Sperm Whale watches the helicopter Photo: Eliza Muirhead / Sea ShepherdAs we make our way south towards the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, we came across a magnificent pod of Sperm whales yesterday.
My heart literally soared with joy when I saw those majestic gentle giants swimming free and unmolested in the sea.
Years ago when I looked into the eye of a dying Sperm, I felt that the great whale had ordained for me a lifelong path, Some forty years later my passion for the whales remains firm, Patience and persistence have allowed me to stifle my wrath.
It was the eye of a dying Sperm whale that put me on the path of defending whales. That was in 1975. I declared then that I would dedicate my life to protecting whales and marine species. I continue to do so and will continue to do so for the remaining years of my life.
As our crew flew over the whales, the lead bull turned on his side and looked straight up at the Sea Shepherd helicopter. Once again the eye of a whale spoke to us, inspired us, and gave us strength. The sight of these wondrous whales swimming freely in the sea gives meaning to all of our actions over the last four decades.
The whales are the minds in the water, the great armless Buddha’s of the ocean. Every time I see them alive and swimming, I am reminded of why we do what we do, and that the risks we take are worth the effort.
For generations humans have slaughtered whales. Motivated by our lust for money, we have murdered millions of them. We have massacred them for oil, for women’s skirts, for meat, for fat to manufacture explosives to kill other humans and more whales. We have rendered Spermaceti oil into lubricants for intercontinental ballistic missiles, slaying the minds in the water for the purpose of exterminating the lives of our own kind.
It is this insanity by humanity that we oppose.
It has been my lifelong ambition to eradicate whaling from our oceans. I wish to see whaling go the way of slavery. It must be totally and forever abolished. It is a cruelty that has no place within the 21st century and no place in the hearts of humankind.
These magnificent, socially complex, intelligent sentient beings have the largest brains of any animal on the planet. They think. They feel. They love. They suffer at our hands. There is so much we can learn from them. We need not quest through space looking for intelligent life when we have possibilities here on our own home planet that we have not even begun to explore.
Yesterday we saw the Sperm whales and today we had Humpbacks swimming by the ship. I wish that the people who kill the great whales could experience the joy of swimming with them and of hearing their songs.
Sperm whale swimming in the ocean Photo: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd
Understanding, wisdom and harmony. Living intelligently throughout their aquatic span, Living peacefully with each other. Would that humans could have such harmony, And live so intelligently upon the land, Sister with sister, brother with brother.
If only humans could communicate with such clarity, Weaving music into comprehension and visions, Dialects not dividing, joining in unity, A sub-maritime realm of crystal clarity, Many families, species and no divisions, A dream never realized by hominid community.
There is no song on Earth like that of the Blue Whale. Low vibrations around twenty hertz, rumbling, Songs that penetrate each other’s very souls One hundred and twenty decibel wail, Through hundreds of nautical miles tumbling, Sounds that lap like music against remote shoals.
Humpback whales sing songs that change over time. Whales exchanging lyrics and tone, Songs with purity beyond human refining, Voices beyond grammar, syntax or rhyme, From the abyss a doleful moan, Stories designed for Cetacean binding.
Piked whales communicating with long thump trains. Low frequency sounds that echo off sea mounds, Each song distinctive, each whale song unique, Recognizable lyrics in refrain, Using deep current layers to reflect sounds, Casting a voice ten thousand miles is a major feat.
Haunting voices not of a world humans understand, Allowing the great whales X-ray vision, Sonic science superior to man, Visual transmissions sent as the Humpback sings, No secrets, no deceptions, collective decision. Wondrous Music without keys, horns, or string.
A language of ethereal music Speaking in cadences and notes, Modulating sounds and clear themes So perfect and to us mystic The siren’s song heard through the hull of boats. An exotic song haunting sailor’s dreams.
