Friday, September 28, 2007

Protective measures for dolphins upset fishing industry

Possible restrictions on set nets to protect dolphins could "annihilate " the fishing industry in Kaikoura and have devastating social and financial impacts on a lifestyle which has taken 30 years to build, says commercial fisherman Dick Cleall.

Heads nodded in agreement as Mr Cleall stated his view during a public forum at the Memorial Hall where representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) and Department of Conservation (DOC) encouraged the 15-strong crowd of tourism representatives and fishermen to forward submissions on options outlined in the hector's dolphin draft threat management plan.

The plan was jointly developed by the two government departments and discussions during the afternoon centred around striking a balance between maintaining a sustainable fishing area while reducing the threat to hector's dolphins.

The plan states set netting is one of the biggest known threats to hector's dolphins and outlines a range of options to manage this. It also wants to place restrictions on some in-shore trawling and crayfishing guidelines due to recorded cases of dolphins becoming entangled through such fishing practices. The proposal outlines non-fishing measures to protect the mammals such as a possible moratorium on hector's dolphin viewing points, education, strict compliance, monitoring and research.

There are five commercial set netters in Kaikoura sustaining Sealord and Ngai Tahu, and Mr Cleall has been in Kaikoura for 30-odd years.

During this time Mr Cleall said set netters had been gradually pushed out of the ocean by the Government and MFish. He said before quota was introduced in 1986 there were about 30 set netters in South Bay alone but the buy-back scheme saw many take the money and move into other business.

This was the first taste the region had of being "weeded" of all set netters and every time another push by the Government came more would have had a "gutsful" and pull out, he said.

Mr Cleall set up his business for his four sons to carry on and it had kept the family together.

Further regulations, which he believed would result in MFish stopping set netting altogether, would potentially strip the income to each of his boys by $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

Socially and economically the eradication of set netting would be devastating as about seven people worked on shore to every one at sea, he said.

A common belief was that set netters fished inshore all of the time, but it was actually about three months of the year. Fish in Kaikoura were migratory so set netters would always target different fish and set netting was the most economical way of fishing as it was selective, he said.

Kaikoura's commercial set netters will lodge one submission between them on the plan and Mr Cleall will also lodge a personal submission, canvassing the social and economic impacts of the proposal.

The Government has already acted towards reducing the threat including a marine mammal sanctuary around Banks Peninsula and a seasonal amateur set-net ban out to four nautical miles from shore between the Waiau and Waitaki Rivers from October 1 to March 3. There is also a requirement for amateur fishers to stay with their nets when fishing between Waiau and Clarence Rivers during the same time period.

Ministry of Fisheries spokesperson Ray Voller said MFish needed to tighten up where and how people could fish so they could tell fishermen exactly where to go.

"At the moment it's not very clear and quite confusing which does not help."

Department of Conservation Nelson/Marlborough technical support officer Andrew Baxter said perfect figures on the hector's dolphin population in Kaikoura could not be calculated due to "the nature of the beast".

The plan contained some information based on an aerial survey carried out a few years back, but there was enough information based on the population from biological studies to know that one hector's dolphin death was one too many. Hector's dolphin are endemic to New Zealand and have a population of around 7270 .

Submissions for the plan close on October 24.

Dolphin assisted therapy changes boy's life!

Johannes couldn't concentrate for more than a few moments. Eye contact was rare and communication with the 9-year-old was nearly impossible. Then he met Nemo.

Nemo is a dolphin and part of an innovative therapy program that helps children battle the challenges of autism.

At the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Centre (CDTC), Nemo and three other dolphins are partners with rehabilitation professionals in fields such as psychology, physical therapy, special education and behavioural therapy and speech and language pathology and other disciplines.

"When we first came, Johannes could barely leave his mother," says Rolf Kuchler, Johannes' father, who has brought his son here four times at a cost of $6,000 (U.S.) for each of the private two-week sessions. "Lisa (Faust) the therapist took him into the water, and he became so fascinated by Nemo, he focused for almost two hours ... we couldn't believe it."

The sessions are in a secluded lagoon where the child, a dolphin and a therapist interact. Stroking and eye contact are encouraged. Hitting and withdrawing aren't.

The dolphins' movements are used to relate to the child and make the therapy fun.

Dolphins naturally seek eye contact and children connect. It's up to the therapist to modify the child's movements. For example, if the goal is to relax a child's convulsive hand, they'll be encouraged to touch the dolphin's side. Positive response from the dolphin encourages the child to keep the hand open to stroke the smooth flesh. It's effective, but it's not magic.

"We see great things happening every day, but we don't want people to believe that swimming with dolphins will cure everything. They can't work miracles," says head physical therapist Marco Kuerschner. "But for many children, just realizing that dolphins share some of the same limitations they do is life-changing."

And the results seem to last, provided the behaviour modification continues at home.

"We teach families to recognize communication signals," says Faust.

"If a child can't speak, he has to do something to signal his needs. Pinching himself, or chewing his lips can be signs, so the key to meeting needs, relieving frustration facilitating positive behaviour lies in decoding those signals."

The program is open to children with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, learning and behavioural problems, post-traumatic stress and other disorders. Participants must be between 3 and 20 years old and accompanied by a parent or caretaker.

For information on the Curacao Dolphin Therapy Center, visit

Boston joins the fight against slaugthering dolphins in Japan

Supporters of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition (MARC) and Cetacean Society International (CSI) will join a worldwide protest to denounce Japan’s annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins during today’s 4th annual “Japan Dolphin Day.”

The noon demonstration will be held in front of the Japanese Consulate at Federal Reserve Plaza, 600 Atlantic Ave. in Boston, and at other Japanese embassies and consulates in dozens of cities around the world.

