Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | December 2, 2011

What is a Dolphin’s Life Worth?

Most people think that there lives are pretty important, something that needs to be cherished, and in my opinion those people are right. Life is a precious gift that we need to take care of. But how many would say the same thing for an animal? I know that I would, but I also know of people who do not think that animals life’s are as precious as there own. And that is fine if you think that, but just remember that if we were to exterminate every creature off of our planet things would be extremely different.

We as humans are blind to what the creatures on this earth really do for us on a day-to-day basis. The existence of dolphins is a lot more important than we think. Everything is the world has a cause and effect, and with the mass slaughters of dolphins is the cause, so what is the effect?

I am glad that you asked that, according to www.dolphins-world.com,

“The food that dolphins eat is different for each species. While some dolphins eat fishes like herring, cod or mackerel, some others eat squids. Even more, large dolphins like the killer whales, eat some other marine mammals like seals or sea lions and sometimes even turtles.”

Dolphins hunting in the Wild

While that doesn’t seem like a lot, especially compared to all of the things we humans eat, dolphins need this protein and energy to do things in there daily lives. So what would happen if we removed the dolphin from this equation?

Dolphins consume fish that most fisheries do not even want. The Taiji government has stated that they kill dolphins as a form of “pest control,” when in fact the dolphins are not really a threat the humanities overwhelming need to be in control of all of the fish in the ocean.

Dolphins keep the marine ecosystem in balance. And according to www.cms.int,

“Wild dolphins are intrinsically tied to our cultural history and awareness. Inhabiting the world’s oceans and rivers, these nomads are a living treasure of our blue planet. However, their survival is becoming increasingly difficult and imperiled. To survive the 21st century, wild dolphins need clean and quiet oceans, marine protected areas and people who care. It must also be kept in mind that, ultimately, human survival too depends on intact ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Some research done by the National Parks Conservation Association, or NPCA, has labeled the bottlenose dolphin, the dolphins being hunted in Taiji, status as ‘vulnerable.’ This should be motivation enough to want to do something before the dolphin gets put on the endangered species list, or worse, if it becomes extinct (knock on wood).

 

A Sad Dolphin

In addition, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) stated on there website,

“The exact worldwide population of the bottlenose dolphin is not known. In the eastern tropical Pacific the population is estimated to be 243,500, while in the waters of Japan the population estimates are as low as 37,000.”

The dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Japan have been so massive as to affect the population of these creatures in the region that they are being slaughtered in.

Is it even worth it to go see the dolphin shows at places like SeaWorld? Especially when you know that this creature was captured against its will and its friends and family were most likely brutally murdered. Not only that, but supporting dolphinariums that buy there dolphins in Taiji, is the same thing as supporting the dolphin hunts. According to www.savejapandolphins.org,

“We have been reporting from Taiji regularly since 2003, and the most shocking aspect of the dolphin drive hunt is the active role that some dolphinariums play in sustaining the hunt. Dolphinariums are always looking for ways to obtain more dolphins. Many times, the fishermen of Taiji will drive a large school of bottlenose dolphins into the killing cove, and dolphin trainers and marine mammal veterinarians flock to the scene to seek out the best-looking dolphins for their display facilities. By doing business with the dolphin killers, they are helping to maintain the dolphin drive hunts.”

Is a dolphins life worth stopping all of this violence and pollution? We need to save the dolphins and stop our marine ecosystem from collapsing! You know what happens in the cove and the excuses reasons why the Taiji fishermen are killing these dolphins, and now you know what killing these dolphins is doing to our planet. And now it is time to stand up and save of dolphin friends!

Here is a link to the Oceanic Preservation Society (the people who made The Cove) website and list of things that you can do to ensure that these hunts are stopped!

Dolphins in the Wild

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Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | November 18, 2011

There are Two Sides to Every Story

Although this topic seems like there is really only one side, there are in fact two. It is hard to imagine a good reason as to why anyone would want to capture and slaughter innocent dolphins, but the fisherman have come out and said why it is that they do the terrible things that they do.

In the film, The Cove, the film makers and the crew from OPS, Oceanic Preservation Society, actually talked to the fishermen to ask them why they are doing this and they came up with a bunch of excuses reasons.

According to www.savejapandolphins.org these are the reasons as to why the Japanese are killing the dolphins.

Officially, the main purpose of the dolphin hunt is to provide dolphin meat to the Japanese people. But only a small minority of people in Japan actually eats the meat. During our [Earth Island Institute] many campaigns in Japan, we got the impression that dolphin meat is considered ‘trashy,’ unlike the much more expensive whale meat. DNA tests on meat labeled ‘whale meat’ in Japanese markets have revealed the meat is in fact falsely labeled dolphin meat.

