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Tag: fishing

Plans for whale meat dog treats dropped

A Japanese company has canned its plan to buy the meat of endangered whales killed in the waters around Iceland and sell it in the form of luxury dog treats.

An Icelandic firm, Hvalur hf,  set to resume commercial whaling next month, had planned to kill up to 174 endangered fin whales and sell the meat to Tokyo-based Michinoku Farm, the Telegraph reported.

Protests from environmentalists prompted the Japanese company to cancel its order, but the whale hunt is still on.

“It’s outrageous,” said Claire Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency. “It is grotesque to kill an endangered species and then ship it half way around the world in order to feed it to dogs.”

Takuma Konno, head of Michinoku, confirmed that plan has been scrapped.

“Dogs are like family members for many people in Japan,” he said. “We just wanted to supply a wide variety of food for them. We consider dogs as just as important as whales. But it’s not worth selling the product if it risks disturbing some people.”

That hasn’t changed plans for whalers in Iceland, who, after a three year break, will resume hunting for fin whales next month.

Iceland, along with Norway and Japan, refuses to abide by the moratorium on whaling.

Steinbeck Country: Monterey or bust

“The beaches are clean where once they festered with fish guts and flies. The canneries which once put up a sickening stench are gone, their places filled with restaurants, antique shops and the like. They fish for tourists now, not pilchards, and that species they are not likely to wipe out.”

John Steinbeck’s return to a much-changed Monterey in 1960 was more bitter than sweet — he found it much improved cosmetically, and economically, but its old fishing character and its saltiness were gone.

It wasn’t home anymore.

The town’s transition from a sardine-based economy to a tourist-based one was well underway by then, and while that would ensure that Monterey would continue to thrive, seeing how much had been erased — fish guts and all — returned Steinbeck, a native of the area, to the kind of funk he seemed to teeter on the edge of, periodically, in “Travels with Charley.” 

“My return caused only confusion and uneasiness,” he wrote. “… Tom Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”

If he were to return again today to this spic and span city by the sea, he’d likely be even more displeased. Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf are now full-fledged tourist attractions that, while giving nods to the past, no longer have much connection with it.

And, quite possibly, he’d be downright irate over how his name and likeness have become an integral part of the area’s business and tourism marketing.

He probably wouldn’t think much of the way his name has been seized by business operations large and small: Steinbeck Garden Inn, Steinbeck Jewelers, Steinbeck Mortgage, Steinbeck Travel, Steinbeck Credit Union, Steinbeck Country Bail Bonds.

Steinbeck shunned publicity. In fact, he once moved out of the area to avoid it. Maybe he’d be OK with his bust being on display, in Steinbeck Plaza, but to see his face flapping in the breeze on banners above the streets in Cannery Row? I’m guessing he wouldn’t care for that.

The Steinbeck bust is right in the middle of things, and tourists regularly stop and have their photos taken with it. It faces away from the bay, toward the traffic, which probably wouldn’t have been his preference, either. He stares, somewhat solemnly, into the distance. Not even Ace could get him to break into a smile.

Monterey, and the surrounding area makes much of its Steinbeck connection — Steinbeck Country, they call it — from the flatlands of Salinas to the hilly bayfront of Pacific Grove.

It was in the family cottage there, purchased by his father as a family retreat, that Steinbeck wrote several novels and got started on “Of Mice and Men.”

Steinbeck stayed in the cottage with his wife Elaine, as he headed south through California and then back east on the trip that would become “Travels with Charley,”

He visited old haunts, at least those still standing, and old friends, at least those who were still around. Between the people who had died or moved away and the makeover the city had received, Steinbeck felt out of place.

“The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me.”

Monterey was a new place. And Carmel, he wrote, “begun by starveling writers and unwanted painters, is now a community of the well-to-do and the retired. If Carmel’s founders should return, they could not afford to live there…They would be instantly picked up as suspicious character and deported over the city line.”

Ace and I visited Cannery Row, then drove by Steinbeck’s former cottage in Pacific Grove to snap a quick photo. We found a nice spot, cliffside, near Lover’s Point, to rest our weary paws.

We walked Fisherman’s Wharf, which once served as the major port on the Pacific and whose fishermen once set off daily on quests for huge whales, and later tiny sardines — until overfishing brought the sardine industry, which thrived during the Depression, to a grinding halt in the 1950s. By 1960, as Steinbeck noted, tourists had become the city’s salvation.