Dolphins are hunted in Japan for their meat, to be processed as fertilizer, and because they are considered competition for fish. A growing number are also captured live for sale to aquaria and marine parks including “swim with dolphin” tourist attractions patronized by many Americans.
Known as “drive fisheries,” these hunts take place from September to April off the shores of remote Japanese port towns, primarily Taiji and Futo.

“The cruelty endured by dolphins and whales caught in drive hunts is immense. Aboard motorized boats, drive hunt fishers loudly bang metal pipes over the side of their boats to disorient the animals and drive them toward shore where they are trapped by nets and brutally stabbed,” explains Courtney S. Vail, US Campaigns Officer for WDCS.

“Fishers sometimes use cranes to haul them out of the water by their tails, often while still alive, to transport them to a nearby slaughterhouse where they are butchered away from public view. Those selected for live capture are held days and are then taken out by sling or stretcher and transported to cramped sea pens while they await their sale.”

With a growing demand from the marine park industry, the fisheries have found a very lucrative business in the live capture of dolphins and set aside several of the animals for sale to aquaria and marine parks in Japan, and the rest to Asia. More recently, proposals to import dolphins from the drive hunts have surfaced in the Caribbean and Middle East.

Each dolphin caught and sold can eventually bring in tens of thousands of dollars when adapted to captivity and trained to perform.

“Obtaining dolphins in this manner for our entertainment and pleasure is not only a crime against nature, but a betrayal of the public sentiment that seeks the protection and welfare of these intelligent and special animals,” says Vail. “Zoos and aquariums that source animals from these brutal hunts are complicit in providing a financial incentive for their unfortunate continuation, and are in direct violation of their own codes of ethics.”

Despite growing international outcry, the Japanese government has turned a deaf ear to the criticism and allows the cruelty to continue. Clearly, though, authorities are aware of the negative public relations surrounding their actions as local authorities in both Taiji and Futo post “Keep Out” and “No Photography Allowed” signs near the killing shores in an effort to keep activists from witnessing and filming the slaughter.

“The Japanese ‘drive fishery’ has generated international opposition from more than thirty animal welfare organizations, but most Americans have no idea of the cruelty involved in capturing and exhibiting dolphins, or the brutal slaughter of thousands of dolphins and small whales that is taking place off the coast of Japan right now,” adds Sharanya Prasad, Marine Mammal Program Officer for the World Society for the Protection of Animals in the United States.

“The WSPA hopes this worldwide protest will increase public awareness, and urges the Japanese government to heed the voices of the global community and end these cruel, unsustainable drive hunts immediately.”

Helen Rayshick, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, agrees: "Dolphins are among the most intelligent, loyal, and fascinating animals on the planet. They are not pests and deserve better than to be ruthlessly slaughtered. It is time for the Japanese government to listen to world opinion and stop the killings.”

“Today’s annual demonstration to protest the largest slaughter of dolphins in the world will be held at the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate office in cities worldwide, including Boston, Washington, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Rome, Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Manila,” points out William Rossiter, President of Cetacean Society International.

“Participants will include animal welfare groups, environmentalists, average citizens, school students, dolphin trainers, and patrons of aquaria and zoos. Anyone interested in protecting animals who lives or works near the Japanese embassy or consulate in any of the cities where demonstrations will be held are encouraged to join us by participating in the protest and speaking out on behalf of dolphins.”

For more information about the Whale Dolphin Conservation Society:

For more information about the World Society for the Protection of Animals: or

For more information about the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition:

For more information about the Cetacean Society International:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Texas Aquarium loses one of its tenants: Cobie the dolphin!

After a summer of illness, Cobie, one of the bottlenose dolphins at the Texas State Aquarium, passed away early Friday.

Texas State Aquarium veterinarian Tim Tristan and curator Debbie Prevratil worked with Cobie, who had been battling a lung infection and other illnesses, most of the summer.

Cobie performed at the Texas State Aquarium (with Shadow) and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Dolphin seeks human contact

A lone dolphin is making friends with sailors and lifeboat crews around the south-west of England.
The dolphin, named Findol after a children's book character, was pictured playing with the Penlee lifeboat crew this week off the Cornish coast.

It is believed to be the same creature that was seen playing among boats in Plymouth Sound earlier this month.

Dolphins usually travel in large "pods" but Findol seems to have been rejected and is swimming alone.

Patrick Harvey, deputy coxswain at Penlee Lifeboat Station, said: "He was very friendly, he came right up against the boat and let us stroke him.

"He was rolling over so we could rub his belly.

"I have seen lots of groups of 20 or 30 dolphins together when I'm out at sea but this is the first time I have got so close to one to touch it.

"It was amazing."

Dolphins are commonly found swimming in hierarchical groups but occasionally, lone males are banished from the family for various reasons.

Dolphin expert Peter Bloom, who works with the marine mammals at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire, said: "It is highly likely it is the same dolphin.

"This behaviour is rare but not unheard of, there are sometimes one or two going around the British coastline."

Findol joins a number of famous friendly dolphins around the South West including Donald, who was well-known to fishermen in north Cornwall in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Percy became a big attraction at Portreath and last year a dolphin named George has been playing among the boats in Weymouth, Dorset.

The decline of Indus River dolphins is alarming!

The decreasing flow of water in the River Indus has not only changed the river’s shape but the number of various fish species, especially the rare Blind Indus Dolphin, has declined dramatically, Abdul Karim Gabol, communication officer of World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Sindh told Daily Times on Wednesday.

“Though the exact number of the fish could not be collected, according to an estimate of the Sindh Wildlife Department in 1989, the number of Blind Indus Dolphin between the Sukkur barrage and the Arabian Sea was about 3,500. That has gone down to a mere 1,100 in 2006,” he said. Another reason for the declining number of this species could be that the river had been reduced to small ditches in most areas near Kotri Barrage, which has caused a complete end to many species of small fish used as Blind Dolphin feed.