This was one of the main reasons that the fishermen have been stating to back of there reasons behind killing dolphins. I do not think the fishermen have a personal vendetta against dolphins, but instead they are like most humans out there on this planet; they are greedy and want to get rich the quick and easy way. This is nothing personal against the fishermen, but most people, especially in America, they want to get rich quick and for the fishermen in Japan that means killing innocent dolphins, for their meat and then mislabeling it a whale meat. By labeling the meat as whale meat, the fishermen are getting more money for a smaller commodity, that most people would not really buy anyhow.

I am not stating this as a fact, but just as a theory that I posses. However, to me this seems like the most logical explanation as to why they would go through all of the trouble. I am not an expert, I am just someone who loves the ocean and dolphins and I want this unnecessary violence to stop.

Dolphins Who Have Been Slaughtered

Killing dolphins for their meat is not the only reason these fishermen give for endlessly slaughtering dolphins. Another reason that was listed on www.savejapandolphins.org is that they do this as a form of ‘pest control.’

During a meeting with the Taiji fishermen in January 2004, the fishermen told us [Earth Island Institute] that they do not only hunt dolphins for their meat or for sale to the dolphinarium industry. In their own words, they kill the dolphins “as a form of pest control.”

The dolphins, from the fishermen’s perspective, eat too much fish, and the fishermen are simply killing the competition. This is the first time ever that Japanese dolphin hunters have openly admitted to executing pest control on dolphins.

Over-fishing of the oceans is a tremendous problem on a global level, and the Japanese fishermen, supported by their government, are wrongly pointing at the dolphins as the reason for this depletion. The Japanese government is making the same false argument in front of the International Whaling Commission that whales eat fish and therefore need to be controlled by killing. The desire to keep the dolphin population down is a major reason why the Japanese government is so keen on issuing permits for the hunts.

It is not really about maintaining what the fishermen repeatedly refer to as their ‘tradition’ or ‘culture.’ It is about eradicating as many dolphins as possible in order to make the oceans’ fish available to themselves.

This is a ridiculous accusation! We as humans are the reason that their are not as many fish in the sea. Dolphins and whales are not the reason the ocean is overfished, it is in fact the way humans have made the fishing industry today. They wipeout an entire school of fish in one scoop. Fish are in the oceans as a source of food for the whales and dolphins and they have more or a right to it than we, as humans do.

Dolphin Slaughter in the 'Cove'

 

However, in response to the gruesomeness  of the slaughters one fishermen who identified himself only as Kawasaki stated,

If you walk into an American slaughterhouse for cows it wouldn’t look very pretty either. The killing is done in the open here so it looks worse than it is. They’re food, like dogs for the Chinese and Koreans.

Although I do not agree with Kawasaki’s statement that it is not a bad as it looks, however he has a point that American slaughter houses are also very gruesome. If any of you have seen the documentary Food Inc. you know how terrible and horrifying the American slaughter houses can be.

We may not know the true reason why the Japanese are killing the dolphins, but we do have a list of reasons. Here is a recap of the reasons as to why the Japanese fishermen and government are killing these dolphins:

  • ‘traditional’ or ‘cultural’ food
  • to provide meat to the Japanese people
  • ‘pest control’

We may not accept the reasons as to why the Japanese are so keen on killing dolphins, but it is not our place to judge there reasons. All we need to do is spread the word and stop these slaughters from going on each each.

 

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | November 12, 2011

The Truth of What is Occurring in “The Cove”

1960s Flipper TV Poster

Many of you have probably seen, or at least heard of Flipper. For those of you what do not know what Flipper is, it is a 1960s TV show about a Florida park ranger and his kids who befriend a bottlenose dolphin.

The man who captured the multiple dolphins used to play ‘Flipper,’ is a world famous dolphin trainer and Marine Mammal Specialist named Richard O’Barry. For those of you who follow my blog, you probably recognize that name for a different reason. Ric O’Barry caused the dolphin industry to be what it is today, a multi-million dollar industry, but what many of you probably do not know is that for the last 40 years he has been working with Earth Island Institute to stop the industry from keeping dolphins in captivity and to stop merciless dolphin slaughters going on in the world.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that when O’Barry’s dolphin Kathy, one of the five dolphins that portrayed ‘Flipper’ in the TV series, committed suicide, he changed his mission in life from building up the dolphin industry to tearing it down. This unfortunate incident made O’Barry realize that dolphins do not belong in captivity, but instead they belong in the ocean. Ric O’Barry stated in an interview with Time magazine,

The suicide was what turned me around. The [animal entertainment] industry doesn’t want people to think dolphins are capable of suicide, but these are self-aware creatures with a brain larger than a human brain. If life becomes so unbearable, they just don’t take the next breath. It’s suicide.

