Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Flipper : a catalyst to dolphin slaughterings?

January 19, 2010 1 comment

"Flipper" the television series

Ever been to Sea World? Ever been to any type of Dolphinarium or Seaquarium that has dolphins?
Yes? No?
Well ever heard of a famous dolphin named Flipper?

Even if you have never watched the television series “Flipper”, chances are you have heard of it.  Most people, when needing to name their dolphin stuffed animal, or the such, automatically think “Flipper” as a choice.  The name Flipper goes with dolphins as the name Shamu goes with killer whales, or as the name Snowball goes with a big fluffy white cat.
Point being, Flipper was a television series that changed the world of dolphins more than you probably could have even imagined.

The television show brought about a huge dolphin fascination.  Seaquariums and Dolphiariums became very popular, and visitors started pouring in to see these magnificent animals they were seeing on the television show.  With the rise in popularity of Sea Parks, there became a demand to make more Sea Parks, and to bring in more dolphins. 

But where were they getting all these dolphins from?  The dolphins weren’t lining up volunteering to be the next somersault star of the show. 

It’s known that a lot of asian countries will sometimes obtain an obsession with the latest American culture, and try to embrace it themselves.  They’re also very opportunistic.  Well, in this case, countries, such as Japan, started taking this obsession to the extreme.  If you haven’t figured out where this article is going yet, you are about to.

Remember the question asked above: “But where are they getting all these dolphin from?”
Well, Japanese fisherman, knowing how to herd and trap dolphin, found this dolphin fascination to be a great profit opportunity.  And, as whaling and dolphin slaughters is a huge issue, everyone always points at Japan first.  And it is a justified accusation. 

Dolphin Slaughters in Japan

Japanese fisherman herd dolphins toward shore or into coves.  They do so by lining up boats and creating a wall of sound by hammering on the end of a metal pole that stretches into the water.  This sound and its frequency disturbs the dolphins and scares them into being herded in a direction away from the sound- in toward the shore where they are trapped.  Once trapped, the fisherman  up ropes around the dolphin pod to fence them in.  Eventually  dolphins have freaked themselves out so much that they become exhausted. 

Now it is time to bring in the trainers from Sea Parks to let them choose which dolphins they want in their shows and in their tanks.  For every show dolphin a fisherman sales, he can get over $140,000 for.

As you can imagine, not many dolphins are picked out of the dozens that have been herded at this particular time.  So what happens to the remaining dolphins?  They are slaughtered.  Instead of releasing the unchosen animals, they are brutally slaughtered to be turned into meat.  Over 23,000 dolphins a year are supposedly slaughtered to be used as meat.

The majority of this information and inspiration for this posts and a series of posts to come, was taken from the movie “The Cove”.  This movie, or documentary, was made to alert the world of the unnecessary dolphin slaughterings that are happening in Japan.  The head of the operation: Richard O’Barry. 

Ironically, the very person that was behind the dolphin Flipper, of which the television series may have started the chain reaction to these dolphin slaughterings, is also the one that now stops at nothing to free dolphins, and expose situations such as those in Japan.  This person is Mr. O’Barry himself. 

Richard O'Barry & Kathy on the set of "Flipper"

Rick O’Barry was the best dolphin trainer of his time.  He loved his job, until one day his eyes were opened.  He was sitting in the water with Kathy, better known as “Flipper”, when she swam into his arms, and died.  He considered it as suicide.  He believes that Kathy was so depressed from living in captivity that she killed herself.  How do dolphins commit suicide you ask?  As human beings we take breaths subconsciously.  Dolphins have to think about taking breaths.  They’re breath is running out, they think to themself “time to surface and inhale air”.  So, when Kathy swam into Rick’s arms she took one last breath, then didn’t take another one.  She then passed away and sunk to the bottom of her prison belly up.  The next day Rick was in prison for freeing some dolphins at an aquarium.  From that day forward he  vowed to protect dolphins.  And to this day he continues to do so in what may be one of his riskiest projects yet: “The Cove”.

There will be a series of articles to come inspired by this documentary as stated above.  You will see not only the work Rick O’Barry has done over the years, but what “The Cove” exposes as well.


The Polar Bear In Danger

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Polar Bears

From predators to environmental changes, marine mammals have always faced danger in some form or another.  Conservation is a huge subject today in our society, and as we look at how populations have been affected in the past, we try to protect these animals as best we can.  One species, for example, that has encountered problems  in conservation, would be the Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus. 

