Requiem for a Dolphin – by Horst Liebl
Nature is not always red in tooth and claw. I witnessed a group of dolphins bear the body of their dead companion on its last journey and I was moved by the solemn majesty of the spectacle. We were busy installing marine lanterns at the sea off Futaisi Island. It was on a Friday morning and I was engrossed in the job at hand. Suddenly my friend Issa called for me from his boat some 50 meters away. "Horst", yelled Issa, "you must come and see what we’ve seen, come quickly,...
German dolphin defender and sailing legend Rollo Gebhard passed away
Rollo Gebhard, one of the great adventurers of our time and a pioneer in dolphin conservation, has left for his last journey. The founder and president of the German Society for the Conservation (GRD) of Dolphins died at the age of 92 at his home in Bad Wiessee, Bavaria/Germany. The oceans were his home for over 50 years. His love and passion for the oceans and their inhabitants made him a tireless defender of this “home”, committed to protect the marine environment from...
Harbor porpoises and sea birds victims of disastrous Green environmental politics
The German environmental NGOs Society for Dolphin Conservation (GRD) and NABU Schleswig-Holstein warn of massive losses of harbor porpoises and sea birds in gillnets set along the coasts of Schleswig-Holstein. The reason: The agreement made by the Green Party environment minister for Schleswig-Holstein, Robert Habeck, with the Schleswig-Holstein fisheries association and the fishermen's protection society last year encouraging fishermen to reduce set gillnets on a...
Now and then - History of harbor popoises in German rivers
Over many decades harbor porpoises had disappeared from large parts of the North Sea coasts and their estuaries due to the massive negative anthropogenic impacts around the mid-20 th century. However, things have changed in the past several years. Historical records show that harbor porpoises were quite common along our coasts about 100 years ago before they were decimated through hunting, overfishing, and by-catch, as well as river pollution and a decrease in fish...
Inauguration of our Dolphin Conservation Center in Croatia
Together with our Croatian partners from Zagreb University and the nature conservation organization VAL, we celebrated the inauguration of our dolphin conservation center on the northern Dalmatian island of Molat in early July. The 40 something guests included journalists as well as representatives of agencies and institutions in Zagreb, Zadar, and the island of Molat. The locals were also very much interested in this new facility on their island. "We are supporting this...
The Return of the Harbor Porpoises
For a few years now, the small marine mammals have regularly entered rivers in northern Germany in the months from early March through late May, as this year’s data collected by GRD shows again. Seemingly not shy at all at times, they can in particular be spotted in the Elbe river up to city of Hamburg and in the Weser river up to the city of Bremen during this period. Having been absent for almost 100 years, the smart hunters have returned to their former partial...
By force of arms
A bottlenose dolphin stood no chance when it came near an armed dolphin hater who downright riddled the dolphin with bullets. The porter of a hotel near the Istrian harbor of Porec aptly named "Dolphin" discovered the dead body off the Hotel’s beach. The necropsy yielded 7 pellets in the animal’s chest. The adult dolphin was a male of 3 m length and 227 kg of weight. He had slowly and painfully bled to death. The results of the examination suggest that the dolphin was...
Model for a marine protected area
In June 2012, a comprehensive 37-page report on the model for a marine protected area off La Gomera was published. It is based on 15 years of intensive whale and dolphin research and was also presente d to the Scientific Committee at the 64th Conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama. Moreover, the report was submitted to the Spanish authorities in charge in Madrid, to the environmental department of the government of the Canary Islands, and to...
Spectacular whale sighting
In late May 2013 a German yachtsman spotted 6 to 8 fin whales about 10 nautical miles north of Vis island. For over 11 years, GRD and its partners from Zagreb University have called on tourists and locals to report their sightings of whale and dolphins in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. But never before did we get such a spectacular sighting: A German yachtsman spotted 6 to 8 fin whales: "I saw two groups of three to four whales. The distance between them was big...
Conservation measures are bearing fruit
Two resident groups of dolphins living off the Paracas peninsula in southern Peru have been steadily gaining popularity, enjoying particular protection thanks to 13 years of our project work. We are happy about the number of calves observed: the mothers can be seen raising their young without interference. Since 1999, GRD has been supporting the Peruvian marine conservation organization ACOREMA. Our good cooperation has led to the development of various measures to...
Dances with dolphins - The story of Dean and JoJo
On May 14, the American dolphin conservationist, Dean Bernal, presented his new book "JoJo und ich" (JoJo and I) in the Munich Sealife Center. The book (currently only available in German), is about the deep and exceptional bond between him and a bottlenose dolphin. In an interview Dean told GRD more about this extraordinary friendship and his mission. Hollywood has made him as many as 50 to 60 offers for his story about him and JoJo, says Dean. But unlike in the movies,...
EDEKA will switch from dolphin-deadly to dolphin-safe tuna
GRD welcomes EDEKA’s decision to switch from a dolphin-deadly to a dolphin-safe tuna source as an important step in dolphin conservation. GRD has been warning consumers for over one year not to buy this specific tuna sold in EDEKA stores (see at the right) which is caught by a method that allows for purse seiners to chase and net dolphins. According to official figures, about 1,200 dolphins are killed each year during the dolphin-associated purse seine sets to catch tuna....
Warning: Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Holiday Resort in Mexico
Six dolphins kept in tiny pool: Don’t book a vacation at the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Holiday Resort! GRD advises tourists wishing to spend a holiday in Mexico against staying in the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Holiday Resort at the Caribbean coast. Animal friends will be shocked: less than 20 m away from their natural habitat, six dolphins are kept in a tiny pool under horrific conditions on the Resort’s premises. For a fee, guests are invited to swim and play with the...
The tragic fate of our harbor porpoise populations
Gillnets and entangling nets are the main causes of deaths of our native harbor porpoises. It is estimated that in the Danish fisheries in the North Sea alone as many as 5,500 to 5,800 died a cruel death as by-catch each year between 1987 and 2001. However, many countries have not provided any current figures or the official statistics include only reported dead animals, while there are many strandings of harbor porpoises with clear net marks that go unreported. The...
GRD’s Spectacular Foundation in 1991
Dear Dolphin Friends, When I founded the Society for the Conservation of Dolphins (GRD) 20 years ago, I had just returned from my third world circumnavigation, bringing back shocking films and facts from Alaska about the dolphin massacres taking place in the tuna fisheries. I succeeded in mobilizing the public, causing a public outcry and forcing the tuna industry to cooperate. Since then, over 95 % of the German tuna importers have joined Earth Island Institute’s...
Reflective nets: A Solution to the bycatch problem?
300,000 marine mammals are dying in fishing nets worldwide each year. In the North and Baltic seas set gill nets pose a threat in particular to harbor porpoises. The development of dolphin-friendly nets could be a hope for the endangered animals. Sven Koschinski and Prof. Boris Culik, German marine zoologists from Kiel, made behavioral studies involving harbor porpoises at the Canadian west coast to find solutions to the bycatch problem. In the summer of 2003, they...

