Oil and Gas exploration implicated in dolphin strandings

2012 Gulf Dolphin Samples - NMFS Photo

Over 675 dolphins have been found dead along the Florida to Texas Gulf Coast since February 2010. Initially people suspected that the BP oil spill and dispersant use might be to blame. A report from NOAA corroborates this with a finding that some 32 live dolphins show signs of chemical stress with liver and lung damage, and other metabolic compromises.

But reports from other research do not show chemical damage, and some focus has shifted over to acoustical exploration for oil and gas. The concern for acoustical trauma has prompted the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to restrict seismic exploration off Louisiana until May, when the dolphin calving season ends.

2012 Peru Dolphin Strandings

Heretofore there have been only loose correlations between seismic exploration and marine mammal strandings, but the tragic strandings of 2000-3000 dolphins this year in Peru has implicated acoustical surveys for oil and gas off Peru’s coast.

It could be that new technologies are being used for the surveys, or that the cumulative stresses of chemical pollution, depleted food sources, and acoustical trauma are causing a rise in strandings world-wide.

Whatever the cause(s), we can be sure that our growing thirst for fossil fuel plays some role in these tragedies.

“The Cove” Slaughtering dolphins in Japan for food, fun, and profit

Taiji Dolphin CoveThe environmental thriller “The Cove” follows the stealth reconnaissance work of Ric O’Barry as he uncovers the dolphin drive fishery in Taiji, Japan.

Ric was the dolphin trainer who selected and trained the dolphins of the 60’s TV series “Flipper” – which began the American love affair with these sentient and intelligent animals.

The consequences of this national love affair included a rapid rise of dolphin parks and water shows throughout the world – a fact that troubled Mr. O’Barry so much that he has since dedicated his life to reversing this practice – now working for Earth Island’s Marine Mammal Project.

The dolphins in these parks come from many places throughout the world, but perhaps the most disturbing pedigree are the dolphins that are selected from the victims of the Taiji drive fishery.

Each year some 20,000 dolphins are herded, slaughtered and butchered in Taiji, Japan – except for the few “unblemished” and photogenic specimens that are selected by dolphin “trainers” and sent to parks around the world.

The dolphins that don’t make this ‘cut’ make the death cut and are sold into the Japanese markets falsely labeled as “whale meat.” (People are getting wise to the extreme mercury load of dolphin meat.)

The dolphins are driven into the cove by noise – the fishermen hammer on metal pipes with resonators submersed into the water. The noise is obnoxious enough to drive the dolphins into the cove to escape. Nets are then drawn across the cove and the grisly affair begins.

While the movie is grim, the filmmakers have spared us the most gruesome shots; and if dolphin slaughter can be sensitively displayed, they have done the best that could be done.

“The Cove” is an eco-thriller that will hopefully stop this gruesome fishery in its tracks – and perhaps be the first of a genre of movies wherein environmental activists are honored for their heroism, rather than ridiculed for their zeal.

“The Cove” opens this week in NY and LA and in other major US cities next Friday

See: http://thecovemovie.com/festivals/upcoming_screenings.htm for locations near you.

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