Polar bear, whale and fish conservation news


This video is about a polar bear and her two cubs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Governments agree on new protections for polar bears

Convention on Migratory Species meeting in Ecuador adds listings for Cuvier’s beaked-whale, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish

Adam Vaughan

Monday 10 November 2014 14.17 GMT

Polar bears are among 31 species approved for greater protections by more than 100 countries, in a move hailed by conservationists as an important step to saving the endangered mammal.

The Convention on Migratory Species conference in Ecuador closed on Sunday, with new listings for a whale capable of the world’s deepest ocean dives, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish. A proposal to list the African lion, however, was rejected due to a lack of data.

The Norwegian proposal to protect the estimated 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice, Arctic oil exploration and hunting, saw the species gain an Appendix II listing. That means countries must work together to put in place conservation plans, as opposed to the stronger Appendix I listing which requires strict protections such as bans on killing an animal.

Dr Masha Vorontsova, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia, said: “We are pleased to see the polar bear joining a growing list of threatened migratory species protected under CMS. Appendix II does not mean that sufficient conservation action will be taken to protect the well-being of polar bears.

“What gives us hope is that this listing means that 120 countries are now recognising the threats that polar bears face from the shrinking of their ice habitat to pollution and hunting. This is an important first step, but it must not be the last if we wish to save the polar bear.”

The top level of protection, Appendix I, was issued for the rarely-seen Cuvier’s beaked-whale (Ziphius cavirostris), which scientists have recorded as diving as deep as 3km below the water’s surface.

The meeting in Quito also agreed that the 120 parties to the convention should pass laws to ban the capture of live whales and dolphins for use in travelling shows and entertainment.

Cathy Williamson of Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “This very positive development from CMS sends a clear message of international concern about the impact of live captures for the aquarium industry on wild whale and dolphin populations.”

Campaigners praised the new protections for rays and sharks, with countries agreeing to take steps to stop the practice of finning, where sharks are caught and their fins cut off for use as soup at Chinese banquets.

Humane Society International’s Alexia Wellbelove said: “Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide.”

Governments agreed that the use of lead shot should be cut down to stop the poisoning of migrating birds, despite the UK initially opposing the move. The resolution also called for the phasing out of the veterinary drug diclofenac, and rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “I would like to congratulate the UK government for its role in helping to find a way forward. The UK showed leadership on the issue of poisoning by providing financial support to set up the CMS Preventing Poisoning Working Group, which produced the guidelines that have been ratified.”

Guidelines were also settled for the first time on how best to protect birds and bats from wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.

Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s executive secretary, said: “Like never before in the 35-year history of CMS, migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time. From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.”

POLAR BEARS HAD A BAD DECADE The polar bear population dropped 40% in the area north of Alaska and northern Canada. [HuffPost]

Unusual marine animals off California


This video from the USA is called Protecting Pacific Marine Monuments with Sylvia Earle.

By Paul Rogers, of the Bay Area News Group in the USA:

Unusual Pacific Ocean warmth bringing odd species off West Coast

11/02/2014 07:17:28 PM PST

Hawaiian ono swimming off the California coast? Giant sunfish in Alaska? A sea turtle usually at home off the Galapagos Islands floating near San Francisco?

Rare changes in wind patterns this fall have caused the Pacific Ocean off California and the West Coast to warm to historic levels, drawing in a bizarre menagerie of warm-water species. The mysterious phenomena are surprising fishermen and giving marine biologists an aquatic Christmas in November.

Temperatures off the California coast are currently 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historic averages for this time of year — among the warmest autumn conditions of any time in the past 30 years.

“It’s not bathtub temperature,” said Nate Mantua, a research scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz, “but it is swimmable on a sunny day.”

In mid-October, it was 65 degrees off the Farallon Islands and in Monterey Bay, and 69 degrees off Point Conception near Santa Barbara. In most years, water temperatures in those areas would be in the high 50s or low 60s.

The last time the ocean off California was this warm was in 1983 and 1997, both strong El Niño years that brought drenching winter rains to the West Coast.

But El Niño isn’t driving this year’s warm-water spike, which began in mid-July, experts say. Nor is climate change.

What’s happening is winds that normally blow from the north, trapping warm water closer to the equator, have slackened since the summer. That’s allowed the warm water to move north.

In most years, the winds also help push ocean surface waters, churning up cold water from down below. That process, called upwelling, isn’t happening as much this year.

“If the wind doesn’t blow, there’s no cooling of the water,” Mantua said. “It’s like the refrigerator fails. The local water warms up from the sun, and is not cooling off.”

Mantua said researchers don’t know why the winds slacked off — or when they will start again.

“It’s a mystery,” he said.

All year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been forecasting an El Niño, conditions in which warm ocean water at the equator near South America can affect the weather in dramatic ways. But now the water is only slightly warmer than normal at the equator, leading scientists to declare a mild El Niño is on the way. And although strong El Niños often have brought wet winters to California, mild ones have just as often resulted in moderate or dry winters.

For people who study the ocean, this fall has been a wonderland.

