In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier

By Thomas I. White
Wiley-Blackwell, 2007
ISBN-10: 1405157798
248 pages; $21.95

Are humans alone in this world? Does our intelligence stand as a barrier between us and the rest of the animal kingdom? It is accepted by many people that dolphins are intelligent beings—but how smart are they? How do we define their intelligence? Could it be that dolphins have an "alien" intelligence that qualifies them as "non-human persons?" If so, how should this affect the way we treat them?

Author Thomas I. White explores these and other ethical questions while taking a detailed look at dolphin anatomy and physiology, behavior and intelligence in this new book. He comprehensively recounts recent research showing that dolphins share "uniquely human" attributes such as complex brains, language comprehension, and self-awareness. Even more impressive are the traits that no other animals seem to possess, such as dolphins' ability to "see" objects by echolocation. This curious ability enables them to "see through" opaque objects.

White stresses the point that dolphins and humans have followed completely different evolutionary paths and therefore have distinct forms of intelligence. It appears that a dolphin's large brain is used for social intelligence, and that dolphins have an extremely complex sense of "social self". They may form even stronger connections with others than humans do. In fact, these connections are so strong that dolphins have been observed sacrificing their own lives for their pods.

According to White, dolphins deserve better treatment from man. Therefore, he questions such interactions as the use of dolphins in entertainment, education and the military, dolphin-assisted therapy, and the deaths of dolphins that result from certain fishing practices. This humbling book is a must-read for anyone who respects cetaceans and would like to step back from preconceived anthropocentric notions to learn more about these "people of the sea."


 

Sharkwater

A Sharkwater Productions Release
www.sharkwater.com

Setting out to make a film that dispelled common notions about sharks and brought people closer to these often-misunderstood animals, first time filmmaker and biologist Rob Stewart's original mission evolved into so much more. The project that resulted in Sharkwater became a five-year-long journey, and Stewart even risked his life along the way.

The film gives a unique look at the plight of the oceans through the perspective of their top predators, who have ruled the oceans for 450 million years. Stewart explains how shark species' disappearance threatens all life on earth, due to their important role in the food chain. He also debunks our irrational fear of sharks with enlightening statistics such as "soda pop machines kill more people than sharks."

During his journey, Stewart teams up with the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and ventures out on the high seas—where anything goes and corruption and exploitation are the name of the game. They narrowly escape arrest by the powerful Taiwanese mafia, and in the end expose the multibillion dollar illicit trade in shark fins.

Stewart presents frightful footage of sharks being caught on hundreds of miles of longlines and illustrates the fact that there are no international regulations against shark finning, showing the animals being finned alive and thousands of shark fins drying on a rooftop in Costa Rica. Stewart challenges the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality by letting viewers know just how dire the situation is for sharks—and how vital it is to conserve their populations, the oceans, and ultimately, ourselves.