Save Pacific petrels

This video says about itself:

Murphy’s Petrel (chick), 7th September 2013, Henderson Island, SE Pacific

There were many chicks on Henderson and Oeno.

From BirdLife:

Pacific’s Petrels in Peril: a new initiative to save these iconic birds

By Mike Britton, Wed, 07/10/2015 – 02:24

For generations of sailors and those who love the sea, seabirds have been their companion, entertainment and shared the times when the seas turn angry. They can be majestic, funny, noisy, mysterious and spectacular. Sprinkled across the tropical Pacific, the innumerable islands of Oceania are home to some of the most unusual bird communities on the planet. The Pacific is the sea-bird capital of the world.

But these companions of travellers, fishers and visitors to the coast are in trouble, especially in the Pacific. They are more threatened than any other comparable group of birds. And their status has deteriorated faster over recent decades. Many of the birds that live in this region are endangered. Many more have become extinct as a result of human activity, in both recent and prehistoric times. And some really special sea birds are right on the brink of joining the legions of ghosts of past birds.

Over the years BirdLife and its partners have taken actions to protect (and find) different species but the problem is so big we want a Pacific wide strategy for the conservation of this critically endangered group of seabirds. We are calling it ‘Pacific Petrels in Peril’.

The petrels, which conventionally include the petrels, shearwaters and storm-petrels belonging to the families Procellariidae, Oceanitidae and Hydrobatidae, have lost far more populations in Oceania than any other bird family. That is why this new programme gives emphasis to this group – the ‘Petrels’. Specific projects that are being developed as part of the strategy for different flagship petrel species will also help other seabird species.

Priority actions will be to find the breeding sites of Fiji Petrel, Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater. Overall there are more than 18 species for whch action is needed including Vanuatu Petrel, Collared Petrel, Polynesian Storm-petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Phoenix Petrel and Tropical shearwaters. And probably more.

Most islands in Oceania have not had systematic surveys of breeding seabirds. While there are some threats at sea for seabirds breeding in the region, the primary threats are on land. Until we can eliminate predation pressure and the degradation of nesting/roosting colonies and establish these as secure sites there will be no improvement in their conservation status.

The help of sea bird lovers the world over is needed to develop the first coherent and comprehensive plan for the conservation of Pacific seabirds. With your support we will find the breeding sites to allow conservation action to make them safe, confirm the population status of species and develop conservation plans for each of them. We will also improve the current conservation work, and where we need to start new actions. This intiative is bigger than BirdLife and we will work with other organisations, develop networks for improved communication, resource sharing, capacity building and further project development.

Pacific orca babies born

This video says about itself:

Orca Baby Boom Hits Pacific Northwest

2 April 2015

New optimism emerges for an endangered group of killer whales after the fourth orca baby this season is spotted off the coast of British Columbia.

From the Christian Science Monitor in the USA:

Orca baby boom: Enough to save the endangered whales?

Kelsey Warner

July 20, 2015

Orcas in the Pacific Northwest are experiencing a baby boom – and not a moment too soon, say experts.

The population off the coast of Washington and British Columbia hit a 40-year low in December, when a pregnant orca died in the Georgia Strait, near Vancouver. Area experts feared it was the beginning of the end for the killer whale population there, reported The Toronto Star.

“Not only did we not have the baby coming that we needed, but we also lost a breeding-age female,” said Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. “We thought we were on an irreversible slide to extinction.”

In an area famous for its orca pods, the population had dropped from a high of 98 in the mid-90s to just 78 whales in the summer of 2014. The death of the pregnant whale dropped the population to a low of 77.

Following the death of the orca mother in December, local experts believe the pod delivered the next baby together, to ensure its successful arrival. Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research and his colleagues noted bite marks on the newborn’s fin, indicating other whales may have served as midwives, pulling the baby from the womb. The researchers then observed the calf in the care of its grandmother for the first few days, while its mother recovered.

