Say No to Whales! #BTC4A

Say No to Whales! #BTC4A

2012.10.28 Georgia Aquarium

A free ticket and a desire to learn about ocean conservation landed me at the Georgia Aquarium a year ago. I was wholly impressed with their tremendous space, engineering, advanced technology, and how much information I absorbed. That was until, ultimately and sadly, I entered the dolphin show to see the equivalent of a circus performance and not the premium educational program I expected. Explosive music hurt my head and flashing lights were nauseating.I couldn’t fathom how this act of fairy-tale fiction was part of GA’s mission for education, research, or conservation. All I could see were 2 kids saying “I want one!” Terrific.

I headed for the door. Watching wildlife enslaved and exploited solely for human delight isn’t my thing.

On my way out, I passed the Beluga whales. As I watched them gracefully glide and float, anger subsided and joy took its place. I can’t help but think that these are one of the most beautiful species on this planet. Taking a seat for what I thought would be just a moment, I couldn’t tear myself away. But my perception changed as I sat watching. Over and over again, these beautiful whales rounded what amounts to a pond, bouncing themselves off of the confines of the glass.

Watch for yourself. This is the video I shot in October of 2012.

These creatures who had so quickly captured my heart were the cause of it breaking as I realized what a very sad and repetitious life they lead. GA boasts of having the largest aquarium habitat in the world, but it’s nothing more than a small prison to these incredibly intelligent whales who naturally explore 100s of miles of ocean out of sheer curiosity.

1.) Say No to New Russian Import Whales

I learned upon my return home that the Georgia Aquarium was asking permission from NMFS (now NOAA) to import 18 more Belugas from Russia for display. Sustainability of the whales in human captivity was of great concern, as was research and conservation – although the GA spends only 3% of their annual funding on conservation efforts. GA’s application, the first of its kind in more than 20 years, was also the first public display permit ever denied by NOAA in August. NOAA’s reasons include all the various ways that removing the whales from their natural habitat would cause considerable damage to the animals’ wild population. Read NOAA’s decision for yourself.

Guess what. GA is appealing the decision.  If overturned, Georgia Aquarium will transport the whales under breeding loan agreements to other U.S. partner facilities including Sea World of Florida, Sea World of Texas, Sea World of California, Shedd Aquarium and possibly Mystic Aquarium. (See SeaWorld’s issues below.)

How do these animals come to be captured? Watch if you’re brave enough.

If you agree that public display and hope of successful captive breeding to keep displays full isn’t enough reason to open Russia’s door on cruelly capturing and selling wild marine animals, tell GA!

Contact Public Relations:
Meghann Gibbons
Director, Communications
(404) 581-4109
mgibbons@georgiaaquarium.org

 

2.) Keep Whales Off Our Streets!

sad orca

And now, just in time for Thanksgiving, turkeys aren’t the only ones running for cover. SeaWorld will get promotional glory in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with their own float… unless we decide that it is not acceptable to enslave highly intelligent marine creatures like whales and dolphins. When these animals are confined in a small space, they become bored, angry, and lash out. Their human handlers have died when this happens, but it is humans who are at fault.

According to PETA’s petition, they have made Macy’s well aware of SeaWorld’s cruel treatment of animals, lack of concern for safety, and willful violation of federal law. Macy’s doesn’t seem to care, so let’s tell them how much WE do.

Tell Macy’s that promoting SeaWorld at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is offensive.  

 

3.) Keep Wild Aquatics Out of New Aquarium

2012.10.28 Georgia Aquarium

In June, Omni Development Co. announced a plan for a downtown Albany, NY science museum, aquarium and an IMAX-type theater on land originally targeted for an Albany Convention Center. On August 21, they announced hiring a consulting firm to study the feasibility of such a project. ConsultEcon of Cambridge, Mass., described as “the leading consultant to the aquarium and educational attractions industry,” has done numerous aquarium studies for cities in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia … including Atlanta. (Feel like you’re circling the same tank over and over yet?) The first phase of results is expected to be finished by the end of September and the findings shared with the public.

