Taiji Updates....Who Is This Elora???

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Right now, Team OPS (Louie, Gina, Annie, Kirk) is in the South Pacific filming and recording humpback whales for the next film. So what is going on in The Cove in Taiji?
Fortunately, the international outcry resulting from the film, The Cove has sparked action from people young and old. And the young are truly important, as Louie asks in the film, "where are the next Ric O'Barrys?"
Welcome Elora West, "A Teenage Activist" as she blogs regularly.
Her reports are not only valuable,
"Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that no dolphins, so far, have been driven into the the Cove today."
But real:
"After we decided that the fishermen probably were not going out today, we left for breakfast. We went to an adorable little bakery and got some egg Danish, doughnuts, and sandwiches."
And inspiring:
"I wanted to say to anyone that has said they wish they could do something like I am doing, go for it! We as kids, teens, and young adults are the future generation, and we need to make sure our oceans are protected."
Homeschooled, raised in WA, Elora is in Taiji with her dad, providing timely, accurate observations.
We welcome this bold young lady to the ranks of activists, artists, filmmakers, writers, cultural observers, leaders. She rocks in all categories.

OSHA Fines SeaWorld

Monday, August 23, 2010

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, our US Dept of Labor's oversight arm) just released three citations against SeaWorld. The most severe, classified as "Willful" carries a $70,000 fine for exposing a trainer to a killer whale with "known aggressive tendencies". This was, of course, a fatal exposure as 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau was pulled underwater by Tilikum in Orlando. The 12,000 pound marine mammal was captured at age 2 off the coast of Iceland in 1983. He killed a trainer who fell into his pool 19 years ago in Canada and in 1999 was found with the corpse of a man who had jumped a SeaWorld fence draped over his back.
This is not the sole instance of mishaps at dolphin parks. There is a dark history behind forcing free beings into slavery.

Louie Psihoyos, who testified in Congress against SeaWorld earlier this year said,
"I’m heartened that OSHA fined SeaWorld with a willful violation of safety in the tragic death of an orca trainer. However, a $75,000 fine does not send a strong enough message to the captive dolphin industry about the inherent risks of confining marine mammals."
 In contrast, OSHA recently fined the US Post Office $350,000 for having electrical hazards.
SeaWorld was also fined $5000 for exposing its employees to a 10'3" fall hazard, "a stairway railing system was not installed on the front side right bridge of the Believe stage at Shamu Stadium."

Bad Bet

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Cove Screens Japan: A Success

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lots of good news from Japan, The Cove is seeing brisk ticket sales, protests have died down and 10 more theaters are lined up to screen the doc.
According to today's Daily Yomiuri, "Atsushi Matsumura, manager of No. 7 Geijutsu Gekijo theater in Yodogawa Ward, Osaka, said he has been surprised by the film's success, with screenings selling out every weekend."
This comes as a big relief after the film's Japanese release in early July was marred by intimidation by right wing nationalists. The Cove distributor, Unplugged, obtained several injunctions against the protesters to keep their offices safe, in addition to Yokohama New Theater. Fears that viewers might stay away have proven unfounded.
Protests have died down. Ticket sales have been strong. Geijutsu Gekijo Theater has actually extended the scheduled run for a few more weeks.
"The Cove" has been picked up by 10 additional theaters--including venues in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture; Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture; and Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture--since its initial release by 25 theaters.
More good news.
According to Michiko Nakai's piece today, the discussion has shifted from noise to content.
"Film magazine Kinema Junpo featured "The Cove" in an issue published in late July, and the July 6 edition of "Close-up Gendai," a talk program on NHK TV, discussed aspects of the documentary's production, including its use of surreptitious filming." A healthy dialogue is the foundation of true democracy.
We salute the brave people of Japan, theater owners, film viewers, journalists and especially the courageous team at Unplugged.
~Viki Psihoyos~
image courtesy Oceanic Defense Japan

The Cove Effect, And More

Monday, July 26, 2010

Busy times here at OPS  headquarters, the little non profit that brought you The Cove.
We are now working on the next film project, The Singing Planet: The whole world is singing, we just haven't been listening.
As director, Louie Psihoyos told Momentum recently, "We're shooting a 3-D film about the mass extinction of wildlife caused by humanity--I think it's the biggest story out there right now."
Research involves Gulf Coast missions, reading, talking to writers, scientists, divers, and thinkers. We are all seeing major effects on our planet. Impossible to ignore.
We are also looking at what has happened since our first doc premiered at Sundance, back in January 2009. As we witness The Cove Effect, the numbers tell a big story about this little non profit, OPS.
And it really does take a village (to raise a child, African proverb) or in this case it takes an army of activists of affect change.
Thanks to all, we couldn't have gotten this far this alone.

