Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

Actions, Alerts & Updates

Proposed FY2019 budget takes aim at programs that protect whales and dolphins

Posted on 14 February 2018

ACTION NEEDED: The newly released Presidential FY 2019 budget has taken direct aim at programs that are critical for the conservation of whales and dolphins. The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), an independent government agency that provides science-based reviews of U.S. ocean policies that impact marine mammals and their environment, has been targeted for elimination. The cost of the MMC's work to the US taxpayer? One penny per person per year.

The budget also looks to cut overall funding to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by 14 percent. Even worse, the NMFS enforcement budget would be slashed by 25 percent putting cetaceans at risk from a variety of illegal activities. There are also serious cuts proposed to critical research on protected species, and habitat conservation and restoration.

Fortunately, there is still time to stop these cuts from taking place, but we need your help.

Please join us in voicing your concerns about the FY 2019 budget proposals, and the negative impacts such cuts will have on whales, dolphins and porpoises. Contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress and tell them to save the Marine Mammal Commission, and ensure that NMFS has adequate funding to protect cetaceans and their environment.

You can find contact details at http://www.congress.gov/

Thank you.

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2017
Contact: David Kaplan Esq, President davidgkaplan@gmail.com, c 860-966-2077
William Rossiter, Director, Grants and Science, rossiter@csiwhalesalive.org, c 203-770-8615

North Atlantic Right Whale Among Endangered Species Decisions Undercut by Politics

New Report: Science Suppressed, Ignored Due to Political Pressure

Washington, D.C. – A new report out today shows that the best available science in imperiled plant and wildlife decisions isn't always followed, despite the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Pressure from politically-powerful special interests often unduly influences these decisions, undermining science and wildlife conservation, according to the Endangered Species Coalition. Now, under the Trump Administration, that pressure is worsening.

The report, "Suppressed: How Politics Drowned out Science for Ten Endangered Species" highlights ten imperiled fish, plant and wildlife conservation decisions over the last decade in which the science was either ignored or suppressed as a result of intense special interest lobbying and influence. The report includes the imperiled North Atlantic right whale, which is threatened by entanglements, ship strikes, seismic surveys, and offshore energy exploitation.

Connecticut-based Cetacean Society International (CSI) nominated the right whale for the report. "Scientific data show that entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes have put the species on a trajectory to extinction," said William Rossiter, CSI's Director, Grants and Science. "The Administration and Congress are intent on accelerating the loss of this species by promoting the exploitation of offshore oil and gas extraction in the direct path of the whales' migratory route." Key right whale habitat includes both the foraging grounds off New England and calving grounds off Florida.

"The situation is critical," said Rossiter. "Roughly 450 right whales survive in the entire North Atlantic, but more animals are dying than are born into the population. In addition, females are dying in greater numbers than males. The survival of the species now depends on those few females able to give birth and rear their calves, despite having to migrate through the dangerous maze of fishing gear, the cacophony of offshore oil and gas operations and the increasing threats of ship strikes."

Congress is looking to pass legislation that will weaken both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, legislation fundamental to the right whales' survival.

The stifling of science has been widespread under the Trump Administration this past year, as it slashed science budgets at NASA, NOAA, EPA, and other agencies. The Administration has also hired industry representatives to run its agencies, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and deemed a scientific background unnecessary for positions that require scientific knowledge. Agency scientists have been silenced, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has consistently rolled back science-based rules in favor of polluters.

"Our native fish, plants and wildlife aren't just a critically valuable part of the legacy we leave for future generations of Americans, they're key to providing a good quality of life for all humans right now," said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. "But we are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions."

Endangered Species Coalition's member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with a slideshow and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at http://SuppressedScience.org/.

The Endangered Species Coalition produces a "Top 10" report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years' reports are also available on the Coalition's website.

Notes for Editors:

Four species in the report – the wolverine, greater sage grouse, dunes sagebrush lizard and the Hermes copper butterfly – were denied protection under the Endangered Species Act, in spite of massive, historic population declines and severe threats to the species. And just last week, the Trump Administration denied listing for four more imperiled species (on top of the 29 others denied protection under the Act this past year).

Late last month, the Trump Administration finalized a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, one of the most endangered mammals in North America. The plan ignored the scientific recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own Mexican Wolf Recovery Team, calling for a minimum population of only half the number of wolves that the scientists recommended.

Another rare and endangered Southwest U.S. species in the report – the ocelot – is threatened with increased habitat fragmentation as a result of President Trump's proposed border wall. The border wall would obstruct essential migration routes, not only for the ocelot, but for an estimated 90 other imperiled species.

Two other water-dwelling species in the report were also victims of science suppression, including the pallid sturgeon and the Pacific leatherback sea turtle. One of the largest reptiles in the world, the leatherback can journey more than 10,000 miles between habitats. This past June, the Trump administration withdrew a proposed regulation on drift gillnets (used to catch swordfish) in response to persistent lobbying from the commercial fishing industry.

In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list the greater sage grouse as endangered, citing an unprecedented region-wide habitat conservation effort, tied to state and federal conservation plans. However, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is threatening to undo even these modest, bipartisan conservation measures. Meanwhile, sage grouse numbers have declined by 90 percent from historic levels. Protecting umbrella species like sage grouse conserves habitats on which many other species rely, like mule deer and pronghorn.


Posted on 15 November 2017

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Please contact your Representatives in Congress and tell them to vote against H.R. 4239. If passed, this bill will strip the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of key provisions designed to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises from the impacts of oil industry development, including seismic airgun testing and drilling.

We need a strong MMPA now more than ever, given the increasing threats facing cetaceans, which include entanglement in fishing gear, climate change, noise pollution and habitat destruction. As the Marine Mammal Protection Act turns 45, we must work to protect and strengthen its provisions, not weaken them. Please, take action now and tell your Congressperson to vote "no" on H.R. 4239.

You can find contact details at www.house.gov. Thank you.

Mexico City ends commercial exploitation of marine mammals in captive facilities

Posted on 2 August 2017

On August 1st, 2017, the Mexico City Congress passed a bill in the Law of Protection of Animals prohibiting the use of marine mammals in any human-related activity such as shows, training, assisted therapy, etc..

Currently, there is one facility holding dolphins and sea lions in Mexico City, the SIX FLAGS facility in southern Mexico City. This is the former REINO AVENTURA park, which years ago held the orca Keiko, of Free Willy fame. The owner of the facility is Dolphin Discovery, and two dolphins and two sea lions are in captivity there.

