Grey whale calves born near Russia


This video about western gray whales is called The Last 130.

From the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

Gray Whale Research Team marks eight new calves so far

By: Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova

Posted: Wed, 08/20/2014

This update on the western gray whale (WGW) expedition was filed on behalf of the team by IFAW Russia staff member Anna Filippova. –MV

The total number of new calves for 2014 is now up to eight.

Even though the first half of August has not yielded many good observation days over the past several years, we have already enjoyed many working days at sea this month.

On August 1, we photographed our sixth mother-calf pair of this season. The mother was known from previous years and has been seen with calves off Piltun before.

On August 3, we went far north of our camp and sighted three mother-calf pairs (two of whom we had already seen a few times in July).

The third pair, number seven for the season, was pleasant news for us when we recognized the mother: a female born in 2004 and observed in previous years but never with calves.

Giving her age, it is assumed to be her first calf.

After seven hours at sea, a very thick fog came in very fast; we could hear whales breathing around our boat but were unable to see them.

August 6 was especially productive: We identified 31 gray whales with seven different mother-calf pairs among them. One of the pairs was new for this season, bringing our total to eight.

–The WGW Expedition Team

The western gray whale (WGW) expedition is a team of scientists from Russia and the USA that have been returning every summer since 1995 to Sakhalin Island (in the Sea of Okhotsk near Piltun Bay) to monitor and research western gray whales. Annually since 2000 IFAW has supported this research program that collects population data through photo-identification and genetic analysis of skin tissue biopsy samples. Information about population condition is very important to understanding the impact and influence of oil industry on the WGW population, and is key to IFAW’s WGW campaign.

Dolphins, whales squealing with pleasure?


This video is called Science Bulletins: Whales Give Dolphins a Lift.

From Science News:

Dolphins and whales may squeal with pleasure too

by Science News Staff

8:00am, August 15, 2014

Guest post by Chris Riotta

When dolphins and whales squeal, they may not be sending food signals to their friends. They could just be shrieking with pleasure.

After measuring the time delay between a dolphin or whale receiving a reward and the animal’s squeal, one researcher noticed the lags were about as long as the time it takes for the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Because the time it takes for the animals to squeal is about the same as for a release of dopamine, the dolphins and whales may be making these sounds of out sheer delight, scientists argue August 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Good Irish whale news again


This video is called Filming humpback whales off Ireland’s south coast with Cork Whale Watch.

From Wildlife Extra:

Whale numbers unusually high in the seas around Ireland to the delight of whalewatchers

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports upwards of 30 fin whales along a 50km stretch of the West Cork coastline in southern Ireland, between the Old Head of Kinsale and the Kedge area, which is unusual for this time of year.

Colin Barnes from Cork Whale Watch, who has spent several weeks observing the build-up of this activity confirms there are huge ‘fish clouds’ comprising small sprat or larval herring in the area and these are likely to be what is attracting the fin whales in such numbers.

Combined estimates from land and boat based sightings suggest there could also be 20 or more fin whales in the waters between Seven Heads and Galley Head, County Cork.

This gathering is certainly the largest validated aggregation of this species so far this year and although not without precedent, it is unusual for so many fin whales to be inshore this early in the season.

This sort of activity is generally associated with a later peak between October and December each year.

Whale watchers are encouraged by IDWG to view the whales from land-based vantage points – elevated sites such as Cloghna Head, Galley Head, Sandscove/Ardfield, Dunworley and Sevens Heads.

There is a lot of wind out there at the moment so it is important to pick a moment when there is a lull in the breeze and the sea calms down.

The bonus is that this activity is not in isolation, as County Kerry has enjoyed a run of humpback whales in recent weeks and minke whales are appearing in the Irish Sea.

All this bodes well for this year’s All-Ireland Whale Watch Day taking place on headlands around the coast on Sunday 24 August between 2:00pm and 5:00pm.

