Nov 062015

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR

juvenile minke whale by silurian (small)Sightings of juvenile minke whales off Scotland’s west coast increased in 2015 to the highest ever recorded within a survey season.
Marine research expeditions carried out by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have indicated either a significant increase in actual numbers or an influx of minke whales from elsewhere.

The charity’s 2015 research season also recorded the highest annual number of common dolphin sightings since its expeditions began, with 723 individuals observed over 63 encounters.

The common dolphin was once uncommon in the Hebrides, but the trust’s encounter rate with the species has more than doubled over the past 12 years, also for reasons that remain unclear.

Kerry Froud, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Biodiversity Officer, said:

“These intriguing changes in Scotland’s marine life highlight the importance of long-term monitoring of cetaceans – so that we can better understand what is happening in our waters, and then make management recommendations to better protect this world-class area of marine biodiversity.”

The studies were carried out between May to October by scientists and volunteers on board Silurian, the trust’s dedicated research yacht. The research forms part of the trust’s unique long-term monitoring of whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – in the Hebrides. Information on basking sharks is also collected during the surveys.

A steady increase in the encounter rate with minke whale juveniles since 2011 was particularly marked this year, with the highest rate of young whales recorded since the trust started boat-based surveys in 2003. The 2015 surveys documented an encounter rate of 1 young minke whale per 286 km – three times the average over the trust’s entire dataset.

The minke whale is the smallest of the baleen whales – species which utilise baleen plates rather than teeth to feed – in the North Atlantic, measuring up to 10 metres in length, and is the most commonly sighted baleen whale species in the UK. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust holds an identification catalogue of 125 minke whales known to have visited the Hebrides – of which some individuals return to the same areas annually, while others may only be passing through.

While an increase in the encounter rate with young minke whales is encouraging, there are still very serious issues regarding the conservation of this migratory species. To the north of Scotland, both Iceland and Norway still hunt minke whales. It remains unknown whether or not the minke whales that swim through Scottish waters frequent the waters where they risk being hunted.

Volunteers spotted something

The record number of common dolphin sightings – coupled with the most northerly sighting of the species ever recorded in September this year, off Tromso in Norway – suggests that changes are underway within our seas and oceans. The causes, and wider effects on the marine environment and other species, are still unclear – underlining the importance of on-going research.

Additionally, the number of white-beaked dolphin encounters almost doubled in comparison to 2014, although many of these encounters were made during one particular day of survey around the Butt of Lewis.

This rarer, colder water species is confined to the north Atlantic and prefers temperate to sub-Arctic waters – meaning that the warming of Hebridean seas, at a rate of 0.5°C per decade, is expected to exert increased pressure on the populations found off Scotland’s west coast.

White-beaked dolphins have been the focus of acoustic research by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, with a study in 2013 discovering that white beaked dolphin populations off the east and west coasts of Scotland have distinct acoustic signatures, almost like accents.

Alongside warming seas and climate change, human activities causing increasing stress on cetaceans and basking sharks include fisheries by-catch, pollution, underwater noise and habitat loss.

Cetacean entanglement in litter and fishing gear can cause mobility problems, injury and even death, and the trust is working cooperatively with the fishing industry and other researchers in the UK to better understand this problem so that it can be addressed. This year, ironically whilst the Silurian crew was celebrating a volunteer’s 60th birthday, a bunch of balloons was retrieved from the water – a reminder that celebratory balloons, even if marketed as ‘biodegradable’, can have lasting consequences for our wider environment.

Silurian – previously used in filming of the BBC’s The Blue Planet series – covered more than 4,000 nautical miles in 2015, its crew of volunteers and marine scientists documenting more than 1,200 encounters with cetaceans and basking sharks, and recording almost 625 hours of underwater detections of cetaceans using specialist listening equipment.

Despite less than favourable weather conditions, the overall encounter rate remained steady, with eight sightings of cetaceans per 100 km recorded, compared to nine per 100 km in 2014 and five per 100 km in 2013.

The annual surveys depend on paying volunteers. In 2015, 69 dedicated volunteers clocked up 760 survey hours – working with marine scientists to conduct visual surveys and acoustic monitoring with hydrophones (underwater microphones) monitored by computers, and identifying individual cetaceans through photography of dorsal fins.

The trust – based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull – is recruiting volunteers for its 2016 surveys, to live and work as citizen scientists onboard Silurian for expeditions of one to two weeks from April to September. Participation costs cover boat expenses, support the trust’s research programme and include accommodation, training, food and insurance. For details, contact Morven Russell at, call 01688 302620, or visit

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been monitoring marine mega fauna in the Hebrides for 13 years, and is the only organisation collecting long-term data on such a large scale on Scotland’s west coast. A short film about its marine surveys can be seen at

Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important habitats for cetaceans and one of the UK’s most biologically productive areas. So far 24 of the world’s 83 cetacean species have been recorded in the region, many being national and international conservation priority species.