To hear their songs beneath the waves is an experience not to be forgotten. As the pod of Sperm whales approached, Second Officer Beck Straussner from Hawaii found himself directly in their path. He saw them approach and heard their thundering subaquatic voices. He heard their songs, their words, and felt their presence.
Beck was once a trainer at Sea World. He left when he realized that keeping these great creatures in captivity was wrong and not once did he ever find an experience of a whale or dolphin in captivity to equal the experiences he has found in the wild.
“This is where these incredible animals belong, swimming free in the sea, not in small tanks for our amusement and not on someone’s plate,” he said when he returned to the deck of the Steve Irwin.
A group of sperm whales Photo: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd
A group of sperm whales Photo: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd
Commentary by Marnie Gaede, Director and Vice President
I have recently learned of a great effort to protect endangered populations of Blue Whale and other magnificent whales from being struck by oil tankers, cargo ships, and cruise lines along the California Coast. These whales' migration route overlaps with one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes that leads to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. These ships hauling tons of people and goods cross over critical feeding habitat for migrating whales. Each year more whales are killed or cut to ribbons by massive propellers.
The shipping industry believes the cost to them would be too great to move transit lanes away from the whale feeding grounds. Voluntary efforts have been ineffective, and ships continue to kill whales. The US Coast Guard acknowledged the need to move shipping lanes to protect whales in a Port Access Study of 2011, but the US Navy objected to a shift through Point Mugu Naval Air Station waters even though oil-tankers are routinely routed through that area.
The Great Whales Conservancy is petitioning the US Government to protect Blue Whales from the threat of extinction. Death by ship strike is as a lethal as a harpoon, and the numbers of Blue Whales continues to be depleted. Further losses and a reduction of genetic diversity of the species would be a tragedy. A similar conflict was addressed between the North Atlantic Right Whale, and transit lanes and speed adjustments are in place and saving lives.
This is an urgent matter and I am hoping that my fellow members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will sign an important petition asking NOAA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Secretary of the Navy to establish commercial shipping lanes through Point Mugu Naval Air Station Waters to protect the Blue Whale from extinction and all migratory whales from a preventable horrific death by ship strike.
Please visit the Great Whale Conservancy website, watch the video on ship strikes and sign their petition to help move the shipping lanes further from the coast of California and critical whale feeding areas.
Commentary by Rosie Kunneke and Dinielle Stockigt
Operation Desert Seal team members
Operation Desert Seal crew in the Namib Desert
Photo: Sea ShepherdGrowing up in Africa, camping out is part of your childhood. Sleeping in tents in designated camping sites is exciting and being so close to nature makes you realize what is important in life. Namibia’s desert, however, is a tough and unforgiving place. Home to ever-changing sand dunes, which bring winds that can fill your lungs with sand if you don’t cover your mouth with some kind of cloth. Namib Desert means “place of no people” in the local KhoiKhoi language. This was our home for several weeks.
Our home was not the normal camping site either. No, the desert became our basecamp where we would plan our missions, configure our equipment, and keep an eye on the opponent. Our opponent does not want us to expose their brutal seal murdering ways to the world. We will risk it all to stand up and fight for the Seals.
Camping out in the harsh Namibia Desert without being noticed (but still close enough to the target where security levels are very high) is what we on the Operation Desert Seal team would describe as “next level stuff”. Forget all the luxuries you sometimes take for granted such as electricity, running water, toilet facilities, shower, etc.
Waking up in the dark early hours of the morning, your first challenge is to get dressed and brush your teeth while only having a very low level of light (because any light source can be seen miles away in this vast desert). Desert nights are really cold, so you literally put on every piece of warm clothing you have and the equipment that you would need for the morning’s scouting session must already be packed the previous night and placed to be easily found in the dark. The distance to the sentry point is walked in the dark, with only night vision and GPS to guide you which can be scary because you never know if you will encounter a hyena or jackal over the next hill.