“There is a pocket between Sukkur Barrage and Guddu Barrage where 70 percent of the Blind Indus Dolphins present in the River Indus were found. Many organisations have initiated preservation efforts in this area,” he said. Mohammad Arab Mallah, president of the Sindh Tarraqi Pasand Mallah Tanzeem and an expert on downstream Kotri matters, agreed that the alarming level to which the Blind Indus Dolphin was in danger was because of the continuous water shortage below Kotri Barrage.

He added that the irrigation system and barrages on River Indus had proved major obstacles in the free flow of Blind Dolphins. “My organization contacted several organizations for help. It is regrettable that our government is doing nothing to preserve these rare fish,” Mallah lamented. He said that professional fishing at the River Indus and the use of prohibited nets had also caused this decline. “People hunt the dolphins for their oil or kill them for meat because they believe that the fat of the dolphins is a treatment for some kinds of pain. That is not true,” he explained.

Mallah said that sometimes, these dolphins accidentally get caught in fishermen’s nets and die. “A couple of months back, a dolphin slipped from River Indus onto Rice Canal near Larkana and was shot dead by some villagers who were unaware of the importance of this beautiful fish.” This rare fish is locally known by various names such as Indus Susu, because of its whistle-like sound, Blind River Dolphin and the Side-Swimming Dolphin. The Indus River Dolphin has a long beak that thickens toward the tip, revealing its large teeth.

The forehead is steep and the fish has poor eyesight as the blowhole is on the left of the head, above its tiny eye. They are gray-brown in color, sometimes with a pinkish belly, and measure between 1.5 meters to 2.5 meters in length, weighing a maximum of 90 kg. Their breeding takes place every alternate year in shallow water and the reproductive season is from March to May.

Plan to save dolphins

The critically endangered Maui's dolphin could be saved by a captive breeding programme at Napier's Marineland, conservationists believe.

The Conservation Department believes there are only 111 surviving Maui's dolphins, found off the northwest coast of the North Island.

The species is closely related to the threatened Hector's dolphin, which lives mainly around the South Island.

Friends of Marineland spokeswoman Anne Foreman said the Maui's dolphin was the most critically endangered mammal in the world's oceans.

Marineland, which has held captive dolphins for more than 40 years, is now down to one surviving dolphin - of the common dolphin species, which is larger - and has been refused permission to acquire more.

Mrs Foreman suggested that Marineland could be used in a breeding programme for Maui's dolphins captured from the wild.

Two American scientists who specialised in dolphins had told her that in the US dolphins were breeding well and living long lives in marine mammal parks.

However, Otago University marine scientist Steve Dawson, who has studied dolphins for nearly 25 years, rejected the idea.

Dolphins would not breed any faster in captivity than in the wild - and any capture involved risk, he said.

Dolphinarium is getting ready to go!

Building work has been completed on a dolphinarium in Dubai and the opening is less than three months away, a senior official has told Gulf News.

Fitting out is currently underway at the new facility, which will form part of Dubai Marine World at Dubai Creek Park.

When announced two years ago, the plans for the dolphinarium caused concerns among animal welfare campaigners who said it was cruel to keep dolphins in captivity and make them perform tricks.

Dubai Municipality pressed ahead with the scheme, and Salah Al Qaiwani, head of contracts at Dubai Municipality, said its opening was not far away.

"Construction is finished. Now they are working on interiors," he said.

He told Gulf News the dolphin earmarked for the new facility was currently living in poor conditions in a dolphinarium in the Ukraine.

Poor conditions

The animal - a third-generation captive bottlenose dolphin - could be joined by a second dolphin.
"This dolphin lives in a bad environment and we will be trying to do our best to make it a nice environment," Al Qaiwani said.

Al Qaiwani said the new dolphinarium would encourage conservation efforts by educating children about the environment and "how nice" dolphins were.

"A lot of people will learn how we should take care of dolphins and how sensitive they are to changes in the environment, and what we should do to protect them," he said.

"Thousands of dolphins die because of pollution and wars and other reasons and this one dolphin might be the saviour of thousands of dolphins."

After the dolphinarium proposals were made public, The Humane Society International wrote to Dubai Municipality saying that even if captive-bred animals were used in the new facility, it would encourage the capture of wild animals.

Also, the organisation said the dolphinarium would lead to "suffering and high dolphin mortality".
An online petition was set up by campaigners to try to get the municipality to shelve the proposals.
Dubai Marine World is costing at total of Dh205 million and has been developed by Dubai Municipality with British Virgin Islands-based company Royal Segrex.

As well as the dolphinarium, Dubai Marine World will also include a fish farm, a coral reef aquarium, a research and therapy centre and a centre called Gatorville.

Another dolphinarium is planned in Dubai at the Atlantis resort in the Palm Jumeirah.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Injured dolphin begged for help from boaters

Animals in nature live by the wild rules. And they die by them. As I prepared a lecture Monday morning, nature had also been preparing a lesson about fundamental rules. That afternoon, with a stiff shove, nature would come full circle.The first call about a wounded dolphin begging from boats came from Wendy Schultz, a dolphin aficionado like myself.

Its hurt pretty bad, she reported.Twenty minutes later, I was watching the wounded dolphin. Worried jet skier Eric Bradford circled around it. Give it some room.Wounded wild animals do not have the benefit of medicine. Their survival is based on the nature of the injury, prior physical condition and ability to pour all resources into recovery.

