Blue whales’ lives saved by new technology?


This video is called Why are blue whales so enormous? – Asha de Vos.

From Wildlife Extra:

New technology could save blue whales from being hit by ships

Scientists from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science are developing a near real-time computer model that predicts where endangered blue whales will gather as they move around the Pacific ocean off California, reports digital news site, TakePart.

Ultimately this technology will mean that ships can be notified of the presence of whales and the chances of a collision will be minimised.

Collisions with cargo ships are the primary threat to endangered blue whales. In 2007, four blues were killed, likely by ship strikes, in or near the Santa Barbara Channel.

In 2010, five whales, including two blues, were killed in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.

Scientists and the shipping industry have been looking for ways to reduce the number of collisions, but they have had little solid data on the whales’ whereabouts until now.

The project merges the past movements of satellite-tagged blue whales with current environmental conditions off the California coast that influence where the whales travel.

In 1993, Ladd Irvine, a marine mammal ecologist at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and his colleagues began fixing satellite tags to blue whales off the California coast.

By 2008, they had tagged 171 blue whales, which they watched swim to the Gulf of Alaska and the southern tip of Baja, Mexico. In the summer and early autumn, the whales returned to the California coast, feeding on krill before migrating south for the winter.

Near Los Angeles and San Francisco, shipping lanes crisscross these key feeding grounds.

“We got a nice detailed look of where the whales spend their time in US waters from year to year and the timing of when they are present and when they leave,” said Irvine.

“It happened that the two most heavily used areas were crossed by these shipping lanes.”

Most of the tags stayed with the whales for two or three months, but one whale held on to its transmitter for more than 500 days, giving the researchers a unique look at its annual route.

Whale No 3300840 followed its prey over the summer season and returned to several spots within a week of having been there the previous year.

Adding this data to satellite-monitored environmental data – including sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration (which reduced food for whales), and upwelling (where nutrient-rich waters move closer to the surface) – could reveal more precisely where and when blue whales will congregate along the shipping routes.

If the model forecasts a whale hot spot, ships could be rerouted or their speeds reduced to avoid collisions.

Helen Bailey, the marine mammal specialist leading the Maryland study, says this information is invaluable.

“We’ll be able to say, given the current conditions, what is a whale hot spot,” she said. “The hot spot might only coincide with the shipping lane a few months of the year. If the shipping lanes could be modified, it would reduce the risk of a whale strike.

“Only three can be killed per year to keep the population sustainable, and anytime we hear a number close to that is reason for concern because it’s probably a large underestimate.”

About 2,500 blue whales live in the North Pacific and another 500 in the North Atlantic. Estimates suggest the global population of blue whales is between 10,000 and 25,000.

Since 1900, the blue whale population has declined or remained flat, even though it is a protected species.

The results of the study are timely as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently planning a review of shipping lanes in the Southern California area.

“Having more information from the whale perspective helps NOAA look at the broader story to see if there is a way to reduce the risk of strikes,” said Monica DeAngelis, a marine mammal biologist at NOAA.

Commercial whaling was banned almost 30 years ago, but why hasn’t the world’s whale population recovered yet? Here.

Minke whales in the North Sea


This video from Australia is called MEET The MINKE WHALES.

Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands reports about minke whales, photographed near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.

Biologists estimate there are about 9,000 minke whales in the North Sea, especially its northern parts.

Research on beached humpback whale in Scotland


This video is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scotland’s first full humpback whale post mortem conducted on Mull

The stranded humpack whale is thought to have drowned

Scotland’s first full post mortem of a humpback whale – found dead at Fishnish on the Isle of Mull – has been carried out by veterinary pathologists with the assistance of conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The seven-metre, eight-ton animal – believed to be the first humpback whale ever to strand on Mull – was discovered floating close to shore on 25 June, and was craned out of the sea the following evening. The male calf had not recently been feeding and was probably still dependent on its mother.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Science and Strandings Officer Dr Conor Ryan, who is an expert on humpback whales, assisted with a post mortem examination with veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow of Scottish Rural University College to establish the cause of death.

