Monday, December 14, 2015

Blog Update!

Hello once again everyone! Nothing really too exciting to talk about in this particular post, but I did want to give you guys a bit of an update on what's going on around here. As you can clearly see I've changed up the layout of the blog. To me it looks a whole lot less dark and dreary and having the ocean in the background well, just suits this blog so well. So that's new. Still a bit of work to do on it, but for the most part it's set. I've also tinkered with the Welcome page a tad so check that out. I'm also looking at working back in more educational blogs. I've got a few in the works highlighting different species of sharks and what not and while I want to keep this blog in the direction it's going with conservation, I also want to get back to some more general educational blogs, in particular about some of the animals that can be found in New Jersey. Perhaps I'll make a series of blogs like that.... Food for thought there...

So the game plan for the new year I can tell you already is to well certainly be more active again and continue to blog about sharks, mantas, dolphins, and whales. One new issue here that I am looking to tackle is Iceland's whaling of Endangered Fin Whales. I may get a blog out about that sooner than the New Year, but with Christmas just around the corner and all other kinds of crazy stuff going on... I can't promise it. I can promise though that this is not the last blog for 2015.

Another new thing that I have in the works is putting together a page on here that will contain a bunch of different videos that I've found to be important, educational, or even just fun to watch. I'm hoping that it will be a page where people can come and view videos, hopefully learn something, and perhaps even get a laugh or two. I'm also going to look around more on Blogger and see what other different things I may be able to add onto this blog.

While my life may be extremely busy now I am still going to find the time to continue to fight for these animals with all I have. Thanks as always to you all for reading and get yourselves ready for an intense new year here as there is a ton of stuff on the way!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Our Trash, Their Deaths, Our Problem

Have you ever been on a boat, seen a plastic bag or fishing gear, or even cigarette butts float by and didn't think of it as a big deal or a problem? Did you ever think that it's someone else's responsibility to pick that trash out of the water? Did you ever think that the trash would just dissolve quickly in salt water? If you have ever done these things I would like for you to pay close attention to this blog because what you are about to read may shock you.

Trash is literally trashing the oceans. Sure you've heard it all before about garbage making the oceans an aquatic dump, it's nothing new to you. Well today I'm going to be taking a look at some of the dangers that garbage is currently presenting to several different animals in the oceans today. Here's just a microscopic example of the types of trash that wind up in the oceans on a daily basis. Plastic, fishing gear, glass bottles, fishing gear of all kinds, and styrofoam. Things that we see and use everyday are having a serious impact on life in the oceans. Animals of all sizes have to deal with the trash that we put into our oceans.

Sea turtles and seals both get tangled in the trash and are forced to drown or starve to death. Sea turtles also end up eating plastic bags as they mistaken them for jellyfish. Long story short we can tell the difference, they cannot.


Another major problem with our trash occurs as it breaks down. As plastic becomes small and small it becomes a problem for more and more animals of all sizes. There is a study that is now underway that will test the impacts of microplastics (smaller than 5mm in diameter) in the Philippines and Australia. The research will be headed by Researcher Ellie Germanov through Murdoch University. These tiny microplastics are one and the same of their larger counterparts if enough of them are consumed. This brings in two filter feeders in both the manta ray and whale shark. Both mantas and whale sharks are filter feeders and these microplastics are too small to be filtered out through their gills. Adding to the trash entering the ocean is the realization that some cosmetic products contain microplastics themselves and those microplastics are making their way through water filtration and into the oceans. 

The concern is that the toxins in these microplastics may be having an adverse effect on the reproductive capabilities of both the whale shark and the manta ray among other animals that may accidentally be consuming these plastics as well. In particular the unknown factor is how toxic the microplastics from cosmetics such as toothpaste and facial scrubs can be to marine life. The study is set to take place over the course of the next four years, but the bottom line is this.

Regardless of what this research may find, we are literally trashing our oceans and putting marine life at severe risk as a result. Both the manta ray and the whale shark are already under heavy pressure and if this research proves that the potential toxins of the microplastics are actually harming these animals, it will be quite interesting to see what if anything becomes of it. If we do not shape up and stop throwing our trash into the oceans we are going to be seeing more and more garbage related problems develop. The next time you are on a boat and see a plastic bag, bring it on board knowing you could have just saved an animals life. If you see a tin can, grab and recycle it. Every little bit helps and just like with saving the whale sharks and mantas that so desperately need it, if everyone works together we can make a real difference! In the end. Our trash is our problem and they are the ones that are being forced to suffer for our carelessness.  


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Racing Against the Extinction of Whales, Sharks, and Manta Rays

This blog is a reaction to certain parts of the movie "Racing Extinction" that just aired literally minutes ago on Animal Planet. Before I take a focus on the parts of the film that pertains to the messages this blog sends out, I want to take a minute to give a huge hats off to the entire team responsible for making that film. It was extremely well done and the images and footage should honestly be seen worldwide. The information in the film is really extremely important and if you missed it, find it however you can and take a good long look at it and think while watching it because it is a very moving and eye opening film. For a more in depth review of the film as a whole visit as that blog will soon have a blog about the whole film.

Racing Extinction focused a great deal on marine life which is where this blog comes in. Whales, sharks, and manta rays all played a part in the film and bringing these animals once again into the light helps to drive home the fact that these animals are in trouble and need our help. I'm going to touch on each of these things. So with that being said, let's get into this.


About three minutes before the film aired I posted a blog about Japan returning to the Southern Ocean to slaughter whales. One of the first things focused on in this film is the fact that whales continue to be hunted down. There was a focus on the blue whale. This species, so close to being lost forever is thankfully no longer a real target to whaling fleets. One of the statistics used in the film is that the blue whale was hunted to within 2% of their population. That is 98% of a population wiped off the face of the Earth. Now the few remaining roam the seas, singing a song so loud yet inaudible to human ears due to it's low pitch. At this point the blue whale's largest issue is shipping traffic where these animals are killed by shipping vessels literally running them over.

Elsewhere countries continue to hunt whales for commercial purposes. There have been closed door meetings between the US and Japan about the possibility of restoring commercial whaling. In the United States there was a restaurant named The Hump that was closed down after it was discovered they were serving humpback whale. The bottom line is in the year 2015 there is zero reason for us to be killing any whales. There has been a massive drop in the demand for whale meat in Japan and other countries and that demand continues to drop as people become more and more aware of just how these animals are caught and how the wind up on a dinner plate. For those of you who don't know try to picture this.....

You are a whale swimming happily through the Ocean. Then all of a sudden you feel a harpoon strike you in the back. Not only do you feel the harpoon pierce your body, but you feel the tip of the harpoon explode inside you. Now you are too large to be killed by this. Now dragged to the surface you're thrashing trying to save your own life as the blood pours from you. Next you are shot by a shot gun over and over and over again until the whole ordeal is finished and you are dead after an agonizing minimum of 2 minutes after you first got hit with the harpoon. That is how these animals are killed. Don't believe it? Watch it right here....


For those of you who have been reading my blogs for any period of time you will know that sharks have been for a long time my number 1 concern in regards to protecting animals. I love sharks. Every last species fascinates and inspires me. Seeing sharks in Racing Extinction brought a sad tear to my eye, a reminder as to why I do this blog, and happy that once again the horrific things that we do with sharks has been brought into the light.

