Goodbye Flipper?

Rick O'Perry, right, and another dolphin trainer with Flipper

Flipper, an Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, was one of the biggest television stars from 1964 – 1967. There were actually 4 dolphins who played Flipper on the screen.  Most of the series was filmed behind the scenes at the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay.  The success of the Flipper franchise made dolphins a lovable species around the world.  The true story of Flipper, the dolphin and the making of the television series, is told by Ric O’Barry, Flipper’s trainer, in his book Behind The Dolphin Smile.  For those of you who were born after the 1960s, you may have seen dolphins in captivity at marine parks or even had the opportunity to swim with dolphins at one of these attractions. (NOTE:  I do not support dolphins in captivity)

Due in large part to people’s exposure to Flipper or dolphins in captive environments, there has been increased interest in and concern for dolphins around the world.  Since the beginning of this year dolphins worldwide have been stranding themselves and dying in record numbers.  The reasons for these deaths are slow in coming.  Bear in mind that the numbers listed below are like the tip of an iceberg.  Only those dolphins found onshore are listed.  Those who died at sea, whose bodies were never discovered and/or recovered are not included in the mortality/stranding counts.

THE GULF STATES – GULF OF MEXICO – February, 2010 – now

When the first report of the explosion and oil leak of the Deepwater-Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico was announced,  I knew that we were about to witness one of the greatest environmental disasters in the history of the U.S.  It had the potential to outpace the Exxon-Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska – and it did.  In case you never saw the official mortality record from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, their last report from April, 2011 lists the statistics on birds, sea turtles and marine mammals impacted.

Of course, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  They don’t include unrecovered animals, nor the impact on breeding or toxins passed on to the offspring of the survivors, nor the poisoned food sources available to the survivors.  Please don’t get me wrong.  The people living in the area are exposed to the same toxins, but they, at least, may be treated for the illnesses that result from their exposure.  And, the people aren’t living in the water, surrounded by the oil and corexit, a toxic substance used to disperse the oil.  People also can choose what they will eat, which isn’t the case for the birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals living and swimming in this toxic soup.

Since February of 2010, 693 dolphin deaths have been documented in the Gulf of Mexico.  A good compilation of the news coverage can be found at Reef Relief.

An ongoing die-off of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in 693 carcasses washing ashore. Scientists believe many more dolphins likely died but were never recovered. An investigation is underway to determine whether the BP oil spill is to blame. (Press-Register/Ben Raines)

Many of the dolphins in Barataria Bay, LA are sick, according to researchers.  The AL.com blog has a full story on what researchers have found through taking both blood and tissue samples.

Thirty-two dolphins caught in August in Louisiana’s heavily oiled Barataria Bay were found to suffer from a range of symptoms including anemia, low body weight, hormone deficiencies, liver disease, and lung problems.

Those symptoms are typical of mammals exposed to oil in laboratory experiments, scientists said.

According to the Gulflive.com blog, of the 30 dolphins who washed ashore since January, 2012, 24 have been calves.

“We are dealing with a very unusual mortality,” said Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. “It is mostly calves. Generally when you see a stranding it is a variety of animals — adults, males, females, young.”

The second anniversary is approaching and the legacy of this catastrophe mostly lives on with those people, animals and plants along the Gulf Coast who survived.  This story from the one year anniversary has some amazing and heartbreaking photos: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/04/gulf_oil_spill_one_year_later.html   This recent story paints a more current picture of the state of the Gulf Coast.

Laurel didn’t find dead turtles on a recent stroll on her Gulfport shores, which she now calls “death beach.” But walking along she smelled something bad. After poking around in the sand, she found the nauseating source: a dead baby dolphin’s tail, decomposing and buried not more than a few inches in the sand. An out-of-work shrimper came a long and picked it up, and when he realized what it was he started to sob: “This really ruins my day…” Laurel remembers. Tourists looked at it incredulously, Laurel says, their kids screaming, ‘Mommy, it’s a dolphin’s tail!’

The attention of the rest of the country has turned to other news stories, having been  lulled into a false sense that everything has returned to normal by all of those commercials, funded by BP and the states’ tourist boards.  The bodies of the dead and dying animals tell a different story.  But dolphins, in particular, aren’t just dying along the Gulf Coast.