A Humpbackdolphin carrying a dead dolphin baby. Nature is not always red in tooth and claw. I witnessed a group of dolphins bear the body of their dead companion on its last journey and I was moved by the solemn majesty of the spectacle.

We were busy installing marine lanterns at the sea off Futaisi Island. It was on a Friday morning and I was engrossed in the job at hand. Suddenly my friend Issa called for me from his boat some 50 meters away. "Horst", yelled Issa, "you must come and see what we’ve seen, come quickly, get on our boat and we’ll take you there."

I had no idea what could have caused such consternation, but knowing Issa to be a responsible person, I followed him without question, in the meantime sending my boat-driver back to my office to fetch my video and still-camera.

Dolphins guarding a single dolphin carrying a dead baby dolphin on its back
Issa began to explain what he had seen: a group of a dozen of dolphins guarding a single dolphin carrying a dead baby dolphin on its back. The ‘pod’ of mammals was heading for the north tip of Futaisi, an island located about five kilometers south of Abu Dhabi.

The mother struggled to carry her burden in the shallow water
We reached the scene in a matter of minutes and I saw for myself the incredible scene Issa had just described. An adult dolphin, carrying a dead juvenile on her back just in front of her back fin, was swimming towards the sandy beaches of Futaisi. The youngster was about 1,2 meters in length, and around 40 centimeters in diameter, and was obviously a heavy load for the mother. She struggled to carry her burden in the shallow water, which was not more than one meter deep and was restricting her movements.

A Humpbackdolphin carrying a dead dolphin baby. It was the most remarkable funeral procession I had ever seen in my life
As we approached the scene within 30 meters, the water abruptly seemed to boil. A group of perhaps 10 to 12 dolphins swam around their comrade, clearly guarding and defending her from intruders. It was the most remarkable funeral procession I had ever seen in my life.

The accompanying dolphins were clearly protecting und guarding the laboring mother and made quite certain that we should not get any closer. By nervously swimming under and around our boat, they effectively closed ranks and separated us from her. I understood their message: ‘Do not come any closer, you are intruding!’

We shut down the boat’s engine and drifted with the incoming tide, more or less parallel with the laden dolphin about 20 meters away. Her panting and labored breathing were clearly audible, and I presumed her blowhole was partly blocked by the unusual load she was conveying towards the shore.

These wonderful animals work together to help each other
It was at this moment that I witnessed a miracle demonstrating how these wonderful animals work together to help each other. Another fully-grown dolphin (perhaps the father?) came alongside its mate and they transferred the load. And the accompanying dolphins encircled the new carrier. Besides the breathing of the pall bearer, silence surrounded us.

One strongly feel the sadness of these fantastic creatures
The moving scene in front of our eyes filled us with awe, respect and admiration. As we watched in the stillness I could very strongly feel the sadness of these fantastic creatures and was unable to speak – such a gentle and caring community accompanying their smallest member on its last journey.

I praised our Creator at this moment for giving me this opportunity to witness how wonderful nature can be.

Two dolphins approaching Futaisi-Island, a dolphin graveyard? A dolphin graveyard?
I asked myself, of course, why these dolphins were approaching this particular island, and why they were carrying their dead comrade ashore? There could only be one answer: they did not want the corpse of their fellow to be eaten by other fish. Perhaps they were similar to elephants in that they look for a special place to die, or to burry their peers, but ashore and not in the sea.

I have often asked what the name Arabian word ‘Futaisi’ means, but have never managed toobtain a precise answer. Some say the word means ‘smell’, ‘decay’ or something that rots away.

It is true that tons of man-made rubbish is swept on to the shores of this beautiful island every month as a result of tidal conditions and prevailing winds. Perhaps we now also can speculate that it is a dolphin graveyard.

Such things are sometimes hard to believe without seeing for oneself
If indeed I am one of the first witnesses of this miracle, it could well be that my speculation is close to the truth. I am convinced that if dolphins could handle a spade, they would have buried their baby ashore. I have read and heard many stories about dolphins, but such things are sometimes hard to believe without seeing for oneself.

Many questions raced through my head – was this a phenomenon that tied the dolphins to their ancestors, land mammals that existed millions of years ago? There is apparently still a great deal to be learned about cetaceans’ ancestry, and the mystery of how their land-based ancestors gradually became marine mammals is one of the enigmas in the study of the origin of this species.

I wondered too, about the cause of this poor dolphins demise. Its skin had blistered and peeled, maybe from sun exposure, but who knows? Our seemingly crystal clear waters play host to all matter of dangerous man-made pollutants. Perhaps it had been killed by a speeding powerboat, or trapped in a discarded net, a common occurrence. I didn’t want to dwell on these thoughts.

Anxious to record, what I could of this momentous events, I shot the remainder of my film and bitterly resented the redundancy of my video camera, the batteries of which had run out after a friend had borrowed it.

I felt sure that the next funeral would take place at night
We suddenly realized that our proximity was distressing the dolphins and disturbing their funeral procession, as they had changed direction and were heading back towards the open sea. We started the engine and left the scene slowly and cautiously, though with some regret.