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Oct 222015

roe-deer-fawn-picWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Animal welfare activists and Aberdeen citizens opposed to deer culling have welcomed a promise that no deer culling would take place at least until a count of the animals is made.

Although the council will meet to vote on culling next week, the last official count done in January 2014 found very few of the animals in the city area.

Some 46 of the animals in the south of the city were culled for a controversial tree-planting scheme.

Councillor Neil Cooney, Communities, Housing and Infrastructure Committee, wrote to campaigners; his email reads in part:

“Any other practical non-lethal measures will also be looked at… There will be no management until a population survey is completed: we must look at the issue of population densities”

Due to loss of greenbelt land, deer and other wildlife have been forced out of their habitats. One of the largest and most controversial projects sees land at Loirston Loch released for commercial development. Previous councils had decreed the land should never be built on. A large road-building project elsewhere in the city is also destroying habitat.

Campaigner Suzanne Kelly said:

“We welcome Neil Cooney’s comments, but are concerned that in Aberdeen ‘management’ automatically seems to mean killing animals. The author of the report before the Committee is also the author of the report that led to the culling of 46 roe deer on Tullos Hill for a tree planting scheme – on a former rubbish tip which the Government says is unlikely to support a large-scale tree planting.  

“The scheme was supposed to be ‘cost-neutral’; it has cost over £600,000. Over 80% of citizens opposed this according to STV, community councils objected – but still the city pressed ahead.

“As to these road accident statistics, we’ve asked for the raw data and are awaiting it. The last spreadsheet I saw was in April. This included accidents in Aberdeenshire, and incidents which were not involving collisions. Police Scotland had been requested to supply data; this request is overdue.

“There are non-lethal ways to curtail deer populations and help prevent road accidents; the city could do more. They seem to want to shoot first and not ask questions. However, when you look at how many road accidents we have, the involvement of deer pales into insignificance.

“The report insists the city must uphold the law on deer management. We look forward to the city showing the same enthusiasm for upholding the law on improving air pollution on our roads, which include some of the worst statistics in Scotland.

“The report’s author also claims the city wants to improve biodiversity; this is a bit risible in the face of its recent planning decisions, and the threat to turn the city’s Harbour area into an off-limits private industrial harbour. Still, as the city has agreed no killing at least until a proper count is done, we see this as a victory.”

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Jul 232015

On Friday 10 July people gathered outside the London Danish Embassy. Denmark, a member state of the European Union, is meant to protect cetaceans. This legal obligation means nothing to the nation. It protects the Faroe Islands, where scores of dolphins and whales are driven to shore each year to be butchered alive.

The resulting bloodbath greatly pleases the islanders, who see it as a rite of passage. It rightly reviles the rest of the civilised world. What is Denmark playing at? Who were these protestors? Suzanne Kelly joined the protest to report and support.

protestors_at_the_Danish_EmbasWhy this protest?

The Faroe Islanders had just engaged in another ‘grind’ – the driving of whales and dolphins to the shores to be horribly killed.

The tiny island nation relies on Denmark for protection.

The Faroese are outwith the EU, but rely on this EU nation to uphold its grizzly tradition.

Last year Sea Shepherd personnel were arrested by Denmark while trying to stop this slaughter.

The Danish government has bizarrely claimed jurisdiction, and a trial – in Denmark to uphold Faroese tradition – keeps getting postponed. The Danes refuse to return Sea Shepherd’s vessel until the trial, which rather conveniently suits their and the Faroese needs.

The Faroe Islands have also just imposed a new draconian yet unworkable law aimed clearly at stopping Sea Shepherd from protecting marine life. Anyone – including tourists – is subject to arrest and up to two years imprisonment (perhaps in a Danish cell?) if they do not immediately report any cetaceans they see.

CEO of Sea Shepherd Global and Operation Sleppid Grindini Campaign Leader, Captain Alex Cornelissen, said:

“There is something truly sinister about a law that aims to silence those who fight to protect life, while protecting those engage in this blood-thirsty practice. It is this exactly this ominous state of affairs in the Faroe Islands that requires Sea Shepherd’s presence in the region.”

How anyone is meant to prove or disprove who did or didn’t see a pod of whales is anyone’s guess.

It is worth noting the resulting meat from this entire bloodbath is largely inedible. This is blood sport for the sake of blood. The toxins in the meat and fat are such that pregnant women should not go near it, and that those who would willingly eat such a product are meant to eat no more than 4kg per year. Each animal taken then dies horribly without even the excuse the food is needed.

Who came and why they came:

Debbie said

“I am here because of what is going on in the Faroe Islands at the moment. It is inexcusable. They say it is a rite of passage for teenage boys, but it is an outdated blood sport.”

Aga and Kerry were two of the protestors taking a stand against the senseless slaughter. They said:

“It’s the 21st century, and there is no place in Europe for such a barbaric mass dolphin slaughter.”