“They made very sure that the birth was going to go well this time,” said Mr. Harris. “Literally the baby was just pulled out by other members of the pod.”

He added, “That started the baby boom.”

By the end of the spring, four calves had been born, bringing the total population total to 81. About 35 to 45 percent of newborn orcas don’t make it past their first year, according to NOAA. If these babies survive, they will be the first successful newborns in the Puget Sound population in about two and a half years.

Eric Ward, who tracks the whale population for NOAA Fisheries, told the Star that the pods are still a long way from the 120 whales necessary to remove them from the endangered list.

“There’s reasons to be optimistic for this population, and there’s reasons to be concerned,” said Dr. Ward.

He attributes their initial decline in part to depleted populations of prey, including the pods’ favored Chinook salmon. He also says contaminants from fish that spawn near urban areas may have been a factor.

In 2014, the Chinook salmon population spiked, and that may have turned things around, combined with a demographic shift with more orca females of reproductive age.

This baby boom “will continue as long as there’s available prey,” said Ward.

Still uncertain is the effect of warmer ocean temperatures on the Pacific fish stock, who generally prefer colder waters. This past winter, tides shifted and warmer sea temps were recorded.

“We don’t know the implications this giant blob of warm water will have on marine life and the killer whales,” Ward said.

Puget Sound orcas welcome sixth baby born to endangered pods this year. Newborn known as J53 seen swimming with ‘Princess Angeline’. ‘Class of 2015’ brings population of threatened killer whales to 82: here.

Angry Birds help Pacific living birds

This video says about itself:

BirdLife and Angry Birds save the Endangered Birds of the Pacific

29 April 2015

The birds of the Pacific are seriously angry, because predators have invaded their islands and are eating all their eggs. Please support Angry Birds and BirdLife International to create pest-free island sanctuaries for Pacific birds.

From BirdLife:

Rovio’s Angry Birds team up with BirdLife to fight bird extinction

By Martin Fowlie, Thu, 30/04/2015 – 10:00

The famous Angry Birds team up with BirdLife International in a unique campaign to protect real-life birds in the South Pacific. Like their counterparts in the game, Pacific birds are threatened by introduced predators eating their eggs and so pushing them to the verge of extinction.

Rovio Entertainment Ltd, the world-leading entertainment company, announced with the planned release of Angry Birds Seasons on the 30 April that they are taking up the fight with BirdLife International to save the most threatened birds of the Pacific from extinction. The new release will allow gamers to explore the story behind real birds in the Pacific and support their struggle against non-native predators.

“With more than 2.8 billion downloads of Angry Birds our fans worldwide know only too well the story of the Angry Birds’ mission to protect their eggs from their mischievous nemesis, the piggies”, said Sami Lahtinen, SVP Games at Rovio Entertainment. “It is great to be able to reflect this story with a real life situation that helps BirdLife protect and restore bird populations in the Pacific.”

“It’s really sobering to realise that some of the species to be saved by BirdLife have populations lower than the number of staff working at Rovio Entertainment.”

The introduction by humans of non-native species – often referred to by experts as “alien invasive” – such as rats, has caused the extinction of half of all bird species in the Pacific. This tragedy continues with 81 species still threatened with extinction today.

BirdLife and its Partners have restored more than 30 islands in 5 Pacific countries (the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau) to save their bird populations and other biodiversity.

Now, with the support from Rovio and the crowd, and run with positive impact platform kriticalmass, BirdLife is looking to raise $150,000 for island restoration in French Polynesia and additional support for its longer-term plans to save species from extinction across the Pacific.

The work in French Polynesia will target islands with populations of Critically Endangered birds. Species like Polynesian Ground-dove, which has a population of fewer than 100 remaining, will be given a lifeline for a better chance of survival.

“Over the past decade BirdLife International has become expert at removing non-native predators from Pacific islands”, said Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s Chief Executive. “With more funding we can make a huge difference to more tropical islands and restore them back to their original paradise and help the local bird populations and other species thrive. They impact local communities who have benefited from better crop yields when non-native predators are removed.”

