Friday, December 27, 2013

SeaWorld “Protests Too Much, Methinks”

The next several weeks and months will undoubtedly be interesting thanks to SeaWorld’s fateful choice to enter the “Blackfish” debate. Another organization might have chosen to be silent and wait for the furor to subside, but SeaWorld has chosen an alternative disposition.

When entering a debate, one of the fundamental tenants is to focus on the position or argument presented by the opposition, but SeaWorld has not followed this core principle. As part of their current public relations campaign, SeaWorld prefers to provide information that in no way addresses the issues raised in “Blackfish”. In the world of organized debate, SeaWorld would receive a failing grade.

To understand the reasons for their current choices, one does not need to look any further than the bottom line. Money makes the world go around and financial gain is probably a key driver behind the current campaign, but it this case, one of the sources of the greed could be external to SeaWorld.

If SeaWorld engaged consultants to provide advice regarding how to manage their current predicament, and these consultants advised SeaWorld to do nothing, it would be difficult to submit a large, annotated invoice for hours of consulting time. “Doing nothing” does not generate commission on the costs of newspapers advertisements or on the fees paid to supposedly neutral third parties who have been engaged to extoll the virtues of SeaWorld.

An article published today in the Orlando Sentinel by the President of the Central Florida Partnership, Jacob Stuart, My Word: SeaWorld helps enrich lives in Central Fla.” is one of the latest efforts to defend SeaWorld. Stuart uses the hollow platitude that SeaWorld is a “trusted name” and he arrives at the crux of his argument went he states, “SeaWorld has 11 parks in five states, and recently chose Central Florida as the permanent home for its corporate headquarters. Between Orlando and Tampa, SeaWorld has five parks that provide more than 10,000 full-time and part-time positions.”

The number of employees is not at issue, nor is the choice of location for the corporate headquarters. It is interesting that Stuart’s article does not mention “Blackfish” by name. Perhaps the writer was following a “style guide” drafted by a public relations consultant who suggested that “Blackfish” not be specifically identified, but anyone who was not aware of the documentary might be curious as to the name of the “speculative and one-sided documentary”.

One of the biggest news stories this year in Canada was the antics of Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford. He has a colourful history and his mouth continues to move; providing an endless supply of sound bites for late night talk shows hosts.   

“Blackfish” will be talked about for years to come not only because of how it shone a bright light on the issue of killer whales in captivity, but as a study in media relations. SeaWorld’s response to this documentary could prove to be one of the most disastrous public relations campaigns in recent history. Perhaps business students will detail the various mistakes made by SeaWorld, but SeaWorld’s first and fundamental communication error was simple. They entered a debate when they had no credible defense.

To the well-informed, articles such as the above mentioned by Jacob Stuart are amusing and for those who have not questioned killer whale captivity, SeaWorld’s defense serves to raise curiosity and opens the dialogue about “Blackfish” and the issues it presents.

SeaWorld, you really do protest too much but a question must be asked. Were you also reading Hamlet? Perhaps you were, and as a mantra for your current creative media campaign, you selected, “to thine own self be true”.

For the Oceans,



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Youths who Killed 65 Seals Receive No Jail Time

On January 27, 2013, three youths from Prince Edward Island, Canada, killed 65 seals who were resting on the shore on the Eastern end of the Island. Veterinarians from the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown confirmed the seals died from blunt force trauma to the head and that not all of them died immediately. A necropsy concluded that 10 seal pups had severely fractured skulls. 

Only when a reward was offered, did a member of the local community name the perpetrators. The 15 and 17-year-olds who could not be identified because of their age and 18-year-old Colton Clements, admitted to using a hockey stick, a club and a clam hack to kill the seals. They disposed of the club and clam hack and burned the hockey stick.

The court heard that it was the 15-year-old who came up with the idea and that he killed the majority of the seals while the other two went along with the plan. The youngest offender said “seals are like mice in your cupboards”. He did not seem to understand why people were so upset. The 17-year-old, the only one of the three who had been drinking at the time of the incident, killed 2 seals and stopped because he “felt bad for the seals.”  He said, “I knew it was wrong and I wish I had not done it.” The 18-year-old killed 5 seals and stopped, but made no attempt to prevent the 15-year-old from bludgeoning the rest of the seals.
They were all sentenced today in Georgetown in front of Judge Nancy Orr. The two juveniles received fines, two years of probation, 200 hours of community service, and because they enjoy hunting and fishing, they will not be allowed to do these activities for two years.
The 18-year-old was given a similar sentence, but a slightly larger fine even though he could have received up to five years in jail. In making her ruling, Judge Orr said the maximum sentence was for the worst offenses with the worst facts and for the worst offenders. She said “the facts are bad, but this is not the worst offender” because this young man had no prior history of violence and had not been in trouble of any kind. 
Undoubtedly, Judge Orr will come under criticism for her decisions, but she is restricted in terms of how she can punish youthful offenders. Colton Clements was one month past his 18th birthday and just three months older than the 17-year-old. Judge Orr said she would not make him the “sacrificial lamb” so she opted to punish him in a similar fashion as she did the other two perpetrators.
A letter of support for the three youths suggested, “they were undoubtedly influenced by the low opinion of seals in a tight fishing community.”  Online comments expressed outrage, but those in the local community seemed to support these young men and perhaps even their motives.

