Paddle-boarding between humpback whales in California


This video from the USA says about itself:

Ghost Tree Pebble Beach

Stand Up Paddling with [humpback] whales 9/17/2014 Monterey Bay California. Today is the closest I have ever been to whales in the Monterey Bay. All Video shot with GoPro Hero3+ and Original GoPro Camera. Having the mist from a whales spout come across the board was all time. This is NOT recommended for those unfamiliar with this area of Ocean. The majority of time I stood in the kelp beds and watched it unfold. Note: Always respect whales and other marine life. Keep Space.

See also here.

Whale news, good and bad


This video is about whales.

From Wildlife Extra:

Victory and defeat for whales at the 65th International Whaling Conference

Sperm whales were one of the whale species that Japan was previously able to kill on the grounds of scientific research in the Antarctic

The 65th International Whaling Conference meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia – which saw the attendance of more than 60 member countries – was something of an emotional roller-coaster for those involved, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), with victory and defeat on both sides of the table.

Pivotal milestones were achieved toward the conservation and preservation of whales, with a resolution being passed to provide increased protection and support to whales, and a further ruling that Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ in Antarctica was illegal, with no further permits to be issued in the future.

The resolution by Monaco on Highly Migratory Species aims to provide greater global protection for whales, allowing international bodies such as the UN to become involved. This victory was made despite pro-whaling countries opposing it. Japan prevented the resolution being passed by consensus, forcing a vote to take place, which went through 37 to 15, with seven abstentions.

IFAW Whales Programme Director Patrick Ramage said: “We are delighted that this important conservation measure for whales has been passed, showing that small countries can make big waves for whales at the IWC. We were pleased to see the pro-conservation countries stand together to adopt a common position and give it safe passage. We were also relieved to see that the EU was able to get its act together and support it as a bloc.”

There was further victory for whales as Japan’s so-called scientific whaling in Antarctica was ruled illegal, with no further permits to be issued. This news was of course not welcomed by Japan, who recently sent an email out to scientists around the world asking for international help to review its plans for a new ‘scientific whaling’ programme.

Ramage commented on the result, saying: “We are delighted by this crucial victory for whales. After the recent historic World Court ruling it begged the question of whether the IWC would be up to the challenge of imposing court-ordered standards for scientific whaling or content to stand on the sidelines while Japan continued commercial whaling by another name.

“This measure goes a long way in securing the full promise of the ICJ judgment which gives whales in Antarctica protection against slaughter for the first time in more than a century. We now urge Japan to call a permanent end to its illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.”

Although the two victories were greatly welcomed by IFAW and pro-conservationists, there was dismay as plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed due to opposition from pro-whaling nations.

The proposal – which was put forward by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and South Africa, and new sponsor Gabon – aimed to provide a comprehensive approach to cetacean conservation, managing all threats to whales in the region.

After the resolution was pushed to vote by pro-whaling countries, it failed to achieve the three-quarters majority needed for adoption (40-18 against and two abstentions).

A proposal for this sanctuary has been tabled at nearly every IWC meeting since 1999, but has stalled every time. A small consolation is that this year was the closest that a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary had come to adoption, according to the Brazilian Commissioner.

“This valuable conservation proposal has sadly failed once again because of the influence of countries outside the relevant South Atlantic region,” said Ramage. “Non-lethal research on whales in this particular area, as elsewhere, has provided much more reliable and precise information than has ever been achieved by so-called ‘scientific whaling’ or other lethal methods.

“It is very disappointing that such a positive opportunity for whales has been harpooned again by Japan and her allies.”

To read the IFAW CEO Azzedine T Downes’ column on the whaling conference click here.

Leading ethical travel agent Responsibletravel.com have put together a guide to whale-friendly tourism, outlining the ways in which people can take responsible whale watching trips that will result in supporting and protecting vulnerable whale species: here.

California island native plants recovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

18 July 2007

On this segment of “Wonders of the West” we visit Santa Cruz Island and see some humpback whales along the way.

From the University of California – Santa Cruz in the USA:

Native vegetation makes a comeback on Santa Cruz Island

Sep 17, 2014 by Kathleen Wong

On islands, imported plants and animals can spell ecological disaster. The Aleutians, the Galápagos, the Falklands, Hawaii, and countless other archipelagoes have seen species such as rats, goats, brown tree snakes, and exotic grasses delivered by human visitors. Many of the newcomers have flourished to the point of driving unique island species extinct.

People are now trying to reverse the damage of these ill-advised translocations. Step one is obvious: eradicate the invaders. Step two, however, isn’t so clear. Experts argue over whether expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive restoration is necessary, or if simply removing non-natives is enough.

Now a study set in California’s Channel Islands indicates eradication alone can jumpstart recovery. Led by two UC Santa Cruz undergraduates, the research shows native shrubs reclaiming the island on their own nearly three decades after removal of sheep and other grazers. The study is published in the journal Restoration Ecology.

“Taking out those sheep triggered a large change in the vegetation; it was going from grassland back to coyote brush or California sage, to a more diverse community,” said Nissa Kreidler, one of the study’s student authors.