According to the film, 250,000 sharks are being killed every day. That is two hundred and fifty thousand KILLED every day. In 2013 a study was performed and concluded that roughly 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year. As the film said. The sharks are largely killed for their fins. The fins are dried and used in a soup named Shark Fin Soup. The fin itself is tasteless, but adds a jelly-like texture to the chicken or beef flavored soup. Shark fin soup is considered a real treat in China, but the popularity of it has taken a downward turn by about 70% so far largely thanks to NBA star Yao Ming (More on that in a bit). The fins themselves are massively profitable while the rest of the shark's body is not. Some shark fins can sell for $50,000 USD. It's incredible, horrible, and disgusting all at the same time. Shark populations world wide have suffered greatly as a result of finning and overfishing. That suffering has already had alarming effects on the oceans and other bodies of water such as bays and rivers as well where populations of secondary predators has exploded from a lack of sharks.

So what is shark finning and why does the shark die. It's actually quite simple to understand how the animal dies once the finning occurs. The process of shark finning is literally as follows. Once a shark is caught it's fins are cut off it's body. Most of the time the still living animal is tossed back into the water. Unlike many other species of fish, sharks (minus certain bottom dwelling sharks) must keep swimming in order to breathe as they lack muscles in their gills to open and close them. Also unlike most fish if a shark stops swimming ( minus the sand tiger shark who can hover motionlessly) it will sink to the bottom. At that point the shark will most likely be eaten by another animal or suffocate. Some sharks will bleed to death depending on where the fins were cut and others will starve to death. No matter how you look at it, it is a terrible death. The sand tiger shark is the only shark known to survive the finning process for any notable period of time.

With roughly 100,000,00 sharks being killed every year, it is no wonder that more and more species are being driven towards extinction. If sharks were to vanish the world as we all know it would if fact change is massive ways. This past summer gave the illusion that sharks are becoming more abundant as a fair amount were seen feeding close to shores. If only that were 100% true. The reality of that situation was that the fish the sharks normally eat offshore are becoming harder and harder for the sharks to find so they naturally have began to look elsewhere for the fish they need. That would be closer to shore and NO they are not developing a taste for humans.

Fortunately for sharks protection is continuing to slowly increase and the demand for shark fin soup is slowly decreasing as more and more people become aware of the scale of this global slaughter and the health risks that can be associated with eating the soup. As I mentioned earlier the demand for the soup in China is down roughly 70%. Despite this, images like this are not uncommon in China.

In one day literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of shark fins were photographed drying on a rooftop. This is but a tiny, microscopic sample of the magnitude of this slaughter. Yao Ming's PSA ad about shark fin soup has caused a great deal of waking up in China and around the world, but still there is loads to be done and Racing Extinction highlighted that fact in a great way. I'm going to post a couple videos here. The first will be Yao Ming's PSA. The second will be shark finning.

Manta Rays

Manta rays have been a part of this blog for quite some time now and they were prominently featured in Racing Extinction. In the past I have blogged about the plight that manta rays are currently facing and I will be doing so briefly here again. Before doing so though I want to give a massive shout out again to the Racing Extinction team. They for what I would really consider for the first time brought manta rays into the light. I can't think of anyone I have ever spoken to that spoke ill of these animals. I've never heard of anyone having any fear of them, anger towards them, a desire to kill them, nothing. Manta rays are a very special type of animal that seem to just grip people's imagination. As crazy as it may sound, the manta ray just seems to make people happy when they think about it. Videos can be found of these majestic animals performing spectacular acrobatics under water, smaller species literally flying through the air, and a real curiosity and almost friendliness towards humans. What most people don't realize though is that these animals are quickly being driven towards extinction and that is actual the point that Racing Extinction drove home.

In 2013 manta rays were placed on CITES Appendix II which put regulations on their trade. Despite this though there is still a massive market for mantas and no. It is not for the meat of the ray. Instead manta rays are largely hunted for their gill rakers which are believed to help cure diseases and lead to a better sex life. They are also falsely considered to be a part of traditional Chinese medicine. I say that because if you look in an actual traditional Chinese medicine book, you will not find manta ray gill rakers. The gill rakers themselves sell for a high price while the meat is basically worthless.

Manta rays are hunted for the gill rakers in various parts of the world and the way that these animals are caught and killed is nothing short of barbaric. For some areas of the world, it is really the most efficient way they can kill these animals as they simply don't have advanced technology and are using little wooden boats. In Racing Extinction the team visited Lamakera, a fishing village in Indonesia whose main source of income was selling manta ray gill rakers to China. They crew wound up going out on one of the fishing boats and witnessed first hand how these animals are killed. I haven't been able to find a clip of this from the movie yet, so I'll do my best to describe it. When a manta is located a man jumps off the boat with a long spear in hand that is attached by a rope to the boat and stabs the manta. Next the manta is pulled close to the boat while it fights as hard as it can to get away. Once alongside the boat the manta is stabbed to death. Yet again, a horrible way to go and one that is happening around the world.

When the team was asked by the village elders about an alternative to hunting the mantas, the crew brought up their insane tourism value. It is estimated that a single live manta is worth 1,000,000 dollars USD. Lamakera is responsible for more gill rakers being sold than anywhere else in the world and the people of the village are aware and concerned. They know and have admitted that it has become harder to find mantas. Trips that usually stayed close to shore are becoming longer and longer and further out. As grim as it sounds, the positive is this. Lamakera is slowly transitioning itself. In 2014 Indonesia created the world's largest manta ray sanctuary which includes Lamakera. The town is currently in transition and while fisherman will still hunt mantas out of tradition (an actual tradition that has been in place in Lamakera long before the gill raker trade began) the number of them being killed for their gill rakers is in decline. At this point it seems that the village elders have been open to saving the populations of manta rays around Lamakera and some of the results of that can be seen in one of the videos at the end of this section.

While Indonesia has set itself up to be on the forefront of saving manta rays, much work still needs to be done. Manta rays are still being slaughtered at an alarming rate and what's even more alarming is having the knowledge that some female manta rays may give birth to just 1 pup throughout the course of  their lives. What that means is that the reproductive rate of a manta ray can never and will never be able to keep up with fishing pressures. Racing Extinction brought these animals into the light like never before and now is the time to save them. If the people of Lamakera are willing to change their ways and move towards sustainable fisheries and try to help the very same animals they've driven towards extinction, then that is an example for the rest of the world to follow. Images like these...

Can and should be erased from being repeated. The gill raker trade is one really built up on hype and lies. How it ever came to be the monster it is today, I'll never understand but it is what it is an it's up to us to try and put an end to it. Afterall. These animals are true gentle giants of the sea and that can be witnessed beyond any doubt in the first of the two videos I'm going to put up. Keep in mind what you are watching is not a freak thing as the same thing has been reported time and time again with these animals!

To all who are reading. We are truly in a race against extinction for so many animals on our planet. It extends far beyond the sea and it literally covers the whole planet. Birds, fish, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles are all facing the end. The bittersweet thing is that we have the ability to try to reverse all of it. It's sweet knowing that we could do it. It's bitter knowing how monumental a task it is going to be for many of these species whom are virtually all but lost and nobody is really batting an eye. Racing Extinction brought so many issues back into the light that it may seem a bit overwhelming. Personally I don't know how many fights an individual can take on and fight for. Here I fight primarily for whales, dolphins, sharks, and manta rays. That doesn't by any stretch mean that I don't care for the other animals of the world. It just means that these four massive fights are really what I can handle. If everyone were to find an animal species they really cared about and just spoke out in an effort to save them... You never know what could be started.