“Whales and dolphins are very sentient beings and it is so cruel and barbaric what they are doing. They say do it for food; they don’t I think they do it for fun.  The mercury levels in the whales and dolphins are so high that they shouldn’t be eating it.” 

We talk about the toxicity and about the new law. Kerry tells me:

“I don’t see how they can implement it; you can just say you didn’t see any cetaceans? ‘What cetaceans? Where?’ but it is ridiculous.”

Sally from Eastbourne said

“It’s disgusting the way they cover up what is going on in the Faroe Islands and sadly young children take part in this. It is so sad for future generations. I don’t think anybody should be involved in this. I am really worried for the future for young people who can do this; they smile because the adults say it is OK.”

Sally’s quite right about the indoctrination of this and any similar abuse carried out on animals. Psychologically the result is to destroy empathy with living creatures and this is utilised by military forces that still to this day torture animals under the guise of ‘medical trauma training’ for military medical personnel.

danish_embassy_protestors_lineSuch training could well take place at hospitals (particularly in high crime areas), but the goal of making people immune to the suffering of animals is clearly a common goal shared by the Faroese and the military forces who want to discourage any form of empathy.

The protest was peaceful, as opposed to the Faroese cetacean torture and killing. How much longer can Denmark continue its self-contradictory behaviour in light of the negative press it receives, diplomatic pressure, and the heightened awareness and disgust the public throughout the world feels?

It is either an EU partner and as one opposed to cetacean slaughter, or it is the protector of an outmoded, unnecessary, cruel form of animal torture.

If Oscar Wilde said that a fox hunt is ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’, then what would he make of The Faroe Islands grind?

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Jul 102015

monitoring trip August 2004With thanks to Morven Russell.

An adult humpback whale, possibly greater than 12 metres in length, has been sighted in the Firth of Clyde this week.
This is the fifth such whale to be seen off western Scotland in the past month, compared with a usual total of just one or two per year.

The whale was sighted off Tighnabruaich in the Kyles of Bute on 6 July.

On 8 July it surfaced alongside the Scottish Ocean Youth Trust’s yacht, spouting and swimmingly strongly in a northward direction into Loch Fyne.

The whale was observed breaching out of the water and lob-tailing – a dramatic manoeuvre in which the animal throws its massive tail, up to five metres across, out of the water, creating a huge splash visible for miles. This behaviour could be used for communication, display or perhaps to ward off other animals.

Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction in Scottish waters, but in recent years Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has noticed an increase in the number of sightings reported to its online sightings database ( It is unknown whether this represents a genuine increase in population size, a range shift into Scottish waters, or more vigilant reporting from members of the public.

Researchers in Ireland believe that humpback whales there are increasing in numbers.

Over the past month, there have been at least five different humpback whales documented off Scotland’s west coast, from the Isle of Lewis to the Firth of Clyde.

“Usually we expect just one or two sightings of humpback whales per year, so to have five in a month is very encouraging and exciting”, said Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Sightings and Strandings Officer.

“Although humpbacks can put on a spectacular show and are humbling to watch, we appeal to people not to stress the whale by approaching in boats. This individual is not in its typical environment and may be lost in the sea loch. Besides, there are strict laws in place to protect this species from harassment”.

The trust encourages members of the public to become citizen scientists – both by reporting sightings of cetaceans and basking sharks online and by joining a research expedition aboard its sailing vessel Silurian. Participants are trained in scientific methods and assist in data collection to better understand the distribution of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the Hebrides. Information on entanglement risk in ropes and lines is also collected.

Morven Russell, Volunteer Coordinator at Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said:

“By joining us aboard, volunteers will have the opportunity to witness first-hand the wealth of the Hebridean marine environment, whilst contributing to a better understanding and consequently more effective management of cetacean populations off Scotland’s west coast.”

For more information, please visit

This week’s sighting is the third confirmed humpback whale in the Firth of Clyde in recent years. On previous occasions, the whales apparently navigated their way out to the open sea. However, this is the first time that Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has documented a humpback so far north in the Clyde. Humpback whales are at high risk of entanglement in ropes and lines in the water and there have been at least two fatal entanglements in Scotland in the past 12 months.

Humpback whales have the largest forelimbs in the animal kingdom – leading to their scientific name Megaptera, meaning “giant winged”. They have 6m long flippers which make them prone to snagging ropes. Given that they cannot swim backwards, a simple entanglement can be fatal or lead to prolonged suffering.

“At the moment, the whale is swimming freely with no signs of distress or entanglement. Hopefully it will make it’s own way back to deeper water and come to no harm”, said Karl Hurd, Southwest Scotland Regional Coordinator of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which is the competent organisation in the UK for rescuing stranded and entangled whales.