Since 2007 the polar bear has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  The main threat for its dwindling population has to do with the effect global warming has had on loss of sea habitat.  However, as with most species, human activity has been a threat as well.  Oil and gas development stress the environment.  The Alaskan polar bear population relies on the Arctic coastal plain for hunting and denning.  Both of these are threatened by the oil and gas industries.  With rising temperatures though, and ice melting further back, the range of which grizzlies roam is expanding higher into the Arctic; this means they are venturing into polar bear territory.  Although both species of bears have different prey, they both eat cubs, a practice that could hurt already threatened polar bear populations.


Grizzlies in Polar Bear territory

Some polar bears have also been known to get stuck on floating ice, or drown from having to swim a farther distance for food or shelter.  Polar bears can swim short distances between ice floes but as global warming prevails and ice floes become further apart, there is a higher risk of more bears tiring and drowning.  “Bears at the southern edge of their range are becoming thinner with lower reproductive rates and declining body condition.” (On Thin Ice, NWF Daniel Glick).  Polar bears have been slowly forced to cannibalism; stalking, eating, and killing its own kind.  They are ice-loving animals and literally cannot live without it.  Their entire life-cycle is tied to seasonal Arctic change in the sea ice.  Females have a low production rate as it is, at about two cubs per liter both with a fifty percent survival rate, and females do not mate until they are five years of age.  If conditions are unfavorable, they won’t reproduce at all.  After denning/hibernation, prey is coming out at different timings, so the bears are starving. 


Ice Thining

Globally, it is estimated that there are between 25,000 and 40,000 polar bears.  “In the 1990s, Polar Bears in Hudson Bay were 10 percent thinner than they were two decades earlier and had 10 percent fewer offspring.” (“Polar Bear and Otters” by unknown source).

Check out this video on Arctic Sea Ice Melting animation and more information on the effect it will have on polar bears.  It’s estimated that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050 due to ice loss.

For ways you can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, visit the National Wildlife Federation at

After all, Extinction Is Forever, Endangered Means We Still Have Time.

San Diegans: 10 things you may not know about your bay

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment
Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado

There is so much history behind the San Diego Bay, and so many interesting facts about everything from the architecture to wildlife to the dirt that created the islands.  And, it’s surprising how some people who have lived in San Diego for a while, or even their whole life, don’t know some of these random facts about the bay, which was part of the birth of San Diego.  Here are 10 things you may or may not know about the beautiful San Diego bay.

10) Coronado Island – Coronado Island was first discovered by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in the early 17th century.  However he did not settle here and for almost 200 years the peninsula remained bare.  It wasn’t until 1821 that land grants were issued after whalers had used the island to carry out their work and so had set up hide houses.  In 1977 Hotel del Coronado was opened and became a historic landmark.  Besides rumored to be haunted, the beach off of here is one of the best in San Diego.  If you drive through some of the residential areas you will also find somewhat hidden little spots that take you right to the water and open up to a beautiful view of Downtown San Diego and the bay.

9) Shelter Island – Shelter Island used to be identified on the map as a shoal, or mudbuck.  In the 1930’s a dredging project began, raising Shelter Island 14 feet above low water, and 7 feet above high tide.  A causeway (Shelter Island Drive), was created, connecting the island and mainland together.  America’s Cup Harbor is located to the east side of this island. 

8 ) Harbor Island – In 1961, the U.S. Navy had the main channel of San Diego Bay dredged to deepen the berths for military ships.  Over 12 million cubic yards of sand and mud was used to create this mile and a half long island.  Harbor Island also holds some of the nicest hotels with beautiful views.

7) Ballast Point – Many of the stones on Ballast Point are from ports all around the world.  Skippers would either collect or unload stones for their ballast on their ships, and over time a collection from around the world was gathered.  Many New England streets are lined with stones from Ballast Point. 
-During the whaling period, a whale-rendering plant was built on Ballast Point.
-Today Ballast Point is part of SD Naval Submarine Base, and  a U.S. Coast Guard facility is also located on the island.