The race to save all of these animals from extinction continues to by on and more and more people are becoming aware and realizing what is happening and there is nothing wrong with that. I can say that from watch Racing Extinction that a fire has been re-ignited for these animals. The film served as a serious reminder to me about just what I've been fighting for and the feeling of being a part of that fight to save the gentle giants, apex predators, and some of the most fascinating animals in the world is something special. Change can happen and is happening for these animals, but it can only continue to change if we keep fighting and that is something that I will continue to do and hope that you will continue to or start to do for these animals as well because once they are gone. They will never be heard from again. As always thank you for reading and please do yourself a favor and watch Racing Extinction!

While Racing Extinction is the newest film on the block in regards to these issues and so many more, there are two more I highly recommend. The first is entitled "Sharkwater" which focuses on shark finning and the second is "The Cove" which focuses on the Taiji dolphin slaughter. Check them out!!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In Defiance of the World

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. Whoever may be reading this blog. Welcome back or welcome to A Voice for the Voiceless. Here we are in the year 2015 and this will be yet another blog on the topic of whaling. Just yesterday, the Japanese Whaling Fleet set out for the Southern Ocean in defiance of International Court. Back in 2014 the International Court ruled that Japan’s “Scientific” whaling program, JARPA II was basically not scientific at all, but rather commercial whaling. So Japan was forced to stop their whaling program and come up with one that could be deemed scientific.

So far Japan has killed no whales in the Southern Ocean this year as the whaling fleet did not go down to the Southern Ocean to hunt during the 2014/2015 season. Rather several unarmed ships from the whaling fleet went south to perform non-lethal research on the whales. It’s strange how Japan seemed perfectly capable of performing research without killing when they claimed for so long that they needed to kill in order to perform the research. It’s strange how things work out that way.  While the 2014 season was a welcome calm, Japan killed no whales in the Southern Ocean. The same ships that absolutely had to kill whales to do research did just the opposite. Now though things are back almost to where they were.

Despite the International Court having not yet reviewed Japan’s new whaling plan, Japan has set out to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean. Just a few short days ago, an Australian court fined the Japanese whaling company, Kyodo Senpaku, 1 million dollars for breaching an order to stop killing whales in what it calls “willful contempt” since 2008. Australia and the vast majority of the world for that matter continue to condemn Japan’s decision to resume whaling as the ships head South. Many groups and organizations  have been petitioning Australia to send a naval vessel down to the Southern Ocean to survey the whaling activities and if need be act should whaling happen in Australian waters. This year the Japanese plan to slaughter roughly 330 Minke whales, a number that is significantly lower than previous years where the number would normally eclipse the 900 mark.

The harpoon boat "Yushin Maru No.1" departing Japan

The ultimate question right now is will anyone actually oppose the Japanese this year in the Southern Ocean. As of now Australia has not announced any intent on sending a ship to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet, so it appears that any direct action from Australia will once again, and by no means surprisingly be non existent. The real kicker with that is Australia is sending a ship to the Ross Sea where whaling does take place to patrol Australian waters for toothfish poachers. Kind of sad to think that if this ship were to stumble upon an internationally labeled illegal whaling operation that it would simply pass it by. 

Elsewhere, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not yet come out and directly stated that they will be hunting the whaling fleet as they have done in years past. Sea Shepherd has stated that they will be in the Southern Ocean as they were last year chasing down and preventing the slaughter of rare toothfish. Last year Sea Shepherd's toothfish defense campaign proved incredibly successful and climaxed with the sinking of a pirate vessel along with the arrest of several others. Sea Shepherd has stated however that should they see any illegal activities that they will not hesitate to intervene. Despite not physically going after the whalers this year, Sea Shepherd has already filed a massive counterclaim in a lawsuit that the whalers filed against them a few years back which led to an injunction of Sea Shepherd interfering in the whaling operations. Japan claims that Sea Shepherd USA continued to harass the whaling fleet for another year, but Sea Shepherd is a global organization and only the USA branch was barred from approaching a whaling ship. Sea Shepherd intends to use both the International Court ruling in which Japan is currently ignoring as well as the Australian Federal Court ruling which again, Japan is ignoring as a massive launching point to the counter. 

So at this point it appears that the Japanese will not be facing any direct opposition unless they manage to accidentally stumble upon Sea Shepherd hunting toothfish poachers. However they will be dealing with court battles around the world over the issue as the International Court readies to review the new program Japan has already started operating. Now the world watches to see if Japan will only kill the 330ish whales and if they also perform nonlethal research in the Southern Ocean while the outcry for them to put a final end to the illegal operation continues to grow louder and louder by the day. The year is 2015 and one of the world's superpowers continue to act as criminals in the Southern Ocean. The year is 2015 and the traditional sense of whaling has long been dead. The year is 2015 and the world has seen enough. The year will soon be 2016. Let's see an end to Japan's commercial whaling forever. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Where's the Outrage???

Hello everyone. Today I'm going to be trying to bring attention to shark finning as well as overfishing for sharks. First a little bit of background for those who may be unaware as to what shark finning is. Shark finning is the barbaric practice of cutting a shark's fins off and often times tossing the still living animal back into the sea to die from starvation, drowning, bleeding to death, or being eaten by other animals. Only one species of shark, the sand tiger shark, has been known to survive the aftermath of finning for any period of time due to their ability to maintain neutral buoyancy without having to swim.

The shark's fins are then dried and used in shark fin soup, an Asian, chicken flavored soup in which the shark's fin adds a jelly like texture. The soup can sell for over $100 USD. The price of the shark's fin really depends on the species of shark it comes from. Larger fins are more expensive than smaller fins. One fin from a whale shark once sold for roughly $50,000 dollars. Yes folks, for one fin. Scientists estimate that roughly 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year. Many species are now threatened with extinction and some are nearing the brink.

Before we get to the video itself I want to make a statement. When a lion in Africa is shot and killed and it hits social media, the world goes into a frenzy. Everybody talked about that lion and while the situation lions are in with poachers and what not is also a huge issue, the issue of the overfishing of sharks I personally think is a larger issue that is not heard about often enough. People basically want the head of the guy that went out and killed the lion. Strangely enough though I didn't hear nearly as much of an outcry for blood just days later when poachers killed the brother of the lion. It's strange what people will react to and hopefully this video can get shared around enough to cause an outcry to help these animals much like the death of Cecil the lion sparked massive attention for lions. My warning to anyone about to watch this video is that it is incredibly graphic and shows just how evil humans can be towards other forms of life. For those who do not want to watch, the video depicts two Chinese men cutting up a live whale shark.

For those of you who do not know what this animal is...

Whale sharks are the gentle giants of the seas. They are the largest fish on the planet and despite having a 4 foot wide mouth, only eat small fishes, krill, and plankton. Whale sharks have never been aggressive towards humans and as you can see in the image, they don't mind swimming along with humans either. Whale sharks can grow to be over 40 feet in length and are currently listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN's Red List. 

