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Chuck Swift

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Chuck Swift from “Whale Wars” is the Bob Barker Captain and a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Animal Planet reality docu-drama.

Born and raised in Southern California, Chuck Swift has a history of involvement in conservation and animal welfare issues spanning the last 20 years.

Captain Chuck (“Whale Wars”) began volunteering for Sea Shepherd in 1990 and remained involved for nearly a decade. Captain Chuck Swift’s campaign roster includes the 1994 Whales Forever campaign in which Sea Shepherd was violently attacked by the Norwegian Coast Guard, multiple seal campaigns including the explosive 1996 confrontation in the Magdalene Islands, and a variety of other campaigns before and after.

During his absence from Sea Shepherd, Captain Chuck (“Whale Wars”) worked in various professions, earned a degree in Business Administration, a professional certificate in Change Leadership from Cornell University, and as time permits, he continues his studies toward a Masters in Communication and Leadership. Since his return to Sea Shepherd in early 2009, Captain Chuck Swift has functioned as Sea Shepherd’s Deputy CEO, positively influencing both the administrative and ship operations sides of organization—most notably helping to secretly acquire, refit and then ultimately captain Sea Shepherd’s newest ship the Bob Barker during Operation Waltzing Matilda.
Captain Chuck (“Whale Wars”) believes that the time for talking is over, and prefers a direct action approach on behalf of Sea Shepherd’s customers (“the salty ones”) currently threatened by societal greed and exploitation. While serious about his dedication to the protection of marine and other ecosystems, Captain Swift maintains that a good sense of humor and positive attitude are critical to the success of any movement. Captain Chuck (“Whale Wars”) has been heard to say, “We should take our mission seriously, but never ourselves.”

International Anti-Whaling Day 5 November.

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Mmm, so it’s been a few days since I did the whole blog thing. What have I been up to? This is the question.
Aside from a very dull day job, I’ve been working behind the scenes with some cool people for the International Anti-Whaling Day Protests happening tomorrow, 5 November. Cape Town and Pretoria being two of more than 120 cities in over 60 countries taking part.

So, what’s all the noise about? Well firstly, each year around 22 000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Japan alone. These creatures are herded into a death trap where they get speared to death and their throats are slit. The Japanese also hunt whales. Lots of them. More than a thousand. Around 900 Minke whales, the balance made up of hump-backs, southern rights etc. The Japanese do this in a protected area and attempt to disguise the massacre as research. The IWC are spineless and recent evidence goes so far as to show Japan giving monetary aid to developing nations on condition of supporting Japanese whaling policy. Thats buying the IWC vote!

Whaling has hardly changed in the last 100 years. These majestic creatures are shot with a harpoon which has an exploding tip attached to it, The harpoon shot does not kill the whale, but causes massive trauma and unbearable pain. The injured and alarmed whale thrashes futilely against its fetters and is shot repeatedly with rifles until it dies some time later.

Now, before you wish to vent your fury solely on the Japanese, consider the following. Japan is one of TEN nations involved in this barbaric practice. So is the US of America,  Russia, Norway, Faroe Islands, Canada, Indonesia, Greenland, Iceland, St Vincent and the Grenadines. The slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands is particularly heinous and very much akin to the atrocities perpetuated in Taiji Japan. Paul Watson refers to them as the Ferocious Islands. The participants of the “grind” slaughter just under a thousand each year. The water turns crimson as it is stained with blood as men with machetes and knives hack these innocent creatures to death. None are spared, not even pregnant females.

 

I could continue ad nauseum, but you get the picture. So thats what all the noise is about. Fortunately, people do actually care. Hundreds of folks from all around the world will unite in condemnation of this horribly cruel practice. It will be the largest animal rights protest in history. I am proud to have played a small roll in its execution and I further thank and congratulate all parties involved for their contribution. I pray that policies surrounding whaling change, the slaughter relegated to a thing of the past, a haunting reminder of the apes we used to be.
For further info and how you can help, check out the facebook page for Sea Shepherd SA

Barbaric. Utterly Disgusting.