Already under pressure, the proximity of even-concerned humans can rob vital energies.Barely able to clear the water, the wounded dolphin followed the jet ski. This is not typical dolphin behavior. But then, shredded and repeatedly gouged by sharks, it was not in typical health.As queasy paparazzi, I snapped pictures of the dorsal fin to record the dolphin's identity. I knew the ailing animal: Whitley.

We first saw Whitley in 2005. Like some people, Whitley was instantly memorable. Not only was the leading edge of his dorsal fin scraped clean of gray pigment, it glowed like a strip of reflecting paint on the highway (the name Whitley is word-play for white).In happier times (June, September, November 2005), he acted like other dolphins but with conspicuous vigor. Brawling with local males (N, Midface and even Edge) and weaving among throngs of females watching male fights from the sidelines, it was particularly hard to get Whitley's picture.

He had no interest in boats.Terry Ryan of Fly N High Waverunners arrived on another jet ski. He too wanted to help.Phone calls had galvanized a stranding team, people trained in the tricky business of rescuing marine mammals. Dr. Greg Early of Mote Marine Aquarium was racing up from Sarasota. Terry and Eric left to bring Early from the docks to the dolphin. I stayed with Whitley. Still slow and low in the water, Whitley swam to my boat and lay dying.

Cleaner fish picked at his many gashes; already necrotic, wounded tissue glared brightly against dark dolphin skin. Food fish swam across his face. Whitley did not respond.We don't give fish credit for understanding the minds of others (theory of mind). But these fish knew something about Whitley's condition or they'd never saunter past the jaws of their natural enemy. Presently he roused himself, in a manner of speaking, and slowly moved off. Several boats thundered by, some sickeningly close to the dying dolphin.

What does it take to teach boaters to watch out for marine mammals?Like a loop of compassion, Capt Jack Steeves of Hubbard's Dolphin Tours and Lani Grano of Gator's Parasailing came to help and later her employees Brandon and Stephanie Fernandez. Tensions high, the feeling was, Can't we do something? Tow him to shallow water? Otherwise, he'll drown.Marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

You need federal authorization to legally approach one closer than 50 yards, much less touch one. Yet, my mind raced, admired rescuers of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary rush out and rescue hurt seabirds without delay. Why not also give immediate help to a beloved species with self-awareness and a brilliant mind?Human safety. Whitley was in the water, not fading away on the beach. Unless a dolphin is in such shock that it will not fight attempts to save it, rescuers could be accidentally hurt or drowned. Ever been hit by a baseball bat?

The tailwhip of even a wounded dolphin can slam-dunk a person. Only one person can actually authorize someone to help marine mammals in distress, Blair Mase of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Her territory covers an unbelievable length of coastline: the Carolinas through Texas. But her rescue network is available 24-7. If you see any animal in distress, immediately call the 24-hr Wildlife Alert dispatch 888-404-3922.Whitley entered a small cove where four other dolphins foraged.

One swam up, nudged him and hurried on.Whitley's behavior changed then.His body, fatigued from its long fight, shuddered. He surfaced to breathe. Exhausted now, he could only elevate his blowhole. Slowly, arduously, he managed 6 more breaths and then sunk. The bull's circle was ferociously complete. It was horrible to watch.

More ghastly, this wasn't entirely nature. Humans helped it happen. In 2005, Whitley was big and brawling and natural. By 2007, he'd become a beggar dolphin. Humans taught him to rely on them for food. No one studies Clearwater dolphins. All that's known about Whitley is our data and the Saturday videotape of him begging and being fed by Clearwater boaters three days before his death. He was already thin and severely wounded besides.

Designed to eliminate weakness, sharks had commenced their job of scavenging. Though it's possible that Whitley begged because he couldn't feed himself after the shark attack, none of the other dolphin shark-survivors we know turned to humans for help.It's more possible that each human who fed Whitley helped turn him into a beggar. Then they went home. Whitley grew weak from hunger. Sharks moved in but didn't finish the job.

Whitley died miserably.Following his training, Whitley sought humans to the end. We weren't exactly there for him, were we.Epilogue: No one knows if or why beggar dolphins stop feeding on their own. It would be extremely hard to study. But surely someone reading this seeks a consuming passion or something useful to do with their money.

Maybe Whitley died to guide your way.LOVE WILD DOLPHINS? LEAVE THEM ALONE.Dr. Weaver studies wild dolphins under federal permit GA1088-1815, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Send her an e-mail at or visit

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Yangtze River dolphin is officially extinct!

This represents the first extinction of a large vertebrate for more than fifty years and the only species of cetacean ever to be driven to extinction by human activity.An intensive six week survey was undertaken at the end of 2006, which covered the entire historical range of the species in the main channel of the Yangtze River in eastern China.

Not a single individual was found.Dr Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London said: “The loss of such a unique and charismatic species is a shocking tragedy. The Yangtze River dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over twenty million years ago. This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet.”

It is believed that the main factor responsible for the disappearance was the accidental death of large numbers of dolphins in fishing gear, rather than active persecution.In stark contrast to this tragic news - in a once-lost forest in Africa, six animal species new to science have been discovered including a bat, a rodent, two shrews and two frogs.

These new species were discovered in an expedition from January and March 2007 into woods just west of Lake Tanganyika, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have been off limits to scientists for more than 50 years.

These woods have been isolated from much of the Congo rainforest - the second largest rainforest in the world - for at least 10,000 years, which explains why they held new species, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Deo Kujirakwinja.

Dolphin getting some attention!

A female dolphin with a tiny calf attracts lots of female attention. When LA Stick appeared with her tiny newborn in late May, her 20 companions were mostly female although bulls BB, DD2 and N swung by briefly.

