred up feelings I'd never felt before.
Fast forward to 2011.

Wild Aid put out a report on manta and mobula rays that once again shocked me after reading. I learned that these gentle giants will being slaughtered for nothing but their gill rakers. The slaughter reminded me heavily of shark finning. Killing an animal for one small part of the animal's body. Also, much like shark finning, there was next to no regulations. Yet again I felt myself having a need to try to do whatever I could do to help these animals. I didn't know much about mantas at the time, and I still don't know as much about them as I would like to, but one thing after reading that report became clear to me. 
This animal right here has no reason to be killed by humans ever. They have never and will never harm a human and well just look how majestic they are...

So yet again those feelings of needing to help anyway I could once again crept up on me.

Then, on June 19th, 2012 I decided I had had enough of just using Facebook as my weapon and created this blog! In the days leading up to it I had asked a few friends to help come up with a name for what would become my first operation. Thanks to the help of a good friend, Operation Bleeding Seas was named and on the 19th of June it began. The campaign was largely dominated by blogs about sharks as well as manta and mobula rays. There were also a few blogs about Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. By the time the campaign ended, I felt nearly overwhelmed sort to speak. So I decided that the next campaign I did, which started right after Labor Day of 2012 would be the first to focus on specific animals. Those were sharks, whales, and dolphins as they are during my current campaign.

My second campaign, Operation Sadistic Truths sought to expose the nasty truths of the world when it came to sharks, dolphins, and whales. The campaign saw some high highs and low lows. Things such as the sharks of Arabia became protected and the nightmare of the cove being exposed on this blog. However, in November, Hurricane Sandy pretty much flipped my life upside down for a while, so naturally the campaign had to be put on hold until life kind of straightened itself out again. The month of November saw just one blog. By the time January rolled around I had really followed Sea Shepherd's campaign pretty closely and had kept all of the readers of this blog up to date, including when this incident happened in January.
The final blog of Operation Sadistic Truths featured a milestone for sharks. Smooth, Scalloped, and Great Hammerheads, alone with Porbeagle and Oceanic Whitetip Sharks were listed under Appendix II of CITES. Talk about a way to end a campaign hoping to raise awareness for sharks.

Due to a major change in life, the future of this blog was left in complete uncertainty. After taking most of March and all of April off, I decided that I simply could not allow what was going on in my life to stop me from tying to protect these animals anymore. Thus Operation Forgotten was launched! For the first time, I added the bluefin tuna to one of my campaigns. Then I had my first real experience at a shark kill tournament. I typed a blog with a first hand account of what was going on at the tournament weigh in. Without going into any details you can probably figure out how I felt when I got this photo...

Yeah.... No words need to be said for that anger... I don't know how it happened, but that blog had over 100 views making it the first of my to reach that mark. Honestly I felt pretty proud and actually felt like I was actually making somewhat of a difference somewhere. I also finally decided it was time to tear into Discovery Channel's Shark Week and try to do damage control for sharks since they just seem to enjoy demonizing them so much. This blog also became linked to on the Shark Research Institute's website www.sharks.org over the summer which I am still incredibly grateful for! That leads us to now!

Operation Kibou has easily been my best campaign yet. I have to say that the number of people who are visiting this blog now far surpass any number that I could have ever imagined. When I started this blog I started it with the idea that if just one person would read it, think about it, and tell one other person about it, then I would have accomplished something. Now whether or not all these people are actually reading the blog is beyond me, but people are seeing it. All I can do now is just keep hoping that at least one of those people will decide to be a voice for the voiceless and tell their friends, family, etc about the plight of these animals. In the end we are really nothing without them, so it is imperative that we keep fighting for them.

Operation Kibou has already seen plenty of blogs, in fact, Operation Kibou has seen 31 blogs! Operation Forgotten had 17ish throughout the entire campaign. This is nowhere near finished either. There are massive fights going on around the world for these animals now. Sea Shepherd left earlier today to once again confront the Japanese Whaling Fleet in the Southern Ocean, Anonymous and the Cove Guardians continue to fight against the dolphin hunters of Taiji, and shark conservation groups around the world continue to fight and see success in gaining more protection for sharks. More regulations are starting to slowly appear for manta rays, and the fate of the bluefin tuna remains in serious question. There is a lot going on and I will continue to do my best to keep anyone who reads this blog up to date and continue to offer my thoughts and opinions (for what they're worth) on those issues.

So what's in the future? I want to keep this blog going as long as I can or as long as I have to. I hope the day comes where dolphins, mantas, sharks, whales, and bluefin tuna are all protected and there won't be a need for this kind of a blog. I guess you could say I really do want to see this blog get shutdown in a sense. For now though Operation Kibou rages on. Expect another blog by the end of the week and until then... Here is a letter from me to all of you!

