Japan’s Whale Hunts Ruled ILLEGAL in The Hague! Whales Swim Safer Now!

Pic of Humpback whale jumping out of  the ocean.

Humpback, Right and Minke whales are among those who swim safer now.

The International Justice Court in The Hague has ruled in favor of Australia (with New Zealand as Mediator) and against Japan’s claim that they have killed some 10,000 Minke whales under the auspice of Research.  The Court released a decision of considerable length, in which it examined all relevant points and issued what is, by all accounts, a fair and considered opinion.  Their ruling: Japan must cease ALL whaling operations and revoke all permits issued in the name of Research.

A Japanese representative grudgingly acknowledged the decision, saying that Japan would accept the International Court’s decision, as they believe in being a nation of laws.  While he allowed that there may be other statements from Tokyo, it was clear that they had no intention of violating the ruling or leaving the IWC as a way of sidestepping the decision.  This is a huge victory for the whales, both in the southern oceans’ marine sanctuary and throughout the world.  Although the ruling is specific to Japan, it is precedent, and other whaling nations are now on notice.  Only aboriginal sustenance takes and legitimate research have been lawful for the past 28 years, but Japan has claimed the loophole, citing some vague premise of research which cannot be performed on a live whale, as their way of making the commercial whaling legal.  Under the premise of Research, it is lawful for the remainder of the whale to be sold.

In many ways, this ruling is the perfect opportunity for Japan to get out of the whaling business.   A proud nation, they have been stout in their opposition to groups like Sea Shepherd’s interventions, trying to claim that Paul Watson and his crew were pirates and eco-terrorists when they attempted to uphold the law by interfering with the Japanese whalers’ attempts to load the killed whales onto their processing ship.  (Dead whale flesh goes bad very quickly, owing to the blubber layer which traps heat within the whale’s body, even in near-freezing waters.)  With a reported 4,600 tons of unsold whale flesh in freezers for the past few years, it’s clearly not profitable for them to be hunting the leviathans either.  The ruling provides a way for them to cease whaling without saving face.

Yours truly was very much moved by this momentous event, and posted about it personally on Facebook.  Much to my surprise, Viki Psihoyos wrote me this morning to inform me that I’d been mentioned in the New York Times:

“A Facebook comment by John Taylor, a Coloradan with a passion for ocean conservation (which I saw via the filmmaker Louie Psihoyos), succinctly summarized the significance of this decision:

‘Today, we evolved some, became a better, more human species.’

We’ve still got a long ways to go, but this is a very large step in the right direction.

pic of John Taylor

John Taylor

PRESS RELEASE: Crew Seats Available on Gyres Research Vessel

Crew Seats Available on Research Voyage to Investigate

Plastic Pollution and Debris from 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

 LOS ANGELES, Calif., Oct. 5, 2011—Scientists, educators and eco-adventurers are being offered the unprecedented opportunity to join a research expedition through the North Pacific Ocean littered with debris generated by the Japan tsunami of March 11, 2011. Rarely is such a monumental amount of material—tens of thousands of tons including cars, entire homes and boats—simultaneously thrust into the sea from a single location.

The 5 Gyres Institute and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (Algalita) have organized this expedition in collaboration with Pangaea Explorations to offer a 7,000-mile, high-seas voyage aboard the “Sea Dragon” sailing vessel from May 1 through July 1, 2012.

The Sea Dragon, a 72' Steel Hull sailing research vessel

The Sea Dragon, a 72' steel-hull sailing research vessel

The expedition’s first leg will sail from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands through the area of the North Pacific Gyre commonly referred to as the “Western Garbage Patch” where little research has been conducted on plastic pollution.  The trip’s second leg will travel due east from Japan to Hawaii through the gyre, a vast vortex of ocean currents where plastic debris accumulates, to cross the “Japan Tsunami Debris Field.” Of great interest to the researchers is how fast the plastic trash is traveling across the gyre, how quickly or slowly it is decomposing, how rapidly marine life is colonizing on it, and whether it is transporting invasive species.

“We’ll be riding the same currents that are transporting cigarette lighters, bottle caps, children’s toys and all manner of other plastic pollution generated by the tsunami,” said expedition leader Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute.

