Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shark Finning Survivor Found in Maryland

Greetings everyone. I know I said my next blog would be about the mako shark unless something big came up. Well, something big has come up and it involves the sand tiger shark and finning in the United States. Keep in mind during this blog a few things. One, what I am about to explain is most likely a species exclusive thing which I will dive into a bit more as to why. Two, shark finning is alive and well in the United States despite being "illegal". No enforcement of a law makes that law a pretty weak one and it seems like that may be the case in the waters off the Northeast coast of the United States.

Sand tiger sharks are a very unique species of shark in that they will actually surface from time to time and gulp air. They will then store that air in their bodies which will actually assist them in becoming neutrally buoyant (like a scuba diver). This means that if a sand tiger shark stops swimming it will not simply sink to the bottom of the sea, rather it can drift through currents without having to put much effort at all into swimming. When other species of shark are finned, they are unable to swim for long at all and wind up sinking down to the bottom and die from either drowning, starving, or being eaten by other animals. It has been thought for a long time that no species of shark can survive the finning process, until now.

Just a few days ago, a sand tiger shark was caught by a local fishermen. To his surprise, the shark was finned! The sand tiger shark was missing her pectoral fins, dorsal fin, as well as 3/4 of her caudal fin. Chances are the shark did not bleed out as the people responsible seemed to have missed vital veins that would have spelled even greater disaster and probably death had they been hit. The wounds on what is left of the sharks fins also appeared to be fully healed, meaning that this shark was probably finned at least a year ago! Another observation that was made is that she appeared to be quite large, possibly with pups. If that is actually the case, wouldn't that be something? We will probably never know though as the shark was quickly released. While being released, the fishermen noted that the shark was swimming like a snake would through the water and still had a ton of power despite not having the majority of her caudal fin. In fact, the fishermen thought he was going to be knocked when she powered away from him. I'd like to give a special shout-out to Melissa Michaelson for sharing information of this story with me! Below you will find images of the shark...

All photo credit goes to: E.L. Jehi

So what do I take out of this? I take that somewhere off the east coast of the USA, there is a shark finning ship that has no idea about the species they are finning. Apparently this is not the first sand tiger that has been caught finned and alive. Something needs to be done. It is obvious that shark finning is happening in our waters and yet nothing is being done about it. Back in 2010 a sand tiger was caught with it's fins cut off in Delaware. The animal did not appear as healthy as this one and the wounds were not completely healed. Here we are years later and more and more of this is being seen and something needs to be done about it.

 Another interesting note about the sand tiger shark is that they are a species of shark that have been known to develop spinal issues. Even with their fins attached, sand tigers sharks will, from time to time, swim in a similar fashion to a snake where their entire bodies are aiding in swimming. This shark now has to do that whenever she wants to make any kind of real progress while swimming due to her lack of fins. In the end this is both a sad story and an amazing one at the same time. We have proof that sand tiger sharks can potentially survive being finned far longer than other species. We have also learned that there very well could be a shark finning operation going on off the east coast. Most importantly, we have learned that even though these animals are protected, they are by no means safe from finning and exploitation. The laws are in place, but now more than ever, they need to be acted on and the people responsible need to be brought to justice for their crimes against sand tiger and no doubt other species of shark as well!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Little Stories of the Big 2

Greetings everyone. As always, I hope all is well. Before I get started here I just want to say that I am finally 100% rid of the spam bots and what not that have been spamming comments on this blog. I've done more than enough deleting trying to keep everything on topic and not going on about ways to enhance your love life and what to do with certain illnesses. So with those out of the way, let's get going! Today's blog is about two different incidents that have happened over the course of the past month. Strangely, each incident involves a species of animal that is far, far beyond the size of a human and well.... a human! The first little story involves the manta ray.

The location of this incident was off of Bat Island in Costa Rica. Two divers were in the water and had either approached or were approached by a massive manta ray. Whichever way it happened, the animal did not swim away from the humans and allowed them to approach. The divers noticed that the ray had a large amount of fishing line tangled around it. If the line was allowed to remain on the ray it could do serious damage as it slowly cut into the animals and could have even potentially killed it. This ray though was either very lucky or very smart. One thing for sure is that this ray was very trustworthy of the two divers. The divers quickly went to work on freeing the gentle giant that had apparently slowed it's swimming to allow the divers to free it from the fishing line. Mr. Brian Thompson of Canada freed the animal who is now swimming somewhere with no fishing line attached to it! I'd like to say a big thank you and congrats to you Mr. Thompson for aiding this gentle giant!

