Meditation Focus #91

Saving and Replenishing Life in Our Oceans


What follows is the 91st Meditation Focus suggested for the four consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, July 13, 2003.



1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus


For a number of years now, warnings about the increasing depletion of life in our planet's oceans have been issued by various groups and have led recently to some positive governmental decisions, notably a new resolution, adopted on June 19, 2003, at the 55th International Whaling Commission (IWC), called the Berlin Initiative and supported by a majority of governments, which will enable IWC member countries to tackle the full range of threats to cetaceans beyond commercial whaling. These include by-catch, marine pollution, climate change, noise pollution and ship-strikes. By-catch - entanglement in fishing nets - is the biggest threat of all, causing the death of around 300,000 cetaceans each year. Likewise, a major threat to all marine life, the planned deployment by the U.S. Navy across 75 percent of the world's oceans of a Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) has been blocked last fall by a judge thanks to years of legal proceedings that may lead to a permanent ban on the global deployment of this acoustic menace in the very near future. But much more must be done very soon if we are to avoid rendering lifeless a key element of our global life support system now under threat because of over-fishing, pollution from all kinds of sources, global warming which is killing the corals, to name only a few.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one in four of the world's fish stocks are now over-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion; a further two in four are fully or heavily exploited. Yet the global fishing fleet continues to expand (often with government subsidies) and the level of competition over fish stocks intensifies. As the fishermen themselves compete with one another for fish, there is less and less available for whales and dolphins and other wildlife to eat. It does not bode well for the future. In statistics provided by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the size of the world fishing fleet more than doubled between 1970 and 1990, from 585,000 large boats to 1.2 million vessels. A further frightening example of the rapid growth in fisheries is an estimate of coastal trap and gillnet fisheries. In Chinese coastal waters alone, some 3,500,000 gillnets are believed to be in use. The incidental capture (or bycatch) of dolphins and porpoises in fisheries presents one of the most acute threats to these animals in many parts of the world. Indeed in UK and neighbouring waters, fisheries bycatch has been identified as the most serious threat facing species such as the harbour porpoise. Unfortunately, the largest percentage of bycatch is thrown back into the ocean, either already dead, or in imminent peril of dying. It includes undersized or juvenile fish as well as sea turtles, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. The problems associated with bycatch are not limited to any one ocean or to any one gear type or fishery: longlines, driftnets, gillnets and purse seines have all had difficulties with bycatch to varying degrees. In addition, the problem has not been confined to oceans as marine life in rivers and lakes is also under threat around the world.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming four weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following ones, to contribute in saving and replenishing life in our oceans, especially the whales and dolphins, our next-of-kins in the family of highly intelligent beings now alive on this planet. Working as a cohesive unit encompassing all the participating souls around the world joining in this healing service, let us co-create a renewed awareness of our indivisible unity and interdependence with all other life forms inhabiting this living world and perpetuating through their combined existence and activities the very resilience of the environmental conditions that have enabled the miracle of Life to sustain its presence on Earth for hundreds of millions of years. Let us infuse the collective consciousness of humanity with the urgent plea, coming from throughout the universe and through our very own soul connection with the Universal One, to contribute all together in preserving what is left of our planet's bountiful beauty and vibrant harmony so as to help restore this field of evolutionary growth to its original magnificence and balance, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus is also available at


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.

3. More information on this Meditation Focus

This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.

You may review our previous Meditation Focus #26: Protecting all Marine Life on Earth webposted on November 2, 2000 and available at

Channeled material (received through Suzanne Ward) on the vital importance of cetaceans for anchoring spiritual Light frequencies on Earth as well as other related aspects is also available for your review at

From: John Adams>
Subject: NRDC goes to court against deadly sonar
Date: 9 Jul 2003

Dear NRDC Member,

I wish you could have been with us in court last week as we argued our landmark case to save millions of marine mammals from the Navy's deadly LFA sonar system.

Getting this case to U.S. District Court has been an enormous undertaking: eight years of legal sparring with the Navy; hundreds of pages of carefully drafted legal arguments; tens of thousands of pages of documents entered into the court record; and a never-say-die belief on our part that the health of ocean ecosystems will one day prevail over the world's most powerful military establishment.