I know I've said it before, but thank you all very much for making this blog what it is today. Before Operation Forgotten, I was seriously considering letting this blog fall to the wayside. I had lost a lot of motivation, but thanks to some encouragement from some people in my life I realized what a mistake this would be. So  I kept going and now I feel like this is a little something special. I never aimed for this to be big, but when I see daily views between 60 and 100 on a daily basis, and when I type in on google a voice for the voiceless sharks I see a plethora of these blogs I really can't help but feel that people are reading and becoming aware of what is going on in our oceans. So if you are drinking any kind of beverage as I am now. Raise your glass and toast to yourself for being a part of the fight to save our seas! We may not have the ability to go out and take direct action against those who are killing everything we may hold near and dear to our heats, but we have out voices and we always will. Thank you all for being a part of A Voice for the Voiceless and I sincerely hope that you will continue to fight alongside me for these animals. Thank you all again.

Doug Hack

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pressure Mounting Against West Australia's New Shark Killing Plan

Greetings all once again. Tonight I'll be providing a brief update as to the current situation regarding sharks in West Australia. Afterwords I have a special announcement regarding this blog. As a quick refresher... 

Due to a few instances of sharks biting people off the coast of West Australia, Liberal leader Colin Barnett has created, and plans to put into action a new plan to help make beaches in West Australia safer. This plan involves killing any shark that comes within 3 metres of the beach. The techniques that will be used include the use of hired commercial fisherman and baited lines that would be left unattended. Not only would these lines catch and effectively hold sharks until they are killed, but much like long lines, they could potentially catch other animals including large fish and possibly air breathing animals such as sea turtles and seals. 

Several conservation groups have vowed to fight against this mew policy that would certainly kill species of shark, such as the great white, that are actually protected.Several conservation groups have lawyers who are currently writing to the federal environment minister Greg Hunt. They plan to find out just how legal this plan is. Humane Society International has directly appealed to Barnett about the new policy as time begins to run out for an unknown number of sharks. Thousands of people, myself included, have signed petitions online to see this plan be put to rest before it even starts. The West Australia government claims the plan will make beaches safer for bathers.

This is a load of crap frankly. First of all, the prey for these sharks (seals and fish) are not going to be going anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, no matter how many sharks get killed, more will come until there are simply none left. The West Australia government has this delusional idea that if they kill off any shark for three months that that will cure the problem. In reality though, there is a problem, but it is not because of the sharks. There's a reason that there are more and more seals showing up in West Australia. It's clear to me that there are just nowhere near enough predators for these seals to worry about. Their populations are increasing largely because there is nothing out there, besides disease and other natural health issues, for them to worry about anymore. At the same time, commercial fisherman continue to scoop millions of fish out of the ocean on a daily basis. Simply put for the great whites of West Australia, there are not enough fish in the ocean anymore so they search for something else. In this case the seals swimming close to shore. I guess you can equate it to this. Say you were living somewhere where all you had to eat was one thing, say hamburgers (or veggie burgers if you don't eat meat). Now all of a sudden those burgers are gone and are not coming back. You decide it's time to move onto something else so you eat somewhere else. It's the same idea. It's not like the sharks are just prowling the coast looking for people. They come in close when they want to eat, then they return to the open ocean. As long as the food source is there, the sharks are going to keep showing up. The only real way to logically "fix this problem" is to remove all food items from the area, which is another totally insane idea that should never happen.

The bottom line is this as it is for the rest of the world. Sharks have been in the oceans for millions of years. It is their home. They are at the top of the food chain. When we surf or swim in the ocean we are putting ourselves in their homes. These animals do not know what a surfboard is. They don't even know what a human is and frankly, they have no interest in eating us. If they did, they certainly would not be biting people and then leaving them after just one bite. There would be nothing left, but as it stands, they are large animals who, just like us, make mistakes! Killing the in West Australia will do nothing but lower the already dangerously low shark populations in the area until others arrive. As far as making the beaches safer is concerned. I'll just leave it as no matter how many sharks they kill (unless they cause them to go extinct) the beach is going to remain a very safe place to be. Yes you read that right. If they eliminate every last shark in West Australia then guess what? You'll probably have bigger problems because you'll have a massive seal population that'll take over the beaches (Note: Seals can be very aggressive too). Then the next thing that'll happen is a seal cull which is also a terrible thing. Time is running out for this idea to be put to bed. I strongly suggest you get on google and look up some of these petitions and help save the innocent sharks of West Australia. 

