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Category: Marine Mammals

'Cove' director responds to Japanese scientist's lawsuit

Louie Psihoyos TOKYO — A scientist says his reputation has been tarnished by the U.S. documentary "The Cove," a graphic account of Japanese dolphin-hunting, and is demanding that footage of his interview be removed from the movie.

Film director Louie Psihoyos said Wednesday he stood behind his movie, that University of Hokkaido toxicologist Tetsuya Endo had agreed to be interviewed and that the footage of him was not taken out of order or otherwise doctored.

"He talked on the record at length to us, several times," he told the Associated Press. "He did say the things that he said, in the order that he said them. What we published was the truth, and now he wants to take back the truth."

The Oscar-winning documentary shows dolphins herded into a cove in the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, and stabbed by fishermen on small boats, turning the water red with blood.

The movie, starring Ric O'Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the "Flipper" 1960s TV show, has intensified international opposition to the slaughter.

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Government group seeks to list populations of ringed seals and bearded seals as threatened

Bearded Seal

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The federal government on Friday proposed listing two seals that depend on sea ice as threatened species because of the projected loss of ice from climate warming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will seek to list ringed seals found in the Arctic Basin and the North Atlantic and two populations of bearded seals in the Pacific Ocean as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Ringed seals are the main prey of polar bears, which were listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008. For ringed seals, the proposed listing also cites the threat of reduced snow cover.

NOAA climate models were used to predict future diminishing sea ice conditions.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the seals in 2008 and later sued to force a decision on additional protections.

"We're pleased that NOAA is following the science and the law in recognizing the reality of what global warming is doing to the Arctic and its species," said Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Government recommends protecting Hawaii's 'false killer whales'

False Killer Whale

HONOLULU — The federal government is recommending that a small population of dolphins living near Hawaii be placed on the endangered species list.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday that it has identified 29 threats to the population's survival.

The agency is expected to post its recommendation in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

The species is called the "false killer whale" even though it's a dolphin and doesn't look like a killer whale.

An agency study published in August says the small population is in danger of inbreeding and of getting caught on fishing lines.

False killer whales are found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. But scientists estimate only about 150 or 170 live in waters up to 87 miles off Hawaii.

'Cove' star Ric O'Barry says footage of false killer whale leaping out of tank demonstrates cruelty
New study suggests whales are suffering from sunburn

-- Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press

Photo: A false killer whale leaps while chasing prey in waters off Hawaii in a 2006 photo provided by the group Earthjustice. Credit: Robin Baird / Associated Press

New study suggests whales are suffering from sunburn

Blue Whale skin

Scientists say some whale species off the Mexican coast are showing signs of severe sunburn that may be caused by the damaged ozone layer's decreased ability to block ultraviolet radiation.

The seagoing mammals would be particularly vulnerable to the sun damage in part because they need to spend extended periods of time on the ocean's surface to breathe, socialize, and feed their young. Since they don't have fur or feathers, that effectively means they sunbathe naked.

As Laura Martinez-Levasseur, the study's lead author, put it: "Humans can put on clothes or sunglasses -- whales can't."

Martinez-Levasseur, who works at Zoological Society of London, spent three years studying whales in the Gulf of California, the teeming body of water that separates Baja California from the Mexican mainland.

Photographs were taken of the whales to chart any visible damage, and small samples -- taken with a crossbow-fired dart -- were collected to examine the state of their skin cells.

Her study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, seemed to confirm suspicions first raised by one of her whale-watching colleagues: The beasts were showing lesions associated with sun damage, and many of their skin samples revealed patterns of dead cells associated with exposure to the powerful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun.

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Meeting between proponents and opponents of dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan, ends in acrimony

Ric O'Barry in Taiji

TAIJI, Japan — An unprecedented meeting between conservationists and leaders of the dolphin-hunting village depicted in the Oscar-winning film "The Cove" ended in bitter disagreement Tuesday.

The carefully organized meeting in Taiji was jolted beforehand when the film's star, Ric O'Barry, said he would boycott because severe restrictions had been imposed on the media covering the talks.

Taiji's hunt each year draws a range of protesters who videotape the slaughter and occasionally scuffle with local fishermen. This season -- the first since the Oscar was awarded -- the attention has been particularly intense, and the usually unresponsive town leaders agreed to a discussion at the town's community center.

But the two-hour meeting was acrimonious from the start.

"There's no compromise to be made. There will be no stopping of our activities until the harassment, capture and slaughter of both dolphins and whales on this planet ends," said Sea Shepherd member Scott West, who has been in the area for nearly two months to monitor the hunts.

Village fishermen defended the hunt as part of a centuries-long tradition, pointing out that Westerners kill other animals for food. Activists countered that the killings are barbaric -- and that dolphin meat is laced with dangerous toxins.