But, above all, the road to the courthouse door was paved with thousands and thousands of letters and contributions from caring people like you. That's why, with a ruling in this case still a month away, I wanted you to know right away that we fought the good fight on your behalf last week. The rest is now up to Judge Elizabeth LaPorte.

As you know, Judge LaPorte stunned the Navy last fall by blocking deployment of LFA sonar across 75 percent of the world's oceans until this case could be heard in full and all of NRDC's evidence presented. It is unusual for a judge to clamp this kind of injunction on the military -- especially in times like these -- unless the case against the government is exceedingly strong. We have that kind of case.

Judge LaPorte's courageous ruling last year signaled that the Bush administration had likely violated multiple laws when it gave the Navy permission to harass and injure thousands of marine mammals by flooding oceanhabitats with high-intensity noise.

Since then, NRDC's case has only gotten stronger. We have uncovered reams of new evidence -- much of it drawn from the Navy's own files -- that high-powered LFA noise can cause hemorrhaging in whales, internal injuries in fish, and seizures in human divers.

When our Marine Mammal Protection staff entered the courtroom last week, they encountered a phalanx of Bush administration lawyers and a parade of the government's top scientific experts. But that formidable array of government talent (all paid for by your tax dollars!) faced an uphill battle trying to refute the almost overwhelming case against LFA sonar that we have painstakingly constructed over the past decade.

Based on Judge LaPorte's many thoughtful questions, there is little doubt that she understands the far-reaching dangers posed by this technology -- as well as the illegal manner in which the Bush administration approved its deployment.

All we can do now is wait and hope that Judge LaPorte will impose a permanent ban on the global deployment of this acoustic menace until such a day as the Navy can prove it has complied with federal law and will do no serious harm to marine life. I will, of course, alert you via email the minute we have the judge's ruling in hand.

On behalf of our entire legal team, I want to thank you again for coming to the defense of marine mammals around the world and making this historic case possible.


John H. Adams President Natural Resources Defense Council

. . .

Note: If you have any questions about this message, please write to us at


Date: 11 Jul 2003
From: Cheryl Magill>
Re: Fwd: NRDC goes to court against deadly sonar

Jean, the NRDC's coalition of environmental organizations is indeed to be congratulated. But the permanent injunction, while limiting the scope of the proposed deployment, may also lend the court's endorsement to further testing of SURTASS LFA Sonar for the purpose of creating a supplemental EIS. Biologically sensitive areas off the coast of Hawaii and along Aleutians are proposed as locations for a second LOA. We won't know how that's going to play out until Judge La Porte issues the permanent injunction.... but the documents which both sides referred to during the hearing would generate further acoustic testing in shallow waters. For updates on the coalition's SURTASS LFA sonar case, the Cetacean Community's sonar litigation which is now in appeal, and the appeal against the permanent injuction regarding Scientific Research Permit No. 981-1578-00 at ; please know that new information will be posted as it becomes available at


Cheryl A. Magill

Stop LFAS Worldwide Network



June 24, 2003

Wins in Berlin

Dolphins and other cetaceans face many threats. This year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Berlin (June 16-19) produced a great result for ocean conservation and a challenge for the IWC to protect our oceans.

An historic decision made at last week's annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Berlin (June 16-19) is a vital first step in protecting the planet's largest mammal for future generations. It is a victory for the world's whales and other cetaceans.

Greenpeace was one of 47 conservation groups which backed the Berlin Initiative, establishing a conservation committee in the IWC to protect the world's cetaceans - whales, porpoises and dolphins. The resolution was passed 25 votes to 20 and shifts the focus of the IWC from whale hunting to whale conservation.

It is a defining moment in the history of the IWC which was formed in 1946 to “make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. It was not until 1982 that members of the IWC voted for a ban on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986.

Greenpeace oceans campaigner, Quentin Hanich, sums up: “The IWC's decision to set up a conservation committee means it can now concentrate on the enormous range of human-induced threats which are jeopardising the future survival of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Fisheries bycatch alone is responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 whales and dolphins accidentally caught in fishing nets each year.”

Some other happenings at this year's meeting:

Japan threatened to withdraw from the IWC after its bid to resume commercial whaling was blocked. There is a diminishing market for whale products in Japan and the build-up of toxic chemicals like mercury in whale meat is a serious health risk for consumers.

