Caribbean Conservation: A WHALE OF A STORY

Filed Under: On Assignment
By AJ Goodwin, NBC News producer

SILVER BANKS, Caribbean Sea – Tail slapping, fin slapping, breaching, surfacing to breathe and diving again, it’s an incredible show of nature.

We are shooting a story on humpback whales, which will air on the Today Show and other NBC News outlets in the coming weeks.

To capture video of the whales in their natural habitat, we have come to the Silver Banks, a 40 square mile area about 80 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

We’ve been out here for two days and at any time of the day, if you look out from the ships’ deck, the view is spotted with whales.

Ideal spot

This section of the Caribbean Sea, due to the incredible number of coral heads sprinkled throughout it, receives no through boat traffic. A couple of wrecked boats dotting the area demonstrate why any boat captain would give the Silver Banks a wide berth.

The absence of boat traffic, and waters too shallow for killer whales, creates an ideal spot for mating and calving humpback whales. In fact, at this of year, this area has the largest concentration of humpbacks anywhere in the world.

Atlantic humpbacks migrate to this area from their summer feeding grounds in the North Atlantic – in areas like Maine and Newfoundland. They are known to congregate in several areas in the Caribbean at this time of year, but the Silver Banks has the greatest concentration of whales.

Power of conservation efforts

It’s also an incredible show of what a little conservation can do. By the 1950’s, whales had been nearly hunted to extinction. So in the 1960’s the International Whaling Commission was formed, and banned hunting a number of endangered whale species – including the humpback. And the humpbacks have made an incredible comeback.

The Silver Banks are controlled by the Dominican Republic, and to its credi, the government has made it a conservation area. That means no long line or net fishing, and only a small number of private boats are allowed in the area by permit.

We are on one of those boats. We came here to meet a man named Tom Conlin. Eighteen years ago, he decided that he wanted to get people in the water with whales.

Now for the official "Don’t Try This At Home" warning: It is discouraged, and in some places I believe against the law, to chase down a whale and swim with it. But Conlin has spent nearly two decades perfecting a technique he calls "soft in-water encounters." The idea is to slowly approach a whale in a boat moving at very low speeds, so that the whale can get used to the boat, then, if the whale appears willing and doesn’t turn away, letting people quietly slip into the water and float with snorkel gear near the giant sea mammal.

Close up view of nature

Today we had a moment – actually two hours – that just blew everyone away. A mother humpback and calf allowed a group of about 13 awe-struck whale watchers to observe and follow them all afternoon.

I could see the characteristic grooves in the humpback’s head. A couple of times I looked her in the eye. The baby would hide under the mother’s tail, then pop up for air and return to roll around the mother. To say the whale is huge, a marvel of nature when it glides through the water, is an understatement.

It’s amazing to see the details of the humpback’s prehistoric head, followed by a body the size of a submarine. A "baby" probably less than a month old, is tiny compared to the mother, but it dwarfed the humans watching it. I’m not sure there are words for it. We’ll post pictures and video on msnbc.com when we return.

To think man almost hunted these gentle giants to extinction once, and there are those who would like to hunt them again, and then watch that mother and calf glide through the water, allowing all of us to watch in admiration, will make a conservationist out of just about anyone.

Conlin says part of the reason he wanted to introduce people to whales in this way was so that when they have the opportunity to contribute, to helping them, they will do so. I’d say its working.


Source http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/02/28/712961.aspx

Story posted by Miguel Sague, sobaokokoromo2@yahoogroups. com


Miss Indian World Weds

UCTP Taino News – Violet John, Miss Indian World 2006/7 was wed on Friday 16, 2008 to Tony Duncan. Ms. John of the Taino and Cree Nations, and Mr. Duncan of the San Carlos Apache/Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan Nations were married in New Mexico.

Violet John gained international attention as the first women of Taino heritage to win the coveted Miss Indian World title in 2006. Violet’s mother Rosa is a Taino from Cuba while her father Melvin is Cree from Canada. Duncan is a talented flute player who performs with the musical ensemble “Estun-Bah“, which means “For the Woman” in the Apache language. Duncan produces the group’s music whose latest CD called “Sounds of Beauty” blends traditional Apache cane flutes and northern plains wooden flutes with the acoustic guitar and violin.

Photo: Violet John (Credit: Aboriginal Youth Network)

UCTPTN 02.28.2008


Taino People Submit Shadow Report to UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

UCTP Taino News - The United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP), the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos (CGTB), and the Caney Quinto Mundo (CQM) submitted a joint Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) in January, 2008. The UNCERD is the "Treaty Monitoring Body" for the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). It monitors compliance of the countries, which have ratified the Convention with its provisions, including the United States (US).