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Jul 032015

Faroese police have threatened tourists visiting the island archipelago with possible arrest and prosecution if they do not report sightings of migrating whales and dolphins to local authorities. With thanks to Michelle Mossfield, Media Director, Sea Shepherd Global

Sea Shepherd Slepped-GrindiniAccording to ramped-up Faroese law, tourists visiting the islands must report all sightings of whales and dolphins to local authorities, so that the cetaceans can be targeted for slaughter in the infamous drive hunt, known as the grindadráp.

Visitors who do not abide by this law may face arrest and prosecution, with penalties of 25,000 Faroese króna or just over 3,000 euros, and imprisonment of two years.

Operation Sleppid Grindini Co-Leader, Scottish actor Ross McCall, and Land Team Leader, Rosie Kunneke of South Africa, confirmed that they were informed of the penalties in a series of meetings with local authorities in the Faroe Islands.

In those meeting, authorities including the Deputy Chief of Police, Chief Criminal Investigator and the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of the Faroe Islands were quick to emphasize that the law applied to all visiting tourists, not just those believed to be with Sea Shepherd.

“I can only imagine how those opposed to, or unaware of, the grindadráp tradition will react to such a law. Instead of basking in the wonder of seeing these mammals in their natural habitat, you can now face the possibility of being imprisoned if you fail to call the police and alert the locals to your find, leading to them killing those very whales at the local beach.

“I suggest that authorities inform all incoming tourists of the laws and of the punishment for breaking these laws. Soon, I’d imagine, the tourist trade will consist only of travelers who enjoy a hunt,” said McCall.

Kunneke added:

“The law effectively forces any tourist visiting the Faroes who happens to see migrating pilot whales and dolphins to actively partake in the slaughter of the grindadráp. Even tourists who are on whale watching tours can be involuntarily drawn into the slaughter. While these laws are obviously intended to limit Sea Shepherd’s effectiveness in protecting pilot whales, the severe implications will most certainly drive tourist and their money away from the region.”

Despite these laws and revised penalties, the Danish Navy has confirmed that it will not assist with reporting or other involvement in the grindadráp. Former member of the Royal Dutch and Royal Australian Navies and Captain of the Sea Shepherd fast trimaran, Brigitte Bardot, Wyanda Lublink, has commended the response.

“As a naval officer, you are commanded with the responsibility of defending the innocent and those who can not defend themselves. To do otherwise would be in complete defiance of the indented purpose of your mission. However there does seem to be a contradiction, when the Danish Navy is exempt from mandatory participation in the grind, while other tourists, including other EU nationals, are not,” she commented.

International exposure of the grindadráp has already incurred a negative reaction from some in the tourist industry. Since 2013, two German cruise line companies, AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd, have publically expressed their concerns about the grindadráp to Faroese government, calling for an end to the slaughter.
CEO of Sea Shepherd Global and Operation Sleppid Grindini Leader, Alex Cornelissen, said:

“The last thing you expect when you visit a remote group of islands on a holiday is that you will be forced into the largest slaughter of marine mammals in Europe. It would be like going to Zimbabwe and being forced into rhino poaching, or going on a diving trip and being forced to fin sharks.

“In their enthusiasm to enforce these new penalties, the Faroese authorities seem to have overlooked the potential threat they pose to tourism, the impacts of which are likely to be extremely unpopular.”

For hundreds of years the people of the Danish Faroe Islands have been herding migrating pilot whales from the sea into shallow water and slaughtering them. The grindadráp wipes-out entire family groups of whales and dolphins at one time.

The 2015 killing season started in a horrific manner on Saturday June 6, when 154 pilot whales were slaughtered on Miðvágur beach on the island of Vágar in the northwest of the Faroe Islands. The grind took place prior to the arrival of Sea Shepherd, and was the largest dolphin slaughter in the islands since 2013.
Operation Sleppid Grindini will be Sea Shepherd’s sixth campaign in the Faroe Islands, and is led by the organization’s strongest at-sea presence in the region to date.

Sea Shepherd Global
Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. For more information, visit:

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jun 252015

Faroese media have flouted an opportunity for open dialogue with representatives of Sea Shepherd in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, yesterday. With thanks to Michelle Mossfield, Sea Shepherd.

news-140417-1-1-Sea-Shepherd-UK-Taking-Action-to-Defend-Scottish-Seals-2Media were invited to a press conference about the organization’s current Pilot Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Sleppid Grindini.

Intended speakers were CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, Alex Cornelissen, Campaign Co-Leader, Ross McCall, Land Team Leader, Rosie Kunneke, and Captain of the Brigitte Bardot, Wyanda Lublink.

Only one journalist from local television network, KVF (Kringvarp Føroya), arrived at the press conference.

When offered the chance to speak to each of the representatives about the campaign, the journalist said that he did not have any questions.

Captain Cornelissen has said,

“We presented local media with the opportunity for open dialogue with Sea Shepherd. Clearly, our intentions regarding the campaign have been made clear, and there is no requirement to clarify anything further.”

McCall added,

“Making space for dialogue has always been of importance to us. The local press decided not to take the open hand, which works for us as now we can get back out into the Island and continue what we came here for.”

