SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations
SeaWorld is firing back against allegations that it mistreats killer whales.
December 20th, 2013
01:18 PM ET

SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations

Faced with a growing backlash from entertainers and others responding to a documentary film claiming mistreatment of whales, SeaWorld bought full-page ads in newspapers nationwide Friday to call the accounts inaccurate and paint its employees as "true animal advocates."

"The truth about SeaWorld is right here in our parks and people," the company said in the ad, which appeared in The New York Times and other papers.

SeaWorld has been battered in recent weeks since the television premiere of the documentary "Blackfish" on CNN.

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February 27th, 2013
05:03 AM ET

Japan minister sees no end to whaling

Japan will never stop its annual hunt for whales, a government minister has reportedly said, amid recent clashes on the high seas between environmental activists and Japanese whaling ships.

"I don't think there will be any kind of an end for whaling by Japan," Yoshimasa Hayashi, the Japanese minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said in an interview with the French news service Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

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Filed under: Animals • Japan • Whales • wildlife
February 20th, 2013
05:01 AM ET

Anti-whaling group says Japan attacked ships

The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd said ships from the Japanese whaling fleet attacked its vessels, ramming them and hurling concussion grenades.

"There's been the most outrageous attack on the Sea Shepherd Australia ships today," said Bob Brown, a member of the board of directors of Sea Shepherd Australia, describing it as the "worst incident" the group had experienced since one of its vessels sank two years ago.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Brown said that a large Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, had repeatedly rammed Sea Shepherd ships in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica where it was trying to refuel and that a Japanese government escort vessel had directed water cannon and lobbed concussion grenades at the activists.

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Filed under: Animals • Australia • Japan • Whales • wildlife • World
Beached whales on Scottish coast
September 3rd, 2012
04:55 PM ET

10 beached whales rescued on Scotland coast

Ten beached pilot whales were rescued Sunday in Scotland, but 16 others could not be saved, the local newspaper The Scotsman reported.

The stranding occurred between Pittenweem and Anstruther at the mouth of the bay called the Firth of Forth on the North Sea.

Rescuers took advantage of high tide to get 10 whales out of trouble about 4:30 p.m., but the rest, including three calves, died, the paper said. A 17th whale died Monday, BBC reported.

The Fife Coastguard, Fire Brigade, British Divers Marine Life Rescue team, and Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were joined by local veterinarians and volunteers in the rescue effort, The Scotsman reported. Large crowds gathered but were urged not to interfere with the rescuers.

A group of whales believed to be the ones that were refloated was spotted Monday near North Queensferry, across the Firth of Forth from the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, BBC reported. They were being monitored for signs of stranding as low tide approached. About two dozen other whales, believed to be from the same pod, were seen in shallow water a short distance away.

Bob McLellan, Fife Council's head of transport and environmental services, told BBC the whale carcasses are in a hard-to-reach place and may have to be winched up the cliff face for disposal.

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Filed under: Animals • Environment • Scotland • United Kingdom • Whales • World
July 5th, 2012
12:18 AM ET

South Korea says it may resume whaling, angering environment groups

South Korea is considering hunting whales in the waters off its shores for scientific purposes, drawing condemnation from environmental groups.

Citing calls from fishermen for a resumption of limited whaling, the head of the South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission, Kang Joon-suk, said Wednesday that Seoul was working on a proposal to hunt minke whales migrating off the Korean Peninsula.

Korean fishermen complain that the whales are disrupting their fishing activities and eating fish stocks, Kang said at the commission's annual meeting in Panama.

Nonlethal measures are not enough to assess the whales' numbers and feeding habits, he said.

But environmental organizations are skeptical about the South Korean explanation.

"We believe this move is a thinly veiled attempt by Korea to conduct commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research, similar to hunts conducted by Japan in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary," said Wendy Elliott, head of WWF's delegation to the whaling commission.

