Navy Sonar Runs Free While Feds Give Cousteau and Black the Hammer

By Edward Johnson

During the past few days some recent activities by the Dept. of Justice have involved the interpretation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Their interpretation of the MMPA seems to swing on a pendulum that contrasts greatly. While the feds have confiscated Jean Michelle’s boat, and convicted Black of harassment they readily authorize the Navy to conduct exercises that like Operation Dawn Blitz 2013 that has been connected with the fleeing of 1000 dolphins.

Nancy Black  Photo credit: Matt Ferraro

Nancy Black
by Matt Ferraro

In the first case which included a 9 year lapse between incident and action by the Federal Government a boat owned by Jean-Michel Cousteau was confiscated. In that event Cousteau in cooperation with Monterey Bay marine biologist Nancy Black made a video of killer whales actively feeding on a gray whale calf. In an attempt to get closeup shots Black  was accused of securing a part of the whale calve and then using it as a draw for the orca. Ultimately Black admitted to wrong doing and is now on probation. Cousteau who was nearby filming during the event now, years later, has had his own boat confiscated by the Federal Government because of this incident.

2000 Bahamas stranding caused by Naval Sonar

2000 Bahamas stranding caused by Naval Sonar

In contrast NOAA and NMFS continues to issue the Navy permits for their ever increasing Naval exercises where sonar, and other underwater technologies are used that have been proven to be deadly for cetaceans and other marine life. While Black and Cousteau have been hounded over one incident related to the MMPA the Navy has not been held accountable and the government contiues to support exercises that are blatantly in violation of the MMPA.

Proximity of Dana Point and Operation Dawn Blitz

Proximity of  A) Dana Point and B) Camp Pendleton Exercise off the coastal zone

Operation Dawn Blitz is taking place from June 11-28th, 2013 off the San Diego coastline in close proximity to Dana Point where there is the largest population of common dolphins in the world. Looking at the permit submitted by the Navy, here is a map showing the location of these exercises including the area both North & South of Dana Point.

Marines and sailors from 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, I Marine Expeditionary Force and the U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group-3, Commander, Third Fleet, announced the official commencement of multinational amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz 2013 off the Southern California coast, June 11-28.

Published on Jun 17, 2013

A mega pod of thousands of Common Dolphins engulfed Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Watching Whale Safari catamaran while stampeding off the coast of Orange County, California. At the very same time Operation Dawn Blitz was taking place close by or in the same vicinity of in the Marine Protected area. While NOAA and NMFS feverently go after the small fish violating the MMPA like Nancy Black and Jean Michele Cousteau while the big fish, in this case the Navy, goes about the business of “taking” marine mammals as usual without even a slap on the wrist.

Stranded Dolphin Deemed Poor Candidate For Rescue Perishes in Toxic Sludge

By Kirsten Massebeau

Gowanus Dolphin: saddest thing ever.Just when I thought this week couldn't possibly get any worse, I saw the stranded dolphin in the Gowanus Canal and it made me profoundly sad.  Photo by Shelley Bernstein

Gowanus Dolphin: saddest thing ever.
Just when I thought this week couldn’t possibly get any worse, I saw the stranded dolphin in the Gowanus Canal and it made me profoundly sad. Photo by Shelley Bernstein

On January 25th the world woke up to the news that a dolphin was stranded and struggling in the Gowanus canal a narrow inlet off the Brooklyn Harbor. Huffington Post released images and an article that brought forth tears from people worldwide as visuals of a dolphin in toxic sludge struggling to stay afloat were released. The article, “Dolphin In Gowanus Canal: Animal Stranded Near Union Street in Polluted Waters” was immediately picked up by dolphin advocates who shared the article on Facebook, Twitter and G+ asking people to call a marine mammal hotline asking why the dolphin had not been rescued. Riverhead Animal For Marine Research and Animal Rescue took callers numbers and stated that they were waiting to see if the dolphin would refloat at high tide which wasn’t until 7pm. Many were unsatisfied with this answer as it seemed obvious the toxic water was taking its toll. Draped in sludge the dolphin floundered for hours as witnesses stood watch on the bridge. Police, biologists, Riverhead Foundation, and National Marine Fisheries observed as the dolphin struggled to stay alive through-out the day but no action was taken.

Gowanus Dolphin Video by Carlos Jimeno/David Kirby

As people waited for word on the Gowanus dolphin hours passed by.  Finally David Kirby, Author of “Death at SeaWorld” published a post on Take, “From Bad to Awful: Gowanus Canal Dolphin Dies”. In his post David describes the terrible conditions this dolphin faced, “The animal, an adult common dolphin, looked stuck in the thick toxic mud, but was actually able to move around in the three feet of water that fills the canal at low tide. Clouds of brown-green goo would rise from the bottom as the stranded animal moved about”. It seemed impossible that this lonely dolphin had been left to a terrible death in the toxic muck of the Gowanus Canal”.

Riverhead Foundation spokesperson Rob Di Giovanni kept his word and attempted to return each phone call and email regarding the dolphin. Many people had called up in arms about how the scenario had played out. Rob stated that he felt people were not looking at the situation realistically. He said there was a criteria they followed that determined whether or not a cetacean was a good candidate for rescue: 1) Is this animal coming to shore to die? 2) What is the least invasive way to help the animal without startling it? 3) Where will the animal be placed once it has been rescued? Sadly, the cards were stacked against this dolphin. He or she was not a good candidate for rescue. Covered with muck, bleeding, floundering, and distressed it looked near death. The tide was low another factor against the dolphin. They would not attempt a rescue at low tide. But lastly there was no room at the Inn. There was only one cetacean tank for rescues available at Riverhead and it was being used for a harbor porpoise, and there wasn’t another tank  for hundreds of miles so where would the dolphin have gone?

Thinking dolphin: Diana Reiss at TEDxSanJoseCA 2012

It is heartbreaking situations such as this that point out how unprepared the United States government is for cetacean rescues. Instead they rely on private companies like SeaWorld or unprepared, and financially strapped marine mammal rescue foundations like Riverhead. Todays dolphins are known to be higher beings with large brains, that live in complex societies. With that in mind we have to wonder if this dolphin disoriented and suffering heard the voices of humans and mistakenly thought this meant help. Help to be rescued or help to at least die in clean water. Was it a day of waiting for that helping hand, a hand that would never come. Unlike the dolphins that have rescued so many humans over time the favor would not be returned. Instead he or she was left to drown in the toxic sludge of the Gowanus Canal.

Gowanus update: One man came forward to comfort this dolphin. Follow the link to Candace Calloway Whitings blog and watch the video Gowanus Dolphin Knew a Moment of Compassion Before Dying.