May, 2010
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Bluefin Tuna

GoogleTranslation: Why Defend The Bluefin?

 Photo From Sea Shepherd's website, announcing Operation Blue Rage
Welcome to the May issue of Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter for ocean lovers, divers and "deep-thinkers," from . 
Paul Watson and me, aboard the Steve Irwin, in NYC.
 Photo by C.S. Muncy
Paul Watson & Paul Mila
April was an exciting month for me, meeting the Sea Shepherd crew of the Steve Irwin. These real life heroes put their lives on the line, jousting with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean every year to protect endangered whales from slaughter. Their exploits appear on Animal Planet's WHALE WARS.  Highlights from the most recent campaign will begin airing in June.   
When I heard the Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin was going to dock in New York, on its way to the Mediterranean for Operation Blue Rage to protect endangered bluefin tuna, I was determined to visit.
 Not only was I treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship, but I even had an opportunity to meet Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson. I donated several copies of my anti-whaling novel WHALES' ANGELS to the crew, and some whale photos I shot in Tonga for the ship.
We also found some fascinating material for this month's Sea-gram:
  Story Behind The Photos (yes, plural) features a baby humpback whale who befriended a physically handicapped snorkeler. Did the whale single this diver out for a particular reason? Read author Joan Ocean's amazing story, and you decide!
 If you have a good photo with an interesting story, or would like to share a good dive yarn, let me know at and I'll be happy to include your story in a future issue. 
Our Conservation Corner topic this month, The Economics of Extinction, concerns the endangered bluefin tuna, and Sea Shepherd's Operation Blue Rage. 
For a change of pace, the Miscellaneous Articles section, right column, features a unique land-based story & video: A re-union between a gorilla named Kwibi and his former handlers, several years after Kwibi's repatriation to the jungle. Absolutely nothing to do with the ocean, but watching the expression in Kwibi's eyes makes you realize how few degrees of separation exist between us and others who share our planet.  
To view past Sea-grams click our ARCHIVE link below:
I hope you enjoy this month's Sea-gram !
 Paul J. Mila
The Story Behind The Photo(s) 
      A Baby Humpback Befriends Snorkeler
                 By Joan Ocean, Tahitian Islands
This month's Story Behind The Photo is a photo-journalistic tale, by author Joan Ocean, M.S. (Dolphin Connection International) and professional underwater photographer Lisa Denning (see Guest Links, right column). Here is Joan & Lisa's Story Behind The Photos:
During my Humpback Whale Seminar in Tahiti, my friend "FV" from Holland joined us to meet the Humpback whales in the remote and quiet waters near Rurutu Island. FV and his wife have joined me before to meet the dolphins and whales. FV has been unable to walk or use his legs since childhood, but his love for the whales brings him to the ocean.

Now in French Polynesia, we climbed aboard the boat of the local fisherman to enjoy the clear Pacific waters. Stopping to observe a young whale with his mother, everyone was feeling peaceful and appreciative. The baby whale was active on the surface and continually came to our stationary boat. The Mom whale was quietly resting below; her baby was old enough to explore the nearby vicinity on his own. 
Keeping our little boat at a respectful distance, we slowly entered the water to cool off, float, enjoy the natural setting and see what might happen. FV was on the boat with me. He and his lovely wife, slipped easily into the ocean. Although he had no use of his legs, his arms were strong and he wore webbed gloves to assist him in swimming. Our small boat moved away to be clear of the approaching whales, the group treaded water and waited. FV floated silently with the rest of us, his legs hanging straight down.

Baby Humpback and "FV", Observing Each Other
 Lisa Denniing Photo (c)
FV Above Baby Humpback

As a facilitator, I am always watching the swimmers and noticing their behavior, making sure everyone is safe and following the protocols. We had entered the world of the whales. The group had been briefed on correct behavior for non-intrusive, in-water observation if the whales come by. We never touch the whales. As we waited, enjoying the crystal clear water below us, viewed through our snorkel masks, the baby whale approached us.
 As usual with these playful young whales, he was curious and attentive, blinking his soft brown eyes as he slowly swam by each one of us. 
We watched in awe as he dove, rolled upside down and circled us, putting on a wonderful show, looking at us, perhaps sensing our reaction. We couldn't help but feel he was happy to have an audience.
Baby Whale Below Snorkelers 
 Lisa Denning Photo (c)
Example of Japanese Whale Research


Motionless, with the waves lapping on my ears, I began observing this baby whale circling slowly beneath FV while he pivoted in place to have the best view. Taking my eyes away from this lovely vision, I decided to look up and check that everyone was okay, as they floated quietly in the water.  I could see that no one was on the boat with the captain and so I counted the heads of the swimmers (8 of us). Everyone was there. Suddenly I noticed FV moving swiftly through the water.  How can that be?  He was not using his arms. He was moving without effort.
I quickly put my head under water to have a look. And there to my amazement, was the baby whale giving FV a ride, not on his back, but on his tail!  Apparently the whale slowly circled FV, making sure he was comfortable with his presence, coming closer and closer. When it seemed alright, the whale had carefully placed the smooth front side of his tail behind FV's knees, gently pulling FV along the surface, giving him a ride and helping him move faster than he could on his own. He was sitting on the tail, where the whale had gently placed him.

