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Saint Augustine, FL
The purpose of this blog is to update stories from The Voice of the Dolphins and to tell some of the amazing stories that did not make it into the book. Please visit our website www.hardyjonesdolphins.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dolphin Altruism: Dolphins Save Me From Hammerhead Shark

The following video and blog are recounted in my book The Voice of the Dolphins. They document four spotted dolphins protecting me from a hammerhead shark. This material is posted in support of PETA's lawsuit to expand the rights of killer whales. 

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of how the dolphins felt about us came in 1985 late in the afternoon after a day of filming. Howard Hall, Julia, and other members of the underwater crew had climbed aboard the Zodiak that covered us as we worked at any distance from the main boat. I lingered at the surface, enjoying the delirious late afternoon light, my camera hanging in my right hand. The blue skies above held huge, gleaming white cumulous clouds, and toward the western horizon, blazing orange rays of sunlight shone out of the sea. The water temperature was in the high eighties. I lay on my back and experienced bliss.
Half a dozen young spotted dolphins, including a band of juveniles we’d named the Gang of Four, swam slowly over the sandy bottom thirty feet below. Occasionally, one dolphin would bite another on the tail and begin a brief, friendly tussle consisting of darting, twisting, and jaw snapping. But mostly they were grazing for bottom fish.
In the distance, at the limit of visibility, another sleek, gray creature appeared, swimming in an unusual, sine-wave manner and hugging the bottom. Its tail was not stroking up and down; it was slashing from side to side. The tail fin was vertical, and the head broad and flat. This wasn’t a dolphin. It was a very large Atlantic hammerhead shark, one of the few shark species that will attack humans. The shark moved toward me, angling first to one side then the other as though following a scent, probably mine. It was swinging its eyeballs, stuck out on the extremities of the head, so as to see its target first with one eye, then the other, perhaps to gauge distance. I didn’t feel comfortable presenting the hammerhead with the sight of my dangling legs, so I jackknifed and dove toward the bottom, raising my camera. Not only was this a unique chance to document the behavior of dolphins around sharks but raising the camera also served to put some metal between the fast-approaching predator and me.
The shark was grayish brown and about eleven feet long. I could judge its size easily because it was twice the length of the subadult dolphins swimming nearby. It undulated across the bottom, its movements now excited and menacing. I’d been diving with hammerheads in the Pacific on numerous occasions and had never felt threatened, but Atlantic hammerheads have a nasty reputation, and this one displayed the agonistic postures that precede an attack.
I hung in the water five feet over the bottom, and sooner than usual, my lungs began to ache for air. In a moment, I’d have to return to the surface. The shark turned directly toward me and accelerated with a flick of its tail. It happened so quickly that I could only react by pulling my camera tight against my body, poised to thrust it against the shark’s sensitive rostrum if it struck at me. I turned the camera on.
Suddenly the undersea world came alive with high-pitched whistles and intense sonar bursts. Two juvenile dolphins, Chopper and Stubby, appeared over my left shoulder. I flinched as I felt the wash they created streaking through the water straight for the hammerhead. In an instant, two buddies joined them, bolting in from the right.
The Gang of Four worked as a unit, diving and turning in unison like a squadron of fighter planes flying precision maneuvers.
The hammerhead saw the onrushing dolphins and, looking harassed and perplexed, jerked to the side, away from me. With powerful beats of their tail flukes, the dolphins launched themselves toward the shark’s head, clicking and whistling intensely, turning away only at the last instant. Again and again the juvenile dolphins dived at the hammerhead, mobbing it the way sparrows do a hawk, using sonar bursts to attack the shark’s lateral lines, a highly sensitive component of the shark sensory system, disorienting the huge fish.
The shark now wanted nothing more than to escape from this sudden torment. It turned one way then another but the Gang of Four were allowing it to move only in one direction—away from me. The hammerhead disappeared into the blue-green distance, and the dolphins, now tremendously excited, swam for the surface to do a series of victory leaps. One after another, they launched themselves through the surface, reentering instants later. After perhaps half a dozen leaps, Chopper cruised up to me, whistling intensely. I swam with him at the surface, trying my best to move in a way that showed the same kind of exuberance he’d displayed, but my human body dragged in the water and he had to restrain himself to stay with me. He was too excited to maintain the slow pace and darted off with his friends.
I was frankly glad to have footage of the dolphins saving me from the hammerhead. Without it, there might have been quite a bit of skepticism about this event. Some people just don’t want to admit animals are capable of altruism.  
The Voice of the Dolphins is available at Amazon: http://amzn.to/klnDw0 Kindle: http://amzn.to/pVszfc
Enhanced version with embedded video is at iTunes/iBooks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Dolphins at Cancer Risk from Pollutants

Genetic Links between Toxins and Cancer 

by Hardy Jones

The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) has published a report that describes a genetic link between environmental toxins and bone disease in multiple myeloma, a form of blood/bone cancer. Once considered a disease of the elderly, and a rare one at that, myeloma is increasingly being diagnose in patients under 45. The big question is "why, when many cancers are being reduced in incidence, is myeloma increasing and penetrating lower age groups?"

One possible explanation is the increase in environmental toxins. But what is the connection between the toxins and the disease?

