Saturday, October 27, 2007

Conservation group ask for ban on swimming with dolphins

IT is regarded as once-in-a-lifetime therapy for seriously ill and dying young people, but a conservation group wants a ban on swimming with dolphins.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) claims there is no evidence that swimming with dolphins helps people with physical or learning difficulties.

It says the practice is dangerous, because dolphins could attack humans and there is a risk of disease transmission between the species.

In a report, Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT), the group says: "In spite of the number of anecdotal accounts which appear to promote its success as a therapy and the growing number of captive dolphin facilities establishing to offer it, DAT remains a controversial therapy."

The report goes on: "It involves two highly vulnerable groups of individuals - the people undergoing the therapy who may be affected by psychological or physical disabilities and the dolphins used, who are either confined in captivity or part of a wild population that may suffer from human disturbances."

Stressing that the welfare of humans and animals involved is paramount, the group claims the practice could be harmful to both sides.

It says: "Dolphins are wild animals and are unpredictable and people have been injured swimming with dolphins, sometimes seriously."

The report says that dolphins could transmit brucellosis to humans and adds that there have been reports of humans infecting dolphins with chickenpox, against which the animals have no natural defences.

The authors also warn that commercial trapping of dolphins for the therapy had "serious conservation and welfare implications for the animals".

The report goes on: "DAT has considerable potential for harm for both the human and dolphin participants in terms of possible injury and high expectation, and to their families, in terms of monetary expense."

It adds: "There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate its long-term effectiveness as a therapy and viable alternatives exist." It calls for an end to dolphin- assisted therapy.

Cathy Williamson, a joint author of the report, said dolphins in captivity had been shown to suffer from high levels of stress.

"That makes them more vulnerable to disease and more unpredictable. Research in America has shown people who work with marine mammals are more prone to infection or injury."

She added that the therapy was "marketed for a huge range of disabilities and diseases".

But Ms Williamson said: "We feel there is something wrong about that, and the whole industry and any claimed benefits should be further investigated."

But the Round Table Children's Wish charity, which pays for seriously ill young people to swim with dolphins, insisted it gave "tremendous" pleasure and opposed a ban.

A spokeswoman said swimming with dolphins was one of the most popular request from the terminally ill children the charity helps.

She stressed that the swims organised were not specifically therapeutic.

But she insisted: "We do it in a very controlled way and there are limitations depending on the condition of the child.

The enjoyment it brings is tremendous, not just for the child, but for the family of that child."


IVAN McGaw's life was transformed after he attended a special clinic in the US for therapy with dolphins, according to his mother Wendy.

The seven year old was born with a rare condition which meant the two halves of his brain were not connected.

Mrs McGaw said that he could not speak, had been unable to show emotion and did not interact with other people.

But she said after one three-week trip to Island Dolphin Care Centre in Florida for intensive therapy, which included swimming with dolphins, Ivan showed an immediate improvement.
Mrs McGaw said: "Unless you have witnessed the good this kind of therapy can do, you won't believe it.

"My son would still be locked in a wee private world if it wasn't for therapy with dolphins."

Mrs McGaw, from Dunfermline, added she and husband Alan had since spent thousands on two further trips to the same centre.

She said: "After we came back the first time, the improvement continued - Ivan walked up to Alan and said 'daddy' for the first time.

"He has really come on since and I don't believe we would be where we are today without the dolphins."

Mrs McGaw dismissed the risk factor from swimming with dolphins - and insisted a ban was "ridiculous".

And she pointed out: "There is a risk from every animal - dogs can turn on you, but nobody's suggesting contact with them should be banned."

Protecting Hector's Dolphin may cause up to $88 million in losses for New Zealand fishermen

South Island fishermen will lose close to $80 million if proposals to protect Hector's dolphin are put in place.

The Seafood Industry Council said the loss to the national industry would equate to $88 million in lost catch value and an additional $75.5m in devalued quota, plus 411 fishing jobs.

Commercial Fishermen's Federation president, Doug Loader of Nelson, said fishermen from Cape Campbell to Haast would lose close to $16m in earnings and a conservative $63m in devalued quota under the proposal to close areas to set-netting and trawling. In its submission to the Hector's dolphin Threat Management Plan the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) said the lost catch would cost the industry $44m.

This would multiply out to an $88m loss to the nation when including downstream suppliers, employment and regional expenditure.

A further $75.5m would be lost nationally in devalued quota on the closure of broad areas of the coastline to set netting and trawling.

Set-netters would be the most affected by the proposal which would also force fishing fleets into less economic grounds, said SeaFIC.