The historic report, the first of its kind ever submitted by Taino People, provides verifiable examples of human rights violations and racial discrimination against Taino People by the governments of the US and Puerto Rico. These violations include the destruction of sacred sites, threats to spiritual and cultural practices, and environmental racism. The report also shows that the Taino attempts to meet with government representatives to resolve these issues have all but been ignored. The report will be considered in the upcoming examination of the US by the UNCERD during its 72nd Session 18 February – 7 March 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UTCP, CGTB, and CQM also submitted specific information to the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), which has been included in the IITC's "Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report" to the UNCERD. The IITC also submitted this extensive report in January 2008 in coordination with the Western Shoshone Defense Project.

"It was important to submit our information in the consolidated report along with other indigenous peoples because it gives context to our individual claims" stated UCTP representative DeAnna Sarobei Rivera. The Director of the Tribal Learning Community & Educational Exchange (TLCEE), a program associated with the Native Nations Law and Policy Center at the UCLA School of Law, Sarobei Rivera was one of the lead writers of the Taino submissions.

Alberto Saldamando, IITC General Counsel, who co-coordinated the development of the report stated, "In compiling this report to the UNCERD, it was clear that the institutionalization of racism and discrimination against Native Peoples is ingrained at every level of US society. The data and the many inputs we received from Tribes, Native Peoples and individuals vividly demonstrate that racial discrimination thrives in schools, universities, prisons and in the so-called administration of justice in the US, at every level of government and society at large."

"Our rights as Indigenous People in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora are affected by U.S. policy and before this time, our voice has never been heard during these important proceedings. These reports ensure that we as a People are taken seriously" stated Mildred Karaira Gandia, a UCTP representative in the state of Florida.

Karaira along with Sarobei Rivera were part of the Taino report’s drafting team, which also included Naniki Reyes Ocasio, Liza O'Reilly, and Roberto Mukaro Borrero. The drafting team incorporated testimony of Taino individuals and organizations from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora into the over 30 page joint submission.

Naniki Reyes Ocasio of the Caney Quinto Mundo stated "The completion of our Joint Shadow Report is another step forward in our struggle to denounce colonization, human rights violations and the racial discrimination directed against us as we continue to defend our rights as Indigenous Peoples for past, present and future generations."

Taino People in Puerto Rico and throughout the Diaspora now await the UNCERD's response to their submission.

UCTPTN 02.19.2008


Total Lunar Eclipse to Occur Wednesday

UCTP Taíno News - A total eclipse of the Moon will occur during the night of Wednesday, February 20/21, 2008. The entire celestial event will be visible from South America and most of North America on Feb. 20 as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia on Feb. 21. During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray.
According to NASA an eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow. The shadow is said to actually be composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

If part of the Moon passes through the umbra, a partial eclipse is seen. However, if the entire Moon passes through the umbral shadow, then a total eclipse of the Moon occurs.

UCTPTN 01.16.2008


See a related story at: http://taino-facts.blogspot.com/


Taino Artists Get New Site

New York, NY (UCTP Taino News) – Aguilar Marrero and Reina Miranda, an artistic team known as “Taino Spirit” now have a new website at http://www.tainospirit.com/. The site is another one of many recent accomplishments for the duo who have been dedicating much of their work to their shared Taino heritage. Taino Spirit’s next “live” exhibition will take on Saturday, February 16th at “Cemi Underground” as part of the East Harlem bookstore's focus on Taino culture featuring members of the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society. Cemi Underground is located at 1799 Lexington Ave at 112th Street in Manhattan and the Taino program begins at 3:00pm.

UCTPTN 02.15.2008


CARIFESTA 2008 to be held in GUYANA

UCTP Taino News - CARIFESTA stands for the Caribbean Festival of Arts and this year the region’s roving, multidisciplinary, mega arts festival will return to its birthplace – Guyana – from August 22 to 31 2008. CARIFESTA attracts a wide range of creative artists from various Caribbean and Latin American countries and was the culmination of a concept that began in 1970 when participants at an Artists and Writers Convention in Guyana complained about the absence of an outlet to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Region. Since its inaugural launch in 1972, previous CARIFESTA have taken place in Guyana, Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Suriname. The Indigenous Peoples of the region have historically participated within the festival and in 2006, CARIFESTA coincided with an historic meeting of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (COIP) in Trinidad. During this meeting the COIP Secretariat was officially “handed over” from Guyana to Trinidad and a Declaration of Unity was entered into between the Santa Rosa Carib Community and the United Confederation of Taino People.

UCTPTN 02.11.2008