Seals are blamed for the decline in cod stocks even though seals prey upon the predators of cod. The death of seals in this region is routine, as seal hunters venture onto the ice each spring to kills baby seals despite the fact that there is no market for Canadian seal products.

This is not the first time that Georgetown, population 693, has experienced a collision of sentiments between those who kill seals and those who defend these marine mammals. In 2008, violence erupted on the dock as locals cut the dock lines of the Sea Shepherd Conversation Society’s vessel, the Farley Mowat.
It takes a community to raise a child, and it was this community that raised the three who committed horrific acts of violence against a herd of seals. Violence against animals is often a precursor to violence against people and these young men need professional help. The lens through which they view the world is flawed.

If there is a miniscule ray of hope in this land of love for seal killers, it is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans investigated, charges were made, and there were convictions even though the punishment was minimal. At least the killing of these seals was deemed a crime, unlike the senseless slaughter than happens every year in Canada in the name of tradition and commerce.
For the Oceans,
Grey Seal

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Outlook for Canada’s Seals

Despite the efforts of Prime Minister Steven Harper and his legal team, the European Union ban on the import of Canadian seal products remains in place. The door to the south has been closed for decades with the United States in 1972, and Mexico shortly thereafter, prohibiting the import and export of marine mammal products.   
Canada’s federal Fisheries Department reports that almost 90% of Canada’s seal exports are destined for Russia, but just last week Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation announced that seal products could no longer be imported from Canada. According to Vladimir Putin, the seal hunt “should have been stopped years ago”.
There were 205,000 harp seals killed in 2008, but only 68,000 in 2010. In 2011 the number plummeted to 38,000; a mere 10% of the allowable slaughter. With the Russian Federation ban in place, significantly fewer harp seals will be clubbed to death in 2012.

Harp Seal with Baby

Early in 2011, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea, announced China was going to import Canadian seal products, but the deal never materialized. Rebecca Aldworth, the Canadian director of Humane Society International said, “What has happened, in my opinion, is the deliberate misleading of the Canadian public and the sealing community about the potential for a seal meat market in China.”
More money will be spent fighting the EU ban and it is likely funds will be allocated to fight the Russian ban as well, but this effort appears to be largely a regional politics game rather than a responsible use of taxpayers’ money. The seal hunt is no longer financially viable and although boats will venture out in 2012, their numbers will be few. This all sounds very positive for the harp seals, but unfortunately other threats remain, especially for the grey seals.
A proposal is being considered to cull 140,000 grey seals on Sable Island. Some people believe the seal cull will aid in the recovery of cod stocks, but Dr. Hal Whitehead, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax disagrees. He said, “Before humans started industrial fishing, there were large populations of both seals and cod. Clearly, they can co-exist perfectly well….It appears to me that politicians are playing into this largely irrational hatred of seals to make it look like they are doing something.”
Research has not proven how a seal cull could be beneficial. "All scientific efforts to find an effect of seal predation on Canadian groundfish stocks have failed to show any impact. Overfishing remains the only scientifically demonstrated conservation problem related to fish stock collapse." From a petition signed by 97 scientists from 15 countries at the 11th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Dec.1995

Grey Seal

The suggestion of a grey cull was initially put forth in 2009. According to Dr. Boris Worm, a Dalhousie University biology professor, “It was something that was announced before the science was heard, and then a meeting was convened to produce the science to support that decision.”
The only way to determine if there is an increase in cod stocks after a cull would be to use a control group, but in the case of the proposed grey seal cull, there is only one population so there would be no way to know if a cull did assist in the recovery of the cod.
The cod have numerous predators and many believe seals eat more of the cod’s predators than they do cod. Seals are part of a complex ecosystem and a seal cull could have unexpected or even dire consequences.
Global warming is also a major threat to Canada’s seal population. Some seal pups drown at birth because of the lack of ice and the frequent early breakup of ice causes mothers and pups to be separated before pups are weaned. As the ice pack decreases, so will the seal population.
It is wonderful to see the global community taking a stance against the Canadian seal hunt. As we look forward to 2012, there isn’t a valid reason for the barbaric slaughter to continue. However, even after the demand for seal products has ceased, seals, and all life in the oceans will continue to be threatened by overfishing and climate change.
It is unfortunate that people are not better stewards of the oceans. Instead of blaming the seals for imbalances and the decline of fish stocks, man should look in mirror to see the true culprit in the diminishment of biodiversity.
For the Oceans,
Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
Janice_Oceans (on Twitter)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Canadian Seal Hunt Makes no Sense