The bill includes a six month period to take the animals to sea pens or a kind of sanctuary. CSI's colleague organization COMARINO was very close to the process of passing the bill, and collaborated in the drafting of the initiative led by Green Party deputy Xavier Lopez Adame.

The final result, thanks to the good work of deputy Lopez Adame was that all parties voted for the prohibition, without any fight between left or right politics. Dolphins were acknowledged as sentient beings, who suffer when held in concrete tanks. The next step for the bill is its publication in the Official Gazette of Mexico City, at which point the bill enters into force. The city Congress have spoken loudly: no dolphins in concrete tanks anymore.

Save the Endangered Species Act!

Posted on 8 July 2017

Showing Overwhelming Support for the Endangered Species Act, More Than 400 Conservation Groups Sign Letter Opposing Efforts to Weaken Wildlife Law

CSI has signed this letter!

Click here for more information.

Read the full text of the letter here.

International Save the Vaquita Day: July 8, 2017

Posted on 20 June 2017

Help to save the vaquita, one of the rarest and most endangered species of marine mammal in the world.

Click here for more information.

The Ocean Home Under Attack: Whale News Spring 2017

By Taffy Lee Williams

Posted on 30 May 2017

Here are just a few of the latest news items which are impacting whale species around the world. Today we are witnessing the earth's sixth mass extinction. One cannot separate news of the oceans from news of whales. These iconic, well studied and beloved whales mean so much to us, symbolizing looming issues we all face on the Blue Earth today. What's happening in the seas?

Taffy's article follows in this PDF file:


Empty The Tanks 2017: May 13th at Mystic Aquarium!

Posted on 25 April 2017

On May 13th, we will be standing outside Mystic Aquarium, at 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT 06355 holding signs and giving away flyers from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., as we did for the past two years as part of the Empty the Tanks global awareness campaign. Please join us!

Click here for details! (PDF file)

The Southern Right Whale In Patagonia Argentina:
"Whale Watching, Biology And Beyond"

Posted on 9 April 2017

If you're a dedicated whale watcher, you'll be excited to know that Argentina's Gulf of San Matias may provide the experience of a lifetime many have felt with the gray whales of Mexico. Because small commercial whale watches have started to bring people together with "friendly" Southern right whales in this Gulf, a scientific assessment was requested by the "Asociación de Operadores Náuticos" to the "Fundación de Historia Natural Felix de Azara" (FHNFA), to document any impact on the whales and the marine environment. Documenting the whales' behavior and biology was also part of this project. Dra. Marcela Junin and her team from the Marine mammal lab, Fundación Felix de Azara, began their assessment in 2014, with additional support from CSI in 2016.

Dra. Junin has provided this report for your pleasure, from the broad wealth of data she will submit for her formal scientific report. While CSI is especially pleased that we could help support the study, we're dedicated whale watchers at heart, and wonder when we'll have a chance to experience this ourselves!

Dra. Junin's report follows in this PDF file:


Virgin Holidays Announces Position on Captive Whales and Dolphins

Posted on 20 February 2017

A statement from Virgin Holidays says: "Our vision is for a future in which tourism embraces the complex social and physical needs of cetaceans and their habitats."

Read their full statement here: https://www.virginholidays.co.uk/cetaceans

The World Cetacean Alliance endorses Virgin's announcement today and is committed to working with Virgin and other stakeholders in the travel industry to achieve it. Said CEO Dylan Walker, "We believe in tourism as a huge force for good, with the potential to protect whales and dolphins and their habitats for people to enjoy long into the future. This statement brings us an important step closer to that reality."

Read their full statement here: http://worldcetaceanalliance.org/wca-endorses-virgin-holidays-long-term-vision-for-cetaceans-in-tourism/

CSI is a founding member of the World Cetacean Alliance.

May Tilikum Rest in Peace

Posted on 7 January 2017

Please read this notice from the World Cetacean Alliance.

Tribute to Tilikum

A life well lived… Isn't that the finest epitaph anyone can wish for? In the case of Granny (J2), beloved matriarch of the endangered Southern Resident population, that is indeed the case. In the first week of January 2017, as we learned of Granny's passing, the loss of another high profile orca, Tilikum (Chinook tribal language for 'friend') also made headline news. But while Granny's 105-year-old lifespan was spent in the wild, Tilikum's fate has been of a much darker kind.

Brutally torn from his family off Iceland as a 2-year-old in 1983, after a year's confinement in a holding tank Tilikum was sold to the now defunct Sealand of the Pacific, Victoria, British Columbia. Bullying by two dominant female orcas in a concrete tank replaced swimming in his mother's slipstream in the open ocean; begging for a meal of dead fish after performing a trick (or being deprived of food if he did not co-operate) replaced hunting for live prey. Granny, too, was captured more than once, but she was not one of those orcas selected for dispatch to marine parks around the world.

Following trainer Keltie Byrne's death at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991,Tilikum, branded a dangerous commodity, was sold to SeaWorld, Orlando, where he would endure more bullying from other orcas. With his flopped over dorsal fin, the classic hallmark sign of orcas in captivity, and his broken, drilled teeth, Tilikum continued to perform for a voracious, thrill-seeking public, oblivious to the pain behind the pleading eyes of the ocean's top predator rendered helpless by enslavement.

With two more deaths to his name, namely Daniel Dukes in 1999 and trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, Tilikum was sentenced to solitary confinement in the medical pool. Here, deprived of stimuli and compatible companionship, he lay motionless at the surface for hours. Yet he still represented a valuable investment to SeaWorld, worth more alive than dead. His future would be that of a sperm bank to perpetuate the ongoing reproduction of captive orcas.

After months of varying reports on Tilikum's health, he has succumbed to eternity. But despite his long-term suffering, Tilikum's life has not been in vain… His tragic plight, along with the death of Dawn Brancheau, spawned the haunting documentary film 'Blackfish' which revealed the stark truth about the cruelty of captivity. SeaWorld, the corporate entity which used and abused Tilikum, watched helplessly as a shocked public turned their backs on the Shamu show and profits fell, spiralling into a black and bottomless abyss. In 2016 they announced there would be no more captive orca breeding.

This, in addition to the banning by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) of trainers in the water performing degrading stunts riding on the backs of orcas and rocket-hopping from their rostrums, is Tilikum's legacy. If he sought revenge, he has had it. May he, as Granny did in her lifetime, now swim free.