Consumers bordering the closed areas would lose access to fresh locally-caught fish and affected quota holders would be likely to seek compensation.

SeaFIC said the draft plan relied on selective unreviewed data and unproven science and should be withdrawn so further research and monitoring could be done.

SeaFIC chief executive Owen Symmans said the plan would devastate inshore fishermen and their communities.

Regions such as Taranaki, Lyttelton and Riverton would see generational family businesses and processing factories close and boats tie up, he said.

"Fishermen are strung out in fear these government proposals will close them down. People are really frightened about the outcome," said Symmans.

Loader said the South Island figures were conservative as they only considered the main affected species.

The proposal has devastated fishermen and their families, and would impact hugely on supporting communities and industry, which rely on an average of seven on-shore jobs created for every one at sea.

"A lot of people are realising they will lose their business and livelihoods," said Loader.

Fishermen on the South Island's east coast would be most affected, where most undertake some form of set-netting or trawling.

"And I know some guys on the west coast of the North Island who will give up fishing completely."
He said dolphins would be no safer under the plan than with the range of measures the industry has put in place in the form of voluntary closures and warning pingers on nets.

However, WWF NZ has called for trawling restrictions and tough controls on set nets, saying they are the biggest threat to the animals' survival.

It said the dolphin-watching and swimming industries last year earned $25m.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dolphin's carcass floating on the open sea

A dead dolphin was found floating along the waters of Siquijor and Dumaguete around 11:35 am Friday.The dead dolphin had an estimated weight of 100 kilos, according to officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here.

According to one of the employees of the M/V Prima, they were traveling in the middle of Siquijor to Dumaguete when they noticed a dolphin floating in the waters.Saldy Ewe, one of the ship's crew, said he noticed the dolphin was floating lifeless.He said the dolphin suffered severe injury in its body that could have been the cause of death.

The BFAR officials said the dolphin had severe wounds in its belly, causing the intestine to come out while the tail was also cut off.Officials believed the dolphin was being attacked by a shark or could be by a merciless human being.

The BFAR officials immediately buried the dead dolphin after they conducted an examination.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dolphin Dave now has a tail injury

The female dolphin, named Dave, is thought to have suffered the injury in a collision with a boat propeller.

It follows warnings from animal welfare and rescue groups that she was at high risk of such an accident.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said the next few days would be crucial amid fears an infection could set in.

Spokesman Tony Woodley said volunteers would be keeping "a very close watch" on Dave's behaviour to see if she deteriorates.

Dorsal fin injury

Mark Simmonds, director of science for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has urged boat-users not to go near the dolphin.

"This latest wounding follows the deaths of two other friendly dolphins in the UK last year and we really must learn to treat these animals with more respect.

"We are currently just killing them with 'kindness' by first taming them and then not looking after the tamed animals," he said.

Dave has been living in the Channel off Sandgate since last April and has become so used to human contact that swimmers have been seen trying to ride on her back.

In August, it emerged that she had sustained cuts on her dorsal fin, also believed to have been caused by a propeller from a boat.

Experts said it was not considered to be life-threatening, but warned it could lead to an infection which could prove fatal.

Caspian Sea: Dolphins deaths are under investigation

Despite reports of an assassination plot Russian President Vladimir Putin is going ahead with a planned trip to Iran during which he will discuss the nuclear issue with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before attending a conference of countries bordering the Caspian Sea. Citing Russian sources, the Interfax news agency reported that suicide terrorists were to carry out an attempt on Putin's life in Iran.

The Kremlin reported that the Russian leader was informed of the threats, but insisted that his trip would proceed in any case. "Of course I am going to Iran," Putin told reporters at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks in Wiesbaden. "If I always listened to all the various threats and the recommendations of the special services I would never leave home." One of the issues Putin and his fellow leaders will face when they tackle the Caspian Sea problem will be the inexplicable deaths of 79 dolphins, whose bodies were washed to shore in September near the Iranian port of Jask.

The deaths of the dolphins were reported by the Kayhan and Etemad Iranian newspapers. In addition, six whales have also washed up along the Iranian shore in recent months. Radio Free Europe reported in early October that spillage and high levels of pollution in the Persian Gulf were to blame for the dolphin and whale deaths. Furthermore, containers carrying oil byproducts sprung leaks in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas July 15, allowing toxic sludge to seep into the Gulf waters.

The containers were owned by Tavanir, the state electricity provider. The spill polluted an 800-square-kilometer (309-square-mile) section of the Gulf. The Fars News Agency reported that a source in the Hormozegan Province said that provincial officials were told to "remain silent" on the topic of the oil spill for fear of negative publicity. Environmental issues have not figured prominently on the Iranian agenda. Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, the deputy head of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization, conceded that "chemical pollution" or oil may have contributed to the dolphin deaths.

