Good whale news from Japan


This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

After bad news from Japan about taxpayer-funded killing of whales … and good news about Japanese demonstrating against whaling … now some more good news.

From Wildlife Extra:

Japan saves humpback breeding grounds

March 2014: It’s good news for humpbacks as Japan has designated the Kerama Islands and surrounding waters in Okinawa Prefecture as the country’s 31st national park and the first in three decades. These waters are also famed as a breeding ground for whales, including humpbacks who migrate to the tropical waters for mating between December and April every year.

The designated area includes 30 islets and reefs, and covers 3,520 hectares of dry land and 94,750 hectares of ocean. It lies 35 kilometres west of Okinawa Main Island and is famous for its rich aquatic environment. It is home to 248 species of coral.

A report in the Japan Times says that the ministry will also designate surrounding waters shallower than 30 metres as a marine park and will strictly restrict development within them, such as the extraction of sand. It also plans to build coral restoration facilities to counter the damage done in the past.

Blue whales and many other marine animals will receive important new safeguards by Chile’s declaration of two new marine protected areas (MPAs) along its southern coast: here.

March 2014: The future of Japan’s whaling activities in the Antarctic could be reviewed as the International Court of Justice in The Hague has announced that it will deliver its preliminary judgment in the case between Australia and Japan at the end of the month: here.

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Good whale news from Chile


This video is called BBC Planet Earth (Blue whale).

Not only news about extinct whale species from Chile, also about living species …

From Wildlife Extra:

Blue whales get a boost in Chile

February 2014: Blue whale and dolphin conservation gets a boost with the decision by Chile Government to make Tic Toc, situated on Chile’s southern coast, the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in continental Chile. With an area of around 90,000 ha (equal to the urban area of Chile’s capital), Tic-Toc is one of the most biodiverse areas of Chilean coast.

“This marine park is a gift and a great inheritance for our children,” said Dr Francisco Viddi, Marine Conservation Program coordinator at WWF Chile. “Tic-Toc will finally be protected; its rich waters, innumerable species and fragile ecosystem will be conserved and the blue whales will continue to have a home here every summer.”

The new MPA is an important feeding and nursing ground for the blue whale, the world’s largest mammal. The area is also home to unique species of dolphins such as the Chilean dolphin and Peale’s dolphin, as well as two endangered species of otter.

“This is the beginning of a path to achieve conservation of at least 10 per cent of Chilean seascapes,” said Dr Viddi. “Still there is much left to do, but we are convinced that the declaration of these new protected areas will be a significant contribution and will be managed seriously and efficiently.”

Along with Tic-Toc, the government also approved the designation of a Marine Coastal Protected Area further south in Aysén. Both efforts will help to consolidate an important pole of conservation in the area.

“Chile urgently needs a network of marine protected areas along the coast and the Tic-Toc Marine Park and the Aysén protected area opens the door,” said Carlos Cuevas, Founder and Director of the Melimoyu Foundation. “We hope that they serve as a model to be replicated in the rest of the country.”

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Did Chilean prehistoric whales die from algae?


This video says about itself:

Smithsonian 3D Digi Landscape – Chilean Fossil Whales – Time Lapse

26 November 2011

9 exposure HDR time lapse shot overnight. Newly discovered fossil whales in foreground with the Pan-american Highway leading towards the port of Caldera, Chile.

From Wildlife Extra:

Ancient marine graveyard mystery solved

February 2014: The 40 marine mammals that washed up on the Chilean coast millions of years ago died at sea probably from being poisoned by toxic algal blooms say scientists.

The marine graveyard was discovered in 2011 when builders working to extend the Pan-American Highway discovered a 250 metre wide quarry site filled with the skeletons of more than 40 marine mammals including 31 large baleen whales, seals, a walrus-like toothed whale, an aquatic sloth and an extinct species of sperm whale, suggesting that they died from the same cause.

The wide array of animals buried at the site over four levels indicated that the cause of death didn’t differentiate between the young and old or between species, and occurred repeatedly over thousands of years. This suggests that harmful algae blooms, which cause organ failure, could be the most common cause of mass strandings.

Other causes, like tsunamis, were ruled out by the team of Chilean and Smithsonian paleontologists because they would have produced a range of skeletons including much smaller species, rather than the primarily large mammals found at Cerro Ballena. A mass stranding while alive was ruled out as a cause of death due to the way all the marine mammals were were found at right angles to the direction that the current would have flowed.

Humans have been using echolocation in the form of sonar since the early part of the 20th century, but whales have made use of the ability to use sound to pinpoint locations for tens of millions of years. As evidenced in the fossils – which belong to a new species of ancient whale named Cotylocara macei – cetaceans have been using echolocation for at least 30 million years: here.

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Endangered right whale saving attempt by biologists


This video says about itself:

Watch: Endangered Right Whale Trapped In Fishing Line:Rescue by Wildlife biologists

20 February 2014

The fate of the whale hangs in the balance with at least 20ft of fishing rope still tangled in its mouth despite a rescue attempt. An endangered whale has become entangled in heavy fishing rope off the US coast of Georgia.

Wildlife biologists had to cut away more than 280ft of the commercial fishing line which was being dragged by the whale.

It is now swimming easier than it was, but they had to leave the whale with at least 20ft of the thick rope still tangled in its mouth.

Clay George, a marine mammal biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said this would give it “a fighting chance” to free itself.

He said the whale had suffered injuries to its head and tail.

“Disentanglement can’t save every whale. The focus must be on prevention.”

By Philip Ross:

Endangered Whale Gets ‘Fighting Chance’ After Biologists Cut 280 Feet Of Fishing Line From Whale’s Mouth [VIDEO]

A 4-year-old endangered right whale that became entangled in nearly 300 feet of fishing line was partially freed Monday after biologists pursued it and removed some of the heavy rope from its mouth.