Introduced species have been the primary driver of documented bird extinctions. They are implicated in the decline of more than half of all threatened bird species. In the Angry Birds Season Tropigal Paradise update, gamers will have the chance to learn about the perils of real-life birds in the Pacific and support our work that ensures their survival.”

Just like in the game, Rovio and BirdLife are turning to the crowd to help defeat the predators that are stealing the bird eggs and threatening their existence.

On users can not only hear and share the story but also volunteer, donate money or buy rewards to help save the birds in the Pacific.

World’s largest marine reserve around Pitcairn islands

This video says about itself:

Edge of the World: Stunning Pitcairn Islands Revealed

18 March 2015

In 2012 National Geographic‘s Pristine Seas project went on an expedition to the Pitcairn Islands—a legendary and remote archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—and returned with footage of incredible natural wonders underwater and on land. The expedition led to the historic announcement that the British government has created the largest contiguous marine reserve in the world, protecting this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala as he meets with some of Pitcairn’s residents and explores the waters around the islands.

Read more about the announcement and the area around the Pitcairn Islands, one of the most pristine places on Earth: here.

From Wildlife Extra:

The world’s largest marine reserve given green light

The UK government has announced the creation of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve in the southern Pacific Ocean.

The Pitcairn Islands is one of the remotest places in the world, and protecting its 322,000 sq miles (over 834,000 sq km, or roughly three and a half times the area of Britain) of pristine waters will safeguard countless species of marine animals – mammals, seabirds and fish.

The government’s decision was endorsed by two leading organisations working to preserve the world’s oceans, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Geographic Society, both of which joined the local elected body, the Pitcairn Island Council, in 2013, to submit a proposal calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect these spectacular waters.

“With this designation, the United Kingdom raises the bar for protection of our ocean and sets a new standard for others to follow,” said Jo Royle, Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners that advocates for the establishment of the world’s great marine parks.

“The United Kingdom is the caretaker of more than 6 million sq km of ocean — the fifth-largest marine area of any country. Through this designation, British citizens are playing a vital role in ensuring the health of our seas.

“The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve will build a refuge of untouched ocean to protect and conserve a wealth of marine life. We celebrate members of Parliament for pressing for this action.”

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Enric Sala, head of the Society’s Pristine Seas project, says: “Our scientific exploration of the area revealed entirely new species as well as an abundance of top predators like sharks. It was like travelling to a new world full of hidden and unknown treasures, a world that will now be preserved for generations to come.”

In a statement, the Pitcairn Isleand Council said: “The people of Pitcairn are extremely excited about designation of the world’s largest marine reserve in our vast and unspoiled waters of the Pitcairn Islands, including Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson Islands. We are proud to have developed and led this effort in partnership with Pew and National Geographic to protect these spectacular waters we call home for generations to come.”

A March 2012 scientific survey of Pitcairn’s marine environment, led by the National Geographic Pristine Seas project in partnership with Pew, revealed a vibrant ecosystem that includes the world’s deepest-known living plant, a species of encrusting coralline algae found 382m (1,253ft) below sea level.

The reserve will also protect one of the two remaining raised coral atolls on the planet as well as 40 Mile Reef, the deepest and most well-developed coral reef known in the world.

In conjunction with the designation, the Bertarelli Foundation announced a five-year commitment to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve as part of Pew’s Project Eyes on the Seas, using a technology known as the Virtual Watch Room.

With this satellite monitoring system, developed through a collaboration between Pew and the UK-based company Satellite Applications Catapult, government officials will be able to detect illegal fishing activity in real time.

This is the first time any government has combined creation of a marine reserve with the most up-to-date technology for surveillance and enforcement of a protected area.

