Tag Archives: orca

ANOTHER PLANET?

desertClimate change may actually bring deserts back to life – and arid parts of California, central Asia, the Sinai, Southern Africa and central Australia may see more frequent downpours. Researchers say that climate change is already driving an increase in extremes of rainfall and snowfall across most of the globe, even in arid regions, and this trend will continue as the world warms. The article in Nature Climate Change says the role of global warming in unusually large rainfall events in countries from the United Kingdom to China has been hotly debated, but the latest research shows that climate change is driving an overall increase in rainfall extremes. “In both wet and dry regions, we see these significant and robust increases in heavy precipitation,” says Markus Donat, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who is the study’s lead author. John Connor, Chief Executive of the Climate Institute in Australia pointed out that in Queensland what were ‘once in 100 years’ downpours were now happening every 2 or 3 years. The results suggest that both annual precipitation and extreme precipitation increased by 1–2% per decade in dry regions, including western North America, Australia and parts of Asia. Wet areas, including eastern North America and Southeast Asia, show similar increases in the size of extreme precipitation and smaller increases for annual totals. More here and Nature Climate Change here.

Instrumental_Temperature_RecordThe world is on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected, according to new Australian research that highlights the alarming implications of rising energy demand. University of Queensland and Griffith University researchers have developed a “global energy tracker” which predicts average world temperatures could climb 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2020. That forecast, based on new modelling using long-term average projections on economic growth, population growth and energy use per person, points to a 2C rise by 2030. The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.

And February smashed a century of global temperature records by a “stunning” margin, according to data released by Nasa. The unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary of highlighting a single month’s temperature, to label the new record a “shocker” and warn of a “climate emergency”. Record-breaking temperatures ‘have robbed the Arctic of its winter’ and the Nasa data shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The previous record, set just one month earlier in January, was 1.15C above the long-term average for that month. More here.

An £800 pollution tax should be put on sales of new diesel cars, with the proceeds used for a scrappage scheme for older diesels, according to the thinktank Policy Exchange. The move, proposed ahead of George Osborne’s budget on 16 March, would encourage motorists to move towards lower emission vehicles and significantly reduce air pollution, according to the thinktank, which is close to Osborne. The idea is also backed by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and an influential committee of MPs.

Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said. Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3% . Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA

starbucksAnd the UK government has slapped down a suggestion by a minister that coffee shop cups could be taxed to prevent millions of them being thrown away. Rory Stewart told MPs there was a “huge” problem with unrecyclable, plastic-lined paper cups.  He said the plastic bag tax had been a success and cups would be a “very good thing to look at next”. Mr Stewart’s department Defra released a statement saying there were “no plans” for a tax. Campaigners say that disposable coffee cups handed out in their billions are “virtually impossible” to recycle despite major cafe chains claiming theirs are eco-friendly.

The Obama administration abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters on Tuesday, after strong opposition from the Pentagon and coastal communities. The announcement from Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, to bar drilling across the length of the mid-Atlantic seaboard reverses Obama’s decision just a year ago to open up the east coast to oil and gas exploration, and consolidates his record for environmental protection.

otcaThe US theme park operator SeaWorld says it is ending its controversial orca breeding programme. The decision means the orcas currently at the parks will be “the last generation”, the company said. SeaWorld, which has 12 parks across the US, has faced heavy criticism over alleged poor treatment of its captive orcas, also known as killer whales. Activists have called for the orcas to be released into the wild but SeaWorld claims they would likely die. “For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks,” the company said in a Los Angeles Times article.  The company it would also also scrap plans for a $100 million project called “Blue World” that would have enlarged its orca habitat at SeaWorld San Diego. So the whales stay, in captivity, in misery.

The Guardian reports that  fishermen could soon be given carte blanche to overfish without needing to worry about restoring fish populations to a healthy state under a leaked European commission proposal seen by the Guardian. If it is approved, the blueprint for the Baltic Sea could soon be applied to the North Sea too, potentially threatening the future of some cod species, MEPs say. The plan would add exemptions to catch limits that are supposed to become mandatory by 2020 and practically remove a commitment to restoring fish stocks to healthy levels by the same year. “With this proposal, overfishing will continue and, in a worst case scenario, [Baltic] cod will disappear. It is that serious,” Linnéa Engström, the vice-chair of the European parliament’s fisheries committee told the Guardian.

