War of the Whales

  john boyd photoWar of the Whales (Joshua Horwitz) is a superb account of the hellish situation in our oceans. The book often feels like a nail-biting suspense. Other times the information is so depressing it’s hard to continue reading.

This book has its share of villains and heroes. Probably a highlight was reading about the incredibly dedicated people, like Ken Balcomb and Joel Reynolds and others, who have literally devoted their lives and careers to defending whales, dolphins and marine species of all kinds. Without their commitment and perseverance, there likely wouldn’t be a whale left that hadn’t died by stranding due to military sonar bombardment and bomb detonation. Other organizations discussed in the book also wreaked havoc for marine life blasting away during oil exploration.

As Jane Goodall so aptly stated, “Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me.” To totally disregard the safety of an entire species, like whales, is abhorrent. And that’s the one problem with this book – it leaves one with very little respect for the U.S. Navy and their utter disregard for the oceans and the creatures they should be stewards of – not destroyers of. It’s my understanding that their methods and approach to dealing with these matters have changed somewhat, but it will remain to be seen if they actually walk their talk.

Yes, having grown up and lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I am particularly fond of whales, marine life in general, and water. I am horrified at the tons of toxic debris the Navy has dumped into the ocean and the fact that they used to use orcas for target practice. It’s almost unbelievable, quite frankly, that any civilized person with a brain and a heart would do such things. But apparently they had neither. Do they now? I can see that the Navy has an extremely difficult job, but when marine animals and oceans are destroyed for the sake of of “war practice,” there’s seriously bad judgment.

Unfortunately, it appears as though we currently have a president who has little to no interest in environmental issues. This appears to have been true during the Bush presidency also. Trump did sign the Save Our Seas document, however…so who knows.

Finally, Ken Balcomb was/and is a very dedicated, unswerving individual and is a legendary scholar of the beaked whale and the orca. IMO, however,  the author revealed more about Ken’s personal life than was necessary. Maybe Ken was okay with this. Maybe not.

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It Shouldn’t Take a Rocket Scientist…

00dca-orca2Bphoto“In response to its criticism of its treatment of killer whales, Sea World said it will build them a larger habitat. When asked for comment, killer whales said, “Hey, you know what’s a larger habitat? The ocean.”    Conan O’Brien.

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why orcas die in captivity at a relatively young age. It only takes people suffering from money-addiction to ignore the facts and not care one whit for the mammal they are tormenting and degrading.

According to National Geographic’s “Orcas don’t do well in captivity. Here’s why,” of the 70 orcas born in captivity around the world since 1977, 37 of them are dead. This number does not include the 30 that were stillborn or died in utero. Tragically, only a small handful of wild-caught orcas live past 30-years-of age. Not one captive born orca yet has lived that long. In the wild these mammals sometimes can live to 80 and beyond.

But this fact seems to escape the jailers – that they are cutting the animals’ lives short by about 50 years. It’s all about the money.

There’s plenty of evidence, and proof, that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are highly intelligent, social animals. Orcas are meant to swim great distances – often up to 40 miles a day – where they frequently dive to great depths to feed several times a day, every day. A super-sized swimming pool just doesn’t cut it. And even though some orcas are born into captivity, they are still genetically driven to do the same things that wild orcas do.

According to Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, “a primary indicator for whether a mammal will do well in captivity is how wide their range is in the wild. The broader their natural range, the less likely they are to thrive in confinement. This is the same reason some zoos have been phasing out elephant exhibits.”

An orca’s life in captivity could not have been devised to be more horrific. Orcas’ brains are highly developed when it comes to social intelligence, language (yes, language) and self-awareness. In the wild, they live most of their lives in tight-knit groups (pods). Often the males stay with their mothers for their entire lives. In captivity this social bond is ripped apart. In captivity they don’t have the opportunity to escape conflict with others or to engage in natural swimming behaviors. The animals are kept in captivity simply for people’s entertainment and other people’s bank accounts. This is wrong on so many fronts.

There’s hope that things are beginning to change, but certainly not fast enough. In 2017 California made it illegal to breed orcas. Shortly after this, Sea World announced it would be ending its captive orca breeding program. Unfortunately, a number of these animals are still kept for entertainment and continue to be treated like their personal lives have no value.

“At the federal level, Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, has repeatedly introduced a bill to phase out captive orca displays across the U.S.” I urge people to support this effort, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist or Independent.

Hopefully, and it’s a wild hope, the whales remaining in captivity will be released (before they die prematurely) to a whale sanctuary project. Of course, Sea World opposes this effort, and considers the sanctuaries to be nothing but “sea cages,” as if their over-sized swimming pools were preferential. If the whales do not survive or make it in a whale sanctuary, at least they’ll have had a chance – more than Sea World can offer them.

(An even worse thought is these poor creatures being sold by Russia, who is currently holding 100 orcas and beluga whales in a “whale jail” for sale to the Chinese for their aquariums. Likely the freezing temperatures in Siberia will end up killing the mammals who are kept in tanks so small they can hardly move. It had been hoped that Vladimir Putin would have the mammals released, but this has not yet happened. It may be too late.)