Preliminary results from the examination were consistent with drowning, although the cause is unclear. “This highly unusual and sad discovery is a reminder that Scotland’s west coast waters are extremely special and host a great variety of marine species, including magnificent and iconic humpback whales – and that conservation action and research are vital for the protection of such remarkable animals,” said Dr Ryan. The whale was hoisted out of the water by crane before the post mortem was conducted.

Humpback whales today face a range of threats including collisions with vessels, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution and reduction in stocks of their prey.

People are encouraged to report sightings and strandings of whales, dolphins, porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust at www.hwdt.org or by calling 01688 302620.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are rarely encountered in the Hebrides but are known to migrate through the region far from shore when travelling between their tropical breeding grounds and Arctic feeding grounds. They were hunted in the Hebrides in the early 1900s, but only 19 were caught during 20 years of hunting – suggesting they had been over-exploited by whalers elsewhere to the north and south of Scotland.

Although sightings are still very rare in UK waters, this species is being observed with increasing regularity in Irish waters. Named after the distinctive hump in front of their small dorsal fin, humpback whales are known for their acrobatic aerial breaching and for complex and beautiful songs performed by males during courtship. Adults can range in length from 12-16 metres and weigh up to 36 tons.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland are advising wildlife enthusiasts and boat operators to watch how close they get to dolphins, whales and porpoises if they are planning a cetacean-viewing trip this summer: here.

First ever beluga whales in Rhode Island, USA


This video from Canada is called Discover the Beluga Whales at Arctic Watch.

From ABC in the USA:

First ever beluga whale sighting in Rhode Island

Posted: Jul 03, 2014 4:28 PM Updated: Jul 03, 2014 4:28 PM

by Shannon O’Hara

The first ever sighting of beluga whales in Rhode Island were reportedly seen in Naragansett Bay and the Taunton River, according to oceanographer’s from URI.

These creatures normally reside in the arctic region and the closest beluga population to Rhode Island is up near Nova Scotia.

Marine scientist Robert Kenney of URI states that beluga whales are known to travel south, with previous sightings being in Long Island, New Jersey, and occasionally in Cape Cod, but never before in Rhode Island.

A local fisherman in Narragansett Bay first spotted the whale on June 15. Another whale was also spotted that same day in Assonet River, but is believed to be a different beluga. Additionally, a third whale was spotted near Gloucester, Massachusetts

These three whales are not believed to be in danger or unhealthy. Kenney says the whales are “probably getting healthier food than they would in the St. Lawrence, where most belugas carry very high loads of toxic chemicals from eating contaminated fish.”

In collaboration with the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, a Quebec-based non-profit, Kenney is keeping a close monitoring of the whales.

Photos are being taken to investigate if they can match them to known beluga individuals in their photo catalog.

Whales under threat as US approves seismic oil prospecting in Atlantic: here.

Whale-watching in Australia, war in the Falklands


This video from Australia is called Migaloo the White Whale Encounter.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

How to start a war and win an election

Friday 4th July 2014

Whale-watching in Australia leads PETER FROST to a forgotten story of a deception that led to the Falkland’s war

A year or so ago Ann and I spent time in Australia driving down the east coast in a motor-home. Highlight of the trip was watching the many whales from the headlands and beaches.

It was there we heard tales of a pure white humpback whale. It was a hard story to swallow, but the rumours of this great white whale had gone up and down the coast for over 25 years.

Now, it seems, the stories are proved true. Migaloo — his aboriginal name means White Fella — has been spotted and photographed close to Sydney and this has enabled whale scientists to discover a lot more about this amazing animal.

Migaloo is one of the few albino humpbacks in the world. Sadly as an albino he is more susceptible to UV damage in the bright Australian sunshine than darker humpbacks.