The 30-foot whale was spotted in the waters near Jacksonville, Fla., during Navy aerial surveys. Biologists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were alerted to the distressed whale’s predicament, and quickly sprang into action to free the giant.

According to Associated Press, the rescue crew was able to remove about 280 feet of the heavy commercial fishing rope, but had to leave some of it inside the whale’s mouth.

“We feel like what we did gives the whale a fighting chance to shed the remainder of the rope on its own,” Clay Georgia, a marine mammal biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, told AP. “The real take-home message here is, we can’t just go out and save and fix every whale that shows up entangled. In some cases it’s just completely impossible to disentangle that whale.”

Experts say that encounters with commercial fishing gear and accidents with ships off the East Coast are the biggest threats right whales face in the wild.

Right whales, which can reach 50 feet in length and are identified by their enormous heads, are the rarest of all large whales. According to National Geographic, right whales were hunted nearly to extinction by 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century whalers. The whales were especially valuable for their abundant oil and baleen, the row of keratin bristles used to filter krill through their mouths. Baleen was used to make corsets, buggy whips and other popular items.

Northern right whales, which are found in the Atlantic along the eastern coast of Canada and the U.S., are the most endangered of all the right-whale species. There are only about 450 northern right whales left in the wild. Each winter, the whales migrate to warmer waters off the coasts of Georgia and Florida to give birth to their calves.

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Sperm whales stranded in Denmark


This video from Denmark says about itself:

17 Feb 2014

Two sperm whales have stranded in West Jutland this weekend. One was already dead, the other one is still alive, but will be impossible to save. It is still unclear why the whales stranded – but the theory is that they have been ill – or that they have not navigated properly. The two whales are about 14 meters long and are quite an attraction to the locals.

Meanwhile, the second whale has died as well. They were both young males.

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Caribbean humpback whales, video


This video says about itself:

Humpback whales while diving in Saba, Dutch Caribbean

12 Feb 2014

Once in a lifetime shot of humpback whales while diving in Saba using a GoPro 3 black. Right place at the right time.

April 2014: Men are simply not worth wasting time on say humpback whale mums, who retreat to the peace of shallower waters around the Hawaiian Islands with their calf to reduce the likelihood of being sexually harassed by amorous males new research shows: here.

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Whales counted from space


This video is called Breeding Southern Right Whales – Attenborough – Life of Mammals – BBC.

From the BBC:

12 February 2014 Last updated at 23:04 GMT

Scientists count whales from space

By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News

Scientists have demonstrated a new method for counting whales from space.

It uses very high-resolution satellite pictures and image-processing software to automatically detect the great mammals at or near the ocean surface.

A test count, reported in the journal Plos One, was conducted on southern right whales in the Golfo Nuevo on the coast of Argentina.

The automated system found about 90% of creatures pinpointed in a manual search of the imagery.

This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated.

Currently, such work is done through counts conducted from a shore position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. But these are necessarily narrow in scope.

An automated satellite search could cover a much larger area of ocean and at a fraction of the cost.

“Our study is a proof of principle,” said Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey.

“But as the resolution of the satellites increases and our image analysis improves, we should be able to monitor many more species and in other types of location.

“It should be possible to do total population counts and in the future track the trajectory of those populations,” he told the Inside Science programme on BBC Radio 4.

The breakthrough is in part down to the capability of the latest hi-res satellites.

In this study, Mr Fretwell and colleagues used DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 platform.

This is among the most powerful commercial Earth observation platforms in operation today, and can see surface features down to 50cm in size in its panchromatic mode (black and white).

The team selected as their test area a 113-sq-km segment of the Golfo Nuevo on the Peninsula Valdes, a location famed for its gatherings of calving southern right whales.

Even though these are large animals, they still only take up a few pixels in the satellite picture.

Nonetheless, a manual search of the scene found 55 probable whales, 23 possible whales and 13 sub-surface features.

Several automated methods where then trialled, with the best results coming from a combination of the very hi-res panchromatic view and a narrow band of wavelengths in the violet part (400-450 nanometres) of the light spectrum.

This coastal band, as it is known, penetrates 15m or so into the water column in good conditions.

The automated approach found 89% of probable whales identified in the manual count.

Different bands

WorldView-2 has spectral bands that allow scientists to pull out specific information in the imagery

Mr Fretwell cautions that there are limitations to the technique. For example, rough seas or murky waters will confound a search. But he believes, on the basis of the trial study, that satellite counting can become a very useful conservation tool.

“In this type of automated analysis you have to balance two types of errors – errors where you miss whales, and errors where you misidentify whales. If you push too hard one way, like trying to catch all the whales, you’ll increase the number of false positives. With our 90%, we had almost no misidentifications,” the researcher explained.

Southern right whales were a very appropriate target for the study.

These animals were driven to near-extinction in the early 20th Century. Recognised as slow, shallow swimmers, they were the “right” whales to hunt.

Their numbers have seen something of a recovery, but without the means to carry out an accurate census, it is hard to know their precise status.

Concern has also been raised of late because of the sightings of many dead calves in the nursery grounds around the Peninsula Valdes.

Prof Vicky Rowntree from the University of Utah is the director of the Ocean Alliance’s Southern Right Whale Program, and has spent many years studying the Valdes whales.

She said the new method would be a huge boon to her field of research.

“It’s going to be absolutely amazing. The other dimension of it is that many marine mammal researchers have been killed flying in small planes while surveying whales. So my great desire is to get us out of small planes circling over whales and to be able to do it remotely. Satellite data is wonderful.”

To hear more about southern right whales and satellite counting, listen to Inside Science with Lucie Green on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 1630 GMT.

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