Sandra Pollard
WCA Individual Partner (USA)

Author of –
Puget Sound Whales for Sale: The Fight to End Orca Hunting
(The History Press)

Source: http://worldcetaceanalliance.org/2017/01/07/tribute-to-tilikum/

(CSI is a Proud Founding Member of the World Cetacean Alliance)

Russian Beluga Whales Designated as Depleted

Posted on 27 October 2016

Read this press release:

NMFS' Designation of Russian Beluga Whales as Depleted Makes Their Import into US Illegal

New Anti-Captivity Film "Voiceless"

Posted on 24 August 2016

Will you be a voice for the voiceless? Watch this new film "Voiceless" here:


This film is produced by Blue Freedom Inc., a student non-profit organization and is intended for educational purposes. Learn more at http://bluefreedom.org/ and check out their Resource Hub at http://www.bluefreedomresourcehub.org/

Celebrate for Whales with CSI!

Posted on 18 July 2016

The U.S. Navy must limit Low Frequency Active Sonar use to protect marine mammals and habitats!

For more on this legal victory that included CSI as a plaintiff, please see: https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160718.

For even more see: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/michael-jasny/major-victory-low-frequency-sonar.

And if you want much more, contact CSI's Bill Rossiter at rossiter@csiwhalesalive.org or 203-770-8615. Rossiter's been involved with the issue since 1996; this has been a long battle.

Proposal To End Dolphin Captivity In New South Wales, Australia

Posted on 7 May 2016

The former NSW Premier Bob Carr and current politicians have announced a proposed new bill to end dolphin captivity in NSW Australia. This legislation would effectively phase out dolphin captivity in NSW, placing an immediate ban on captive dolphin breeding. Dolphin Marine Magic is one of only two dolphinariums in Australia and it is in the state of New South Wales. There is a current plan to turn DMM into a marine hospital rather than the outdated circus that it is right now.

For more information see:




Groups Welcome Federal Agency's Decision to Protect Russian Beluga Whales

Posted on 4 April 2016

Washington, DC – April 4, 2016 – The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Cetacean Society International (CSI), Earth Island Institute (EII), and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) lauded the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for its proposed designation of the Sakhalin Bay-Amur River population of beluga whales in Russia as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). A depleted designation would make it illegal to import any belugas from this population into the United States for public display. The proposed rule must undergo a 60-day public comment period before it is finalized.

"We are thrilled with this decision," said Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI marine mammal scientist. "These belugas may be in Russia, but what we do here in the United States sets an example for authorities responsible for marine mammal protection everywhere. This decision sends a strong message that this country will not be part of an unsustainable and inhumane trade in live belugas."

In 2014, the groups submitted a petition to designate this population of belugas as depleted after Georgia Aquarium, a U.S. facility, attempted to import 18 of the whales in 2012. The science clearly showed that the population was well below 60 percent of its historic size, and therefore depleted under MMPA criteria. The groups supported NMFS' decision to deny Georgia Aquarium's import permit and intervened on behalf of the agency after it was subsequently sued by the facility. While a September 2015 court ruling finally upheld the agency's decision, the possibility remained that other facilities, or even Georgia Aquarium itself, could apply again for import permits. A depleted designation would eliminate this possibility, even for belugas captured from this stock that are already in captivity.

A designation will also provide a framework for U.S. agencies to promote stronger protections for the Sakhalin Bay-Amur River population of belugas. Russia has allowed captures from this population for the purpose of public display for many years. Many of the captured whales are used in Russia's domestic facilities or are shipped to China and other destinations every year.

"The decision to designate the Sakhalin-Amur belugas as depleted should encourage Russian authorities to reconsider this trade and allow this beleaguered population to recover," stated Courtney Vail, campaigns manager for WDC. "Hopefully this action will serve as a signal that science and the precautionary principle can work hand-in-hand to guide international protection of extremely vulnerable populations of marine mammals outside of U.S. waters."

"NMFS' decision helps to demonstrate our nation's resolve not to support the international trade of species and populations in peril," said William Rossiter, CSI executive director for advocacy, science and grants. "It would be wonderful if this decision influences other nations, but it's absolutely imperative for the United States to declare ‘not here, not now.'"

"The beluga whale population in the Pacific is facing a number of threats, including pollution, killing by local native groups, and, in the not too distant future, the disruptions caused by global warming," stated Mark J. Palmer, associate director of EII's International Marine Mammal Project. "Catching beluga whales for a shortened life in captivity should not continue for these vulnerable populations."

For more information on the groups' efforts to protect the Sakhalin Bay-Amur River belugas, visit https://awionline.org/cases/protection-beluga-whales.

# # #

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

About Cetacean Society International
For 42 years CSI has worked to stop human activities that kill, harm or harass cetaceans, while enhancing public awareness of and concern for cetaceans and the marine environment. www.csiwhalesalive.org.

About Earth Island Institute
The International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute works to protect whales, dolphins and their marine habitat. For more information, visit http://savedolphins.eii.org/.

About Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is an international charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide. Established in 1987 with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Germany, and Australia, WDC works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the continuing threats to cetaceans and their habitats, while striving to raise awareness of these remarkable animals and the need to protect them in their natural environment. Visit www.whales.org to learn more.

Taiji Dolphin Slaughters Continue

Posted on 13 October to 4 November 2015

Marna Olsen
Marna at Taiji train station

The dolphin and whale slaughters at Taiji, Japan are underway. CSI is represented at the infamous killing Cove by Marna Olsen and Hans Peter Roth, two expert international activists joining Ric O'Barry's Cove Monitors. Marna's blogs to CSI from Taiji for the weeks that she was there are posted here.

We are all searching for ways to end the slaughter. Because some dolphins are selected for captive display, and their sales provide the profit that is the major motivation for Taiji's dolphin drives, CSI specifically fights the trade of captive dolphins. We welcome your ideas and help to end the Cove's horrors.