As I looked back at the sad group from some distance away, I could see that they had altered their heading once more towards Futaisi. I felt we did not have the right to disturb them any further.

Deeply thankful as I was to experience such a wonderous event, I felt sure that the next funeral would take place at night with no more than the moon to witness the sad occasion.
Horst Liebl, Friesenheim/France, October 2004

Rollo GebhardRollo Gebhard, one of the great adventurers of our time and a pioneer in dolphin conservation, has left for his last journey. The founder and president of the German Society for the Conservation (GRD) of Dolphins died at the age of 92 at his home in Bad Wiessee, Bavaria/Germany.

The oceans were his home for over 50 years. His love and passion for the oceans and their inhabitants made him a tireless defender of this “home”, committed to protect the marine environment from reckless exploitation and destruction.

A life dedicated to the conservation of dolphins and their habitats
Deeply shocked by the millions of dolphins dying in the driftnets of the tuna fisheries, Rollo and his wife Angelika founded GRD in 1991 and have since established many dolphin and marine conservation projects around the world.

Rollo was active almost right up to his death, fully committed to animal welfare and the conservation of the environment. He determinedly fought against driftnets - a terrible fishing method that caused the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands of dolphins and other marine animals as by-catch each year, and played a vital role in securing the EU ban on driftnet fishing which took effect on January 1, 2002.

He introduced the International Dolphin-Safe Monitoring Program/SAFE in Germany over 20 years ago. It was the first of its kind and is still vital today in eliminating dolphin by-catch in the tuna fisheries.

"Dolphins can’t cry for help, but we can lend them our voices, make sure their plight doesn’t go unnoticed and help where help is urgently needed," said Rollo, explaining his commitment to save the dolphins.

One of the last great adventurers has left Earth’s shore
Die Solveig III auf dem Kamm einer gewaltigen Welle. Rollo Gebhard was the first German to sail single-handed around the world – in a 7.20-meter boat (1967–1970 und 1975–79)! Nobody ever succeeded in doing that with a smaller boat. In 1983 he set out for his third world circumnavigation – this time with Angelika, his girlfriend and later wife. Their seven-year journey included a non-stop tour from Australia to Emden, a town and seaport in northwestern Germany.

Rollo has been awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit and has received highest sailing awards such as the "Trans-Ocean Prize". He is the author of numerous books and TV documentaries.

Rollo passed away peacefully after Christmas at his home in Bad Wiessee at Lake Tegernsee following a stroke. The official memorial ceremony and funeral will be held on February 7, 2014, 3 p.m., in Gmund at Lake Tegernsee.

We miss him. His passing will leave a huge gap.

The song of the sea ends at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it. (from Samoa)

Bad Wiessee /Munich, January 2, 2014

Drowned harbor popoiseThe German environmental NGOs Society for Dolphin Conservation (GRD) and NABU Schleswig-Holstein warn of massive losses of harbor porpoises and sea birds in gillnets set along the coasts of Schleswig-Holstein.

The reason: The agreement made by the Green Party environment minister for Schleswig-Holstein, Robert Habeck, with the Schleswig-Holstein fisheries association and the fishermen's protection society last year encouraging fishermen to reduce set gillnets on a voluntary basis completely disregards conservation requirements.

Conservation organisations have repeatedly criticized Environment Minister Robert Habeck for signing this agreement, calling it an "eco-political declaration of bankruptcy of a Green Party minister of environment."

Deadly gillnets
The observations made during a water bird census performed along the Baltic Sea coasts between Neuland and Hohwacht in mid March confirm the conservationists’ worries. From their watch point at Hohwachter Steilufer watchers counted approximately 7,000 eider ducks; 11,700 common scoter ducks; 19 red-throated divers; und 4 groups of harbor porpoises. These rare cetaceans were observed hunting for fish in the shallow waters about 100 m to 1,500 m off the coast.

Eiderente-Koschinsk250pxYet, in this very region, which sees numerous water birds from October through early April, and harbor porpoises during the present time, fishermen had set seven gillnets, including three in the area stretching from Lippe to Hohwacht, where the small cetaceans were observed hunting for prey.

Right now, there should be no set gillnets at all
This one water bird census has already shown that the general framework fixed in the voluntary agreement is insufficient to reduce harbor porpoise and water bird by-catch in the fisheries unless periods with high numbers of water birds and greater occurrence of harbor porpoises are included in a comprehensive ban on gillnet setting.

"Right now, there should be no set gillnets at all along the coasts from Neuland to Hohwacht and Weissenhaus," says Ingo Ludwichowski, executive director of NABU Schleswig-Holstein.

A conservative minister could not have done worse
Harbor porpoiseThe agreement for the protection of sea birds made between the Environment Ministry of Schleswig-Holstein and the fishermen associations is valid only until 1 March, i.e., it ends in the middle of the season when the numbers of resting migratory water birds reach their peaks.

With respect to harbor porpoises, on the other hand, the agreement is seemingly arbitrarily limited to the months of July and August.

"It is absolutely scandalous that a Green Party environment minister takes such a fatal decision for marine animals. The voluntary agreement to reduce animal losses in set gillnets is an eco-political disaster and it will inevitably lead to massive losses of seabirds and harbor porpoises. A conservative minister could not have done worse," says GRD biologist Ulrich Karlowski.
München, Kiel, 18 March 2014

Rollo-GebhardDear Dolphin Friends,

When I founded the Society for the Conservation of Dolphins (GRD) 20 years ago, I had just returned from my third world circumnavigation, bringing back shocking films and facts from Alaska about the dolphin massacres taking place in the tuna fisheries.

I succeeded in mobilizing the public, causing a public outcry and forcing the tuna industry to cooperate.

Since then, over 95 % of the German tuna importers have joined Earth Island Institute’s International Monitoring Program for dolphin-safe tuna.

This was a first success and building up GRD was becoming another exciting adventure of my life. In spite of occasional difficulties that had to be navigated GRD has been able to become active in many areas – thanks to my team’s efforts and the support of our members and donors!