Greenpeace activists confronted IWC delegates with the grim reality of fisheries accidents by bringing the bodies of three dead harbour porpoises into the lobby of the Estrel Hotel in Berlin where the IWC meeting was held.

While a proposal by Australia and New Zealand to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary fell short of the required three-quarters majority vote, support for the sanctuary increases every year among IWC members.

For the first time, members of the whale watching industry joined the IWC meeting as official observers. Whale watching is worth more than AU$2.26 billion annually worldwide and attracts over nine million participants each year. “We see ourselves as the new whalers,” says Frank Future, of Nelson Bay, NSW, who represented Whale and Dolphin Watch Australia.



19, Jun 2003

WWF hails conservation successes at 55th International Whaling Commission

Berlin, Germany - As the 55th International Whaling Commission (IWC) draws to a close WWF says that after 55 years, the conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (cetaceans) has moved to the very heart of the Commission's work.

A new resolution, the Berlin Initiative, supported by a majority of governments, will enable IWC member countries to tackle the full range of threats to cetaceans beyond commercial whaling. These include by-catch, marine pollution, climate change, noise pollution and ship-strikes. By-catch - entanglement in fishing nets - is the biggest threat of all, causing the death of around 300,000 cetaceans each year.

In addition to this breakthrough, efforts to undermine whale conservation were defeated. Japan had sought a radical expansion of its current whaling programme to catch 150 Bryde's whales and 150 minke whales each year for five years. Its proposal, put forward in defiance of the 1986 global whaling moratorium, was heavily defeated. Sharp criticism was also directed at Japan for their refusal to cease whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.

Two resolutions were adopted, attacking Japan's so-called scientific whaling programme for the poor quality of its science, and a proposal on scientific whaling put forward by Iceland. Both resolutions passed although they are not binding.

"This week has reshaped the future of the IWC," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Head of WWF's Delegation at IWC. "The IWC is now positioned to act, not just on whaling, but on the full range of conservation threats to the world's whales, dolphins, and porpoises. WWF calls on Iceland to set aside its ill-considered plans to resume whaling, and focus instead on further developing its successful whale watching industry."



Conservation wins vote over whaling

Tuesday, 17 June, 2003 : A great victory at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Berlin offers whales, dolphins and porpoises significant protection from our oceans in crisis.

The IWC has passed a resolution, called the Berlin Initiative, which establishes a conservation committee and makes conservation central to its work.

The Berlin Initiative proposal came from more than 40 conservation groups. They asked that the IWC set up a conservation committee to protect cetaceans like the vaquita porpoise in the Gulf of California.

Vaquitas number only 600 and 39 are killed every year in gill nets. Tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of cetaceans die every year as a result of human activities and the degrading of our oceans. Threats include entanglement in fishing nets, toxic and noise pollution, and climate change.

Australia was one of 20 sponsors of the Berlin Initiative which the IWC agreed to on Tuesday. Says Greenpeace Oceans campaigner, Quentin Hanich, "Almost every day, international scientists uncover further evidence that our oceans are in crisis. The new IWC conservation committee has a huge task ahead of it to address this crisis and the various problems facing cetaceans."

Although Japan has once again sabotaged the possibility of a permanent whale sanctuary in the South Pacific by buying votes, at least the Berlin Initiative makes cetacean conservation a priority.


See also:

New Threats to Dolphins
Congress Tries to Weaken Dolphin Protection Laws

Greenpeace - Whales campaign

Greenpeace - Ocean News

Whales in a Degraded Ocean (2001, pdf, 17 pages, 1.05mb)

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Clean & Healthy Seas

Oceans of Noise
This report highlights the many sources of noise pollution in the marine environment today, including vessel traffic, oil and gas exploration, seismic surveys, ocean experiments, military sources, acoustic harassment devices, dredging, and marine wind farms. The report goes on to recommend an urgent action plan to provide essential information about and mitigate these threats.

Overfishing threatens cod stock in the Barents Sea

The Barents Sea - rich but vulnerable
"Prestige" will not be the last - "Statistically there will be a major oil catastrophe in Norway in the next ten years. We have until now been extremely fortunate." The Nansen Research Center, Fiskets Gang, 25th of February 2003. Less than half a year ago the oil tanker Prestige, registered in the Bahamas, sank with over 70.000 tons of oil off the coast of Spain. The income of Spanish coastal fishermen vanished, 130.000 seabirds were affected, and the job of cleaning up has so far cost over one billion Euros. The oil tanker traffic from Russia has lately increased dramatically, and by that the risk of a major tanker accident in the Barents. The consequences for fisheries and fauna in this area would be catastrophic. The Norwegian government is not prepared should such an accident take place. CLIP

Cetaceans and oil

Chemical Pollution

Noise pollution

In some parts of the world, the bodies of whales and dolphins washing ashore are so highly contaminated that they qualify as toxic waste and have to be specially disposed of.