Quoted in Etemad, Nabavi proposed that the dolphins may have simply become disoriented and lost their way. Nabavi also speculated that sonar from US submarines may have contributed to the deaths. Ehrahim Kahrom, an Iranian environmentalist, informed Etemad that the Gulf is 47 times more polluted than under normal conditions. Kahrom conjectured that a pod of dolphins may have surfaced amidst the oil sludge and died from toxic pollutants.

Kahrom noted that the junction of the Gulf and the Oman Sea is the most polluted region of the southern seas. The Gulf is home to 13 different dolphin species, some of which are in danger of extinction. In addition to dolphins and whales, other marine life, including the local fish and coral populations, are also threatened by the environmental degradation.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dolphin Pavilion is quite a sight!

WE'VE all had idle conversations about what we would do if we won the lottery. Some wouldn't tell a soul and carry on working, others would work for a month and then quietly disappear off to a life of flash cars, designer labels and luxury.

But always with such fantasies comes the visit to the building society to pay off the mortgage, in full, in cash, and then on to the travel agents to book a holiday in The Bahamas.Well, the good news is that The Bahamas isn't just a destination for millionaires.Yes, you can go and enjoy the kind of beaches only ever seen on a Bounty advert . . .on a package holiday.

First Choice will fly you from Manchester to The Bahamas capital Nassau, drop you off at your hotel, provide you with the services of no-nonsense Geordie rep Helen for whom nothing was too much trouble, and then fly you home again two weeks later.And this wasn't just any hotel.We went to one of the most talked about holiday complexes in the world - Atlantis on Paradise Island, the brainchild of hotel and gambling mogul Sol Kerzner.

This massive development dominates the skyline of Nassau which is connected to Paradise Island by two spectacular road bridges.Jaw-droppingly grand It is a vast structure, jaw-droppingly grand, yet reassuringly over-the-top. When we arrived, jet lagged, hot and crumpled we stood in the lobby of the Royal Towers - one of four hotels that make up the complex - and just stared.Atlantis also includes a casino, a marina, restaurants, designer shops, gorgeous beaches and an amazing water park and during our visit in August it was teeming with people at most times of the day or night.

To walk from one end of the complex to the other takes about half an hour and takes you through the famous casino where people feed the slot machines or anxiously watch the roulette wheels oblivious to the world going on outside.You can also walk through the resort by following a path outside which takes you into close contact with pools that are home to the world's largest marine habitat.

Our six-year old daughter couldn't get enough of this astonishing array of sea life and saying goodnight to the manta rays became a daily routine.But her favourite part of Atlantis by far was the water park which features 11 swimming areas, heart-stopping water slides and a fantastic lazy river where you can float along in a posh equivalent of an inner tube for as long as you like.Annie loved the kids' pool with slides and a climbing frame structure topped with a massive bucket that tipped water over everyone every ten minutes or so.

But keeping a pale child safe from temperatures in the nineties brings you a holiday nightmare all of its own.The Bahamas bask in the sort of heat that makes you feel you could melt on the spot so take a hat, take factor 50 for the kids and don't be fooled if there is a breeze.One of our holiday highlights was our chance to meet Cherie the dolphin and the newly-opened Dolphin Encounter pavilion.

After instruction on the science of dolphins you don a wetsuit and then get into the water with guides making sure that neither you or the dolphins frighten each other.Cherie was a victim of Hurricane Katrina and her new life of gentle face to face encounters with wide-eyed children is lovely to watch. If you don't mind giving up your holiday lie-in - and with a six year-old there isn't a lot of choice in the matter - we found the best time to go to the beach was around 7am to stroll the white sand or take a dip in the turquoise sea before the rest of the resort woke up.

We then went for breakfast while everyone else headed for the beach.Massive The First Choice package is room only and there is a massive array of places to eat ranging from hot dogs and burgers to a branch of Nobu the Japanese restaurant which is a haunt for the rich and famous in London.

The costs of meals all add up, but there are some good deals to be had and the Bahamian dollar is pegged at the same rate as the US dollar so the Brits are getting a better deal than the Americans.One of the best places to eat was the Marketplace where the sumptuous breakfast and dinner buffets were a sight to behold.Breakfast was $21 (half that for kids) and dinner was $45 which sounds scary until you covert it to £22.50.