In the 50 years since, the supply of them has not depleted. I’ve visited Monterey  several times, first  in 1987, and a couple more times in the early 1990’s, once for a story at Ford Ord, the once massive military base that was shut down in 1994. This visit, I was surprised to see mostly emptiness on the massive Army base by the sea, built in the 1940s to train soldiers for World War II. And surprised, too, that, given our times, it hadn’t been reopened.

Funny how sardines are limited, but we seem to have an endless supply of wars. Even over-warring doesn’t seem to bring an end to that industry.

Ace and I stayed at Motel 6 near what used to be Fort Ord, in a town called Marina, which I don’t even remember existing when I was last here. But we spent most of our time in Monterey, which, despite all the tourists trappings, despite never being my home, still never fails to touch my soul.

It’s not because of anything man has built; it’s not because John Steinbeck slept here. It’s the pockets of nature that still exist between the seafood restaurants and wax museums and souvenir shops and boutiques. It’s the topography, the way the peninsula stretches into the bay, and the wildlife that, despite all man’s tinkering, still call it home.

To me, that, more than anything else — moreso even than the famous writer — is what still gives salt-free Monterey  character:

The pelicans, the gulls, the seals and sea lions and all the other squirmy sea life you can see, not just in the confines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but in their natural habitat.

If I ever return — and I hope I do — that will be why.

The strangest day yet of our journey

It began in Coos Bay and ended in Gold Beach, and in between it was just plain weird, a day in which everything was slightly off, as if I was in some parallel universe — when actually it was just the coast of southern Oregon.

Like our previous days driving down Oregon’s coast, it was magically beautiful, but dotted in spots with a thick fog that obscured not just the view, but seemingly every human I ran into. Was it just me? You decide.

We left Coos Bay at noon, not sure how far we would drive. We passed through Bandon, a touristy town that seemed normal enough.

Later, seeing Cape Blanco State Park — and remembering that it is supposedly the last place to see the sun set in the 48 contiguous states — we decided to hang around for it, and seek lodgings in the next town, Port Orford.

Before we got there, we crossed a bridge over the Elk River. It was lined with cars — fishermen I assumed. But nobody was fishing. Instead all the people were leaning over the bridge railing, looking down. As it turns out, salmon were spawning, and maybe, when salmon spawn, humans — in some yet to be discovered cycle of nature — get a little strange, too.

I enjoyed a fine breakfast in Port Orford and talked to a man whose dog fell out of his truck.

Jake was his name — the dog, not the man — and he sat stoically in the rain in the bed of a Dodge pickup truck as his owner enjoyed chicken fried steak and eggs.

The dog’s owner was nice enough to recommend a dog friendly motel, so after breakfast I headed there, going up a road that promised, in big letters — really big letters — an ocean view. It wasn’t lying.

At the end of it, I turned right into the Hotel Castaway, I went into the office and attempted to confirm it was dog friendly. A vacuum cleaner was running in the back room, but eventually a man stepped out.

“What kind of dog?” he asked.

“A mutt,” I answered, fearing the breeds that make up Ace — Rottweiler, Akita, Chow and pitbull — might give him the wrong impression.

“A mix of what?” he asked.

“Different breeds,” I answered.

There was a long pause, and then he said, “Smoking?”

I told him a smoking room would be fine, but wasn’t a necessity.

“None of our rooms are smoking,” he said.

Finally, he quoted me a price — $79, which included a dog fee.

Charming as the place was, it was over my limit, so I headed to a second place that had been mentioned at breakfast. The sign on the door said closed, but the door was unlocked, so I stood in the office for five minutes. When no one showed up, I went to another motel, two buildings down. It was closed as well.

Back in the car I noticed another motel, the Port Orford Inn, which has a sign saying “pet friendly.” It also has signs saying “for sale” and “for rent.” It was a run-down looking place, with some of its windows boarded up.

The office was locked tight, so I approached two guys in the parking lot, who were loading their car up for a fishing trip.

“Do they rent rooms here?” I asked.

“Are you a fisherman?” one of them responded.

“No,” I said. “Is that a requirement?”

They explained that the motel was all but abandoned. There was a handyman who watched over it, but he wasn’t around. They stay there when they come to fish, apparently on a help-yourself, semi-squatting basis.

One of them walked me over to another room, where a man sat on the floor, recovering from a hangover, he explained. 

The man on the floor said I could stay with him in his room for $10.

“If you don’t mind kinking it, you could stay here. I could used the ten dollars for beer.”