To anyone reading this blog. Take a good moment to think about what you are about to watch and remember that the animal in the video never once even thought to injure a human. Never thought to eat a human. Never thought to drown a human. Just a massive peaceful creature whose life was brutally taken from it for nothing more than a bowl of soup. Watch the video and spread it far and wide. Lets show the world that we are tired of cruelty towards these sharks just as so many sounded off and brought awareness to poaching in Africa!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Blog Reboot 2015

Hello everyone. It has been quite some time since my last post here and my life has been going through a lot of rapid changes that have really kept me from doing much in the form of blogging. I began a second blog (not conservation or animal related) that got off to a nice start, but that one I also had to take a break from for a while. I am amazed to see how many people are still visiting this site. For those of you who keep checking in. Thank you! I can tell you that I will have new content up in the near future. So what exactly am I planning on doing in the near future?

My plan as of now is to continue this blog mostly as it was. I will be covering issues that include sharks, whales, dolphins, manta rays, and overfishing. The topic of the Faroe Islands will be excluded from this blog moving forward for various reasons that I do not want to dive into at the moment. As far as activeness is concerned. I am aiming at doing a few blogs a month again. I'm not sure if I'll hit the double digits like I used to right now, but I will be trying to crank a few out every month. Some may have more, some may have less. It really all depends on how much free time I have to type them up. I certainly don't want to rush anything as I'd rather bring educational and understandable blogs to light versus rushed and sloppy blogs.

So that's where I'm at. I'm getting ready to get this thing going again and I would expect the first blog out by the end of the week. I don't expect it to be overly long or anything, but I'm planning on putting in a video that by all means should cause nothing but outrage in anyone who says they love "animals". I'm not just talking about those who love marine life, no the video I'm going to try to get on here should spark nothing but outrage to whale, dolphin, shark, fish, snake, dog, cat, big cat, elephant, rhino, etc etc etc lovers. Again, I want to thank those of you who continue to return here for whatever reason and to those who are new and just finding this place. Welcome!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Japan to Whale and Lose WAZA

Greetings everyone. I hope all is well. With Sea Shepherd's Operation Icefish a complete success and now over I will be shifting the blog again back to other topics as they come up. Over the past couple days, two such topics that I have followed extensively in the past have resurfaced a bit. Both involve the country of Japan and both are not in favor of the island nation. Let's start with the good news!

Earlier today WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) voted to suspend it's association with Japan. This move is a small answer to the prayers and wishes of countless people who love dolphins and other small cetaceans.

The suspension comes from years of debate over how Japan acquires it's dolphins. For years WAZA had tried to work with JAZA (Japan's Association of Zoos and Aquariums) in putting an end to the horrific drive fishireis that occur in places like Taiji that sees Japan not only select dolphins for captivity, but brutally murder hundreds of others at the same time. This move will hurt Japan's ability to sell the dolphins as no WAZA member will be permitted to purchase dolphins from Taiji. In my opinion, a move that is long overdue! It looks like WAZA is finally taking a firm stance as an agreement could not be reached despite JAZA revising their plans to catch dolphins. It sounds to me like WAZA is finished with being associated in a brutal practice to bring in dolphins, and there is nothing wrong with that!

Will this mean the end of the drive hunts in Taiji? No I doubt that highly. I expect this battle to continue on, but now that WAZA is no longer supporting JAZA I would like to think that they may become a leading component of the end of the drives. Time will tell as to what will happen with this situation, but for now it seems that conservationists and WAZA might be getting on the same page in regards to Taiji and that is nothing but good news!

Now from the good news to the frustrating news. Several days ago a panel of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rejected Japan's latest plan to kill whales in the Southern Ocean. This is the first time that any scientific panel has told Japan that they have not shown enough of a reason to kill whales. Japan's new plan was to kill 333 minke whales over the next 12 years. The purpose of the killing would be to determine the role of the whales in their natural environment and to collect data on stomach contents, maturity, and to try and establish a sustainable quota should commercial whaling return. Japan's response is that they will do exactly as they planned. Kill whales. Apparently this year's nonlethal trip to the Southern Ocean was too difficult without lethal research. More like it was nowhere near as profitable. Japan plans to move ahead with it's whaling program despite the IWC rejecting the plan. With this news I expect to see even more people throwing the commercial whaling card in Japan's direction. Such a card is nothing more than the truth and it's a truth that is not needed in what will be 2016!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Pirates Lose! The Thunder SINKS IN THE ATLANTIC!

Greetings everyone. Let's get right into this thing. Roughly 18 hours ago news began to break that the toothfish poaching vessel Thunder had put out a mayday call. The Sea Shepherd vessels Sam Simon and Bob Barker who had been tailing the ship since December answered the call and intended to help the crew of the Thunder. The call was that the poaching vessel was sinking. Soon after the call was sent out, the 35 crewman of the Thunder were seen in lifeboats. Sea Shepherd acted and sent out it's small boats to recover the crew who had legitimately abandoned ship.

Photo: Sea Shepherd

Three hours later, three crew members of the Bob Barker boarded the Thunder and the situation quickly became apparent. The engine room of the Thunder was completely flooded and all hatches were open. Computers, mobile phones, and a few other items including a tooth fish were removed from the sinking ship.

Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

It appears that the crew of the Thunder had intentionally sank the boat. This was probably done to destroy vast evidence of the poaching operations in the Southern Ocean. The Thunder is now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and the 110 day pursuit of the illegal fishing vessel has come to an end. It has also been reported that the captain of the Thunder applauded and cheered as his ship went down.

Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The captain of the sinking ship cheered as it went down, say activists.
Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

So the Thunder is no more. Elsewhere, Sea Shepherd's efforts alongside the New Zealand Navy's has not gone unnoticed. In my last blog I stated that the Kunlun was to be release. Well that never happened and instead Thailand decided to detain the ship and arrest the captain and crew. Days ago a second  poaching vessel, the Viking which was also monitored by both New Zealand and Sea Shepherd was detained in Malyasia. Three of the Bandit 6 fishing vessels have had their catches removed either by law enforcement or via sinking. Overall the estimated loss for the poaching operation (not counting the total loss of the Thunder and possibly the other two ships) is estimated to be between 6 and 12 million dollars. Certainly a massive hit! Once again I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Sea Shepherd for tracking these guys to the bitter end. 110 days of pursuit is a world record and it was all for the toothfishes of the Southern Ocean. Operation Icefish has turned out to be a huuuuuge success!

Just some notes at the end here. The nets of the Thunder were recovered by the Sam Simon during the chase so there was not much in the way of netting onboard the ship when it went down. 110 days of running also puts a massive dent in the fuel reserve of the ship. Chances are the choice to scuttle the ship came as the fuel supplies were dwindling and no safe ports were within reach.

In other news, the Japanese whaling fleet (just 2 ships) returned from the Southern Ocean for the first time with ZERO whales killed. They went down to survey for a while, but no harpoons were on the ships. Japan still plans to return to lethal whaling next year.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Update On Sea Shepherd's Operation Icefish and NJ's Shark Fin Bill

Hello everyone. Things have been pretty quiet lately hence I have not done a blog in a while. I've got some ideas of things to do here in-between news blogs and what not. Soooo Stay tuned for that. For now though let me catch you all up on some things that have developed just over the last week or so.