It is time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the seal hunters from Newfoundland to admit defeat.  No one wants their bloody seal products.
Despite attempts to make it seem the European Union ban on the import of Canadian seal products was a terrible mistake because the facts were not understood, European protests against the seal hunt date back 50 years. The ban was a long time coming and it will never be reversed.
A great deal of money is being spent trying to convince the EU the ban should be lifted. As a Canadian taxpayer, I hate when money is spent foolishly. I also hate when money is spent playing the “regional politics” game. It does not matter which party is in power, they all pander to the sealers in a pathetic attempt to impress voters from Newfoundland and Labrador. 
With the current right wing majority government, Canadians can expect 4 years of cuts to social programs that will make life harder for the working poor, but a staggering sum of money has been spent on the EU appeal that is bound to fail….and so it should. Sealing has no place in this century.
It would be more cost-effective to buy-out every sealer than to waste money on ridiculous, posturing junkets that attempt to find new and emerging markets for seal products. A recent folly starred the former Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea, travelling to China in a futile attempt to broker a deal. There was fanfare and much ado with the announcement of a deal with China. As it turns out, it was much ado about nothing. There never was any deal, there never will be any deal, and once again, Canadian taxpayers were deceived. It pains me to say it, but the sealers were also duped. They were given hope their antiquated profession, if you can call it a profession, would be revived. 
A government spokesperson from the Province of Prince Edward Island said, “The Chinese will eat anything”. Aside from being a cruel, barbaric practice, seal meat has significant problems with respect to meeting the basic standards that would be required in order to sell seal meat internationally for human consumption. Seals are killed in an environment void of the processes necessary to ensure food safety. The Chinese have clearly indicated they will NOT “eat anything”, nor is it likely anyone else will acquire a taste for seal flipper pie.
There are so few people in Newfoundland who are involved in the seal hunt. It is a micro-industry so why the fuss? There is no money to be made. The job of any leader is to define reality and it is time Prime Minster Harper admitted defeat. The sealing industry in Canada is dead.  
For the Oceans,

Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Snapperfest is Animal Abuse

One of the most amazing things we can ever experience is to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, but something has gone very wrong in the City of Rising Sun, Indiana, the home of a sadistic event called Snapperfest.
Event contestants grab a wild snapping turtle by its tail, run down a field while dangling the turtle upside-down, they throw the turtle to the ground, and then they try to pull the turtle’s head out of its shell. Once the head of the terrified animal has been violently dislodged from its shell, the victorious thug swings the turtle by its neck in triumph. Sometimes a turtle will latch onto its abuser and in order to free the brute’s hand or finger from the turtle’s mouth; the so-called referee will slit the turtle’s throat.
A turtle should never be picked up by the tail because that can cause spinal and internal injuries. Many turtles suffer from shock and die a slow, agonizing death. The organizers claim no turtles are hurt and that the event is just good, clean, family fun. Fun for whom?  Certainly not for the turtles.
The people in the City of Rising Sun, Indiana, are anthropocentric. They believe wild animals exist for the amusement of humans and it appears the police and game wardens are totally onside with this so called “sport”.
Snapperfest has flown under the radar for years, but this abuse will no longer be tolerated. Animal lovers are just getting started. Tourists who are thinking about a vacation to Indiana, the City of Rising Sun, or the Campshore Campground will be inundated with information on the internet about this barbaric place and I expect many people will do the right thing and bypass the region entirely until reason and compassion reign over brutality. 
The Snapperfest banner was co-branded by their sponsor, Budweiser, but when the complaints started, the boys at Bud were quick to distance themselves from the event. Budweiser claims they did not sponsor the event and they blame a local company in the supply chain, but Budweiser is unable or unwilling to say who authorized the sponsorship. Their implication is that determining who authorized the banner or the financial support would be a monumental challenge.
It would appear that banners, their design, and their origin confuse Budweiser so a very helpful guy was kind enough to design a special banner for Snapperfest and Budweiser. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 
For the Animals,

Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dolphin Day and the Hope for the Future

Activists often have different views regarding how to achieve their goals. A variety of approaches can be effective and I enjoy dialogue with ocean activists who take a gentle approach as well as those who actively intervene in illegal activities. Although it might not be everyone’s primary approach, few could argue that education is crucial.
The adults who are alive today have done more to destroy the oceans than all other generations combined so it only makes sense that we should take responsibility to clean up and protect the oceans. There is only 10% of the life in the oceans that there was 50 years ago. Many species are extinct and others are under threat from unsustainable fishing methods, pollution, greed, and ignorance.
September 1st was International Dolphin Day and there were events held in over 40 cities around the world that drew attention to the plight of the dolphins that are ruthlessly slaughtered in Taiji, Japan. I have witnessed the slaughter and it is totally abominable that this sort of atrocity can happened in Japan in 2011.   
It was great to see so many young people involved in rallies on September 1st. One such child was 12 year old Alexandra from New Zealand. Young people like Alexander have a heavy burden to carry. A great deal of damage has been done and those who have performed acts of ocean genocide are unlikely to be part of the solution. The children are our future and we need to encourage Alexandra because our only hope to save the dolphins and the oceans might our children.
Attending the event caused Alexandra to miss a day of school. I don’t wish to minimize the importance of formal education, but should not conservation be one of the most important subjects?  Alexandra’s teacher told her that her absence could be considered truancy and this position was also supported by other teachers. Some children were allowed to mock Alexandra because she was doing that “dolphin stuff”.  
When used as a noun the word “truant” can mean “a person who neglects his or her duties” or “a lazy, idle person”. Perhaps the teachers need educating because it is not Alexandra or her young peers who have neglected their duties, but rather it was the previous generation. Words are powerful and it is unfair to use a word that means “lazy” or “idle” when referring to one so young who is prepared to take a stand.
I can assure you that the only thing stupid about that “dolphin stuff’ is that on a daily basis, highly sentient dolphins who migrate past Taiji, Japan are forced into a cove and die a horrific and painful death. Those who are not killed are sold into a life of slavery at a theme park, but most end up on Japanese tables and become a toxic, mercury laden meal.
To the Alexandra’s of the world….thank you. Please don’t be discouraged by your ignorant elders, but also be patient with them because despite your age, you are the teacher, and those who call you a truant are your students.  
For the Oceans,

Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)

Dolphin Day September 1, 2011 - photo by Kerry O'Brien

Alexandra at Dolphin Day in Auckland - photo by Kerry O'Brien

Zepher at Dolphin Day in Seattle - photo by Mike Lorden

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sharon Osbourne, Don’t Swim with Dolphins!

Sharon Osbourne recently participated in a Swim with Dolphins program and that attracted the attention of those who believe dolphins should not be forced to live in captivity. I am an ocean activist so I am in conflict with Sharon Osbourne, but I must clarify what I mean by “conflict”. I define it as something that is caused by having a different level of understanding of an issue. At first glance, Swim with Dolphin programs appear benign, but there is a darker, more sinister reality.

I am neither a fan nor a detractor of Sharon Osbourne. I understand from friends who follow celebrities that she is an articulate, hard-working professional who is extremely committed to her projects. Sharon, we have a project for you. Please join our campaign to put an end to whale and dolphin captivity.

I am not aware of any incidents of dolphins in the wild injuring people, but there have been numerous injuries during Swim with Dolphins programs. These incidents are labeled "accidents", but it is hard to believe that despite their expert swimming ability a dolphin could "accidently" ram someone and break bones.  These dolphins are not as happy as their captors claim.

Dolphins in captivity have a very high death rate and they suffer from pneumonia, various infections, stomach ulcers, and stress, and whales and dolphins that are born in captivity often die within the first weeks or months of their lives. Dolphins are amazing, highly social, sentient creatures and captivity causes endless pain and suffering. The optics of Swim with Dolphin programs are enhanced by smoke and mirrors, but make no mistake, there is pain behind the dolphins’ smile. 
The horrific dolphin slaughter in Taiji is driven by the live dolphin trade. I am a Cove Veteran and I have witnessed the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. The dolphins that survive this brutal drive fishery are traumatized because they witnessed the death of their families. These captives are packed in coffin-like boxes filled with ice and shipped as cargo. They then spend the remainder of their lives “dying to amuse us”.

Please watch the Academy Award winning move, “The Cove”.  If you love dolphins, seeing this movie is a life-changing experience. Here is something else you should see.

Folks, we want Sharon’s support, so please, no personal attacks. I have no quarrel with Sharon, but I acknowledge we have a different level of understanding regarding dolphin captivity and we hope to close the gap.  

Sharon, come stand with the Cove Guardians in Taiji.  When you speak, people will listen. The dolphins need you because the slaughter starts again in September.

For the Oceans,


Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)

To learn more about Swim with Dolphin programs, go to

This is an good article from the BBC

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Unknown Orca

Many years ago, I visited an aquarium and remember seeing an orca in a small circular tank that appeared to overlap with another small circular tank. I recall feeling a bit sick as I watched this large animal try to build up enough speed in this confined space to jump out of the water on command.    
My childhood memories often revealed that things that appeared to be massive were in reality quite small when viewed through the eyes of an adult. As I recall, these connecting pools seemed extremely tiny, but it was the size of the orca in relation to the size of the tank that was most disturbing. This orca was in a fishbowl.
What I did not know then was how wrong it is to confine an orca to a tank. Flipper was always laughing, smiling, and having so much fun. Having a pet dolphin was really cool. What I did not know was that Kathy, the dolphin who played the role of Flipper, committed suicide. What I did not know was the horrific suffering that Kathy and all whales and dolphins in captivity endure on a daily basis.  
I do not know the Orca’s name and I don’t know the location or name of the facility. I live in Canada and there are limited options in this country so it must have been somewhere in the United States; perhaps a border town. 
This poor animal would have lived and died without contact with her orca family and without living a life of freedom in the ocean which is the birthright of all cetaceans. Who was this once magnetic creature? Was she constantly breathing polluted air, suffering from ulcers, and inflicted with skin infections caused by the chemicals in her tank? What type of captivity-related disease caused her death? How many years was her life cut short?  What I do know is that she committed no crime and she did not deserve to lose her freedom or her life.    
My father is no longer alive and my mother can’t recall ever taking us to an aquarium so this remains a mystery and I wonder if this is a memory or just my imagination. Maybe this was something I saw on television. Perhaps it was a dream or a forerunner; an experience I will have in future. If this is a recollection, maybe it was rekindled to inspire my work as an ocean activist.
If I cannot determine her identity, perhaps I might concede she never existed and that would make for a happy ending because if she did not exist, she did not suffer, but attributing this memory to a dream would be a much too convenient resolution.
I think she was real and I would like to know who she was, but I don’t know if I ever will. Her family never knew what happened to her and it is very possible I won’t either.
Perhaps she will always be the unknown orca.
For the Oceans,

Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taiji, Japan, and the Global Community

The world was shocked and saddened by the earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. Many people in Japan are bravely suffering through what is probably the most traumatic experience of their lives.
People ask me if the current situation in Japan will impact my activist activities. It might change the strategy, but not the goals and objectives. I will continue to oppose anyone from any country who kills whales or dolphins. The current situation in Japan does not grant them any latitude.
The whaling industry is having serious financial problems and it is unlikely it will receive a cash injection when there are so many cities and towns that need to be rebuilt. And what about Taiji?  There is no question that Taiji continues to be a public relations disaster. The actions of a few have tarnished the reputation of the nation and this has impacted the willingness of some to donate to Japanese relief agencies, but fortunately individuals as well as nations have joined in the effort. They made this choice because it was the right thing to do.
We share the same values of family and community as do the citizens of Japan. But what about the issues where we differ?  Japan views whales and dolphins as resources that can be harvested, bought, sold, and eaten. This separates the Japanese from those who are trying to help this nation in crisis.
What is to become of this divide?  Will the current crisis in Japan widened the gap or will it bring us closer together? I hope Japan will join the rest of the world; a world with an appreciation for biodiversity and a world of global citizens who are intrinsically linked by the oceans we share and protect.
In my blog, “New Year’s Predictions for Taiji”, I wrote “Eventually Japan will have no choice but to stop issuing permits to kill small cetaceans. The international opposition to the dolphin slaughter in Taiji continues to grow and Japan cannot financially afford to isolate itself from the world by legally permitting acts that are considered criminal is most other countries.”   I stand by my prediction.
The countries who kill whales and dolphins are Japan, Iceland, Norway, and the Faeroe Islands of Denmark so that means the vast majority of the countries in the world oppose Japan’s commercial whaling activities and the dolphin slaughter, but in response to our complaints, they call us racists.  Will it now be harder for Japan to play the “racist card”? Are all those people from all around the world who are donating money to help rebuild Japan “racists”?  This defense was always pathetic, but now it will also be insulting.   
For the Oceans,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taiji and Puffs of Black Smoke

Of all the images of Taiji that are etched in my mind, the puffs of black smoke are among the most haunting.
Black smoke blinds its victims and causes cancer. Black smoke could be the result of a fire or volcano, or it could be an iconic image of evil in classic literature. In Taiji, when there was black smoke, there was fear, panic, and desperation. It was normally dolphins, but yesterday it was pilot whales, who were fighting for their lives.
The geography of Taiji is unique and the killers use it to their advantage. Initially I wondered why the dolphins were first driven into the harbour and then along the coast. Once they are in the harbour, they are corralled into a channel that hugs the coast and leads to the cove. As the water depth decreases, the dolphins have a choice of trying to escape the horrible wall of sound by swimming through the shallow water; a frightening option because they fear shallow water, or they can go into the killing cove.   
Sometimes we could see the banger boats on the horizon. When they spotted dolphins, they would throttle their engines, belch smoke, and take up their deadly formation. The puffs of black smoke told us the killers had found their prey.
For a while the smoke would be erratic and the bows of the boats would point in different directions while the dolphins attempted to elude their stalkers. Sometimes the dolphins would escape, but often the boats and the smoke would move to the harbour and eventually return along the coastline. We could hear the banging and the roar of the engines. The black smoke at the mouth of the cove was horrific. For me, it symbolized death.  
In a horror movie, a big puff of smoke could mean the monster has been destroyed, but in Taiji, it is the monsters that are destroying the dolphins with callous efficiency.

Although I am at home, thousands of miles from Taiji on a beautiful Island, watching the blue herons take advantage of the low tide to find their dinner, I can still see the banger boats and the puffs of smoke that predicted the death of the innocents.
For the Oceans,

Janice Oceans (on Facebook)
@janice_oceans (on Twitter)
Please call the Japanese Embassy to voice your objections. The monsters plan to murder 200 pilot whales in Taiji within the next few weeks. 
Japanese Embassy, Washington D.C.: (202) 238-6700
Japanese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7465 6500.
Japanese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 241 8541.
Japanese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 3244.
Japanese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 452 1500.
Japanese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 202 8300.
Japanese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 1540

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Educating People about the Oceans in 60 Seconds