Today, GRD has grown into a well-known organization – together with you we have accomplished much over two decades of dolphin conservation. We were instrumental to forcing the EU to ban driftnets, a fishing technique that indistinctly kills everything floating in the sea; and we have established direct dolphins conservation projects in the coastal waters of Peru, Croatia and Mozambique, to name but a few.

rollosextantOn the occasion of my 90th birthday this year I was therefore happy to celebrate another – by no means less important – feat with my "dolphin" team: GRD’s 20th anniversary!

Many of you, dear dolphin friends, have loyally supported us for a long time, quite a few even since GRD’s very beginning 20 years ago. This exemplary commitment fulfills me with great joy and gratitude because our achievements have been possible only because of you!

Your long-standing support also shows the appreciation of our work.

Today, dolphin conservation is facing problems which hardly anyone would have imagined 20 years ago. These threats include noise pollution, caused, for example, by the increasing vessel traffic, excessive overfishing of our oceans, over-exploitation of our oceans for raw materials, and excessive marine pollution.

All these are additional challenges to be mastered.

I very much hope we can continue to count on your important support in our efforts to handle these new challenges. Let us continue to jointly walk this way that we started 20 years ago!

Sincerely yours,
Rollo Gebhard
Founder & President, October 2011

Harbor porpoise, mother with calfOver many decades harbor porpoises had disappeared from large parts of the North Sea coasts and their estuaries due to the massive negative anthropogenic impacts around the mid-20 th century. However, things have changed in the past several years.

Historical records show that harbor porpoises were quite common along our coasts about 100 years ago before they were decimated through hunting, overfishing, and by-catch, as well as river pollution and a decrease in fish species due to industrialization, and that they ventured far into the rivers, following schools of fish according to some descriptions:

  • into the Weser river up south of the city of Bremen
  • into the Ems river to Weener
  • into the Elbe river as far as the city of Magdeburg

And this also seems to be the reason for their present-day journeys into the rivers.

In 2005 an increase in the number of harbor porpoises occurring along the North Sea coasts was detected.

A detailed North Sea survey (SCANS II) revealed differences in harbor porpoise densities compared with a previous survey in 1994: the distribution "centers" of these marine mammals have significantly shifted from the northern parts to the southern parts of the North Sea.

This goes hand in hand with an increase in harbor porpoises along the Lower Saxony coasts. Moreover, there are seasonal fluctuations, the harbor porpoise density being very high in the spring. Simultaneously we can find them in rivers again since then.
Denise Wenger

Fin whalesIn late May 2013 a German yachtsman spotted 6 to 8 fin whales about 10 nautical miles north of Vis island.

For over 11 years, GRD and its partners from Zagreb University have called on tourists and locals to report their sightings of whale and dolphins in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. But never before did we get such a spectacular sighting:

A German yachtsman spotted 6 to 8 fin whales: "I saw two groups of three to four whales. The distance between them was big enough for me to be sure that these were two groups." The Croatian media had already reported about a 16 m fin whale in approximately the same region off Split in late April

Growing up to 26 meters in length and weighing between 45 and 75 tons, fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are the second largest animals on earth, after the blue whale. They are the only rorquals to be frequently found in the Mediterranean. Occasionally they enter Croatian waters.

"But we have never had a report about such a large group ever since we started our joint reporting scheme on the distribution of whales and dolphins in the Croatian part of the Mediterranean Sea 11 years ago," says Martina Duras-Gomercic, a veterinarian at Zagreb University and project member.

The baleen whales probably venture into the Adriatic sea because of nutritious water currents. The first time the occasional presence of fin whales was registered in the Adriatic Sea was in the early 18 th century.
Ulrike Kirsch

Delfinpool-Mexiko020Six dolphins kept in tiny pool: Don’t book a vacation at the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Holiday Resort!

GRD advises tourists wishing to spend a holiday in Mexico against staying in the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Holiday Resort at the Caribbean coast.

Animal friends will be shocked: less than 20 m away from their natural habitat, six dolphins are kept in a tiny pool under horrific conditions on the Resort’s premises.

For a fee, guests are invited to swim and play with the bottlenose dolphins in the pool which is just 20 m in diameter and 4 m in depth. People are allowed to pet them, play trainer, being towed by the dolphins, … Children are even encouraged to kiss the dolphins!

Delfinpool-Mexiko019The keeping conditions are horrible: with no shade from the sun and no refuge area the dolphins have to entertain the vacationers from morning to evening seven days a week. The animals suffer terrible stress!

GRD is asking the Mexican government to close the facility immediately and calls upon German travel agencies to cancel this holiday resort from their programs.

While the dolphin pool is located on the premises of the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum, it is operated by the external company Dolphinaris.

Dolphinaris-Tulum-02For this reason some travel agents fail to mention the existence of the dolphin pool and many tourists will have a nasty surprise when they get there. Like one person who drew our attention to this dolphin pool:

"We woke up around 5.30 a.m. because there was of a loud, wailing whistle. I went on the balcony […] from where I could see dolphins lying side by side on the shallow edge of a pool, screaming. I couldn’t believe my eyes. To see these poor animals made my friend cry. If possible we would have left immediately."

We call upon Mexico tourists to boycott the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Resort!

 

Dean JoJo M-Friedel 007On May 14, the American dolphin conservationist, Dean Bernal, presented his new book "JoJo und ich" (JoJo and I) in the Munich Sealife Center. The book (currently only available in German), is about the deep and exceptional bond between him and a bottlenose dolphin.

In an interview Dean told GRD more about this extraordinary friendship and his mission.

Hollywood has made him as many as 50 to 60 offers for his story about him and JoJo, says Dean. But unlike in the movies, the dream factory means tough business in real life. They don’t cherish Dean’s idea that part of the movie’s profit should be donated to non-profit conservation or animal welfare organizations. "This is Hollywood", says Dean, without any rancor. While radiating buddha-like calm and modesty, his looks are those of a typical "sonny boy", tanned, and always smiling with sparkling white teeth.