The suicide of Kathy led O’Barry to freeing captured dolphins and letting the go free in the ocean. Once he looked into where the dolphins were being captured he found a tiny fishing town in Japan, with a very big secret. Not only were they capturing dolphins and selling them to dolphin trainers and theme parks around the world, but the dolphins that were not chosen to spend the rest of there lives in captivity were brutally murdered.

Taiji, Japan is a small fishing community located on the southern part of the Japanese archipelago, island group, at the tip of the peninsula that extends into the Pacific Ocean. Today, it is famous for being the fishing town that brutally murders dolphin for various reasons giving out by these fisherman. This community become known from the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove. The Cove revealed the secret that these fisherman were trying to keep.

Taiji, Japan

For those of you who have not seen The Cove I would like to recommend it to you, it is an amazing documentary that really opens your eyes to what is happening to these innocent creatures. The Cove reveals how the fisherman capture the dolphins, as well as how they murder them. For those of you who do not know I will explain the process to you.

The fishermen capture these dolphins using a technique called “the wall of sound.” This is a technique that has been mastered by these fishermen. The start off by studying the migration patterns of the dolphins. So when the dolphins are migrating through the fishermen go out in multiple boats on the outside of where the dolphins are swimming. Attached to these boats are long metal rods, this is crucial and leads to the dolphins weakness. The fishermen start banging on these rods with hammers creating a noise that stresses the dolphins out and causes them to swim away, and the only place they have to swim in towards shore because the fishermen have created it so they have no where to go, so they swim into ‘the cove.’

Once the dolphins are corralled into ‘the cove’ the fishermen put out nets so that they can not escape. The next day dolphin trainers from around the world come and choose the dolphins that they want to star in there dolphin shows. Once this process is over and the dolphins are flow to there new lives in captivity, the brutality truly begins.

Here is a clip from The Cove, showing the “wall of sound”

As sad as it may seem, that is the least brutal part of the whole process. This next part is very vicious. According to PETA,

In Japan, fishers round up and slaughter approximately 23,000 dolphins and small whales each year. In the small fishing village of Taiji, entire schools of dolphins are driven into a hidden cove after a prolonged chase. Once trapped inside the cove, the fishers kill the dolphins by cutting their throats with knives or stabbing them with spears. The water turns red with the dolphin’s blood, and the air is filled with their screams. This horrific massacre goes on for six months every year.

Here is a clip from The Cove of the dolphins being murdered, just beware that this content is very violent.

As you can see what they are doing is immoral and wrong! We need to stop these murders before we kill an entire species of animals. We need to stop these slaughters before it is too late!

I am assuming that most of you know about the BP (British Petroleum) oil spill which occurred on April 20, 2010. For those of you who may have heard about it but do not fully understand what happened I will inform you. According to www.huffingtonpost.com,

 

On April 20, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and commencing months of oil leaking unrestrained into the ocean. Efforts to manage the spill with controlled burning, dispersants and plugging the leak were unsuccessful until BP capped the well in mid-July, temporarily halting the flow of oil into the Gulf. The well was then successfully plugged and declared “effectively dead” on September 19.

This spill has obtained the dubious distinction of being the worst oil spill in US history, surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez tanker that spilled 11 million gallons of oil into the ecologically sensitive Prince William Sound in 1989. It is estimated that over 205 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf.

That amount of oil being released into the Gulf is extremely lethal to the marine ecosystem and the marine life living within in.

Dolphin Washed Ashore Dead After BP Oil Spill

So now you may be wondering what this massive oil spill has to do with dolphins? Let me tell you. In an article by Julia Whitty posted on www.motherjones.com on October 21, 2011, the reporter found that the rate of dolphins, and whales, dying in the Gulf is twice its normal rate. She reported:

The latest NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] report on unusual strandings of whales and dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico finds that they’re still dying at twice the normal rate 18 months after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

According to the NOAA’s 2010-2011 Cetacean Unusual Mortality Event in Northern Gulf of Mexico there have 580 Cetacean (whales and dolphins) “strandings,” meaning there bodies have been washed ashore, in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Of these “strandings” 5 percent of the cetaceans were still alive, while sadly 95 percent of them were dead.

