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SeaWorld puts end to orca breed­ing

SEAWORLD will stop breed­ing killer whales in cap­tiv­ity, bow­ing to years of pres­sure from an­i­mal rights ac­tivists. But the or­cas al­ready at its three parks will con­tinue per­form­ing as they live out their re­main­ing years. SeaWorld En­ter­tain­ment Inc’s de­ci­sion came after it pledged in Novem­ber to re­place its sig­na­ture “Shamu” killer whale shows in San Diego in the US with mod­i­fied pre­sen­ta­tions of the an­i­mals that fo­cused on con­ser­va­tion. SeaWorld pres­i­dent Joel Manby said the parks would use birth con­trol to halt re­pro­duc­tion among its killer whales, also known as or­cas. SeaWorld, which op­er­ates ma­rine parks in San Diego, Orlando and San An­to­nio, has a to­tal of 29 killers whales. Five of them were cap­tured in the wild, but SeaWorld has not caught or­cas at sea for al­most 40 years. The parks have been crit­i­cised for their treat­ment of the cap­tive ma­rine mam­mals, with some ac­tivists seek­ing an end to pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion of killer whales al­to­gether. The crit­i­cism in­ten­si­fied after three ma­rine mam­mals — an orca, a bel­uga whale and a white-sided dol­phin — died at SeaWorld San An­to­nio within four months in late 2015 and early this year. The life­span of a killer whale in the wild is typ­i­cally 30 years for males and 50 for fe­males, with some fe­males liv­ing as long as 100 years, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. SeaWorld’s old­est killer whale, Corky, is 51. SeaWorld also said it would scrap plans for a $US100 mil­lion ($134 mil­lion) project called “Blue World” to en­large its orca habi­tat at SeaWorld San Diego.

High-pro­file ex­pe­di­tion fo­cuses on fish farms

The Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety is team­ing up with high-pro­file Cana­dian en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and sci­en­tists to in­ves­ti­gate the im­pact of salmon farms on the B.C. coast. Ac­tor-turned-ac­tivist Pamela Anderson, Van­cou­ver en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist David Suzuki, First Na­tions leader Ernie Crey and ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist Alexan­dra Mor­ton will be at a news con­fer­ence in Van­cou­ver Mon­day to launch Op­er­a­tion Virus Hunter. Mor­ton said the ex­pe­di­tion aims to raise aware­ness of the dan­gers the farmed salmon in­dus­try — which raise salmon in pens in the ocean — poses to wild salmon stocks and ocean bio­di­ver­sity. “They use the ocean as an open sewer and dump their waste straight into it, specif­i­cally the viruses and sea lice that breed in industrial farms. They’re al­lowed to pour that onto the big­gest salmon mi­gra­tion routes in Canada.” Mor­ton will be one of the sci­en­tists on-board the Sea Shep­herd’s R/V Martin Sheen as it sets sail this week to north­ern Van­cou­ver Is­land, fol­low­ing the route of the Fraser River sock­eye mi­gra­tion. The 92-foot ves­sel will stop at salmon farms to con­duct “au­dits” for diseases, which the Sea Shep­herd said will be done in a “non-ag­gres­sive and non-ha­rass­ing man­ner.” Mor­ton said they will specif­i­cally be look­ing for the piscine re­ovirus, a virus as­so­ci­ated with out­breaks of heart and skele­tal mus­cle in­flam­ma­tion, which was found for the first time in B.C. on fish in one farm in John­stone Strait in May. Ban­ning ma­rine pens and trans­fer­ring farmed fish into tanks on land would be the “big­gest fix­able im­pact on our wild salmon,” she said. While salmon stocks have been de­clin­ing around the world, ju­ris­dic­tions that had banned salmon farms from the ocean, such as Alaska, have seen an in­crease in wild salmon num­bers, added Mor­ton. The cam­paign also launched a 90-minute PSA fea­tur­ing Anderson, who called on con­sumers not to put farmed salmon on their plates. Anderson is chair­man of the board of the Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety. Jeremy Dunn, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the B.C. Salmon Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the in­dus­try has a good track record of en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship and is com­mit­ted to achiev­ing a high level of third-party cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for its farms. “Fish health is an ob­ses­sion to salmon farm­ers,” said Dunn, adding that an av­er­age 94 per cent of farmed salmon that en­ter the ocean are raised through to har­vest. He said the R/V Martin Sheen could pose a “biose­cu­rity con­cern” if it tres­passed onto wa­ters leased to salmon farm­ers. There are 109 li­censed farms in B.C., with about 60 to 70 in op­er­a­tion at any one time.

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