Now for my announcement. This is blog number 99 of A Voice for the Voiceless!!!! That means my next blog will be blog number 100!!!! I'll be doing something a little special for it, so keep an eye out for that either tomorrow or Thursday. The blog will not be a current events blog, possibly until the end if something major happens between then or now, such as the government of West Australia putting their stupid idea to rest. Instead, the blog will be a review of everything that I've done on this blog including some highlights from Operation Bleeding Seas, Operation Sadistic Truths, and Operation Forgotten. Thank you all for reading these blogs again and helping to make this even possible. So thank you all again and expect blog number 100 to land either tomorrow or Thursday! Till then!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

West Australia To Slaughter Sharks

In an extremely disappointing decision, the government in West Australia has decided that they are going to go ahead with a plan to kill sharks in an effort to make beaches safer for bathers and surfers. In response to the shark attack last month, the W.A. minister, Troy Buswell has called for a new plan to kill sharks. This plan not only involves the government getting involved in killing sharks, but commercial fisherman as well. The plan calls for any shark caught within one kilometer to be killed. This is apparently regardless of species if the animal exceeds 3 meters in length. So yes that means that the W.A. government are okaying the killing of protected species of shark such as the great white.

In addition to fisherman actively going out and hunting the sharks, there will be unattended lines set up to catch sharks. Troy Buswell has even admit that this method can (and probably will) catch unintended animals. Basically a mini long line strategy. Two other parts of this plan to reduce shark populations include dragging whale carcasses that wash up further out to sea and doing a study on the growing seal populations in the area. Some surfers claim that more sharks have been showing up since more seals have. That's probably a true fact as the sharks are there to eat the seals, but due to the decrease in shark numbers, the seal population is growing.

The W.A. government however claims that this new strategy is not a cull of any kind. I fail to see how that is the case. They are systematically going out and eliminating any shark that comes to close to shore. Not only that, but they are passively doing it with those baited hooks that will be strategically placed. Buswell also claims that he is going to speak with the Federal Minister Greg Hunt to allow fisherman in general to keep large sharks like great whites. Federal law currently requires that fisherman release all great whites, but Buswell will apparently push to have that reversed.

Conservation groups have already spoken out about this new plan and at least one of them plans to take direct action against it. The WA government is concerned that conservationists could remove the bait from the hooks. At least one conservation group, who is being kept nameless for now, has already vowed to step up. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also claims to fight the government's new strategy and will also look into the legalities of killing great white sharks. This cull is supposed to start next month and continue for three months.

This cull is going to cost the lives of a substantial number of sharks. Scientists think that there are fewer great whites in the world than tigers. Last time I checked, no government is calling for a cull on tigers because a person got killed. Last time I checked, more people are being killed every year my hippos, dogs, cows, etc. and I'm not hearing for a cull of any of those animals. West Australia needs to realize that the sharks are not there to kill people. They are not trying to eat people. They are there because of a GROWING food source. If we weren't so busy taking every last fish out of the ocean, the sharks would have a greater food source out at sea. As it stands now though, there is more food inshore than offshore and to thank for that are the same people who the West Australian government are going to hire to kill these sharks. Commercial fisherman. I cannot and will not place the blame of the attack last month on the shark. I cannot and will not blame the sharks for trying to find a food source that can sustain them (the seals). Here we are in a world where 100 million sharks are being killed every year, and now we have a government who has their hearts set on killing more of them. That my friends is what I call disgusting and disturbing. Again, this cull is scheduled to start next month. My hope is that the conservation groups in West Australia are able to prevent this cull from happening or at the very least make the cull less effective through direct action.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Think Orcas Have No Emotional Attachments? Think Again/OpKillingBay Update

Greetings to all again. Two blogs in one night. Lots to talk about it seems. Anyway. There has been an absolutely heartbreaking picture that has been circulating around both Twitter and Facebook involving orcas. In the picture a mother orca is literally carrying it's deceased child around, clearly in grief over the loss of it's child. The mother was apparently carrying the baby around for hours after they were discovered. Here is the circulating picture.

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This picture alone has once again brought up the incredibly controversial issue of removing these animals from the wild. This picture proves what many conservationists, including myself have thought for a wild now and that is that these animals have emotional attachments to each other and will grieve when  loved one dies. This, to me anyway, is more than enough justification to at the very least give these animals immunity from being removed from the wild. The amount of pain that we as people must cause the entire family of a single orca that we take out of the wild has got to be nothing short of the grief and horrible feelings we get when a loved one dies or is kidnapped. They fear for their lost loved ones and they certainly grieve for them as well.