Frans on whale's tail 

Baby whale places "FV" on its tail
Lisa Denning Photo (c) 
Everyone in the water was watching. It was an intentional act by this baby Humpback as he singled out FV, who could not use his legs. How did the whale know that? The fourteen-foot Humpback had carefully placed the smooth part of his fluke against the back of FV's knees and began moving forward, staying carefully on the surface while supporting him. The care and gentleness touched our hearts. Within our snorkel masks, tears flowed as every man and woman was moved by the realization of what they were seeing. A compassionate act of love given to our dear friend FV, responding to his wish to meet the whales in their environment, regardless of the challenges - a gift given him for his unending love for the whales. 
When FV hoisted himself back up on the boat, his face was radiant with joy!

Great Story, Joan; Thanks for sharing!

Conservation Corner . . .
The Economics of Extinction --
    Case in Point: The Bluefin Tuna
 It never seemed logical to me that poachers, illegal whalers, or anyone else killing banned, endangered species or exceeding catch quotas of permissable fish, would intentionally hunt a species to extinction. Such behaviour seemed counter-productive, and in no one's long-term interest. But when I heard Captain Paul Watson explain the reasons at a recent Sea Shepherd fund raising event in New York, it all made sense. Unfortunately!
In a nutshell, it comes down to corporate financial strategy preventing a sustainable fishing policy.
A not very well known fact is that the giant Japanese corporate conglomerant Mitsubishi (It ain't just cars & DVRs) is heavily involved in the effort (conspiracy?) to "extinct" the Bluefin tuna, despite company denials.
Click the link below:
As the link to another story explains, Mitsubish Corporation is stockpiling tons of Bluefin annually, planning to reap enormous profits after the Bluefin becomes extinct. Click below:
Even now, prices are skyrocketing. A single 500 pound Atlantic blue fin tuna was auctioned in Tokyo's Tsukiji market earlier this year for more than $175,000, about $350 per pound, almost double the price only one year earlier. The same fish sitting in a Japanese freezer will be worth millions of dollars after wild stocks are extinct. With Mitsubishi stockpiling thousands of tons annually, the company will reap billions when there are no wild Bluefin remaining.
The Amazing Bluefin Tuna:
 View this Nat Geo video clip about the Bluefin, and traditional fishing methods:
Bluefin Tuna Facts: 
  • Range: Iceland to the Canary Islands; and from Newfoundland, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Swimming speed: When chasing prey or avoiding predators, they can swim 40-60 mph.
  • They can dive to below 3,000 feet.
  • Size for mature adult:
    • Typical length 6 ft to 8 ft; maximum 21 feet
    • Average weight  600 lbs.; maximum 1,600 lbs. Average weight in the 1970's was 1,200 lbs.; now the average is only 600 lbs. due to overfishing.
  • They are" warm-blooded" - can "thermo-regulate," keeping core muscles warm for power and steady swimming even in very cold water.
  • Life span: up to 30 years, but few survive this long due to overfishing.
  • They eat herring, mackerel, hake, menhaden, squid and crustaceans.
  • Their main predators are killer whales, sharks, and you-know-who!  
  •  What We Can Do:
  • First, the obvious: Don't purchase or consume bluefin tuna. If you see it on a restaurant menu don't order it, and request the management to remove it.
  • Contact government officials and request the U.S. takes appropriate action on future U.N. voting.
  • For guidelines about consuming sustainable seafood, Jamie Pollack of the PEW Environmental Group sent in this website from the Blue Ocean Institute: 
  • Visit the PEW Environmental Group website for additional information about ocean resources:
  • About
    is your home for exciting dive adventure novels, YouTube videos featuring ocean creature encounters, and more.
       Example of Japanese Whale Research     WHALES' ANGELS Cover     Example of Japanese Whale Research
     Thanks for visiting, and we'll see you next month!
    Paul J. Mila 
     Paul in Cozumel
    75 Titus Avenue
    Carle Place, New York 11514
    To forward Sea-gram to a friend, please click the "Forward email" link below.
    In This Issue
    The Story Behind The Photo: Baby Humpback Befriends Snorkeler
    Conservation Corner: The Economics of Extinction
     Featured Article in this month's Conservation Corner: The Economics of Extinction, Saving The Bluefin Tuna 
      The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flag-ship Steve Irwin left New York City recently, headed to the Mediterranean to kick off Operation Blue Rage.
     Operation Blue Rage