For the latest information on this and other validated cetacean sightings, go to www.iwdg.ie.

Whales in New York City


This 2011 video from the USA is called Whales in the NY Harbour.

The great white shark in London turned out not to be real.

However, this item is real enough. From ABC in the USA:

Whale Spotted Off Manhattan, NYC – Again!

Aug 12, 2014, 5:12 PM ET

By SARAH FIGALORA

New York City is a classic hot spot for tourists of all shapes, sizes and species — even whales, apparently.

A humpback whale surfaced off the coast of Manhattan, and was just one of many to vacation in the city this summer, an expert said.

“It’s becoming more and more frequent,” Paul Siewada, from the Gotham Whale research division, told ABC News. “What’s caused so much commotion is that people in New York City are just becoming aware that whales are in and around New York.”

There have been 49 whale sightings around Manhattan this year, a number that has been steadily rising for the last three years, Siewada said.

“We know [the whales] go from southern waters down to the coast of the Dominican Republic during the winter and go up to Maine and Massachusetts in the summer to feed,” said Siewada. “We think the whales have found a suitable feeding ground right here in New York.”

This suitable feeding ground, thanks to cleaner water, is what’s keeping some whales hanging around instead of continuing to migrate north.

“My boat captain loves to say the New York City is the new Cape Cod,” said Siewada, so it’s safe to say we can expect more whales in the summers to come.

See also here.

Whale fossil discovery in California


This video is called Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard.

From Associated Press:

Rare whale fossil pulled from Calif. yard

By MATT HAMILTON

Saturday, August 2, 2014 1:06 AM EDT

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — A search-and-rescue team pulled a rare half-ton whale fossil from a Southern California backyard Friday, a feat that the team agreed to take on as a makeshift training mission.

The 16- to 17-million-year-old fossil from a baleen whale is one of about 20 baleen fossils known to exist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County paleontologist Howell Thomas said. Baleen is a filter made of soft tissue that is used to sift out prey, like krill, from seawater.

The fossil, lodged in a 1,000-pound boulder, was hoisted from a ravine by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search-and-rescue volunteers. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.

Gary Johnson, 53, first discovered the fossil when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family’s home.

At the time, he called another local museum to come inspect the find, but officials passed on adding it to their collection. In January, a 12-million-year-old sperm whale fossil was recovered at a nearby school, prompting Johnson to call the Natural History Museum.

“I thought, maybe my whale is somehow associated,” said Johnson, who works as a cartoonist and art director.

Thomas wanted to add the fossil to the county museum’s collection of baleen whale fossils, but was puzzled over how to get the half-ton boulder from Rancho Palos Verdes, located on a peninsula about 25 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The sheriff’s department search-and-rescue unit declined to send a helicopter, but offered to use the fossil recovery as a training mission. The volunteer crew typically rescues stranded hikers and motorcyclists who careen off the freeway onto steep, rugged terrain, search-and-rescue reserve chief Mike Leum said.

“We’ll always be able to say, ‘it’s not heavier than a fossil,”‘ Leum said.

Minke whale saved near Texel island


This video is about the minke whale near Texel today, before it was saved. Photos are here. And here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Man rescues whale near Texel

Saturday Aug 2 2014, 16:22 (Update: 02-08-14, 19:23)

In the Marsdiep estuary near Texel today a nine meter long minke whale, trapped in a fishing net, was rescued. Nearby boats tried to help the animal, but as bad weather was expected, they decided to sail back.

Peter Gompelman, with his fast boat for trips in the Wadden Sea area, stayed behind and came floating, with the engine off, close to the whale. “I saw that fishnet so close and grabbed it to see what would happen,” says Gompelman.

“Strong jerk”

The animal resisted a little, but the boat owner continued to hold on to the net. After a strong jerk by the minke whale it was free. Then the whale swam away.

Gompelman says he was not afraid of the animal. He thinks that the whale wanted him to save it and therefore it came so close.

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.