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Filed under: Earth • Environment • South Korea • Whales • wildlife
All-white killer whale spotted off Russia
Iceberg, an all white adult male killer whale, swims with his pod off the coast of Russia.
April 23rd, 2012
01:53 PM ET

All-white killer whale spotted off Russia

The world's only known all-white male killer whale has been spotted in the Pacific Ocean off Russia, scientists announced Monday.

The orca, dubbed "Iceberg" by the scientists, was spotted swimming with a pod of 12 others. Iceberg has a 6.5-foot-high dorsal fin and is at least 16 years old, according to a blog post by Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project.

Check out a photo gallery of albino creatures

The pod was spotted by scientists from universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the waters around the Commander Islands off the Kamchatka Peninsula. The area is part of a marine reserve.

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Japan ends whaling season 70% below quota
The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker clashes with Japanese whaling vessels this week in the Antarctic.
March 9th, 2012
02:12 PM ET

Japan ends whaling season 70% below quota

Japan's whaling fleet was headed home from the southern ocean after ending its annual Antarctic hunt with only a third of its expected catch, news reports from Japan said Friday.

The hunt ended three days ago with a catch of 266 minke whales and one fin whale, officials from Japan's Fisheries Agency said, according to one report from Australia's ABC news online.

The Sea Shephed Society, which sent a fleet of vessels to the southern ocean to block the hunt, proclaimed victory on its website.

"Operation Divine Wind is over! The Japanese whalers are going home!" the Sea Shepherd headline read.

"There are hundreds of whales swimming free in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary that would now be dead if we had not been down there for the last three months. That makes us very happy indeed," Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson is quoted as saying on the organization's website.

News of the Japanese whaling fleet's withdrawal comes four days after the Institute of Cetacean Research, which oversees the Japanese whaling program, reported a confrontation between the Japanese ships and Sea Shepherd's ship Bob Barker. The Bob Barker fired more than 40 flares and aimed a "high-powered" laser beam at the Japanese ships for more than 50 minutes, the institute said in a news release.

Watson said that with the high-seas showdown, "the whaling season was effectively over for the season."

Japan hunts whales every year despite a worldwide moratorium on whaling, utilizing a loophole in the law that allows for killing the mammals for scientific research.

Sea Shepherd said it would be back to block the Japanese fleet if it returns this year.

“If the Japanese whalers return, Sea Shepherd will return. We are committed to the defense of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” Watson said on the website. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how risky or expensive. The word 'sanctuary' actually means something to us and that something is worth fighting for.”

Japan hands over whaling activists to Australia

Drones used to fight whaling fleet

Japan: Tsunami reconstruction funds go to whaling

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PETA's killer whale 'enslavement' lawsuit goes to court
A killer whale performs at Sea World in Orlando on March 30.
February 6th, 2012
04:19 AM ET

PETA's killer whale 'enslavement' lawsuit goes to court

Lawyers for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will face off against those with SeaWorld in a Southern California federal court Monday after the animal rights group filed a lawsuit to declare that five killer whales are being held in slavery or involuntary servitude in violation of the 13th Amendment.

SeaWorld has called the lawsuit a baseless publicity stunt by PETA, which is known for provocative advertisements and public demonstrations on behalf of animal rights.

PETA filed the 20-page compalint in October on behalf of the whales - Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises.

A PETA statement at the time contended that constitutional protections against slavery are not limited to humans.

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Filed under: Animals • Justice • PETA • U.S. • Whales
January 9th, 2012
12:55 AM ET

Japan holds 3 Australian anti-whaling activists who boarded ship

Three Australian activists are being held aboard a Japanese ship Monday after illegally boarding the vessel to protest Japan's annual whale hunt in Antarctic waters.

The three men are not yet under arrest, but are being questioned by Japan's Coast Guard, a spokesman for Japan's Fisheries Agency said Monday, declining to be identified as is customary in Japan.

The Australian attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, said that her government was working to secure the release of the men, but that she believed they could face criminal charges in Japan.

Video footage released by the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd shows the three men, from the environmental group Forest Rescue Australia, approaching the Japanese vessel on a small boat on Sunday.