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Both sides of dolphin-hunting debate to be represented at upcoming meeting in Taiji, Japan

RichardOBarry TOKYO — A Japanese town whose annual dolphin hunt was bloodily depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" is hosting the first-ever meeting between anti-hunting activists and its fishermen to try to find common ground between the two sides.

The film portrayed the story of fishermen from Taiji who herd dolphins into a cove and stab them to death, turning the waters red with blood. It led to international condemnation of the hunt, but the people in Taiji defend the dolphin-killing as a tradition and livelihood that will continue.

The participants in the Nov. 2 meeting will include Ric O'Barry, former trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV series and star of "The Cove"; Kazutaka Sangen, the mayor of Taiji; other city officials and members of the fisheries union, both sides said.

Both sides will present their views at the meeting, which will be open to the media but not the general public, organizer Atsushi Nakahira said Wednesday.

Nakahira, leader of a pro-hunt group named Nihon Yonaoshikai, said an immediate solution to the divisive issue was unlikely, but he wanted to create a place where a dialogue could begin.

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Man convicted of shooting sea lion in Sacramento River is sentenced; sea lion has reconstructive surgery

Sgt  Nevis Sea Lion

YUBA CITY, Calif. — A Sacramento man convicted of shooting a sea lion in the head will spend 30 days in jail and five years on probation.

Larry Legans was also ordered Friday to pay $51,081 in restitution for the cost of treating the sea lion. Authorities say Legans shot the animal while fishing on the Sacramento River in 2009 because it was taking his fish.

The nearly 650-pound sea lion, now known as Sgt. Nevis, underwent plastic surgery at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo last week to close holes in his muzzle caused by the shotgun blast. The sea lion was named after the animal control officer who captured it.

Legans pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of maiming or wounding an animal. Prosecutors say he is barred from all hunting or fishing while on probation.

Rescued sea lion pups prepare to return to the wild in Peru
Sea lion pup found on Newport Beach rooftop

-- Associated Press

Photo: Animal trainer Jenny Egelhoff tries to comfort Sgt. Nevis before he undergoes reconstructive surgery to repair his muzzle Oct. 8. Credit: Chris Riley / Associated Press

Alaska's sea otters being killed in high numbers by orcas, report says

Sea Otter

A report by government scientists says killer whales are likely driving sea otters to perilously low levels in southwest Alaska.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recovery plan for sea otters considered a slew of possible reasons for why the animals are in steep decline.

The report says there is only one threat considered to have high importance, and that's predation by killer whales. Nearly all other factors, including climate change and effects from humans, were considered to have low importance.

The report also says it's unlikely that attacks by killer whales can be managed in such a way as to help the sea otters recover.

The animal was listed as threatened in 2005.

Another deadly challenge for the sea otter
Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific unveils state-of-the-art veterinary facility, sea otter exhibit

-- Associated Press

Photo: A sea otter eats shellfish in Monterey Bay, Calif. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Record number of humpback whales have been found dead on Brazilian coast in 2010

Humpback Whale

SAO PAULO — Marine scientists say a record number of humpback whales have been found dead on the Brazilian coast this year.

Milton Marcondes of the Humpback Whale Institute says at least 75 have died in 2010. The previous high was 41 in 2007.

Marcondes says most died at sea and their carcasses washed ashore. Some beached while still alive and perished.

Marcondes said Wednesday that the deaths reflect a higher mortality rate.

Scientists are investigating whether disease may be a factor, or if warming oceans may be diminishing the supply of krill that whales eat.

Humpbacks travel from Antarctica to warmer Brazilian waters to reproduce between July and November.

Seven non-humpback whales have also been found dead this year.

Humpback whale's unusual migration is believed to be a record-breaker
Researchers find 'shocking' levels of metal contaminants in the bodies of sperm whales

-- Associated Press

Photo: A humpback whale (not one of those that died in Brazil) dives off the shores of Provincetown, Mass. Credit: Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images

Humpback whale's unusual migration is believed to be a record-breaker


LONDON — It wasn't love. It could have been adventure. Or maybe she just got lost. It remains a mystery why a female humpback whale swam thousands of miles from the reefs of Brazil to the African island of Madagascar, which researchers believe is the longest single trip ever undertaken by a mammal -- humans excluded.

While humpbacks normally migrate along a north-to-south axis to feed and mate, this one -- affectionately called AHWC No. 1363 -- made the unusual decision to check out a new continent thousands of miles to the east.

Marine ecologist Peter Stevick says it probably wasn't love that motivated her -- whales meet their partners at breeding sites, so it's unlikely that this one was following a potential mate.

"It may be that this is an extreme example of exploration," he said. "Or it could be that the animal got very lost."

Stevick laid out the details of the whale's trip on Wednesday in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, calculating that, at a minimum, the whale must have traveled about 6,200 miles to get from Brazil to Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa.

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