 

Map of Where Dolphin "Strandings" Have Occurred in the Gulf of Mexico

 

In this map the green and pink dotes represent the locations of these “stranded” dolphins and whales. And as you can see they are found very heavily along the coast of the Gulf. The pink dots represent the cetaceans that have been found within the first week of this October.

Another article called The BP Oil Spill, One Year Later: How Healthy Is the Gulf Now? by Bryan Walsh on www.time.com stated that the BP spill covered some 1,600 miles of the Gulf Coast and also that “scientists caution that a single year isn’t long enough to draw any final conclusions about an environmental insult so huge.”

Map of Area Affected by the BP Spill

However, in an article on www.abcnews.go.com written by Clayton Sandell, Sandell discusses that the oil leak and the dolphin strandings might not be related. “The reasons for dolphin strandings can be a mystery” as stated by Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast region marine mammal strandings coordinator. However, Mase also went on to say:

 Because they’ve come in during this event and because there’s a possibility they could have been affected by oil inhalation and that sort of thing, we are going to treat it as an oiled animal.

Marine mammals can be seriously affected by oil and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies stated that they were going to perform tests on 66 dead sea turtles found on the Mississippi beaches.

Sandell went on to say,

 While experts agree the massive oil leak will cause staggering ecological and economic damage, officials said they must wait for conclusive test results before blaming the oil for the dolphin deaths.

Although it is not confirmed that these deaths are 100 percent the fault of the BP oil spill, we know that a decent amount of them are. More tests are being done, and until the results are released we will not know for certain.

BP Oil Spill

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | October 22, 2011

Dolphins Are Smarter Than We Think

In case you did not already know, dolphins are extremely intelligent. Some researchers believe that they are the second smartest animals, with humans being the number one. A new study has proved that dolphins do not just “whistle” to each other, but in fact they are talking.

In an article on www.news.discovery.com by Jennifer Viegas, states that new MRI analysis shows that dolphins are smarter than scientists had ever realized, as well as being self aware.

 New MRI scans show that dolphin brains are four to five times larger for their body sized when compared to another animal of similar size, according to Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University, and one of the world’s leading dolphin experts. Humans also possess an impressive brain-to-body ratio.

Marino presented her findings this past February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

Marino has also conducted studies, along with other dolphin experts, that demonstrate that dolphins have certain“human-like” skills. These skills include:

  • mirror self-recognition
  • cultural learning
  • comprehension of symbol-based communication systems
  • an understanding of abstract concepts

Dr. Lori Marino also believes that “dolphin-assisted therapy,” [which is children and adults working with dolphins to “build a methodology, a theoretical base, and practical application for the programs designed for children suffering from a range of diseases, including autism and A.D.D,”] and other forms of captivity “are potentially harmful to dolphins and present a misinformed picture of their natural intellectual capacities.”

Child Participating in "Dolphin-Assisted Therapy"

Although we may get pleasure from playing with these creatures, the feeling is not always reciprocated. Dr. Lori Marino goes on to state:

That during dolphin drives, when the animals are herded together by boats, some dolphins become so panicked that they die of heart attacks. Others die from exhaustion attempting to flee, while still others become entangled in nets and are killed or injured. The dolphins that do survive are hoisted from the water, often by their tail flukes, and transported to the human-run parks and other facilities.

She continues to state that scientific evidence that has been done on dolphin sensitivities go on to reveal that they are very capable to experience and are extremely vulnerable to trauma and suffering, especially when they are confined to life in a marine park.

The director of The Kerulos Center, which provides sanctuary and support for animals that have suffered due to human-caused trauma, Gary Bradshaw agrees with all the research that Dr. Lori Marino has discussed. He stated that, “what Dr. Marino states is congruent with theory and data.”

Not only do dolphins have emotions, feel suffering, and are scientifically proven to be the second smartest creatures on earth, new research has also proven that dolphins actually have conversations with each other.

Two Dolphins Talking to Each Other

In an article found on www.news.discovery.com, Jennifer Viegas interviews scientists and researchers who have recently found out that dolphins do not whistle to each other, but they are in fact communicating to one another.

Peter Madsen, a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Aarhus University, and his team have been studying how dolphins communicate with each other by digitalizing and reanalyzing the recording made by a 12-year-old male bottlenose dolphin in 1977.

While many dolphin calls sound like whistles, the study found the sounds are produced by tissue vibrations analogues to the operation of vocal folds by humans and many other land-based animals. Communicating similar to the way that humans do.

Peter Madsen, a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Aarhus University, and his team have been studying how dolphins communicate with each other by digitalizing and reanalyzing the recording made by a 12-year-old male bottlenose dolphin in 1977.