Very similar to humans, when an orca is born, they are completely reliant on their mothers. Without them, they would naturally not be able to survive. Just like (most) human mothers, orca mothers are instantly attached to their babies with a deep bond that can be defined as love. To rip that away from them just to make money is nothing short of disgusting and inexcusable. When I see things like this, I can't help but think of all the pain we as humans have caused families of orcas. To think that there have been no recorded situations where an orca has actually attacked a person in the wild is amazing considering what we do to them. Regardless of your position on orcas in captivity, if you honestly care about these animals, you can see that removing a member of a family that cares about each other as much as a family of orcas do is simply wrong. Still not convinced these animals work and love each other as a family, check this out. This video is taken in Antarctica of a family of orcas literally training the younger members of the pod to hunt seals. It's simply incredible!

Again, you can see the importance of family for these animals. It's really not all that different from us if you think about it. Try to imagine your child being ripped away from you in the name of money and see how you feel. Unlike the orcas, we know about the greed of the world and we all should know just how wrong taking these animals away from their loved ones is.

Elsewhere, OpKillingBay continues to reap havoc over the internet. Anonymous has sent an open letter to Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians in reference to an alliance between the two organizations whose methods differ, but have the same goal that they are working to achieve. No public communication has been heard of between the two groups as of yet, but time will tell what happens with that. Some of Anonymous's targets over the past several days include Nintendo.com which survived the attack, but ifkgroup.com (owners of Ocean Port Resort Hong Kong and Sea World) were not so lucky and experienced massive issues with their websites. Yesterday, Anonymous announced another Twitter Storm to take place this Friday at 8:00pm Tokyo Time (6:00am EST). Once again the voices of the people will be heard as we all try to stop the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji. Taiji supporters and enablers continue to feel the wrath of Anonymous and one can only think that there will be many more attacks to come in the coming days. My question though is will Anonymous weigh themselves in against the Japanese whaling program in the Antarctic as they have in the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji. Time will tell, but I am hopeful that they will. The killing of all of these animals needs to stop now.

To close out this blog I leave you all with. An orca family reunion of sorts!

Shark Finning and "Extinction Soup"

Greetings again one and all. Tonight I'll be taking a good look at sharks! Now since this is a shark first blog, I have done many, many shark based blogs in the past. However now that this blog is getting more and more visitors to it (wooohoooo!) I think now would be a good time to go over just what is happening to sharks around the world and why it is happening. For those of you who are reading this blog looking for Sea Shepherd or OpKillingBay news, sorry, but this blog wont have any, but I would like you to continue reading because what you read may just shock you more than the dolphin slaughter in Taiji or the hunt getting ready to take place in Taiji. I will get to the blog title towards the end of the blog this time around.

Take a good look at the animal pictured above. This species of shark is known as the shortfin mako shark. The first thing many people will notice about this animal is it's teeth, it's size, or it's likeness to another, more famous species of shark, the great white. What most people will not know is that this image is actually a picture of the fastest shark in the world. In the open ocean, this shark can reach speeds of over 60mph and can leap over 15 feet into the air! Think about that for a second. Try to picture a fish leaping that far out of the water. It's a pretty big accomplishment, especially for an animal that can weigh over 1,000lbs. As intimidating as this animal may look, it rarely interacts negatively with humans. The majority of incidents where shortfin mako sharks have bitten a person occur after the animal has been hooked. Can't really blame the animal for defending itself can you? These animals typically do not come close to shore so in general, bathers and surfers don't have to even worry about these sharks while playing in the surf. For an animal that rarely encounters humans, outside of fisherman, you would think their populations would be plentiful. Well they are not.

Here's a more familiar face to many people. The great hammerhead shark. Once abundant in tropical and sub tropical seas, these animals continue to be found throughout different areas of the world. Being a worldwide species of shark one would think that their populations are high right? Not so much.

Here's probably the most familiar face when the word shark is used. Here is the (great) white shark. The star of many a shark movie, many people think that the oceans are teeming with these guys, but guess what. That's not the case.

See a trend forming? I could go on posting pictures of sharks and tell you that each and every one of them are in extreme danger. Out of the three I posted, two of them (white and mako) are currently listed as Vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN's Red List while the other (hammerhead) is listed as Endangered. Yes you read that right all three of these sharks, and many others, are seriously being threatened with extinction. The answer to the following question is known be many people, but not enough. Why are these animals threatened with extinction? How are animals that have been on this Earth since before the time of dinosaurs now suddenly vanishing? How are the essential kings of the sea being dethroned, and by what? The answer to those questions are both shocking and horrific. If you have no idea what I am talking about then I would like to take a second to advise you to take a deep breath before reading what you are about to read.