By mid-morning you have a total wardrobe change. The sun beats down mercilessly and most days the wind picks up and for the rest of the day sand is trashed in your mouth, ears, eyes, or any part of your body that is exposed. The meals we have are mostly food that can be quickly prepared and usually spiced with some desert sand.
Any task that must be completed can become challenging when fighting against the heat, sand, and wind. Usually UAV’s will be configured and fine-tuned in surgically clean workshops or wind tunnels. Well, we had the wind all right, just not the tunnel part. With Gaffa tape and cardboard boxes to use as tables, the Aviators managed to make it work.
The evening meals are prepared in the last rays of the setting sun in order to ensure that by the time night falls over the desert, we do not have the need to use light sources.
Bitterly cold at night, very hot during the day, wild animals around you, sandstorms, and strong winds, your toilet is a self-dug hole in the sand, a shower is non-existed, water usage kept to minimum levels and whatever you do or wherever you move, the environment must be minimally impacted. That is life camping out in the Namib desert. However uncomfortable it can be, nothing compared to what those beautiful Cape Fur Seals have to endure at the hands of the brutal clubbers, so you brush yourself off and continue with the job at hand….
Commentary by Robert Wintner, member of Sea Shepherd Board of Directors
Bi-color anthius Photo: Robert WintnerTrafficking in reef wildlife for the pet trade is not sustainable no matter what an aquarium collector says. Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Director William Aila was an aquarium collector. Here’s the official position of DLNR:
“Aquariums introduce people who would not otherwise be able to see marine life and reefs to care for them, and therefore support the reefs without ever having physically being on a reef… …reef tanks advertise and stimulate visitors to come to Hawaii.”
The problem is that aquarium fish die quickly, requiring more fish. Hawaii reefs are in decline, yet William Aila’s orchestration of aquarium trade entrenchment in Hawaii continues with these ‘rules packages’. Aquarium collectors and wholesalers wrote these rules, and after these so-called hearings to ventilate public outrage, aquarium collector Aila will pass these rules with unanimous consent.
We all know about Pele’s curse on anyone taking a pebble or a bit of sand from Hawaii. What would be left if everyone took some? How does Madame Pele feel about the accursed aquarium trade? While Bill Aila runs kangaroo hearings on reef wildlife, and a few DLNR staffers soak up public outrage like punching bags, and Neil Abercrombie looks the other way, the world is watching Hawaii. Earthjustice is representing the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Council of Hawaii, and a cross-section of Hawaii’s people in suing the state—suing the State of Hawaii for Failure to assess reef impact prior to issuing aquarium permits that allow TOTAL EXTRACTION of Hawaii’s marine wildlife. These bogus rules have limits per collector, but no limit on the number of collectors.
These false rules allow six Hawaiian cleaner wrasses per day per collector—but a Hawaiian cleaner wrasse dies very quickly in captivity and Hawaiian cleaner wrasses are slated for protection on the Big Island. How can a species be targeted here and protected there? It’s the money. These rules are based on lies and personal need. These rules would allow 25 Moorish Idols per collector per day. So 23 collectors could take 575 idols in a day, reaching the annual average take in 10 days. Why have a rule that has no meaning or effect? The Oahu aquarium trade wants to protect three butterflyfish species that total 50 fish taken since 1999, but they target three other species already under great pressure. Why? It’s the money. Here’s the kicker- these rules target 260 species. One of those species is the bi-color anthius. This fish brings $70 each online, but Hawaii collectors get about five bucks for them. That’s $8500 for the annual take of this incredible fish. You can’t buy a species for $8,500, but you can sell one. Taking these fish for mainland hobby aquariums is wrong and a crime against the people of Hawaii.
I oppose these rules, and I challenge DLNR to recuse itself on the aquarium trade as long as William Aila is director. This was conflict of interest. Now it’s collusion between public officials and private enterprise.