Dolphins breath in a “heliox” which is a mixture made up of 80 percent helium and 20 percent oxygen, this is what causes humans to sound like “Donald Duck.” This mixture has a “sound speed” that is 1.74 times higher than normal air. For example if a person whistles after sucking helium out of a balloon, the pitch of the whistle will be 1.74 times higher than if they were to whistle just breathing like normal.

Peter Madsen goes on to state that:

We found that the dolphin does not change pitch when it is producing sound in heliox, which means that its pitch in not defined by the size of its nasal air cavities, and hence that it is not whistling. Rather, it makes the sound by making connective tissue in the nose vibrate at the frequency it wishes to produce by adjusting the muscular tension and air flow over the tissue. That is the same way that we humans make sound with our vocal cords to speak.

Acoustics engineer John Stuart Reid and Jack Kassewitz of the Speak Dolphin organization have created the CymaScope, an instrument that reveals detailed structures within sounds and allowing their structure to be studied pictorially. The researchers may be able to decipher the dolphin calls, as well as the whistle-like sounds and clicks, all of this suggests that there language is much more complex than researchers originally imagined.

Jack Kassewitz of the Speak Dolphin organization has stated:

There is strong evidence that dolphins are able to ‘see‘ with sound, much like humans use ultrasound to see an unborn child in the mother’s womb. The CymaScope provides our first glimpse into what the dolphins might be ‘seeing‘ with their sounds.

I personally think that it would be extremely cool to have a conversation with a dolphin. Also, I think that if in the future if humans can decipher the dolphin language we will stop catching and putting dolphins in captivity because we will be able to understand what they are saying. We will think of dolphins more as equals, rather than animals that we limit by keeping them in small concrete cages.

For those of you that do not know what dolphin “talk” sounds like, I am going to end this blog with a video used by acoustics engineer John Stuart Reid and his research team to try and understand what dolphins are actually “talking” about. Here is a video posted by National Geographic:

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | October 13, 2011

The Dangers of Dolphin Meat

Imagine you are in a grocery store. You are browsing through the meat section. You look at something that you think is fish, however it is labeled as whale meat. This may no be common in American grocery stores, however in some Asian countries this is not an odd find. Nevertheless, although the package reads whale meat, there is a pretty good chance that it is actually dolphin meat.

Whale Meat Located at a Grocery Store in Japan

I do not think that many of you would buy whale meat, but if you were curious about what it might taste like first think of what it could do to your body’s health.

According to www.thecovemovie.com:

Much of dolphin meat sold around Japan is actually mislabeled or sold as counterfeit whale meat from a larger whale, which sells for far more money than dolphin meat. Hundreds of samples of dolphin meat tested from around Japan has all been shown to be toxic and far exceeds their own ministry of health recommendations. Some internal organ meat for sale at the Okura markets near Taiji was analyzed to have 5000 times more mercury than the health advisory of 0.4 ppm.

Dolphin meat is full of mercury with is toxic to humans. And when consumed it can cause some serious health issues, especially to a women who is pregnant. Mercury poisoning can cause some serious birth defects. According to www.medicinenet.com,

Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish.

Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others. The levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on what they eat, how long they live and how high they are in the food chain.

EPA works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and with states and tribes to issue advice to women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing women, and parents of young children about how often they should eat certain types of commercially-caught fish and shellfish.

Fish advisories are also issued for men, women, and children of all ages when appropriate. In addition, EPA releases an annual summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines to the public. Fish is a beneficial part of the diet, so EPA & FDA encourage people to continue to eat fish that are low in methylmercury.

Health effects of mercury. Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Research shows that most people’s fish consumption does not cause a health concern. However, it has been demonstrated that high levels of methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn.

Mercury is not something you want to be ingesting. However, in Japan, the Japanese government was feeding this toxic dolphin meat to the children in the schools. This was an issue discussed in The Cove.

Mercury in a Solid State

In an article posted by the New York Times on their website, the author, Martin Fackler, also discussed the harm of mercury within dolphin meat,

Dolphin meat is a prized local delicacy, served raw as sashimi or boiled with soy sauce. But in June, laboratory tests showed high levels of mercury in dolphin and pilot whale, a small whale that resembles a dolphin, caught and sold here. At the urging of two town council members, schools promised to stop serving pilot whale for lunch, and some local supermarkets removed it and dolphin from their shelves.