A mutiny by several EU states has forced the postponement of a vote in Brussels on relicensing a widely used weedkiller that the World Health Organisation has found is probably carcinogenic. Italy joined France, Sweden and the Netherlands in opposing a new 15-year licence for glyphosate at a meeting which had been expected to rubber stamp its reapproval on Tuesday. The European Commission may now bring forward a new proposal to cut the licence’s length, or create a list of “co-formulants” whose use can be limited or banned. These surfactants increase a plant’s uptake of glyphosate, and can be more dangerous than the herbicide alone. But the Netherlands is calling for the relicensing to be put on hold until after a separate evaluation of glyphosate’s toxicity next year.

European_Turtle_Dove_(Streptopelia_turtur)Hunters in Malta will be permitted to shoot 5,000 turtle doves this spring despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently adding the migratory bird to the “red list” of species at risk of being wiped out. The Maltese government, the only EU member to allow recreational spring hunting, said it was taking “special measures” to minimise the impact of its shoot on the bird’s plummeting population, cutting the shooters’ allowance from 11,000 birds. But conservationists said continuing the spring hunt went against the best scientific advice and appealed for the EU to take action against Malta.

beesWELL DONE FRANCE:  France have announced plans to completely ban the use of pesticides due to unusually high bee deaths worldwide, which French authorities claims pesticides are responsible for. Lawmakers have approved plans to ban some of the most popular pesticide products on the market, going above and beyond European Union requirements. The French outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was adopted by a narrow majority late on Thursday by France’s National Assembly as part of a draft bill on biodiversity that also contains an additional tax on palm oil. The senate still needs to approve the new law.

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ANOTHER PLANET?

Indur Goklany, a scientist and former US delegate to the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) is to publish controversial claims that increased in CO2 in the atmosphere have boost crop yields and has little impact on global temperatures. His ‘Good News’ report on CO2 will be published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation an will say that rising CO2 levels boost crop yields by 10-15% and that the Earth is greener as a result of CO2 rising.

wowFood and grocery businesses across the UK are helping their employees to reduce their household food waste through a month-long campaign co-ordinated by WRAP and food research firm IGD. October marks the return of Working on Waste (WOW) month which uses the collective scale of the industry to talk directly to employees as consumers, driving behaviour change and engagement to take learnings about food waste beyond the workplace into households. Last year’s campaign reached over 650,000 employees from the food industry across 77 companies. Already this year, more than 100 companies from retailers to SMEs have signed up for the month-long initiative.

Tesla battery packs will be used to part-power 24 office buildings in California. The Irvine Company, a real-estate firm with properties throughout California, will install Tesla battery systems the size of five parking spaces, that will reduce peak grid energy consumption across the company’s entire portfolio by 25%. The storage system, the first of which will be installed later this year, will aim to reduce electricity costs and lower the reliance on power plants by charging the batteries during nonpeak hours. The stored energy will then be used when needed, or during power grid outages. The batteries can last between 4-6 hours without grid support.

orcaSeaWorld has been banned from bringing wild killer whales to its water park in San Diego, America. It has also been told to stop breeding orcas in captivity in a ruling from the California Coastal Commission. They gave the Park permission to double to the size of its orca enclosures on the condition that breeding and bringing in new whales stopped. It comes after criticism of the way the whales are treated there, something SeaWorld has always rejected.  Seaworldofhurt say orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum lifespan is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to over 100 for females. The average age of death for orcas who have died at SeaWorld is 13 years old.  The commission’s decision to take the unprecedented step came after weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling between Coastal Commission staff and SeaWorld attorneys over whether, in effect, the 1966 federal Animal Welfare Act gives the commission authority over the care and management of captive orcas, also known as killer whales. If, as the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper is urging, SeaWorld takes the Coastal Commission to court seeking to overturn the anti-breeding condition, the dispute over that 1966 law, and other legal arcana about the relative authority of state vs. federal agencies over marine mammals, will be central. The commission’s ruling has been applauded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other activist groups. including the Animal Legal Defense Fund. PETA has long asserted that the orcas are suffering in tanks that are too small and have been turned into circus performers. In 2012, PETA asked a federal judge in San Diego to rule that the orcas deserved protection under the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that banned slavery; the judge ruled that the amendment does not cover animals. More here.