Fishing is a fundamental cornerstone in the culture of coastal communities, as in the Baltic. But during the last 50 years the fishing has been transformed to a high-tech global industry with the capacity to radically change the marine environment.

Vacuuming of the world's seas has lead to many species and whole ecosystems being wiped out. According to the UN organization FAO* 75% of the largest fish stocks are over fished or fully exploited. In the EU 67 % of the most important fish stocks are over fished.

As a consequence of the special environment the Baltic Sea has few fish species and a simple food chain. As there are very few species there are also few "replacements" in the chain when one species is weakened or disappears. Many species in the Baltic, for instance the cod, are very sensitive for changes and dependent on influxes of oxygen and salt rich water from the North Sea.

When this is combined with other stress factors such as climate change, destruction of natural environments and toxic emissions many fish stocks are seriously threatened. Many biologists however are emphasizing that the pressure from fishing is one of the largest factors for the reduction of cod and herring in the Baltic.

Unsustainable quotas Quotas regulate how much of each species can be caught by each country in a particular area of the sea each year. Quotas in the Baltic are set by the IBSFC*** for the commercially most important species - in particular cod, herring, sprat and salmon that constitutes more than 90 % of the commercial catch. When the quotas are set the IBSFC ask for recommendations from the ICES** , an international scientific body. Despite this the final quotas are often far higher than the recommendations from the ICES.

The cod is a well-known example of a species that has been over fished for many years and where the stocks are now on the verge of collapse. For 2002 the quota set by IBSFC is 109 % higher than what the scientists at ICES recommend. The cod, however, is not the only species on the verge of extinction. The quotas for the four commercially most important species in the Baltic exceed what the scientists recommend. If the quotas are not decreased in correspondence with ICES recommendations these species are also in the danger zone, especially herring.

Economy and politics steer

Quotas are the determining factor and are mainly decided by political and financial interests. Substantial EU subsidies for the building of large trawlers had lead to an over capacity in the fishing fleet. EU financial support to Sweden for modernization and the building of fishing vessels between 2000 and 2006 is a record high subsidy of 197 million Euros.

This development is happening despite that EU goal since 1996 is to reduce the fleet capacity by at least 40 %. The fast and effective trawlers, which are owned by a few people, need large catches to survive financially. The result is that fish is being vacuumed and that the high quotas must be maintained for the owners to cope financially.

On the 30 May 2002 ICES will publish their recommended quotas for 2003. Everything indicates that the fish stocks in the Baltic have not been improved and that the recommendations from the scientists remain. Sweden, who praises itself on being a leader in environmental questions, must take these recommendations to heart and act.

So far the Swedish government has only repeated the political mantra of the 21the century; "that this must be solved internationally". But to refrain from acting because others are not is unacceptable. Sweden blames other Baltic states and the EU, who in turn blames the OECD, who blames the WTO and the general globalization. In this way the issue of responsibility is just rotated around the globe without anyone doing anything. It is imperative for the future of the fish and the fishing industry that Sweden takes the lead, not only in words but also in action.



Introduction to Fisheries

The introduction of increasingly destruction fishing methods and the staggering growth of many modern commercial fisheries - particularly since the 1950s - have spelt disaster for whales and dolphins around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of them - possibly even millions - are unnecessarily drowned in fishing nets every year. Some of the worst culprits are driftnets, coastal gillnets and, until recently, purse-seine nets used by the tuna fishing industry. But fishing nets of all shapes and sizes take a heavy toll.

The most indiscriminate method of fishing ever devised is probably driftnetting. Hanging in the water like invisible curtains, unseen and undetectable, driftnets are allowed to be carried freely with the ocean currents and winds. Dubbed 'walls of death', or 'curtains of death', they catch everything in their paths: sharks, turtles, seabirds, seals, whales, dolphins and many other 'non-target' species. Each net can be anything up to 50 kilometres in length (although nets longer than 2.5 kilometres are now illegal) and there are literally thousands of kilometres of them floating around the world's seas and oceans at any one time - more than enough to circle the Earth at the equator.