The video shows their boat pull up next to Japan's Shonan Maru #2, a patrol vessel supporting Japan's whaling mission in the Antarctic waters. A voice from the small boat calls out, "Go, go, go!" as the men slip onto the Japanese ship. In the background, voices in Japanese scream in alarm, saying "They're boarding!"

Sea Shepherd described the three activists - Geoffrey Owen Tuxworth, 47, Simon Peterffy, 44, and Glen Pendlebury, 27 - as "prisoners." The organization said the men boarded the vessel to force Japan's fleet to stop hunting whales.

Japan annually hunts whales despite a worldwide moratorium, utilizing a loophole in the law that allows for killing the mammals for scientific research.

Each year, environmental groups like Sea Shepherd face off with Japan's hunters in a high seas drama that has led to collisions of ships, the detaining of activists and smoke bombs fired back and forth between the groups.

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Activists using drones against Japanese whalers
Peter Brown, a second mate on the ship the Steve Irwin, launches the drone from the ship.
December 27th, 2011
09:05 AM ET

Activists using drones against Japanese whalers

Activists trying to combat Japanese whaling have gone high-tech.

The longstanding battle against whaling has mostly been a game of wait, watch, chase and hope for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. But activists are now hoping they'll be able to chase down whaling vessels before they ever make their first kill with the help of drone aircraft.

Two of Sea Shepherd's ships are outfitted with long-range drones fitted with cameras and detection equipment, which help the ships scan hundreds more miles of ocean for whaling vessels, thanks to a donation from Bayshore Recycling Corp. of Woodbridge, New Jersey.

“We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets,” Capt. Paul Watson said on board the ship Steve Irwin.

And the technology has already proved successful for the group, which said it located the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru near the west coast of Australia on Saturday thanks to a drone.

"The Sea Shepherd crew have found the Japanese whaling fleet before a single whale has been killed," the group reported.

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December 14th, 2011
08:59 AM ET

Belugas trapped in icy Arctic waters at risk of death

Prisoners in ice, more than 100 Beluga whales in far eastern Russia risk death unless rescued soon.

The flock of gentle, ghost-white whales were trapped in ice floes in the Sinyavinsky Strait off the Bering Sea near the village of Yanrakynnot, said a statement from the Chukotka Autonomous Region.

Fishermen reported that the whales were concentrated in two relatively small ice holes, where, for now, they can breathe freely. But the Belugas' chance of swimming back to water is slim due to the vast fields of ice over the strait.

The whales have little food and the ice flows are increasing, the statement said. They are at risk of rapid exhaustion, and ultimately, death by starvation or suffocation. Trapped whales are also susceptible to predators like polar bears and killer whales.

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Two wayward killer whales die in freezing Alaska river, NOAA says
Experts will begin necropsy reports on the wayward whales that were found dead in an Alaskan river.
October 11th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Two wayward killer whales die in freezing Alaska river, NOAA says

A team of four NOAA veterinarians and a killer whale specialist from SeaWorld, San Diego will begin necropsies Tuesday on two wayward killer whales whose carcasses were found in Alaska's Nushagak River, according to NOAA.

The two whales that died and another that has not been spotted since the weekend had sparked concern from scientists who said they had been seen 30 miles up an Alaska river where they normally wouldn't have been.

Marine mammal scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service said the whales were likely suffering stress from being in fresh water for such an extended period. The scientists worried if the whales didn't head downstream soon, they'd be trapped in the river.

Water levels are dropping as colder temperatures reduce the flow from glaciers into the river. That could make it difficult for the whales to navigate certain sections of the river. And the Nushagak could freeze over by the end of October, according to the fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA biologist Barbara Mahoney said killer whales are sometimes seen where the Nushagak empties into Nushagak Bay near Dillingham, but none had ever been reported this far inland. In fact, this is the first time killer whales have spent a prolonged period of time in an Alaska river, according to NOAA.

Officials said the orcas are in an area where they are unlikely to encounter humans, but they are asking that people stay 100 yards away for their own safety and that of the animals.