The 2012 voyage is open to anyone 18-years and older, regardless of sailing experience. Participants will travel with four professional crewmembers and will be expected to earn their sea legs and rough hands by hauling in lines and hoisting sails. They also will conduct research side-by-side with scientists, whether operating a trawl or collecting and cataloging plastic marine pollution and sea life.

Nine crew seats are available at a cost of $13,500 each for Leg 1 and $15,500 each for Leg 2.  A portion of the fare is tax deductible and net proceeds will support Algalita and 5 Gyres’ cooperative research and educational outreach.

This is the second eco-adventure conducted by Algalita. Its July 2011 voyage across the eastern North Pacific Gyre sold out.  5 Gyres has conducted seven research voyages across the five subtropical gyres, including the first expeditions to the three southern hemisphere gyres. Crewmembers included scientists, artists, journalists and environmentalists from around the world, such as Tim Silverwood of New South Wales.

Image of a gyre sample, the plastics found floating out in the middle of the N. Pacific Garbage Patch (gyre)

This gyre sample was taken during a July 2011 voyage across the North Pacific Gyre (Garbage Patch) by Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The sample includes micro-plastic bits as well as a toothbrush, two pen caps, a spray-bottle nozzle, and a small toy gorilla.

“After first hearing of the devastating state of the North Pacific Gyre, I immediately had a desire to witness it for my

self and tell the world about it,” Silverwood said. “Participating in leading scientific research with people from all over the world, all motivated to bring this issue to the mainstream, was incredible. The voyage has provided me so many opportunities to talk with media in the community and to schools about the issue and what we need to do to counter this problem.”

“Our vision is a global environment that is healthy, sustainable, and productive for all living creatures, free from plastic pollution,” says Algalita Executive Director, Marieta Francis.  “Understanding the impact of the Japan tsunami resultant debris will provide once-in-a-lifetime information to help us move closer to that vision.”

Algalita and 5 Gyres, both nonprofit organizations, have been leaders in pioneering research and increasing global awareness of plastic marine pollution. Algalita’s founder, Captain Charles Moore, brought attention to the “Eastern Garbage Patch” in the North Pacific Gyre in 1999.  5 Gyres continues to monitor plastic marine pollution in the “garbage patches” found in all five subtropical gyres.  Most of the plastic debris studied has been adrift for years, much of it broken down by the sun’s rays and ocean currents into small plastic particles.

For all participation requirements, sponsorship opportunities and to register, contact Jeanne Gallagher: (562) 598-4889; opsadmin@algalita.org.

5 Gyres logoAbout 5 Gyres Institute5 Gyres Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to meaningful change through research, education and community action. 5 Gyres disseminates its findings through lectures, publications and traveling exhibits, and raises awareness about plastic marine pollution through sailing expeditions across the world’s oceans.  For information on upcoming expeditions and exhibitions around the globe: (323) 395-1843info@5Gyres.org.

 

Algalita Marine Research logoAbout Algalita Marine Research FoundationThe Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Long Beach, CA, is dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its watersheds through research, education, and restoration. Algalita conducts research and collaborative studies on the distribution, abundance and fate of marine plastic pollution and the potential harmful effects of plastics in the marine environment, including transference of toxins and their impact on human health; provides authoritative, educational findings to scientists, the general public, governmental agencies, and the private sector; collaborates with organizations working toward restoring the aquatic environment and ultimately eliminating plastic pollution. More information: (562) 598-4889; www.algalita.org.

 

Pangaea Exploration LogoAbout Pangaea Explorations:  Pangaea Explorations offers adventure sailing to actively strengthen the health of marine life through exploration, conservation and education work. Our mission is to inspire and develop a new generation of leaders in conservation science, communication, education, art and policy leadership. More information: www.panexplore.com.

Colorado Ocean Coalition Symposium a Rousing Success!

From the opening through to closing for the night, and every moment in between, the Colorado Ocean Coalition’s 1st anniversary Symposium was a rousing success!  Today’s event started out with remarks by Vicki Nichols Goldstein.  When Vicki introduced Dr. Sylvia Earle, the crowd greeted her with an enthusiastic and well-deserved standing ovation, and that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon’s presentations.  The overall theme was “Making Waves In Colorado”, focusing on how the Rockies are indeed akin to the ocean, and how all ecosystems are intrinsically linked, attached and incorporated.  The point of the symposium was to teach about how we are indeed affected and impacting the oceans of the world, and some of the ways in which we can all be part of the solution.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer In Residence

Dr. Sylvia Earle received a standing ovation as welcome to the symposium

 

Dr. Earle has been a forerunner and champion of the oceans for over 2 score of years, and a continuing inspiration to many of us involved in conservation and marine sciences today.  Few in the field would not know of her pioneering work, living below the ocean’s surface for extended periods of time, exploring the Innerspace of this planet, and sharing her discoveries with us all.  Each new discovery just seemed to beg more questions, and Sylvia Earle was always leading those inquiring mind who wanted to know.

In her presentation during the first session of the Symposium, she poetically and profoundly noted “Even if you never touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take.”

Ever modest and gracious, her presentation went on to show us some of the wonders of the deep, while reminding us that we’ve only begun to explore the 70% of this blue planet that is the oceans.  She points out that we are unable to visit the depths of the oceans, noting that simply traveling to 5,000 feet ABOVE sea level wouldn’t be good enough, that we must scale ALL of the height of a mountain… and it should not be good enough that we explore only the first fraction of the ocean’s depths either.  Indeed, there are many species still being discovered, many wonders we’ve yet to see.

Dr. Sylvia Earle speaking during a slideshow presentation

Dr. Earle shares some of the wonders of the ocean during her Rocky Mountains of the Sea presentation.

There were many booths along the Bridge between the Auditorium and the smaller meeting rooms.  Participants included the Colorado chapter of Sea Shepherd, the 5 Gyres Institute, the Oceanic Preservation Society, NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Teens4Oceans, Windhorse Lightships L3C, Green Apple, and Wild Goose Engineering… and that’s only about half of the booths!  (Apologies to those not named.  Please contact us to add your organization to the list if we’ve unwittingly missed you.)

The 5 Gyres Institute's Anna Cummins explaining how the Garbage Patch affects us all

The 5 Gyres Institute's Anna Cummins explaining how the Garbage Patch affects us all

Throughout the day, at least 3 presentation rooms were packed at all times.  Teachers had a professoinal workshop, expert adventurers shared their tales, and people helped the guests to better understand the ocean, plastics, and other threats to the watery majority of the planet, and the ways in which the oceans of the world and the lands are inextricably linked.  After the presentations, most all allowed time for Questions and Answers with the panels and speakers.

Q&A with Daniella Russo, Marcus Eriksen, Anna Cummmins and Dianna Cohen

Q&A with Daniella Russo, Marcus Eriksen, Anna Cummmins and Dianna Cohen

Topics included “How Colorado Flows to the Ocean” and “Climate Change from 30 Feet Under.”  Children’s presentations were also ample, ensuring an enjoyable, optimistic and informative day for everyone.

A few more photos of the event are provided below:

Louie Psihoyos, Director of "The Cove", with Erron (Dive Colorado)

Louie Psihoyos, Director of "The Cove", with Erron (Dive Colorado)

Billy D. Causey, SE Regional Director of the National Marine Sanctuaries (NOAA)

Billy Causey, PhD, SE Regional Director of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, during a presentation.

Dan Basta, Director of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries program

Dan Basta, Director of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries program.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, graciously and tirelessly signing copies of her book, "The World Is Blue"

Dr. Sylvia Earle, graciously and tirelessly signing copies of her book, "The World Is Blue"

Piles of plastic washing ashore in Hawaii from all over the Pacific Rim.

Plastics wash ashore in Hawaii from all over the Pacific Rim.

Oil Wells of the Gulf of New Mexico

Oil Wells of the Gulf of New Mexico

A map showing the US waterways, and how they funnel into the Gulf of Mexico

Water from most of the US flows into the Gulf of Mexico

JT, founder of Protect The Ocean, gets the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sylvia Earle

JT, thrilled to meet "Her Deepness," Dr. Sylvia Earle

and finally, a message and goal regarding the use of disposable plastics:

Four Challenges regarding disposable plastics

A challenge, from one of the presentations