Dean Bernal, Sealife MunichNo wonder, Dean is from California. Growing up at the ocean, swimming, surfing, and diving has been a vital part of his life ever since. As a young man he left for the Turks and Caicos islands. And on this archipelago, which is technically located in the Atlantic Ocean rather than in the Caribbean, he had a fateful and life-changing encounter 30 years ago.

When the young diving instructor came to British overseas territory which was still considered a traveler s insider tip back in early 1980s he soon had an encounter with three bottlenose dolphins ocean and one of them Jojo as named male juvenile has chosen him be his friend

The "problem dolphin"
JoJo had a reputation of a "dangerous" dolphin which would attack and even bite unsuspecting swimmers. However, as Dean soon realized, JoJo would merely defend himself when people harassed him. And Dean also discovered that this bay had been a home to him and about 15 to 20 other dolphins before the first holiday resorts and water skiing facilities were built and drove the dolphins away.

P204-Dethmann_webJoJo was the only dolphin to return regularly to the area. Maybe because he was separated from his mother in a Hurricane, just like two other juveniles with a less fortunate fate: one died from a boat strike, another one was speared by a fisherman

"I still don’t know why JoJo chose me to share his life", says Dean in his book. It is a unique friendship between a person and a dolphin. Dean thinks that it is the kind of alliance male bottlenose dolphins are known to form as juveniles and that can last a whole lifetime. Being an excellent swimmer and diver has enabled Dean to spend hours on end together with his friend in his realm.

Expulsion from paradise
The story about this unusual friendship quickly spread. An ever increasing number of people came to see this 2.50 m big dolphin for themselves. And this is when Dean’s tough battle against the commercial interests of government members and the tourist industry began who considered JoJo as a potential money making machine.

Dean_JoJo_M-Friedel_11405The years to follow were hard for the animal activist who also had to fight against a corrupt government which did not hesitate to make death threats. He was finally expulsed from the Caribbean paradise as a person non-grata. However, in the end Dean claimed victory: JoJo has been declared a National Treasure and a major part of his habitat has been put under protection.

Thanks to a new government, Dean is free to visit the Turks and Caicos islands again. Every two months he flies from his present home in Hawaii over to the other ocean – that’s the longest he can go without seeing his friend…

Dean’s mission
JoJo has changed Dean’s life. The unusual friendship has allowed him to gain insights into the world of dolphins which stunned even scientists.

His commitment to JoJo’s welfare developed into commitment for marine mammals around the world and led him to found his "Marine Wildlife Foundation".

Dean travels around the world to show that dolphins are sentient beings able to express anger, jealousy, and joy in their own ways, who have different characters just like us, and who deserve to be treated with respect and to have their habitats protected from human interference.
Ulrike Kirsch

 

EDEKA-dolphin-deadly-tunaGRD welcomes EDEKA’s decision to switch from a dolphin-deadly to a dolphin-safe tuna source as an important step in dolphin conservation.

GRD has been warning consumers for over one year not to buy this specific tuna sold in EDEKA stores (see at the right) which is caught by a method that allows for purse seiners to chase and net dolphins.

According to official figures, about 1,200 dolphins are killed each year during the dolphin-associated purse seine sets to catch tuna.

One year ago, the renowned German TV show "Kontrovers", which addresses political and consumer issues, reported about EDEKA’s dolphin-unsafe tuna and this year they broadcasted a brief update – our protests are bearing fruit!

Warning:
Remainders of this dolphin-deadly tuna are still sold in some EDEKA stores. The label claims that this tuna was caught sustainably, but the truth is that it is stained with the blood of dolphins.
April 2012, U.Karlowski

Consumer Tips

Watch out for the Dolphin-SAFE Tuna Logo

NewDolphinSafe_2Make sure that when you buy canned tuna you see this logo. The registered SAFE logo by the American NGO Earth Island Institute (EII) is only awarded to companies affiliated with the international dolphin safe tuna monitoring program and regularly monitored by the GRD and EII.

For further information and a current list of approved German tuna importers, retailers, and brands please check:

⇒ www.thunfischliste.de (Germany)

⇒ www.dolphinsafetuna.org (Earth Island Institute)

Watch out for the Friend of the Sea (FoS) Sustainable Seafood Logo

FOS-Logo240dpiThis logo stands for certified sustainable seafood. It has been developed by staff of the Earth Island Institute and includes the adherence to EII’s tuna dolphin SAFE standards.

It is available for sustainable seafood from fisheries and aquaculture.

For further information please check the FoS website:

⇒ www.friendofthesea.org

MPA-Report-Cover2In June 2012, a comprehensive 37-page report on the model for a marine protected area off La Gomera was published.

It is based on 15 years of intensive whale and dolphin research and was also presente d to the Scientific Committee at the 64th Conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama.

Moreover, the report was submitted to the Spanish authorities in charge in Madrid, to the environmental department of the government of the Canary Islands, and to the islands‘ Government as well as to the National Park authority on La Gomrea

The report presents the regulations necessary for the establishment of a marine protected area (MPA) and looks at the interests of the different stakeholders (e.g., fisheries, tourism, local population, etc.)

We hope that the authorities in charge will take the steps necessary for establishing a protected area for marine mammals off La Gomera based on a sustainable and ecological framework.

Dead harbor porpoiseGillnets and entangling nets are the main causes of deaths of our native harbor porpoises. It is estimated that in the Danish fisheries in the North Sea alone as many as 5,500 to 5,800 died a cruel death as by-catch each year between 1987 and 2001.

However, many countries have not provided any current figures or the official statistics include only reported dead animals, while there are many strandings of harbor porpoises with clear net marks that go unreported. The incidental catch in fishing gear is still the main cause of deaths of harbor porpoises.

High time for improvements
It is a paradox thing that set gillnets are still allowed in protected areas for harbor porpoises, even in the whale sanctuary off the island of Sylt. It is true that fishing is restricted to "trawling to catch fish for direct sustenance (consumption fishing), the catch with gear other than driftnets and set gillnets whose extended distance between the ground rope and the float line does not exceed 2 m."