A female dolphin without a tiny calf attracts lots of male attention. Unhappily, LA Stick’s tiny calf was gone by June 22.Since then, there’ve been bulls around her: Big Nipple Square Bite, Cheetah, Dollop, Edge, Grin, KK, LA Cheetah, Midface, Rippington, Riptab, Square Bite Tall and Square Scoop. Oh, yes, and BB, DD2 and N.You never know about bulls.

Sometimes they fight around females. Other times, they do not. Over Labor Day, however, LA Stick and her cadre showed us a vivid new view of sex at sea. As far as we know, dolphins don’t have leaders. That is, they don’t have unquestionable leaders like the magnificent males who lead gorilla and Hamadryas baboon harems. But if someone follows you, you’re a leader. Dolphins have followers. Early morning, the rush of holiday boaters was starting.

The outgoing (ebb) tide exposed skirts of shoreline sand surrounding small islands. Just beyond the skirts, three little groups of dolphins streamed slowly across the shallows.LA Stick was in the lead, followed by five persistent bulls. Bulls Cheetah and LA Cheetah made the second group. Bull trio BB, DD2 and N made the third. Members of each bull group swam side by side and close together but the bull groups swam far apart.

Together they formed a triangle, LA Stick as the apex and bulls as the base.We weren’t monitoring vocalizations but from the surface, the bulls were orderly. An occasional shove or glint of fin suggested some underwater discussion. Otherwise, the shallow glide seemed steady as an elevator ride.However, the bulls were sharking: They swam so close under the water surface; their dorsal fins were continually visible.

Dolphins shark in very shallow water, when hunting and when socializing. Sharking is thrilling because it means something exciting will happen. The bulls’ sharking was more interesting because it implies minimal body movement. Elevators again rose to mind. In elevators, humans become reductionists, minimizing movement. In close quarters like an elevator, minimizing movement is understandable. Even innocent moves can be misinterpreted. They fanned across a deep channel, facing the current.

Each smoothly submerging and surfacing in the same spot, perhaps they fed on fish swept by on the current. Like their behavior, their fan formation was unexpectedly orderly as if it followed some rule about the allowable distance between dolphins in these conditions. Finished, LA Stick streamed back across the shallows. Like wedges, the sharking bulls followed. They passed sand bars of feasting shorebirds, where the orderly dispersion of egrets, herons, ibis and wood storks again expressed the ancient rule of reducing direct competition.

At a broad watery cul-de-sac where she often forages, LA Stick didn’t stop. That’s not to say she didn’t grab a quick bite. Coastal Keep Away was about to begin. She surfaced, an ashen pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) gleaming in her mouth. Normally, these tasty game fish have silvery sides. This poor chap was chalk white. We could see why. With bulls BB, DD2 and N on her heels, LA Stick started tossing the poor pompano like a kid bouncing a basketball while strolling with friends.

Only this time, the pompano was the basketball and they swam instead of walked.LA Stick’s version of bouncing a basketball was to submerge a short distance, rise and snap her head, shooting the pompano a couple of feet ahead. She lunged down and reclaimed the fish, water spattering off her sides. Repeatedly, she rose and punted the pompano, always to the right. It either wasn’t a game of Coastal Keep Away or she was real good at it because she punted without interference.

As such, pompano punting is an example of ‘respect for the possessor.’ Swiss ethologist Hans Kummer used the term to explain why capable Hamadryas baboon males left a [claimed] harem female alone. Captive and free-ranging dolphins show respect for the possessor when they leave other dolphins’ fish alone. To do this, you have to recognize the world from the other guy’s point of view.This fish tossing episode was more unusual. First, LA Stick was tailed by other dolphins. Fish tossers are usually alone.

Second, she punted repeatedly. Dolphins make quick work of tossing fish they intend to eat. Finally, the poor pompano seemed too big to eat. The picture revealing dolphin chew marks rather than severing bites suggested pompano punting wasn’t about breaking it into edible pieces. The cadre of bulls wasn’t her only audience. People crowded the sea walls to watch this rare reflection of dolphin social psychology parade by.

How did the dolphins view all this?Ironically, the Florida pompano’s scientific name means roughness. It was indeed one rough day for that understandably pasty pompano, maybe as rough as that final day for LA Stick’s little lost calf.Dr. Weaver studies wild dolphins under federal permit GA1088-1815, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Send her an e-mail at or visit

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dolphin's interactions with humans are surprising!

A dolphin called Georges caused a splash when he befriended two jet skiers.

Georges, a lone bottlenose who spends his life traversing the English Channel, followed the men back into Shoreham Harbour after approaching them out at sea.

The creature, who was given his Gallic moniker because he spends a lot of his time off the French coast, is well-known to marine biologists for his unusually fearless attitude towards humans and vessels.

Alex Darroch and Justin Huxtable were initially terrified when they spotted Georges' fin in the water.
Alex, 22, said: "I thought it was a shark. It jumped up and splashed back down, and the wave knocked me into the water. I reached up to the throttle and accelerated away at full speed without even bothering to get back on.

"Even when I realised it was a dolphin I was still pretty scared, because it was so big and powerful."

As they headed for the shore Georges appeared again, jumping up between the jet skis.
He followed them into the harbour and spent an hour splashing around in the water with the pair, even allowing them to stroke his belly.

Alex, from Lancing, said: "I think it was attracted by the speed of the ski and the way it was turning. It was almost as if it thought we were dolphins too.

"After a while we started to get a bit concerned because he was swimming up the river and we thought he might get beached.

"There were quite a lot of people around and he seemed to be getting agitated."

The men contacted the Coastguard and tried to get Georges to follow them back out to sea, but each time he returned to shore with them.

Eventually a lifeboat managed to tempt him out of the harbour and shake him off their tail.
Experts say Georges is highly unusual because of his itinerant lifestyle.

He first appeared off the coast at Bexhill on Monday, then moved on to Eastbourne and Brighton before appearing in Shoreham on Tuesday evening.

He was last seen off the Dorset coast.

Trevor Weeks, of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said members of the public should not try to interact with Georges, for their sake and his.

He has pushed children into deep water, bitten ankles and even hospitalised two adults after batting them with his powerful tail.

Trevor said: "He weighs 800lb and is basically just one big muscle. He can be quite boisterous and can hurt people."

Well-meaning humans can also pose a risk to dolphins.

Trevor said: "A lot of dolphins end up being hit by boats and dying because of interaction.

"Dolphins always attract a lot of attention, but the best thing is to ignore them and watch them from a distance on the shore."

Have you ever encountered a dolphin while in the UK or abroad? Tell us about it below.

Dead dolphin ends up on beach

THE carcass of a dolphin washed up on the coast of West Somerset this week, prompting hopes that water quality may be improving.

Strollers Alison Gould and Lisa Clarke encountered this carcass, believed to be dead dolphin, on West Street beach, Watchet, on Tuesday lunchtime.

Mrs Gould, who comes from a keen fishing family, says she has never seen dolphins or porpoises off the West Somerset coast.

She said: "I've lived here all my life and I've never heard of a dolphin around here because the water is too dirty.

"The carcass was about four feet long but was badly decomposed and there was a nasty smell.
"We just went for a walk to kill some time on the last day of the summer holidays - it was quite a shock to find it.

"Hopefully, if they are about, it means the water is getting cleaner."

Yesterday (Wednesday), a spokesman for West Somerset Council said: "We have informed the relevant agencies and made arrangements for our contractors to remove the carcass today."

Dolphin's toxic levels of mercury end up as lunch meat!

For the first time in Japan, two elected officials are warning the Japanese public of dangerous levels of mercury in dolphin meat, and condemned its consumption, especially in school lunches. They say the public is unaware of the health problems associated with the meat, and are on a mission to educate them. Catherine Makino reports from Tokyo.

Two city assemblymen from the fishing town of Taiji in the southern prefecture (state) of Wakayama, say short-fin dolphin meat was taken from supermarkets in the city and tested for mercury over the past year. Junichiro Yamashita and Hisato Yono say it contained more than 10 to 16 times the government's limit.

Although supermarkets are removing it from their shelves, Taiji is moving ahead with plans to build a $3 million dolphin processing plant. In addition, there are plans to expand the government's program of supplying school lunches with dolphin meat.

Speaking to journalists, Yamashita strongly denounced those plans, and said the school lunches were like feeding children "toxic waste." He says the government does not warn people that eating dolphin meat is a health hazard - mercury can cause severe brain damage and potentially fatal health problems.

"I stressed to the town council that it was risky and dangerous to use the meat, and it should be destroyed," he said.

Japanese medical researchers have also voiced concern about the high levels of mercury found in dolphin meat. Sea animals pick up the mercury in polluted coastal waters.

He says the government and the fishing industry hide the information from the public.

"The mass media is not taking it up because it could threaten the economy of the small town of Taiji, and hurt major fishery industries and the hunting drives of dolphins," he said.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan warned two years ago that short-fin dolphin meat was contaminated. The groups also used the warning in a campaign to stop Japan's annual dolphin hunts.

About 2,300 dolphins are killed yearly in Taiji and 20,000 throughout the country. In Taiji, the mammals traditionally are herded into small coves, where they are speared and hacked to death. Most other countries ban dolphin hunting.

In the 1950s, the coastal waters around a small town in Japan called Minamata experienced massive mercury poisoning. About 3,000 people who ate seafood from the town's coastal waters were sickened and suffered permanent harm.

Some dolphins fight "tough" bacterias

"Super bugs" resistant to penicillin and several other common antibiotics grow in the guts of one in every five bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon, researchers found.

The bacteria appear harmless to dolphins so far, but could trigger disease in those dolphins with compromised immune systems.

There's no evidence to date that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are causing human illness in the lagoon region.

But researchers say people exposed to higher concentrations of the "super" E. coli bacteria by eating the same lagoon seafood that dolphins eat or swimming in the same water may face an increased risk of potentially deadly digestive and skin infections, the researchers say.

And dolphins could become "reservoirs" for stronger bacteria more likely to make people sick.
"What I think we're seeing right now is sort of the tip of the iceberg," said Greg Bossart, a marine mammal pathologist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce and one of the study's authors.

The researchers published their findings last month in the journal Aquatic Mammals.

Bossart and colleagues from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Charleston, S.C. examined fecal samples from 38 bottlenose dolphins from the lagoon and Charleston Harbor area, S.C.

Their findings included:

E. coli from dolphins showed resistance to 19 of 25 antibiotics tested.

Of the 38 dolphins successfully screened, 18, or 47 percent, had bacteria in their feces resistant to one or more antibiotics.

The problem was worse in Charleston, where 15 of 23 bottlenose dolphins, or 65 percent, tested positive for bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Of the 15 lagoon bottlenose successfully screened, three dolphins had resistant E. coli bacteria.
Lagoon dolphins had bacteria resistant to penicillin, amoxicillin, cephalothin and nitrofurantoin.
Amoxicillin is used to treat pneumonia, bronchitis, gonorrhea and ear, nose and throat infections.
Nitrofurantoin kills bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.

"Those are drugs that are really quite often used for human and veterinary medicine," Bossart said.
While a recent environmental group's report touted Brevard's clean surf, less is known about bacteria levels in the lagoon.

The "super" bacteria could be seeping into the lagoon from septic tanks, sewage treatment plants and farm runoff, the researchers said. Farmers use antibiotics to promote growth in their cattle.
"Many cows and farm animals, they have this in their system," said Heidar Heshmati, director of Brevard County Health Department.

