Currents: Week of March 10, 2014

Maui County moves towards smokefree beaches, the case against marine mammal captivity gets split and whaling goes to court 

By Lauren Campbell, Conservation Manager

For nearly a decade, Pacific Whale Foundation has been on the frontlines of combating the issue of trash on our beaches.  From organizing community beach cleanups, to conducting coastline debris surveys, we have witnessed firsthand the impact that trash has on our marine environment.  But while bottles, bags and plastic bits are quite unsightly and pervasive, cigarette butts are, by far, the single most littered piece of trash on our beaches.  

We are excited to announce that on Friday, March 14ththe Maui County Council will be hearing testimony related to the implementation of a smokefree beaches policy throughout Maui County.  We need your help!  Learn more about the issue on our Butt-Free Beaches site and make sure you sign the petition!  Help make our beaches cleaner, safer and healthier – both for humans as well as our marine brethren! 

Speaking of local change, back in 2002, Pacific Whale Foundation was instrumental in passing a law that bans marine mammal captivity in Maui County.  This has become especially notable as of late, considering the groundswell movement against captivity that has been created through the release of the critically acclaimed documentary “Blackfish”.  If you are on Maui, check out our special Evenings with the Experts Event this Thursday and Friday (March 13 – March 14).  Thursday night we will be hosting a special screening of Blackfish, along with presentations by Blackfish Producer Manny Ortega and Howard Garrett, co-founder and Executive Director of Orca Network. 

In what would represent a huge blow to the captivity industry here in the U.S., Santa Monica assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) recently introduced legislation to ban the import and export of killer whales in California, as well as the artificial insemination of captive orcas.  Holding or using orcas (either wild-caught or captive-bred) for performance or entertainment purposes would be illegal, with violators facing jail time and/or hefty fines.  The banning of captive orcas in California would represent a major wakeup call (and blow) to the captivity giant SeaWorld, which has lobbied hard since the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau to make the case that captivity is an important educational and research tool.

While the proposed California legislation would be an important step in addressing captivity issues in the U.S., rumors that China is poised to launch an orca entertainment show at its new Ocean Kingdom amusement park.  If Ocean Kingdom includes captive orcas, it would be the first time that orcas were used in entertainment shows since 1997.  Activists fear that inclusion of captive orcas at Ocean Kingdom could pave the way for future parks with captive marine mammals. 

Another Asian county is coming under fire this month, but this time for its involvement in whaling.  Japan, which launches its annual whaling expedition to the Southern Ocean every December, is being tried by the International Court of Justice.  The case against Japan’s whaling activities was brought by the Australian government beginning in 2010.  Australia, as have many activists, argues that Japan’s “scientific whaling” is really a guise for large-scale commercial whaling.  Japan maintains that its whaling has always remained well within the International Whaling Commission rules.  In the last decade, Japan has killed 7,014 whales under the scientific permit clause, most of those whales being minke whales inhabiting the Antarctic Ocean.  It is expected that the ICJ will return with a ruling by the end of March, so keep your fingers crossed that this case will be decided in favor of the whales!  To learn more about whaling and ways that you can get involved, visit Pacific Whale Foundation’s STOP Whaling campaign page.

All is connected... no one thing can change by itself.