Gillnets are similar to driftnets in design, although much smaller, and pose another serious threat. Due to their relative low cost, these death-traps are widely used in coastal areas and major rivers through out the developing world. There is no way of knowing precise numbers, because there are no figures for most countries, but tens of thousands of small cetaceans are believed to drown in them every year. It is a worldwide problem stretching from New Zealand to Sri Lanka and from Canada to Britain.

Perhaps the most infamous culprit, responsible for killing more dolphins in the past 35 years than any other human activity, is the tuna-fishing industry. In the eastern tropical Pacific, a stretch of ocean extending from southern California to Chile and covering an area roughly the size of Canada, it has directly caused the deaths of an estimated 6-12 million dolphins. In the worst period during the 1960s and early 1970s, between 200,000 and 500,000 dolphins were being killed in the region every year. As a direct result, some stocks of spotted and spinner dolphins have declined by as much as 75 per cent, while common and Fraser's dolphins have also been badly hit.

Hidden behind these frightening statistics are stories of unimaginable suffering. Whales, dolphins and porpoises entangled in fishing nets struggle to reach the surface to breathe, only to remain trapped underwater where they die slow, lingering deaths. Dolphins caught in purse-seine nets rush at the net walls, getting tangled by their beaks, flippers and flukes, and then drown amid great canopies of loose netting.

As if entanglement and drowning were not enough, it is not the only source of conflict. Whales, dolphins and porpoises around the world could also be threatened by the sheer scale of modern fisheries. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one in four of the world's fish stocks are now over-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion; a further two in four are fully or heavily exploited. Yet the global fishing fleet continues to expand (often with government subsidies) and the level of competition over fish stocks intensifies. As the fishermen themselves compete with one another for fish, there is less and less available for whales and dolphins and other wildlife to eat. It does not bode well for the future.


See also:

Introduction to the tuna/dolphin issue
One of the best-known and most controversial challenges for dolphin conservation has been that of the "tuna/dolphin" issue.

The La Jolla Agreement: International Steps to Control Dolphin Fishing
In 1992, the nations fishing in the Eastern Pacific signed the La Jolla Agreement, which called for "reducing the take of dolphins to levels approaching zero" and "searching for alternative means of catching large yellowfin tuna that do not involve encircling dolphins, with a goal of eliminating dolphin mortality in this fishery.

The International Dolphin Conservation Programme Agreement (IDCPA)
Partly in response to the concerns about the non-binding nature of the La Jolla Agreement, and partly in hopes of lifting economic sanctions that had been placed against their yellowfin tuna products by the United States government for having high dolphin mortality rates, the nations that operated purse seine tuna boats in the Eastern Pacific drafted an Agreement in 1995, known as the Panama Declaration.

Tuna/dolphin labelling in the USA
U.S. ratification of the IDCPA required legislative changes to the dolphin-safe standard in the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act of the United States. On July 30, 1997 The U.S. Senate passed legislation to lift the embargo on imports of yellowfin tuna caught in compliance with the Panama Declaration.

Tuna/dolphin labelling in Europe
In 1992, by means of EC law 3034/92, the European Commission proposed changes to Community laws regarding the conservation of resources in fisheries technology. According to the changes made, "all purse seine activities that could cause the death of marine mammals (notably in the eastern and central Pacific) are prohibited".

WDCS Concerns about the Dolphin Safe Label
With annual catches of more than 3 million tonnes for a biomass estimated at 15 to 20 million tonnes and commercial transactions valued at more than US$ 6 billion, all products included, tuna is the most traded fishing product on the world market.



Introduction to Bycatch

In statistics provided by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the size of the world fishing fleet more than doubled between 1970 and 1990, from 585,000 large boats to 1.2 million vessels. A further frightening example of the rapid growth in fisheries is an estimate of coastal trap and gillnet fisheries. In Chinese coastal waters alone, some 3,500,000 gillnets are believed to be in use.

The incidental capture (or bycatch) of dolphins and porpoises in fisheries presents one of the most acute threats to these animals in many parts of the world. Indeed in UK and neighbouring waters, fisheries bycatch has been identified as the most serious threat facing species such as the harbour porpoise.