Many years ago, I attended a session that focused on how to make business connections.  We were told to develop an “elevator speech” that described who we were and what we did and to be able to deliver that message during a period equivalent to the time it takes an elevator to travel 10 floors with one stop.   It takes practise, but it is possible to pack a lot of information in 4 or 5 sentences.     
I recently went on a vacation in the Caribbean.  Shortly after our arrival, we had the opportunity to attend an information session to learn about the various activities in the area. One of the options was a dolphin prison.
Of course, I spoke up. It is very easy to explain over dinner, when you have a couple of hours, why dolphin captivity is wrong, but my challenge was to quickly and succinctly convey the message in just a few sentences. It was time for my best elevator speech.
As a professional speaker and trainer, I always try to find out as much as possible about the audience, but if little information is available, I rely on a few key principles when selecting content.   Using these principles when creating an “elevator speech” can help deliver a powerful, timely message.
Often people need facts. Put at least one fact in your communication.  Some people dismiss messages that don’t have some sort of fact or properly referenced statistic.
Sometimes people need something upon which they can reflect because they need to come to their own conclusions.  For example, “Dolphins and whales are highly sentient beings and live in complex social structures.  How do you think the dolphins feel when they are torn away from their families and forced to live in a tiny pool instead of enjoying a vast ocean?”
Be memorable.   Paint a picture that leaves the listener with a clear image that is powerful visually or emotionally engaging.   Use one of your sentences to describe something you have seen or experienced and tell people how it made you feel.
There should be a call to action.   Ask people to not attend any attraction with captive whales or dolphins, recommend a website, or give them a few keywords they can Google.   
If you give this some thought, you might find that one sentence can satisfy more than one of the key components of your elevator speech.  Have a few different versions and practice with your friends, but don’t memorize your speech.
The same content does not work for everyone.  A person who requires facts will not be impressed if 4 of your 5 sentences are a call to action, nor will the person who is ready to act be interested in detailed statistics, but if you include different kinds of content, you are more likely to have one or more of your points achieve the desired result.
It would be wonderful if every time we tried to discuss our causes, the other person gave us an hour of their time, but those opportunities are infrequent. A powerful “elevator speech” could potentially be used several times per day.  In 30 – 60 seconds, we won’t create a new activist, but if we are prepared, we can make progress and we will probably have said something that resonates with the listener.
You can create a powerful elevator speech if you include:
·         at least one fact,
·         something upon which your listeners can reflect,
·         a description of a memorable image,
·         something that is actionable, and finally,
·         ask a question and try to turn your elevator speech into a dialogue.
As activists, our window of opportunity to impact our listeners can be very limited so we need to be prepared.
For the Oceans,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Slaughters in Taiji, Japan and Newfoundland, Canada are Similar

Today Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea, announced plans to sell seal products to China. The sealing industry in Canada has been crippled by the EU ban on the import of seal products, but today’s announcement could renew the wide scale slaughter of seals off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Taiji, Japan, and the Province of Newfoundland have some frightening similarities. Both kill a marine species, despite enormous international pressure to end the slaughters. 
The North Atlantic cod fishery was mismanaged and overfishing destroyed the cod stocks, but government officials often blame the seals for the collapse of the cod fishery.  The dolphin killers in Taiji believe they are performing a public service by killing dolphins because dolphins are a pest. There is no scientific evidence that any appreciable decline of fish stocks can be attributed to seals or dolphins, but who needs science when people believe anything they are told by their government.
Japan maintains there are plenty of dolphins and Canada claims to have too many seals.  Japan issues permits to kill dolphins based on out-dated population surveys and Canada fails to report or acknowledge that thousands of baby seals drown because there is not enough ice to serve as a birthing ground and nursery.  As climate change worsens, the lack of ice is certain to threaten the seals' survival.
Canada and Japan justify their barbaric acts with the excuse that it is their tradition. Many crimes against humanity and the environment have been committed in the name of tradition, but people in civilized societies move forward and don’t cling to destructive and unethical practices.
Politicians in both countries don’t seem to care that a single industry, if we can call it that, damages the reputation of their country.  In both nations, a very small number of people benefit financially, but citizens are reluctant to express their opposition.  Most Japanese do not eat whale meat and very few have ever eaten dolphin, but it would be considered unpatriotic for Japanese citizens to speak out against the dolphin slaughter.  I don’t personally know anyone who has eaten seal meat, but Canadians, especially those living on the east coast, are reluctant to voice their objection to the seal hunt.  
When I was in Taiji, we exercised caution because there was concern for our safety, but to my knowledge, the killers of Taiji have not injured any activists or damaged property. The police and coast guard have worked hard to keep the peace in Taiji and to ensure the safety of the activists.  In Canada, there have been occasions when the coast guard and police have behaved as if they were the sealers’ private security force and they stood by while property was destroyed and people were injured. Taiji comes out ahead when we compare the relative performance of the police and coast guard.
While Canadian farmers struggle to survive, fisherman, especially the sealers, are heavily subsidized. I do not know if the dolphin slaughter in Taiji is government funded, but the tax payers of Japan fund the whale poachers in the Southern Ocean as they target protected Minke whales, endangered fin whales, and highly endangered humpback whales in an internationally recognized whale sanctuary, in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling, and in contempt of the Antarctic Treaty.
When I speak with Canadians about the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, they are horrified, but sadly, Canada has a shameful record and it would appear Fisheries Minister Gail Shea plans to match the disgraceful history with an equally appalling future.
For the Oceans,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Misty the Dolphin