Material from:

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Coffield, R.L. Saving Our Oceans. Wickenburg: Moonlight Mesa Associates, Inc. May 2019. Print

Daly, Natasha. “Orcas don’t do well in captivity. Here’s why.” National Geographic,  25, March, 2019, https://www.natgeo.com/animals/2019/03/orcas-captivity-welfare/

 

Grouping Westerns, Whales and Oceans Together is not Weird!

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Release date: May 2019

We are fervently hoping that Saving Our Oceans is close to the final editing stages. Due to our involvement with the annual mule ride we sponsor, we’re grossly behind schedule, but we  plan to pull some long days…and nights…very soon.

There are those who say that our new direction (grouping westerns, whales and oceans together)  isn’t going to work. That’s it’s weird. Makes no sense. I’m too busy to argue with them and will let time be the determiner of that. I admit that the new website (westernswhalesandoceans.com) isn’t yet exactly brimming with visitors and that we closed down our new blog temporarily due to lack of visitors, but our sales have picked up and are ahead of sales a year ago – thank goodness.

This decision to add “whales and oceans” to our “western culture” is not a business decision. It’s a moral decision. We are now part of the Ocean Foundation and have been formally accepted to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. We strongly support the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition and the Orca Conservancy. We also love westerns, but westerns are mostly a greatly romanticized history of the past. Whales and oceans are a predictor of the future, which looks pretty grim right now.

I won’t get on my soapbox about the immorality of mercilessly harpooning intelligent, social mammals at this time because I’ve been on that soapbox most of the winter.

As for our western situation…an amazing number of people have been asking if our popular, reclusive author Jere D. James is ever going to write another western. We didn’t hold out much hope for quite a spell, but it looks very promising that Jere will be making a return. Whew. We need that since we’ve decided to keep our main operations in Arizona. Despite our intense interest in orcas and oceans, westerns still rate pretty high with us and most of our readers.

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Dwight Beard – A Western Icon

 

 

A New Species of Orcas? Don’t tell the Whale Killers!

(Photo by J.P. Sylvestre/NOAA)

By now most orca-addicts know that the recent rare sighting of orcas in the subantarctic area of the ocean could signify a new species. Some have heard of this mysterious orca, but very few have ever seen one of these fabled mammals.

There are photos of these orcas that date back to 1955.  A few other photos surfaced in 2005 confirming that these orcas were still alive and hadn’t been made extinct by the Japanese whale slaughter in the southern ocean.

Although an actual orca, these whales do have a different appearance than the orcas most are familiar with. For starters, they’re smaller and have a more rounded head. Most interesting, however, is the very small eye patch they have (compared to the orca eye patch most are familiar with).

Scientists are currently studying bits of whale skin nipped off by darts fired from a crossbow. The dart does no “critical” damage to the whale, and both the dart and the skin can then be retrieved from the water. A genetic analysis will determine how this new orca compares to other killer whales. (I wonder why this is necessary.)

It’s been reported that these smaller orcas are often chased off by the larger ones when both are grabbing fish from fishermen’s nets. If these new whales don’t socialize or breed with the other orcas, that could account for their differing structure and size.

There likely won’t be many whale-watching trips to see these orcas, however, since they live in the 40-50 degree area of the southern ocean. This “Roaring 40s” area is the most violent, storm-prone area in the world since there are no land masses to break up the waves…or the weather. Maybe this distant, formidable habitat will enable them to stand a chance of survival now that they’ve been found!

Can we assure them the right to continue to live harpoon free?

Inhumane Whale Slaughter Increases

00dca-orca2BphotoImmoral. Inhumane. Inexcusable.  These may be the best words to describe the Japanese, Danes (Faroe Islands), Norwegians and  Icelanders who persist in slaughtering whales despite the IWC ban on such activity.

Even though whale meat is in sharp decline, and world opinion finds whale harpooning an act carried out by demonic, barbaric nations, Icelandic authorities, like Japanese authorities, are flexing their muscles and thumbing their noses at world opinion and the IWC’s ban on whaling.

Numerous scientific studies leave no doubt that whales are intelligent mammals who communicate with each other, navigate in ways modern military is unable to master, feel pain and anguish, and care for their young (far better than many people).

Icelandic whalers plans to kill 2000 whales over the next five-year-period, justifying such slaughter by insisting that the number of whales has increased to support a yearly kill of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales every year until 2023.

This almost matches the gut-wrenching 900 orca whales slaughtered by Russia in a one-year period.

It’s difficult to say what drives the blood-lust of nations to allow the merciless slaughter of these gentle giants to continue. World opinion is souring on these nations and this act of cruelty. Even many citizens of the offending nations find the killing of whales to be immoral and reprehensible.

Whaling countries face warranted international condemnation.  Literally tens of thousands of whales have been killed since the whaling ban was put into effect.

(This topic is covered in more detail in the forth coming Saving Our Oceans.)

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Release date: May 2019