Indeed Migaloo watchers are worried about the 28-year-old whale’s health. Healthy humpbacks can live for 50 years but yellow and red patches on Migaloo’s skin suggest he may have skin disease or even cancer.

Humpbacks do bump into each other at play or when jostling for position when mating and it may be this that has caused the whale’s skin damage.

Meanwhile Migaloo is being studied and looked after. Watercraft are not allowed within 500 metres, aircraft no closer than 2,000 feet.

Watching these monarchs of the ocean prompted us to take a look at the history of British and Australian whaling.

We visited the old whaling station ports of Ballina and Byron Bay to learn a little about this huge, if cruel, industry.

The need for food fats in post-war Europe was critical. In the 1950s and 1960s Australia built a huge fleet of ex-wartime wooden Fairmile motor torpedo boats to hunt and kill thousands of whales. The whale oil was almost entirely used for the British margarine trade.

Scottish “Ten pound Pom” Harry Robertson recorded this hard life in song and story and on an amazing website brings this history alive — www.harryrobertson.net.

The Australian whaling fleet also ventured into Antarctic waters as competitors to the vast Scottish whaling company Christian Salvesen which built several hugely profitable whaling stations in the southern oceans — the first in the Falklands in 1907 and then another on the island of South Georgia. Their station at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, was named after the company’s home port in Scotland.

It was to South Georgia that Constantino Davidoff — an Argentinian scrap dealer — came in March 1982. He had a £180,000 contract from Christian Salvesen to dismantle the company’s derelict whaling station.

At the end of 1981 Davidoff had sought approval from the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. He had also spoken to the Falkland Island authorities.

Margaret Thatcher in London thought this might make a great excuse to flex her muscles in the South Atlantic. She declared the scrap metal workers were the advance party of an Argentinian invasion of South Georgia and told the press that the scrap-men had planted the Argentinian flag and were singing the Argentinian national anthem.

Thatcher despatched marines from the Falkland Islands and 39 scrap metal workers were detained. Argentina sent its troops to rescue them and landed in the Falkland Islands.

Two previously friendly countries were at war over a scrap of unwanted land 8,000 miles from London and 900 people would die before Argentina surrendered on June 14 1982.

Thatcher and the Tories would storm home in the 1983 general election and that, of course, was the whole point of the exercise.

In an ultimate irony, British forces contracted Argentinian scrap dealers to clear away the post-war debris of the many Falkland battles.

Marine conservation writing competition for young people


This video is called Earthrace – R.I.P – Tribute.

From Wildlife Extra:

Conservationist Pete Bethune launches a writing competition for young people

New Zealander, Pete Bethune, founder of marine conservation organisation, Earthrace, has set a challenge for all young ocean activists around the world.

His aim is to encourage a growing network of children and young people from around the world who care about preserving and protecting the oceans by launching a writing competition.

First prize is a model remote control replica of Pete’s Earthrace boat which broke the round the world speed record in 2008 but was sunk by Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2010.

Apart from being a world-record holder for the fastest trip around the world in a powerboat, Pete has become a passionate supporter of marine life conservation as a result of his experiences on that trip. He is the author of two best-selling books, one of which, Whale Warrior, covers his time in Antarctica.

Pete is also the founder of the Earthrace Junior Activists Club, which began in 2008 and is run by Earthrace volunteers Alison Banks, Natalie Borghardt and Junior Activist Captain, 17-year-old Zach Affolter.

There are now over 1,200 young members who all share a passion to help protect the oceans and marine life.

“I can tell from the many letters, emails and messages that I receive from children and young people all over the world that they are as concerned about the state of the oceans as I am,” Pete said. “I hope this challenge will encourage many more young people to really think about what the oceans mean to them and to take actions to help protect them.

“Their words will inspire others of all ages to follow their lead and begin to understand how important marine life and the environment are for all us, whether or not we live near the ocean or not.”