Bikini nuclear warmongering survivors now threatened by climate change

This video from the USA says about itself:

“Paradise Lost” with Lijon EknilangMarshall Islands

29 September 2012

This 15-minute segment was produced by ABC TV’s investigative program “Prime Time,” and aired in December 1990. The piece features Lijon Eknilang, a Marshallese woman who was 8-years old at the time of the U.S.’ largest and dirtiest H-bomb at Bikini in March 1954, a fission-fusion-fission bomb 1,000 times the Hiroshima A-bomb.

Caught in the high-level radioactive fallout downwind from Bikini and the H-bomb [Bravo], Lijon subsequently contracted many radiation-induced disorders along with seven miscarriages leading to her eventual sterility.

Lijon Eknilang died last month after leading a life dedicated to both educating the global community about the inherent dangers of nuclear weapons, and also of working tirelessly for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

Lijon Eknilang will be dearly missed.

– Glenn Alcalay

P.S. A more recent interview of Lijon Eknilang can be found in Adam Horowitz‘s excellent new documentary “Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1.“.

And go here for Lijon’s “Nuclear Survivor Stories” video and photo archive.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Bikini community demands US relocation amid flooding

Tuesday 24th March 2015

A TINY Pacific community forced to evacuate their homes because of US nuclear testing is demanding refuge in the United States.

“We want to relocate to the US,” said Bikini atoll mayor Nishma Jamore at the weekend, as Pacific waters continued to eat away at the small Kili and Ejit islands in the Marshall Islands archipelago.

This 13 September 2013 video is called Climate change impact on the Marshall Islands: One island has all ready gone as sea levels rise.

Mr Jamore heads a community of about 1,000 islanders who have lived in exile on the islands for decades because their original Bikini home remains too radioactive for resettlement.

There were 24 nuclear tests conducted on the atoll in the 1950s, including the largest hydrogen bomb detonation ever conducted by the US.

Unable to return to Bikini, the islanders are now faced with increasing flooding from high tides and storms hitting their tiny island refuges, with waves washing over the islands and wiping out food crops.

“Kili has been repeatedly flooded since 2012 and we’ve asked the Marshall Islands government for help with no response,” said Mr Jamore.

There is also serious concern over a recent attempt by the Marshalls’ parliament, known as the Nitijela, to take authority for Ejit island away from the Bikinians.

This is the second time that the islanders have asked to be resettled in the US because of their plight.

In the 1980s, following an aborted resettlement on Bikini that ended with the islanders exposed to high levels of radiation, they attempted in vain to buy a tract of land on Maui in Hawaii.

Sea snail venom evolution, new research

This video says about itself:

11 January 2012

You’d think a snail wouldn’t be much threat in the sea, but the cone snail proves deadly to unsuspecting fish.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

Predatory Snails Evolved Diverse Venoms to Subdue a Wide Range of Prey Species

Released: 17-Mar-2015 8:00 AM EDT

ANN ARBOR—A new study by University of Michigan biologists suggests that some predatory marine cone snails evolved a highly diverse set of venoms that enables them to capture and paralyze a broad range of prey species.

When cone snails sink their harpoon-like teeth into their prey, they inject paralyzing venoms made from a potent mix of more than 100 different neurotoxins known as conotoxins.

The genes that provide the recipes for conotoxin cocktails are among the fastest-evolving genes in the animal kingdom, enabling these snails to constantly refine their venoms to more precisely target the neuromuscular systems of their prey.

U-M researchers showed that the mix of neurotoxins in cone-snail venom varies from place to place and is more diverse at locations where the snails have a broad range of prey species. In addition, they concluded that the observed patterns of local conotoxin variation are likely due to natural selection.

That’s a significant finding because it is often difficult for biologists to determine whether place-to-place variations in an organism’s observable traits—the wide range of beak sizes and shapes in the Galapagos Islands finches studied by Charles Darwin, for example—are the result of evolution by natural selection or some other factor, such as the reproductive isolation of a population of animals or plants.

In addition, the U-M researchers were able to directly target the genes responsible for the observed conotoxin patterns. A paper summarizing the work is scheduled for online publication in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on March 18.

