IWC’s 65th meeting receives powerful visual message

“Migration towards Prosperity” was been presented to the 65th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission and received an enthusiastic response.  The video sends a strong message from Ecuador and the Buenos Aires Group that whales are a more beneficial as a living resource rather than being hunted.

The video documentary tells the story of  how a small, poor fishing village in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador has built a vibrant economic future based on sustainable eco-tourism through whalewatching. Their efforts reenforce the IWC’s 5 year strategic whalewatching plan in favor of  protecting whales and the ocean environment.

Making Waves through the “Eco-Revolution”

While the individuals who comprise the term “ocean activists” all work towards a common goal, the reality is, “ocean activists” come in a variety of shapes and forms, and all are armed with unique talents.

Some, for example, may use their gift of oratory to lobby on Capitol Hill or inspire others to take action at the public level.  Others address issues such as coastal erosion by restoring native dune systems and watersheds.  And still others weld the talent of a camera.

Peter Jay Brown, ocean activist, posing with the Sea Shepherd ship.

Peter Jay Brown, ocean activist, posing with the Sea Shepherd ship.

Enter Peter Jay Brown, a vivacious and outspoken ocean activist who has spent his adult life exposing environmental injustices throughout the world.  A professional cinematographer by trade, Peter Jay Brown launched his environmental career as a young boy on Cape Cod, protesting the creation of a deep water harbor.

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Coral Reef Survey

Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) was recently contacted by WHALE Environmental Services LLC and asked if we were interested in a collaboration, as this Oahu-based company was planning to undertake a pilot project to survey the West Maui coral reefs. PWF was very keen to take part, and so we made arrangements to take our research vessel, Ocean Protector, out as a diving vessel for a change.

Using a standardized method, we made very short dives at 14 coral reefs along the coast of West Maui, between Ma’alaea Harbor and Honolua Bay. While scuba diving, we took note of various factors which would be used to indicate reef health, such as:

  • the number of coral species observed
  • the number of fish species observed
  • signs of pollution
  • signs of erosion
  • signs of coral disease or bleaching
  • signs of fishing pressure
  • signs of stormwater entry at the site

It was interesting to see the stark differences between a healthy reef and an unhealthy reef. This project is a baseline study – meaning that we are recording the current state of these reefs so we have a measurable starting point and can monitor the reef and detect any changes in the future. In science it is very important to record a baseline so you know when changes are happening. You then have data on how fast or slow changes are occurring, or in what locations.

While we await the results of the report that is being prepared, the research department is back to its usual summer routine of carrying out transect surveys for dolphins and marine debris.

Mugged by whales

Every year, from July to November, humpback whales come to Hervey Bay on their southern migration. In contrast to the open coastline, where whales are in a “migration mode” to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic, the bay is shallow, sheltered, and warm. It is the perfect place for the whales to aggregate, rest, and socialize. As a result, whales display a vast array of behaviors and interactions that make Hervey Bay a very unique whalewatching destination. Not surprisingly, some people refer to Hervey Bay as “Australia’s whalewatch capital.”

HB003-PWF

Photos taken under QLD permits: QS2011/GS040 and Registration #307.

In addition to the most common humpback whale behaviors that can be seen in Hervey Bay, such as breaching, tail slapping, head lunging, etc., whales in Hervey Bay will often approach a vessel and stay within close proximity, interacting with people on board for significant periods of time. This behavior is known as “mugging”.

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A response to “Shark Week” from Maui

Who’s heard the adage, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week”? Though Discovery Channel’s TV extravaganza has come and gone, the repercussions from this wildly popular special are still echoing here on Maui, especially after the airing of a program named Sharkageddon that focuses on recent shark attacks in Hawai’i.

Though we also get excited when seeing footage of big, toothy, graceful elasmobranchs, some of the opinions presented as “facts” in Sharkageddon are truly troubling to us here at Pacific Whale Foundation. This program discussed the perceived spike in shark attacks in 2013 in Hawaii and attempts to explain why this occurred. Unfortunately, in the excitement to create a show full of ominous music and cliffhanging moments, the producers may have run out of time to fact check some of their findings. Though I am not currently involved in any specific shark research, as a marine scientist and steward of the marine environment, I felt the need to address some of the “findings” from Sharkageddon and explain why it might not be time to be scared out of the water just yet.

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Putting an End to the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter, Right From Your Computer

Every year, thousands of dolphins are slaughtered along the coast of Japan in brutal drive hunts.  The majority of dolphins caught in these hunts are butchered and their meat is sold in restaurants and supermarkets throughout the country.  To fetch a higher price, and simultaneously tout itself as a more premium product, the meat is oftentimes purposely mislabeled as “whale” meat.  A smaller percentage of the animals are spared from death, and instead sold to aquariums and marine parks in countries such as China, Taiwan, Egypt and the Philippines.

Bottlenose dolphins are the most commonly caught dolphin species in the Taiji dolphin drive

Bottlenose dolphins are the most commonly caught dolphin species in the Taiji dolphin drive

Drive hunts, also known as drive fisheries, refer to the practice of herding dolphins and small whales into coves where the animals are subsequently slaughtered or, more rarely, spared alive to be sold into captivity.  While these hunts went on for years outside of the public eye, the rise of social media, revealing documentaries, covert video recordings and highly publicized protests have brought international attention and outcry to the issue of drive hunting.

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