Paul in the Baja; Judy Hemenway photo
Welcome to the March issue of Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter for ocean lovers, divers, and "deep-thinkers," from milabooks.com
This month's cover photo, a young, curious gray whale cruising along with us in Baja Mexico, was taken by one of our Andiamo tour group members, Jon Fellows. What makes the shot so interesting is that Jon caught the whale rolling to one side as it eye-balled our tiny panga, giving us a good view of about one-half its body. The absence of barnacles and sea lice on its skin indicated it was a very young whale.
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I'll be signing copies of Dangerous Waters, Whales' Angels, and Fireworks, at the Beneath The Sea author booth on Saturday, March 27, at the Meadowlands Exposition Center, Secaucus New Jersey. Stop by and say "Hello."
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This issue's Story Behind The Photo section, A Terrifying Tale Behind This Tail, graphically illustrates the danger gray whales experience as they navigate the Orca gauntlet during their annual migration.
Our Conservation Corner feature this month, Is There Whale On Your Menu? will make you pause before ordering Sushi at your favorite Japanese restaurant.
In the Updates Section, we have recent news about:
Shark Conservation, Sea Shepherd's 2010 Anti-whaling Campaign (including Japan's intimidation and legal threats in order to continue killing whales -- not for "science" but for profit), and also, Cozumel's Lionfish Tournament.
If you know someone who would enjoy reading Sea-gram, please forward using the link at the bottom of the newsletter. If each reader forwarded a copy to just one friend, our Conservation Corner articles would spread far and wide.
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I hope you enjoy Sea-gram !
Paul J. Mila
|The Story Behind The Photo . . .
A Terrifying Tale Behind This Tail
Photo By Jon Fellows, Del Mar, CA
Story by Paul Mila, Carle Place, NY
Gray Whale Fin; photo by Jon Fellows, Baja Mexico. (c)
We were bouncing through the waves in Scammon's Lagoon, near the Mexican town of Guerrero Negro, searching for gray whales. This was our second whale experience in as many days. The previous day we had visited the grays in San Ignacio Lagoon.
San Ignacio lagoon is small and well protected, so we enjoyed calm seas as we observed whales cavorting all around us. Our patience was rewarded when a mother and calf approached our panga. I even got to touch the baby whale as it surfaced briefly next the stern, where I was lucky to be sitting. Its skin was soft and smooth, similar to a wet inner tube.
The magic moment happened so quickly that I never took a photo. The significance that a free, wild whale let me touch it didn't sink in until later reflection.
Scammon's Lagoon is much larger than San Ignacio, and provided an entirely different experience. The weather was cool and windy, the sea choppy. We were constantly doused with salty spray as our tiny outboard plowed through the waves. I doubted we would ever pick out a whale blow through all the white caps.
As it turned out, we didn't have to strain our eyes searching the horizon for a whale blow's geyser-like spray. These whales came to play! The short YouTube video clip below shows them repeatedly surfacing next to our boat and blowing, covering us in their misty whale breath, swimming along side, and sometimes passing beneath us, using our panga as a giant backscratcher.
The Whales Who Came To Play!
We observed parallel markings on the flukes and pectoral fins of several whales (Jon's photo above). Our Scripps/Birch Aquarium guide, Rebekah Bohm, informed us these were scars from killer whale attacks. Contrasting that reality with the whales' playfulness in their relaxed sanctuary was very sobering. Rebekah said an estimated 300 whales are born in these peaceful lagoons every year, but killer whales will take about 100 as the mothers and their calfs migrate north along the California coast to their Arctic feeding grounds.
Jon's photograph graphically illustrates the violence gray whales endure along their perilous journey. On this whale's tail fluke you can clearly see indentations from Orca teeth, and deep grooves as the whale pulled free from the killer whale's deadly jaws.
Jon was using a Nikon D200 with a Nikkor 18-200mm zoom lens for great action close-ups.
Jon usually sets his camera on rapid-fire sequence so he can shoot a burst of several exposures in a second. That's a very useful technique for capturing the "magic moment" of fast action shots like whale breaches and other wildlife scenes.
This 2007 Nat Geo video clip shows an actual attack:
Killer Whales Attacks Gray Whales
Orcas are not the only obstacle these whales face. Recently, many have died from starvation or appeared emaciated upon reaching the lagoons. Their food supply, tiny amphipods, bottom-dwelling crustaceans, is becoming scarce. One reason may be global warming, as explained in this short Cousteau clip:
Gray Whale Risks
Conservation Corner . . .
A Whale On Your Menu?
Humpback whale, SilverBank Dominican Republic; Paul Mila photo (c)
In a sting operation worthy of a James Bond plot, the team behind the recent Oscar winning documentary THE COVE, joined forces with Federal Agents to investigate reports that a popular Santa Monica California Sushi restaurant was illegally serving whale meat imported from Japan.
Meat samples, smuggled out of the restaurant in a Ziplog bag tucked inside a purse, were sent to the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. DNA testing there revealed the samples were from a Sei whale, a medium-to-large baleen whale classified as "endangered." Despite this classification, these whales are hunted in the North Pacific under Japan's bogus "Scientific Whaling" program.
Click the NY Times link below for the amazing details:
Whale Sushi Served In Santa Monica
Speaking of THE COVE, kudos to the Academy for selecting this amazing film as the Oscar winner for the year's best documentary! The film documents the annual dolphin hunt in the Japanese coastal village of Taiji. There, with the government's blessing, fishermen herd 2,000 dolphins toward shore and then savagely butcher them in the shallows, staining the sea red with blood. A few "lucky" survivors are captured and sold to aquatic theme parks and aquariums.