“The differences in venom composition that we observed correspond to differences in prey, and a higher diversity of venom is used to capture more prey species,” said first author Dan Chang, formerly a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Our results suggest that prey diversity affects the evolution of predation genes and imply that these predators develop a more diverse venom repertoire in order to effectively subdue a broader range of prey species,” Chang said.

The study involved a common species of tropical, worm-eating cone snail, Conus ebraeus, collected at locations in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. These snails are about an inch long and are commonly known as Hebrew cone snails. Their shells are white with black rectangular markings that form a distinctive checkerboard pattern.

The researchers characterized the patterns of genetic variation in five toxin genes in C. ebraeus snails from the three locations. They also collected fecal samples from the snails to determine the types of worms they ate.

“We demonstrated that venom genes used for predation are highly affected by local variation in prey diversity and geographic heterogeneity in prey compositions,” Chang said. “Not all conotoxin genes are affected in the same way though, which implies that these genes may have distinct functional roles and evolutionary pathways.”

The other U-M authors are Thomas Duda and Amy Olenzek. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Duda, who is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an associate curator at the U-M Museum of Zoology.

Dan Chang
Thomas Duda

‘Conus geographus, the Life and Death Cone Snail’ by Andreia Salvador: here.

Rare Pacific right whales are back near US coast

This video says about itself:

31 October 2011

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry describes a magical but risky experience photographing an enormous [southern] right whale off the coast of New Zealand.

From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, USA:

Research Highlight: The Sound of Hope

Rare whale species heard off continental U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years

Feb 09, 2015

Once upon a time in the ocean, North Pacific Right Whales thrived.

Their unique calls could be heard across the seas from Asia to North America. Intense whaling activities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries changed all that, decimating their population. Mid-twentieth century recovery efforts—backed by international whale-protection laws—were hampered by illegal Russian whaling in the 1960s and ’70s.

Today, only several hundred North Pacific Right Whales remain, divided into two groups: one in the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia and a second in the eastern Bering Sea off Alaska. For years scientists have been seeking any sign of the Bering Sea group because it is considered one of the most critically endangered cetacean populations in the world with only about 30 animals remaining.

Now, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers have reported some good news for the precarious population with a glimmer of hope that its numbers may be rebounding. A team led by Scripps researcher Ana Širović recorded the first evidence of these animals off the continental United States in decades.

Širović and her colleagues analyzed marine mammal sounds recorded in 2013 with four High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs), underwater microphones developed at Scripps that capture the calls and clicks emitted by various species. North Pacific Right Whales are known to produce distinctive low-frequency sounds—acoustically classified as up-calls, down-calls, gunshots, screams, and moans—that can travel across vast distances in the ocean.

To their surprise, the team discovered two Right Whale calls in HARP data recorded at Quinalt Canyon off Washington State, the first off the continental U.S. in more than 20 years, and separately at Quinn Seamount in the Gulf of Alaska.

“We had been looking for Right Whales for some time, knowing that the chances of hearing them were pretty small,” said Širović. “So it was very exciting and I was quite surprised when we heard their calls. It was a good day.”

“Our ability to detect rare species, such as the North Pacific Right Whale, has been dramatically improved by the development of new technology for listening underwater,” said Scripps Oceanography Professor John Hildebrand, a co-author of the study, published in Marine Mammal Science.

In 2013, two Right Whales were visually identified off British Columbia, Canada, marking the first such sightings that were made in the area in more than 60 years. Širović said there is no way of definitively knowing whether the animals seen were the same as the ones that were heard.

Nevertheless, the recent acoustic recordings and visual sightings may be good signs for the population of this rare animal and these instances “may offer a sliver of hope for its eventual recovery,” the researchers said in the report.

“Given the rarity of this species, and very few visual or acoustic sightings that have occurred outside the Bering Sea, our detections are an important indicator that this population is using a larger oceanic area of the North Pacific,” said Širović. “I think we are all doing this kind of work hoping to find good things to report. This was one of those good news moments. It was a happy finding.”