 On Monday, the New Jersey State Senate passed the bill that will see the banning of the sale, possession, and trade of shark fins in the state. As mentioned in an earlier blog this bill does have a couple exceptions to help protect both recreational and commercial fishermen. If a fisherman catches a shark and removes it's fins on dry land the fisherman is allowed to posses those fins, but he or she would not be able to trade or sell them. The fins of dogfish (both smooth and spiny) are exempt from this bill which means commercial fishermen will still be able to sell those sharks to Europe and the fins to Asia. The bill will now move to the New Jersey House of Representatives. So I'd like to say a big thank you to the New Jersey Senate for passing this bill. While it does not put an end to the sale of fins, it does act to make it harder for people to utilize the fins of larger species such as mako and thresher that continue to feel more and more pressure from overfishing.

On the other side of the world, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to tail the icefish poaching vessel "Thunder". The two ships are now approaching the Gulf of Guinea, an area notorious for piracy. Sea Shepherd will continue to pursue the poachers into these vessels and have prepared the Bob Barker with anti boarding spikes that are now jutting out from the ship. The two ships continue to slowly inch North as the poachers continue to try and outlast the larger and better supplied in fuel and food, conservation vessel. Elsewhere, the efforts of New Zealand and Sea Shepherd may soon be rewarded. Currently the poaching vessel "Kunlun" is being detained in Thailand as the government has agreed to assist in New Zealand and Australia's request to bring these ships to justice! In hopes of defending themselves the crew of the Kunlun had resorted to calling their catch grouper and not toothfish. Needless to say that that did not get the fishermen anywhere. Members of the Spanish crime syndicate Vidal Armadores have arrived at the scene and are trying to get their boat released as Thailand does not have any domestic fishing laws (will hopefully begin enforcement in June). So the ship is being held on two basis. One, the fishermen claiming the fish is something that they are not is a crime. Two, the ship did not reach port with the name Kunlun and it was not flying the flag it was originally seen flying, but the flag of Indonesia, and had a different name, the "Tiachan". This facade did not fool authorities though as authorities were told by Indonesia that no such ship was registered there. So Thailand can detain the ship as a stateless ship.

With that being said, I hope that Thailand will force the surrender of the ship's catch, and while I don't think they will be able to detain the ship for too long, I would love to see the entire crew arrested. In Spain, the Spanish government have recently conducted raids on the Vidal Armadores so it does seem like between that, the situation in Thailand, and the one on the high seas, that the pressure is mounting quickly on this syndicate and I can only hope that Interpol and Spain can get this all under control!   

Wow! I don't think I've ever had to do this before! If you look I have crossed out the entire last paragraph... Here's why. Just a few minutes ago Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson reported that the Kunlun has offloaded their catch, though the fate of it is unknown at this time. The ship is going to be escorted out of Thai waters and released. No fines, no arrests. They are being let go despite all the evidence in the world that they are poachers. It sounds like the Vidal Armadores has thrown enough money around to get their ship and their men out of Thailand with nothing more than a "Don't come back" notice. Also reported is that the Kunlun arrived in port with zero nets or other fishing gear. Two months ago, New Zealand authorities photographed the illegal fishing equipment on the Kunlun. Chances are, the crew of the ship dumped the net somewhere in the ocean which means that there is probably a massive (estimated up to 100kilometers (62 miles) in length) net is floating aimlessly killing an untold number of fish and other marine animals. Thailand has for whatever reason failed to apprehend these criminals and once again I'd like to say that there is egg on the face of Australia for not arresting these criminals when they were illegally fishing in Australian waters.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Fight to Save New Jersey's Sharks Heats Up

Greetings everyone. I hope all is well as always! Today's blog is going to be about a New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee meeting that took place on Thursday, February 12th, 2015. I was fortunate enough to attend this meeting so I naturally do have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this meeting. Attending the meeting were representatives from the Shark Research Institute, Jenkinson's Aquarium, Born Free USA, The Humane Society USA, The Humane Society International, the Sierra Club, and Garden State Seafood. The bill was proposed by senator Lesniak Before getting into all of that though I will quickly go over the proposed bill (S. 2057).

The bill is largely modeled off the bills that have been passed by 9 states that outlaws the sale and possession of shark fins. What that means is pretty self explanatory. In the states where these laws exist, including New York and California, There are a couple exceptions that the New Jersey bill would contain. The first exception is that "possession"  would not include fins that were taken from a legally landed shark. The fins would not be allowed to be sold, but a fisherman would not be in trouble for possessing shark fins that he obtained by catching a shark. Second, the bill would not include smooth or spiny dogfish, two species of small shark that have seen their populations increase a great deal off of New Jersey. The possession exception gives both commercial and recreational fisherman free ability to continue to fish for sharks, but bars them from profiting on the animal's fins. The second exception is largely for commercial fisheries who ship dogfish meat to Europe to be used in fish and chips and the fins to Asian markets.To sum it up, this bill would be another step in protecting the vast majority of sharks that come by New Jersey throughout the year.

Without the ability to sell the fins, the overall value of a shark plummets. The value of a shark's fins far outweighs the value of it's meat. To top it off, in New Jersey, shortfin mako and thresher are the only two species that are caught for their meat at all (not including the dogfish). So out of the many species that frequents these waters, two are actually caught for meat. The rest, for fins. Competitors of this bill claim that the outlawing of the sale of fins would cause the global value of fins to rise. The mentality of if we don't do it, someone else will was also a claim. Another claim was that this bill would place an economic burden on the state's fisheries. All of these claims I believe to be false. First off, globally, the value of shark fins is in serious question. More and more places are banning shark fin products, airlines are starting not to ship them, and even Hong Kong (Shark fin capital of the world) has banned the serving of shark fin at all government functions. In addition, hotel chains, including those in China have started to stop serving the soup as well. I find it hard to believe that a falling demand would change because New Jersey stopped selling fins.

The mentality of if we don't do it, someone else will is virtually childish. By that same logic you could say "we should rob a bank cause if we don't, someone else will!". Give me a break. This is the type of attitude that will achieve nothing. That excuse has been used time and time again throughout history by these same people. It's really a lame excuse considering how major (minor) or an issue this is. Why did I put minor in parenthesis? Well as I mentioned a claim is that this bill would put a serious burden on the commercial fishing industry in the state. This is false for two reasons. First off... 9 other states (8 of which are coastal states which rely on fishing) have passed similar bills and have felt minimal to no economic impacts as a result of these bills passing. Second of all a virtually microscopic number of the total catch for the year is made up of fins. Hardly a number to start throwing red flags at and fearing a complete commercial collapse. I mean the meat from countless other species easily outweighs fins and overall will be more valuable than the fins by the time all is said and done for the year I would think.

Really what myself and countless others are asking is for the commercial fishing industry of New Jersey to give sharks a little bit of help. Throw them a bone sort to speak. These animals are so important to that industry that they realistically should be on the front lines fighting to save them. In New Jersey, the dogfish situation is a bit different than it is in other places. Around here, there is a very large and increasing population of these animals. My belief is that the exploding population is the result of a sharply decreasing population of large sharks. Do I have issue with the dogfish exception? Right now not so much. The dogfish issue is one that should be fought when the time is right, but right now the time is right to try and cut the head off the shark fin beast in NJ. Both thresher and shortfin mako sharks are listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN's Red List with a decreasing population trend. In addition, they are the most sought after shark in the state. That is extremely alarming and should be alarming to the commercial fishermen who think they have a dogfish problem now. Sure, the meat of thresher and mako may fetch more than dogfish meat, but at the end of the day, it's the sale of the fins that really makes the catch worth it for the fishermen.