The village mayor defends the practice, saying, "It is important to respect and understand regional food cultures."
Click the NY Times link for details:
Japanese Village Defends Dolphin Slaughter
Check Out More About THE COVE:
THE COVE MOVIE
What Can We Do?
1. Let Japan, or other whaling nations, know your thoughts about their whaling activities and "food culture."
whaling country's name (Japan, Norway, or Iceland), along with the word
"Consulate" or "Embassy". You'll get a list of cities having consulates
or embassies, and contact information. Select one near you and send a
message. Better yet, forward this copy of Sea-gram !
2. Write to your local Congressional Representatives and explain the position you want the U.S. to take on whale conservation, and the killing of other intelligent sea mammals.
3. Support whale defenders financially. Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace anti-whaling campaigns are expensive. They need our help to battle resource-rich whaling nations.
|About MilaBooks.com |
|www.milabooks.com is your home for exciting dive adventure novels, YouTube videos about ocean creatures, and more.
Here's our new logo!
Obviously, if any ocean inhabitant could read it would be an intelligent dolphin just like this one, right? Milabooks.com stories have been enjoyed by readers all over the world, so our reading dolphin is circling the globe.
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Winner receives a signed set of all three books: Dangerous Waters, Whales' Angels and Fireworks
Thanks for visiting, and we'll see you next month!
Paul J. Mila
75 Titus Avenue
Carle Place, New York 11514
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click the "Forward email" link below.
Featured Article in this month's Conservation Corner:
A Whale On Your Menu?
Read about an amazing investigation revealing that a popular California Restaurant, The Hump, has been serving whale
meat from endangered whale species.
See Conservation Corner,
lower left column.
|Quick Links |
Sea-gram fan (and I guess de-facto Special Investigative Reporter), Martha Weisberg, informed us that
UPDATES ON PAST FEATURES
GOOD NEWS ON SHARK CONSERVATION!
the Maldives has followed Palau in declaring its waters, covering an area about the size of Portugal, a Shark Sanctuary.
Even though the country's motives are financial, we applaud the right move for any reason.
A shark's fins are worth about $32 in the Maldives, but they estimate a live shark generates $3,300 in tourism dollars. All the sharks were being caught to export their fins. The total value of the catch had declined 80 percent over the last 12 years, probably reflecting a decline of at least 80 percent in the local shark population.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. , . . . a Shark Conservation Act which would sharply curtail killing sharks for their fins has passed the House of Representatives.
Martha's email concludes, "At least Congress can pass health care for sharks."
Click below for the NY Times Story:
New Maldives Shark Sanctuary
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Sea Shepherd concluded its 2010 anti-whaling campaign, Operation Waltzing Matilda.
Below is Captain Paul Watson's summary of this year's campaign. It should make for exciting Whale Wars viewing on Animal Planet, this coming summer:
"Operation Waltzing Matilda has come to a close after three long, weary, and dramatic months upon the most remote and hostile seas in the world. This past weekend, the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker were welcomed by crowds of cheering supporters in the port of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
"We will not know the final results until the Japanese whaling fleet reports back to Tokyo in April, but we cut the kill quotas nearly in half during the three previous years and this year was much more effective, so the results promise to be very satisfying. We know we have cost the whalers tens of millions of dollars in lost profits."
Click the Sea Shepherd link below for Captain Watson's complete report:
Sea Shepherd 2010
Japan To Conduct "Show-trial" of Sea-Shepherd Captain:In a blatant attempt to intimidate anti-whaling forces, Japanese whalers seized New Zealand Captain Peter Bethune of the Andy Gil, a high-tech Sea Shepherd anti-whaling boat.
Captain Bethune had boarded the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru to serve an arrest warrant against its Captain for damages and attempted murder of his crew after the Japanese ship deliberately rammed the Andy Gill, and then sprayed high-pressure water hoses at the crew as they scrambled for safety.
Click the links below for this amazing story, and for two short video clips of the ramming:
Japanese Coast Guard Arrests Sea-Shepherd Skipper
Andy Gil Rammed By Japanese Whaler
Sonic Blasters & Water Cannons Aimed At Scrambling Crew
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Cozumel Lion Fish Tournament UpdateIn the January 2010 issue we reported that Cozumel dive operators would participate in a lionfish tournament, in an effort to eradicate the non-indigenous predators from the reefs.
Lionfish photo by Laura Weisberg (c)
Here are the results, posted in Cozumel 4 You, a superb, local Cozumel newsletter and message board:
"Cozumel hosted our first ever Lionfish Tournament last Sunday, and over 50 divers participated. In only five hours 279 lionfish were removed from Cozumel's reefs. The tournament ran from 9 am to 2 pm, with the awards being given out in a 3 pm ceremony. A big congratulations to the crew of the boat "Lo-Ha," Elvis Escalante Yam, Juan José Morales Castillo, and Gilmer Azueta Núñez, who extracted 115 lionfish, winning the grand prize of $8,000 pesos, for the most Lionfish caught. The same team, also won in the second category, extracting a lionfish that weighed 420 grams and was 32.4 centimeters in length.
"This tournament was especially important, since it is an innovative way to attempt to rid our waters of this voracious predator. Since Lionfish are not indigenous to the area, they have no natural enemies, and will eat almost any other fish encountered. They are also extremely fertile, laying over 30,000 eggs at a time. All lionfish caught were dissected, and their stomach contents examined in an attempt to better understand the lionfish's habits. Last Tuesday, Marine Biologists and the National Marine Park, presented some of the findings, as well as additional information to interested Marine Park guides."For the best in Cozumel news, message boards, and more, check out Cozumel 4 You, in this month's Guest Links section, below.
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