The answer to what is causing these animals to vanish is probably pretty usual, man. The answer of how is what is really just disturbing, unethical, greedy, and frankly heartbreaking. Shark finning is the process of catching a shark, cutting it's fins off, and then throwing the often times still living animal back into the water to die from blood loss, suffocation, or from being eaten. It is a horrific way to go and equates to a human's arms and legs being cut off and then the still living body being tossed into the sea. It is partially responsible for the estimated 100,000,000 shark deaths that occur worldwide on an annual basis. Shark finning is often the by product of another practice of fishing called long lining.

Long line fishing in an extremely dangerous style of fishing that threatens nearly all marine life as well as sea birds. Long line fishing kind of looks like this. .

So as you can see, there is a large number of baited hooks in which the target fish, usually tuna or swordfish, are supposed to bite. The lines are left in the water for over a day and can reach lengths of over 100 miles in length. The fisherman then return. The results are never exclusive to the target fish. Sharks, seals, turtles, birds, small whales, dolphins, and just about anything else that bites the hook is trapped. In the case of turtles, birds, and mammals, they will drown because the weighted lines will prevent them from surfacing to breathe. Sharks and other fish often get tangled in the lines causing them to drown. These reasons alone, I feel are justification enough to have this fishing style outlawed considering the sheer number of animals that are killed on accident by them every year, however it is only illegal off the west coast of the United States. Sharks that are caught on these lines are often finned alive or dead.

So why the fins? From the boats, the shark's fins are sent to Asia where they are dried and used in a soup known as shark fin soup. The soup itself is tasteless, but is flavored with either chicken or beef flavoring. The shark's fin adds a gelatinous texture to the soup as well as a dose of mercury (always healthy right?). Shark fin soup sells for an estimated $100 U.S.D. PER BOWL. Yes a hundred dollar bowl of soup. The soup apparently had it's start in China where it was given exclusively to the Emperor as a symbol of status. Times of course changed and now this symbol of status is widely used in not just China, but in other countries including the United States. The shark's fins sell for an incredible amount of money. For example, a whale shark fin has sold for over $50,000. Yes one fin. So once again it boils down to money. So what is the status of sharks?

Many shark species are in a heavy decline due to shark finning and long line fishing. Both practices have led to certain species seeing their populations decline by as much as 99%. Obviously not a good thing at all there. Around the world, more and more shark sanctuaries are starting to pop up and more countries, including China, are taking steps to driving down the demand for shark fin soup. For example, China has cracked down on the extravagance of government banquets which has banned shark fin soup from being included as it once was. Several states in the United States have banned the sale and trade of shark fins, but it appears that NOAA may try to undermine those laws. New Zealand has recently "banned" shark finning, but has allowed fisherman an extensive grace period that will allow the practice to continue for some time. In the mean time, sharks are still in rapid decline not only off of New Zealand, but around the world as the demand for shark fin soup remains high. So what could this do to the world?

Honestly, and I know it may sound crazy at first, but this could lead to the end of the natural world as we know it. Allow me to explain. Sharks are the apex predators of the sea, very similar to lions in their natural habitat or the way wolves used to be in areas of the U.S.. If you remove the apex predator as we are doing to sharks, the next level of the food chain will see their populations explode. Unlike all of the animals below them, sharks have a very slow reproductive cycle and do not mature until later in life. Many species only give birth to one pup every season. So with sharks removed the next level will take over and eliminate anything below it until there is no food for them and then they die off. In the seas what that will leave you with are things such as algae and that's it. The secondary predators will take care of all the shellfish and small fish and once they are gone there will be nothing left. It's a simple food chain equation. We've seen examples of this already in the United States, but people are still not getting it. One perfect example is the shellfish crisis going on in the Chesapeake Bay.
There has been a large decline in shark populations surrounding the bay and as a result in recent years the cownose ray (secondary predator) population has literally exploded.

As you can see in the image above, these animals eat shellfish which are filter feeders and algae eaters. As a result, the shellfish populations in the bay have seen serious declines to the point where the bay has needed to actually be restocked by people. The bay's water quality has also suffered as a result. It's just a small sample though of what would be to come should sharks go extinct. It's not the fault of the rays. They're just doing what is natural to them. It's all on the people who are eradicating the ray's natural predators.

Sadly, to my knowledge, only one documentary has really gone out and attacked the shark finning industry to date. That documentary is called Sharkwater. I highly suggest picking it up at some point and watching it, but coming soon there is a new documentary coming out that further exposes the disgusting shark finning industry called Extinction Soup. 