This next little story I find to be a bit more humorous. The media reaction to this story is also quite comical. First off, we all know how the media reacts whenever something takes place between a shark and a human. Terror! Fear! Attack! Teeth! are all words that we see the media use in relation to sharks. Well this is another one of those stories. Media sites have been using the words terror, and... ready for this now.... Whale Shark Attack to describe this story. Yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, some people are calling this a whale shark attack... Anyway the story is that a pair of divers were spear fishing off of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic when a whale shark ran right into one of the divers and the proceeded to grab hold of the bag of fish the other diver was carrying. The diver that got hit proceeds to scream in terror as if  death itself were staring him in the face. meanwhile, the whale shark just keeps swimming along like nothing happened. The divers were not hurt and after the video had apparently decided to swim with the whale shark for a little bit. Must have been a bit of a shocking experience to turn around and see a whale shark literally in your lap, but the screaming in fear over it gets me every time!


So what do either of these stories have to do with this blog? It's simple really. Both of these videos show me something. The manta ray willingly allowed the humans to come up to it and free it from the fishing line without panic or swimming away. Even after it was free, it was in no rush to leave and seemed to largely hang around until the video ended. We know so little about manta rays its really a wonder as to whether or not that animal knew that the divers would help it. Could it have come in contact with people before? Given it's location, it probably had, and given it's location, it probably has had no bad experiences with divers and I'd even go out on a limb and say that there was a sort of either respect or trust on the part of the manta towards the humans. We have virtually no idea how smart manta rays truly are and with all the sad things we hear about them being hunted down for their gill rakers, it's nice to see people helping them out. Fishing line can do so, so much damage to any kind of marine life. That my friends, is one very lucky manta ray and a diver that should be very proud of himself.

The whale shark story really tells a simple lesson. Do not be in the way of a whale shark and it's snack. They will not move to avoid the little 100+lb human when they weigh over a ton. At the same time though, they will not attack a human either. The whale shark literally swam into the person like he wasn't even there and the diver was uninjured. I do worry a little bit about this story being taken out of proportion as the incident happened in August, but over the past few days it has really started to blow u with news headlines sighting an attack or a ramming or some other form of violence on the part of the animal. No folks, this was not a whale shark version of Jaws. This was simply an animal with one thing on it's mind at the time. That one thing was getting that bag o' fish that was drifting just out of reach. If I was that big and someone put a bowl of ice cream in front of me, I'm pretty sure I'd run into whatever I had to too. Please everyone reading, do not look into this story as an attack. It wasn't.

So those are the two little stories about the big 2. The next blog I do, barring something pressing happening, will be a blog about mako sharks. As a tiny preview I'll give you this...
The shortfin mako shark is the world's fastest shark. They are capable of reaching speeds of (find out later)mph and can leap over (find out later)feet into the air. They are one of the most beautiful species of shark on our planet, but like so many others, they are in serious trouble and now extinction is beginning to loom over them. Tune in next blog to learn more about this species of shark and just what is happening to them, in particular off the coast of New Jersey. Till next time!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two Bloody Days in Taiji

Greetings everyone and welcome back. Today I bring sad news to those who have not heard. Over the course of the past two days, two pods of Risso's Dolphins were herded into and brutally slaughtered in the killing cove of Taiji, Japan. Out of the dolphins slaughtered, none of them were taken into captivity as Risso's are apparently not as cute and pretty as bottlenose and other species. It has truly been a rough two days following 14 days that were free of killing including a couple miraculous escapes by dolphin pods. Since this is my first blog on this topic for the season I guess I should inform those who do not know what all this is about to just what the Taiji dolphin slaughter is all about.

Depending on who you ask, you will get one of two answers. You will either here it is all about making money by selling dolphins into captivity or their meat to facilities, or you will hear that it is an honored tradition dating back hundreds of years. To give you an idea which side to choose, first consider this. The Taiji dolphin slaughter as it is now started in the 1970s, Given the history of the world, odds are that the killing of dolphins in Taiji probably did happen earlier, but it was in the 1970s that things really picked up right alongside the growing popularity of dolphin parks around the world. Another thing to quickly consider is that thing called tradition. I don't know about you, but to me tradition is doing something the same way it has always been done year after year after year. In the case of whaling (including small cetaceans such as a dolphin) tradition was being lucky enough to find a whale on a wooden ship and using spears and what not to kill the animal. Certainly it is not a humane way of doing things, but here is my point. Since when does tradition utilize motor boats, cellphones, radar, and scuba gear? Last time I looked Japan's "traditional" hunts never had the advantage of those technologies. So we can throw the "tradition" out the window on that. If they cut out the technology they are using and did it the way they did it hundreds of years ago, then they can call it a tradition. Moving on...

The number one thing that is driving this slaughter is money (big shock right). Live dolphins sell for an insane amount of money.

This one dolphin would sell for over $50,000 USD.

Last year, this baby bottlenose dolphin, Angel, was to sell for over 1 million dollars USD, but complications arose and the dolphin is now living at Taiji Whale Museum.

So you can see the sheer amount of money that a single dolphin can make. If the pod is in good shape, the majority of the pod can be sold into captivity for a simply incredible profit. The rest of the pod is brutally slaughtered. It seems that only when the world is watching via live stream does Japan set a portion of the pod free. The killing of the dolphins really has no purpose outside of an attempt at scrounging up a few more dollars. Dolphin meat is pretty cheap and does not sell for much. In fact, it is so unpopular that it is often sold as larger whale meat. We can find similar issues on the east coast of the United States where stingray is often labeled as scallops. So this kind of thing does intentionally happen.