Bill Rossiter
CSI Director

Marna Olsen's blog post 1, 13 October 2015: Heading to Taiji with Mixed Feelings

Marna Olsen's blog post 2, 15 October 2015: Feeling Like a Stranger, Yet at Ease

Marna Olsen's blog post 3, 19 October 2015: No Mercy for Dolphins

Marna Olsen's blog post 4, 24 October 2015: Those which are not counted

Marna Olsen's blog post 5, 28 October 2015: When good team spirit is needed most

Marna Olsen's blog post 6, 30 October 2015: First kill of striped dolphins this season

Marna Olsen's blog post 7, 4 November 2015: Reaching out

Federal Court Affirms Denial of Russian Beluga Import for Georgia Aquarium

Posted on 29 September 2015

Russian belugas
Russian belugas awaiting sale in Vladivostok

Washington, DC – (September 29, 2015) – A federal court today affirmed the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) denial of Georgia Aquarium’s application for a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to import 18 beluga whales from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk for public display at several facilities in the United States.

The court ruled in favor of Defendant NMFS and Intervenors Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Cetacean Society International (CSI), and Earth Island Institute (EII), finding that NMFS followed the statutory mandate of the MMPA in its previous denial of the aquarium’s permit application.

The court agreed with NMFS’ determination that the Sakhalin-Amur stock is likely declining and is subject to adverse impacts beyond the ongoing Russian live-capture operations. This determination aligns with the primary purpose of the MMPA – to prevent marine mammal species and populations from diminishing beyond the point at which they cease to be a significant functioning element in their ecosystem.

The court also backed NMFS’ interpretation of its regulations, concluding that an import could potentially encourage the capture of additional belugas from this stock for the purpose of public display worldwide.

Finally, the court supported NMFS’ finding that some of the beluga whales proposed for import, estimated to be approximately 1.5 years old at the time of capture, were potentially still nursing and not yet independent of their mothers. The finding, the court ruled, is based on unrebutted scientific literature that beluga whales are not likely fully independent and still rely to some extent on their mother’s milk until 3 years of age.

“We are thrilled with the court’s ruling,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at AWI. “The MMPA was enacted to protect marine mammals from harm and exploitation and that is exactly what it has done in this case. The US will thankfully not be part of the unsustainable and inhumane trade in belugas out of Russia.”

"While we believed the facts of the case would prevail, we are encouraged by the court's decision to uphold not only the original decision to deny the import permit, but reaffirm the integrity of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act and its precautionary principles,” stated Courtney Vail, of WDC. “We praise the court for confirming what we already knew – this permit application failed to meet any of the regulatory burdens and was an unfortunate attempt to falsely promote profit and entertainment at the expense of conservation."

In August 2013, after a rigorous review process during which NMFS received nearly 9,000 public comments, NMFS found that Georgia Aquarium’s permit application did not satisfy the MMPA’s statutory and regulatory criteria.

On September 30, 2013, Georgia Aquarium filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, challenging the agency’s decision under the federal Administrative Procedure Act as contrary to the MMPA and its implementing regulations and as arbitrary and capricious. In January 2014, AWI, along with the other groups sought to intervene in the case in support of NMFS so as to advance the conservation of beluga whales within the already depleted Sakhalin-Amur stock.

On April 18, 2014, the court granted the organizations’ request for permissive intervention, finding that the organizations “were instrumental in informing [NMFS’s] determination to deny the permit.” After summary judgment briefing ended, a merits hearing took place before Judge Amy Totenberg on August 14, 2015.

“Beluga whales simply don't belong in captivity, said Mark J. Palmer, associate director of EII’s International Marine Mammal Project. “Russian beluga populations should not be depleted to supply aquariums aimed to entertain, rather than promote legitimate and ethical animal protections.”

“Although a federal court has upheld the denial of this import, this stock remains at threat from future import requests,” said William Rossiter, director of CSI. “We strongly urge the agency to protect this stock from the threat of future imports by making a final decision on Intervenors’ legal petition to formally designate the stock as depleted.”

To view the court ruling, download this PDF.

About Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org

About Whale & Dolphin Conservation
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is an international charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide. Established in 1987 with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Germany, and Australia, WDC works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the continuing threats to cetaceans and their habitats, while striving to raise awareness of these remarkable animals and the need to protect them in their natural environment. For more information on WDC, visit www.whales.org.

About Cetacean Society International
2015 is Cetacean Society International’s 41st year of advocacy to meet our mission: to stop the killing, capture and display of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises); encourage human activities that enhance public awareness and stewardship of cetaceans and our marine environment; and collaborate with stakeholders to reduce anthropogenic threats such as bycatch, invasive research, sonar, ship strikes, pollution, seismic testing, and others as they are revealed.

About Earth Island Institute
Earth Island Institute (EII) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting the diversity of life on Earth. EII’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) works to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals around the world. For more information on EII’s IMMP, visit http://immp.eii.org/.

Navy Agrees to Limit Underwater Assaults on Whales and Dolphins

Settlement will protect habitat for vulnerable marine mammal populations in Southern California and Hawai‘i

Posted on 15 September 2015

HONOLULU (From NRDC press release September 11, 2015) – A federal court today entered an order settling two cases challenging the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Southern California and Hawai‘i, securing long-sought protections for whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitat. The settlement stems from the court’s earlier finding that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

For the first time, the Navy has agreed to put important habitat for numerous populations off-limits to dangerous mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of powerful explosives. The settlement aims to manage the siting and timing of Navy activities, taking into account areas of vital importance to marine mammals, such as reproductive areas, feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small, resident populations are concentrated.

Many of the conservation organizations who brought the lawsuits have been sparring legally with the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency charged with protecting marine mammals – for more than a decade, demanding that the Navy and Fisheries Service comply with key environmental laws by acknowledging that the Navy’s activities seriously harm marine mammals and taking affirmative steps to lessen that harm.

“We can protect our fleet and safeguard our whales,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose lawyers challenged the Navy’s activities in Southern California and Hawai‘i on behalf of NRDC, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and Michael Stocker. “This settlement shows the way to do both, ensuring the security of U.S. Navy operations while reducing the mortal hazard to some of the most majestic creatures on Earth. Our Navy will be the better for this, and so will the oceans our sailors defend.”

“If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive,” said David Henkin, an attorney for the national legal organization Earthjustice, who brought the initial challenge to the Navy’s latest round of training and testing on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Mammal Institute. “We challenged the Navy’s plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins, and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured. By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.”

Scientific studies have documented the connection between high-intensity mid-frequency sounds, including Navy sonar, and serious impacts to marine mammals ranging from strandings and deaths to cessation of feeding and habitat avoidance and abandonment. Nonetheless, until now the Navy has refused to set aside biologically important areas to minimize such harm to vulnerable marine mammal populations.