CAPE COD – January – February, 2012

177 dolphins have stranded themselves in Cape Cod.  Once again the cause or causes of the high number of dolphins ending up on the beaches of Cape Cod are simply guesses.  In mid-February, 11 stranded dolphins were found onshore in Wellfleet.

The remote inlet down Wellfleet’s Herring River is a place where the tides recede fast and far, and that’s left the animals mired in a grayish-brown mud one local calls “Wellfleet mayonnaise.”

News coverage of the incident details the stranding and actions taken to save the dolphins.   Sixty dolphins stranded in Cape Cod.  The full story tells that only 19 could be rescued.

A single dead dolphin calf was found in Queens, NY.

Kim Durham, the foundation’s rescue program director, tells the Daily News there were “no signs of trauma.” Researchers say an increasing number of common dolphins have been spotted in the Northeast in the winter, which may be attributable to climate change and a steady improvement in environmental cleanliness in the waters off the Rockaway peninsula.

Although no official cause for the strandings has been announced, there are some who think Naval operations in the area could be to blame.

Again, just as in the months of January and February Naval activity is taking place in the Atlantic. Even government Funded IFAW Katie Moore who has denied Naval involvement despite evidence of Naval activity can no longer deny the possibility of sound being the source of these tragic deaths along the Atlantic Coastline, “

And these deaths may not be the only ones which may be attributable to sonar type activities taking place in the oceans. 

PERU – February – April 2012

To locate possible oil and/or gas deposits, seismic surveys are conducted with the use of air guns by releasing high pressure air.  This passage from the Canadian Centre for Energy Information report was particularly interesting.

Offshore seismic surveys require government approval and must comply with strict environmental regulations, including a pre-survey environmental assessment. Programs are designed to avoid fish spawning seasons and sensitive fishery areas.  During the first half-hour of a survey, the energy level of the discharges is gradually increased so that fish and aquatic mammals have an opportunity to move out of the area.

That paragraph is telling.  The fish and other marine life are given a full half hour to “leave the area.”  Are these people serious?  Any of the marine life in area will understand the increasing sound waves are a signal to vamoose?  Maybe they should try transmitting in Morse Code, it would make as much sense.  Dolphins, like all cetaceans, use echo location to find food, navigate in their habitat and communicate with each other.  Needless to say, these high pressure sound waves can do massive damage to marine life, especially dolphins and whales.  If you are interested in more detailed information on dolphins and the use and effect of sound, check out this lesson plan:  http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/education/documents/porpoise-marsouin/harbourporpoise_lesson4_e.pdf

Of all these recent stranding episodes, the largest die-off is occurring off the coast of Peru.  Over 3000 dead dolphins have washed ashore since the incident began.  Once again, authorities and researchers are cautious about announcing the cause of the massive numbers of dead dolphins.  Some have attributed the deaths to the search for offshore oil deposits in the ocean floor.    More information, along with photos and video on this massive die- off can be found at The Watchers and at SF GateCNTV  and on the blog StrandedNoMore.

For the time being, drilling for oil is a necessary evil.  There are many downsides to onshore drilling, but drilling offshore has far greater along with potentially catastrophic problems.  This Hub Pages blog entry by Cheryl has a comprehensive discussion of offshore drilling.

It seems evident to me that we, humans, are the culprits in the deaths of these magnificent, highly intelligent animals.  Whether through releasing toxins into the environment or sending shockwaves through the ocean, we are killing them.  Why?  OIL – our endless quest to drill for more and more and more oil.  And our tax dollars continue to subsidize this industry, while these oil companies make vast amounts of profit.  Then we get to pay again, at artificially inflated prices, when we pump the resultant gasoline into our vehicles.  We are complicit, intentionally or not.  But Bill McKibben, of 350.org can say it better than I.

Whether or not the bill passes, those subsidies are worth focusing on.  After all, we’re talking at least $10 billion in freebies and, depending on what you count, possibly as much as $40 billion annually in freebie cash for an energy industry already making historic profits.


Bad News at Good News Camp

Last night I posted that prosecutors are looking into sexual abuse allegations relating to an employee at the Good News Christian Camp on Cape Cod–the same camp at which Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown says he was sexually abused by a counselor when he was a young boy.

