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.