Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XIII No. 4 - October 2004
News From New York
By Taffy Lee Williams
The New York Aquarium and an encouraging public took notice as 14 activists from the New York Whale and Dolphin Action League called for the release of 3 beluga whales confined to small holding tanks inside the New York Aquarium. The boisterous Labor Day protest drew tremendous support from passers-by, even boardwalk security, as hundreds of pieces of anti-captivity literature were distributed.
"Stop The Torture! Stop The Pain!
The chants evoked the images of the New York Aquarium's blind beluga in her chlorinated tank, the plexiglas wall that allows visitors to view her small enclosure in which she circles monotonously, silently, in a never-ending prison dance that can only be described as animal abuse. "It's too painful to watch," many conscientious visitors say of the whales in their unnatural housing.
Many people stated that though they had not thought about the situation before, after learning about the issue believed that keeping whales, dolphins or sea lions in concrete tanks was simply wrong.
"It's terrible!" a Brooklyn resident remarked, as she joined in the strong, determined chants led by protestor Greg Novara.
"One-Two-Three-Four! Open Up The Tank Doors!
"One Struggle! One Fight!
These were the sounds of the protestors, heard from a distance on the beach and up and down the boardwalk, as Labor Day vacationers stopped and signed letters, read our signs, and joined in the singing. This was a day of victory for the belugas inside, endlessly, aimlessly encircling their chemical and chlorine-treated water-filled tanks.
Some of the signs read:
Whales In Concrete Tanks:
Not far from the chanting protestors, the three Arctic beluga whales are continually forced into an unnatural dependence on humans while they endure a chillingly disturbing confinement; their natural behavior drastically altered. In the wild, belugas are known as the "canaries of the sea," because of their constant chatter, song and incredible vocal dexterity. The beluga "canaries of the sea" in the New York Aquarium are silent.
After one beluga whale died in April, two more whales were brought in, originally on loan to the Mystic Aquarium. One of the whales is wild caught, from one of the notoriously violent wild whale roundups, another's origin is reported as "unknown" by NOAA/NMFS, which activists believe means it is probably wild caught as well. The third beluga whale was captive born.
These large, silent, often-blinded belugas are kept in concrete tanks at an enormous expense to the City of New York. Last year, the city proposed a 50% cut in funding for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages and operates the NY Aquarium. The cuts were expected to finally close the beluga exhibit.
An article about the protest was featured in the Brooklyn Bay News.
"When Innocent Whales Are Under Attack,
The New York Whale and Dolphin Action League, and the Environmental Club of SUNY-WCC also organized the Wildlife and Environmental Action Day, which brought local environmental and wildlife activists together to share their stories, successes and hopes for the future. Over 30 people attended the event which was held on Sunday, September 26, 2004, from 4-8 pm.
The first presenter was Taffy Williams, Director of the Whale and Dolphin Action League, who discussed RMS (Revised Management Scheme) and the imminent threat to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling. Powerful military sonar and the coincidental mass beachings of whales, as well as the connection with Japanese drive fisheries and the international aquarium, swim-with-the-dolphin industry, was also discussed. Drive fisheries are operated by Japanese fishing fleets, who "drive" hundreds of dolphins at a time into shallow bays and up onto the beaches. While on the shores, eager aquarium officials choose the young, unblemished, usually female specimens for their facilities to replace their short-lived tank-dwelling dolphins, or for the new dolphinariums springing up around the world. These aquarium officials will pay typically 300,000 yen or more for each dolphin, more than enough to compensate the fishing boat operators for their efforts. The remaining wailing, screaming dolphins are then slaughtered in cold blood and sold as whale meat for consumption in Japanese markets, despite often higher than allowable levels of mercury and methyl mercury in their flesh. (http://www.ny4whales.org/)
Also attending and speaking at the event was highly respected local wildlife rehabilitator, Jill Doornick, director of the Rye, NY-based rescue center, Animal Nation. Al Streit, of NYC's Pigeon People, and Joanna Clearfield, Director of the Urban Wildlife Coalition discussed the often dire situation for both NYC's wildlife and those who often work "underground" to rescue or rehabilitate them. Anne Muller, leading the important Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting (CASH), a project of Wildlife Watch, discussed the DEC's dependence on hunting, and presented a short film, "Blood Economy", which exposed the ethical and environmental cost of sport hunting. Kiley Blackman, director of Animal Defenders of Westchester, discussed ongoing heroic efforts to ban traveling animal acts from public property in Westchester County, and the environmental benefits of a non-animal-based diet. Certainly the star attractions of the evening were the baby opossum, a baby squirrel and two baby pigeon chicks undergoing rehabilitation by Animal Nation.
Following a vegan buffet, the audience was treated to "The Pelican Man", the Ocean Journal film about a Sarasota, Florida, rescue operation which saves up to 7,000 birds and other wildlife every year. The event concluded with a showing of the Tribe of Heart production, "The Peaceable Kingdom", the highly acclaimed film about the often miraculous rescue of farm animals and their days at Farm Sanctuary, located in Woodstock, NY. There were plenty of petitions and letters to sign supporting the efforts of these hard-working organizations, along with related literature.
The Journal News covered parts of the event in an article, "Activists Speak Up For Animals," which appeared in the following day's paper.
Did you know that two dolphins are rented annually and sent to the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson, NJ? Or that another pair is rented and sent to a water park in Hershey Park, PA? In both of these cases, and to other parks around the US, dolphins (and sea lions) are transported over land in April to their spring/summer locations, and returned in October in what must surely be high stress, mortality-invoking conditions. To learn more about this disturbing situation, please call us at 914-793-9186.
The NY Whale and Dolphin Action League is proud to be a project and part of CSI. Please see our web site, http://www.ny4whales.org/, for information on our other past and future activist events, efforts to help the marine environment, our poster projects, our Community/Campus Clean-Up Days (SUNYWCC) and Earth Day events.