One of these Taiji, Japan City Councilman is Junichiro Yamashita. Once he discovered of the high toxic levels of mercury being served in the school lunches through dolphin meat he called it “toxic waste” and we have him to thank for the removal of dolphin meat in school lunches.

Taiji City Councilman Junichiro Yamashita

You may be wondering why the schools are serving dolphin meat in the first place. Well, as it was reported in The Cove, dolphin meat, when labeled as dolphin meat, is very cheap. In addition to how cheap it is the fishermen were giving the government a good deal on it. Luckily Taiji has people like Junichiro Yamashita to help stop the mercury poisoning from spreading.

At the University of Hokkaido located in Japan, Professor Tetsuya Endo, a professor of Health Sciences at the university has been doing research on the high levels of mercury being consumed by the public. Endo found that dolphin and whale meat is not only high in mercury but he has also discovered that residents of Taiji who eat the meat that is sold in the local markets have extremely high mercury concentrations in their bodies. In an interview with the Japan Times Endo stated,

Between December 2007 and July 2008, myself and a team of scientists and researchers took hair samples from 30 male and 20 female residents of the Taiji area. In three cases, the levels of mercury present were more than 50 parts per million, high enough that it was possible nerve damage, like that seen in victims of Minamata disease, could occur.

For those of you who have not seen The Cove, or know what Minamata’s disease is I will tell you. It was discovered in 1956, in Minamata City located in Japan, and again in Niigata City in 1965, which is also in Japan. This disease occurred do to the high levels of methylmercury (mercury) being consumed.

It started with the Chisso Corporation opening a chemical factory in Minamata in 1908. This chemical factory omitted waste mercury into the ocean, which the fish, dolphins, and whales ate which were then caught and consumed by humans. To see the effects of Minamata’s disease first hand watch the video below.

We need to stop this before it happens again. As reported by the Earth Island Institute, Japanese scientists who have been doing research on mercury poisonings have discovered that Taiji residents have ten times the amount of mercury levels in there body than average Japanese citizens.

At the rate the citizens of Taiji, the fishing village where the “cove” is located, are consuming dolphin meat and seafood with such high levels of mercury they could easily be the next Japanese village to be struck with Minamata’s disease. This is a disease that can be prevented is the consumption of dolphin meat discontinues as well.

Dolphins being slaughtered in Taiji

A win-win solution for the people of Taiji and the activists who want the dolphin slaughtering to stop, would be to just stop killing and capturing dolphins. If the killing stops, then the meat does not get mislabeled and eaten mistakenly. And if the meat is never consumed, then the people of Taiji are not consuming toxic levels of mercury. Therefore, stopping the possibility of Minamata’s disease before it can make itself present. In addition, if the killing stops the activists will be happy that the dolphins are free and safe in the wild. This sounds like a perfect solution to me.

However, as we know in the real world things have to be much more complicated than they seem. In the meantime I am going to end with an informative video on mercury poisoning that was posted on www.thecovemovie.com:

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | October 1, 2011

On a Positive Note:

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been discussing the terrible things that have been happening to my friends in the sea. I have been discussing how they are being slaughtered and how unhappy they are in captivity. However, today I am going to focus on a more positive side. Today, I am going to tell you about a new dolphin species that has been discovered.

Earlier this week I was thinking about what I was going to write about this week and I was not sure what to say. I began to read through my weekly Surfrider Foundation E-mail and they were talking about how scientists discovered a new species of dolphin in Australia. The Surfrider Foundation set up a link to read the rest of the article on www.news.nenemsn.com 

The dolphins, named Tursiops australis, have a combined population of about 150 and were originally thought to be one of the two existing bottlenose dolphin species. Monash University PhD researcher Kate Charlton-Robb discovered they were unique by comparing skulls, DNA and physical traits with specimens dating back to the early 1900s.

The article went on to say that this new species will more commonly be known as the Burrunan dolphin. This name comes from the Aboriginal name meaning “large sea fish of the porpoise kind.”

Pod of Burrunan Dolphins

These dolphins are indigenous to the southern coast of Australia. However, Dr. Kate Charlton-Robb went on to say that more research needed to be conducted before they can determine is there are other populations of Burrunan dolphins living in Australia. This species was discover in the middle of September, so this an extremely new discovery. This new dolphin species was discovered in Victoria, Australia. There founder, Dr. Kate Charlton-Robb went on to state,

This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognized since the late 1800s. What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria.

According to www.new.nationalgeographic.com the majority of these dolphins have been found swimming near Melbourne, Australia’s second most populated city.