Naval Submarine Station

Naval Submarine Station

6) Naval Submarine Station – Located off of Ballast Point, the sub station always catches the attention of passer-byers.  You are usually lucky enough to catch a sub or more sitting in the water.  You have to pass one on the water to really appreciate its size and structure.  The two large walls you will notice with a huge U.S. flag on the side is where they repair the submarines. If you are lucky enough you may see one being worked on.  The walls drop when a submarine needs to be loaded onto the platform, then raised back up for repairs.  This Naval Submarine base was used in the movie “Red October”.  After the attacks of September 11th, the barriers that look like huge black sausage links, were added so that any enemy vessel could not sneak attack from under water.

5) San Diego Bay Wildlife
a) Sea Turtles – The Green Sea Turtles are not believed to have originally resided in San Diego bay.  The story goes that Captain Bogart arrived in San Diego with sea turtles he had captured in Mexico. The sea turtles were kept in pens on the shores of Point Loma with the intention of starting a turtle meat business up.  After some storms that year, about 100 of the sea turtles broke away.  These escapee’s are believed to be the ancestors to the small group of about 30 to 60 sea turtles that live in the bay now.  It’s believed that the sea turtles first spotted in San Diego in the 1850’s migrated from Mexico.  Either way the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle is considered endangered throughout its range.
b) Giant Pacific Seahorse – the seahorse that resides in the San Diego Bay is one of the largest in the world, reaching a length of up to 12 inches.  They can be found all the way to Peru.  They are in constant risk from overfishing and habitat destruction.  Currently, they are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
c) California Sea Lion – All over the bay on buoys or swimming around you’ll notice the California Sea Lion.  Their favorite spot to hangout however are the bait docks owned and operated by Everingham Bros. Bait Co. since 1951.  Shore birds and sea lions hang out around the docks hoping to get a free meal.  The bait docks are always covered with these animals, and is the best place to get a look at them up close. 

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

d) Brown Pelican – Adult brown pelicans are a large dark gray-brown water bird with a white head and neck, and their wingspan ranges from, 6 to over 8 feet long.  Watching one of these birds or even better- a flock, take flight, is a beautiful sight.  They are listed as endangered and their population was almost decimated twice in the U.S. by pesticides such as DDT and related compounds.  The DDT would weaken egg shells, so when mothers went to incubate their eggs, they would end up crushing them.  Reproducing young became difficult and almost killed the species.  Populations are still vulnerable to chemical and pesticide pollution today. 
e) Of course there are hundreds of other species that also reside in the bay as well.

4) The Gray Whale – Every year between December and April, the gray whale graces San Diego with its presence as it makes its migration to and from their breeding grounds in the Baja lagoons of Mexico.  Before near extinction and industry expansion, the whales used to swim right into the bay as part of their route.  After whaling nearly killed their species twice, and after pollution from the growing city affected the water, they moved their route out a little  further from shore.  It’s not uncommon during whale watching season to catch a juvenile playing in the kelp beds in the bay.  In fact earlier this year one found the bay to be a comfortable place to stay for a few days.  Biologists almost had to try and chase it out to sea because the precaution levels within the bay started to become inconvenient for ships.  Whale watching is one of the biggest tourist attractions in San Diego every year.

3) Lindbergh Field – The San Diego International Airport is the 30th busiest airport in the country as far as passengers goes, but the busiest single runway commercial airport in the nation.  There are an average of 600 departures and arrivals a day!  Before becoming a runway, it was a mud flat that was often covered by water during high tide.  After funds in 1927, the bay north of B Street Pier was deepened.  The dredged material was used to cover 142 acres of tidelands.  This became Lindbergh Field.

Tom Ham's Lighthouse & Restaurant

Tom Ham's Lighthouse & Restaurant

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse Restaurant– On the west end of Harbor Island you’ll come across Tom Ham’s Lighthouse and Restaurant.  Why is it both?  Well Tom Ham wanted to make a restaurant but the Coast Guard wanted a lighthouse.  They came to a compromise and made it both.  Beacon #9 is a fully functioning lighthouse, and is one of two sanctioned by the Coast Guard on the bay.
Point Loma Lighthouses – Atop the hill/cliff at the point of Point Loma, there is a lighthouse.  However this one is not used anymore.  This lighthouse was too high up to do any good for ships coming into the bay during especially foggy nights.  So, the lighthouse now found at the bottom of the cliff at the very tip of Point Loma, was built, and the lens from the original Point Loma lighthouse, was actually used for this newer one.