“People spend millions of dollars on restoring island ecosystems. So it’s a huge finding that passive recovery can be sufficient and under certain circumstances, active restoration is sometimes not necessary,” said Roxanne Beltran, the paper’s lead author.

Intensive supercourse

The paper grew out of an assignment in the Conservation and Ecology in Practice “supercourse” both students took in spring 2012. Taught primarily by UCSC professors Don Croll (ecology and evolutionary biology) and Erika Zavaleta (environmental studies), and UCSC Natural Reserve System Director Gage Dayton, the class spends the entire quarter learning techniques for ecological and conservation research while visiting the protected wildlands of the UC Natural Reserve System. Students read previous research pertaining to local ecology and management, then design and conduct their own short-term field studies.

On Santa Cruz Island Reserve, humans have had a major impact on land conditions. The first sheep arrived 150 years ago, to be joined by cattle, horses, and feral pigs. These large herbivores completely denuded some areas, and transformed others into non-native grassland.

The effort to eradicate sheep, cattle, and horses from the island began in 1981 and was largely complete by 1999; feral pigs were eliminated by 2007. Then the land was left alone. At nearly 100 square miles in size, Santa Cruz Island is far too large to actively replant native vegetation.

Initially, removing grazers caused unforeseen consequences. Ten years on, non-native grasses had taken over a larger share of the island. Dirk Van Vuren, now an ecology professor at UC Davis, documented that initial shift in the late 1980s and again in the 1990s. He compared the plants on either side of a sheep exclusion fence using photos and vegetation transects.

While deciding on a class project for the island, Beltran said, “we looked at his old black-and-white photos and saw herbivores had caused more damage than we could see currently. We decided to see exactly how much the island had recovered passively.”

Native vegetation makes a comeback on Santa Cruz Island

Promising results

The results were so promising that Beltran and Kreidler decided to develop them into a publishable paper. …

Back in Santa Cruz, the students compared photos shot from the same island vantage points in the early 1980s, late 1990s, and 2012. They found large areas once occupied by grasses replaced by woody shrubs, a shift that nearly doubles the amount of carbon stored on the island. Places grazed down to bare soil were being recolonized by plants, reducing soil erosion.

The vegetation transects told a similar story. The land area covered by grasses dropped by half, with native coastal sage scrub making equivalent gains. Aerial surveys and vegetation maps of the island from The Nature Conservancy, which manages the land, provided additional evidence of these changes.

“Thirty years after eradication, we’ve shown there is enough resilience for the vegetation to restore itself,” said Croll, a coauthor on the paper. “The findings help set expectations on how long recovery can take. Funders want immediate results. But sometimes it’s worthwhile to take the time to wait rather than incur the huge expense of active restoration.”

Humpback whales, what do they eat?


This video from California in the USA is called Surfer Almost Swallowed by Whale.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Does A Humpback Whale Really Eat For Dinner?

Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by eNature

Despite the title of the video above, Humpbacks don’t eat surfers!

Eves so, that video has received lots of attention around the internet when it appeared— and for good reason.

It shows a surfer’s VERY close encounter with a humpback whale off the beaches of Santa Cruz, in Northern California.

But it’s also interesting because it’s a great close-up view of how a Humpback feeds and the sort of marine life that makes up its diet.

How To Eat Without Teeth?

Humpbacks are baleen whales and have no teeth. They feed by using the large plates of baleen in their mouths to filter out shrimp-like krill and other small creatures from the water. Plated grooves in the whale’s mouth allow water that was taken in to easily drain, leaving a mouth full of dinner.

But most folks don’t realize that baleen whales such has humpbacks also consume fish— mainly small schooling fish they hunt in same fashion as krill.

In the video you can clearly see lots of small prey fish scattering in all directions just before and as the whale breaches. (Double click on the video if you want to see a bigger version of it). You an also see the whale’s baleen plates and the water rushing from its mouth as it filters out its prey.

Blowing Bubbles For Dinner

Humpbacks are energetic hunters, taking krill and small schooling fish such as herring, mackerel, pollock, and haddock. They’re also quite clever and have been known to use a technique called bubble net feeding.

A whale or group of whales swims in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey, encircling and confining the school in an ever-smaller cylinder. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the ‘net’ with their mouths open, filtering huge quantities of water and capturing thousands of fish in one gulp.

It’s a pretty amazing thing to observe…

And one other fun thing to note in the video is all the seabirds following the whales as they feed. These birds know that breaching whales panic fish and make them easy pickings for an alert bird. Looking for flocks of seabirds working the ocean’s surface is time-honored way for fisherman to locate schools— and for whale watchers to find whales.

Have you had a chance to see Humpbacks or other whales? We always love to hear your stories.

Fin whale dies in North Sea


This 20 August 2014 video is about a lifeboat, tugging a drifting dead whale from the sea near Katwijk in the Netherlands to the beach near Scheveningen.

There, scientists of Naturalis museum investigated it today. It turned out to be a seventeen meter long adolescent male fin whale.

Most probably, the young whale died because of a collision with a ship; some of its vertebrae were crushed. Other possible causes of death: a killer whale attack; or a collision with a seawall.

See also here.

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.