A number of fishing gear types are implicated in the bycatch of cetaceans. Probably the most publicised cases of cetacean bycatch have been those associated with driftnets and purse-seine tuna fisheries. The indiscriminate nature of high seas driftnets and their high bycatches of cetaceans and other non-target species led to agreement by the UN of a global ban on large scale (defined as greater than 2.5km) high seas driftnets, although this has not been strictly enforced. This restriction was enshrined in EU law in 1992 and in 1998 the EU agreed to a prohibition on driftnets of any length in tuna and similar fisheries, coming into effect in 2002.

The case of purse-seine fisheries for tuna which swim in association with dolphins, largely concentrated in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), has resulted in the deaths of literally millions of dolphins since the 1950s. This fishery is now subject to strict observation and international regulation but, although dolphin catch levels have declined dramatically, it still accounts for thousands of dolphin deaths per year.

However, the bycatch of dolphins and other cetaceans also occurs in many other fisheries that have not 'hit the headlines' to such a great extent. In particular, there is considerable evidence from many parts of the world of high mortality of harbour porpoises and a number of dolphin species caused by bottom-set gill nets. In addition, there is now growing awareness of the considerable bycatch of dolphins that occurs in pelagic (or mid-water) trawl fisheries. These two types of fishery are briefly examined here. It should, however, be borne in mind that many other fisheries have not yet been monitored for cetacean bycatch and problems are likely to occur elsewhere. Recommendations are also made on some of the demands that retailers should be making of the industry and the regulators at a government and EU level.



(...) Bycatch is defined as an unintentional take of fish and animals associated with commercial fishing operations. Unfortunately, the largest percentage of bycatch is thrown back into the ocean, either already dead, or in imminent peril of dying. It includes undersized or juvenile fish as well as sea turtles, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. The problems associated with bycatch are not limited to any one ocean or to any one gear type or fishery: longlines, driftnets, gillnets and purse seines have all had difficulties with bycatch to varying degrees. In addition, the problem has not been confined to oceans. For example, the Chinese river dolphin, or baiji, has been brought to the brink of extinction due in part to its entanglement in bottom snagline, or rolling hook, fishing gear.

According to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), "the incidental capture of cetaceans appears to be almost universal in drift and set gillnets and a common occurence in some trap fisheries. Wherever cetaceans and gillnets are found in the same area, at least some cetaceans are caught." For example, the Hector's dolphin, one of the rarest dolphins in the world, with a population estimate of just 3,000 to 4,000 animals, has long been considered vulnerable due to its proximity to shore. Hector's dolphins favour shallower coastal waters, and accidental entanglement in fishing nets is a major cause of death.

One of the most problematic examples of bycatch involving cetaceans was that of a drift gillnet fishery off the northeastern coast of the United States. Researchers highlighted the fact that individuals from the highly endangered northern right whale population - fewer than 300 animals - were becoming entangled in such fishing gear on a regular basis. Studies in the early 1990s showed that 57% of these endangered animals showed signs of scars typical of entanglement in fishing gear. Fortunately, the US Government chose to act upon the advice of scientists, and closed the fishery in November of 1996.

Drift gillnet fisheries off the west coast of the United States have also proved to be deadly to cetaceans. According to a US Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Report for 1996, ten species of cetaceans were being affected by the Southern California drift gillnet fishery. The report estimated, that for every 22 swordfish taken, one whale or dolphin was killed as bycatch. Frighteningly, it has been suggested that for every pound of swordfish brought to the table for consumption, an equal weight of dolphin or whale was killed! From 1991 through 1995, some 2,261 whales and dolphin were killed in this swordfish fishery alone.

Gear other than drift gillnets have also caused high levels of cetacean mortality. Inshore bottom-trawlers, known as 'harimau' or 'tiger' nets, target prawns. Unfortunately, the tiger nets also disturb the seabed, and result in huge percentages of bycatch discards, including whales and dolphins. Such tiger or trawl net operations have been banned in Indonesia since 1980 because of their destructiveness. However, a recent occurence highlights the problems of enforcement and control in such attempts to bring fisheries practices under control.