UK Businesses that fail to meet the December deadline to comply with the Government’s new Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) may be granted a reprieve until at least the end of January, the Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed. The EA said that specified that ESOS-affected companies that have demonstrated a plan to comply with the policy and are making progress as of the 5 December 2015 audit deadline will be given an extension until 29 January 2016 to become fully ESOS-compliant.

sea_ice_polar_bearA crucial meeting of the Arctic Council, in Anchorage, comes amid evidence that the polar region is warming faster than any other place on Earth and that sea ice coverage there has shrunk by nearly a third since 1979. Researchers now fear that new threats to climate stability are about to be unleashed in the Arctic. Warming in high latitudes is causing permafrost in Siberia and northern Canada to thaw and release plumes of methane stored there, they say. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and these releases threaten to trigger secondary rises in global temperatures. The US is to host summit of polar nations as fears grow that factory andfam emissions mean that the Earth’s frozen wastes are losing their ability to deflect harmful rays and scientists in Alaska will raise the vexed issue of methane and “black carbon” pollution as they discuss tipping-point dangers posed by global warming in the Arctic. The Arctic Council is made up of representatives of the main north polar nations – Canada, Denmark (through its dependencies of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. In recent years, its work has come into sharp focus as the Arctic has warmed up and its sea ice cover has shrunk, exposing once inaccessible oilfields and sea routes.More on the Guardian here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/17/arctic-alaska-global-warming-threatens-ice-cap .

Edie.net reports that the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published its initial recommendations for the UK’s fifth carbon budget, suggesting a 54% cut in emissions by 2030 from a 1990 baseline. The Climate Change Act, which established a target for the UK to reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050, also called for five-yearly carbon budgets en route to that final target. The level of these budgets is recommended by the CCC and then voted on in Parliament. The CCC will publish its official recommendation for the fifth carbon budget – covering 2028-2032 – in November, with the Report marking its preliminary context assessment. The CCC wrote: “Our findings in this report suggest that a fifth carbon budget reflecting current international circumstances and EU commitments requires, on a best estimate, a reduction in UK emissions by 2030 of around 54% on 1990 levels.” The UK has broken records for national low-carbon growth and the country now tops PwC’s G20 Low Carbon Economy Index, but energy experts warn the results are largely due to “circumstance rather than policy”. According to analysis from PwC, the UK has seen 10.9% year-on-year declines in emissions from energy use – the highest reduction ever reported by PwC analysts in the past seven years. The main reason for the fall was a reduction in coal consumption of around 20%, due in part to the closure of a number pf coal-fired power stations. Strong economic growth and a warmer winter were among the other factors.

Rupert Murdoch, who never seems convinced by the overwhelming reality behind the science of climate change, has just bought National Geographic. Nort our words next but one opinion from TheSumofUs is this: “You read that right: one of the world’s most notorious climate change deniers, whose Fox media empire spreads misinformation on a massive scale, just got control of National Geographic. The National Geographic Society does incredibly important work on climate change — from publishing ground breaking stories to giving grants to scientists. But the new deal hands 73% ownership of its media operations to Fox.” Fox have been quite appalling in allowing platforms to climate change sceptics – so yes, a worry. More Fox nonsense here and on the Huffington Post here.

Sustainability is a strategic priority at just one quarter of UK further education institutions, a new survey from the Environmental Association for Universities & Colleges (EAUC) has revealed. The poll of 548 staff involved in sustainability in universities and colleges, also revealed that two fifths think their institutions are unlikely or very unlikely to meet emissions reductions targets. EAUC chief executive Iain Patton said, “Already this pioneering collaborative survey is flagging warnings that colleges in particular are struggling with sustainability adding “We won’t be waiting for next year’s survey to act and we will be supporting our Members across the UK to ensure sustainability is a critical agenda item at senior level.” A lack of financial and staff resources was identified as the biggest barrier to sustainability with support from the highest levels seen as the most important way of overcoming these barriers. A third of college sustainability staff and a fifth of university sustainability staff said they were expecting a decrease in budget. More on Edie.net here.

