February 22 is the birthday of conservationist and beloved TV personality "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who would have been 57 years old today.
Irwin's life was tragically cut short when the barb from a stingray went through his chest while he was filming in 2006, but his legacy of loving and protecting wildlife lives on, most recently in a Google Doodle today honoring his birthday.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rescue efforts are underway after a pod of whales beached Monday morning off the province of Aceh in Indonesia.
As part of its ongoing Operation Bloody Fjords campaign, the ocean conservation group sent a crew of volunteers posing as tourists to six different Faroese towns covering 19 designated whaling bays with the aim of "[exposing] the continued barbaric killing of dolphins and pilot whales," campaign leader and Sea Shepherd UK Director Robert Read said.
More than 500 volunteers flocked to a remote bay in New Zealand in response to a devastating mass stranding of pilot whales.
Around 416 pilot whales beached near the base of Farewell Spit in Golden Bay overnight, of which 250 to 300 were already dead when the whales were discovered, the Department of Conservation announced in a Feb. 10 media release.
A witness told The Washington Post that the whales were "crying and sighing" as they lay stranded on the beach.
Hundreds of pilot whales have been stranded on a beach in New Zealand and most have died https://t.co/bP8WtC58jL— Sky News (@Sky News)1486728261.0
Friday's incident was the third largest whale stranding ever recorded in New Zealand and the largest known whale stranding in the country since 1985, when 450 were stranded in Auckland, Reuters reported.
Rescuers tried to refloat the remaining cetaceans during high tide on Friday morning but only had partial success. Around 50 whales had swum out of the bay but 80 to 90 had re-stranded on the beach by the afternoon.
Andrew Lamason, Department of Conservation operations manager for Golden Bay, told The Guardian it was common for whales involved in a mass stranding to re-beach themselves because they are very social animals who like to stay in close proximity to their pod.
"We are trying to swim the whales out to sea and guide them but they don't really take directions, they go where they want to go. Unless they get a couple of strong leaders who decide to head out to sea, the remaining whales will try and keep with their pod on the beach," he said.
The rescue team has been pouring water over the re-stranded whales to try and keep them cool before floating them out at the next high tide. Children also sang songs to keep the creatures calm.
"I've never seen anything like this," a volunteer named Petra Dubois told Stuff.co.nz. "It's just so unbelievably sad to see all these bodies; so many lives gone and so many that might not survive. Just so devastating, I really don't know what to say."
Lamason explained to The Guardian that many volunteers were working around the clock in chilly temperatures and mentally traumatic conditions.
"It is cold, it's wet and some of us have been in and out of the water for nine hours now. We can only cope with robust volunteers, not ones that are going to break down, which happens quite often," he said.
According to RadioNZ, the effort to refloat the remaining 80 to 90 whales will resume Saturday. The whales will be kept comfortable and can survive for several days as long as they are kept cool and wet.
The cause of the stranding is unclear. However, Lamason said that the bay was prone to mass strandings due to the area's shallow waters that can confuse the mammals' sonar and find it difficult to get back out.
Cape Farewell is a headland in New Zealand 400 pilot whales who have become stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay. https://t.co/6CEaCwe6Qo— Tony (@Tony)1486679071.0
Still, the latest event came as "a shock," Project Jonah manager Darren Grover told Reuters.
In an interview with RadioNZ, Otago University zoologist Liz Slooten ruled out seismic blasting as a cause since the last survey in the area was done nearly a week ago. The blasting of seismic testing can potentially disorientate whales.
She added that the cause of the latest mysterious stranding may never be known.
According to Project Jonah, "strandings are complex events and there are many reasons why dolphins and whales may strand. In most cases the exact cause is unknown but any one of the following factors, or a combination of them, can be the cause."
Pilot whales are not considered to be endangered even though they are depleted in some areas. The American Cetacean Society stated, "There are likely to be almost a million long-finned pilot whales and at least 200,000 short-finned pilot whales worldwide."