However, by the current state of scientific knowledge the set gillnet fishery is the main risk to harbor porpoises, and the cetaceans also die in low nets as by-catch.

Moreover, these restrictions apply exclusively to German fishing vessels, they do not apply to Danish fishing vessels, since they come within the jurisdiction of the EU according to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Dead harbor porpoise, Baltic SeaWe demand: No set gillnets in protected areas!
The European Habitats Directive, which was adopted 20 years ago, also provides a wonderful framework and good guidelines for the protection of marine mammals and marine ecosystems if strictly interpreted.

However, there is a lack of implementation. Although several areas in the North and Baltic Seas have been designated as protected areas under the Habitats Directive, management plans are lacking.

There are no restrictions on destructive fishing techniques such as bottom trawling or set gillnets, which claim the lives of harbor porpoises and thousands of seabirds. Germany has not yet submitted any conservation regulations with the EU Commission.

GRD supports a ban of set gillnets in protected areas and consistent fulfillment of the obligations in terms of nature and species conservation pursuant to the Habitats Directive, which is also supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation

Harbor porpoise mother with calfBetter protection for the harbor porpoise nursery grounds
The failure to effectively protect the only cetacean species that regularly occurs in German waters is illustrated by the example of the outer reef of the island of Sylt. Here, the harbor porpoise density is highest in summer just after the births of the young ones at the inner edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

However, our whale sanctuary does not reach that far, but only extends up to the 12-mile zone.

The considerably larger site called "Sylter Aussenriff" protected under the Habitats Directive could ensure much better additional protection. However, corresponding regulations regarding protective areas have not yet been established.

The Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection must finally fulfill its obligation to submit management plans with due regard to species’ conservation needs to the EU, which in GRD’s view could for example include at least a ban of set gillnets and other forms of harmful human exploitation.

After adoption of appropriate protection acts the Federal Government must put pressure on the EU Commission to ensure that the strict regulations applying to German vessels are expanded to include fishing vessels from all EU member states to meet their obligations pursuant to the Habitats Directive.

This is what we expect the Federal Government to do if they are serious about marine conservation and the protection of biodiversity!

Pingers deter harbor porpoises
Harbor porpoise looks out of waterPingers are acoustic devices that are fixed to fishing nets and emit sounds to warn harbor porpoises. In areas protected under the Habitats Directive pingers do not meet the requirements set out in said Directive for special areas of conservation (SACs)! Pingers deter harbor porpoises. The use of pingers is obligatory for specific set gillnet fishing vessels during specific periods and in specific areas in the North Sea.

While their use can reduce the by-catch of harbor porpoises, this is nothing more than replacing one evil with another: because if many nets are set in an area the large-scale use of innumerable pingers will drive the marine mammals out of their habitats! Irrespective thereof, pingers require intensive maintenance which cannot always be ensured. As a consequence the devices may fail.

Extinct in the Baltic Sea
Extinct – this may soon be the fate of a harbor porpoise population in the Baltic Sea which genetically differs from the rest of the Baltic Sea populations and consists of only a few hundred individuals. Only strict measures such as a total ban of fishing nets and a designated protected area might prevent this population’s extinction.

Dead harbor popoiseThe Federal Government must act now!
Marine protected areas must offer true protection and allow endangered species to recover. Together with many other conservation organizations GRD has asked the ministers in charge, Peter Altmaier and Ilse Aigner, and Chancellor Angela Merkel to adopt effective protective measures in the areas protected under the Habitats Directive in the North and Baltic Seas and to submit those to the EU.

As regards the protected areas for harbor porpoises this translates into a ban of set gillnets and the promotion of using and developing alternative, sustainable fishing techniques.

The use of pingers in protected areas acoustically deters the animals and is no option, but even violates established EU law if properly interpreted.
Denise Wenger

A bottlenose dolphin stood no chance when it came near an armed dolphin hater who downright riddled the dolphin with bullets.

The porter of a hotel near the Istrian harbor of Porec aptly named "Dolphin" discovered the dead body off the Hotel’s beach.

The necropsy yielded 7 pellets in the animal’s chest. The adult dolphin was a male of 3 m length and 227 kg of weight. He had slowly and painfully bled to death. The results of the examination suggest that the dolphin was killed in the area where he was discovered. The police started an investigation against a person unknown. However, the chances of finding the criminal are rather small.

It is not the first time that a bottlenose dolphin was doomed by its friendly and curious behavior. They often approach boats and humans quite gregariously. In the past five years three dolphins shot to death were found in Istria alone, the estimated number of unknown cases is likely to be much higher.
Ulrike Kirsch

Harbor PorpoiseFor a few years now, the small marine mammals have regularly entered rivers in northern Germany in the months from early March through late May, as this year’s data collected by GRD shows again. Seemingly not shy at all at times, they can in particular be spotted in the Elbe river up to city of Hamburg and in the Weser river up to the city of Bremen during this period.

Having been absent for almost 100 years, the smart hunters have returned to their former partial habitats. They seem to be following migrating fish schools of stint and twaite shad which enter the rivers from the North Sea to spawn. Hamburg’s citizens were especially lucky this year because they could watch harbor porpoises nearly every day in April while sitting in cafes like the "Strandperle" or from the pontoon in Teufelsbrueck. So long as no major intrusions or changes are made to the waterways the porpoises are likely to return next spring too.

Harbor porpoise in Nassau-HarborMore than 300 detailed reports of harbor porpoise sightings
In the period from late February 2013 until on May 31, we received more than 300 detailed reports of harbor porpoise sightings. A big thank you to all the dedicated observers who contributed to our reporting scheme - this has allowed us to gain valuable insights into the porpoises’ whereabouts and obtain a very good picture of their distribution in the Elbe river, especially in the Hamburg area, and their behavior. The small cetaceans have thus come closer to us than ever before.