The competition

Pete is asking anyone up to the age of 18 to submit an essay or short story of no more than 500 words based on ‘what the oceans mean to me’.

There are four age categories for the ocean writing challenge: Under 10; 10-12 years, 13-15 years; and 16-18 years.

As well as the main prize of the Earthrace remote control boat, there are more prizes to be won in the shape of a remote control shark, signed copies of Pete’s book Whale Warrior, Junior Activist t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, signed posters, plush Maui’s dolphin toys and wristbands.

Entries should be sent by email to alison@earthrace.net by the closing date of 31 August 2014.

All entries must include the name of the author, age, email address and mailing address.

All winners will be notified no more than one month after the closing date and the winning entries will be posted on the Earthrace Junior Activist Facebook page and published in a future issue of the Earthrace online magazine, Our Backyard.For more information visit the Earthrace Junior Activists Club page at www.earthraceconservation.org/eco-junior-activist-club.

Big mammals’ teeth, purple mammals’ teeth, more mammals’ teeth


This video from Cornell University in the USA is called Skull detectives: Understanding Mammal Skulls!

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Two Foot Incisors? Purple Teeth? Animal’s Teeth Tell All Sort Of Stories

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 by eNature

There’s remarkable variety in the shape, size and number of teeth found in animals—  and in the uses their owners put them to.

Who’s Teeth Are Biggest?

Walruses are famous for their teeth; specifically, the enormous tusks that project from their upper jaws. Both sexes have these tusks. In fact, tusks tend to be longer on female Walruses. And what purpose do these massive teeth serve?

Well, contrary to popular belief, Walruses don’t use their tusks for raking up clams and other food from the ocean bottom. Tusks establish social status, help the Walruses haul themselves onto ice floes, and offer some degree of protection.  Walruses have even been known to use their tusks to hang on the edge of breathing holes in the ice pack … .

Purple Teeth?

Another mammal with unusual teeth is the Sea Otter. It’s not their size, though, that distinguishes a Sea Otter’s teeth but their color: purple.

The color, it seems, is derived from Purple Sea Urchins, a favorite Sea Otter food. Even before they can munch and crunch sea urchins for themselves, baby Sea Otters get purple-stained teeth, presumably from their mother’s milk. Of course, Sea Otters in areas that lack Purple Sea Urchins have white teeth.

Who Has The Most?

The mammals with the most teeth are oceanic dolphins. A single such dolphin can have up to 260 teeth, all cone-shaped and spread evenly between the jaws. Whales that eat fish and squid also have a great number of teeth, usually in both the upper and lower jaws. Sperm Whales, Pygmy Sperm Whale, and Risso’s Dolphin, though, have teeth only in the lower jaw. And the ten species of baleen whales, the largest mammals on Earth, have no teeth at all. Instead, these whales strain their food by means of long baleen plates.

Who’s Got The Least?

The land-based North American mammals with the fewest teeth are the many species of rodents with sixteen: two pairs of front teeth (or incisors) for cutting and twelve molars for grinding. A rodent skull of any size is instantly recognizable because of the conspicuous gap between the incisors and molars.

The Lynx and Bobcat both come equipped with twenty-eight teeth, including twelve incisors and four powerful canines. The Alaska Brown Bear, the world’s largest land carnivore, has the same number of incisors and canines as these cats but forty-two teeth overall. It does a lot more chewing than the cats and needs more molars. The Virginia Opossum is land record holder for most teeth, with a mouthful of fifty.

And The Most Bizarre…

Perhaps he most bizarre mammalian teeth are those of the Narwhal, the Unicorn Whale of Arctic seas. Male Narwhals have only two teeth, both set in the upper jaw. It’s the left tooth that makes the animal famous. Imbedded a foot deep in the jaw, the tooth spirals away from the head in a counterclockwise direction, growing up to 9 feet in length.