Oceana filed a lawsuit in federal court in California late Wednesday challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to withdraw a proposed rule that would have protected endangered species, including whales and sea turtles, and taken an important step forward in efforts to clean up one of the nation's dirtiest fisheries—drift gillnets targeting swordfish off California. The rule would have required an immediate closure of the fishery if limits on the injury or death of nine protected species were reached.
The new federal administration withdrew a proposed rule Monday that would have protected endangered species—including whales, dolphins and sea turtles—caught and killed in the drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish off California. Monday's decision demonstrates the administration's blatant disregard for recommendations of its own fishery advisors and reverses course on commitments made by the previous administration.
By Jason Bittel
Waves lap at motionless heaps of blubber and fins and the sun bears down on chapped skin. Gulls start to, well, do what gulls do. This heartbreaking scene happened in January when nearly 100 false killer whales became stranded along a remote shore in the Florida Everglades.
Dozens of pilot whales came ashore in Probolinggo, East Java province, Indonesia, in a mass stranding event.
Thirty-two short-finned pilot whales beached themselves during high tide Wednesday, according to The Guardian. Fishermen and officials were able to save 24 of them, but eight returned to shore overnight and died.
Photo credit: Marine Connection
Hundreds of rescuers used multiple methods to get the whales back into the ocean. Fishermen and officials wrapped tarps around the whales and pulled them back out to sea. Swimmers jumped into the water to scare off whales that weren't already beached. Some disoriented whales were even escorted with boats to ensure they didn't end up back on shore.
“At first there were just one or two whales swimming near the shore, and the nature of whales is that if they are sick they will come near the shore," Dedy Isfandi, the head of the local maritime and fisheries office, said.
“But whales have such high social interaction—when one fell ill, they approached the sick one to swim back to sea ... when the tide fell all of them were trapped."
Dozens of pilot whales stranded in #Indonesia, 8 dead https://t.co/cGvUO5ymFf https://t.co/hSQZLFByja— The Straits Times (@The Straits Times)1466060203.0
Vets and scientists are conducting autopsies on the animals to figure out why they stranded themselves, The Guardian said. Some officials said turbulent waters in the Indian Ocean or consuming something poisonous could be the cause.
Short-finned pilot whales are part of the oceanic dolphin family, though their behavior is closer to that of whales. Adult males can reach 18-feet in length; females can be 12-feet long. This whale species also has a long life expectancy with males and females living up to 45 and 60 years, respectively.
The primary habitat for short-finned pilot whales is warm, tropical waters. Populations can be found all over the world. There is not enough data to determine their conservation status.
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By Angela Dassow
Love them or hate them, wolves are vital members of natural ecosystems and the health of a wolf population can be an important factor in maintaining balance among species. Wolf populations are growing in North America—the Great Lakes region in particular now supports more than 3,700 individuals. Keeping track of wolf pack movements is important for reducing human-wolf conflicts which can arise when packs move too close to ranches.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is asking big-box retailer Costco to stop its purchase and sale of salmon exported from the Faroe Islands until the Faroes bring the brutal and archaic mass slaughter of pilot whales and other cetaceans, known as the "grindadráp" or "grind," to a grinding halt.
Actors Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver), Eric Balfour (Haven), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Ross McCall (24: Live Another Day), Cliff Simon (Stargate SG-1), Clive Standen (Vikings); actresses Shannen Doherty (Charmed and Beverly Hills, 90210), Perry Reeves (Entourage) and Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis have teamed with Sea Shepherd to send a letter to Costco CEO Craig Jelinek from the organization's founder, Captain Paul Watson.
Hollywood Stars Demand @Costco Stop its Purchase and Sale of Faroe Islands’ Salmon... https://t.co/Sx8p8Fyvtd https://t.co/58nWarTYJ2— Sea Shepherd SSCS (@Sea Shepherd SSCS)1468013968.0
The letter comes on the heels of last week's news that a pod of 30-50 pilot whales was slaughtered in the first grindadráp (grind) of the year, on the island of Viðoy in the Danish Faroe Islands archipelago.