A conservative estimate suggests that as many as 50 to 80 harbor porpoises, or even more, were foraging in the Elbe river from the Koehlbrand region to the town of Wedel during this time period. GRD has published the data on its online sighting maps on its website as the reports have come in and has provided a data compilation to many authorities and institutes. We also would like to thank the media for their interest in this protected species and their coverage of the issue in newspapers, radio and TV reports. Thanks to the help of everybody we have already achieved a lot for the harbor porpoises

First results from 2013
At the same time as the smelt entered the river, the first harbor porpoises were spotted in Hamburg on February 27 and March 9. In mid-March the sightings and the number of the individuals sighted started to increase steadily. The small cetaceans chose the lower Elbe river up to the town of Wedel and the port of Hamburg as their hunting grounds in the spring.

P1050118-CPOD-webAlthough the sightings of single individuals with around 30 % and of two individuals with about 37 % made up for the major part, we did receive a surprising amount of sightings of larger groups of 4 to 8. From the Koehlbrand region we obtained reports of groups of even up to 10 animals hunting in the afternoon every day over weeks.

A new hunting technique
The smart marine mammals drive schools of small fish into the harbor basins, or into bays like Billwerder Bay, where they can more easily snatch their prey. With the help of the Hamburg Waterways and Shipping Office we set up click detectors (CPODs) at several spots in the Elbe river, which record the porpoises‘ ultrasound clicks as digital data. The devices provided excellent recordings and support the observations. They revealed almost permanent activities off Wedel as of late March––the porpoises were also hunting at night, which they can easily do by using their echolocation. This also explains why we have received several reports about porpoises sleeping at the water surface during the day - everybody needs a rest sometime! This is dangerous though.

Deadly risks from fast boats
Facing deadly risks from fast boats Porpoises traveling into the Elbe river are evidently facing many risks: the Elbe is a high-traffic waterway and certainly no ideal habitat because pollution, noise, and fast vessels pose serious threats to the porpoises. The fact that they put up with these risks shows how vital this feeding ground is to them.

Dead harbor porpoiseOur 2013 records show a sad total of 20 harbor porpoises found dead in the Elbe river alone, with an accumulation especially over the past two weeks as the pleasure craft season started.

Quite a few of the dead animals displayed signs suggestive of collisions with fast watercraft: porpoises cannot react quickly enough to escape them.

One porpoise was still alive, but very weak when found. It was spitting blood and gasping for air for 15 minutes before it died in agony. Another one was gasping for air when found and then also died.

Some other carcasses had wounds from propeller strikes. Given that the harbor porpoises stay in an area extending from the city to Hamburg down to the town of Wedel, GRD calls for a temporary speed limit in this area during the harbor porpoise season from early March through late May

SWKerte-IMG_1849Dead cetaceans must be examined
Finally, in late May our call for having every porpoise found dead examined by a veterinary was successful. Up to now, the carcasses found in the federal city state of Hamburg have been simply disposed of at carcass disposal sites, forever lost to research, forfeiting chances to investigate the causes of death and perform other examinations. From now on every porpoise found dead in Hamburg will also be necropsied.

Dedicated to the protection of these marine mammals, Dr. Veit Hennig of Hamburg University, who actively supported the data collection on our joint trips with the University’s Zodiak and the cooperation with the media, and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover) with Prof. Dr. Ursula Siebert, who examines every harbor porpoise found dead in Schleswig-Holstein, also support our efforts in this respect.

Again, we would like to thank all persons, boaters and walkers alike, the employees of the Hamburg Waterways and Shipping Office, Dr. Hennig and his students from Hamburg University, and the media for their fantastic contributions to the data collection on harbor porpoises.

We will certainly gain many exciting insights from the data analysis that will follow.
Denise Wenger

Delfinschutzzentrum-Molat-07-04-13-21Together with our Croatian partners from Zagreb University and the nature conservation organization VAL, we celebrated the inauguration of our dolphin conservation center on the northern Dalmatian island of Molat in early July.

The 40 something guests included journalists as well as representatives of agencies and institutions in Zagreb, Zadar, and the island of Molat.

The locals were also very much interested in this new facility on their island. "We are supporting this initiative and are very happy that it’s based here in our community," says Denis Mračić, president of the local council, to the Croatian TV channel HRT 1, who documented the inauguration.

With a solemn ribbon-cutting ceremony we officially opened the Center.

Projekt vesselThen project member Martina Duras led a tour through the buildings, followed by a brief presentation by project staff member Tom Gomerčić about the German-Croatian project to "Save the last Adriatic Dolphins" from its beginnings in 1999 until today. The inauguration rounded off with a small buffet.

So far, the Center is just minimally equipped with the most basic items, as is the information center with its posters, brochures, and a bottlenose dolphin skull. Some other things, including work stations and working equipment are still lacking.

The Center is an important milestone in our efforts to save the last dolphins in Croatia
It is ideally located in northern Dalmatia to serve as a permanent base for the fieldwork and as an information center for locals and tourists to learn more about the marine mammals living in the Croatian waters.
Ulrike Kirsch

Paracas-Dolphins playingTwo resident groups of dolphins living off the Paracas peninsula in southern Peru have been steadily gaining popularity, enjoying particular protection thanks to 13 years of our project work. We are happy about the number of calves observed: the mothers can be seen raising their young without interference.

Since 1999, GRD has been supporting the Peruvian marine conservation organization ACOREMA. Our good cooperation has led to the development of various measures to protect the dolphins, against the dolphin hunt and dynamite fishing, against marine pollution and plastic garbage, as well as to the development of school projects, and campaigns to raise public environmental awareness.

Thanks to the support of our dolphin adopters, supporters, and sponsors of our project, we have been able to realize all of these measures.

The Supay-Dolphins

Supay_dolphins_IMG4719Five years after the earthquake of 2007 wrought heavy damage in Paracas, we have finally been able to return to boat-based observations to study this isolated group of dolphins in the Paracas National Reservation, which till then could only be monitored with difficulties from the coastal cliffs, some of which are in danger of collapsing.

It made our hearts leap for joy to see that the group of bottlenose dolphins of original 16 members has grown to 21. This means that new offspring was born, and has been observed, and it is highly likely that all group members identified in 1999 are still alive!