Doctors who over prescribe antibiotics also contribute to the problem, he said.

People who fail to take their full course of prescribed antibiotics also can breed a stronger next generation of bacteria. They flush unused medicines down the drain, where they enter wastewater and ultimately the lagoon.

The researchers found higher bacteria resistance near urbanized areas of the lagoon.
There are 19 wastewater treatment plants along Brevard's barrier island. One dolphin that harbored antibiotic resistant bacteria was captured in the Banana River near Cocoa Beach's sewer and reclaimed water treatment plant at 1600 Minutemen Causeway. Two others were found close to the St. Lucie River, which has had ongoing sewage problems. None of the eight dolphins tested near Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge -- which lacks any large-scale sewer plants -- had resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria were significantly higher overall in South Carolina dolphins than in lagoon dolphins. The Charleston area is far more urbanized than the lagoon region.

The research was part of an estimated $1.2 million dolphin health study, funded mostly through the "Protect Wild Dolphin" license plates and state grants.

The 40 scientists have generally found lagoon bottlenose the less healthy of the two dolphin populations, and they seem to be getting sicker. Bottlenose here suffer from a mix of emerging ailments, including genital tumors, stomach ulcers, fungal growths and viral infections that can lead to cancer.

The researchers also have discovered flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs in dolphin tissue from both populations. The chemicals are widely used in plastics and foams for computer casings, carpet pads and cushions on chairs and couches.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Could the Yangtze River dolphin specie not be extinct after all?

A creature believed to be the rare Chinese white dolphin has been sighted in the Yangtze river, an expert said Wednesday, renewing hope for a mammal recently declared as probably extinct.
Video footage by a resident of eastern Anhui province purportedly taken this month appears to show the critically endangered white dolphin, known in China as the "baiji", frolicking in its native Yangtze habitat, said Wang Ding, one of the world's leading authorities on the species.

"We cannot confirm it 100 percent but it looks pretty much like a baiji," Wang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Agence France-Presse.

Wang led a survey by scientists from around the world last year in search of the dolphin which came up empty, and he told AFP earlier this month the 20-million-year-old species was "likely extinct."

But he said the new sighting means there is hope.

"If there is one, then we have more there," he said.

The Anhui resident, Zeng Yujiang, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying he filmed the dolphin, easily identifiable by its long, tooth-filled snout and low dorsal, along the banks of China's longest river on August 19.

Devastating pollution, illegal fishing and heavy cargo traffic on the Yangtze have been cited as key factors in the demise of the species.

Up to 5,000 baiji were believed to have lived in the Yangtze less than a century ago, according to the website, a conservation group.

Wang said he planned to search for the dolphin along the stretch of river where the footage was purportedly shot.

Although the sighting will likely renew hopes for the long-term survival of the baiji, experts say at least 50 of the animals will be needed to prevent the gene pool from irrevocable degeneration and eventual extinction.

"The problem is if we don't do something, the animal will be gone for sure, and quite soon," Wang said.

"If we have 50 of them, that would be very good. But we can't expect too much."

Wang also said another creature, believed to be the finless porpoise, appeared to be swimming along with the white dolphin.

The finless porpoise is also endangered but not as critically as the baiji.

The last confirmed count of the white dolphin by a research team was conducted in 1997, when just 13 were recorded.

The website blames illegal fishing and massive discharges of industrial and agricultural waste into the river.

Other rare species that live in the Yangtze, such as the Chinese sturgeon and the finless porpoise, also face possible extinction.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Zealand: Net bans to protect dolphins?

The New Zealand public wants a set nets ban and the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary to protect the critically endangered maui's dolphin.

Public consultation undertaken by Forest and Bird, centred in Auckland, Waikato and Northland, has found almost total support for a set net ban (98 percent) to protect maui's dolphins.
There was also strong support for the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary off the northwest coast of the North Island, with 96 percent of respondents supporting a sanctuary to protect the dolphins.

Forest and Bird conservation advocate Kirstie Knowles said today the strong public support for a set net ban and to establish a marine mammal sanctuary for maui's dolphin meant the Government should include those measures in its threat management plan to protect maui's and hector's dolphins.

The threat management plan was expected to be announced by the Government early this week.
Once found around most of the New Zealand coastline and numbering over 29,000 in the 1970s, hector's dolphins were now mainly found around some parts of the South Island and number fewer than 8000, Ms Knowles said.

They were listed as "endangered' by the IUCN (World Conservation Union), and were at serious risk of extinction.

Maui's dolphin, the North Island sub-species of hector's dolphin, was listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of species at risk of extinction. Just 111 remain, making them the world's rarest marine dolphin.

"Set nets are the main threat to hector's dolphins, responsible for more than 60 percent of their deaths in cases where the cause of death is known," Ms Knowles said.

Set nets also killed other vulnerable marine life, including seals, penguins, sharks, rays, other dolphin species and seabirds.

While a set net ban was in place off part of the northwest coast of the North Island, it did not protect maui's dolphins across all of the areas where they were found, she said.

Ms Knowles said set nets were the number one killer of both dolphins and they should be banned nationwide.

Teen participated to dolphin therapy

If you've always secretly believed that the cure for heartache is hitching a ride on a dolphin's fin, then "Eye of the Dolphin" might work for you a bit.

This unassuming, but sadly unexciting, family film stars Carly Schroeder as 14-year-old Alyssa, whose troubles since the death of her mother have landed her in hot water. Her grandmother (Katharine Ross) figures it's time Alyssa has a change of scene, so she drops a bombshell: The father Alyssa has never known and presumed to be dead is actually alive in the Bahamas. Off Alyssa goes to surprise her dad, James (Adrian Dunbar), a somewhat dissolute researcher in wild-dolphin behavior.