Obviously I am in full support of this bill. The bill passed the committee and will now move to the state senate. I really do feel that the exceptions that were put in place makes any hit that the commercial fishing industry would take virtually negligible. I think that this bill is designed to help cut the head off the shark fin trade in NJ and as a result help to further protect large species of shark that are in a lot of trouble right now. Will people go against the law and do it anyway? Of course they will, but at least they can be penalized for doing so. Having a federal law against shark finning is one thing. It's a law that will hardly ever actually be enforced. State laws banning shark fin trade however can be upheld and have been upheld in 9 other states.

There is no date set yet for this bill to be looked at by the state senate. When that date becomes public I will be sure to pass it along. The battle to save sharks in New Jersey is starting to heat up once again. Back in 2012 a similar bill was defeated before it even reached the senate. This time around, the bill looks more friendly to commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen. While it is not a true 100% ban on the sale of fins, it is a huge ste in the right direction. I've said all along that the dogfish issue is one that needs to be treated as a separate issue in New Jersey. While it is true that dogfish populations worldwide have declined, the opposite is true for the dogfish of New Jersey whom, along with various rays, continue to see their populations grow among a decreasing large shark population.

As always, thank you all for reading. If you would like to voice your support for this bill feel free to contact or write to New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak! You can contact him here or check out this page where you can find ore contact info. . From this blog I would like to voice a MASSIVE Thank You to Senator Lesniak for bringing this bill back to life and seeing it go to the state senate!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Desperation, Determination, and Tempers Surface in the Southern and Indian Oceans

Greetings everyone! Today I come to you all with an update on Sea Shepherd's ongoing anti poaching campaign in the Southern Ocean. Boy what a busy week it has been. So busy in fact that things were happening faster than I could find time to blog about! For the duration of this blog keep in mind where these ships are in the world. They are several hours ahead of where I am typing from so where they are it is already Sunday. This blog will be a timeline based on this timezone and not where the ships currently are located. Let's start with Monday...

On Monday, the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon located two illegal toothfish poaching vessels. The two vessels that were located are two of the three that the New Zealand Navy had followed around for a bit. The Sam Simon is now in pursuit of a fleeing poaching vessel, Kunlun. The Kunlun was ordered out of the area by the Sam Simon. Rather than leave, the illegal fishing vessel turned towards and nearly rammed the conservation vessel as seen below...

The poaching vessel, Yongding, turned toward the Sam Simon, missing a collision by 10 metres. Photo: Jeff Wirth
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Back on January 13th, at the request of the New Zealand Navy, the Kunlun and two other vessels were issued Interpol Purple Notices. As of this time, the Sam Simon continues to pursue the Kunlun which has left the fishing grounds.

On Wednesday, in the Indian Ocean, things heated up between the Sea Shepherd Vessel, Bob Barker, and the illegal toothfish poaching vessel, Thunder. During the night, the Thunder was seen deploying illegal fishing gear.

Crew of the Thunder trails nets from the stern of the poaching vessel. Photo: Simon Ager

With the fishing gear deployed, the poachers again began to flee the pursuing conservationists. Rather than lose the poachers, Sea Shepherd elected to continue the chase. After running for a day, the Thunder turned and began to head back towards the nets. The ships arrived back at the nets yesterday (Friday our time, Saturday their time) where a standoff took place. After about an hour or so of blocking the Thunder's attempts at recovering the net, the Captain of the Thunder decided to put the lives of both the conservationists and his own crew on the line. The poaching vessel crossed within one meter of the conservation vessel's bow as seen in the video that will be at the end of this paragraph. Also in the video you will see the illegal fishing operation. You will also notice a shark being tossed back into the sea. Sea Shepherd believes that the reason for this was that the Thunder was not fishing for a profit this time, but rather for food. If it had been for profit, the shark would probably have been finned. Whatever the reason, it is still illegal.

That brings us to what amounts to breaking news! Just a short time ago, Sea Shepherd posted on Facebook that they had shut down the Thunder's latest attempt at illegally fishing. The Captain of the Thunder radioed the Bob Barker and stated that they were going to resume fishing activities. The Bob Barker responded by telling the Thunder that they would obstruct any attempt at illegal fishing. As the Thunder began to deploy the line, the crew of the Bob Barker tossed a grappling hook and reeled in the net and cut the line leading back to the Thunder. Once the net was retrieved the Thunder reeled in the remainder of the net and ceased fishing operations. Obviously angered by the conservationists success, the captain of the Thunder radioed the Bob Barker claiming that they were going to get their fishing gear the easy way or the hard way and that the Bob Barker had declared "War" on them.
The buoy set marks the beginning of the Thunder's gillnet. Photo: Simon AgerThe crew of the Bob Barker recovery the buoy set marks, preventing the Thunder from shooting the rest of the net. Photo: Simon Ager

Photos: Sea Shepherd (Conservationists reeling in the line from the Thunder)

The Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt responded by saying that the net will be used as evidence against the Thunder and that the Thunder is more than welcome to follow the Bob Barker to port to retrieve the net. The Thunder chased after the faster conservation ship for two hours before stopping at which point, the Bob Barker also stopped. Latest news is that the two ships are just drifting.

So now you are all caught up on the pursuit of poachers in both the Southern and Indian Oceans. The Thunder is appearing to be more and more desperate with each passing day. Tempers are flaring and it seems that the pressure (and evidence) continues to be mounting against the poachers. Elsewhere the Sam Simon continues to pursue the  KunLun. Sea Shepherd's determination to do the job that the Government of Australia continues to fail in doing is unwavering and for that, the sea and anyone who cares about it must offer a huge thank you!!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Australia Fails Sharks Once Again

Greetings everyone. I hope all is well with all of you. Wow February already huh? So on the eve of the Superbowl I have finally gathered my thoughts for this blog. About a week/ week and a half ago or so, news began breaking that Australia would be backing out of it's commitment to protect 5 species of shark. Back in November of 2014, Australia agreed to protect 2 species of hammerhead and 3 species of thresher shark that migrate through Australian waters. This agreement was signed at the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). Suddenly the Australian Government had a change of heart and decided that these protections are simply not needed as the fishing of these species is already regulated.

While that is the case (Australia is one of the world leaders in conservation), it seems that this move is mostly a political one. By that I mean that this backing out is a result of fishermen pressure who like to commercially or for recreation, hunt these animals. The agreement would see those who caught the 5 species as a target or bycatch slapped with heavy fines and even jail time. So here's what I think about this apparent reservation Australia has...

I really do feel that the government of Australia has bowed not only to the recreational fishermen, but moreso the commercial fishermen. With seemingly endless and indiscriminate ways to catch mass amounts of fish at one time, the chances of bycatch is high. Long line fishing, gill nets, etc etc etc have all caught different species of shark throughout the course of history as bycatch. Under this new agreement those responsible for that bycatch would have to pay a heavy penalty if I am understanding correctly. Obviously the commercial fishermen don't want to have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars. At the same time, Australia decided to protect it's commercial fishing practices as they are now rather than revise them in order to help an international agreement to protect these 5 species of shark. Just another day in the land of Oz where more and more, the government really seems to just miss the boat sort to speak with sharks as of late...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reflections of One Year Ago

Greetings everyone. For those who are still following here from a year ago, you might remember yesterday and today as two days that really brought the world's eyes to Taiji, Japan. It was roughly one year ago that the fishermen of Taiji rounded up a superpod of over 200 bottlenose dolphins into the killing cove of Taiji.
I'm not going to be going over the entire story of what happened again as it has been a year, but I do want to reflect back on what was going on at the time and some major images and feelings that exploded over a four day period when these dolphins were being held with no food and in many cases divided from their families

Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Among the pod was an infant albino bottlenose dolphin. Originally it was thought that this dolphin would fetch an extremely heavy profit, but due to health conditions, the baby was sentenced to a life at the Taiji Whale Museum where it lives among preserved dolphin heads and an array of other objects such as dolphin fetuses jars... The baby was named "Angel" by conservationists and continues to be viewed as a major victim of the greed of the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter. As for Angel's mother... It is believed that she was one of the many that were slaughtered over the course of the four days.

Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The fishermen continued to prove to the now watching world that they truly have no regard for the lives of the dolphins they had caught. Time and time again, the fishermen would cut through the dolphin pod with skiffs, cutting many with the propeller of the skiff's motor as seen in the image above. This image of the dolphins being run over still brings back the feelings of anger and sorrow for these animals that were present at the time this was occurring. Many of the dolphins that were injured from the boats were slaughtered. 

The travesty that was occurring in Taiji drew the attention of the United States Ambassador Caroline Kennedy who posted on Twitter her concern about the inhumanity of Taiji. The town of Taiji would invite Caroline to Taiji to witness how humane the killing is. To my knowledge Caroline never made the trip to Taiji. At least she isn't blind to how inhumae the killings are...( Not for nothing, but spearing an animal time and time again until it's dead is not my idea of humane... Neither is jamming a cork in a marine mammal's blowhole to prevent bleeding.)

Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

As has been the case over the past few years, the killers of Taiji would try to hide what they do so "humanely" from the world by covering their operation with tarps. Still the gaps in the tarps exposed the blood red waters of the cove. 

Pressure from social media as well as world media eventually made itself known and luckily a large number of this superpod was driven back out to sea with the same techniques that they were driven into the cove. The Anonymous collective responded with the hacking of over 150 websites with connections to Taiji, including Sea World. CNN ran a special segment educating people about Taiji. Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage. For the first time since "The Cove" was released, Taiji was openly attacked by virtually everyone for what it was doing.

One year ago as Taiji hit the media again I had hoped that an end may have been so so close. However, life continued on and Taiji slowly fell back into the shadows and those who had been fighting continued to fight, but many of the outraged public fell back to their daily lives and the fishermen continued to do what they do best. In total 52 of the dolphins were sold into captivity, 41 died while in the nets, and roughly 130-140 were driven back out to sea. So here we are one year later. Taiji continues to capture and kill dolphins at will. 

What needs to be remembered at all times is why this slaughter even happens. I do not care what anyone's position is on cetaceans in captivity. I do not mean this to be pro or anti captivity, but here is the fact. This slaughter is largely the result of the captive dolphin industry. The Taiji fishermen and government claim that the primary reason this slaughter takes place is for food. The problem with that claim is that the demand for dolphin meat is so low it often is mislabeled as greater whale meat. Even then, it is really a chore to sell the meat as the demand for whale meat as a whole is on the decline as well. No folks, the real driving force behind the slaughter is the captive dolphin industry. Here is a very simple proof. Lets take a single bottlenose dolphin. The meat of that dolphin is worth roughly $100 USD, perhaps a bit more. That same dolphin can easily be sold into captivity for about $200,000 USD. That's not counting Angel whose price was approaching $4,000,000 before her health problems were noted.

The facts are what they are and until the demand for dolphins dies, this slaughter will continue. Without the captive trade, there would be no slaughter as there simply is not enough money generated without it. Japan claims that the Taiji drive hunt is a proud tradition. If it is so proud, why hide it? If it is so proud why try and prevent the world from seeing. The fact is that this "hunt" is nothing more than a massive greed move on the hands of Japan right up there with it's so called "scientific whale program". If the money stopped flowing, this "proud" tradition would fall to the wayside sooner rather than later.  

The Continuing Saga of Chasing Poachers

Greetings once again everyone! I hope all is well as usual. Today's blog will not be too terribly long, but will be yet another update on what is going on in both the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean in regards to Sea Shepherd pursuing illegal toothfish poachers. Before getting started I'd like to remind everyone that this is mostly a shark blog, but lately there's been a ton of news about the toothfish situation. Alright so let's get to it.

My last blog ended as Sea Shepherd was still, and still is hot on the trail of the illegal fishing vessel "Thunder". Since then the New Zealand Navy had intercepted three other illegal fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean, but were denied permission to board and inspect the vessels.
Illegal fishing boat Kunlun
Photo: New Zealand Defense Force

The ships, which can clearly be seen illegally catching toothfish did not fear the navy and continued to fish. New Zealand's Navy did nothing more than photograph and follow the vessels after being denied permission to board. The Navy followed and documented the activities until their ship needed to refuel. At that time Sea Shepherd announced that they would take up the chase of the three vessels with the "Sam Simon" while the "Bob Barker" continues to pursue the "Thunder". The Sea Shepherd vessel arrived at the last known location of the fishing vessels and began to recover a third massive gillnet. Once recovered the conservation group will set out to find the fishing vessels. In the mean time, Interpol has issued Purple Notices for all three ships and New Zealand has began contacting a variety of countries where these ships may attempt to offload their catch. New Zealand also claims that it will make it very difficult for these ships to offload their illegal cargo.

So that is where we are in what is becoming a saga of chasing poachers in the Southern and Indian Oceans. New Zealand's Navy has stepped up and the very real possibility remains that they will again go to the Southern Ocean to search for poachers. While New Zealand is doing what it can, Australia continues to idly stand by and do nothing to prevent the ravaging of the Southern Ocean as they have done year after year after year.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Illegal Toothfish Poachers to be Brought to Justice?

Greeting everyone. Today I come to you all with some cautiously good news. Reports are that the country of Mozambique is preparing to arrest the illegal toothfish vessel, "Thunder" should the vessel enter the country's waters. Ports throughout Mozambique have been alerted to the approaching vessel. It is estimated that the amount of catch that the "Thunder" is carrying could exceed a couple million dollars. Due to the ship beginning to run low on fuel and the need to offload it's catch, the ship will have to head to a port sooner than later. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who has been tailing the ship for a record 25 days, noted that the ship had slowed to a crawl of roughly 2 knots. The latest information I could find is that the ships are roughly 1,200 miles away from Mozambique and are well out of the Southern Ocean where the chase began.

Since the poaching vessel was spotted by Sea Shepherd 25 days ago, the ship has been on the run and has not been fishing. The other Sea Shepherd vessel in the area has been working on pulling up the illegal gillnets that the "Thunder" abandoned as they began to run. So far one massive gillnet has been recovered and a second at last update was still being recovered and appeared to be over 100 kilometers in length (over 60 miles). Over 250 toothfishes alone have been recovered and much of the catch is still being identified as many are in a state of serious decay. As the pressure continues to mount on the poachers, they have started to become more and more desperate.