Until it expires in late 2018, the agreement will protect habitat for the most vulnerable marine mammal populations, including endangered blue whales for which waters off Southern California are a globally important feeding area; and numerous small, resident whale and dolphin populations off Hawai‘i, for which the islands are literally an oasis, their only home.

“This settlement proves what we’ve been saying all along,” said Marsha Green, president of Ocean Mammal Institute. “The Navy can meet its training and testing needs and, at the same time, provide significant protections to whales and dolphins by limiting the use of sonar and explosives in vital habitat.”

“This agreement will enhance the welfare of dozens of species that call the Pacific Ocean home by extending vital protections to places they need to rest, feed, reproduce and care for their young,” said Susan Millward, executive director at the Animal Welfare Institute.

Southern California

Southern California provides some of the most important foraging areas anywhere on the globe for vulnerable species such as endangered blue and fin whales, and contains important habitat for small populations of beaked whales, a family of species that is considered acutely sensitive to naval active sonar, with documented injury and mortality.

“Numerous beaked whale strandings and deaths have been linked to naval uses of high-intensity sonar,” said Bill Rossiter, executive director for Advocacy, Science & Grants of Cetacean Society International. “Now, beaked whale populations in Southern California that have been suffering from the Navy’s use of sonar will be able to find areas of refuge where sonar will be off-limits.”

Key terms of the settlement applicable to Southern California include:

  • The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for beaked whales between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island.
  • The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for blue whales feeding near San Diego.
  • Navy surface vessels must use “extreme caution” and travel at a safe speed to minimize the risk of ship strikes in blue whale feeding habitat and migratory corridors for blue, fin and, gray whales.

“Ship strikes pose a serious risk to blue whales and other large whales off the coast of California,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We expect this settlement will help save lives by lowering that risk when Navy vessels reduce their speed in important blue whale habitat and migratory corridors.”


In the vast Pacific Ocean, Hawai‘i represents an oasis for numerous, vulnerable populations of toothed whales, such as spinner dolphins, melon-headed whales, and endangered false killer whales. Studies have shown that they are distinct from other populations in the tropical Pacific and even, in some cases, from populations associated with other islands, with only a few hundred individuals in existence. The Big Island of Hawai‘i and the Maui 4-Island Complex host many of these populations.

“Some of the marine mammals threatened by Navy activities are already on the brink of extinction, such as the Hawaiian monk seal, our state mammal and one of the world’s most endangered species,” said Conservation Council for Hawai‘i’s Marjorie Ziegler. “This settlement helps protect marine habitat the Fisheries Service just last month identified as essential to the seal’s survival.”

Key terms of the settlement applicable to Hawai‘i include:

  • The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar and explosives for training and testing activities on the eastern side of the Island of Hawai‘i and north of Moloka‘i and Maui, protecting Hawaiian monk seals and numerous small resident populations of toothed whales including the endangered insular population of false killer whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales.
  • The Navy is prohibited from exceeding a set number of major training exercises in the channel between Maui and Hawai‘i Island and on the western side of Hawai‘i Island, limiting the number of times local populations will be subjected to the massive use of sonar and explosives associated with major training exercises.
  • Navy surface vessels must use “extreme caution” and travel at a safe speed to minimize the risk of ship strikes in humpback whale habitat.

“This is a huge victory for critically endangered species like Hawai‘i’s insular false killer whale, which is down to only about 150 animals,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.


Under the Navy’s five-year plan for training and testing, the Navy is permitted to harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals nearly 9.6 million times while conducting high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations. These harmful impacts include millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors, such as habitat abandonment, as well as permanent hearing loss, permanent injury, and more than 150 deaths.

In March, the U.S. District Court, District of Hawai‘i, found that the U.S. Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the law when they failed to meet multiple requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act when authorizing the Navy’s plan.

Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats worldwide to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to ‘see’ their world. Navy sonar activities, shipping noise, and seismic exploration by oil and gas companies have made our oceans noisier in recent decades, resulting in widespread disruption to feeding, communication, mating, and more. Southern California and Hawai‘i represent two of the Navy’s most active ranges for mid-frequency sonar and explosives use.

Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service, et al. was brought by Earthjustice in December 2013 in the District of Hawai‘i, representing Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Mammal Institute.

Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service, et al. was brought by NRDC in January 2014 in the Northern District of California, representing NRDC, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and Michael Stocker, a marine bio-acoustics researcher and director of Ocean Conservation Research.

In March 2014, the NRDC case was transferred to the District of Hawai‘i, which consolidated the two cases. Today’s order settles both cases.

SeaWorld’s Big Surprise for Georgia Aquarium!

Posted on 17 September 2015

By Bill Rossiter

On September 1st SeaWorld threw a big rock in the pool of the other U.S beluga display parks, particularly aimed at Georgia Aquarium. The waves were still growing as our newsletter went to print, because no further statements had been made by SeaWorld, Georgia, Shedd or Mystic Aquariums. Please see CSI’s website for new developments. SeaWorld’s surprise announcement appeared on social media, without the usual media release. Until then the battle by CSI and other organizations to prevent the import of 18 beluga whales captured from the wild in Russia was moving slowly towards two defining moments:

The first defining moment will be decision by the federal district court judge in Atlanta, whether or not to uphold NMFS' permit denial.

This started in June 2012, when Georgia Aquarium submitted an application for a Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) permit to import 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia. All would be owned by Georgia Aquarium, but as breeding loans, four would be distributed to Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld San Antonio would get six, SeaWorld Orlando would receive two, three would go to SeaWorld San Diego and, after the 18 whales were “fully socialized and integrated into the existing collections (sic)”, a group including one of the Russian imports would be moved to Mystic Aquarium.

That October NMFS held a public hearing, where I represented CSI to testify in opposition to the Application. My formal comment was partly focused on the inadequate planning for the air transport of the belugas, based on my 40 years of experience with commercial aviation and flight operations in U.S. and European airspace.

In August 2013 NMFS denied the aquarium’s permit on the grounds that the aquarium did not meet permitting requirements when it failed to show that the import would not likely contribute to additional removals of beluga whales from the wild and would not adversely affect the species or stock, among other deficiencies.  By September Georgia Aquarium had responded with a legal challenge against NMFS, NOAA, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The following April CSI, Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and Earth Island Institute were granted intervenor status in support of NMFS. That required legal counsel, and we found ourselves in the good hands of a remarkable pro bono legal team that was outstanding from the start.

A hearing was held in the federal district court in Atlanta on August 24, 2015, after almost a year of legal actions stemming from that appeal for judicial review. I represented CSI at that Atlanta hearing, along with Dr. Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute, and Courtney Vail for Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The judge had conveyed to the parties a very specific list of questions she wanted answered. She was well prepared at the hearing, and we were superbly represented by counsel. Nothing more can be said until the judge’s decision, which will be announced on CSI’s website.

The second defining moment would be a finding by NMFS that the Sakhalin-Amur population of belugas in Russia’s Okhotsk Sea is "Depleted" under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act. All 18 belugas were captured from this population, two in 2006. In April 2014, CSI, AWI, EII, and WDC filed a Petition for the Depleted listing of this targeted Sakhalin-Amur population because, after decades of quotas for killing and captures and a sudden surge in captures for worldwide public display, they are depleted. If this stock is listed as depleted under the MMPA, it would be illegal to import any belugas originating from this population now or in the future for public display and other purposes. 17 months later, NMFS has made an initial finding that a depleted designation may be warranted, and has further assessed our petition and the status of the population, but NMFS’ decision has not been announced.

And then came SeaWorld’s rock, thrown from http://ask.seaworldcares.com/?p=1152, a social media website set up to struggle against the growing backlash and controversy surrounding SeaWorld since Blackfish:

“Like Georgia Aquarium, SeaWorld is committed to the educational presentation of belugas and to working in partnership with all U.S. beluga holders to conserve this fascinating species. SeaWorld has not collected a whale or dolphin from the wild in decades and last year signed the Virgin Unite pledge indicating that we will not collect cetaceans from the wild. To reaffirm that commitment, SeaWorld has informed the Georgia Aquarium that we will not accept any of the belugas listed on their NOAA Fisheries import permit application. The Marine Mammal Protection Act supports the collection and importation of animals for public display in accredited zoological facilities, and SeaWorld’s decision on this matter does not in any way reflect judgment on those facilities leading or participating in this beluga whale conservation effort. Rather, it reflects an evolution in SeaWorld’s position since this project began more than eight years ago.”

This seems more of a cover-up than an “evolution”, because in the 30-odd years of my memory of SeaWorld's management decisions, they have never done the "right thing" as I define it. SeaWorld is a business motivated to make a profit and minimize losses, and they haven’t managed to do either well because of the “Blackfish Effect”. As Blackfish and subsequent investigations have shown, SeaWorld’s management didn’t even tell their staff enough of the truth to protect them from harm. Why make this withdrawal statement now, when they were a party to this import proposal “more than eight years ago”, perhaps back to the initial capture of two of the 18 belugas in 2006?

Because of timing: If SeaWorld predicted that Georgia Aquarium will lose the lawsuit and/or the Sakhalin-Amur population will be declared Depleted they could be expected to minimize further losses, here by withdrawing from the agreement to take 11 of the 18 imported Russian beluga whales. But that decision needed a feel-good cover, so they cited their signing the Virgin Unite Pledge. In fact, The Virgin Pledge signed by SeaWorld Orland, San Antonio and San Diego says: “Except when necessitated of rehabilitation, rescue, or support for endangered species, this facility pledges to never take receipt of cetacean including whales and dolphins that were taken from the wild after 14th February 2014.” If that’s not clear enough, SeaWorld pays a lot for lawyers who could get around the Virgin Pledge.

The waves following SeaWorld’s rock have inspired rumors fit for a conspiracy movie or two. We look forward to whatever really happens, compared with what the aquariums say happens, so long as no Russian belugas (or orcas) are imported to the U.S.

24 August 2015 Screening of the Film BREACH

Thanks to everyone who participated in the premier Connecticut showing of the film BREACH presented by CSI in cooperation with the New Children’s Museum in West Hartford on 24 August 2015. The film was followed by a live discussion via Skype with Jonny Zwick, the film's Director. For more information see www.breachthefilm.com.

International Save the Vaquita Day

Posted on 12 July 2015

The International Save the Vaquita Day on July 11, 2015 was a big success. See http://www.vivavaquita.org/ for more information.

TEDx Talk Highlights Why SeaWorld Should Retire Shamu

Posted on 27 May 2015

AWI Scientist Dr. Naomi Rose Highlights How Captivity Destroys Orca Family Structure

Japanese Aquariums Vote To Stop Buying Taiji Dolphins

Posted on 26 May 2015

May 26th Update on the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) decision regarding the purchase of dolphins captured from the infamous Taiji dolphin drives.

By Bill Rossiter

On May 20th WAZA was notified, one day before the deadline in their suspension of JAZA, that “JAZA will prohibit its members to acquire wild dolphins caught by drive fishing in Taiji and to take part in their export and sale." A few days earlier JAZA’ 89 zoos and 63 aquarium members had voted not to leave WAZA, many citing uncertainties obtaining animals from other WAZA members worldwide.

The JAZA decision captured worldwide media attention but few outside of Japan followed the developing defections of dolphinariums from JAZA. The Japanese media have emphasized that the drive fishery at Taiji is legal, permitted, important to the town, and not cruel as declared by WAZA in its initial suspension of JAZA. One JAZA official was quoted as saying: “We have yet to receive any convincing explanation from WAZA about why it is cruel“. While there have been recent changes to some of the drives, limiting species and attempting to release some dolphins not chosen for display, there appears to be no concern about the ultimate survival of the released but traumatized animals.

Defections from JAZA were predictable and understandable, supported by Japan’s official and media consensus that WAZA suspension of JAZA was unjustified. By May 25th Kyodo News reported that, from their survey of the 34 JAZA member facilities that display dolphins, 16 will remain in JAZA, five may leave JAZA soon, two others said they will quit JAZA in the future, seven are undecided and four declined to answer. Twenty other dolphinariums are not JAZA members; most buy from Taiji. A May 20th survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun found that, of 33 aquariums displaying a total of 352 dolphins, 18 admitted buying 158 from the drive fishery, 68 were caught by nets, and 42 were captive bred, but no media have included the history of the drives relationship to captive display. Captive breeding hasn’t been a priority in Japan because it’s been easier and cheaper to buy from Taiji. Eight aquariums refused to answer the survey, citing negative publicity.