According to Extinction Soup's Facebook page, the plot of the film looks like this
"Extinction Soup" follows documentary filmmaker Philip Waller on his quest for adventure as he sets out to tell the story of his larger-than-life friend and extreme sports legend, Jimmy Hall. The film quickly takes a surprise turn when Waller finds himself consumed with exposing to the world an environmental catastrophe in the making - the extinction of the oceans' shark population through the mass slaughter of these magnificent animals for their fins. Waller documents the efforts of conservationist Stefanie Brendl as she fights to educate lawmakers and help pass ground-breaking legislation that will curb the consumption of shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in many Eastern cultures, and the impetus behind 70 million sharks being killed per year."

The film has no slated release date, but it is hoped that it will land sometime in mid 2014. For more information on Extinction Soup visit their website at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/extinction-soup. Still though, the issue of shark finning and long line fishing continues to be one that needs to be shown to the world. When this documentary is released it could go a long way to bringing attention to a massive issue going on in our seas in a similar fashion to how The Cove did for the dolphins or Taiji! To quote the great Captain Paul Watson, "If the Ocean's die, we die". I couldn't agree more with that statement and if the world does not act to save sharks we will be facing a dead ocean and eventually the end of life on land as a result as well.

As mentioned in my previous blog, here is a nice video of whale sharks swimming in the wild. There is a great deal of money to be made on shark tourism. Far more over a long period of time than can be made from their fins... Till next time!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Holiday Plan/OpKillingBay Update

Greetings again one and all. This is just a quick plan I have in store for the holiday season as far as this blog is concerned. As far as taking any time away from the blog is concerned, I don't think I will be taking any time off as I have in past years. Reason being that between Anonymous's OpKillingBay and Sea Shepherd's Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Relentless, I have severe doubts that there won't be anything to talk about for more than a couple days. So I'll be here through the holiday season for the first time. Since it's a happy time of year and well sadly this is not the happiest of blogs in the world, I will be adding a fun video at the end of each blog for the season. These will of course include the animals that I talk about, but they will be more about just watching these animals do what they do as opposed to the usual butchering and maiming that people do to them.

By the time Christmas roles around, there is a chance that clashes between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese Whaling Fleet in the Southern Ocean would have started, so be sure to check back here for updates on that.

OpKillingBay will be having a second Twitter Storm today at 4:00pm EST, 3:00pm CT, etc etc. If you have a Twitter account, or Facebook for that matter, join in and spread the word using #ShutTaijiDown and #OpKillingBay. It takes all of 30 seconds to send out a tweet that can help save the lives of the dolphins of Taiji. Check here for some sample tweets, but feel free to come up with your own as well! http://cyg-one.net/TweetAgent/TweetStorms/ListTweetStormTweets.php?tag=ShutTaijiDown#shuttaijidown
In other OpKillingBay news. Since December 1st, Anonymous has launched a full scale attack on any website which belongs to any company or organization that supports directly, or indirectly, the killing of dolphins in Taiji. Two such websites were citibank.com and IMATA's website whose address I cannot remember (imata.com). Both sites are back online, but were inaccessible for decent lengths of time. OpKillingBay's targets reach far and wide so anyone who supports the Taiji dolphin slaughter is a target. Personally I am not engaging in these attacks so please do not ask me how to get involved or anything like that because I do not know. All I can tell you is to look around the internet and I'm sure you can figure out how to get hacking if you wanted to do so. Lastly, on December 7th, Anonymous released an open letter to both Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians offering an alliance in the fight to have Taiji shut down. To my knowledge there has yet to be a response. If one comes out to the public, you can bet that I'll inform you guys. For now though, the two groups remain as two separate entities fighting for the same cause. To see an end to the killing of dolphins and whales for that matter in Taiji. Until the killing does stop, expect OpKillingBay to continue and for Japan to continue to feel the heat from both Sea Shepherd and Anonymous.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Japan Heading South... The Whale Wars Has Started...

Greetings everyone. Well here is some news that I was really hoping that I would not have to bring to you guys this year. According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Japanese Whaling Fleet has started to make their way south to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. This year, the Japanese self imposed quota for their whale hunt is 935 minke whales, 50 humpback whales, and 50 ENDANGERED fin whales for a grand total of 1,035 whales. The last whaling factory ship in the world, the Nisshin Maru is currently steaming south, most likely the harpoon and security vessels are not far ahead or behind. The Japanese claim that they are killing whales for scientific research. They claim to need to kill the whales to study things such as stomach content. This can easily be done in a non lethal matter by examining the animal's waste, but that' a different story.