Well, some of the public isn’t waiting to be asked. Thanks to Change.org, a petition exists to express why a new aquarium is a bad idea. Albany may not be your home town, but consider this. The aquatic animals ripped from their natural habitat belong to none other than this Earth. And it’s our collective job to protect them no matter where you live.

Please tell Albany “No New Aquarium!”

Thanks for all your help today! This post (and those listed below) is written in honor of Blog the Change for Animals, which happens the 15th of every January, April, July and October. Join us!

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Dolphins Party with Margarita Mariners

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Dolphins Party with Margarita Mariners

Puerta Vallarta Pacific DolphinBottomless Margaritas flow freely as our small boat heads back to Puerto Vallarta from Yelapa. The party only gets better when hundreds of dolphins come to play.

Heading straight for us, they surround the sides of the boat, dive under and come up to see the people on the bow. Smiling for the camera, they come straight for – and playfully duck under – the boat’s photographer whose legs dangle in the water.

 

Boat DanceLeaving the dolphins in our wake, our playful crew puts on a show of their own, costumes and all. Is it the fact that we’re watching a stage show on the bow of a moving boat that makes this such a crack up?

Margarita MarinersNot to be outdone, we Margarita Mariners improvise our own show. I have to say, dancing unfamiliar moves on ocean swells while drinking makes folks appear far more intoxicated than they truly are. I, on the other hand, am probably exactly as intoxicated as I appear.

WHERE WE’VE BEEN SO FAR

  • Part 1:  Vacation in San Diego — We see shore birds, pigeons and fish which are pulled fresh from the water at the Empire Beach pier, and we ride a silver Mustang seeing more than a few Black Hawks as we drive through San Diego to Coronado Island and beyond, to the beach.
  • Part 2:  Ship Sets Sail — The sun is shining, sailboats are gliding through the bay, and the whole of the military is doing flybys to keep us in line on Lido deck. Enjoy the daytime view and stunning sunset from our veranda as the ship makes an impressive half-turn and heads for sea.
  • Part 3:  Wildlife of Bahia Magdelena — Bay waters teen with breaching gray whales, humpbacks, a harbor seal swimming for its life and other beautiful sea life.
  • Part 4: Whales of Puerto Vallarta — We board a small boat, the only means of transport to Yelapa beach, but find ourselves detoured by 7 feeding humpback whales. All this, after the most beautiful sunrise over Puerto Vallarta.
  • Part 5: Banderas Bay — After our crew’s entertaining dance, we relax in this beautiful landscape, snorkel with orange and black striped fish, and kayak the shoreline.
  • Part 6: Wildlife of Yelapa Lagoon — The remote resort of Yelapa has a a serene lagoon where humans, horses, and herons are great fun for playful Mexican dogs as well as a beautiful beach where humans play.
Human Threat to Seal Pups from La Jolla to Newfoundland

Human Threat to Seal Pups from La Jolla to Newfoundland

La Jolla Harbor Seal PupTHE BEAUTIFUL SEALS OF LA JOLLA, CA

Two weeks ago, I visited La Jolla, California to observe the harbor seals in residence at Casa Beach. Pup season runs from December through May and mother seals are continually drawn to this beautiful place to deliver their offspring.

Tourists and residents alike make the short walk to the beach from downtown La Jolla, often bringing their children to marvel at and learn more about the life of seals. According to La Jolla Friends of the Seals, 38 births have taken place on Casa Beach as of March 16th, many of which were witnessed from a respectful distance by humans in awe of the miracle of life taking place before them.

THE BEACH DEBATE

Of course, some people feel this beach should belong exclusively to humans. One man holds vigil at a table passing out pamphlets lauding the rights of people to use this space. Two men and a child frequently camp out on the beach, tossing a Frisbee too close to the seals. The child, at one point, was seen standing triumphantly on a rock lording over a mother giving birth. These accounts come from SealWatch volunteer, Colleen Cochran, in her recent article “Diary of a SealWatcher” (San Diego Reader, April 2, 2011).

The squatters mentioned above told Cochran that they don’t mind the seals, they just want to use the beach too. They believe the seals have a choice, as they do, to stay or go. While this sounds mutually congenial in theory, the human arrogance is undeniable and, with greater human visitation and activity, the seals will be forced to vacate from their ancient birthing place. Co-existence is, in no way, obtainable.

