The dolphin snatchers: Mail investigation exposes vile trade where animals are sold for up to £100,000 each to aquariums where they suffer unimaginable cruelty

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For the men wearing wetsuits wading in a shallow bay teeming with trapped wild dolphins, the decision is as simple as it is ruthless. Running their hands carefully over each dolphin’s body, they check to ensure the creature is free from scars, particularly on the dorsal and tail fins.

At first glance this human interaction with one of the few creatures said to possess an intellect close to our own appears an act of caring tenderness. But in reality, these are businessmen selecting their merchandise for a multi-million-pound trade in live dolphins. The best specimens (usually young females, or cows) are removed from their families to be sold live for between £50,000 and £100,000 each to aquariums.

The dolphins they reject — the ones with minor blemishes on their skin — are slaughtered where they are trapped in that cove at Taiji on the south coast of Japan.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Discretion advised when scrolling down!

The cruel sea: A dolphin selected for sale last month in Japan. Others that are 'not suitable' are killed

The cruel sea: A dolphin selected for sale last month in Japan. Others that are ‘not suitable’ are killed

In a frenzy of violence that has shocked animal lovers and marine environmentalists around the world, some are speared repeatedly by fisherman circling in motorboats whose propellers often slice the dolphins’ skin. Others are simply held underwater to drown.

Sometimes, a metal pole is rammed into their blubber in the hope of shattering the mammal’s spine. A cork stopper is then hammered into the hole where the rod was forced in, to try to reduce the blood spilt into the sea — to conceal the extent of the slaughter.

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The rejects are slaughtered for their meat. Some are speared repeatedly by fisherman circling in motorboats whose propellers often slice the dolphins’ skin

Invariably a few dolphins try to make a break for freedom and attempt to jump over the netting that seals off the bay.

However, amid the blood-red waters almost all of them eventually succumb to their fate. These barbaric scenes took place just before Christmas, during a hunting season when Japanese fishermen ‘harvest’ dolphins to supply to aquariums for human entertainment.

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Killer cove: The dolphins they reject – the ones with minor blemishes on their skin – are trapped in a cove at Taiji on the south coast of Japan

It is estimated that for every wild dolphin caught to be trained to perform tricks in captivity, around four times that number are slaughtered.

The fishermen then sell off the meat for about £10 a kilo. They see the creatures as a menace because they pose a threat to the dwindling reserves of fish in the Pacific Ocean.

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Blood red: Japanese fishermen collect the bodies of harpooned dolphins from the bloody waters of a bay in Taiji

But for those that survive the slaughter, life might as well be over.The stress a dolphin suffers as a result of being captured, transported and imprisoned in a small tank dramatically reduces its lifespan

While wild dolphins live for up to 60 or 70 years, captured ones often perish when they are as young as eight, say environmentalists.

According to marine experts, some dolphins are so distressed by their capture that they commit suicide.

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The odds: For every wild dolphin caught to be trained to perform tricks in captivity, around four times that number are slaughtered

One of the most vocal campaigners against the practice is also one of the most knowledgeable — he is the very man who helped create and promote the worldwide aquarium industry.

Ric O’Barry became famous in the Sixties as the on-screen trainer of the five dolphins that played Flipper in the popular U.S. TV series, which was also hugely successful in Britain.

For ten years he worked at Miami Seaquarium, where he trained the wild mammals after capturing them on hunting expeditions in the Pacific.

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Rounding them up: Fishermen drive bottle-nose dolphins into a net during their annual hunt off Taiji. The ‘drive hunt’ involved five or six large fishing vessels sailing out to sea to find a pod of dolphins

But when Kathy, the main dolphin that played Flipper, died in his arms after apparently losing the will to live, he says it dawned on him how cruel captivity is for such intelligent and social creatures.

For the past 40 years he has travelled the world highlighting the plight of dolphins in amusement parks, and even releasing them from those parks into the wild, often getting arrested in the process.

Three years ago, he made a documentary called The Cove, which revealed the truth about the ‘drive hunts’ that take place at Taiji in Japan. Yet since then, the practice has continued unabated — as these photographs demonstrate only too graphically.

O’Barry, 73, says live dolphins taken from the waters in Japan are shipped to aquariums and ‘swim-with-dolphin’ centres mostly in the Far East. Speaking from his home in Miami, O’Barry says: ‘Taiji is the number one location to get dolphins for the dolphinarium industry — or what I called “abusement parks”.’

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Some dolphins are so distressed by their capture that they commit suicide. the stress that they suffer as a result of being captured dramatically shortens their lifespan

Although there are no international laws banning the shipment of live dolphins to those countries prepared to accept them, O’Barry claims the dolphins undergo terrible suffering.

‘After enduring a painfully long period of transportation, they are put into often filthy and confined conditions at aquariums. ‘These are free-ranging creatures with a large brain whose primary sense is sound.

‘Some have been placed in aquariums at casinos where the noise is appalling. These environments are hell-holes to creatures used to the open seas and which often swim up to 100 miles in a day in search of food. ‘They are taken away from the two most important aspects of their life — the world of oceanic sound and their families. ‘They end up suffering depression. I believe they are also capable of trying to commit suicide.’

Two years ago at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in south-western Japan, hundreds of tourists at a marine show looked on in astonishment as a large dolphin rose up out of the water tank to balance precariously on the glass barrier of the aquarium. It then threw itself out of the water on to the ground.

Touchingly, the other dolphins in the tank swam to the glass wall to look at the plight of their companion, called Kuru (meaning ‘black’). The dolphin was eventually put into a huge tarpaulin sling and winched by a crane back into the water.

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The hunt is on: Taiji’s fishermen are licensed by the national government to catch 2,100 dolphins and pilot whales in the six-month hunting season

The incident was filmed by an appalled American tourist, who passed the footage on to O’Barry. While many thought the mammal was trying to make a break for freedom, O’Barry believes it was more likely it wanted to commit suicide.

‘It was depressed and wanted to end it,’ O’Barry says, adding that it had been in captivity for six years after being taken from the wild. ‘I have seen it many, many times. They are living in a world of sensory deprivation, then bombarded with a wall of noise from the crowd.’

After the clip was made public the aquarium managers immediately issued a statement saying the dolphin was ‘playing around’ and suffered minor scratches and bruises on its head and fin. It was, they insisted, fine and enjoyed a healthy serving of mackerel and squid once returned to the tank.

They did admit, however, that dolphins occasionally jump out of the water on to dry land, so they have now placed crash mats around the perimeter of the three tanks in their amusement park to avoid serious injury.

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A hidden practice: Due to worldwide concern, the fishermen now try to hide the slaughter. The kills take place out of sight underneath blue tarpaulins

The trade in wild dolphins to U.S. aquariums has ceased due to public outrage, and the high-profile campaigns of activists like O’Barry.

There are no captive dolphins in Britain either as a result of a public backlash against the shows. Only a few are on show in Europe, and these animals were born in captivity — although O’Barry fears even this poses a threat to the mammals’ welfare because there is now a problem with inbreeding. O’Barry exhorts the public never to attend dolphin aquariums.

‘The solution lies with the consumer,’ he says. ‘Don’t buy a ticket for a captive dolphin show. ‘This is a multi-million-dollar industry I helped create. I remember loading them onto the planes after the Flipper show became so popular. At one point there were more dolphins in the UK than in Florida.

‘But the consumer now has to bring his power to bear on this trade, which also results in the slaughter of all those other dolphins. There is more money in live dolphins than dead ones, but the one fuels the other.’

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A fisheries worker guides the carcass of dolphins at ‘killer cove’ in Taiji, Japan. The fishermen claim that any kills that take place are humane and that it takes only seconds for the dolphins to die

In Taiji, Nicole McLachlan, of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is part of a team monitoring the capture and killing of dolphins that takes place from September to March each year in the small port where whales have been hunted since the 17th century. Last month alone, she claims up to 170 cetaceans were killed, including pilot whales, risso, striped and bottlenose dolphins. More than 100 were captured for aquariums.

Such is worldwide concern over the slaughter that the fishermen try to hide it. ‘Nowadays the kills take place out of sight underneath blue and brown tarpaulins that cover the bay,’ the Australian marine environmentalist says.

The carnage lasts about half an hour. It is harrowing. ‘They are terrified. You hear the dolphins screaming; it’s a high-pitched wailing sound. ‘There is splashing as they thrash around in the water. Young dolphin calves are often among those slaughtered within the cove; some are younger than a year old.’

Yet locals are adamant it should continue. Police monitor the activists while many of the town’s 3,500 residents — most of whom are linked to the fishing industry — arrive to support the fishermen in this Japanese tradition.

The ‘drive hunt’ (‘oikomiryou’ in Japanese) involves five or six large fishing vessels sailing out to sea to find a pod of dolphins. The fishermen bang metal poles against the side of the boat to disorientate and scare them.

More boats arrive, making the same noise, to corral the confused and by now terrified pod into the cove, which is then sealed off. The next day the inspectors arrive to examine their quarry and separate the dolphins for the aquariums from those to be killed.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, between 1968 and 1972, only 77 live-caught bottlenose dolphins were sent to aquariums from such hunts. But now Taiji’s 120 fishermen are licensed by the national government to catch 2,100 dolphins and pilot whales in the six-month hunting season.

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A fisherman tows away dolphins that have been tied by rope to the front of his boat. In 2011, about 15 per cent of dolphins were taken into captivity (68 were kept alive and 968 killed)

The fishermen claim any kills that take place, particularly those where the rod shatters the spine, are humane and that it takes only seconds for the dolphins to die. It is a claim vehemently refuted by marine environmentalists.

A spokesman for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said: ‘In 2011, about 15 per cent of the dolphins were taken for captivity (68 were kept alive and 968 killed). ‘The year before that (2010-2011), nearly 20 per cent were taken into captivity (213 were sold for aquariums and 1,100 were killed)  This year, however, may be even higher due to the 100 bottlenose dolphins already taken into captivity.’

In the summer months, long after the blood has been washed away from Taiji cove, tourists arrive to swim in the bay — with dolphins. The town has a whale museum and fish tanks in which dolphins are kept — in 2011, two dolphins were filmed in a tank so small it was nicknamed ‘the fish-bowl’.

Captured dolphins also swim in the bay, which is sealed off to ensure they cannot bolt to freedom.

And as tourists marvel at the antics of these sensitive creatures and play with them, almost every one remains blissfully unaware of Taiji’s bloody secret — and of how young healthy dolphins are snatched away from their parents to amuse humans in this callous multi-million-pound trade.

News Link:– http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257426/The-dolphin-snatchers-Mail-investigation-exposes-vile-trade-animals-sold-100-000-aquariums-suffer-unimaginable-cruelty.html#ixzz2H3wYDyHM

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Gray Whale Population Before Whaling Was Up to 5 Times Larger, Study Says

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The population of eastern Pacific gray whales shows a huge dip at the same point that whaling increased in the early 20th century, a new analysis of acient whale genes shows.

Eastern Pacific gray whales are a subspecies of grey whale that lives in the Pacific Ocean, migrating from the Arctic to Mexico yearly. Their population is currently estimated to be around 20,000. They are up to 46 feet (14 meters) long and weigh up to 99,000 pounds (45,000 kilograms).

While scientists have known that commercial whaling decreased whale populations, the specifics of the population prior to whaling has been uncertain. To get a better understanding of the pre-whaling numbers for one subspecies of gray whale, the researchers used DNA samples from the bones of eastern Pacific gray whales that lived between 150 and 2,500 years ago and compared the results with the genomes of modern whales.

“In this case, we were able to look at pre-whaling specimens of gray whales, and found that the genetic data are consistent with a sharp and recent bottleneck — very likely the result of commercial whaling,” study researcher Elizabeth Alter, of City University of New York, York College, said in a statement.

They saw that the older whales, from before the advent of commercial whaling, had much more variation within their genomes than today’s whales. This means that at the time, the whale population was much larger.

This genetic data on those whales suggests their population used to be much larger than their current numbers, probably around 78,000 to 116,000. These estimates were at odds with historical records of whale populations, the researchers said, which had suggested that there were somewhere between 15,000 and 35,500 whales at that time.