Gulf Snapshot

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Images from Team OPS' recent visit to the Gulf Coast.

From the air, at first there is no oil, then there is oil. Lots of oil, as far as the eye can see.

Oil, turned red by dispersants, washes up on the sugar white sands of Orange Beach, AL.

Clean up crews work hard in the sweltering heat.

Oil and dispersants stick to sand, wildlife, and feet.

images, OPS (Oceanic Preservation Society)

Report From The Gulf, II

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today we flew in a seaplane from New Orleans into the gulf, where we saw the beautiful yet fragile system of wetlands in Louisiana. Before long, the landscape became littered with oil rigs and fishing boats converted for oil cleanup. It was a stark reminder of how the oil industry has invaded our gulf, our wetlands, and our homes. After an hour of flying south, we were hit with a strong smell of oil. The water turned from a choppy cobalt to bright blue with rust colored streaks. The water was smooth due to the increased surface tension brought by the oil. The whole slick stretched as far as we could see, and suddenly, we were at the Deepwater Horizon disaster site-- Ground zero of one of the worst ecological disasters our country has ever faced.
We've been in the gulf for a week now, and back on shore, there has been a sense of the calm before the storm. There aren't thick globs of black stuff washing up with dead animals like we were expecting. Even though the spill started two months ago, most of the oil is still off shore. And the amounts that have washed up so far are broken up by the dispersants being dumped into the gulf at the well head. Not only do the dispersants make it harder to see the oil, it's harder to clean up, and is more toxic than the oil itself. Most of the oil isn't slicked on the surface, instead it's hidden underwater out of reach by the booms being used for cleanup.

Yesterday a line of storms came in where we were staying in Alabama, and with the rain came the oil. The gulf beaches are a real paradise, but instead we witnessed sugar white sands marred with brown oil and the stench of kerosene.

Back at the spill site, there were dozens of boats, rigs and platforms in the area. A burnoff operation created a large fireball of burning oil and gas with a big plume of smoke. It's easy to underestimate or even ignore what's happening in the gulf, but this tragedy is real, and it's not over.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is only the most visible manifestation of the consequences of burning fossil fuels. Climate change, ocean acidification, and species loss are the long term repercussions of the way that we get energy. Our next film will be about the mass species extinction event that's going on right now, and our work here in the gulf will help illustrate how our actions are causing it. We remain hopeful, though, because we have the power to create the change we so badly need. With The Cove, and now with our next film, we continue our mission of inspiring people to save the oceans.
~Gina Papabeis
images, Louie Psihoyos

Report From The Gulf

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I’m in the Gulf now with the OPS crew shooting a horror of epic proportions unfolding here.  Reading that BP CEO Tony Hayward is off yachting while whole towns are all out of jobs is so out of control – I’m incredulous - you couldn’t make this stuff up.  We were trying to get a tour of the estuaries by an out of work fisherman today but he was forced to take a job with BP - suddenly he couldn’t talk to us.  We’re finding that getting anyone to talk is pretty difficult in the Gulf.  The oil companies, one of their own effectively destroying the only competing industry, hold all the cards in this fragile high stakes game with the environment now.   Hard working people are left with no alternative but to sign non-disclosure agreements and start working for the dark side. 

At a time when Japan is being questioned for censoring The Cove the hypocrisy of the right wing in our country (and England) forcing poor fisherman to be silenced is not lost on us.   Seeing oily pelicans, egrets and spoonbills trying to feed their young in their breeding grounds in what has becoming the biggest environmental disaster in America is heartbreaking.  We aim to give these animals and the environment a voice.  But we’re going to use this opportunity to help tell the story of what I believe is the crime of the century, how the burning of fossil fuels is destroying the oceans.  The oil spill is just the most visible manifestation of the bigger disaster that has been unfolding in the environment for quite some time.

Acidification of the oceans, which results from the burning of fossil fuels, has been destroying the oceans since the industrial age but only in the last few years has it been found to be one of the largest environmental problems we face.

The only solace I find is that we are on the side of the good fight.  It gets me up in the morning, it motivates me to do what we do at OPS against overwhelming odds. Next week The Cove comes out in Japan and that effort made the front page of the NY Times yesterday. People told us that would never happen but we have 20 theaters still holding there. After the Oscars, we used our cameras to reveal an LA restaurant that had secretly been serving sushi made from the endangered sei whale. They were shut down. We recently found restaurants in Seoul, Korea to be serving this fare as well and this morning I was told that DNA tests trace the origin to guess where?  Taiji!  Like I said, you couldn’t make this stuff up.  The restaurant owner is facing five years in jail.

This week the IWC votes to abrogate the moratorium on whaling and I’m told by colleagues there The Cove has stirred up a hornet nest –  abuzz also by the London Times creating a sting operation that exposed the Japanese vote-buying scheme.

Thank you all for your support and helping us keep shine a light on the good fight – this kind of evil can’t stand the light!

Onwards and Upwards,


image, Gina Papabeis, OPS



Open Letter to IWC Delegates

Friday, June 18, 2010

Open Letter to the IWC

The Oceanic Preservation Society, on behalf of citizens worldwide, formally entreats all IWC delegates that have engaged in unethical or inappropriate vote bargaining to abstain from voting at the IWC 2010 conference.

At stake is a highly charged decision over whether or not to overturn the world’s ban on commercial whaling. Citizens, advocates and governments worldwide are impassioned in this debate over the fate of the world’s whales – vote trading in this instance is not merely unethical, it is insulting.

IWC delegates from six countries – St. Kitts and Nevis, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, and Ivory Coast – engaged in negotiations to sell their votes at the upcoming IWC meeting in exchange for aid. An undercover investigation by the London Sunday Times  reveals that these governments were not only willing to accept bribes of financial aid for their countries, but eager to bargain these offers against longstanding kickbacks from the Japanese government to extract a higher price.

Although six countries are formally implicated in the Sunday Times’ investigation, their statements compromise the Pacific Islands, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Antigua, Barbuda, the Grenadines, Tanzania and other African pro-whaling countries in “a vote-buying operation that Tokyo has always denied.”

In exchange for a pro-whaling vote, Japan’s allies admit to receiving cash payments, daily conference spending money up to $1,000 per day, travel and hotel compensation, and call girls, in addition to larger international aid packages.

When it was originally passed in 1986, the moratorium on whaling was seen as a watershed victory for the environmental movement. To this day, it remains a point of pride and victory for advocates everywhere. To see the weight of the IWC’s decisions tossed around like poker chips in a game is an indignity to the IWC and casts serious doubt on the credibility of that organization’s ability to reign in its members and produce sound policy in good faith.

Engaging in such corrupt behavior ought to result in a forfeiture of the right to vote. And nations of disrepute should in good conscious abstain from voting at the IWC 2010 conference. If they do not, it is incumbent on the IWC to enforce the law of ethics, if for no other purpose, than to defend its credibility to the world.

Flights, Girls and Cash, Oh My: Japan IWC Bribery Scandal

Monday, June 14, 2010

For once, we didn't do the gotcha stuff. The UK-based Sunday Times recently staged a sting operation to reveal the involvement of IWC (International Whaling Commission) delegates in a cash for votes system.
This comes at a key time. The IWC prepares to meet next week in Morocco to discuss a proposal that could end the 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling. Prior to the ban, tens of thousands of whales a year were slaughtered, yet Japan continues to harvest about 1,900 whales annually, under a "scientific research" clause. Many question the actual science of the kills, claiming the meat is sold commercially. Also, a former whaler has come forward claiming widespread criminality aboard the ships. Whale meat is valuable, profit is a strong motivation for many. Japan's agenda needs the support of 75% of the IWC's 88 members to pass.
For proof of rumored bribery, two Times reporters posed as lobbyists working for a fictitious Swiss billionaire conservationist. They tried to convince six small nations to consider selling their votes.
The governments of St Kitts and Nevis, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, and Ivory Coast had already entered negotiations to support Japan’s desire to slaughter whales in exchange for money and “good girls.”
"Our recordings of the meetings with pro-whaling officials around the world reveal the secrets of a Japanese vote-buying operation that Tokyo has always denied. It also raises serious questions about the credibility of the IWC."
Find out where your delegates stand, maybe they haven't yet accepted flights, girls and cash. Urge them to fight the good fight and not vote with Japan next week.
Image via