Today an employee at the camp shot himself. And officials say he is the employee who was recently accused by another man who was abused at the camp when he was 10 years old. From The Boston Globe:

An employee of a Christian summer camp on Cape Cod shot himself to death today just days after he became the focus of a criminal investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a camper during the 1980s, officials said.

In a joint statement released this afternoon, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe and Sandwich Police Chief Peter Wack said the man was dead when he was found near his vehicle on the grounds of Camp Good News this morning.

[….]

The dead man’s name was not released by authorities. But Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents a former camper who brought a sex abuse allegation to prosecutors on Monday, said the employee was his client’s alleged abuser: Charles “Chuck” Devita, 43, who is listed on the camp’s website as part of the leadership team and director of the physical plant.

Devita left behind notes insisting “that he never did anything being alleged and was, indeed, sick of being accused,” according to a law enforcement official.

What a coward. He spends decades abusing vulnerable young boys, and when he’s finally caught he checks out, leaving a note claiming innocence.

Meanwhile, Scott Brown says his abuse took place in the 1970’s, more than 40 years ago. He refuses to identify his abuser, but now we know that the Camp has employed at least two pedophiles.

According to the Boston Herald:

Garabedian tells the Herald his client was supposed to meet with a state police investigator about today’s death. Garabedian said his client alleges he was repeatedly sexually assaulted at the overnight camp in 1985 by Devita.

Garabedian said three other people have now come forward today alleging they were also sexually assaulted at the camp — two from Devita and one from another man.

“Another individual has come forward alleging that he was molested by a different individual. I am currently investigating,” Garabedian said.

So…maybe three pedophiles have worked for this “Christian” camp. Let’s hope parents in Massachusetts stop sending their kids to this place, and learn to be vigilant about what is going on with their kids in the future. Parents need to be aware that pedophiles seek out jobs where they will have access to children.

It’s important for parents to discuss these kinds of situations with children in age appropriate ways. If nothing else, being open with your kids might help them feel safe to talk to you if, goddess forbid, they are approached by a sexual abuser.


Late Night: Prosecutors Investigating Cape Cod Christian Camp

Accused Perpetrator still works for Camp Good News

Back in February Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown revealed to 60 Minutes that he had been repeatedly sexually abused as a child. The interview coincided with the publication of Brown’s memoir, Against All Odds. From The Boston Globe:

Sen. Scott Brown has revealed he was sexually abused as a child several times by a camp counselor and was physically abused by a stepfather.

The Massachusetts Republican said yesterday that he hopes the childhood physical and sexual abuse he writes about in a new book can inspire others to overcome similar challenges.

[….]

The camp counselor threatened to kill him if he disclosed the sexual abuse, Brown said in an interview to air Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

“He said, ‘If you tell anybody…I’ll kill you. I will make sure nobody believes you,”‘ Brown said in the interview.

Today The Globe reports that at least one other person has come forward to say that he was also abused at the Christian camp.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the former camper, referred the allegation to the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office yesterday. The office acknowledged that it has launched an investigation into the complaint by Garabedian’s client…

Garabedian says the employee who allegedly assaulted his client in the mid-1980s still works at Camp Good News, which is located in Sandwich.

Uh-oh. That isn’t good. There are likely to be more victims coming forward then. A pedophile can molest hundreds of children if not stopped.

…First Assistant District Attorney Brian Glenny said that he has received several calls relating to other matters at the camp in the weeks since Brown disclosed in his autobiography that he had been abused. Glenny declined to specify whether the other calls related to allegations of sexual abuse but said that the office is looking into the issues raised by the callers.

According to the Globe story, an employee was reported for having child porn on his computer in the late ’90s, but no one did anything about it.

In 2002, former Good News counselor Charles Lewis filed a report with the Sandwich police saying that he had repeatedly found child pornography on the computer of one of the camp’s other workers, according to Lewis.

Lewis, who worked at the camp from 1991 until 1999, said he had reported his finding to the camp’s former director, Faith Willard, but little came of it. When Sandwich police questioned Willard about the matter, according to Lewis, she told them that she had thrown away the disc on which the pornography had been stored.

That wasn’t very helpful of Ms. Willard. I wonder if the porn belonged to the perpetrator in question? Anyway, this employee was apparently working for Camp Good News since the 1980s. I hate to think how many children he hurt.

You can use this as an open thread.