Unlike the Walrus, a Narwhal actually uses its tusk to dig up food as well as intimidate rivals. Some scientists have even theorized that the Narwhal tusk can funnel and direct a stream of high-frequency call notes from one male toward others in a kind of sonic battle, with ultrasonic sounds the main weapons.

So it seems that the teeth of animals are as varied as the species in which they’re found.  And we’ve just touched on mammals in this blog entry.

Got any wildlife dentistry stories to share?  Feel free to use the comments section below!

Learn more about walruses.

Want purple teeth too? Learn more about Purple Sea Urchins

Humpback whale subspecies discovery


This video is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

From Wildlife Extra:

Humpback whale subspecies revealed

Populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere oceans are much more distinct from each other than previously thought and should be recognised as separate subspecies, a new genetic study shows.

Findings by the team, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Oregon State University, show that humpback whales are on independent evolutionary trajectories.

Known for their amazing acrobatics, humpback whales annually undertake the longest migration of any mammal between their winter breeding grounds and summer feeding grounds. Although they travel vast distances, it appears their populations do not cross paths. Understanding how connected these populations are has important implications for the recovery of these charismatic animals that were once devastated by hunting.

Lead author, Dr Jennifer Jackson of the British Antarctic Survey explains: “The colour of the bodies and undersides of the tail (the ‘flukes’) of humpback whales in the northern oceans tend to be much darker than those in the Southern Hemisphere. Until this study we didn’t realise that these kinds of subtle differences are actually a sign of long-term isolation between humpback populations in the three global ocean basins.

“We found that although female whales have crossed from one hemisphere to another at certain times in the last few thousand years, they generally stay in their ocean of birth. This isolation means they have been evolving semi-independently for a long time, so the humpbacks in the three global ocean basins should be classified as separate subspecies. This has implications for how we think about their conservation and recovery on a regional scale.”

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103-year-old orca still swimming


This video is called Amazing Orca Killer Whales In The Wild [Full Nature Wildlife Documentary].

From Wildlife Extra:

An orca called Granny swims into the record books

Just in time for Canada’s Mother’s Day last Sunday an orca named J2 – more commonly known as Granny – arrived in the waters between Point Roberts in Washington State, USA, and East Point on Saturna Island in British Columbia, reports The Province newspaper. This was not unusual as J-Pod – the name researchers have given this group of orcas – would normally be expected in the area. What did excite Captain Simon Pidcock of Ocean EcoVentures in Cowichan Bay was the continuing appearance of Granny because she is believed to be 103 years old. She is the world’s oldest known orca and has lived far in excess of the average lifespan of 60 to 80 years for a wild animal.

There was no doubt the orca was Granny, according to Pidcock. He recognises the senior cetacean by her saddle patch, a distinctive white patch each whale has behind its dorsal fin. “They’re like our fingerprints,” he said.

Granny is also recognisable because of a half-moon-shaped notch on the trailing side of her dorsal fin.

Granny is one of the southern resident group of orcas that inhabit the coastal waters from Haida Gwaii, on the north coast of British Columbia, to Northern California for about eight months of the year. Michael Harris, executive director of Pacific Whale Watch Association, which has members in both the US and Canada, said J-Pod had been spotted off the Russian River in Northern California just over a week before.

“The thing I found really interesting is that she’s in the shape to travel, to make the trek she just did with J-Pod,” said Harris. “That’s 800 miles in not even eight days. It’s amazing.”

She appears healthy because of the lack of a “peanut head,” which Pidcock said is a divot-like depression around the animal’s blow hole which appears when they are malnourished. Her endurance and healthy appearance may come from feasting on recent big chinook salmon runs near the Columbia River.

Granny’s birth date of 1911 is an extrapolation by researchers based on her offspring.

She currently has a great-grandchild travelling in J-Pod. Pidcock said researchers also determine age based on the size of the whales, and Granny’s current bulk can be compared to photographic images taken of her in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The oldest orcas in captivity are both about 50 years old, according to the Pacific Whale Watch Association, and belong to the northern and southern resident groups that travel through the Pacific Northwest.