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I have been criticized as being a bit “over the top” with regards to my love and passion for wildlife, nature and the creatures I share the planet with. I have resigned from my crappy poor paying job in the corporate world. It may be good for some people, but sitting behind a counter, shuffling paper back and forth and dealing with a chain of incompetent useless idiots… well it brought me not one iota of happiness. It was Ghandi, I think, who said “Our future depends on what we do in the present.” And this IS the present. So what AM I doing? I am raising awareness, sharing ideas and fighting rampant cruelty as best as I can. I have joined up with Sea Shepherd. Some of you groaning “those lunatics!” Yes. Sea Shepherd. Lunatics? Watch this clip and decide for yourself before you condemn the folks who actually have the balls to do something about protecting the marine environment.

My attempts may be in vain, after all saving the life of one animal will not change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal. At the end of the day, when all is said and done… will you have said more than you have done? Thanks Gina for these wise words. For one so young and yet so aware, you are an inspiration. You are already the voice that animals do not have.

Pic of the Day

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Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.
Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence.
The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.
“Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size,” said Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates. 
“The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,” she added.
Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioural studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

It has also become clear that they are “cultural” animals, meaning that new types of behaviour can quickly be picked up by one dolphin from another.
In one study, Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognise themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes.
In another, she found that captive animals also had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language.

Other research has shown dolphins can solve difficult problems, while those living in the wild co-operate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication.

In one recent case, a dolphin rescued from the wild was taught to tail-walk while recuperating for three weeks in a dolphinarium in Australia.

After she was released, scientists were astonished to see the trick spreading among wild dolphins who had learnt it from the former captive.

There are many similar examples, such as the way dolphins living off Western Australia learnt to hold sponges over their snouts to protect themselves when searching for spiny fish on the ocean floor.
Such observations, along with others showing, for example, how dolphins could co-operate with military precision to round up shoals of fish to eat, have prompted questions about the brain structures that must underlie them.
Size is only one factor. Researchers have found that brain size varies hugely from around 7oz for smaller cetacean species such as the Ganges River dolphin to more than 19lb for sperm whales, whose brains are the largest on the planet. Human brains, by contrast, range from 2lb-4lb, while a chimp’s brain is about 12oz.
When it comes to intelligence, however, brain size is less important than its size relative to the body.
What Marino and her colleagues found was that the cerebral cortex and neocortex of bottlenose dolphins were so large that “the anatomical ratios that assess cognitive capacity place it second only to the human brain”. They also found that the brain cortex of dolphins such as the bottlenose had the same convoluted folds that are strongly linked with human intelligence.
Such folds increase the volume of the cortex and the ability of brain cells to interconnect with each other. “Despite evolving along a different neuroanatomical trajectory to humans, cetacean brains have several features that are correlated with complex intelligence,” Marino said.

Marino and Reiss will present their findings at a conference in San Diego, California, next month, concluding that the new evidence about dolphin intelligence makes it morally repugnant to mistreat them.
Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, who has written a series of academic studies suggesting dolphins should have rights, will speak at the same conference.
“The scientific research . . . suggests that dolphins are ‘non-human persons’ who qualify for moral standing as individuals,” he said.

Greenpeace Activists clash with fishermen at sea. Epic battle rages.

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A Greenpeace activist had to be airlifted to hospital after having a boat hook slice through his leg during violent clashes at sea with fishermen.

French fishing crews sank two Greenpeace inflatables and badly damaged another as the conservationists tried to prevent them catching Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Frank Hewetson, an activist on one of seven inflatables deployed by Greenpeace for the operation, was badly hurt when a gaffe hook pierced his leg. He was then hauled the length of an inflatable as a fisherman pulled on the gaffe hook to bring the vessel closer. The protesters were met with an “extremely violent, armed reaction” from the fishermen, and a number of activists were injured, Greenpeace’s Oliver Knowles said in a video of the incident.

In turn, Jean-Marie Avallone, the owner of French fishing boats, claimed a fisherman had been hurt when the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise rammed a trawler during a further clash.
Members of the conservation group questioned the claim and said they were unaware of any collision.