About 80 fishermen conduct Taiji’s drives and killing. Over several years some have said that the income from sales for display justified the drives. According to Japan’s Fishery Agency 1,239 dolphins were caught in the 2013 Taiji drives. 172 were sold for display at prices starting at US$8,200. The 1067 others were worth about $500 each when slaughtered for meat, tests of which showed the meat exceeded limits for human consumption. Some trained, display-ready Taiji dolphins are reported to have been sold for over $100,000.

CSI’s next Whales Alive! newsletter will include a more in-depth review of the history and implications of WAZA’s actions, JAZA’s response, the Japanese public’s perception of captive display, and the fundamental issue of expanding sales of display dolphins to China and other foreign markets that will make Taiji’s bay blood red again beginning in September.


Posted on 2 May 2015

Tell the National Science Foundation/Rutgers University, Columbia University, and the University of Texas: Whales take priority over unnecessary, bogus science.

The project to seismically map an area the size of Barnegat Bay off the NJ coast (purportedly for historical climate change data) has been called bogus and unnecessary!

  • This work has been repeated 4 times.
  • No new mapping technology is being used thus yielding no new information.
  • Findings would yield data that would ultimately and promptly benefit the oil and gas industries.
  • The team grossly underestimated impacts to whales by at least 30 times, according to the Marine Mammal Commission.
  • Project is being done in an area teeming with marine life, with up to 33 species of whales and dolphins, in a location that has already been drilled 313 times!

TELL THEM SEISMIC MAPPING of the OCEAN FLOOR – blasting airgun arrays every 5-6 seconds 24/7 at levels that reach whale-brain-and-lung-imploding 240+ dB – in the presence of 32 species of cetaceans and vital area fisheries is UNACCEPTABLE.

SIGN AND SHARE the Petition to stop Rutgers U, et al:

Comments from NY4Whales:

Comments from Clean Ocean Action:


Posted on 2 May 2015

STOP PORT AMBROSE LNG Terminal, a dirty Big Oil/Big Gas project!
Call NY Gov Cuomo’s office and NJ Gov. Christie’s office and tell them to reject the Port Ambrose project, to protect our NY/NJ Bight and the industries and livelihoods dependent on them.

The governors of NY and NJ have the power to stop this project.
Call Gov. Cuomo’s office: 1-518-474-8390
Call NJ Gov. Christie’s office: 609-292-6000
even if you don’t live in NY or NJ - the Port Ambrose terminal will have far reaching effects well beyond state waters! Tell them the risks far outweigh the benefits!

Comments from NY4Whales:

Sign the petitions to STOP PORT AMBROSE:


Posted on 2 May 2015

The Obama administration recently released its draft five-year plan (2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf this week – and for the first time it includes waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. (http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/governors-big-oil-assisted-lobbying-pays-off-in-ob.html) Routine operational leaks will ruin fisheries and the marine dependent industries that represent the livelihoods of tens of millions of people along our east coast. Well-oiled politicians have jumped on the drill-bandwagon, despite fierce opposition from local and environmental groups:

“So far, 29 communities along the East Coast from Florida to Maine have passed resolutions opposing or expressing concern about seismic testing in the Atlantic. A first step toward drilling, the practice involves using dynamite-like blasts to detect offshore oil and gas deposits and can cause harm to ocean life. Two-hundred local elected officials and more than 60 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have also taken positions against seismic testing....” (http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/governors-big-oil-assisted-lobbying-pays-off-in-ob.html)

“Opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration is particularly strong in OCSGC Chair McCrory's North Carolina, where 10 coastal communities have expressed official concern about seismic testing, and where last January hundreds of angry residents of Kure Beach packed a town council meeting where they pounded on the walls and booed in protest against Mayor Dean Lambeth's decision to sign an industry-penned letter endorsing seismic testing.”

“Despite the widespread concern about offshore drilling among coastal residents, the Obama administration approved seismic testing for the Atlantic last July. But as the fight against oil and gas development on the East Coast enters the next stage with this week's lease announcement, the voices of opposition are likely to grow louder. Jewell has said the draft is not final and proposed lease sales could be dropped based on new science, information and public comment.” ibid
"We cannot let Washington prioritize the bottom line of multinational corporations over local people, homes, and economies," said Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Everyone who cares about our coastal communities needs to call on Interior Secretary Jewell, as well as our elected representatives, to protect our coasts and remove the Southeast from the five-year leasing plan." ibid

In addition to calling or writing Pres. Obama, sign and share this petition to halt this fossil fuel climate-change failure:

WAZA Council Votes To Suspend Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA)

Posted on 23 April 2015

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Council has voted unanimously to suspend the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), due to Japan's drive fishery in Taiji, Japan.

Notice from the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation

Posted on 12 April 2015

The Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation (www.tropicaldolphin.org) is working to complete a documentary on a group of young conservation biologists who are working to save the Ganges river dolphin from extinction. We have finished our trailer (Who Will Save the River Dolphin?) and are now filming in the field in Asia (Field Blog). We wanted to inform the marine mammal community about this upcoming film and to make you aware of our fund raising campaign to help us complete this important documentary (Indegogo Crowd Fund for Documentary).

Court Rules Navy War Games Violate Law Protecting
Whales and Dolphins

Posted on 31 March 2015

U.S. District Court deems that nearly 9.6 million underwater assaults on whales and dolphins were improperly assessed as “negligible”

LOS ANGELES (March 31, 2015) — A federal court today announced that the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii illegally harm more than 60 whale, dolphin, seal, and sea lion populations. The U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii, found that the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency charged with protecting marine mammals – violated multiple requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act when agreeing to the Navy’s plan.

“Searching the administrative record’s reams of pages for some explanation as to why the Navy’s activities were authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service (‘NMFS’), this court feels like the sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ who, trapped for days on a ship becalmed in the middle of the ocean, laments, ‘Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink.’” the Court wrote in its 66-page opinion.

The Court granted summary judgements in favor of nine plaintiffs in a consolidated case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, Michael Stocker, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, and Ocean Mammal Institute.

Under its five-year plan for training and testing, the Navy is permitted to harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals nearly 9.6 million times while conducting high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations. These harmful impacts include millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors, such as habitat abandonment, as well as permanent hearing loss, permanent injury and more than 150 deaths.

Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats worldwide to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to ‘see’ their world. Navy sonar activities, shipping noise, and seismic exploration by oil and gas companies have made our oceans noisier in recent decades, resulting in widespread disruption to feeding, communication, mating, and more.