The Japanese will once again be conducting their hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Yes you read that right. There will be a hunt in a sanctuary. Does that seem right to you? Probably not, and in fact it is illegal. So realistically, the Japanese are not legally killing these whales. Regardless of their claims of killing the whales for scientific research, which according to the IWC they are allowed to do, the zone they whale in is protected by the Australian Government. The whalers do not have the permission of the Australian government to be down there whaling, but that's a law they have broke again and again. Australia has taken Japan to International Court over the whaling issue, but so far no ruling has come down from that court, giving Japan the green light to get things started. Personally, I believe that if the ruling does come down against Japan, that it will not deter them from whaling and here's why. Australia has yet to take any serious action against the whaling fleet. Every year they go down and every year Sea Shepherd stands alone (with the "support" of the Australian government). Australia needs to stop simply tucking their tails between their legs. The Australian government promised to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean, but so far it has done little to make good on that promise.

Currently, there is an Australian security boat, the Ocean Protector, which is patrolling the islands near the Southern Ocean. However, it sounds like it will not be going south to observe the whaling fleet and ensure that no whales will be killed in the protected Australian zone. Last year, clashes between Sea Shepherd and Japan reached the highest levels of violence that you can really have on the high seas, and it really is amazing that nobody on either side sustained any kind of serious injury. At one point, one of the Sea Shepherd vessels, the Bob Barker, was literally smashed between the massive factory ship and the whaling fleet's refueling ship, the Sun Laurel. This violent crash as a result of the Sea Shepherd attempting to prevent the illegal refueling of the whaling fleet below the legal latitude refueling line.
Nisshin Maru

During this same campaign, the factory ship also wound up colliding with the refueling ship, destroying the ship's life raft. If something major had happened on that ship, the Sun Laurel's crew would have had no escape other than diving into the freezing sea. The collision could have also triggered a massive fuel spill, which thankfully did not happen. There's a reason that it's illegal to refuel below a certain latitude.

Sea Shepherd Australia has notified the Australian government that the whalers are once again heading south. Now we all wait to see what the government's actions will be. I for one expect a whole lot of nothing as usual, but I again hope that I am wrong. Sea Shepherd Australia will be launching it's ships very soon to intercept the whaling fleet and do what the government should be doing. Given the violence and near sinking of the Bob Barker last year, it is safe to say that the Japanese are now willing to do whatever they want to do to get Sea Shepherd out of the way, including sinking them. If nothing else, it's this fact alone that should be enough for Australia to send a ship down to monitor what is going on before someone on either side is killed or a ship is sunk in the Southern Ocean.

For the past few years, the whaling fleet has come back heavily in the red due to Sea Shepherd's interference, which the ICR even admits to in their statements. Will this be the case again? I certainly hope it will be. No I actually hope that this court ruling comes down and Japan actually packs up and leaves the Southern Ocean with no violence or loss of life anywhere. I doubt it'll happen, but that is my hope. The Whale Wars are officially on once again. I will, as I did last year be doing my best to keep you all up to date on what is going on. I'll try to give reports from both sides of the fence, but will obviously be on the side of the Sea Shepherds. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NOAA Poised to Undermine State Shark Fin Bans

Hello again everyone. During my last blog operation, Operation Forgotten, there was a blog about the possibility of NOAA attempting to undermine state shark fin laws. Many of the laws including the ones passed in New York ban the sale and possession of shark fins, which also means that shark fin soup would be banned. Now though the federal government is challenging those bills and could potentially overturn the individual state bans. This challenge is now a growing concern for many a shark conservationist and frankly anyone who says they care about the future of our oceans.

The practice of shark finning was banned a few years ago in the United States, but it wasn't until recently that individual states actually began to outright ban the sale or possession of fins. Currently, 8 states have passed bills to ban the sale and possession of shark fins. Formerly, these 8 states comprised a staggering 68% of the fins being traded in the United States. So what is the justification for the federal government and NOAA getting involved in these laws? Well according to NOAA it is because the laws could restrict a U.S. fisherman's ability to sell shark fins. Let me rephrase that. NOAA may undermine these laws because it can prevent a fisherman from catching a shark and selling it's fins in the U.S.. One more time a little differently. Shark conservation laws could be reversed because people won't be able to sell shark fins (with no bodies attached) in a country where shark finning itself is illegal.

Simply put all NOAA is doing here is protecting, not your average every day fisherman, but shark finners. I know quite a few shark fisherman and not a single one of them would dream of selling the shark's fins as individual items without the rest of the shark. They catch a shark because the want to eat it (which I proceed to tell them why they shouldn't, but that's a different story). They don't catch them because they want to make a killing money wise. Should NOAA move on this and actually undermine the laws they will effectively set shark conservation in the United States back a great deal. I'm sure more will be coming out about this situation, but as of now it does not look like a very good scenario that could happen in the United States. The shark fin laws were all voted on and in a rare occasion, were passed with bipartisan support! Yes both political parties worked together in these 8 states to get the job done, but now the feds could make all that work go to waste. Please write to NOAA and tell them not to undermine these shark conservation laws!