The fisheries service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the local Bristol Bay Native Association are monitoring the situation to determine if and how the whales could be returned to salt water, federal officials said.

Killer whales in danger of being stuck in frozen Alaska river
Two orcas swim in Alaska's Nushagak River on Tuesday.
October 7th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

Killer whales in danger of being stuck in frozen Alaska river

Three wayward killer whales are loitering 30 miles up an Alaska river, and federal wildlife officials are concerned they may be iced in when the river freezes over, possibly at the end of the month.

For three weeks, the whales have been spotted in the Nushagak River near Ekwok, Alaska. Marine mammal scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service say the whales are likely suffering stress from being in fresh water for such an extended period. The scientists say they're also concerned that if the whales don't head downstream soon, they'll be trapped in the river.

Water levels are dropping as colder temperatures reduce the flow from glaciers into the river. That could make it difficult for the whales to navigate certain sections of the river. And the Nushagak could freeze over by the end of October, according to the fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Japan's whaling could put lives at risk, New Zealand says
Anti-whaling activists approach a Japanese whaling vessel in January in a photo from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research.
October 5th, 2011
10:12 AM ET

Japan's whaling could put lives at risk, New Zealand says

New Zealand joined Australia on Wednesday in criticizing Japan's decision to resume whaling in Antarctic waters later this year and Tokyo's announcement that it will increase security for its whaling fleet.

"The Japanese government (is) making noises that have an ominous feel about them," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

Michihiko Kano, Japan's fisheries minister, said at a news conference Tuesday that a patrol boat from the Fisheries Agency would accompany the Japanese whaling fleet when it heads for the Southern Ocean in December to "strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships."

The addition of the patrol boat to the whaling fleet comes after last season's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean was cut short when anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society blocked strikes on the animals. Sea Shepherd said its actions saved 800 whales, and it promised last week to be back in force this season.

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Japan vows to resume whale hunt; activists promise fight
The Japanese whaling research vessel Nisshin Maru is approached by a Sea Shepherd vessel in the Southern Ocean during last season's hunt.
October 4th, 2011
10:29 AM ET

Japan vows to resume whale hunt; activists promise fight

Japan says it will hunt whales in the Southern Ocean this winter and will send a Fisheries Agency ship to guard its whalers against promised intervention by a conservation group.

"The Fisheries Agency will send a patrol boat and take increased measures to strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships," Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said at a news conference Tuesday.

At its annual meeting in July, the International Whaling Commission passed a resolution calling on its member countries "to cooperate to prevent and suppress actions that risk human life and property at sea."

Last winter, Japan cut its planned December-to-April hunt two months short after anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society repeatedly interfered with the whaling vessels.

Sea Shepherd claims it saved 800 whales by its actions during last season's hunt. Japanese whalers killed 171 minke whales and two fin whales during the Antarctic hunt, according to IWC figures.

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On the Radar: Japan typhoon, SeaWorld hearing, Listeria deaths
Rescue workers transport evacuees through floodwaters in Nagoya, Japan, on Tuesday.
September 20th, 2011
06:24 AM ET

On the Radar: Japan typhoon, SeaWorld hearing, Listeria deaths

Three things you need to know today.

Japan typhoon: About 80,000 residents have been ordered to flee and more than 1 million people were urged to evacuate Nagoya, a city in central Japan, Tuesday as a typhoon was expected to hit the area.

Despite the evacuation warnings, a little more than 60 people had evacuated the city by Tuesday afternoon, the city government said. More were expected to leave in the evening as the storm came closer.

Typhoon Roke was packing winds of 185 kph (115 mph) and was predicted to make landfall with heavy rain some time Wednesday, said CNN meteorologist Jennifer Delgado.

The storm was expected to hit south of Osaka and could drench some areas with about 250 mm (10 inches) of rain, Delgado said.

Two areas in the Nagoya were ordered to evacuate because of the threat of flooding from the Shonai River, officials said.

SeaWorld hearing: A federal hearing continues Tuesday to determine whether SeaWorld Orlando should be charged with a willful violation in the 2010 death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau.