The letter to Jelinek expresses concern that chain-store giant Costco is selling salmon farmed in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago of 18 isles in the North Atlantic, where hundreds of wild, migrating cetaceans are slaughtered each year.
Describing this massacre of ocean wildlife, the letter states that "entire pods of pilot whales and dolphins are driven by hunting boats to the shallow waters along the Faroe Islands. ... Those cetaceans who are not herded far enough into the shallows will have a gaff hook stabbed into their blowholes and will be pulled ashore the rest of the way by rope. The panicked and thrashing whales or dolphins are then slowly sawed into behind their blowholes with a special Faroese hunting knife and killed by the severing of their spinal cords, as each animal is brutally slaughtered before the eyes of their family members. No member of the pod is spared, not even pregnant females or juveniles."
Though Faroese whalers claim that the grind brings a quick and humane death, some of these highly intelligent and socially complex marine mammals take as long as four minutes to die, as the steely waters of the Faroes run red with blood.
The letter to Jelinek continues, "As a large and respected member of the corporate retail community, Costco should not condone these acts of brutality by economically supporting the Faroese salmon fishery. Costco can apply economic pressure to end the atrocity known as the "grind," a whale hunt that should be deemed illegal by the anti-whaling EU but yet is supported by Denmark, a part of the EU. Mr. Jelinek, Costco and you as its CEO, now have the opportunity to show your members and the international community that you represent a company of compassionate individuals who care about the fate of intelligent and sentient whales and dolphins as well as the oceanic eco-systems upon which they—and all life on Earth—depend for survival."
The grind is an outdated practice as the Faroese people have one of the highest standards of living in all of Europe and access to the same foods found in grocery stores in Denmark. In addition, Faroese health officials have warned against consumption of the pilot whale meat, especially by children and pregnant women or women of childbearing age, because it is contaminated with neurotoxins such as mercury.
Though it is the slaughter of cetaceans by the Faroese that is opposed by Sea Shepherd, the organization is calling for a boycott of salmon exported from the Faroes until the senseless grind is permanently ended.
"These compassionate celebrities have offered their desperately needed voices to the pilot whales who were killed recently in the Faroe Islands and to those who are at risk each time they pass by Faroese shores," Watson said regarding the Hollywood industry's support. "We must make it known that the blood of intelligent and social whales and dolphins stains every package of salmon from the Faroes. This archaic massacre of cetaceans, defended by the EU-member nation of Denmark, must be sunk economically. I encourage all concerned consumers to do their part by boycotting salmon from the Faroe Islands at Costco and wherever it is sold."
The appeal to boycott Costco comes just weeks after Sea Shepherd released a 22-minute documentary short on YouTube shot by McCall, chronicling his experience in the Faroe Islands, along with a companion essay he published in the Huffington Post.
Since 1983, Sea Shepherd has sent 10 campaigns to the Faroes, saving hundreds of whales and dolphins while dealing with the arrest of Sea Shepherd volunteers and the seizure of the organization's boats.
Faroese law states it is illegal to interrupt the killing and illegal to sight a pod of whales and not report it. To further protect their beloved Grind from outside interference, this year the Faroese enacted laws that prohibit Sea Shepherd crew from entering their waters and wearing Sea Shepherd shirts on land.
This year, in response, Sea Shepherd Global announced Operation Bloody Fjords, a new operation targeting the massacre of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands.
With years of footage of this bloodshed, Operation Bloody Fjords will include culling together decades' worth of photographic and video evidence to target the Grind in legal, political, commercial and economic arenas. A full-length documentary feature will also be produced.
Greenpeace has launched a global campaign for an Antarctic sanctuary, covering 1.8 million square kilometers (approximately .7 million square miles) of ocean, to protect whales, penguins and other wildlife.