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Have Spoken and Will Not be Silenced

Greetings once again everyone. I apologize for those of you who were expecting this blog last night. Due to unforeseeable circumstances I was unable to type this up. So Anonymous's Twitter Storm for OpKillingBay began yesterday and raged on through the entire day, into the night, and is still, while greatly slowed going on as I type this. For those of you who were unaware of what was going on. Yesterday at 4:00am (6:00pm Tokyo Time), Anonymous and a number of dedicated activists took to twitter and relentlessly bombarded Japan over the Taiji dolphin slaughter. Pictures and facts from the slaughter were used and to my knowledge any of the questions directed at government officials were not answered (big shock right).

While the twitter storm was in full swing, Anonymous launched a full scale assault on a variety of Japanese websites in protest against the killings. I don't know how that went for them, but I can say for some time yesterday I was unable to access IMATA's website which was one of their targets. The site was back up though as of late last night. Getting back to the storm itself. I figured I'd share with you some of the posts and images that were spread across twitter over the past 24+ hours.

Those are just a few of the many, many tweets that were sent out yesterday and today in opposition of the Taiji dolphin slaughter. Many of these images are certainly heartbreaking to even the toughest of conservationist. Sorry but I feel the need to post one more thing from Twitter that literally just came out and well... Disgusting is the only word I can think of for it.

As you can see, the twitter storm is still going on long after it's scheduled start time. From taking part in this storm I can honestly say that there a many, many people who stand in opposition of this slaughter. Even more than you probably think. So what can you do to help the dolphins of Taiji? Use the greatest weapon in the world, the internet. If you are a hacker, go to Anonymous and join them in OpKillingBay. If you, like me have no hacking skills, but still want to be a part of OpKillingBay and help fight for these animals you can do a few things. The easiest is to make a Twitter account if you don't have one already. Every Saturday there will be a Twitter storm in the month of December (and probably until the killing stops) that will go off in three major waves as seen on the image below.

Send one tweet, send ten, send a hundred. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you use your voice for these animals and help to show the government of Japan that we are sick and tired of watching the harmless innocent be brutally slaughtered. On these Saturdays we will all be united under one hashtag, #ShutTaijiDown. The message is clear. Enough is enough. Be as creative as you want with your tweets or use some of the ones found here http://cyg-one.net/TweetAgent/TweetStorms/ListTweetStormTweets.php?tag=ShutTaijiDown. If you wish to retweet things, please quote instead as it helps get the hashtag trending while retweeting apparently does not. 

Another thing you can do is spread the word on Facebook about the slaughter and what groups such as Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians and Anonymous are doing to try and put an end to it. You can keep yourself up to date by following the Cove Guardians on Twitter or liking them on Facebook. They are on the ground in Taiji and give consistent updates as to what is going on in Taiji, including that currently 75-80 bottlenose dolphins are currently being held in the cove. Odds are a few of them will be taken into captivity, and the rest slaughtered. 

If the internet isn't your thing at all then you still have a voice. Just because you may not know how to tweet or update a Facebook (it's true, some people don't. It's not a bad thing) you still have a voice. Tell your family and friends about what's going on. Tell them of the slaughter. Purchase The Cove and show it to them. It takes one person to start a chain reaction. Who knows that one friend could show other friends who show other friends and the next thing you know, a whole new group of people have become aware of the killings. You can be a voice for the voiceless. These animals need our help and we are there only hope. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I strongly encourage all of you to, if you have not done so, to watch The Cove. It is completely heartbreaking, but it is something that NEEDS to be seen to truly understand and grasp what is happening in Taiji from the corruption to the killing itself. Thank you all for reading. I will continue to do my best in keeping you guys up to date as to what is going on with OpKillingBay and will probably have another blog with the same design as this with highlights from December 7th's Twitter storm, but expect more before then.

To the government of Japan,
    We have all stood by quietly as you've gone about killing dolphins with no regard. Some of us have asked you to stop. Others have now landed in Taiji and are documenting what is going on. Some of us have even exposed to the world exactly what goes on in the killing bays of Taiji. The majority of us though, still have sat quietly while we rooted on our heroes. Now though the time has come for the tide to change. More and more of us are rising up to stand next to our heroes. We may not be on the ground in Taiji. We may not have the ability to obtain video from inside the bay. We may not even be able to break into a website and cause havoc. No we can't do any of that. What we can do though is all raise our voices for what is right. Raise our voices for the animals you are allowing to be slaughtered. We are all voices of the voiceless. It is our turn to stand against the brutal slaughter of these dolphins. As one of your opponents would like to say. It would be wise of you to expect us...