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Thousands of dolphins, video


This video says about itself:

Drones Over Dolphin Stampede and Whales off Dana Point and Maui

25 February 2014

Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, at great personal risk, has recently filmed and edited a 5-minute video that contains some of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, footage ever taken with a drone from the air of a huge mega-pod of thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, and heartwarming close-ups hovering over a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom as an escort whale stands guard nearby, filmed recently in Maui.

According to N.O.A.A. Southern California has the greatest density of dolphins in the world. We have pods up to 10,000 strong stretched out for miles like the wildebeests of Africa. Over 400,000 common dolphin alone. We also have the largest concentration of blue whales on earth.

Capt. Dave explains, “This is the most beautiful and compelling five minute video I have ever put together. I learned so much about these whales and dolphins from this drone footage that it feels like I have entered a new dimension! I have not been this excited about a new technology since we built our underwater viewing pods on our whale watching boat. Drones are going to change how we view the animal world. Wow!”

Capt. Dave had to film this off a small inflatable boat, launching and catching the quadcopter drone by hand where a miss could mean injury to him from the four propeller blades or loss of the drone. He actually lost one drone on takeoff when it nicked his small VHF radio antenna on the 14 foot rigid inflatable he was filming from and it went into the water. Alone six miles offshore Capt. Dave , without thinking , dove into the cold, late-January waters off Dana Point to retrieve the valuable footage taken on a flight a half hour earlier that morning. “I had my hat and glasses on, I was fully clothed with long-johns on to keep warm and my cell phone and wallet in my pocket,” Captain Dave explained. “It was a stupid move, but the copter started sinking so fast it was my only hope to get the amazing footage I had just shot”. Since then he has attached flotation to the skids, which would save the footage, but every flight over the water still risks the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with a small GoPro HERO3 Black camera on it, as the $1,700 rig is not waterproof and the skids will not keep it upright on the ocean.

“I get so nervous every flight over the water now, after the accident, my hands start shaking,” explains Capt. Dave. “My wife says no more drones if I lose this one. But she said that before I lost the other one. Now that she’s seen what it can do, I think she’s just as hooked as I am”.

“This technology, that offers such steady footage from the air for such a low price and is so easy to fly, is new. This was a ten or twenty thousand dollar copter a few years ago and flying those took a great deal of skill. I can’t wait to see what footage this year will bring with this drone, getting a different perspective on the amazing sightings we already have off Dana Point. There is debate in many states right now about making use of these drones illegal. People are justifiably concerned about invasion of privacy. But it would be a shame to have this new window into a whale’s world taken away.”

Entanglement in fishing gear takes the lives of nearly 1,000 dolphins and whales ever day around the world. Captain Dave formed Orange County’s first whale disentanglement group in 2008 and has been involved in disentangling several whales, including a gray whale named Lily, whose disentanglement in Dana Point Harbor made national headlines. He authored the award-winning book, “Lily, A Gray Whale‘s Odyssey”, which won eight awards in 2013 including the prestigious Benjamin Franklin award for Best New Voice from the Independent Book Publishers Association.

A Special Note From Captain Dave:

Attention any would be whale videographers: please only attempt this if you are extremely familiar with whale behavior as it is illegal to do anything that causes the whales to change their normal behavior with big fines- and the authorities do watch YouTube. Different areas have different laws on approaching whales. I am a whale watch captain with nearly 20 years of experience. All laws were obeyed by us during filming. In Maui we sat watching whales from a distance for hours before they moved closer to us. You can never approach them there closer than 100 yards. The Mom and calf as you can see in the film were completely undisturbed by the small drone. NOAA is currently reviewing drones and may create laws or guidelines for using them around whales.

Fully licensed music by David Hollandsworth, themusicase.com.

Video footage is copyright David Anderson/DolphinSafari.com and may not be used without permission.

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