Researchers with the IMF gene bank (Bank on a Cure) have identified changes in SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that are part of DNA sequences. These changes reduce a person's ability to process chemical toxins such as Dioxin and may lead to cancer.

The finding, published in the latest issue of the journal Leukemia, authored by Dr. Brian Durie, chair of the IMF, - http://www.myeloma.org - provide a possible link between myeloma and environmental toxins.

As these toxins rise in the marine food chain we are seeing more cases of cancer in dolphins, types of cancer never before identified in these marine mammals. Dolphins should be seen as sentinels warming us to the dangerous levels of pollution accumulating in our oceans.  For full press release on this subject go to http://bluevoice.org/news_issuescontaminants.php.

If we analyse the status of disease and pollution in dolphins worldwide we can conclude only that a global pandemic exists that now threatens dolphins and more and more is a menace to human health.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Chilling Tale of What Stopped Dolphin Slaughters at Iki, Japan


By Hardy Jones

The first awareness of dolphin slaughters in Japan came at Iki Island, located in the Straights of Tsushima, off southwestern Japan. In 1978 a news photographer from Mainichi Television took helicopter shots of a bay whose waters ran red with the blood of hundreds of dolphins. The pictures caused widespread outrage as they were transmitted around the world.  I saw those photographs and vowed to do something about it.

In 1979 and 1980, I led Howard Hall and other filmmakers to Iki to attempt to bring an end to the killing by exposing the barbarity on film. These efforts are recounted in my book, The Voice of the Dolphins. What was not included in the book was what happened in the years that followed.

In 1979 we filmed interviews with the islanders, particularly Mr. Harada Susumu, president of the young fishermen’s cooperative. But we did not witness a slaughter – only the grim aftermath of dead dolphin bodies

In 1980 Howard Hall and I filmed the unspeakable slaughter of hundreds of dolphins at Iki. I jumped the first flight off the island to get the footage to CBS News in Tokyo where it was satellited around the world.  After the huge international uproar caused by broadcast of the film we had taken of the butchery of bottlenose, pseudorca and Risso’s dolphins, Nagasaki prefecture withdrew the permit for the Iki Islanders to hunt dolphins later in 1980. There is an individual who claims he negotiated the end to the Iki Island dolphin massacres in 1982 but that was long after the permit to hunt dolphins had been withdrawn so there was nothing to negotiate. The people responsible for shutting down the dolphin hunts were those who stood in the bloody waters of Iki Island and filmed the killing; and Dexter Cate who kayaked into the killing zone at night and cut nets in an attempt to allow dolphins to escape. Dexter was arrested and spent months in a Japanese jail before being declared persona non-grata and expelled from Japan permanently. But his trial kept the world focused on the deadly events at Iki for months.

But for two occasions, one in the middle 1980s and one in 1994, the killings at Iki ended. In those two years special permits were issued to hunt dolphins at the request of the dolphin captivity industry. Dozens of dolphins went into captivity. Hundreds died.

In 2004 I returned to Iki and learned the full story of what had happened after I released the slaughter film. I tracked down Mr. Harada, whom I’d met in 1979. He told me that in the day after I left Iki in ‘79 (to get the film footage safely to CBS News in Tokyo) more than 200 journalists had descended on the island. Iki Island became infamous worldwide – a symbol of brutality to animals and shame for Japan. This massive media turn out was part of what caused the permit to capture dolphins to be withdrawn in 1980.

During my 2004 visit I videotaped an interview with the former head of the Katsumoto Fishing Cooperative, the organization that carried out the dolphin hunts, I learned a perverse irony – where once thousands of dolphins migrated by the island, today there are none. More perversely still, the fishermen who had once attempted to eradicate dolphins now wish they had could find and catch them for the lucrative aquarium trade. But there are none. Dolphins have vanished from the waters off Iki. And why is that?

Is it because the fish stocks that constituted dolphin prey have been decimated forcing the dolphins to seek food elsewhere? Is it because warming waters around the island have changed prey distribution and thus moved the dolphins elsewhere? Is it possible the dolphins learned to avoid the waters off Iki Island? Or is it because the dolphins that once migrated past Iki were simply wiped out? Any or all of these is possible.

Another shocking revelation came from the union official Sakae Hemmi and I interviewed in 2004. Standing in a room whose shelves and tables were covered with every imaginable form of dolphin statuette, plate, cup, kite or statue, he said the true reason they stopped hunting dolphins was that it was too costly to bury them. “Burying hundreds of dolphins is not cheap.” My mind chilled at the words. So the tale of what really ended the killing at Iki mimics Rashomon. Everyone sees the story through their own lens, the focus defined by memory or loss of it, ego, and fund raising strategies. And in some cases the pursuit of the truth.

My purpose in writing this blog is to illustrate the complexity of westerners trying to bring about change in Japan. More than a year after the tsunami of protest brought about by the film The Cove, dolphin hunts are still carried out at Taiji. After countless petitions and calls for boycotts the killer boats still sortie after dolphins.

Where I am putting my efforts and those of BlueVoice is into testing dolphin meat and publishing the results in order to drive down the market for the meat and make the drives financially unviable.

The story of our work at Iki in 1979 including lessons for those fighting to end the dolphin hunts in Japan is in The Voice of the Dolphins. http://hardyjonesdolphins.com/