1) John Wayne Jetty – The jetty on the East side channel, meant to reshape the bay entrance, is named after John Wayne himself.  Why?  John Wayne took his boat out to sea, and one night upon coming back from a fishing trip to Mexico, did not realize that the high tide was covering the jetty, and he rode his ship aground on it.  But if that wasn’t enough to earn the title, upon another trip back from sea, he crashed into the jetty upon high tide yet again, in nearly the  same spot.  So after two times of doing this, they felt is necessary to name the jetty after him. (The rock jetty is actually called the Zuniga Jetty).


Any references used include The Birch Aquarium 2008-2009 Whale Watching Program Training Handbook

What’s your carbon footprint?

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you ever wonder what impact your daily life and habits have on the carbonfootprintenvironment?  On this planet?  On the following site, you can figure out not only your own carbon footprint, but your whole household’s as well, and how to improve it.

What is a carbon footprint?
It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases that we burn daily in our everyday living, and measures the impact this has on the environment, and how it affects climate change.

Go to the website. Click on the calculator button, put in all your info., I would do it for your whole household, which includes all vehicles at your home, then you can go back and remove everyone else’s and just do your car.  You’ll get what I’m talking about once you go to the webpage.  It basically tells you how much carbon dioxide you personally emit a year, in tonnes (tons). It’s really quite interesting.  I believe the national average is in the low 20’s, but it will compare your output to the nation’s average in the end. It also tells you what you can do to reduce your levels.  If you find that your carbon footprint is higher than the national average, you’ll have a bigger knack to try and figure out how to get it below the average.  So go check it out, and start figuring out how you can reduce your Carbon Footprint!

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

August 23, 2009 15 comments

So perhaps you have heard of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, perhaps you have not.  It is something I have been more recently educated on, and in doing so felt it important to share my new found knowledge.

Plastic Ocean

Plastic Ocean

So what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex?  It is a gyre of litter (trash) in the central North Pacific Ocean.  Still not following?  In layman’s terms, it is a big pile of trash floating in the middle of our ocean.  A very big pile of trash.  Big in the sense that it is twice the size of Texas.  It contains over 100 million tons in floating garbage and growing.

So how did all this trash come together? 

The Pacific Gyre / currents

The Pacific Gyre / currents

This “patch” was created by the Pacific currents carrying garbage from North America, Asia, and the islands (the whole Pacific rim), and then concentrating it into a continent swirl of garbage; a vortex.  The majority of the source of this trash comes from land – dropped into the streets, into drains, into sewers, and leading out to the ocean.  About 80% is from land, and 20% from ships at sea.  It takes about 5 years for trash to reach the gyre from the west coast of North America, and less than a year from the coast of Asia.

About 80% of this junk is plastic.  Plastic is 100% non- biodegradable.  But, in water, and with sunlight beaming down on it, plastic is broken down into bits, and solids become chips and those chips become dust eventually. 

Plastic Beach

Plastic Beach

Plastic bags shred, and also will eventually become plastic dust.  On islands of the Pacific, coming from all over the Pacific rim, plastic, swirl into a vortex that eventually brings them to these shores, creating sand dunes made of plastic.   The more the plastic breaks down, the more of a threat it becomes, because it starts to affect even the smallest organisms on a molecular level, thus invading the entire food web in the ocean.  There is 6 times as much plastic in the gyre than there is plankton.  Plankton is this area’s most abundant food source.

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Animals mistake all this waste as food and die from either plastic poisoning or blockage of their digestive system.  Sea turtles may think that floating plastic bags are jellyfish, rope may become entangled in the tentacles of jellyfish.  Albatross (seagulls) mistake waste for food all the time. Often they are found dead a shore, and their skeletons show nothing but a pile of plastic within.  Chicks get fed with waste that the parents fly back to the nest too, killing the chicks as well.

All this plastic absorbs, transports, and releases hydrophobic pollutants (PCB, DDE, DDT).  This harms the ocean’s foodchain and can thus affect us as well, causing diesease, infertility, etc. 

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

So how can this problem be fixed?  Well it would require more money than any nation is probably willing to spend on the clean-up project.  The best thing we, or anybody can do, is the obvious we have been taught for years:
-Reduce your plastic waste
-Do not litter
-Participate in beach clean ups, riverbed/runoff clean ups, drainage clean ups, etc.

Extinction Is Forever, Endangered Means We Still Have Time

August 23, 2009 1 comment


Think about it.


(Picture taken in the Manatee exhibit at Sea World, San Diego)  >> But applies to all animals.