Cochran’s article, which outlines the specific reasons for and battles between seal proponents and the anti-seal contingent, reads:

San Diego Parks and Recreation Department promotes this myth of shared use. Posted signs at the entrance of the beach read, “Share the beach with the seals, but keep a safe distance.” The signs profess the unattainable, ” The beach and waters are open for public enjoyment. This is also a home and resting place for Harbor Seals.” They provide a typical political response, and like all such politic answers, solve nothing. In fact, this doublespeak is the sole cause of chaos at Casa Beach.

In the video I filmed at La Jolla, mother seals and their pups settle in at sunset for a restful night’s sleep, but for a short clip when the seals flee in haste. At that point, a man crossed the rope line for a picture and sent the pups scurrying – regardless of placards stating such behavior can separate pup from mom to the detriment of his or her survival. As my friends sternly told the man to get out, I’m pretty sure I called him a jackass right in front of his kid. I have no remorse. These beautiful creatures deserve a respectful distance.

BABY SEALS SHOT AND CLUBBED OFF CANADIAN SHORES

sealerWhile people push and push back over the fate of seals in La Jolla, a flimsy “advisory rope” exists and, for now, mother seals birth their pups in relative safety. Seal pups off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador are not so lucky.

Canada’s seal hunters began clubbing and slaughtering baby seals on Monday. Fred O’Regan of the International Fund for Animal Welfare shared a firsthand report from IFAW’s Seal Campaign Director, Sheryl Fink:

“Baby seals just a few weeks old are being shot at on small pans of ice, then clubbed or hooked and brought onboard the sealing ships to be skinned. Few sealers have been checking to see if the seals are unconscious before hooking or slicing them open.

Seals are also being killed for no reason – their bodies left on the ice to rot – a clear violation of Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations.

And in one horror-show case, we saw a young seal dumped in the bottom of a small boat while the sealers kept hunting and adding other bodies to the pile. The young seal – which was not checked to make sure it was unconscious – reaches up and waves its front flipper repeatedly, clearly still alive and in terrible agony.”

According to O’Regan, “Over 200,000 seals were saved last year. And this year only 27 sealing boats have joined this hunt so far – compared to 58 from last year. And this is significantly down from years past.”

If you have any interest in making this gruesome killing obsolete, please give now.

 

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Yelapa Lagoon

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Yelapa Lagoon

Yelapa LagoonLet’s take a small boat From Puerto Vallarta to the remote beach resort of Yelapa, a magical oasis for tourism, local crafts and wildlife. And yes, there are bottomless margaritas for all on this journey! The trick is not to spill them while riding the waves. (Yelapa is only accessible by boat.)

Once at the resort, bargain with locals for one-of-a-kind bead work or beautiful sarongs and drink a Mexican beer – all from your beach lounger. Of course, you might have to compete with some pretty beach-savvy Mexican dogs for that coveted seat at the shore. You’ll see what I mean… (Aside from the dogs, this video is mostly human. The next is about local wildlife if you prefer to skip ahead.)

Yelapa boasts a population of roughly 10,000 residents with its very own school and hospital. Still, the economy has much room for growth and tourism offers an opportunity for locals to persuasively peddle their wares. While this can be a bit too persuasive for comfort at times, we found a peaceful escape to quietly enjoy the beauty.

Walk with us to a lovely lagoon where Mexican dogs playfully romp along-side herons, horses, humans, egrets, cormorants and sand pipers, as soaring black vultures with white-tipped wings glide through bluebird skies.

As an important aside, while we love iguanas and find them fascinating, to see them leashed and manhandled by sweaty, suntan-lotioned people during every sunny beach hour just doesn’t seem fair. For that reason, we refused to pose with one for a photograph.