Sometimes one person or one image is timeless and will forever represent a historical moment or cause.
The image of the war in Viet Nam that is indelibly etched in my memory is that of a naked child running down a road after she was burned by napalm.  What I now know is that her name was Kim Phúc.   The Pulitzer Prize winning photo was taken in 1963 near Trang Bang, South Vietnam when she was 9 years old, but those are details.  It is the image that will be remembered forever.
Sometimes an event will be as clear today as it was decades ago. During a rehearsal in Toronto, one of the actors arrived with the sad news that Terry Fox had died. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.  We all thought that with his strength and determination, Terry could beat cancer. Terry Fox will always be a symbol of courage and he is a powerful force in the fight against cancer.
Michael J. Fox put a face to Parkinson’s disease and Christopher Reeve’s tragic accident created awareness of spinal cord injuries and raised millions for the cause.
Thousands of dolphins have been brutally murdered in Taiji and others are sold into captivity, but Taiji’s dolphins are nameless and faceless. Now there is Misty.
We have learned that Misty is male, not female as was initially presumed.  The trainers at the Dolphin Base in Taiji might have a name for him and perhaps his dolphin family had a name for him, but the world will only know him as Misty.
He was separated from the other dolphins because he was sick. Misty floats listlessly in a shallow pool overrun by algae and he clings to the only thing that has not been taken away from him.    This dolphin with the yellow float in his mouth has become an iconic image and the symbol of everything that is evil in Taiji; the dolphin slaughter and sale of live dolphins to aquariums.  
Sometimes there are good news stories.   Kim Phúc, is now an author and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She is a Canadian citizen and is married with two children. Michael J. Fox lives a very full life and he is a self-proclaimed eternal optimist.
Perhaps it will not be the horrific images of death and brutality that will put an end to the Taiji dolphin slaughter.  I hope the only final image the world needs to shut down the Killers of Taiji and the Dolphin Base is that of this sick, lonely dolphin with the yellow object in his mouth.
For the Oceans,
Misty the Dolphin  - photo by Andy Romanowski

Please insist on better living conditions for Misty.  Email the Dolphin Base,, or from the Unites States or Canada call 011-81-0735-59-3514.   As always, you can register your objection to the Taiji dolphin slaughter with the Japanese Embassy. Clear, polite messages carry the most weight.

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year’s Predictions for Taiji

For many of us, this is a time for reflection and anticipation.  What does the future hold for the dolphins and the killers of Taiji?
The last several days have been good for the dolphins because the killers have taken a vacation, but a dolphin named Misty has not been so fortunate. She is confined in a dirty pool that barely gives her room to turn around. She is alone, and depressed, and she clings desperately to the yellow buoy in her mouth as a child would a toy.   
As the killers of Taiji enjoy their vacation with their family, poor Misty knows her family is gone and her only comfort in the world is an inanimate object. She was selected to be trained, and if she survives the hell hole she is in in Taiji, she will be tranquilized and packed in a box the size of a coffin and covered with ice for transport to an aquarium where she will survive only a fraction of the time she would in the wild. She will experience depression, skin rashes, ulcers, infections, and unbearable loneliness, and if she wants to eat, she will have to perform stupid tricks to amuse humans.   
One does not have to be a fortune teller to predict the future for the killers. They think they have the upper hand on the Cove Guardians and all the people around the world who oppose their heinous acts, but for those who murder dolphins, the future is not so bright.
Eventually Japan will have no choice but to stop issuing permits to kill small cetaceans. The international opposition to the dolphin slaughter continues to grow and Japan cannot financially afford to isolate itself from the world by legally permitting acts that are considered criminal is most other countries.  The killers might think they are respected because they have little or no opposition from their own community. Don’t confuse fear with respect.   
I would be less than honest if I claimed to have any concern for the killers, but I do have grave concerns for the children because they will pay for the crimes of the previous generation; the generation who fed their families dolphin meat with unsafe mercury levels.  
So killer dudes, how proud will your children be when their children; YOUR GRANDCHILDREN, are plagued with birth defects and medical problems?  Are you smiling now grandpa?   Your offspring are not, but of course, you cannot see them, because they have disowned you.  
That is what I predict for the killers of Taiji.
For the Oceans,

Please flood the Dolphin Base,, with emails to let them know what you think about the conditions in which Misty is forced to live.  Make sure they feel the heat while there is still time to save her.   (We do not know if Misty is male or female, but I have made the assumption Misty is female because dolphin trainers prefer female dolphins.)