Willie Mackenzie, an activist on board, wrote: “The fishermen reacted with a shocking level of violence and complete disregard for anyone’s safety. They attacked our inflatable boats.”
Olly Knowles, another activist trying to disrupt the tuna fishing fleets in the Mediterranean, said: “Frank got a boat hook all the way through his leg. It made quite a hole. “A lot of the fishermen were very seriously armed with knives, clubs, and harpoons. There was a real intention of violence.”

The second confrontation took place as a cage full of bluefin tuna was towed towards the Tunisian coast to be added to a tuna ranch – where the live fish are fattened up for sale. Greenpeace tried to cut away some of the ropes holding the net in place but they were again met by a robust response from the crews: “We were met with a less violent but still vigorous defence.”

It is the first time that Greenpeace has tried to free bluefin tuna from nets or cages and it marks a change in tactics for the group which has been frustrated by the continued failure of the European Union to stop issuing tuna quotas.
Atlantic bluefin tuna numbers are estimated to have slumped by at least 80 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and they have been especially hard hit by purse seine fishing. Research suggests fisheries are close to collapse and there are fears the fish may never be able to recover if severe limits on catching it are not introduced soon.
Fishing crews have been issued with month-long licences to catch bluefin tuna, which can fetch up to £100,000 each, until June 15 as the fish move into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic to spawn.
A spokesman for the Federation of Malta Aquaculture said: “The fishermen were acting within their rights and were doing nothing to provoke attention by these activists except for the fact that they were carrying exercising their trade.
“Greenpeace cannot pretend that such actions are measured and or peaceful. They are pure and simply designed to cause economic loss with violence against innocent operators.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, can swim at speeds of more than 40mph, reach more than 13 feet in length, and weigh more than 550lbs, but numbers are dwindling. “It’s clear that the blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean is a massively over-fished species,” Knowles said in the video. “Already 80% of it is fished out, and what has happened here in the water around us is that commercial interest has won out over the need to preserve a species.”

Personally I wish Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd crew were there. Aye! He and the lads would have given it to them hearty. Aaaarrgh!!!

A brief history of Sea Shepherd’s fight against the dolphin killers of Taiji

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by Paul Watson
(pics uploaded by Pat Dickens)

“The act of violently killing wild species, despoiling eco-systems and diminishing biodiversity is the real definition of eco-terrorism. In opposing this destruction we are countering eco-terrorism.”

– Captain Paul Watson

The campaign to stop the slaughter of the dolphins at Taiji has been a Sea Shepherd campaign from the beginning, and like all Sea Shepherd campaigns we will not abandon this issue until we achieve our objective of shutting down this savagely brutal and ecologically destructive slaughter forever.

Since we began this campaign in 2003, we have seen the energies directed at opposing the dolphin slaughter diversified in many positive directions.

At times we have stepped back to allow an alternative strategy to be exercised but we have steadily monitored the situation on the ground, and we have always been ready to step in and fill the breach should other strategies be in a stage of retreat or surrender.

The roots of the efforts leading up to Taiji go back three decades and can be traced to four activists who directly pioneered this campaign beginning in 1980 with documentation of the slaughter by California filmmaker Hardy Jones whose scenes of the horrific slaughter at Iki Island made headlines around the world.

But these headlines were not enough and Hawaiian Dexter Cate of Cleveland Amory’s Fund for Animals flew to Iki Island where he dove into the dark waters at night with a knife to cut the nets. He released the dolphins and was promptly arrested and held as a prisoner for months before finally being released.

The next year, Canadian Patrick Wall flew to Iki Island and repeated Cate’s action, cutting nets and releasing dolphins. He also was arrested and held for months before being released just in time to join the Sea Shepherd crew and the campaign to Soviet Siberia to defend Grey whales.

In March of 1982, I flew to Iki Island to negotiate an end to the slaughter of the dolphins and surprisingly the Japanese fishermen at Iki agreed to end the killings.