Monday was the first day of the hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Florida.

In February 2010, as park guests watched in horror, Brancheau, 40, was pulled into a SeaWorld pool and drowned by a 12,000-pound killer whale named Tilikum. Brancheau had been sitting on the Shamu Stadium's pool edge during a private show.

After a lengthy investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - the federal agency that works to prevent workplace injuries - cited SeaWorld of Florida in August 2010 for willfully endangering employees by not taking proper safety precautions.

Listeria deaths: Up to seven deaths in four states may be linked to a Listeriosis outbreak that the Centers for Disease Control believes originated at a cantaloupe farm in Colorado, the Denver Post reports.

The deaths have been reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to the Denver Post report. Overall, 35 cases are reported in 10 states, the Post said.

Jensen Farms recalled its cantaloupe harvest on September 14, the Post reported.

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Gotta Watch: They caught what?
A father and son on a fishing trip spot a fawn and it's all caught on tape.
September 16th, 2011
11:34 AM ET

Gotta Watch: They caught what?

Fishermen may sometimes tell tall tales about the enormous fish that got away, but you've never seen anything like this. These people really did get the catch of a lifetime - and got it all on tape. From animals that shouldn't even be in the water to 40-ton "catches," you've got to watch these unbelievable fishing videos.
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30-foot whale smashes onto sailboat
The breaching whale left bits of blubber and a barnacle on the sailboat.
May 13th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

30-foot whale smashes onto sailboat

L'Orca lost out to L'Humpback on Thursday. Well, kinda.

L'Orca, a 38-foot sailboat out of Portland, Oregon, was participating in the Oregon International Offshore race in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday morning when a breaching humpback whale crashed down onto the vessel, crushing its mast and rigging and knocking it out of the race to Victoria, British Columbia.

The sailboat was about a half-hour into the race when the whale struck about 9:30 a.m.

"It looked to be a humpback whale, about 30 feet in length roughly. It hit the mast about halfway to three-quarters of the way up, and then proceeded to fall forward and on the starboard side of the boat. The mast came down as well as the forestay and all the rigging, and our tow rail and all our life lines on the starboard side of the boat were demolished, as well," crewmember Ryan Barnes, whose father owns L'Orca, said in a Coast Guard video.

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Humpback whales changing their tunes, study finds
A humpback whale breaches off Australia.
April 15th, 2011
01:34 PM ET

Humpback whales changing their tunes, study finds

Whether to keep up with keep up the coolest tunes or to stand out from the crowd, male humpback whales change their songs over time, researchers in Australia report.

Researchers had known that male humpbacks sing as part of courtship and mating behaviors. Now they think the whales may be mixing up their playlist to show off.

“We believe the song is continually changing because the males wish to be novel or slightly different to the male singing next to them," Ellen Garland, a doctoral student at the University of Queensland, said in a news release.

Other times, the whales may be picking up a tune they've heard before, sort of a sub-Pacific top 40.

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On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury
Tilikum will return to SeaWorld's "Believe" show on Wednesday.
March 30th, 2011
06:48 AM ET

On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury

Killer whale's return: The SeaWorld killer whale involved in the death of a trainer more than a year ago returns to the park's "Believe" show Wednesday for the first time since the death, according to media reports.

In February 2010, Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, pulled senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, underwater and killed her as horrified visitors watched at SeaWorld of Orlando's Shamu Stadium.

An autopsy showed Brancheau died of drowning and traumatic injuries to her body, including her spine, ribs and head.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the park's "Dine With Shamu" event. Those shows resumed earlier this year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety violations, including one classified as willful.

SeaWorld has made safety upgrades to the killer whale stadium since Brancheau's death, CNN affiliate WESH reports.

And a park official says Tilikum is ready to return to shows.

"Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum’s day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment," SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark told WESH. "He has been regularly interacting with his trainers and the other whales for purposes of training, exercise and social and mental stimulation, and has enjoyed access to all of the pools in the Shamu Stadium complex."

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