Above you can see Taiji's quota for the year. Pretty big numbers they are after once again. The drive hunt itself is a massive scare tactic. The dolphins are extremely sensitive to sound and as a result, the fishermen bang on objects in the water to create a sort of sound wall that literally herds the dolphins towards Taiji. There, the dolphins are often times divided into a few groups. Next trainers from marine parks around the world pick out the dolphins they wish to purchase. While they are still present, the rest of the pod is brutally slaughtered bringing into question just how much these "trainers" and facilities actually care for the animals they claim to want to protect.

If you want to help these animals, you do have a voice while sadly, they do not. Take to social media, Twitter and Facebook are excellent options and tell others about this slaughter. At the end of this blog I will be putting up some photos from Taiji (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES) to give you an idea as to just what we are dealing with here. Feel free to spread those pictures far and wide. You can also follow these groups.... Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians are on the ground in Taiji and bring the slaughter to the world via live streaming on their website. Check out the Facebook link above for more and follow them on Twitter here Ric O' Barry's Dolphin Project is also in Taiji and are documenting the slaughter as well. Follow them on Twitter at

The last group I recommend following is that of the Anonymous Collective. We are Operation Killing Bay and we are a collective of people just like you who have had more than enough of this slaughter. We stand against it, we hate it, and our hearts break each and every time we see those boats leave Taiji harbor in search of dolphins. We are dedicated to spreading the word about Taiji and bringing it back to major headlines. The time to fight against this slaughter is now. It takes nothing to join us. If you have a voice, use it. Tweet on Twitter using #OpKillingBay and visit as we prepare for our next tweet storm on September 19th. Those are just a few of the things you can do to help out against the Taiji dolphin slaughter.

Thank you as always for reading!!! (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES AHEAD)

Angel continues to live at the Taiji Whale Museum in what is described as a filthy and undersized tank. Her mother was brutally slaughtered.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Major News For A Voice For The Voiceless... and Sharks!

Hello everyone. It has been quite some time since my last blog. I do not want to go into what has been going on in my life here as far as why I basically fell off the face of the Earth for quite some time here. What is important here is that I have returned and am nearly ready to once again set sail with this blog. I am going to do some things a little different than I had in the past. Usually I split this blog into two campaigns. One campaign spanned the fall and winter months while the other spanned the spring and summer months. I am planning on stopping that format once things get back underway.

The short story is that I simply do not have the time right now to blog as often as I'd like and as a result I need to turn down the heat sort to speak on what I'm doing with it in an effort to continue bringing as many educational and news centered blogs on the main causes I'm fighting for. With that being said here is the plan for the near future when I pick this thing back up.

 This blog will be focused on three causes. First and foremost, this is and always will be a shark first blog. Since I will be limiting the amount things I will be blogging about, I will be able to bring more educational blogs on the most misunderstood animals in the world to this blog, which I am excited about. Second, I will continue to blog about the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter. As I type this blog there are actually two pods of dolphins being driven towards the killing cove of Taiji. For me, it is not about captivity, it's about ending the killings and the easiest way to do that is to end the sale of these animals into captivity. I will also continue to support and blog about Operation Killing Bay and Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians. Finally, I will continue to blog about manta rays. These animals have really found a way into my heart and we really have no idea just how many are left and what kind of an impact we are having on their populations. All I know is that there is still a ton to learn from these animals so I will continue to blog about them as well.

The groups and organizations that I support have not changed at all, so if there is any major news coming from say Sea Shepherd, I will blog about it here still. This includes the annual Antarctic campaign against whale poaching in the Southern Ocean. I will only be bringing major news though, so expect those blogs to be few and far between at this point.

So that's the game plan sort to speak. I am actually pretty excited to see how this new direction will go. There is still a ton of work to be done and I am nearly ready to really get back to work here fighting for mantas, sharks, and dolphins. Now for some (nearly) BREAKING NEWS!

This morning a verdict came down on the West Australia Shark Cull. The EPA has deemed that the shark cull must be cancelled. I can say with a great big smile on my face that the sharks will be able to swim by West Australia without being caught on massive hooks, shot in the head, and dumped back to sea. Young sharks won't be caught and forced to endure a horrific experience at the hands of what were apparently uneducated fishermen who didn't know the difference between a bull shark and a tiger shark. This also presents an opportunity for West Australia's Government. Rather than simply killing sharks, which really does nothing for beach safety, the government can now seek out alternative ways to making beaches safer. There are way that exist in the world to keep swimmers out of a shark's path. Shark safe nets exist and other countries are experimenting with ways of keeping surfers, bathers, etc safe while NOT having to kill sharks. To the EPA I have to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Stay tuned for the new beginning of this blog. I am back and will be back to work very soon! Till then, I hope you all take care and are well!