In 1983, we sent the first Sea Shepherd team to The Danish Faeroe Islands to begin the long campaign to stop the brutal slaughter of pilot whales killed annually in this Danish Protectorate. In what the Faeroese call the “Grind,” hundreds of pilot whales are driven onto the beaches where they are sadistically slashed, stabbed, clubbed and hacked to death by the Faeroese, primarily for sport.

We sent numerous crews to the Faeroes between 1983 and 2010, bringing our ships into Faeroes waters for four different seasons.

Over the next two decades, Sea Shepherd concentrated efforts on stopping whaling, sealing, and over fishing activities but in the late-nineties a horrific film was sent to us from some young Japanese students who had filmed the gruesome slaughter of dolphins at Futo.

We had to find a way of addressing this situation. The question was how and when? The ‘when’ was based on our resources. I decided that I had to send a team back to Japan when we could afford to do so. I was too recognizable in Japan to go myself.

It was during our first campaign to oppose illegal Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean in January 2003 that I delegated Canadian photographer Brooke MacDonald to head a small team to investigate dolphin killing in Japan. What her team discovered in Taiji, in October of 2003, was the “Cove.” Brooke’s photographs were picked up by Associated Press and made the headlines of newspapers around the world. The video shot by Brooke’s videographer was picked up by CNN.

Taiji’s nasty little Pandora’s Box was opened, and the barrels of dolphin blood spilt that day in the Cove began to inspire a worldwide indignation that would grow steadily and relentlessly into an escalating media hammering of this once quiet and remote Japanese fishing village. The name “Taiji” would become notoriously famous around the world just like its sister city “Minamata” had become associated forever with the unspeakable horror of mercury poisoning.

Brooke was forced to retreat under threats of violence and I replaced her team with an team led by Nic Hensy of California, a team that included Allison Lance, also from California, and Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands.

Alex and Allison dove into the cove at noon on a November day in an action filmed by Nic. They cut the nets and freed 15 pilot whales and dolphins. Both were promptly arrested and spent four weeks in jail being interrogated by the police for the “crime” of saving dolphins. Both of them said it was a small price to pay for the lives of the cetaceans.

In response to the images captured by Brooke MacDonald’s team and the intervention by Allison and Alex, the Japanese fishermen cordoned off the approaches to the Cove and erected tall barricades of blue tarps to hide the slaughter from cameras and prying eyes.

The people of Taiji knew what they were doing was disgraceful in the eyes of the outside world and there was nothing proud about the fishermen skulking about with knives and spears behind the newly erected walls of shame.

What people could not see, could not expose them any further – or so they thought.

Another member of the team working with Nic was Ric O’Berry, who is indisputably the most experienced dolphin defender on the planet. Ric, who began his career training dolphins for television stunts, decided that as noble an effort that it was, he knew that if he cut a dolphin free, he would be unable to return to Taiji.

Ric decided to implement a different strategy.

Ric was a member of the Sea Shepherd Board of Advisors when he first went to Taiji, but he asked me to allow him to resign from the Board and to disassociate himself from Sea Shepherd so that he could continue to return to Taiji.

Ric also asked that Sea Shepherd step back to allow for a different approach,

And return he did, every year since 2003. And at his request Sea Shepherd stepped back.

We returned in 2007 in the company of surfing legend Dave Rastovich who paddled out to confront the dolphin killers with film stars Hayden Pantierre and Isabel Lucas. Also accompanying them was Dave’s wife Hanna Fraser, a professional model and a mermaid.

The dolphin killers threatened Dave and the women with violence and prodded their boards with paddles and spears.

But most importantly during this time, a film crew organized by Louie Psihoyos began work on a film centered around Ric O’Berry and his crusade to stop the killing at Taiji.

What Louis saw was a challenge to get behind those barricades and demonstrate that the truth cannot be hidden away, and that the obscenity of the killings could, and should not be hidden away from the eyes of humanity.

Louis’s incredible team of Charles Hambleton, Scott Baker, Joe Chisholm, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Simon Hutchins, Kirk Krack, and John Potter not only succeeded in skirting the police interventions, but also succeeded in capturing the images of slaughter behind the barricades using Hollywood stealth, stunts, and cinematography to drive a story line fully complete with sympathetic victims, admirable heroes, and vicious villains.