For hundreds of years the people of the Danish Faroe Islands have been herding migrating pilot whales from the sea into shallow water and slaughtering them in a practice called the ‘grindadráp’ or ‘grind’.

Sea Shepherd has led the opposition to the mass slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s.

The Australian-registered Sea Shepherd ship, Brigitte Bardot, arrived in the Faroe Islands last week for Operation Sleppid Grindini. The vessel will be joined by the Sam Simon, which arrived at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands this morning en-route to the Faroe Islands, and by the Bob Barker, which will depart Bremen, Germany, shortly.

The ships are supported by a land-team of volunteers from around the world, dedicated to the on-going protection of the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands.

Sea Shepherd Global:

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. For more information, visit:

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

May 012015

Old Susannah recounts her latest encounter with Aberdeen Council, and gets to grips with issues in the wider world as well. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryChestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your extremities; snow falling. Hope you’re enjoying the spring weather as well.

Perhaps you’ve gone up Tullos Hill to shelter under the Tree for Every Citizen forest during these wintry days. Walking through this award-winning forest, you’ll soon understand why we’ve had to blast the deer – 46 at least – to kingdom come to create this forest primeval.

I had the great privilege of addressing the city’s Petitions Committee last week; it was quite an experience.

Imagine how foolish I felt – there I was, making a presentation, and showing photos of how lovely the weeds had turned out, towering above the beautiful tree guards on Tullos, with barely a sapling rising over its tree guard – only to have Officer Steve Shaw tell the meeting that the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme was a huge success!

It has even won awards! I felt like apologising straight away – but the way things worked, I didn’t get a chance to say another word. This expert in animal welfare, ecology and car accidents (deer apparently were mentioned in 40 accidents last year) explained that deer have to be managed, that we’re in for a real gem of a forest, and that everything is fine.

Funny, he didn’t seem to be able to talk about how much this ‘cost neutral’ scheme is costing the taxpayer. I make it a minimum of £169,000 – for Tullos Hill alone. At such a bargain, I think we should kill everything that moves and turn every field into a future timber yard – for that’s what Pete Leonard is promising us – lots of income from lumber. Result!

Steve put forward a really logical, interesting, award-winning speech. I just wonder why Ranger Ian Talboys, who was happy enough to be photographed with Princess Anne and the award, didn’t want to address the meeting himself? I really thought that the scheme’s chief architect and deer hater extraordinaire, Aileen ‘HoMalone’ Malone, would have come along to wish me well, but there was no sign of her giant hair or giant shoulder pads anywhere.

Perhaps she was out stalking. Remember when you go to the polls to vote, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for deer killing.

Happily there’s some really good economic news this past week; Scotland now has a few more billionaires and millionaires! This obviously means that their money will ‘trickle down’ onto the rest of us. Any day now. Sometimes it seems as if something is indeed trickling down on the less fortunate, but it doesn’t feel like wealth. But what a great system where the rich get richer and the poor (deserving or undeserving) can live in hope of a few crumbs from the rich’s table.

I’ve heard rumours that some of these billionaires shelter money from the taxman. I’ve also heard that one or two people need to use food banks. If so, I hope they’re the deserving poor, rather than the undeserving poor. There are one or two far left organisations out there like Oxfam and the like which claim if the really rich aren’t paying their share of tax, and are getting richer, this might have something to do with the poor getting poorer.

Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores

Can’t see it myself, but perhaps if only a few people have most of the country’s money that might well mean less money for the rest of us.

If there are any accountants out there, please look into this for me, thanks.

There are other events that seem like they might be interrelated as well. The minor nuclear accident at the otherwise successful Fukushima plant in Japan is all but forgotten I know, and fair enough. This plant was otherwise a huge success for capitalism – checking the boxes for safety, and coming in at the lowest possible cost. For some reason after this minor accident, people left the area. Quickly.

Some even left their pets behind, so it couldn’t have been too serious. Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores the other week. Their lungs had turned a funny white colour, and some scientists say this might be something to do with radioactivity. It’s more likely that the dolphins were just trying to be rescued from the seas and find their way into SeaWorld via Taji Cove.

Japan has lots of animal welfare experts, and some of them have a different explanation for the mass stranding.

The dolphins were depressed and decided to end it all. It wasn’t too many animals, only 150 or so, and as it’s Japan, they probably would have wound up either performing tricks in a sea world park or on a dinner plate, so it’s no big difference how they wound up anyway.

I was interested to read of Japanese experts claiming these big fish had any feelings or emotions in the first place; I thought that was why it was good to keep the Taji Cove tradition of chopping them up alive going. But I wonder – could there be some link between these beached dead creatures and that little radiation leak? Silly I know to even think it – if nuclear power was unsafe, then we wouldn’t be using it, would we.

Moving swiftly on, here are some definitions, and thoughts on whether there are any connected coincidences or causes behind them.

Nickel Ride: (Modern American English Slang) – Placing a handcuffed person in the back of a police van without benefit of a seatbelt or anything to hold onto, then driving as wildly as possible, obviously oblivious to any potential slight harm that may befall them.

A group of people in Baltimore are becoming more lawless by the day. They refuse to obey laws, respect other peoples’ Constitutional rights, and are getting very much out of hand. Indeed; Baltimore’s citizens are disobeying Baltimore police, and that’s terrible. Police brutality is a real problem: people in Baltimore are being unkind to their police.

If the police find you breaking a law, walking down a street, possibly not wearing a seatbelt or selling raffle tickets in Maryland, you pretty much get what you deserve; police are only human and with such outrageous provocation, they must react appropriately. According to online publication The Free Thought Project, these are the sorts of people harassing the police:-

“Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.”

Being a cop is a dangerous job; you never know when someone may jay walk, spray graffiti or have a mental health issue; you have to always be fit enough to help them see the error of their ways and stop them reoffending. That’s when techniques like ‘nickel rides’ or ‘rough rides’ come in handy.

he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him

Of course the police can’t make an omelet without breaking a few skulls, and that’s what happened to one Freddie Gray. For some reason, he went into a police van a healthy lawbreaker, and well, was dead soon after one of these little fun rides.

At present, the police are saying this is self-inflicted. Suspects do that a lot – break their spines.

For some reason, coupled with the odd isolated police incident or two in Baltimore, this death has caused rioting. Some people just overreact with the slightest provocation.

Then again, these little police incidents have seen some $5 million awarded to the victims – sorry – suspected criminals in Maryland. The court actions cost another $5 million or so. Knowing that most of the awards were capped in Maryland at $500,000 gives you a bit of perspective. I’m sure all of the cases we need to know about get to court, and we all understand how easy it is to get over-enthusiastic when doing your job.

The need for reform is clear. In one other state, a man who had badly self-harmed himself (so the police say) was rightly sued for damaging police property: he’d got his blood on their clothes. That’s the kind of reform we need.

Pretty much Gray deserved what he got – first, he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him. It’s not as if anyone in the police force in Maryland has ever broken the law. The Telegraph posted footage showing him pretending to be in pain, and two police officers are being made to suffer as they have to drag him into the van they drove him around in for half an hour or so. The Telegraph reported:

“Gray was arrested after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride.” 

For some reason, people who are not wealthy and white are picked up by the police more often than those who aren’t. Makes you wonder.

Now, this may be leaping to a conclusion, but do we think there’s any connection between police interrogating pregnant women, helping grannies to confess their crimes with a bit of physical force, nickel rides, tasering and shooting, and people taking to the streets to protest? But just as I’m not taken seriously about deer and tree issues because I don’t have any degrees or awards, it would be wrong for me to come to any conclusions about this situation.

who can argue against a cull?

One comforting thought is the adage that everything that happens in American happens in Britain 10 years later.

Our Scottish police started carrying guns without troubling any elected officials; that was pretty reassuring and thoughtful of them.

Then they promised they would only carry weapons in life-threatening situations. But then they showed up at shopping malls and restaurants with arms, so you know that citizens have got well out of hand since the police needed to bring guns.

It’s only a matter of time before our police start adopting some tried-and tested American techniques.

Deer-related accidents: (compound modern Scottish noun) Accidents caused by deer being hit by cars.

One or two road accidents in Scotland were caused by police chases or police officers last year. A two week police operation found 13 drunk drivers in Aberdeen last June. Perhaps a couple of accidents happened in bad weather conditions, but you don’t hear much about that. And now, according to Aberdeen City’s officer Steve Shaw, about 40 accidents involving deer happened recently too.

Sometimes the deer were ‘nicked’; sometimes they were badly injured or killed. There is only one solution: shoot the deer.

For a bit of perspective on how serious the deer issue is, National Travel Survey data says the UK gets between 690,000 and 710,000 accidents per year. The sooner we kill the deer so they don’t risk getting hurt, the better. With figures like this, who can argue against a cull? It’s not as if there are any pro-culling lobbyist groups that are trying to make a molehill into a mountain.

Actually, the city have taken up the suggestion and have done a u-turn – they will put up road signs to warn motorists where deer may be. But perhaps we should save the fortune that a few dozen signs will cost, and just pay some hunters to cull these vermin (as Peter Leonard of ACC fondly calls them).

Originally the city wrote to me to say signs were a waste of time because no one reads them. This is why you won’t find signs pointing the way to the Trump Estate, to the airport, warning where elderly people may be crossing the road, or when Kaffee Fasset has a show of quilts on at the art gallery.

Shaw says this is an increase in the number of deer causing accidents! There is apparently no pattern, and it’s happening everywhere! The deer menace must get killed. He did say that some of these accidents weren’t fatal to deer, but we can’t take chances. If we kill them now, then they can’t get in accidents and get killed.

Again, Old Susannah is not an expert, as all the people in favour of planting trees on Tullos Hill are fond of reminding her. But I can’t help wonder all the same, could there be some link to our building over all of our green spaces and removing gorse from places like Tullos, where deer used to live before they were destroyed, and deer moving around the remaining green areas? Could there be a link?

Next week: election result overviews, a new who’s who, and more

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Apr 172015

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Common dolphin copyright Dr. Conor Ryan (small version)

A substantial increase in common dolphin numbers off western Scotland is to be studied by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in a new season of marine research expeditions beginning next month.

The trust’s encounter rate with common dolphins has more than doubled over the past 12 years.

The findings – recently presented to the European Cetacean Society – have emerged from the charity’s unique long-term monitoring of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Hebrides.

The causes – and broader effects on the marine environment and other species – are still unclear. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is now recruiting volunteers to work alongside marine scientists in its annual summer surveys, which it hopes will shed further light on the dramatic changes.

“An increase in common dolphins means that those wishing to encounter dolphins in the wild are in luck – but further research is needed to explain why this is happening, the extent to which this has been caused by human activity, and the implications for other cetacean species,” said Dr Conor Ryan, Sightings and Strandings Officer at Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

Common dolphins come to the Hebrides each spring to take advantage of seasonal food stocks. They are gregarious, often approaching boats to bow-ride and play in the wake, and are smaller than the region’s resident bottlenose dolphins. The species also travels in large groups – sometimes forming super-pods of thousands of individuals.

Despite their name, common dolphins – known in Gaelic as leumadair or ‘jumper’ – were once only occasionally seen in the Hebrides, preferring more southern waters generally warmer than 10°C. With climate change causing sea surface temperatures in the Hebrides to rise at a rate of 0.5°C per decade, it appears that such warmer water species are starting to colonise new areas in the north or closer to shore.

Yet even as this shift potentially creates new opportunities for common dolphins, it may be generating competition for food with other dolphin species or seabirds.

One predicted consequence of warming seas is colder-water species such as the white beaked dolphin being forced to retreat further north. So far Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has found no evidence of displacement of the white beaked dolphin – but continued monitoring is needed to establish whether or not the influx of common dolphins is having a negative effect on such species.

The trust has now been collecting data on cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – from its specialized research yacht Silurian for 12 years. The new findings underline the importance of this research, not least as cetaceans – being apex predators at the top of the marine food web – can act as indicators of the marine environment’s overall health.

“Dedicated volunteers onboard Silurian have enabled us to build up a unique and valuable database, enabling researchers to examine changes in cetacean populations – and providing vital data for protecting these species and their habitats, including in the recent designation of Scottish Marine Protected Areas,” said Kerry Froud, the trust’s Biodiversity Officer.

“Our research expeditions depend on volunteers. In return, they offer the opportunity of a lifetime to contribute to a better understanding of cetaceans and basking sharks, whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery of Scotland’s west coast and experiencing exhilarating sailing.”

Volunteers will live, work and sleep on Silurian for up to 12 days, receiving training and working with scientists – conducting visual surveys, acoustic monitoring using specialist equipment, and cetacean identification through dorsal fin photography. They will also help run Silurian – giving them a chance to develop other skills such as sailing and navigation.

Areas covered depend on the weather but will range from Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west. These seas are one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats.

The surveys depart from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull or Kyle of Lochalsh. Participation costs cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the trust’s research. For details, email, call 01688 302620 or see

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Apr 142015

New Arc Animal Rescue Centre’s Keith Marley has some timely advice for anyone who comes across seemingly abandoned wildlife young:  call an expert for advice and touch nothing. Keith Marley explains.

cub - 6.4.15The first of this year’s ‘orphans’ has arrived. This fox cub, yet to be named, is around 3 weeks old and will be raised at The New Arc (The North East Wildlife & Animal Rescue Centre) just outside Ellon.

Once health checked and weaned, he will stay at the centre until the end of summer when a suitable release site will be found for him.

One of the dilemmas facing wildlife rescue centres is the fact that it is never a good thing to keep any wild animal on its own, while at the same time not wishing for any more to come because of sad or avoidable circumstances.

It is always better for any young animal to have the company of siblings of their own species. This helps with socialisation, learning skills and prevents boredom and institutionalisation as well as helping minimise any bond between them and their carer.

We would recommend anybody coming across any young wildlife at this time of year to phone us immediately before picking them up, unless they are in obvious distress. We can offer advice over the phone, or even come out to assess the situation.

We would remind everyone that under no circumstances should any young creature be fed cows milk as this can cause all sorts of digestive problems even leading to death. In addition, we would also recommend that baby birds should not be fed live worms, mealworms or maggots.

Advice is available on hand rearing if required and we are only too happy to help day or night.


The cub, now named ‘Fidget’, had its vet check on Mon 13 April, and is in good shape.