“It’s fascinating,” said Eric Sanford, a marine biology professor at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay. “To see so many southern species in a single year is really a rare event.”

Sanford, colleague Jackie Sones and other researchers at the Bodega lab, along with scientists at Point Blue Conservation Science, a nonprofit group in Petaluma, have documented more than 100 common dolphins off the Farallon Islands in the past two months. They’re normally seen hundreds of miles away, off Southern California.

ODD DISCOVERIES

The scientists have scooped up a tiny species of ocean snail called the tropical sea butterfly, normally found far to the south. They have documented a Guadalupe fur seal, normally found off Baja California in Mexico; blue buoy barnacles and purple-striped jellyfish, which usually drift off Southern California; and a Guadalupe murrelet, a tiny seabird that frequents Mexico.

In September, a fisherman off San Francisco caught an endangered green sea turtle, an extremely rare find for Northern California, since the species usually lives off Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. He returned it to the sea unharmed.

Similar tales are turning up in Southern California, where fishermen and scientists have found Hawaiian ono, along with tripletail, a fish species commonly found between Costa Rica and Peru, and other warm-water species.

In August and September there were even sightings of skipjack tuna and giant sunfish, or Mola mola, off Alaska.

“They are following the water temperature,” said H.J. Walker, a senior museum scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “Fish come up against a cold-water barrier normally and turn around. But now they aren’t encountering that, so they are swimming farther north.”

Over the past week, the water temperature at the Scripps pier in La Jolla was 71 degrees. The historic average back to 1916 for late October is 65 degrees.

In many parts of California, the commercial salmon catch was down, and squid were caught as far north as Eureka, which is unusual.

“Our guys in Santa Barbara are saying there’s almost nothing down there. Just a lot of warm, clear water, a little bit of salmon and not much else,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations in San Francisco.

DISAPPEARING KRILL

The ocean changes also have affected birds. As ocean upwelling stalled in the summer, less krill and other food rose from the depths. As a result, several species of birds, including common murres, had high rates of egg failure on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

“The krill that is usually present disappeared, and the fish that some of these birds rely on disappeared,” said Jaime Jahncke, California Current Group director of Point Blue in Petaluma.

“Up until July we had an abundance of whales around the Farallons, mostly humpback whales, and some blue whales. And when we went back in September, there was no krill and the whales were nearly absent.”

More common local species are expected to return when waters cool, as they did after the 1983 and 1997 warmings.

“It is an oddball year. But I’m not surprised,” said Joe Welsh, associate curator of collecting for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “These things come and go. There’s a lot to learn out there.”

Oceanic puffer, first time in the Netherlands


This is a video by a German diver on an oceanic puffer.

Oceanic puffers are a subtropical fish species.

They had never been recorded from the North Sea.

However, this week people from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands discovered one; beached on the south of the island.

Giant isopods feeding on dead fish


This video from Japan is about giant isopods feeding fast on a dead fish.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.

First eco-aqueduct for Dutch wildlife


This video from the Netherlands is about the start of building the new eco-aqueduct near Rouveen.

Translated from RTV Oost in the Netherlands, 22 October 2014:

The first eco-aqueduct for animals opens in Overijssel today. The crossover is between Rouveen and Zwartsluis and is intended for otters, snakes, frogs and fish.

Animals that use the crossing, first go through a water bridge across the Conrad canal. …

Then the passage goes underneath the Conradweg road. Also land animals can cross under the road through a dry passage.

Will marine area in Myanmar be protected?


This video says about itself:

Reef Life of the Andaman (full marine biology documentary)

“Reef Life of the Andaman” is a documentary of the marine life of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar).

Scuba diving more than 1000 times from the coral reefs and underwater pinnacles of Thailand‘s Similan Islands, Phuket, Phi Phi Island and Hin Daeng, to Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago and Burma Banks, I encountered everything from manta rays to seahorses, whale sharks to shipwrecks. The 116-minute film features descriptions of 213 different marine species including more than 100 tropical fish, along with sharks, rays, moray eels, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, sea slugs, cuttlefish, squid, octopus, turtles, sea snakes, starfish, sea cucumbers, corals, worms etc..

From Wildlife Extra:

New Marine Protected Area for Myanmar

A new, possible Marine Protected Area in Myanmar’s Myeik archipelago is under consideration by the country’s government, Flora and Fauna International have reported.

Situated in the north-eastern Andaman Sea the archipelago comprises over 800 islands of white sandy beaches and coral reefs teeming with a diverse array of marine life.

Scientific surveys of the area have revealed around 287 species of coral and 365 reef fish species, as well as reefs rich in echinoderms, crustaceans, molluscs and sponges.

The MPA has been proposed in a bid to conserve this unique biodiversity from the serious threats it faces, such as overfishing, destructive fishing methods, and to support sustainable fisheries.

Frank Momberg, FFI Myanmar Programme Director said, “Myanmar’s fisheries resources have declined dramatically over the last decade. However, by establishing a marine protected area network Myanmar will protect important nursery grounds for fish, coral reef and mangrove areas critical to maintaining the livelihood of coastal fishing communities and the fishing industry.”