Despite the Indonesian ban on tiger nets, they have frequently been reported being used along Indonesian border areas by foreign fleets, such as Thailand (near Riau) and the Philippines (near Sanghe-Talaud). A newer, even more destructive type of tiger net rightly nicknamed "the curtain of death" was uncovered in Northern Sulawesi in the Lembeh Straits. Apparently sponsored by Taiwan - long famous for its disregard of the UN driftnet ban - this net trap system was used for at least eleven months in 1996 and 1997. In that time, more than 550 pilot whales and 250 dolphins were reported killed, in addition to 1400 manta rays, 300 sharks and whale sharks, and numerous non-target fish species.



Driftnets - the silent killers

In June 1998 the European Union moved to finally phase out the use of driftnets in European waters. The proposal included a phase out of all driftnets by European nationals and a ban on the use of driftnets in European waters. The nets must be phased out by the December 31st of the year 2001.

Both France and Ireland opposed the ban but were defeated after a late evening session. Italy, with the largest fleet of driftnetters in the region, abstained on the crucial vote. In the meantime there will be a reduction in the number of driftnetters allowed to operate in European waters. The 1998 season, which had already started was to be reduced to 40% of the average number of vessels operating during the 95,96,97 season. By 2001 this will be down to 25% of the number of vessels calculated on the same criteria. However, Italy should have phased out its fleet totally by this point. WDCS has been campaigning for several years to obtain a complete ban on all driftnets in European waters. Driftnets have been shown to be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of whale and dolphins (cetaceans) every year.

In 1989, the United Nations described large-scale high seas driftnets as "a highly indiscriminate and wasteful fishing method" and adopted a resolution to ban them. Despite this international condemnation, high seas driftnets continue to kill thousands of dolphins and all manner of other marine life - right here in Europe.

Driftnets have been used for centuries, set with floats at the top and weights at the bottom so that they drift passively in the water and catch the fish that swim into them. Traditionally these were small nets used in coastal waters to catch dense schooling fish, like herring. However, with the introduction of light synthetic netting in the 1970s, driftnet fishing underwent a major change. Large-scale driftnets could then be used on the high seas where they are very effective at catching wide-ranging species such as tuna and squid. By the same token, these driftnets, which are barely visible in the water, are devastatingly effective at catching any wildlife in their path.

Large-scale high seas driftnets were first used in the North Pacific by fleets from Japan, Taiwan and the South Korea. Boats set as much as 50km (around 32 miles) of driftnet each, totalling some 50,000km (32,000 miles) of driftnet every night. Because of the huge bycatch of marine wildlife in these nets they were labelled "walls of death". Hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks and other non-target fish have been killed.


See also:

The history of driftnets in the North-East Atlantic

Technical Measures - 'Dolphin Doors'



Marine Turtles


Six of the seven species of marine turtles are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered, and the outlook is increasingly grim. In the Pacific, leatherbacks are heading for extinction, fast, and in the Mediterranean, green turtle numbers have plummeted. All seven species of marine turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), thus prohibiting international trade by more than 140 CITES member nations.

Marine turtles appear to have the potential to reproduce abundantly: females can lay hundreds of eggs in one nesting season. But even under "natural" conditions, relatively few young turtles survive their first year of life. Predators such as crabs, foxes, and birds often kill the hatchlings as they make their way from the nest to the sea, and when they reach the shallows, many more tiny turtles are taken by fish. When humans harvest turtle eggs or disturb nesting beaches, the scales become tipped even more heavily against young turtles.

It takes decades for surviving juveniles to reach maturity and start to breed, and adult turtles must live to reproduce over many years if the population is to thrive. But escalating mortality on the high seas, in the nets and long-lines of fishing fleets, and from pollution and disease, means fewer and fewer turtles are living long enough to reproduce.

Effective conservation means protecting turtles at all stages of their life cycle. Protecting nesting beaches calls for action at the local level, and protecting juvenile and adult turtles in oceanic waters calls for enforceable international agreements. It can work: in the Gulf of Mexico thirty years of conservation is helping Kemp's ridley turtle to make a slow comeback. For other species, however, time is running out.

WWF is working around the world to conserve marine turtles by:

- Establishing and strengthening protected areas around nesting beaches

- Raising awareness so that local communities become involved in protecting turtles and their nests

- Promoting regional and international agreements to conserve marine turtles.

- Lobbying for turtle-friendly fishing practices, such as the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in nets.

- Halting the illegal trade of turtle meat and eggs, though TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN.