Not knowing what “kinking it” was, I wasn’t sure whether I would mind it or not. My guess is he meant something similar to roughing it, but — not being sure, and not wanting to make a commitment to kinking it — I begged off, using Ace as an excuse. “Thanks, but you probably don’t want a dog in your room.”

He said that would be no problem, and sweetened the deal by saying the guys who were going out fishing would probably be coming back with some salmon we could eat. As I declined again, a few other people came out of rooms, and it seemed all of them had a strange look in their eyes — vacant and intense at the same time.

We departed and drove back up to Cape Blanco, passing some sheep with blue polka dots, to the very edge of the continent — to watch the sun not set.

After that, we kept heading south, passing through Humbug Mountain State Park, where the rain, fog and darkness, coupled with sheer cliffs, made driving tense.

Reaching Gold Beach, we opted for the Sand Dollar Inn, which proved to be both affordable and dog friendly and promised (but never delivered, at least not by 9 a.m.) a continental breakfast.

Before going into my room, I walked Ace up a road, where we encountered not one, but two black cats. They both crossed our path.

Back at my room, we encountered the man staying in the room next door. He wore shorts and a black t-shirt with a motorcycle on it. He liked standing inches away from the person he was talking to, and he liked to talk. His head was shaved and covered with nicks and his words — though I tried hard to make sense of them — made little. Interspersed with some understandable phrases were allusions to other things, and he frequently lapsed into a stream of consciousness babble.

“Is that dog blind? You need a shave. I shaved (points to head). I cut myself five times. Hells Angels. Volkswagen bus. Why does the dog look at you when I’m talking? He loves you, man. That’s why.

“Why’d they try to do it, man? Why’d they try to accuse me of rape? Lucky dog with a cloth around his throat. He loves you. Why’d they try and do it man? Forty-seven Harley. Volkswagen bus. Like Bonnie and Clyde. Why’d they try to do it man. I love you, brother. You’re old. I’m old. Why’d they try and do it, man?”

He looked to be in his 40’s and, except for when he took a sip from his can of beer, his monologue was continual, and showed no signs of letting up.

I apologized and told him I had some things I needed to do, but that I’d come out and smoke a cigarette with him later.

Instead, I fell asleep, assured that nothing I could dream would be any weirder than the day had already been.

More help for the big dogs of St. Bernard

It has been more than a month since our extended road trip took us through Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, where we reported on how cash-strapped fishing families were finding it hard to continue caring for their pets since the oil spill ruined their industry.

Now, we’re happy to report, more help has arrived, which could help stem the tide of people surrendering their dogs because they can no longer afford them.

Twenty tons of Kibbles ‘n Bits (for large dogs) — donated by Del Monte Foods and transported by Best Friends — was dropped off earlier this month.

Large dogs, you’ll recall, are numerous in the parish southeast of New Orleans because many residents used them to guard their properties while rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

“The people who are coming in have big dogs,” says Beth Brewster, director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter. “They can’t afford to feed them.”

Brewster told Best Friends that many families picking up free dog food bring photos of their dogs with them, and share their dog’s story. “They have tears in their eyes. They’re very, very thankful,” she says. “It’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

The Louisiana SPCA has collaborated with Brewster and Best Friends, as a part of Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home campaign, and is setting up distribution sites, in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

To get the food, residents fill out an application, present a commercial fishing license or proof that they work as charter boat operators or in another field affected by the spill.

“These families have not only lost their livelihoods, but also their way of life practically overnight. They shouldn’t have to face losing members of their families, too. It’s just too much to expect anybody to bear,” said Ellen Gilmore, campaign specialist for Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home.

St. Bernard: The imperishable parish

If you don’t think dogs are being hurt by the BP oil spill, perhaps you need a lesson in the trickle down – or, in this case, ooze down – theory of disaster economics.

And there may be no better place to learn it than St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, a community that was struggling to survive to begin with, left underwater by Hurricane Katrina and, with more than half of its families owing their incomes to fishing, is now feeling the rippling ramifications of the oil spill.

They evacuated during the hurricane, came back and have been rebuilding ever since. Now, the oil rig explosion and subsequent contamination of the gulf means a loss of work and more sacrificing.

Right down to the family dog.

This one statistic pretty much sums it up: The St. Bernard Parish animal shelter took in 60 dogs in May 2009; this May it saw 288 come in, many of them surrendered by owners who, having at least temporarily lost their livelihoods to the oil spill, said they could no longer afford to provide care for their dogs.

That sad-eyed girl above, named Abby, arrived at the shelter a week ago, surrendered by a family that subsisted on harvesting seafood from the gulf – only a few pockets of which are still open to shrimping, crabbing, and oyster harvesting.