Slowing to a crawling pace is not the only change in behavior of the vessel that had been doing everything it could to outrun the Sea Shepherd vessel. Over the past couple of days, the poachers have employed aggressive tactics such as shining their search lights directly onto the bridge of the Sea Shepherd ship, "Bob Barker", as well as aggressively turning and charging towards the larger conservation vessel. This shows me that these "people" are getting desperate. Until they began to act aggressively, the crew of the "Thunder" tried to escape Sea Shepherd by moving through the dense ice fields of the Southern Ocean as well as moving through incredibly strong Southern Ocean storms. Since they failed to lose the tail of the conservationists, the poachers have been heading north and as mentioned early, at last update were roughly 1,200 miles away from Mozambique.

With any luck, the poachers will continue to inch towards the waiting arms of Mozambique. With any luck the country that is claiming to be ready to apprehend these criminals will step up and do the job that should have been done by either France, Australia, or New Zealand when the ship was still in the Southern Ocean. This 25 day chase has been going on as an exact result of these three countries failure to arrest a vessel on the Interpol Purple List. Still, Sea Shepherd has not allowed these poachers to get away with their illegal fishing operation. They claim that they will follow these poachers to whichever port they land at, and virtually to the ends of the Earth. Once again, people who love the Ocean can thank this conservation group for taking care of the work of Governments. Hopefully the next time I blog on this topic it will be about the arrest of these illegal toothfish poachers!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Driving the Seas to the End

Greetings everyone. I hope all continues to be well. Today's blog is basically a continuation of my previous blog. In fact just mere hours after I posted that blog, Sea Shepherd announced that they had found and were in the process of bringing up another massive illegal gillnet in the Southern Ocean. As I type this blog, the conservation group continues to bring up the gillnet which is already over 10 kilometers ( over 6 miles) in length. Within this net are toothfish and various other species of fish, many of which are said, and certainly appear to be in a serious state of decay. So with that being said, this blog is largely going to be a visual blog. In my last blog I mentioned how dangerous this style of fishing is. This blog, thanks to Jeff Wirth and Sea Shepherd Global on Facebook, I can really show you what this type of fishing does to these animals and just how indiscriminate it is. With that being said.... WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES AHEAD!!!!!!!

The images tell the story. What makes all of this so much worse is that this net is an illegal net belonging to the poaching vessel "Thunder". Sea Shepherd is currently thinking that there are roughly double the number of animals in this net that was in the previous. This is a sad sad scenario, and the worst part about it is that this is not the only place in the world this is happening. Gillnet fishing is allowed in many areas of the world still and all too often scenarios where nets are left for too long or abandoned are all too common. This practice is highly unsustainable. Literally hundreds of toothfish in a single massive net among who knows how many other fishes, rays, etc. This form of destructive fishing is contributing to the depletion of various species of fish worldwide. This along with long line fishing are too destructive to exist in the fragile world we live in. If fish stocks word-wide are ever going to have a chance at making any sort of a comeback, gillnet fishing and long line fishing need to be either extremely reduced or eliminated.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year!/ Further Poaching Evidence in the Southern Ocean

Happy New Year one and all! Greetings and welcome to 2015 everybody. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve and Day. I'm going to dive right on in and fill you all in on what I have planned for the year 2015. First for the minor things. Expect to see a new blog layout coming in the near future. I've been using the same layout since I did my final operation so I think some change is in order. Perhaps brighten some things up a bit.... Perhaps not. Wait and see on that I guess is the best thing I can say. At the very least expect a new background soon. Keep watch because I plan on playing around with some other things on here too soon! Another little fun thing that I am going to be doing this year is a Shark of the Month blog. Basically these will be educational blogs about a specific species of shark. I'll be doing on of those blogs once a month. I'll try to include some videos, pictures, fun facts, and of course conservation information on top of all the other information I'll be putting out there about these 12 individual species (yes I have most of them done already).

Now for the bigger news. In the past this blog has focused on the following animals...
Manta Rays
Bluefin Tuna
For this year I will be doing something a tad different. The overall focus of this blog will remain on sharks, but I am going to be expanding the manta rays to all species of ray including the endangered sawfish. I will be cutting back a little bit on the marine mammal portion of the blog and expanding the bluefin tuna portion to encompass overfishing in general. I guess you could say the rundown of the blog for 2015 will look something like this...


I know many of you that read this blog are avid dolphin and whale lovers and I am as well. However, I feel that more attention needs to be brought to the other animals that live in the seas. While dolphins and whales are being exploited, there is no denying that sharks, rays, and many species of bony fish are being exploited far more. I want to make it clear to everyone though that I am not abandoning the marine mammals. There will still be plenty to talk about with them! So with all that being said I will now set the stage for the first blog of 2015!

2014 came to an end with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in hot pursuit of the illegal toothfish vessel "Thunder" in the Southern Ocean. From Christmas day through December 30th, the conservation group's second vessel, "Sam Simon" came across a massive illegal gillnet in the Southern Ocean that is believed to belong to the "Thunder". The net that was pulled from the sea is roughly 15 and a half MILES long. Inside the net was over 200 toothfish and a variety of bycatch that included jellyfishes, rays, crabs, and grenadiers (the fish not a person throwing grenades).
Veterinarian, Colette Harmsen and Biologist, Bia Figueiredo find eggs in a deceased female toothfish. Photo: Jeff Wirth
Many of the toothfish were female as seen by the eggs above (Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd)

 I cannot stress enough how destructive this method of fishing is. The Southern Ocean is a world that we know so little about. Even less so than the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian which we know nothing about either in reality. We have very little clue as to what the status of any fish is down there and in a very short period of time, members of a variety of species were caught in these nets and died. You may think to yourself "gill netting is a very old style of fishing so it can't be that bad". Well if that is your mentality consider this.

For example. Go back to before engines were invented in the United States. Colonists and Native Americans would use small gillnets to catch fish to feed their families. Since the nets were nowhere near 15 miles long, bycatch was very limited as was the potential catch. Now though, these massive nets collect a large amount of targeted catch and bycatch. So much in fact that in 1992, the United Nations banned the use of gillnets in International Waters and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources banned the use of gillnets in the Southern Ocean in 2004. This practice is banned for a very good reason. It can have devastating effects on the ecosystems in which they are used. This overfishing of the Antarctic toothfishes will eventually have a huge impact not only on the fish themselves, but the legal fishermen who catch them when and how they are supposed to. There are people that depend on these fish and soon they may not be able to as long as these poachers are allowed to freely scoop up as many fish as they see fit.

Sea Shepherd continues to tail the "Thunder" in the Southern Ocean. They have effectively shutdown one illegal toothfish operation with still no response from Australia, New Zealand, or France. It continues to be a true shame that these countries that are in the area refuse to bring these poachers to justice even as the evidence against them continues to mount. One would think that other fishery collapses around the world due to overfishing would give these governments a clue as to what could very well happen in the Southern Ocean.... Perhaps someday it will... More to come on this story from the Southern Ocean as Sea Shepherd continues doing what the governments of the world should be doing in Operation: Ice Fish.