Following a failure to agree on strong marine protection in the East Antarctic, Greenpeace has called for governments to show "greater vision and ambition" in the coming year and create the largest protected area on Earth: an Antarctic Ocean sanctuary.
Sea Shepherd's research vessel the R/V Martin Sheen returned to Mexico's Guadalupe Island to continue its study of Cuvier's beaked whales, capturing never before seen drone footage of these rare and elusive cetaceans.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardian volunteers have captured extremely disturbing video of the horrific tethering and drowning of a pilot whale by hunters in Taiji’s infamous cove and the organization’s supporters are reacting with outrage on social media. The graphically violent video, which thus far has been viewed more than 250,000 times on Facebook, can be seen below.
The pilot whale was among an estimated 69-74 members of a large pod driven into the cove on Nov. 19 (Japan time). Following the long and stressful drive to the shallow waters—during which time the pilot whales fought for their freedom and were at first split into two separate groups as they tried in vain to escape the hunting boats—the pod was to face three days confined in the cove without food or shelter. After each grueling day, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians remained at the cove, monitoring the pilot whales throughout the night. On Nov. 20 (Japan time), the violent captive selection and slaughter process began, as the protective matriarch of the pod was tied up to keep her from interfering with the brutal killing of her family. After three hours, 11 pilot whales had been slaughtered and one captive was forcibly dragged under the tarps for captive selection and later taken to the Taiji Harbor pens.
After staying huddled close together through the night, the pod faced continuing horror on Nov. 21 (Japan time), when over the course of four hours, 21 more pilot whales were killed. One whale is seen and heard by Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians crying out loudly as it swims through the water that had turned red with the blood of its family, but these pleas were ignored by the ruthless hunters, who continued the prolonged torture of these highly intelligent and social cetaceans once again the following day.
On the morning of Nov. 22 (Japan time), Sea Shepherd witnessed bodies of several pilot whales floating along the nets that lined the cove, as at least five pod members had apparently succumbed overnight to the violence and the trauma of witnessing the brutal deaths of their family, and drowned. Still, the hunters continued their torturous deeds and exceeded their own brutality of the previous two days. One pilot whale—who appeared to have already been “pithed” by the hunters (stabbed by inserting a metal rod through the spinal cord, just behind the blowhole), visibly bleeding and barely able to stay above the water’s surface—somehow managed to briefly break away from under the tarps and tried to find a way out by the rocks alongside the cove, but was dragged through the water and back to the boats by a heartless hunter in a wetsuit.
The video captured by Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians reveals the horrific actions of the hunters and the heartbreaking desperation of the dying pilot whale, who was tied by its flukes to the side of one of the hunting vessels and mercilessly left to drown, further dispelling the myth that Taiji’s hunters want the public to believe that the killing of these animals is quick and humane.
Fourteen pilot whales were killed on the final day of Nov. 22, 46 members of the pod in total. One pilot whale was taken captive, and the remaining members of the shattered family were transported back out to sea in slings. These small whales, likely juveniles, were abandoned at sea by the hunters because they would not produce much meat. Though they are left with little chance of survival on their own, they will not be counted in this season’s self-imposed quota which allows for a total of 1,873 cetaceans (including 101 short-finned pilot whales) to be slaughtered or captured.
Sea Shepherd’s supporters are calling upon U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the United Nations, the Convention on Migratory Species and other officials and regulatory bodies in regular contact with Japan to intervene to bring sanctions against the nation for allowing this extreme cruelty to continue.
“Short-finned pilot whales are listed as ‘data deficient’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There is simply not enough information known about their remaining wild populations," said Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson. "Migrating dolphins and whales are not infinite ‘resources;’ they are living and vital parts of the ocean eco-system that the nations and government agencies of the world must take action to protect before it is too late. As Taiji continues to ruthlessly wipe out entire pods—multiple generations at a time—of wild migratory pilot whales from the sea, they may very well be driving pilot whales to extinction.”
Watch here, but forewarned it is extremely disturbing:
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