Monday, November 10, 2008

Whales Wars-Wagging the Conservation Dog

“WHALE WARS is an epic adventure that looks at the consequences of taking a stand on an issue,” declares Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “It’s so important that WHALE WARS calls Animal Planet its home. It’s truly compelling television, and it’s entertainment with a conservation message infused to its core.”

Perhaps one of the most chilling departures from the entire 40 year global eco movement was this year when Sea Shepherd traded it's last shred of dignity and credibility for the cameras of Animal Planet and thus began Eco-Edutainment Television-where the message and outright fabrication of events have subsumed the horrors of actual whaling. Where dead whales and story lines are traded with advertisements for SUV's and laundry detergent. This is a meeting of eco media and horror that never should have happened and now that it has will change the landscape of the global eco movement for years to come.

Sea Shepherds anti whaling operation last season was one of unrelenting and breathless press release after press release. Sea Shepherd members were "taken hostage" by evil Japanese whalers. Sea Shepherd members were "harassed", titular head of the organization Paul Watson was "shot in the chest".

The fact is none of this actually happened the way it was portrayed and 90% of it was fabricated for Animal Planet's cameras creating for the first time a hybrid media organization that,truth be told, is becoming more horrific than actual whaling. Even Discovery Networks are backing away from Watsons "attempted assassination claim" realising their exposure to it might have a negative blow back for the network.

The question most credible NGO's are asking themselves these days, what is worse? Killing whales for bogus research, or exploiting the killing of whales for television ratings and eco donations from a well meaning and ill informed public?

Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, like the Republican Party, are out of fresh ideas, and out of a true game plan to stop whaling in the Antarctic. One might even suggest this is not the real agenda here. It is well known that Watson hates, with a passion reserved only for the mentally unbalanced, his fellow anti whaling rivals Greenpeace. By allowing reality television crews and cameras aboard his vessel Watson creates his own reality and 20 million unwitting viewers go along for the ride not knowing events are not as they seem. Worldwide Sea Shepherd has all but painted itself into a corner, with fewer and fewer countries and ports allowing his brand of hysterical eco activism into their waters.

Sea Shepherd has chosen, in lieu of actual action, to Wag the Conservation Dog. Where this goes from here is any ones guess. What other NGO's should be doing right now is taking a hard stance against for profit reality television shows like Whale Wars. In the final summation will this stop whaling? No, sadly it will not.

Will it cause dollars to flow into Sea Shepherds coffers and away from other NGO's who are doing real conservation work? Sadly yes, it will, and that's the true horror of Wagging the Conservation Dog.

It's Not All Sharky...Wiley The Raccoon

This blog is 90% sharks and 10% "other".

Today we would like to introduce you to the other 10%. This little guy is "Wiley" (click image) a three week old Raccoon pup we rescued this summer.

His mother had been hit by a car while she was transporting her little brood and Wiley was the last pup left still alive when we discovered him on the roadside after spending a full day in the blazing sunshine.

Dehydrated, and almost dead, we took him home and got him back to the world of the living with some round the clock feedings and care.

Once we got little Wiley stable we shipped him off to Wild Care a fantastic local wildlife rehab non profit who took Wiley in and promptly renamed him "#211".

#211 grew up to be a fine outstanding member of the community with the dedicated help of Wild Care and was released a few months ago where we're sure he's raiding garbage cans with the best of them. For us, every time we hear the sound of cans being raided late at night, we think fondly back to this summer and an encounter with Wiley-211.

In this case wildlife conservation does begin at "home".

Busting Shark Propaganda

If you ever see or read the following statement beware of unhelpful shark propaganda:

"The ocean produces 70% of our oxygen we breath on Earth. Sharks are a critical part of the marine ecosystem that produces that oxygen and without them we could be in big trouble. "

Sadly sharks are in enough trouble as it is without wild hair, unsubstantiated claims like this one. Unfortunately this particular "claim" has caught the imagination of many, and has been repeated more than we care to see.

The end result, those that utter this statement look uninformed and foolish in the eyes of anyone who has got their pulse on shark conservation issues worldwide. Worse they can quickly become discounted as fringe elements by both advocates for shark fining and the NGO community at large. Making up facts that have no basis in any study or even reality hurts everyone.

The shark conservation movement needs to stick to the facts. Those facts are horrific and compelling enough without the added and misguided shark propaganda.

So, next time you post a response, send in a protest email, or write your Member of Congress be sure not to express the thought that if we do not save sharks there will be no more oxygen to breathe...the shark conservation movement needs credibility not propaganda.

Coast Guard, Cook Islands Ministry of Fisheries seize shark fins

The eco enforcement winds of change begin slowly at times.

15lbs of sharks fin? It's a start.

With the enaction of the Shiprider Agreement the US Coast Guard will now be conducting vessel boardings all over the planet. Last week in the Cook Islands the 71-foot fishing vessel Pacific Horizon, home ported in San Diego, Calif was found to have 15lbs of dried and illegal sharks fin on board.

While this bust is a literal "drop in the bucket" it is the beginning of legal enforcement in areas of the world that have no navy to patrol protected areas and fisheries:

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard boarding team members seized 15 pounds of shark fins aboard a fishing vessel in the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Thursday at approximately 5 p.m.

A Cook Islands Ministry of Fisheries law enforcement officer and a boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Walnut, a 225-foot buoy tender home ported here, conducted a fishing vessel inspection Thursday approximately 2,200 miles south of Hawaii in accordance with the new bilateral law enforcement agreement with the Cook Islands.

It is a violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1996 to have shark fins aboard any U.S. vessel. The seized fins are aboard the Walnut as evidence and will be transferred to National Marine Fisheries Service specialists who will determine if a formal Notice of Violation (NOVA) will be issued.

Critters You Never Want to Bathe With...

Out of Boston this morning a critter story about one of the most disgusting animals you could ever not hope to encounter. The Sea Lamprey.

We have encountered these critters on the Pacific coast fly fishing for Salmon and can testify to their absolute and unredeemed "ick factor".

Turns out they are once again making news-this time in Lake Champlain. Before you all start screaming "It's da global warming!" read the article:

BURLINGTON, Vt. -The ancient creature attaches itself to the body of its prey with the rasp-like teeth lining its jawless maw, punctures the skin with its chisel of a tongue, and then slowly sucks out the victim's blood.

Editors Note: To keep this sharky-there's a deep water critter called the Cookie Cutter shark that feeds by taking small circular chunks 'o flesh from it's victims. While not as gruesome as the Lamprey Eel, it's something to take notice of.

EBay Going Unnoticed-Template for

Something remarkable happened last month in terms of eco enforcement and for the most part this watershed event went unnoticed by the larger NGO community and the broader implications for the ongoing battle against and Yahoo!

EBay has decided to ban the sale of Ivory products system wide. As it turns out EBay's decision to institute the ban came just before the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) released findings from a three-month investigation in 11 countries.

This study is in our humble opinion first rate work by an NGO that resulted in an opening to both Yahoo! and it's 50% stake in for continued unregulated sales of shark fin. As we have been covering is "The New York Stock Exchange" of shark fin sales world wide and remain one of if not the largest sharks fin portal on the planet.

The problem with these sales? 100% are unregulated with many protected species being sold along with literally tons of sharks fin that are being moved daily through this site. Worldwide sharks are being killed at an estimated 50-70 million animals a year to feed the lucrative Asian fin market. Yahoo! Inc is a California based company with a multi billion dollar stake in Yahoo! has refused any discussion about it's involvement in this ongoing slaughter calling the issue a "cultural practices one" (see video).

Congratulations to EBay for seeing the light, now all eyes turn to Yahoo! Will they see the light as well? For our money as long as Jerry Yang is at the helm, probably not.

Recent Yahoo! stock numbers here.

White Sharks-Bill Wieger Sculptures

A few months ago we introduced you to Shark Diver Bill Wieger.

Bill's been out with us to Isla Guadalupe and Tiger Beach a few times and as it turns out got bit by the shark bug in an unusual way. Bill's an artist and his latest muse is a shark we have some to love at Isla Guadalupe called "Mystery".

Bill produces Mystery sculptures on a limited basis. His attention to detail and reproduction work is simply stunning. Bill has just returned from our last expedition this season Nov 3-8 onboard the MV Islander with what we can only imagine are more sculptures. They had a great trip and were treated to some of the largest sharks we have seen out there in a while.

Have a look at Bill's new website for all things sharky...just in time for X-Mas of course.