Their new study supports the previous genetic work, which focused on only current whale populations and suggested their numbers were much larger even as little as 200 years ago.

“Retrieving DNA from ancient whales allows more direct insights into their population histories than using modern DNA alone,” Alter said. “As methods for retrieval and analysis of ancient DNA improve, we’ll be able to increasingly refine population histories for heavily exploited species like whales.”

News link:-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/12/gray-whale-population-whaling_n_1511704.html?ref=topbar

Tell the State Department to Stand Up for Marine Reserves

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Tell the State Department that you care about the health of our oceans and urge them to either take the lead on establishing a network of marine reserves or to get out of the way this summer.

There’s almost no protection at all for the world’s oceans. And it shows…

  • Companies like Chicken of the Sea are pushing some tuna and shark species to the brink of extinction in the Pacific Ocean with their destructive fishing practices.
  • Industrial fishing vessels are destroying the breathtaking coral habitats of the Bering Sea canyons and putting an entire ecosystem at risk.
  • Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian whaling vessels continue to ignore international law and kill thousands of majestic whales from the Southern Ocean to the North Atlantic each year.

These challenges can be addressed together with a single solution — a network of fully protected marine reserves. So why is the State Department standing in the way?

It’s time they took action to protect our oceans. Urge them to take the lead in establishing a network of marine reserves before it’s too late.

Right now, less than one percent of the world’s oceans are set aside as marine reserves. That’s why we’re working on a global agreement which would allow the international community to establish a network of marine reserves on the high seas. Unfortunately, the US government seems to be standing in the way of these efforts by refusing to join along with other countries who are in favor of developing a new agreement to create a network of marine reserves.

The high seas are like the Wild West at the moment. It might be good for the companies that are making billions off the destruction, but it is killing our oceans. If we don’t start protecting and managing our oceans they aren’t going to survive. Marine reserves are a proven and cost effective tool for protecting biodiversity, rebuilding fish populations, and enhancing fisheries in surrounding areas.

The best chance we have to get the international community on the right path toward creating a network of protected areas is this summer in Brazil. The US delegation is developing their position right now. It’s the perfect time to let them know you are paying attention.

A global network of fully protected marine reserves would benefit sea turtles, whales, tuna, seals, narwhals and any other creature (including humans) that you can think of. We’ll be at the meetings this summer working hard for this outcome. Without your support, it won’t matter.

Send your letter to the State Department today and tell them that we need the US to join the G77, the European Union, and most of the rest of the world in standing up for marine reserves.

Chris Jordan: Polluting Plastics

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Photographer Chris Jordan specializes in large-scale works that depict the magnitude of our consumerism and its impact on our environment. In one of the most emotional presentations at PopTech 2009, Jordan shares heart-wrenching images of birds killed by ingesting plastics that increasingly pollute our oceans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGl62LuQask&feature=related

Journey to Midway – Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Sea

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“I had no idea the problem was so big, we all need to look closely at how we dispose of our rubbish!”

In this video by Riley Morton, photographer Chris Jordan discusses his Midway Project; a fine art photography series documenting the tragic phenomenon of the death of the local albatross population due to excessive intake of plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch.

 

 

MIDWAY

The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

We frame our story in the vividly gorgeous language of state-of-the-art high-definition digital cinematography, surrounded by millions of live birds in one of the world’s most beautiful natural sanctuaries. The viewer will experience stunning juxtapositions of beauty and horror, destruction and renewal, grief and joy, birth and death, coming out the other side with their heart broken open and their worldview shifted. Stepping outside the stylistic templates of traditional environmental or documentary films, MIDWAY will take viewers on a guided tour into the depths of their own spirits, delivering a profound message of reverence and love that is already reaching an audience of tens of millions of people around the world.

Click here for more info:- Ocean Trash Plaguing our Sea

The currents of the North Pacific gyre have corraled so much trash - shown in this image in the circle labeled "study area" - that it has been dubbed the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a circular pattern of currents, called the North Pacific gyre, has corralled an enormous vortex of floating garbage. Often referred to as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, the area is like a slowly churning bowl of plastic soup. Roughly 80 percent of the debris, which ranges from bottles and fishing gear to toothbrushes and packaging scraps, came from land.

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