WHERE WE’VE BEEN SO FAR

  • Part 1:  Vacation in San Diego — We see shore birds, pigeons and fish which are pulled fresh from the water at the Empire Beach pier, and we ride a silver Mustang seeing more than a few Black Hawks as we drive through San Diego to Coronado Island and beyond, to the beach.
  • Part 2:  Ship Sets Sail — The sun is shining, sailboats are gliding through the bay, and the whole of the military is doing flybys to keep us in line on Lido deck. Enjoy the daytime view and stunning sunset from our veranda as the ship makes an impressive half-turn and heads for sea.
  • Part 3:  Wildlife of Bahia Magdelena — Bay waters teen with breaching gray whales, humpbacks, a harbor seal swimming for its life and other beautiful sea life.
  • Part 4: Whales of Puerto Vallarta — We board a small boat, the only means of transport to Yelapa beach, but find ourselves detoured by 7 feeding humpback whales. All this, after the most beautiful sunrise over Puerto Vallarta.
  • Part 5: Banderas Bay — After our crew’s entertaining dance, we relax in this beautiful landscape, snorkel with orange and black striped fish, and kayak the shoreline.
Mexican Riviera Cruise: Banderas Bay

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Banderas Bay

Banderas BayThis week, we share with you our entertaining crew of an excursion called “Two if by Sea.” Dancing on the bow of the boat, they show us their stuff before whisking us off to Banderas Bay for some snorkeling and kayaking. The birds and fish were gorgeous, and you might think the same of some of our crew.

If you missed the whales we saw on the way here, go back and watch. That was a sight to see!

WHERE WE’VE BEEN SO FAR

  • Part 1:  Vacation in San Diego — We see shore birds, pigeons and fish which are pulled fresh from the water at the Empire Beach pier, and we ride a silver Mustang seeing more than a few Black Hawks as we drive through San Diego to Coronado Island and beyond, to the beach.
  • Part 2:  Ship Sets Sail — The sun is shining, sailboats are gliding through the bay, and the whole of the military is doing flybys to keep us in line on Lido deck. Enjoy the daytime view and stunning sunset from our veranda as the ship makes an impressive half-turn and heads for sea.
  • Part 3:  Wildlife of Bahia Magdelena — Bay waters teen with breaching gray whales, humpbacks, a harbor seal swimming for its life and other beautiful sea life.
  • Part 4: Whales of Puerto Vallarta — We board a small boat, the only means of transport to Yelapa beach, but find ourselves detoured by 7 feeding humpback whales.
Mexican Riviera Cruise: Whales of Puerto Vallarta

Mexican Riviera Cruise: Whales of Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta SunrisePUERTO VALLARTA TO YELAPA

Puerto Vallarta’s sunrise, on this morning, is a spectacular blend of hot pink and orange clouds hanging low over the city, their reflections dancing playfully upon the water. Enjoy them in the moment. Each color burst fizzles quick like fireworks in the Mexican sky giving way to the full sun of morning and a spectacular view of … Walmart?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Inh3T4deDzk

A WHALE OF A DETOUR

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJUg_sbtk_o

Humpback WhalesWe board a small boat as the only means of transport to Yelapa, a small, secluded beach resort where we plan to kayak, scuba dive and drink plenty of Margaritas.

On our way, we spot seven humpback whales ahead in the distance. They approach a neighboring boat, dip under it, then turn toward ours. Hovering, floating and arcing near the surface, the whales appear to be bubble netting. They collectively blow bubbles in a ring to disorient small fish and come up from the center to scoop a hefty meal with their baleen. The show is unexpected, somewhat unnerving in proximity, and ultimately a mind-blowing encounter. I’m so glad you’re here to experience it with us!

WHERE WE’VE BEEN SO FAR

  • Part 1: San Diego – We see shore birds, pigeons and fish which are pulled fresh from the water at the Empire Beach pier. We ride a silver Mustang seeing more than a few Black Hawks as we drive through San Diego to Coronado Island and beyond, to the beach.
  • Part 2: Ship Sets Sail – The sun is shining, sailboats are gliding through the bay, and the whole of the military is doing flybys to keep us in line on Lido deck. Enjoy the daytime view and stunning sunset from our veranda as the ship makes an impressive half-turn and heads for sea.
  • Part 3: Wildlife of Bahia Magdelena – Bay waters teem with breaching gray whales, humpbacks, a harbor seal swimming for its life and other beautiful sea life.