Sheringham_Shoal_Wind_Farm_2012Last week ago, Denmark made the absolute most out of a particularly windy 24 hours by harnessing its power and producing not only all of its own electricity needs for the day, but enough extra to spread between three neighboring countries. To be exact, the sustainable wind-power technologies harnessed and collected 144% of one days electricity needs. Denmark had previously developed its wind-power plants but on that particularly windy day, it reached 116% of its domestic electricity demands through wind farms and then exceeded even that impressive surplus, reaching 140%, causing Denmark to export excess power to Norway, Germany, and Sweden. 80% of the excess energy surplus was given in equal parts to Norway and Germany and Sweden received the remaining 20%. Germany and Norway possess hydropower systems with storage capabilities and were thus able to store the extra away for later use. And last month’s unseasonably warm weather proved a boon for clean energy output in Scotland, with enough sunshine to provide more than 70% of the electricity and hot water needs of homes fitted with solar panels. Stronger winds throughout the month led to an 80% leap in wind energy output across the country – enough power to supply the average electrical needs of 64% of Scottish households.

The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has raised £355m in the second tranche of investment for its Offshore Wind Fund, bringing the total value to more than £818m.

A planned power plant in Wales may look like the Guggenheim Museum but its benefits far outweigh the beauty: it will use the rise and fall of ocean tides to generate enough renewable electricity to power 155,000 homes for 120 years.
When completed, the structure will produce electricity enough to displace more than a quarter million barrels of oil each year— while leaving virtually no carbon footprint.

Waitrose has given the humble egg box a green makeover with the launch of a revolutionary new packaging material made from ryegrass and paper. The supermarket’s Duchy Organic Range, which was founded by Prince Charles, will now be nestled in green-coloured boxes made from equal amounts of ryegrass and recycled paper – a UK first, according to Waitrose.

dolphin-203875_1280Scientists from the UK, the USA and Australia have suggested that noise free zones should be set up in the world’s oceans to minimise the impact of human activity in the oceans. Noise from fishing, shipping, water sports can affect marine animals acoustic signalling and Dr Christopher Clark from Cornell University said “Marine animals, especially whales, depend on a natrally quiet ocean for survival but humans are polluting major portions of the ocean with noise”.

UK supermarket giant Tesco has developed a new circular economy solution allowing it to turn its own back-of store-plastic waste, such as pallet and multi-pack wrapping, into plastic bags. The waste-plastic material is collected and sorted by recycling firm Eurokey then processed and turned into bags by plastics-recycling expert Papier-Mettler.

A new EU-funded project aims to explore the commercial opportunities for harvesting critical raw materials and precious metals from unwanted electronic products. The €2.1m project, called Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery (‘CRM Recovery’), is a four-country collaboration, with the UK, Germany, Italy and Turkey all participating. WRAP research has shown that nearly 40% of electrical products go to landfill when they are disposed, while the United Nations University claims that this annual mountain of e-waste contains 16,500 kilotons of iron, 1,900 kilotons of copper, and 300 tonnes of gold.

airpollutionCarbon pricing can significantly reduce emissions without harming the global economy, a new report from the influential New Climate Economy (NCE) think-tank has asserted. The NCE’s latest paper analyses existing carbon pricing schemes which cover around 12% of global emissions, and considers the impact of a global rollout. It found that the nine states in the United States’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) performed better than other US states economically, growing 0.4% more from 2009-2013, while reducing their emissions significantly. Likewise, the report claims Ireland’s carbon tax, introduced in 2010, raised much-needed revenues and avoided even harsher fiscal tightening measures during the global financial crisis. British Columbia’s carbon tax helped reduce emissions by 10% in five years with better economic growth than the rest of Canada.

The Scottish Government has brought its campaign on the future of renewable energy to Westminster as it renewed calls for the Conservative Party to rethink its recent subsidy cuts. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing hosted a Renewables Roundtable event yesterday morning (12 October) to discuss the impact of recent UK Government decisions on renewables which Ewing says are “anti-business, anti-environment and anti-energy security”. “The impacts are spreading right across Scotland and the UK,” said Ewing. “It’s not just the renewables industry that is affected but also the wider supply chain, including ports and harbours, transmission and distribution, consultancy, communities and the civil engineering sector.” The Mark Group blamed recent government policy announcements for scuppering its turnaround plan. Almost 1,000 jobs were lost as one of the UK’s leading solar- panel installers went into administration.

Non-binding EU guidelines on shale gas exploration are “weak” and fail to protect the environment and health of citizens, a new report has claimed .
Jointly developed by Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Europe, the report – ‘Fracking business (as usual)’ – claims the EU’s current recommendations rely too heavily on self-monitoring by the oil industry to be able to implement any regulation changes. Friends of the Earth’s shale gas campaigner Antoine Simon said: “The European Commission and EU Member States lack the political will and ability to strictly regulate the fracking industry.

A new £700m waste processing facility is expected to help five Scottish councils divert up to 90% of their waste from landfill. Viridor had been selected to design, construct, finance and operate the Clyde Valley Residual Waste Partnership project, with a contract worth up to £700m over 25 years. North Lanarkshire is the lead authority for the contract, and is joined in the project by East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. The facility will process approximately 190,000 tonnes of residual waste per year, helping Scotland towards national targets for recycling 70% and diverting 95% from landfill by 2025.

V20Finance ministers representing over 700 million people have announced a series of financial mechanisms to invest in climate resiliency and lower emissions for 20 of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam form the Vulnerable Twenty (V20). The V20 held its inaugural meeting on the 8th October in Lima, Peru, where the nations together committed to “foster a significant increase” of public and private finance for climate action from wide-ranging sources.

 

ANOTHER PLANET?

Vespa_mandariniaIn the UK the House of  Commons Environmental Audit Committee is proposing tough new laws to fight back against foreign species that are invading the UK. The 292 long list of alien invaders includes Japanese Knotweed (which cost the UK economy £165 million in 2013), grey squirrels, the Caspian Sea ‘killer shrimp’ and North American Signal Crayfish that are devastating aquatic ecosystems, the oak processionary moth already found in and around London and Berkshire, and the Asian Hornet which killed six people in France last year – and is on its way here. The total cost of dealing with invading species is estimated at £1.7 billion annually. . Photo of the Asian Giant Hornet:  Gary Alpert at en.wikipedia.

A former oil refinery in Essex has been granted a new lease of life as a new enterprise park developed by Vopak, Shell and Greenenergy and the 400 acre park will the world’s first facility designed to convert landfill waste into aviation fuel. The former Coryton refinery will reopen and create around 1,000 new jobs to rebuild the site and the ‘Green-Sky’ fuel facility is being developed by British Airways and Solena Fuels with plans to convert 575,000 tonnes of post recycled landfill waste into 120,000 tonnes of liquid fuels each year – worth $550 million annually.

The European Parliament has proposed changes to lorry designs that could cut the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed on roads. The new rules will ensure that blind spots are reduced, will have crumple zone and a rounded front that ensures that anyone hit by the vehicle is pushed away and not dragged under the wheels of a lorry.

A coalition of companies from around the globe is urging policy makers to take a number of actions in line with the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Welcoming the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, 90 UK, EU and international companies, including Acciona, Coca-Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Shell, Tesco and Unilever are demanding a proactive policy response to climate change risk through The Trillion Tonne Communiqué, set up by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.  According to the IPCC report, global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change. It found that emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.  The Report does say that catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards – concluding that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable. “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet” said economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team.  The cheapest and least risky route to dealing with global warming is to abandon all dirty fossil fuels in coming decades, the report found. Gas – including that from the global fracking boom – could be important during the transition, Edenhofer said, but only if it replaced coal burning.

In related news, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced that more than €2bn (£1.6bn) is to be made available for new innovative renewable energy and carbon capture projects. Global ‘clean energy’ investment increased 14% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest research. The research, carried out by data analyst firm Clean Energy Pipeline, showed the sector totalled $61bn (£36bn) in the first quarter of 2014, up from the $53.4bn invested in the corresponding period in 2013. And the United Nations (UN) has launched a 10-year plan, which aims to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency worldwide. The Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) strategy plans to provide universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and share renewable energy globally.  Announcing the launch in New York yesterday, Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative Kandeh Yumkella called on the private sector to innovate and invest in order to help reach the initiative’s three objectives by 2030.

And Drax is likely to receive a E300 million grant from the European Commission for a carbon capture and storage project with the support of the British government. Drax’s White Rose project could become Europe’s first advanced CCS plant.

Giant inflatable wind turbines that float in the sky to generate electricity will be tested in Alaska next year. Altaeros Energies, a US company, has developed four prototype helium filled devices that channel wind to turn the turbine and generate power – capturing a stringer and more reliable wind source in the sky.

Edie.net reports that Lord Smith has said that the winter floods have highlighted the danger of building on floodplains and underlines the need to continue improving flood defences to cope with extreme climate. The Environment Agency chairman told an audience at the Royal Geographical Society that there needs to be a continued commitment from Government and partners to investing in flood defence maintenance. He also told the audience that more widespread use of individual property flood protection measures and a higher priority given to flood risk in national infrastructure planning is needed.

IKEA has announced its largest global renewable energy investment to date, purchasing a 98 megawatt wind farm in Illinois, US. The wind farm is expected to generate up to 380GWh of renewable energy each year – the equivalent amount of electricity to meet the needs of 34,000 average American households. However in the UK The wind industry has responded angrily to a statement from Eric Pickles, The Communities and Local Government Secretary that he will be extending his period of pulling in decisions on renewable energy projects for planning control a further 12 months.

blackfishNumbers of people attending the SeaWorld’s popular US centres between January and March have dropped, from 3.5 million in 2013 to 3.05 million this year, a decline of 13% – the reason being say woldlife campiagners is the effect the documentary film Blackfish has had.  The film tells the story of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau who was killed by Tilikum, a bull orca. The killer whale, it was also revealed, had been involved in the deaths of other individuals while in captivity. Blackfish focuses on the distress experienced by killer whales who are depicted as complex, highly intelligent creatures which are taken from their families, kept in small pools and given psychotropic drugs to calm them and help them perform tricks that include balancing human trainers on their snouts, rotating in the water to pop music, waving their flippers and tails, and floating on their backs. The film triggered widespread public outrage against marine parks in general and a petition, signed by 1.2 million people, was handed into the California state assembly calling for a ban on killer whale shows. Earlier this month, a bill legalising the ban was put on hold for the next 12 months. Campaigners are still hopeful it will be enacted next year. More on the Guardian website here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/visitors-turn-backs-on-marine-parks

kiss the skyWith all the recent controversy surrounding captive orcas, Ann and Nancy Wilson decided it was high time to celebrate the wild ones. Heart –  joined by Special Guest Graham Nash – and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts headlined a historic concert in Seattle at EMP Museum’s spectacular “Sky Church” on Earth Day, April 22nd, to benefit wild orca research and advocacy. Joining Heart and Graham Nash were Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Country Joe McDonald, acoustic cellist Jami Sieber, and musician and activist Andrew Morse. Also on the bill for “Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” was the extraordinary up-and-coming singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso Arielle and the Emcee was  legendary radio personality Norman B – and it was all streamed live.

orcaAnd the fate of the captive orca Morgan has been decided by the Dutch Courts with the appeal court in Den Haag saying that under the current law, the orca will not be freed. The Free Morgan Foundation said: “Despite overwhelming evidence provided by world renowned orca researchers, scientists and advocates, as members of the Free Morgan Foundation, the best interests of Morgan have not been met. It has been designated that she will be sent to a life of permanent captivity in a barren concrete tank. Realistically this is nothing short of a death sentence for Morgan as orca in captivity only live an average of 8.5 years, compared to more than 50 years in the wild. It is disgraceful that a country such as the Netherlands, known around the world for their humanitarian and animal welfare compassion, should have allowed this to happen. Clearly, ulterior motivations such as money and entertainment have presided over the welfare interests of Morgan.”

Edie.net reports that UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has launched a brand new scheme to let customers recycle their Easter egg packaging, in a bid to divert household waste away from landfill. The supermarket will be the first retailer in the UK to unveil a specially designed Easter recycling facility in store. Customers will be able to recycle all elements of Easter egg packaging, including plastic, film, card, foil and ribbon.

clucasCaroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green Party MP. has been cleared of obstructing a public highway and breaching an order under S14 of the Public Order Act. The MP and four co-defendants were charged after fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe, west Sussex, last August.  Lucas said their arrests were the result of “oppressive policing” and that protests were the “lifeblood of democracy”. The Green Party are currently polling just 2% of the national vote but have seen their share rise to 14% amongst students – the third biggest share after the Labour and Conservative parties and ahead of both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.  (Youthsight).

“Sustainability is an engine for growth ……. and sustainability d0es not have to revolve around trade offs and sacrifices. In the political and public debate, sustainability is often presented  as a choice between prosperity today and the sustainability of tomorrow. The transformational leaders demonstrate that smart investment, targeted at the challenges of tomorrow, can be turned to an advantage today” (The Business of Environment by Peter Lacy and Rob Hayward, RSA Journal, Issue 1 2014).

Free Morgan

So, when you are the Dutch Government and you take in an injured Orca whale AND you should be subject to laws that say animals should be returned to the wild, why do you then listen to a selected group of ‘experts’ who think that actually it would be in the whale’s best interest to keep her in captivity and send her to a marine attraction in Loro Parque in Tenerife? Especially when lots of other experts disagree.

Morgan is a lone female orca discovered off the northwestern coast of the Netherlands, in June 2010.  The Netherlands Government issued a permit for Morgan to be captured and temporarily transferred for rehabilitation to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk, who have looked after her. Currently the Dolfinaruim Harderwijk has said that that they wish to ship Morgan to captive marine mammal facility as Morgan is not a suitable candidate for release into the wild. She has (allegedly) got too used to humans and captivity! Errrm, she WAS in the wild!

The Free Morgan Group, composed of independent international marine experts, have come to logger-heads over what will happen to Morgan. The Group includes Orcalab, Orca Network, Orca Research Trust, Centre for Whale Research and Project SeaWolf as well as conservation and animal welfare groups including the Cetacean Society International, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth. They have their own very detailed plan of how Morgan could be returned to the wild to ensure her best chance of survival – and freedom – and have now hired a Dutch lawyer to ask the Dutch Government to block the Dolfinarium’s plans and take a look at the reports they have collected from over 40 leading scientists and marine experts who say Morgan could be returned to the wild in time. More at Orca Coalitie http://www.orcacoalition.org/  .

Could it be that this is all actually about business and that Orcas are black and white gold for aquariums and marine entertainment facilities?  These attractions need whales and dolphins and they need breeding stock. Its easy to use ‘education’ and ‘scientific research as a basis for capturing orcas and dolphins but the fact is these are intelligent, social and free roaming animals who live in the wild. Not tanks. If the captive industry establishes the precedent of “rescuing” an orca, and then claiming that she cannot be returned to the wild, the real risk is that there will be many more captures of “sick” cetaceans. On the 3rd August, A judge in the Netherlands temporarily suspended the CITES export license previously issued by the Dutch government, questioned the commercial nature of the Dolpinariums decision, and instructed the Dutch Ministry to fully review the options. The judge also asked for Morgan to be moved to a bigger tank. Subsequently the Dutch minister visited the dolfinarium and also met with member of the Free Morgan group. A further court hearing is scheduled for the 9th September.

So today the Dolfinarium Harderwijk and the Dutch government have a clear choice. They can either “set an ugly precedent by using rehabilitation as an excuse to imprison a free orca, or they can be environmental heroes by saving both Morgan’s life and her freedom. The choice is clear”.

Please let both the government of the Netherlands and the Dolfinarium know that you want Morgan to be set free. You can write to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and the Dolfinarium to demand Morgan’s release at:

Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation
Attn.: Minister Henk Bleker and Dienst Regelingen, Mr R.C.W. Aigner
Postbus 20401
2500 CM   The Hague
The Netherlands

Or send a fax (faster, given the urgency!) to +31.70.3786127

Photo of Morgan in her tank from http://theorcaproject.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/morgan-in-her-pool6.jpg

And more at http://www.freemorgan.com/why-morgan-should-be-free and here at http://www.wdcs.org/news.php?select=1008 and a rather sad video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Am6pZAannM