2011 Prediction: The killers won’t need these much longer.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Conspiracy of Silence

We had another awesome day with no death in the Cove!    We hope the Christmas break will begin tomorrow and that the dolphins will not be in danger for at least a week.
Last night I went down to the hot springs by the harbour to soak my feet and look at the moon.   A man approached me and I recognized him because he had spoken to me in the grocery store last week.  He was extremely friendly and I wondered if he knew why I was in Japan.
He said, “Oh yes, I know you are with Sea Shepherd and I have no problem with you and the young people in Japan really like you”.   He went on to say that dolphins are extremely intelligent and that he wished they would stop killing dolphins in Taiji and that many people in Taiji felt the same, but did not feel comfortable expressing their objection to the dolphin slaughter. 
This man was retired and he had lived and worked in Taiji. He told me his name, but asked that I not repeat it because he feared recriminations. What a shame.   He was an articulate professional, but he could not publicly express his opinion on the most important political, social, environmental, and economic issue in Taiji.     
Why the silence?
Two weeks ago, we were having lunch and there was a group of teenage boys at the next table.  I expected them to be too self-absorbed to notice us, or if they did, they would think the women wearing Sea Shepherd clothing were weird.  I quickly learned I had misjudged them.  We were rebels with a cause and I could tell they thought it was cool that they saw us.   
Change in any society takes time, but for the tuna, whales, and dolphins, time is running out. I am encouraged that younger people have made lifestyle changes and are prepared to voice their opinions, but the conspiracy of silence in Japan has lasted too long and it is deafeningly silent.  
For the Oceans,

Tunnel in Taiji

Tunnel in Taiji

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Please Do What You Can

Many people have said they want to be with us in Taiji, but finances and family commitments prevent them from joining us at the Cove. Not everyone can come to Taiji and not everyone should.   
Stopping the dolphin slaughter in Taiji is going to take a lot of people working together and the role of those who are supporting us from afar is vitally important. We can’t do this without you. The words of support we receive are very encouraging and I want to thank everyone who has sent emails and commented on our blogs and on Facebook.    
If you feel frustrated because you can’t stop the dolphin slaughter, take back your power. This is a call to action.
1.     Talk with 3 people about the dolphin slaughter; people with whom you have never discussed the issue. Explain that it is the sale of live dolphins that drives the slaughter and implore them to never go to an aquarium or amusement park that has captive dolphins.   Direct these 3 people to your favourite blogs and websites and provide them with the phone number of the Japanese Embassy.

2.     If you choose to boycott a particular Japanese company, your actions are more effective if you let the company know why you are not purchasing their products.  I am not calling for a boycott of all Japanese products, but I suggest people make wise consumer decisions.

3.     Call the Japanese Embassy and tell them how you feel. Insist on speaking with a person.  

No dolphins were killed today in Taiji, but it is going to take an army of people to stop the ongoing dolphin slaughter.  Don’t assume the front line of this battle is in Taiji.  This war must be waged on a number of fronts and if everyone does what they can, the dolphin slaughter in Taiji can be stopped.
For the Oceans,

Happy Dolphin Bridge in Taiji


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coming of Age in Taiji

Some days I have a sense of dread from the moment I arrive at the Cove, but today felt different.  
It was a great day for the dolphins and the timing was especially fantastic because it was Nicole’s birthday. I was thankful that Nicole, a marine biology student from Australia, did not have to witness a dolphin slaughter on her 20th birthday.
Everyone who has spent time at the Cove ages several years in just a few weeks. There is a loss of innocence when one sees the horrific acts humans commit; without any conscience, and with impunity.  Many Taiji veterans are having a difficult time adjusting to life back home. The façade has been stripped away, priorities are being revised, and excess baggage is cast off and abandoned. 
Today was Nicole’s birthday, but being in Taiji has been a coming of age for all of us.  
For the Oceans,
Nicole's Birthday

Monday, December 20, 2010

Judgment Day

I was chastised by someone who told me I should not use the word “killer” in my blogs.  What exactly should I call those who perform heinous acts? Fishermen catch fish and dolphins are not fish so I really struggle with calling them fishermen.  The clients of the Cove Guardians are the dolphins and if they could speak, I am sure they would be fine with my use of the word “killer”.
I was also told that I probably don’t understand the “cultural intricacies”.   I have absolutely no respect for anyone who kills whales or dolphins and uses “culture” as an excuse.  Killing a dolphin is murder and I have no intention of calling it anything else.
Killing dolphins in Taiji started in the 1970s. The dolphin genocide is driven by greed and big business; not culture.  The killing would probably cease entirely if it were not for the captive dolphin trade and the captive dolphin trade is not “culture”.
Most people in Japan have never eaten whale and extremely few people eat dolphin.  One of my colleagues regularly talks with school children and they were shocked to learn that people in the next town kill dolphins and were horrified that they actually eat them.  Saying that people in Japan grew up eating dolphin would be the same as saying that everyone in Toronto and Montreal was raised on Polar Bear meat. 
People take pride in their culture.  They are willing to share it with others so that we can all understand their traditions, but the killers of Taiji have gone to great lengths to hide their monstrous acts.  
If anyone has any ideas regarding how to end the dolphin slaughter, by all means, come on over and give it a try.  Until you have spent time here, please don’t judge or criticize the strategies of those who are living with this horror on a daily basis.  We are hard enough on ourselves because we have not yet been able to stop the dolphin slaughter and we should not be judged from afar by those who do not understand the situation.
For the Oceans,          

Hiding the victims under a tarp