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Apr 102015

Sea Shepherd announces the second year of its Seal Defence Campaign around the coastline and islands of Scotland. By Robert Read – Sea Shepherd UK

sea shepherd seal defense in action courtesy of SSUKSea Shepherd UK (SSUK) have deployed a seal defence crew to Gamrie Bay, Banffshire in the first phase of our 2015 campaign to prevent Scotland’s iconic seals from being killed illegally by coastal netting fishing operations, fish farms or indeed anyone else in Scotland.

This year’s deployment of a seal defence crew and a fast RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to Gardenstown harbour coincides with the start of the wild salmon netting season as employees of USAN Salmon Fisheries ltd (AKA: Scottish Wild Salmon Company) who operate fixed engine nets either side of Gamrie Bay.

USAN Salmon Fisheries Ltd claimed to have shot a seal before we arrived in 2014 and prevented any further seals being killed at this location for the rest of the 2014.

Sea Shepherd UK’s deployment of a land and boat crew to Gamrie Bay marks only the start of a much larger and wider ranging campaign for 2015 following our success in during 2014.

In 2014 at Gardenstown we were joined early in the campaign by members of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) who had a small team initially in the area on surveillance/intelligence gathering and who then sent a much larger team to provide support following increasing intimidation received from netsmen and their ‘allies’.

Wherever Sea Shepherd operates we always try to recruit local volunteers and find supporters and with the recruiting of local volunteers from Aberdeenshire we were able to expand our 2014 Seal Defence Campaign to Montrose/Lunan Bay then to the Dunnet Bay area in the far north near Thurso where we were able to focus our resources on coastal land and boat patrols for the duration of the 2014 wild salmon netting season.

SSUK’s deployment to the north coast and Orkney Islands was possible in part by the Hunt Saboteurs Association deploying teams in their own successful campaign to protect seals with intensive land based monitoring of the activities of salmon netsmen along the Montrose coastline.

Our patrols by land and sea in 2014 prevented any illegal shooting of seals and indeed any killing of seals where our teams and cameras were watching.

there are effective and proven methods of keeping seals away from netted fish

Sea Shepherd UK’s Seal Defence Campaign 2015 around Scotland will (as in 2014) provide monitoring of the activities of both fish farms and wild salmon/mixed fisheries netting companies which hold licenses from Marine Scotland to shoot seals to protect their catch/profits.

The licenses issued by Marine Scotland which specify numbers of seals, locations and conditions under which seals can be shot (the shooting of seals is always supposed to be a last resort option where all deterrent methods have failed) remains open to abuse by some fishing/fish farm companies with a complete absence of any government monitoring.

Years of successful scientific development and trials of acoustic devices (often called pingers) which keep seals away from coastal and river nets together with the effective use of secondary EcoNets around fish farm pens mean that there are effective and proven methods of keeping seals away from netted fish therefore making the shooting of seals unnecessary under the terms of the Marine Scotland seal shooting permits.

However some companies continue to invest fully in deterrent/ prevention equipment preferring the cheap option of buying bullets instead.

Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot – but this ‘official’ declared number of seals shot come solely from the companies and individuals who pull the triggers of the guns and Sea Shepherd UK is convinced the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have previously claimed up to 2000 grey and common seals are shot around Scotland’s coast.

Sea Shepherd UK calls on Marine Scotland to re-assess their current policies regarding seals due to the proven seal deterrent methods now available and request the cancellation of all licenses.

Due to the continued absence of any proactive government or contracted independent teams tasked with monitoring the activities of these fishing companies – Sea Shepherd UK’s campaign crews will continue to fulfill this role and provide much needed patrols providing information to Police Scotland and water/river bailiffs to enable prosecutions for poaching and any other illegal activities.

our crews will be operating from a number of mainland coastal locations

Our campaign crew will intervene if necessary to prevent the illegal killing or deliberate harassment of iconic Scottish seals which are all protected species under UK and EU legislation.

Sea Shepherd’s 2015 Seal Defence Campaign in Scotland will be significantly larger than our campaign crew of last year already numbering over 60 volunteers joining us at their own expense from around Scotland as well as travelling from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, USA and Chile to help defend Scotland’s seals.

For the next five months our crews will be operating from a number of mainland coastal locations and islands covering areas where seals are currently being shot illegally or allegedly legally under permit from Marine Scotland. Our international crew will be patrolling along the coastline by land and will use Sea Shepherd UK’s fast RIBs as well as being supported by two privately owned/operated vessels.

Sea Shepherd UK is offering a £5000 reward for information, photographic or video evidence which directly leads to the successful prosecution of any individuals or any companies (including their employees, representatives, contractors or agents) for deliberately and illegally killing any marine mammal (including seals) or endangered marine creature around the coastline of the United Kingdom or in UK territorial waters.

To submit information securely and confidentially please e-mail Sea Shepherd UK on: with as much information as possible including the location, date, time of the offence with clear photographs and/or HQ video when possible.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]