Map of Australia with Victoria Highlighted

The article went on to state that is has been known for a long time that a distinct type of dolphins roamed off the southwestern coast of Australia. And now DNA tests have proven that these creates are not only physically distinct, but they are also genetically very different from the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species, the common bottlenose dolphin and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin. Dr. Kate Charlton-Robb, the study leader, went on to say,

 The results were so surprising that the team initially thought there was a mistake and reran the tests. The main focus of the research was to figure out which of the two [known] bottlenose species these guys were. But from the [DNA] sequences that we got, it turned out that they were very different from either of the known species.

For those of you who might be confused, here are the slight differences between the three types of bottlenose dolphins:

The Common Bottlenose Dolphin:

Common Bottlenose Dolphin

According to www.seaworld.org, bottlenose dolphins are generally:

  • 2 to 3.9 meter (6.6 – 12.8 feet) long
  • weight about 150 to 200 kg (331.5 – 442 lbs)
  • Dolphins that live in offshore ecotypes adapt for cooler waters and tend to be longer than dolphins that live in inshore ecotypes
  • on average, full grown males are slightly longer than females, and are considerably heavier
  • In the Pacific, large bottlenose dolphins can grow to about 12 feet long and weigh about 1,000 pounds
  • they have a sleek, streamlined, fusiform body
  • its skin is smooth and feels rubbery; has no hair or sweat
  • skin color is grey on its back, fading to white on its lower jaw and belly

The Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin:

The Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin

As stated on www.dolphins-world.com, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are most commonly:

  • approximately 8-8.5 feet long
  • can weigh up to 500 pounds
  • they are either dark grey or black in color and there underside of the belly is often a dark white or a lighter shade of gray.
  • they are long and sleek in their body design
  • They live near India, the Red Sea, China, Australia and Africa
  • travel in pods, some as low as 5, but on average they travel in pods of 15, but come travel in pods of 100 members

The Burrunan Bottlenose Dolphin:

The Burrunan Bottlenose Dolphin

According to www.nationalgeographic.com, the Burrunan dolphins looks are what made researchers more inclined to look into the idea of a new species of bottlenose dolphins.

  • Burrunan dolphins have a slight cranial differences that set them apart from the other bottlenose dolphins
  • they also have a more curved dorsal fin
  • a stubbier beak
  • a unique “tricoloration” – dark gray, mid-gray and white

Continued from the article on www.news.nationalgeographic.com, the Burrunan research team has petitioned the Australian government to list the Burrunan bottlenose dolphin as an endangered species because there are so few of the new dolphin species known. And stated by Dr. Kate Charlton-Robb, “Given the small size of the population, it’s crucial that we make an effort to protect them.” So lets make an effort to keep our new friends out of harms way and do what we can to keep them in the ocean where they belong.

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | September 23, 2011

Dolphins Get Stressed Out Too

If any of you have watched the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, you know that not only fishermen are killing these majestic creatures. In fact, many of these dolphins are killing themselves. When a dolphin is in captivity it causes a lot of stress for these animals. And according to an article on CNN, Captured Dolphins Aren’t Smiling, by Fisher Stevens,

“they [dolphins] hate to be enclosed in their holding tanks and are often not fed until it is time to perform their daily routines…they would get depressed, stressed out, even suicidal. In some parks, the trainers have to give the animals Maalox and Tagamet to treat the ulcers that develop from their stress.”

Dolphins in Captivity

Lead activist in stopping these unlawful murders, Ric O’Barry, has had personal experience with dolphin suicide. Ric O’Barry was the head trainer for the Flipper television series. He captured all five of the dolphins that portrayed “Flipper” as well as training them. What made him go from capturing dolphins to freeing them illegally? I’ll tell you, it was the suicide of one the dolphins that played Flipper. As stated in an interview with www.nymag.com, O’Barry stated,

“Cathy [the dolphin] died in my arms of suicide. It was just before Earth Day, 1970. The next day, I found myself in a Bimini jail, trying to free a dolphin for the first time. I completely lost it.”

Suicide is a heavy word, the reason O’Barry knew that Cathy committed suicide was because Dolphins, unlike humans, are not automatic air breathers. They are conscience of every singe breathe they take. O’Barry went on to say, “She looked at me right in the eye, held it – and didn’t take another one. She just sank to the bottom of the water.” This had a profound effect on O’Barry. Since the suicide of his beloved dolphin he has been trying to free as many dolphins as possible as well as getting the word out about these mass suicides.

Ric O'Barry with his beloved Dolphin Cathy before her unfortunate death

So what exactly causes dolphins to get so stressed out that they get ulcers and take there own lives?