While some fisherman have turned to working on the cleanup, “they’re not making nowhere near what they were making before,” said Shannon Asevedo, a St. Bernard Parish animal control officer.

Another occupant of the shelter, Sasha, was owned by a BP employee who turned her over to his mother-in-law because he was being called upon to travel so much. When Sasha had ten pups last month, it was more than she could handle. Now all 11 are at the shelter, where the BP employee’s ex-wife works as a volunteer – partly so she can see her former dog. Due to financial and legal problems, she’s unable to care for Sasha as well.

“Our intakes have probably doubled if not tripled since the oil spill,” Asevedo said. “They may not all be related to it. Most people just say they can’t afford to take care of them anymore. It’s a shame. More are here because their parents can’t take care of them. At the same time, adoption rates are down, too. So where do they go?”

St. Bernard Parish Animal Services Director Beth Brewster says the shelter attempts to place all dogs in adoptive homes, ships some to rescue groups and tries to put down only those deemed aggressive.

Interestingly, the shelter sees a large number of large dogs and pit bulls. Families returning to rebuild after Katrina often bought large dogs and left them at their homes at night to protect against the theft of construction materials.

Brewster, in the job for two years now, said the parish’s previous shelter, with a capacity of 26 dogs, “was a dump.” The parish opened its new facility this January, with financial help from the Humane Society of the United States and FEMA.

The old shelter had reopened shortly after Katrina, but went nearly two years without electricity or running water. It strung together hoses to bring in water, and used extension cords to supply electricity. It, unlike the new facility, had no air conditioning, which took a toll on dogs and humans alike.

The shelter was so shoddy that the shelter bought an old school bus and would load it with adoptable dogs, parking in front of the Home Depot and trying to find them homes.

Now they have a gleaming new shelter, and a new air-conditioned mobile unit. But they also have more dogs than even their new and expanded capacity can handle, with more and more dogs being surrendered for economic reasons.

“This is not a wealthy community to begin with,” Brewster said. “Most of these people grew up on the water and more than half make their living on it.”

Recognizing the parish’s problems, the Humane Society of the United States has sent a shipment of dog food to the area, to be distributed to pet owners facing hardships associated with the gulf oil spill. The food is also being distributed in Plaquemines Parish.

“The Humane Society of the United States was saddened to hear that animals inland from the shoreline are also suffering from this disaster,” said Julia Breaux, the organization’s Louisiana director.

St. Bernard Parish, as you’ve probably guessed, is not named after the dog breed, but after the actual saint — Saint Bernard, who devoted himself to the conversion of the people of the Alps and is known as the patron saint of mountaineering.

But the determined people of the parish may have more in common with the dog breed, which is named after St. Bernard’s Pass in the Alps (which is named after the Saint). The dogs were brought to a famous hospice there in the 1600s, where they developed their reputation for mountain rescues and where, it is said, rugged and adverse conditions honed their strong instinct for survival.

Dogs used as shark bait on island off Africa

Dogs — live and dead — are being used as shark bait on the French-controlled island of Reunion,  National Geographic reports.

The small volcanic island off Africa’s east coast is loaded with stray dogs — more than 150,000, says Reha Hutin, president of the Paris-based Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis (the Thirty Million Friends Foundation).

Hutin sent a film crew to Reunion this summer to obtain proof that live animals were being used as shark bait. (The photo above is a video still from that filming.) The practice was first exposed on the animal rights group’s weekly television show.

A videotape and photographs show the dogs with multiple hooks sunk deep into their paws and snouts. Cats are also being used as bait, according to the organization.

“From then on everyone started to take the whole story seriously and realized it was true,” Hutin said.

A veterinarian successfully treated one of the canines, a six-month-old dog with a large fishhook through its snout at an SPA (Animal Protective Society) clinic in Reunion’s capital, St. Denis.

Unlike most of the hooked animals, the dog was someone’s pet, according to Saliha Hadj-Djilani, a reporter for the Thirty Million Friends Foundation’s TV program. The dog had apparently escaped its captors and was taken to the SPA by a concerned citizen. Fully recovered, the animal is now home with its owners.

The other two cases uncovered by Thirty Million Friends were strays. They now live in France with new owners.

The foundation plans to finance a sterilization program on the island to reduce the stray overpopulation.

Hutin said many locals view the strays as vermin. “There’s no value to the life of a dog there,” she said.

(Photo courtesy of Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis)