Upgrading the cells at San Quentin

Lolita  at the  Miami Seaquarium
 SeaWorld to Upgrade Killer Whale Habitats
The Wall Street Journal

"SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (SEAS), suffering from negative publicity and flagging attendance, plans to announce on Friday a new expansion of the habitats housing its signature killer whales."

First let's define the word habitat, because saying you are going to upgrade a captive marine mammal's habitat sounds upbeat, doesn't it? Like adding wallpaper to a prisoner's cell at San Quentin or Sing Sing, and putting in a porcelain toilet with a heated seat.

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © defines habitat as:
1.  ecology home environment: the natural conditions and environment in which a plant or animal lives, e.g. forest, desert, wetlands, OR OCEAN.
2.  typical location: the place in which a person or group is usually found -- OR OCEAN.
3.  artificially created environment: a sealed controlled environment in which people OR CAPTIVE ANIMALS can live OR BE KEPT ALIVE in unusual conditions such as under the sea or in space. OR IN A CONCRETE TANK.

"The company is locked in a battle with animal-rights activists, who say that training and publicly performing killer whales is an inherently cruel act. The documentary "Blackfish," which has been screened in cinemas and broadcast multiple times by CNN, raised these criticisms to a higher level of public awareness, and has harmed the company's financial results."

So SeaWorld's solution: Add 15 feet of depth to their pool and 5 million more gallons of water. Happy Whales. And their real motivation? "Investors haven't been kind. SeaWorld shares fell by one-third on Wednesday and are off nearly 50% over the past 12 months. The stock declined another 4.8% to $18 on Thursday."

We can still fix this by not going to SeaWorld or the Miami Seaquarium, now or ever.

Lolita is 21 feet long in a tank that is 23 feet deep. She shares this space with 3 Pacific White-sided dolphins. It has been her habitat for 44 years.

THANK YOU, Mr. Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica,

Article image
The movie, BLACKFISH, leads lawmaker to introduce bill.


NationofChange / News Report
Published: Saturday 8 March 2014
The proposed bill, (introduced by State assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica,) would make it illegal to “hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught” or “captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.” 

"Currently, SeaWorld in San Diego is the only facility in California that has 10 orcas held in tanks for entertainment purposes and, if the bill were signed into law, the facility will be forced to make changes.

While many other aquariums around the world are proven to be just as successful without showcasing captive orcas, California might just be on pace to join India, Croatia, Hungary, Chile and Costa Rica in outlawing cetacean captivity altogether."

Legislation would make it illegal to breed, import, export or keep killer whales for entertainment purposes in California
Legislation proposed by a Santa Monica assemblyman could prohibit SeaWorld from keeping performing orcas at its San Diego park. (Bob Couey / Associated Press / January 20, 2003)

What's Right for Whales?

Lolita at Seaquarium
Photo by NG
Lolita's tank for 37 years.
Photo by NG

*I don't know why this is double-spaced and couldn't fix it.

I've got great news and bad news. I've been asked by a rather famous publishing company to write (another book) about a dolphin and an autistic child. This is a first for me. Usually, I struggle to come up with an idea, struggle (often for years) to write it, then enjoy numerous rejection letters before finding a publisher, or giving up and putting it on a shelf in the closet with my other failures. To be honest, I hardly know how to act under these circumstances. 


I've been working on this book since April and am getting there. The bad news is I have to visit the Miami Seaquarium to finish up my research.

A portion of Dolphin Sky took place at the Seaquarium. It was a cruddy little place back then. Hugo, the Killer whale, was the star attraction, as was one of the Flippers. Hugo died, so they replaced him with Lolita. (There's a movie about her capture entitled, Lolita.)


A few nights ago CNN showed the new documentary Blackfish, about the Orca that killed his trainer at Sea World in Orlando. I'm begging you to see this movie. 

BLACKFISH is available on Netflix after 11/12/13.     

By Elizabeth Batt
Jun 27, 2013 in Environment

Miami - Time is running out for a solitary orca held at Miami Seaquarium. Lolita, also called Tokitae, was one of the first whales in a brutal roundup that captured orcas for display in marine parks between 1965 and 1973.

Lolita is the last surviving orca of about 45 members of the Southern Resident community who underwent a brutal capture that saw several other orcas perish in the attempt. For more than 40 years, she has resided in a 35-foot tank (many say illegally-sized), at Miami Seaquarium in Florida. Lolita has not seen another orca in more than 30 years. Her once companion orca, Hugo, died after repeatedly hitting his head against the tank walls. Yet in the wild, her mother still lives writes Candace Calloway Whiting at Seattle Pi:

And then, a little more good news:

‘Astonishing’ North Pacific right whale sighting is only the second in 62 years off British Columbia

North Pacific right whale spotted last week off British Columbia. Photo by John Ford
Right Whale

Last previous sighting was a mammal killed by whalers in 1951; it's the most endangered whale species on earth 

Full Story Pacific Right Whale sighting

Drawing of a North Pacific right whale is courtesy of Wikipedia, via NOAA

Why are they called RIGHT WHALES? 
Because of their docile nature, their slow surface-skimming feeding behaviors, their tendencies to stay close to the coast, and their high blubber content (which makes them float when they are killed, and which produced high yields of whale oil), right whales were a preferred target for whalers. Today, the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered whales in the world. Wikipedia.

Point Cabrillo Light Station

Painting of the Light Station
by Lynne Prentice

I started by leading bird walks at the Point Cabrillo Light Station in 1996, and ended up as president of the non-profit that operates it. I'm still on the Board of Directors.

My favorite time of year to be at the lighthouse is now. March is when the gray whales are migrating back to Alaska, which can be a hazardous 6000 mile journey.

Below is a photo of Orcas attacking a gray whale. A few years ago, people witnessed just such an attack in front of the lighthouse.

Point Cabrillo and the tall ship, the Lynx
by Harold Hauck
That's a Coast Guard cutter on the right

The 3rd Order Fresnel Lens is back in service
in the Lighthouse
 Thanks to Bruce Lewis for the video.
This is also the time of year when the Harbor seals give birth, often on the rocks only yards offshore from the lighthouse. Within two hours of being born, the baby follows its mother into the ocean, frequently reappearing in the cove just to the east of the lighthouse.
Harbor Seal and Pup by Ron LeValley


Nancy's Orcas

This is one of my favorite paintings by my friend Nancy Collins. I should have thought to include it in the blog about orcas, but it's not too late, is it? Consider it a teaser for what might be coming next. She's been working on a painting for me that I hope to share with you in the next couple of days.
Nancy Collins's Orcas        

Got an itch?

Another picture from Baja. I was in the other panga when I took this picture. I know it looks like the whale has either been hit in the head by the little boat, or is trying to consume it bow first, but she's really just using in for a 'toothpick.' Or her baleen itched.

Gray whales are baleen whales. Orcas, dolphins, and Sperm whales are in the toothed whale family. Baleen functions like a giant sieve. The whale vacuums up microscopic organisms from the sea floor, and pushes the water and sand out through the baleen with its thousand pound tongue. What's left is dinner.