Largest Ever Capture of Dolphins Discovered And What You can do about it!

From: Richard O'Barry, Date: 7/12/03

For immediate release: Friday 11th July

Hundreds of captured dolphins are being held in small pens in the Solomon Islands. A foreign syndicate is likely to sell them to overseas buyers.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is appalled to have discovered that a $400 bounty has led to the capture and confinement of up to 200 dolphins, by local fisherman in the Solomon Islands, north of Australia.

Local fishermen have been rounding up animals by the dozen, which a foreign business group is rumored to be collecting and training for shipment overseas. A spokesperson for the Solomon Islands Civil Society Group has confirmed the number now stands at around 200 - the largest ever capture and a fifth of the total number of dolphins currently kept in captivity worldwide.

"This is an animal welfare tragedy and could well have a serious impact on the environment," said Ric O'Barry, WSPA's Marine Mammal Specialist, "The taking of so many dolphins from one small area is unbelievably damaging to the local dolphins' gene pool. We call on the government to take urgent action to stop this and to set the captive dolphins free."

According to local media reports, fisherman have been taking the dolphins from the water and holding them in small sea cages on the island of Gela, off the capital, Honiara. Many of those captured must travel for hours by open boat before reaching these cages; journeys that are excruciating for a water-borne creature, as its internal organs are slowly crushed by its immense weight.

As well as the questions surrounding the legality of this hunt, one captured dolphin has already been killed by a crocodile. WSPA experts expect that the death toll will rise from stress-induced illness, improper care and malnutrition as dolphins battle for the scarce food supply.

O'Barry said, "Such a large number of animals is extremely difficult to manage, especially if there's a lack of medicine, equipment and staff. It appears that the animals are in very crowded conditions, which is also a concern because this can lead to stress and aggression. It takes thousands of pounds of fish -- per day -- to feed so many dolphins, which indicates the likelihood that they will be going hungry." O'Barry adds, "To WSPA's knowledge this has never happened in the Solomon Islands before. Given the special status of dolphins in the local culture, this is very worrying."

Dolphins have long been a cherished part of the Solomon Islands' cultural heritage. Many of the animals are being taken from waters off the island of Malaita, where dolphin teeth are part of traditional bridal dowry ceremonies. In other areas, it is taboo to harm a dolphin, based on the ancient belief that humans with mystical powers could transform themselves into sea creatures.

WSPA's network of veterinarians and marine mammal rescue experts is on stand-by to advise the government on this crisis.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THIS CRISIS! Please write a short, respectful message asking the government to stop these captures immediately, and release the survivors back into the wild. [Or send prewritten letter, below.]

There is no need to cc: your letters to me. Please be sure to delete all information other than your signed letter. It is important for these government officials to see what countries we are writing from so they understand that word of these horrific captures has spread.

Honorable Nelson Kile Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources P.O. Box G13 Honiara Solomon Islands Telephone: (+677) 39143 or (+677) 30107 Facsimile: (+677) 38730 Email:

Honorable David Holosivi Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Conservation P.O. Box G24 Honiara Solomon Islands Telephone: (+677) 25848 or (+677) 22453 Facsimile: (+677) 22825 Email:

See also:

Soloman Islands - Outrage Over Dolphins-for-dollars Scheme (With a picture)



Protect Gray Whales from Offshore Oil Drilling Action Alert

From: Environmental Defense,
Date: 7/9/03

Help protect endangered gray whales and unique fisheries from the world's largest offshore oil and gas project, set to begin operation in the western Pacific Ocean this summer. Take action! Urge power companies to boycott Sakhalin II until environmental safeguards are in place.

Take action or get more information:

Take action by July 18, 2003

** Protect Gray Whales and Rich Fisheries from Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling **

This summer, Sakhalin II, the world's largest offshore oil and gas project begins production in the rich Pacific waters between Russia and Japan. But spills and pollution from this project threaten critically endangered Western Pacific Gray Whales, sea birds, and one of the richest salmon, herring, cod and crab fisheries on earth. Take action to protect this rare ecosystem. Ask Japanese power companies, slated to buy this oil and gas, to boycott Sakhalin gas until necessary environmental protections are in place.

CLIP - Explanations as to how you may Act to stop this are available at

For more information, please review the material posted by the Global Meditation Focus Group at