Following is a statement by Zak Smith, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, representing plaintiffs:

“Defenseless marine mammals are going deaf and hungry and may die at the hands of our Navy. And the laws we have that are meant to limit such harms have been misused by the government.

“Instead of downplaying the impacts on marine mammals – including endangered blue, fin and humpback whales – the government should be doing more to protect them from these harmful activities.

“The Navy has solutions at its disposal to ensure it limits the harm to these animals during its exercises. It’s time to stop making excuses and embrace those safety measures.”

For more information please contact William Rossiter, CSI's Executive Director for Advocacy, Science & Grants, rossiter@csiwhalesalive.org, 203-770-8615.

Court Update: Importing Wild Beluga Whales for Captivity

Posted on 16 March 2015

Animal Protection and Whale Conservation Groups File Response to Georgia
Aquarium’s Motion Asking Court to Order Agency to Issue Beluga Import Permit

Click here for details. (PDF)

Cetacean Society International Supports Responsible Whale-Watching Workshop in St Vincent and the Grenadines

Posted on 23 Oct 2014

International experts in the development and operation of responsible whale watching conducted a three-day workshop in St Vincent and the Grenadines (22-24 October 2014), to provide training to existing and prospective whale-watch operators.

The objectives of the workshop, which included two full days of instruction and a morning at sea, were focused on educating stakeholders on the importance of protecting whales and dolphins from the impact of vessels; increasing the educational and scientific value of whale watching trips for passengers and researchers; and maximising the income potential and community benefits of nature-based tourism.

The agenda includes segments on responsible regulation and passenger safety as well as business aspects such as marketing and tour design.

The trainers from Fundacion Cethus in Argentina bring years of experience in training whale-watch operators in developing countries to the workshop. It is being conducted in cooperation with the National Trust of St Vincent and the Grenadines, with financial support from the Animal Welfare Institute, Cetacean Society International, OceanCare and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

CSI Intervenes To Support NMFS In Lawsuit Brought By The Georgia Aquarium

Posted on 19 Feb 2014

 Photo ©2009 L. Hannenman

Cetacean Society International and four other NGOs on January 8, 2014 filed a motion to intervene in defense of the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) August 2013 decision to deny Georgia Aquarium's request for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia for public display. NMFS' permit denial was based on "best science", specifically that:

  • The agency could not determine that the import, by itself or in combination with other activities, would not have a significant adverse impact on the Russian stock of belugas from which the 18 whales were taken, given the stock's "steady and significant decline over the past two decades" caused in part by the "ongoing live-capture trade since 1989."
  • The import would likely result in the capture of additional belugas from this stock, beyond those covered by the permit, because "issuance of this permit would contribute to the demand to capture belugas from this stock for the purpose of public display worldwide."
  • Five of the beluga whales-estimated to be approximately 1.5 years old at the time of capture-were potentially still nursing and not yet independent at the time of capture.

If approved, the permit would have restarted the imports of wild-caught cetaceans to the U.S, which were stopped through public pressure in 1993. CSI joined the Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America, and Earth Island Institute in the intervention to strongly support NMFS's determination. Last fall CSI's Bill Rossiter had testified at a NMFS meeting in Washington, DC about the risky plan to transport the belugas described in the Aquarium's Application. Speaking from his 40 years of experience as a professional pilot with the US Air Force, United Airlines and European flying operations, Bill pointed out several flaws likely to cause one or more belugas to be harmed or die from the transport.

For further information please contact Info@csiwhalesalive.org

CSI Joins Natural Resources Defense Council In Suit To Limit Injuries From Sonar And Weapons Testing

Posted on 19 Feb 2014

Humpback Whale Underwater

Once again CSI goes to court to try to get the U.S. Navy to stop unnecessary killing and harming of marine life!

Cetacean Society International is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed January 27, 2014, opposing the National Marine Fisheries Service's authorization of the U.S. Navy's test and training exercises in Southern California and Hawaiian waters. Compared to what the Navy thought their actions would do during the previous five-year period, the Navy's new model projects a 1,300% greater marine mammal impact during its 2013-2018 sonar and explosives training activities! 155 cetaceans would die, over 2,000 would suffer permanent injury including hearing loss, and millions of instances of temporary hearing loss or significant disruptions in vital behaviors would occur. The astonishing increase in injury and death is partly due to new weapon systems and operations, and better science, but much is due to the way their computers crunch numbers.

Since CSI entered this war on the side of whales in 1996 the Navy has obstinately maintained course, hiding behind the "national security" shield instead of implementing effective mitigation that would not diminish mission effectiveness. We are proud to be co-plaintiffs led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, here joined by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment, and Michael Stocker, a marine bio-acoustics researcher and director of Ocean Conservation Research.

We sue for common-sense measures that would significantly decrease the harm to California and Hawaii's aquatic species, measures which the Navy ignores. The most important of these is to avoid important habitat for vulnerable species, like endangered blue, fin and beaked whales, and migrating Gray whales. Examples include practicable steps to avoid dangerous activities such as night time sonar training and underwater detonations at night, because the Navy relies primarily on seeing cetaceans so as to avoid them, and reducing ship speed at critical times and locations to reduce the risk of vessel collision and death.

For further information please contact Info@csiwhalesalive.org

Download a Free Book on the Bottlenose Dolphin in Argentina!

Posted on 15 Oct 2013

The bottlenose dolphins of the Bay,  Discovering the Dolphins of North Patagonia” (Argentina

For our Spanish-speaking visitors and anyone who wants a free, scientifically accurate book on the bottlenose dolphin CSI is very pleased to recommend "Las Toninas de la Bahia, Descubriendo a los Delfines de Patagonia Norte", which freely translates to "The bottlenose dolphins of the Bay, Discovering the Dolphins of North Patagonia" (Argentina)

Written by Els Vermeulen, Hilda Suárez and Alejandro baalbiano, the book is a labor of love by scientists "to increase the awareness around this population and highlight its vulnerability", but the easy to read text also provides a wealth of information about the species worldwide. It also covers other species of whales and dolphins in the region, explains how scientists do the research, provides information on many individuals, behaviors, and issues affecting the dolphins, and includes a catalog of named dolphins.

Believing that "social networking is essential in the increasing awareness of environmental issues", the authors have created a Facebook page, in Spanish and English, where the 3.7MB book can be downloaded for free under the "files" tab, and anyone can join the Facebook Group to comment and stay current on the research.

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