Public testimony for the lawsuit against DLNR is open until December 19th. Here is a link to the petition where comments may be made: Earthjustice Petition
Dragon moray eel Photo: Robert Wintner
A dragon moray is extremely rare. Can you imagine the value of such a wonder to reef balance, reef beauty, reef experience. But we can't disclose whereabouts on this eel or any exotic species, because aquarium collectors will grab these critters in a blink for sale online. Dragon morays bring $950 each. William Aila now orchestrates aquarium trade entrenchment on Hawaii reefs. Neil Abercombie is MIA--no vision, no political will, no pulse, leaving Hawaii with nothing but the shame, shame, shame. Oh, but the times they are a changing.
Sea Shepherd crew approaches the Varadero Photo: Sea ShepherdLast Friday we were informed of a decision that gives irrefutable evidence that the case against Captain Paul Watson is political.
Since Captain Watson’s arrest in Germany, our legal defense team has been working tirelessly to gather evidence to get the Costa Rican charges against Captain Watson dropped. Our Costa Rican lawyer presented two excellent motions before the court and even a constitutional motion. All these proposals were denied with very weak justification.
Our latest motion was denied Friday. In this document we have provided a very clear argument that Captain Watson is being charged with a crime that does not even exist in Costa Rican law. He is being charged with danger to shipwreck with injury. There is no such thing as danger to shipwreck with injury. What is listed is: 1) danger to shipwreck, 2) shipwreck, and 3) shipwreck with injury. These represent three different crimes, all with different penalties. Captain Watson is being prosecuted for shipwreck with injuries even though an actual shipwreck never took place. We are not even arguing the absurdity of the so-called injury (one of the fishermen claims he slipped and broke his finger). We are arguing the wrongful application of the article in question, further adding that the article was drafted in the interest of public safety and public transportation. A collision (hardly a potential shipwreck) between a privately owned fishing boat and a Sea Shepherd vessel certainly does not fall in that category (we are not even arguing who was at fault).
The case has gone from strange to absurd by the latest court decision. Their argument is that the case has to go to court before they are even willing to make a decision.
Let me get this clear: Captain Watson has to show up in Costa Rica to be placed in jail awaiting his trial to defend himself against a crime that does not even exist in Costa Rican law? What guarantee does he have that he will receive a fair trial if the basic principles of Costa Rican law are not even honored by their own courts? And how clear will it be that, even if we do win the case, an extradition to Japan is imminent. How much time away from his crucial work will it cost Captain Watson? I think we all agree he has more pressing matters to attend to. How much money do we have to spend to defend Captain Watson against these unlawful charges?
Further adding to the absurdity of this case is the decision from the German court to refuse to drop the arrest warrant for Captain Watson. An arrest warrant that, according to German law, can only be maintained if Captain Watson is actually in Germany. The German court is arguing that it is not certain that Captain Watson actually has left Germany. I am confused, who is that man on the Steve Irwin? I could have sworn it was Captain Watson.
Maintaining an arrest warrant for someone who is not even in a country is like issuing an arrest warrant for everybody on the Interpol red list, regardless of where they are. The whole thing is absurd and unnecessary, let alone unprecedented.
The case is being stalled and the courts are refusing to listen to our argument, even though it should be crystal clear to them. What is crystal clear to us, is that this has never been about justice, this has always been political, a way to shut us down, a way to keep us busy in the courts, a way to raise our legal expenses and therefore lower our campaign funds.
This tactic doesn’t really seem to work, quite the opposite actually. What has happened since Captain Watson’s arrest is growing worldwide support for our cause, the purchase of another vessel for our fleet (and how ironic is its origin), Captain Watson joining our fleet in time to lead the campaign, and just this Friday I received the news that Sea Shepherd officially has been inscribed as an NGO in Costa Rica.
It is more than clear that we have the support of people around the world, but at the same time it is clear that governments are not listening to their own people. Then again, what is new?
Supporters in Germany at an S.O.S day gathering in honor of Captain Watson Photo: Sea Shepherd