You can pay bills with your room key card and keep an eye on just how much is totting up by checking your tab on your room TV system.One of the best restaurants in the complex is the Café Martinique which you get to by strolling past the fabulously rich sipping cocktails on the deck of their multi-million pound yachts in the Atlantis marina. The food was fabulous and the speciality of the house, the chocolate soufflé, worth the eight hour flight alone.

There are more than enough things to do at Atlantis but if you do fancy escaping for the day I can recommend the Robinson Crusoe trip which involved an hour long sea journey to a remote island with one of the best beaches I have ever seen.As the three of us swayed in a hammock under a palm tree we promised to remember the moment when it was dark outside and we were scraping ice off the car windscreen.

And we always will.Factfile:STAY 14 nights room-only at the four sun-plus Atlantis Paradise Island from as little as £1438 per adult and £637 per child based on two adults and one child sharing a standard room, departing from Manchester airport on August 12, 2008.All holidays are subject to availability and booking terms and conditions. Price includes flights, transfers, fuel levies, APD and accommodation.

For further information, visit or call 0871 664 9012.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Persian Gulf: High pollution kills dolphins

High levels of pollution and an oil spill in July are being blamed for the recent deaths of dolphins and whales off Iran's Hormozegan Province, on the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea.

The most recent ecological mishap to beset Iran's busy port of Bandar Abbas came on July 15, when oil sludge containing oil byproducts seeped out of damaged containers belonging to a contractor for the state electricity provider Tavanir.

More than two months later, Iranian news agencies and the "Kayhan" and "Etemad" dailies reported that 79 dolphins washed ashore on September 25 near the smaller port of Jask.
The incidents have spawned a broader debate over pollution levels in the seas around Iran.
Oil? Sewage? Submarines?

Iranian environmentalist Ebrahim Kahrom told the daily "Etemad" that the Persian Gulf is 47 times more polluted than what he described as the "standard level." He suggested that "severe oil pollution" and the presence of oil slicks in Gulf waters might have killed the dolphins as well as six whales that reportedly also washed ashore near Bandar Abbas in the past month. Kahrom called the confluence of the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea as "the most polluted area of the southern seas."
Kahrom said the Bandar Abbas oil spill contaminated an 800-square-kilometer stretch of water. He also said the number of dead dolphins would have been lower if it were the result of general pollution and accumulated toxins. Kahrom speculated that the pod of dolphins might have surfaced in the middle of an oil slick.

A deputy head of the Environmental Protection Organization, Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, suggested that the dolphins died from gradual poisoning due to "chemical pollution" or oil.

"Etemad" quoted him as speculating that they might simply have lost their way, moved too close to land, and become disoriented -- even suggesting that sonar emitted by U.S. submarines in the Persian Gulf might have been a factor. Nabavi admitted that pollution levels are high, and said environmental authorities are studying the impact of the July spill in Bandar Abbas. But he was skeptical that the spill killed the dolphins, and pointed out that dolphins could have swum away from the contamination.

The head of the Hormozegan environmental authority, Mehrdad Katal-Mohseni, reasoned that any of a number of problems might have caused the deaths -- including oil pollution, waste from the industrial activities at ports and jetties, sewage, or floating rubbish. He even added that the dolphins might have gotten caught in tuna nets.

Environmentalist Nargues Rohani blamed marine pollution, and said that factories and petrochemical plants have been spilling unprocessed waste and sewage into the Persian Gulf for years. She said residents don't eat locally caught fish, believing it to be contaminated. Rohani noted that "the locals are intimately familiar with the disasters that have come about from contaminations, but officials continue to say nothing about all these events." She also noted the destruction of local populations of corals and fishes, and warned that Iranians could expect more environmental disasters "if officials remain silent."

Increased Awareness

Whatever the causes of the recent marine-mammal deaths, comments suggest an awareness that the Persian Gulf is polluted -- whether the result of navigation, oil-related activities, or the presence of military fleets and submarines -- and that pollution is killing or poisoning wildlife, including fish presumably destined for human consumption.

The reaction of Iranian officials is notable, and arguably fits into a pattern among states with poor records of accountability. Reports on Persian Gulf pollution and threats to other natural areas suggest that local efforts provide the most effective response and that the environment is not a priority for the state generally.

Environmental issues very rarely feature in the speeches of senior officials. Reports frequently suggest that low-level officials block potentially destructive projects or react to degradation at an initial and local stage, but do not always receive systematic backing from officials in Tehran. In Iran, when economic interests clash with the environment, money is given priority.Fars News Agency last month noted what it described as a "seal of silence" by officials of Hormozegan Province after the July oil spill.