  • the noises emitted from the tanks cleaning systems
  • people who crowd around the dolphin pools
  • not being fed enough, only when about to perform
  • people who pay to swim with the dolphins

These are just a very few reasons that dolphins get stressed out. As stated by the LA Times,

“In a study to be published by the National Agricultural Library’s animal welfare center, Dr. Michael Stoskopf of John Hopkins University has found… the more people present – and the closer they stood to the dolphin pool – the more often the dolphins engaged in repetitive behaviors, such as standing on their tails, indicative of stress.”

In addition, research done by www.dailymail.co.uk has found out that although we like to swim with the dolphins, the dolphins do not love it when we chase them down and swim with them. This also causes them stress. “The dolphins are using more energy than they are taking in because they aren’t resting or feeding as much but are swimming more as they try to avoid the tourist boats.”

What can you do to help save these animals lives? Here is a list taken from www.thecovemovie.com

Just Say No, Just Don’t Go

  • Dolphin Parks
  • Swim with Dolphin Programs
  • Hotels and Lodges that feature captive dolphins on the property
  • Dolphin “Trainer For A Day” programs
  • Dolphin “Research” facilities that charge large amounts to interact with dolphins
  • Cruise lines that feature stops at Swim With Dolphin Parks.

“If audiences stop buying tickets, these special creatures can stay wild and free.”

Here is a clip from The Cove to further explain why we need to free captured dolphins and stop the slaughters around the world:

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | September 16, 2011

The Truth Behind a Dolphin’s Smile

 When people think of dolphins they think of Flipper from the television series or the smiling dolphins that they have seen at aquariums like SeaWorld. Dolphins are one of the most beautiful creature in teh world. Most people feel like they have a strong connection to these magnificent creatures. When we see pictures of dolphins we are automatically drawn to there warm and smiling faces. We assume that since dolphins are always smiling that this must mean that they are always happy. However, this is a common misconception about dolphins.
This dolphin is smiling but we do not know if it is truly happy.

I recommend that to everyone reading this to go and see the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove. If you continue to read my blog posts you definitely will want to go and see it because it is a film I am passionate about and I will also referencing it all of the time.

Ric O’Barry is the lead activist, who teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) to create the documentary The Cove that I mentioned earlier. He is one of the first people to have captured a wild dolphin for the television series Flipper, and for more than thirty years he has been trying to break down the industry that he created. O’Barry went on to co-write the book Behind the Dolphin’s Smile.

In the film, The Cove, we hear this famous quote that was originally stated  by Ric O’Barry,

“a dolphin’s smile is the greatest deception. It creates the illusion that they’re always happy.”

After doing a lot of research on this subject this is a quote that not only is sad to hear, but it is unfortunately true. It is very hard to believe that such a beautiful creature could be so sad.

Once hearing Ric O’Barry state this fact in The Cove it broke my heart. I have grown up around the ocean and to me it is my second home. I have always loved dolphins and I have frequently seen them jumping and swimming in the waves. It is hard to think that any other animal could be as happy as a dolphins.

For those of you who have seen The Cove or have read any articles about dolphin slaughter you know what is going on over in Taiji, Japan. And for those of you who are completely new to this subject, I will tell you that what is going on across the Pacific is a disheartening and sad story. Dolphins are being captured, sold into slavery captivity, and the ones that are not sold are being mercilessly killed be Taiji fishermen.

"The Cove" in Taiji, Japan

It is hard to think of all of the terrible things that are being done to these poor, innocent creatures and all the while they are smiling. I can not think of a sadder image, than to see a ‘smiling’ dolphin being brutally murdered.

To me these dolphins are my friends and to think of what is being done to them makes me very sad. In the book Behind the Dolphin’s Smile, by Richard O’Barry and Keith Coulbourn, they explain that the smiles that you see on these animals are not true reflections of happiness. In an article originally posted by CNN reporter Fisher Stevens states,

“In actuality, they [dolphins] hate to be enclosed in their holding tanks and are often not fed until it is time to perform their daily routines. During his time as a trainer, O’Barry learned dolphins had true feelings – they would get depressed, stressed out, even suicidal. In some parks, the trainers have to give the animals Maalox and Tagamet to treat the ulcers that develop from their stress.”

A dolphin’s smile conveys so much more than happiness. It is a mask that they are forced to hid behind. If you want to learn more about Behind the Dolphin’s Smile by Richard O’Barry and Keith Coulbourn you can pre-order the book here.

Also, I have added a video that was posted on the Save Japan Dolphins blog. This video discusses why it is important to save our friends, the smiling dolphins.

Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | September 15, 2011

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