What they created was a documentary film they named “The Cove,” and although the conservation community was impressed, it appears that the Academy of Arts and Sciences was also very much impressed and bestowed the highest award in film making to Louis and his team when The Cove won the Oscar for best documentary film.

The winning of the Oscar had not turned the international media spotlight on Taiji. That had been done in 2003 thanks to CNN and Associated Press, but what it did do was intensify the glare a thousand fold. Taiji was now an international household name, and the fishermen of Taiji were now not only notorious, they were downright villainous.

But they were also intensely proud and vowed to continue to redden the waters of the Cove with dolphin blood to express their contempt for outsiders who they saw as assaulting their culture and their way of life.

This is an accusation that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has little sympathy for. In the 21st Century, culture and profit must no longer be justifications for cruelty and slaughter, habitat destruction, and diminishment of bio-diversity.

What the fishermen of Taiji do is simply wrong; it is savagely cruel, grossly inhumane, and ecologically destructive. It is also a threat to their own health and the health and future welfare of their own children because dolphin meat contains very high levels of the debilitating poison called methyl-mercury.

This was an argument that Ric O’Berry and the makers of The Cove tried to convey. It was the message that Allison Lance tried to convey when she stood in the middle of the Ginza in Tokyo in 2007 handing out leaflets warning of the toxic lunch served to Japanese school children.

It could be argued that what the people of Taiji do with their children is their business, and that outsiders have no right to intervene. It can be argued that we have no business telling the fishermen of Taiji what they can eat, nor do we have any right to interfere with the traditions and culture of the Japanese town of Taiji or the people of Wakayama Prefecture or of the nation of Japan.

There are many arguments, but none of them impress us, for the simple fact is that we do not recognize any rights by the Japanese fishermen of Taiji to inflict a grossly cruel death on sentient self-aware cetaceans.

To us, this is murder. Call it cetacide instead of homicide, but it is murder both cruel and premeditated. It is a violent assault upon the culture and society of the dolphins.

The rights of the dolphins to live takes precedent over the “rights” of humans to kill them – for any reason, by any peoples, of any culture, in any place or at anytime.

Our right to hold such views and our right to value and revere life as sacred is more justified than any hominid’s right to slaughter. How dare these men talk and act so disrespectfully with regard to the sanctity of life and so disrespectfully to views that recognize this sanctity.

We see outrage and anger being expressed at the burning of books of paper and ink. How much more outraged must we be to the destruction of sentient self-aware beings for whom we feel empathy and compassion?

We are asked to be respectful and understanding of the culture of Taiji. To us this is like being told to be respectful of the culture of serial killing. Such requests are insulting and grossly disrespectful.

The killing of these magnificent beings, these armless Buddha’s of the sea, is an abomination and we could no more accept their slaughter than we could except the slaying of our own family.

We do understand how this perspective may not be understood or appreciated, but it is this view of reality that lies as the foundation of our commitment to defend and protect the lives of dolphins and whales.

And thus we have come full circle as we begin to plan a new circle of strategy now that we have achieved the objective of making the world aware of the slaughter of dolphins at the previously obscure fishing town of Taiji.

Taiji is not reflective of the broader national culture of Japan. The average Japanese citizen does not condone cruel slaughter or senseless killing of wildlife. Taiji is not a reflection of Japanese culture or the Japanese people. This slaughter is as abhorrent in Tokyo as it is in London, New York, or Sydney.

The first season at Taiji since The Cove won the Academy Award opened with a Sea Shepherd volunteer crew on the ground led by Michael Dalton ofBrisbane, Australia. A week later a second team arrived with Scott and Elora West from Seattle, and Matt Smith from Chicago.

The Sea Shepherd plan is a call to volunteers around the world to come to Taiji, to be on the ground at The Cove and to demonstrate that the world cares about these dolphins and condemns this bloody slaughter.

Note: I am currently recruiting people to become part of Sea Shepherd South Africa. If you are interested in joining this organization or are able to help with a financial contribution, ideas or fund-raising events, please contact me. Thanks. Pat Dickens

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