It’s Time to Enact the Rights of Nature

3167e-SOOpc2B2BjpegRecent headlines forewarned that two more Southern Resident orcas appear to be dying of malnutrition. That will leave the pod ever closer to extinction with only 72 whales remaining. It’s way past time for this government, for every government in the world, to enact the “Rights of Nature.”

“Rights of Nature is the recognition and honoring that Nature has rights. It is the recognition that our ecosystems – including trees, oceans, animals, mountains – have rights just as human beings have rights. Rights of Nature is about balancing what is good for human beings against what is good for other species, what is good for the planet as a world. It is the holistic recognition that all life, all ecosystems on our planet are deeply intertwined” (

“It’s Likely There Aren’t More Than 411 Right Whales Left, New Estimate Finds.” Headlines like this are dismaying. According to WBUR News, “The calculation is based on a trove of statistical data, observations of individual animals and a wave of observed mortalities, with no newborn whales observed in the most recent calving season.” The cause of this decline appears to be the gear used by Maine lobstermen that entangles the whales.

Let’s not overlook the whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia with approximately 115 plastic cups, flip flops and plastic bags in its stomach.

The number of dead whales is increasing in most areas of the world. Even Scotland and Ireland had an “Unprecedented Number of Dead Whales” (Cuvier’s beaked whales) wash up on their shores. Scientists say that the 80 dead whales might actually indicate that up to 1,000 of the Cuvier’s beaked whales actually died.

The Cuvier beaked whale is a deep diver, going as low as 9500 feet for up to two hours to hunt for food. This particular whale is very sensitive to loud sounds, and it’s speculated that anti-submarine sonar caused such intense pain to the whales that they surfaced too quickly. “Anti-submarine sonar isn’t used by Irish warships, but it is used by the U.S. Navy and by Britain’s navy,” Simon Berrow, a marine biologist said. Not surprisingly, neither group admits to being in the area using anti-submarine sonar.

For some reason, nearly 200 pilot whales died after stranding on a New Zealand beach. 149 died one day with another 50 the following day. Strandings apparently are a common phenomenon on New Zealand shores, according to “Up to 145 Pilot Whales Dead After Mass stranding on New Zealand Beach.” What causes these strandings? Pollution? Military sonar? Submarine activity? Warmer water?

“Torture of Russian whale jail as 100 Orcas and Belugas captured in Pacific Bay,” a dismaying article in The Telegraph by Alex Luhn felt like a slap in the face. I thought the crime of capturing whales for aquariums was over. Apparently not when the Chinese are in the market.

In 2018, 100 orca and beluga whales were (and possibly still are) being illegally held in a bay near Nakhodka in Russia and were/are to be  sold to the Chinese for their booming ocean theme park industry in China. There are already over 60 marine parks in China, according to Alec Luhn of Moscow for The Telegraph (British paper).  The Chinese plan for at least a dozen more ocean parks.

Supposedly Russia is investigating this, but Russia is also believed to be the only country that exports orcas captured in the wild, according to Luhn.

Since the “jail” is quite small, this suggests that many of the captured orcas are babies. Other reports say the whales are being tortured. For every orca captured, however, at least another is killed in the process. Jailers don’t seem to care since an orca can fetch up to $6 million dollars. This activity flies in the face of the 1982 moratorium against whaling: the only whaling allowed is for scientific purposes (that sounds quite lame) or for those with aboriginal “cultural” needs (another fairly lame sounding excuse taken advantage of by the Japanese who have killed over 1,000,000 whales and dolphins).

“Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population,” according to Oganes Targulyan, a Greenpeace Russia research coordinator.

And now the Japanese are on the hunt again. Their past history of whaling does not inspire trust or confidence. But the Japanese are certainly not the only ones to decimate aquatic populations. Unsustainable fishing practices are now the bane of the oceans. Just this week a blue fine tuna, a threatened species, sold for $3,000,000 for sushi! As the population grows, the population of fish diminishes.

In September of 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize rights for nature in its constitution. Bolivia is in the process of implementing laws that also recognize certain rights for nature. More than two dozen communities in the U.S. have adopted laws that recognize the rights of nature. The first major municipality to do so was the City of Pittsburgh in 2010.

It’s time.

(Material in this blog is from Saving Our Oceans. Release date is May 2019.)