The agency cited "an informed source" as saying that the Hormozegan governor had ordered all provincial officials -- including its environmental chief and the investigating court -- to "remain silent" on the subject. The source suggested that probes into the spill that were initiated after legal action by local environmental authorities would be dragged out, and that their lack of progress was related to the governor's instruction not to "exaggerate" the incident.

The source claimed the governor thought too much negative publicity would make the Energy Ministry look bad.

Iranian officials and Iranians in general are very sensitive about the term "Persian Gulf" as the official and recognized name for the waterway separating Iran and the Arabian peninsula. They are upset when Arab states or journals do not cite it as such -- particularly when the term "Arab Gulf" is used. And yet a far smaller number of Iranians appear concerned that human activities could turn that object of national pride and diplomatic contention into a filthy pool of toxins.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dolphin hunting is on in Japan

Each year in Taiji, a coastal town in Japan, thousands of dolphins are rounded up. Most are brutally killed for their meat. A few of the more attractive animals are sold at exorbitant prices for dolphins' shows and swim-with-the dolphin programmes where they are likely to suffer for years.

On September 25, 2007, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Society International (HIS) joined the Animal Welfare Institute and many other concerned groups and individuals in observing the third annual worldwide Japan Dolphin Day. Large number of individual animal advocates took part in the event all over the world.

Japan Dolphin Day aims to show Japan that the world will not tolerate its cruel drive fisheries. Protesters gathered at Japanese embassies and consulate offices in cities across the globe.
How dolphins are slaughtered?

Fishermen in Taiji use small-motorized boats to locate a pod of bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins, or false killer whales (and other species such as melon-headed whales and white-sided dolphins).

Once they locate a pod, they herd the animals toward shore using the noise of the boats' engines and the banging of pipes underwater to stampede and terrorize the dolphins ahead of them.
The fishermen then either drive the animals onto the shore or trap them in a bay. The fishermen slaughter the dolphins by getting into the water or reaching over the side of a boat and stabbing the animals to death.

Occasionally they drag dolphins out of the water still alive by their tails (possibly breaking their spines or dislocating them) and transporting them to a slaughterhouse where they will sever their neck arteries and let them bleed out in agony.

Risk to human health

Adding to the pressure to end the hunt is the recent admission by Taiji officials that the dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Town officials made the admission in an interview granted to a Japanese newspaper. High mercury levels pose serious health risks for those who consume it, especially in children and pregnant women.

The HSUS/HSI joined the Animal Welfare Institute and other concerned individuals and groups in an event in Washington. Participants in Washington staged a street theater re-enactment of the brutal Japanese drive hunts.

Dolphin in Coney Island Creek

A baby walrus may be the big star at the New York Aquarium, but a wayward dolphin stole the show in Coney Island yesterday.

The graceful aquatic mammal was spotted in Coney Island Creek by fishermen about 2 p.m. and it hung around for a couple of hours before swimming back out to sea.

Locals speculated the creature may have been looking for food, because the creek has been full of fish lately.

"We've been getting a lot of action here. The dolphin came, too," said Shariff Wrighton, 33, who fishes off the Kaiser Park pier every day.

"That dolphin was so big I thought it was a shark," said another fisherman, Gregory Whiticker, 43.
As word of Flipper's visit spread through the neighborhood, the curious came to the pier to see if the dolphin would resurface.

"It was so beautiful," said Ella Ignatovich, 42, who was there with her son.

Mother and calf were reunited into the wild

Two dolphins, of a rarely seen species, become the first mother and calf to be released back into the wild after rehabilitation. The Risso’s dolphins, nicknamed Betty and Big Al, beached themselves back on May 4th near Bonita Beach before spending the last five and a half months at the Mote Marine Dolphin and Whale Hospital in Sarasota.

Risso’s dolphins are rarely seen close to shore and little is known about their behavior in the wild. Biologists from Mote Marine say they were able to learn lots of valuable information about how mother dolphins interact with their young.

“We were able to see the mother training the baby how to eat squid, disciplining the baby, the things very hard to see in the wild,” said Randall Wells, a program manager for Mote’s dolphin research program.

Wednesday night a team of marine biologists and volunteers loaded up the pair for a 100 mile voyage out into the Gulf to the edge of the Continental Shelf. By sunrise the teams were ready for release.

“We put the animals in the water within a minute of one another, but the baby stayed near the boat and the mother went away from the boat,” recalled Wells who says the calf would be unable to survive on his own.

After about an hour of waiting the two finally reunited. Crews verified the two were together by VHF monitor before finally heading back to Sarasota. Mote Marine biologists will spend the next several years monitoring the mother by satellite in hopes of learning more about her behavior.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"