Japanese Police Harass Marine Wildlife Conservationists
Eighteen officers of the Wakayama Prefecture police raided the Charmant Hotel where Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians have been staying near Taiji, Japan. Armed with a warrant, which they claimed was for video taken by Cove Guardian Erwin Vermeulen, the police seized all of the Sea Shepherd volunteers' computers, phones, hard drives, photos, cameras and other items that the police deemed suspicious. The cell phones and cameras emptied of all secure digital (SD) cards were subsequently returned to the three Sea Shepherd volunteers present. No reasons have been given for this raid.
The raid follows the arrest of Dutch citizen and Cove Guardian Vermeulen, who was charged with assault on an employee of the Dolphin Resort Hotel. Vermeulen had been filming the transfer of dolphins from the sea to holding pens at the resort, and this employee called out to the police and claimed that Vermeulen had pushed him. There were no witnesses to this event. Vermeulen has been held in jail at Shingu since Dec. 16 with no communication or visitation permitted from Sea Shepherd personnel or family members.
This is the latest in a recent series of instances of harassment of Sea Shepherd volunteers in Japan. Two female Cove Guardians were assaulted by a fisherman Nov. 5, despite video evidence of the unprovoked assault, the fisherman was questioned briefly and released. On arrival in Osaka airport Dec. 16, enroute to Taiji, a male Cove Guardian from the U.S. was stripped down to his underwear, searched, and all of his computer equipment, camera, and Sea Shepherd clothing and paraphernalia were taken from him. No reason was given.
Detained and stripped of all electronics and communications equipment except their personal cell phones during the hotel raid were Sea Shepherd's remaining three Cove Guardians (Scott West, Melissa Sehgal and Ron Ball) and one volunteer from "Save Japan Dolphins" (Heather Hill), all U.S. citizens. They have since been released.
Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians have been present to photo-document this ignoble tradition every September-March since 2008. Their mission is to promote public awareness and to pressure the government of Japan to stop supporting and permitting this practice. The Cove Guardians follow strict guidelines from Sea Shepherd headquarters to respect all local laws, maintain a low profile, and to serve as journalists to witness and document events there. This is the first time ever that the Cove Guardians have been imprisoned, subject to search and seizure, or even accused of violating any local laws.
The government of Japan has been taking multiple approaches to hobble Sea Shepherd's nonviolent protests of their large-scale dolphin and whale slaughters, through combinations of arrests, harassment, lawsuits, and imposition of financial and psychological hardship on the organization and its volunteers.
They have filed a lawsuit against Sea Shepherd in the U.S. for allegedly interfering with their annual whale hunt. And they claim to have spent the equivalent of $30 million USD this year, over and above their usual subsidies, to equip their whalers now headed for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with new tactics to oppose Sea Shepherd. This, despite the underfunded Tsunami Relief Fund and despite the International Maritime Organization's new regulation banning the use of heavy fuel oil—hence of the type used by the whalers' factory ship—south of 60° latitude.
Sea Shepherd's Founder and President, Captain Paul Watson said, "None of these bullying tactics by Japan will deter us from continuing to protect the whales and dolphins and other marine life of this planet."
This year's killing season in Taiji will go on through the end of March 2012. Sea Shepherd is encouraging the public to send emails, letters, phone calls and other communications to local Taiji government offices, the Fishermen's Union, Taiji Whale Museum, Dolphin Base, the Dolphin Resort hotel, and Japanese embassies and consulates around the world. They are also requesting donations to cover immediate replacement of at least one laptop and several SD cards for the volunteers' cameras, so that their documentation work can continue immediately.
For more information, click here.
For several years, Sea Shepherd has been documenting and working to gain public support in order to end the brutal, unnecessary, unproductive annual capture and slaughter of hundreds of wild dolphins in Taiji, Japan. The continued courageous on-site presence of Sea Shepherd volunteers has brought about significant reduction in the number of dolphins tortured and killed, but their aim is to end it. Sea Shepherd's campaign in Taiji this year is called Infinite Patience, and their volunteers there are known as Cove Guardians.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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