The Supay dolphins were GRD’s first adoption dolphins
Fortunately, eight individuals were recognized by their dorsal fins: Little Tree, Frame, Sun, Up, Down, Shorty, Shark, and Scratchy. The marks of the other dolphins, however, have changed so much in the past years, that they no longer resemble the original photos in the dorsal fin catalog.

Successful, but risky: the fight against dynamite fishing
The Supay dolphins do not seem to mingle with other dolphin groups. In the beginning of our project, their survival was threatened by several factors including dynamite fishing above all.

In cooperation with the Paracas National Reserve we achieved the designation of a special protective status of their habitat. ACOREMA trains rangers to patrol for offenders engaged in blast fishing.

Several campaigns against dynamite fishing, one in cooperation with fishermen and the authorities, another one by implementing a public campaign including a radio spot, made the problem known – successfully. No traces of dynamite fishing have been discovered for over one year by ACOREMA and the Paracas National Reserve staff.

Patricia Saravia, a biologist working for the Paracas National Reserve administration, told me about the risks these rangers are facing in doing their work. She explained the problems with poachers and the dangers for tourists: "Patrolling for instance whether there are any dynamite fishing activities going on or to make sure that tourists are not robbed is a very dangerous job for the rangers, because there is just a single police officer for this region, who does not even carry a gun, whereas poachers are often armed."

The Paracas-Dolphins

We are pleased that the dolphins on the northern side of the Paracas peninsula living in the Paracas bay also have offspring.

Eight mother-calf pairs were observed in 2011, including "PBD 062" with their second calf (the first one was born in 2006), and Sharpy with a young one at her side – a final proof that Sharpy is a female! Moreover, the adoption dolphins and dolphin mothers Silver, Breeze, and Longscar were seen in company of their kids.

It is especially female dolphins that frequent the bay
This might indicate that the bay offers good conditions for raising their offspring. The highest site fidelity was shown by Silver, Longscar, Breeze, and Queen. Frequently, the mother-calf pairs form groups. Not far from the beach they feed their young, rest, socialize, and last but not least at every opportunity follow the fishing boats which land their catch of Peruvian anchovy, with some bits being left for the dolphins.

Says project manager Julio Reyes: "Among the males, the highest site fidelity is exhibited by Pacman and Bay; these two dolphins also show the highest 'association index' since late 2006. The association index is the percentage on which a pair of adult dolphins is seen together, at a very close range. Association indexes higher than 80 % generally correspond to adult males."

A Paracas dolphin is curiously approaching a surferUnusual dolphin encounters
The most beautiful moment during my project visit in February 2012 was the encounter with our adoption dolphins in the Paracas Bay.

Having searched for them in the entire bay by boat, we finally spotted them just about 4 m off the beach of the Hilton Hotel at the far end of the bay.

It was just unbelievable: the dolphins stayed there for over an hour, chasing fish from the ground, probably sandeels, positioning themselves up -side-down with their flukes up in the air.

Kayak dolphin encounterThe dolphins visiting in the early morning hours, most guests of the Hilton have missed this "show".

However, two people, one in a kayak, the other one on a surfboard, had the best encounters with the dolphins: very curious and not shy at all, the dolphins came very close to them.
Denise Wenger

300,000 marine mammals are dying in fishing nets worldwide each year. In the North and Baltic seas set gill nets pose a threat in particular to harbor porpoises. The development of dolphin-friendly nets could be a hope for the endangered animals. Sven Koschinski and Prof. Boris Culik, German marine zoologists from Kiel, made behavioral studies involving harbor porpoises at the Canadian west coast to find solutions to the bycatch problem. In the summer of 2003, they studied how harbor porpoises react to a new net material consisting of a barium sulfate nylon mixture. This study was financially supported by GRD, WWF, DUH, and other organizations. First findings are promising.

Sven Koschinski reports:

Conventional nylon nets are difficult to be detected by harbor porpoises, which orient themselves by using sonar clicks. The material produces almost no echo so that the animals swim “blindly” into the fishermen’s set and drift gillnets. Heavy barium sulfate particles mixed into the net fiber can act as acoustic reflectors, allowing the animals to detect the net early enough to avoid it. While initial tests with the new nets had yielded a noticeable reduction in the level of bycatch, subsequent studies led to contradictory results. We wanted to know what precisely happens at these nets in comparison with “normal” nylon nets. Is the reduction in bycatch due to the stiffness of the net fiber or can the material really be better detected? To find out we studied the swimming behavior of harbor porpoises in the vicinity of two nets, a barium sulfate net and a standard net, set by turns in the coastal waters off Vancouver Island, using a theodolite (an instrument used in surveying) for our observations. In addition, a click detector was fixed in the net to record the animals’ echolocation sounds.

Sonar Clicks of Harbor Porpoises Vary

Based on the record of the click sounds, we have been able to clearly identify differences in the harbor porpoises’ behavior. The intervals between the individual sonar clicks were longer at the barium sulfate net than they were at the standard net. These longer intervals imply that an animal “looks” at the net from a greater distance than it does around the standard net, because harbor porpoises first wait for the echo of a click to return before emitting another sound. With greater distances, this takes longer. Early echolocation can make sure that the animals detect the net in time to avoid it. We have thus been able to prove that the net can actually be better detected by the harbor porpoises’ biosonar. This has also been confirmed by subsequent acoustic measurements in a tank. Low additional costs are another advantage: barium sulfate nets cost only 10 percent more than conventional nets, according to WWF. Mass production could reduce this difference even more.

However, the factor of improved detectability only applies when harbor porpoises do use their sonar, which, unfortunately, is not always the case. Yet, in another test we could show that the harbor porpoises’ echolocation activities in the research area could be quadrupled with the aid of sine tones at low sound levels. Therefore, another study regarding a combination of these two methods will be carried out this year. A “warning signal” is to stimulate the animals to echolocate so that they can detect the net and safely swim around it. Since these warning signals are not as loud as those of conventional “pingers” –acoustic harbor porpoise deterrents whose use will be obligatory in the EU for certain high-risk fisheries as of 2005– they contribute significantly less to the noise pollution of the oceans.

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