    Captain Paul Watson explains his goal in Sea Shepherd's Newsletter:
    "Operation Blue Rage aims to stop a variety of criminal activities leading to the extinction of bluefin tuna. The species currently faces illegal poaching and extreme overfishing. Populations have fallen by at least 85% since the industrial fishing era began.

    "In response, as the bluefin tuna's last defense, Sea Shepherd will actively enforce conservation laws by opposing the poaching currently threatening the species in the Mediterranean during Operation Blue Rage.  
    The Steve Irwin is currently en route across the Atlantic Ocean as you read this. Sea Shepherd is determined to curb the decline of the bluefin tuna, because, extinction is forever!"
     Click below for more Information:
     Read the complete story, lower left
    Quick Links & Stories
    A fun divesite, where you can rent a Cozumel beachfront condo, view great dive photos, and more!
    * * * * * * * * 
     Miscellaneous Stories & Updates
     Sea-gram fan Jeff Reid sent in this story about the first grey whale encounter in Israel in hundreds of years! Click the link below for the amazing story: 
     The short video clip captured the encounter. Listen to the excitement in the peoples' voices:
     * * * * * * * 
     Jeff Reid also sent in a story of a different flavor, a land-based conservation story involving gorillas.
    The Aspinall Foundation is a charity that promotes wildlife conservation and reintroduces captive gorillas back into the wild in West Africa. Five years ago, conservationist Damian Aspinall released a gorilla, Kwibi, into the jungles of Gabon. Aspinall returned recently to reunite with a now ten-year-old Kwibi. How did the reunion go? JUST WATCH:
    * * * * * * * * *
    AceSea-gram reporter Martha Weisberg sent in this update for you divers, regarding new contact information for DANthe Divers Alert Network:
     "If you are aware of only one DAN news item this year, let this be it: The phone number for the DAN Emergency Hotline has changed to +1 919 684 9111.

    "Already effective, the new phone number consolidates emergency services so you don't need to know who to call - - you can just call. Simply call DAN at the new hotline number and all emergency assistance - even if not dive related - will be triaged and facilitated from there.

    "The DAN Emergency Hotline remains available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached by collect call or from outside the United States. As always, in the case of an immediate life-threatening emergency, contact local emergency services and then call DAN."

     My Note: For more information about DAN, and the protection that DAN's low-cost insurance provides, visit the DAN
    website. Click on
    * * * * * * * *  
     Example of Japanese Whale Research
    Laura Weisberg photo 
    New Zealand-based marine biologist and author C. George Muller (website ), featured in April's Sea-gramsent in this link below, from the New Zealand Herald about how to prepare tasty Lionfish dishes. What better way to control these Pacific invaders and protect Caribbean reefs, than for the Earth's #1 apex predator, Homo Sapiens, to develop a taste for them?
    So, whip out your cookbook and take notes from this entertaining 2-minute video. Click the link below:
    How to cook Lionfish 
    Thanks, George. I'll be diving for dinner in Cozumel next month. We'll let you know how Lionfish tastes!
    * * * * * * * * * * *
    Several organizations are circulating information and/or petitions to build a groundswell of support to convince the International Whaling Commission (IWC) not to approve the proposal to resume commercial whaling.
     The link below, to the National Resources Defense Council, explains the issue, and provides a link to directly send the Obama Administration your message:
    Read this fascinating article by Edward Dorson, Director of Conservation Stratgies, for the Shark Research Institute (SRI), as part of their anti-whaling campaign. Click:
    For additional information, and some amazing whale photos, click on:
      Another conservation organization, Avaaz, , is circulating a petition that will be directly submitted to the IWC before the upcoming June 2010 meeting.
     Click below: 

     * * * * * * * * *


      If you enjoyed this month's Story About The Photo section and would like more information about Joan Ocean's whale and dolphin seminars, please click:
    For additional information about Lisa Denning's underwater photography, please click Lisa's website:
    * * * * * * * * *
    Attend Sea Shepherd
    Fund Raising Event
    Sunday June 6th
    2pm - 6pm
    Ollie's Point, 140 Merrick Road 
    Amityville, NY (Long Island)
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