After a bumpy start, father and daughter make some sense of their unexpected relationship. Just in time, too: James' controversial work is under serious threat, and Alyssa proves a resourceful help. But there is a poignant conflict: James is trying to return dolphins to the open sea, but Alyssa finds long-sought catharsis in frolicking with them, jeopardizing dad's goal.

"Eye of the Dolphin" has every reason to be a memorable film, even a classic, but somehow it can't convey its own rich opportunity. Co-writer and director Michael D. Sellers' impressionistic images of the exotic setting should be enticing, but they're not.

The obligatory scene where self-involved James gets past initial resistance to Alyssa is happily free of treacle. But its flat matter-of-factness doesn't get the movie anywhere, either.

Young Schroeder acts her heart out for a lost cause and manages to create a couple of powerful moments. The scene when her character decides to ride with a dolphin pal has an almost lusty zeal to it, hinting at a deeper level of psychological insight than this film is capable of exploring.

Rescued dolphin had to be euthanized

Beachgoers, lifeguards, and marine biologists tried to save a Risso's dolphin. The 6 and a half footer washed up around 2:30 on the 11th Street beach in Ocean City.

Normally, this type of dolphin lives in the ocean about a hundred miles offshore.

The dolphin resisted efforts to get it back into the ocean. Then, during transport by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, the creature went into convulsions and had to be euthanized.

A sad end to a valiant rescue effort today in Ocean City.

Beached dolphins dies while other swims near by

A young female dolphin was found dead this morning on a beach in Fairhaven on the South Coast as a larger adult dolphin swam in circles about 40 to 50 feet offshore.

The dead dolphin did not have any lacerations or other external signs of trauma, said C.T. Harry of the Cape Cod Stranding Network. Its body will be taken to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for a necropsy to try to determine why it died.

The older dolphin is not currently in danger of stranding, but it is being closely monitored from shore by the stranding network.

"It made it through the low tide," which is a good sign, said Harry, an assistant stranding coordinator.

The two dolphins were first spotted Thursday night swimming together near West Island and appeared to be in danger of beaching themselves, Harry said. A volunteer responded to the scene but was unable to see the dolphins.

Fairhaven police called the stranding network at 7 a.m. with news that the young dolphin was dead on the beach. Dolphins beach themselves for a variety of reasons, Harry said. Some are sick and dying. Others swim near shore to feed and get trapped at low tide. Dolphins are social animals and when one of the mammals beaches itself, others often follow.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the one that is alive is an adult female," Harry said. "Whether they are related in the sense that it's mom to a social dependent calf, it's speculative."

Zoo dolphin died of heart condition

City zoo officials have determined that its 24-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin died from cardiac problems.

Phoenix, a female dolphin, died June 24 of a problem similar to a heart attack, said zoo senior veterinarian Dr. Jeff Proudfoot.

Possible risk factors for the problem are similar to those of humans: genetics, infections, viruses or circulatory problems.

"We just don't know at this point exactly why this happened," Proudfoot said Wednesday in a statement by the zoo, "but we're going to go back and do some good science and try to understand this disease process more clearly."

Phoenix had behaved and eaten normally before her death, and had a physical examination in May that did not indicate any problems, zoo officials have said.

Dolphins in captivity typically live more than 25 years.

Dolphin survey shows 80% diminution of species in one year!

Researchers from the wildlife conservation charity Marinelife are extremely concerned about what it is NOT seeing this summer in the Bay of Biscay.

Marinelife’s unique long-term monitoring project, the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) has been conducting scientific monthly whale, dolphin and seabird surveys through the English Channel and Bay of Biscay for the last 13 years, using the P&O Cruise Ferry, The Pride of Bilbao, as a research platform. In addition, a BDRP full-time Wildlife Officer collects daily data on dolphin abundance. The BDRP surveys have detected more than 20 species of whale and dolphin in the Bay of Biscay and counted over a hundred thousand animals.

Through the recent work of BDRP and other research groups, the Bay of Biscay has become known as a worldwide hotspot for whales, dolphins and seabirds with many passengers each year experiencing wonderful encounters with the marine wildlife, especially groups of dolphins that may number several thousand. However, this summer there has been a very obvious and worrying dearth of sightings, which is significant given that the Bay of Biscay is of European importance for dolphins and other cetaceans.

Early indications have shown that during June and July, the total number counted of the 3 main dolphin species, Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin, are down by around 80% on the same time last year. Seabirds, such as auks, shearwaters, and gannets have also been in short supply and the situation has been ongoing since the early spring, with no signs of an improvement thus far during August.

Marinelife are worried that this very apparent decline in sightings of both dolphins and seabirds along the ferry route, could be more wide-ranging and could indicate a big reduction in fish stocks due to over fishing or a change in distribution of fish stocks due to temperature changes (in turn linked to climate change).

This year has already been marked by a failure of the anchovy fishery, with bans being put in place for the Spanish and French fleets, but what else could be happening?

Marinelife’s Research Director, Dr Tom Brereton said: “Whatever the cause of the disappearance of dolphins this summer, it shows both how vulnerable they are and how alarmingly quickly local declines can occur when environmental conditions change. The changes highlight how we need to act quickly, to address major issues such as climate change and over-fishing.”

Marinelife are also well aware of the other pressures facing dolphins, especially those in Biscay and the Western Approaches to the English Channel and that too is related to commercial fishing – namely bycatch of dolphins in fishing nets. This activity is known to claim thousands of dolphins each year, many washing up dead on the beaches of the south west coastline and this situation has still not been adequately addressed by the fishing industry.

Marinelife continues to work in partnership with a number of other research groups, spearheading an international initiative, the Atlantic Research Coalition (ARC) that aims to describe changes in the status of whales and dolphins at European scale.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"