British Royal Navy killed whales, report published at last


This video says about itself:

Long-finned Pilot Whale Species Identification

From New Scientist:

Pilot whales cuddle in the abyss

26 June 2013

THE abyss is a scary place. So perhaps it is no surprise that long-finned pilot whales like to stick close together when they plunge into the murky depths. New observations show that they often stay within metres of each other as they dive, and even stroke each other with their flippers.

Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are social animals that live in large pods. They were known to keep together at the surface, but their behaviour underwater was largely unknown.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Royal Navy bomb explosions caused mass whale deaths, report concludes

Noise from underwater bombs caused 19 pilot whales to beach and die off the coast of Scotland in 2011, say government scientists

Rob Edwards

Wednesday 24 June 2015 14.09 BST

Four large bombs exploded underwater by the Royal Navy were to blame for a mass stranding which killed 19 pilot whales on the north coast of Scotland in 2011, government scientists have concluded.

A long-delayed report released on Wednesday by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs says that the noise from the explosions could have damaged the hearing and navigational abilities of the whales, causing them to beach and die.

On 22 July 2011, 70 long-finned pilot whales swam into the Kyle of Durness, a shallow tidal inlet east of Cape Wrath, Europe’s largest live bombing range. Despite attempts to herd them back out to sea, 39 were left stranded by the tide.

Concerted efforts by expert teams and local people managed to refloat 20, but 19 ended up dead. It was one of the largest mass strandings in recent years, and it prompted a government-funded investigation by 12 scientists from laboratories across the UK.

Their report reveals that three 1,000-pound bombs were detonated in the sea nearby by the Royal Navy’s Northern Diving Group in the 24 hours before the whales were stranded. A fourth 250-pound bomb was exploded after stranding began.

The bombs were left over from military exercises in which planes target Garvie Island, a small rocky outcrop 4.5km from the Kyle of Durness. Some bombs miss the island, fail to detonate and sink to the seabed, where they have to be located and disposed of for safety reasons.

“The magnitude, frequency and proximity of the multiple detonations in the day prior to the stranding, and the single high-order detonation shortly after the beginning of the mass stranding, were plausible sources of significant disturbance to any neighbouring marine mammals,” the report says.

The three initial explosions could have had a “significant detrimental effect on the hearing and therefore navigational competence of any cetaceans in proximity,” it adds. The fourth bomb “might have served to drive the animals further inland”.

Loud noises can damage the hair cells in the ears of whales vital for detecting pressure changes, leaving them “functionally deaf”, the report points out. “Long-finned pilot whales are known to follow other members of the pod and appear to spook relatively easily.”

It criticises the Royal Navy’s visual checks for whales before bombs are exploded as “insufficient”, and recommends improved monitoring. It also highlights the routine use of devices elsewhere in the world that burn out rather than detonate bombs.

“Given the potential damage to marine life from the high-order explosions of conventional disposal techniques, it is questionable why this method has not been used routinely in the past,” the report says.

The lead author of the report, Andrew Brownlow from Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Inverness, was pleased that it had “finally” been published. It was hard to be definitive about the causes of mass strandings, he said.

“However we have suggested mitigation strategies which will hopefully reduce the plausible risk from these types of high-energy detonations on marine life. It is hoped they will be taken on board.”

According to Sarah Dolman, Northeast Atlantic programme manager for Whale and Dolphin Conservation, it was “no coincidence” that the whales were stranded hours after the bombs were exploded.

She said: “Why has it taken four years to publish the report and what measures have the Ministry of Defence (MoD) put in place to evaluate and minimise the impacts of detonations around Garvie Island, to ensure that it adequately protects whales and dolphins since then?”

The MoD said that it accepted the findings of the report. “It identified a number of possible factors that may have influenced events, one of which was the detonation of underwater explosives,” said a spokesman.

“The recommendations will be considered by the MoD and implemented where appropriate. Additional mitigation has already been put in place during munitions disposal activities conducted since 2011.”

Good British humpback whales news


This 2011 video is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

From Wildlife Extra:

Record number of humpbacks spotted around UK

Record numbers of humpback whales are being spotted around the UK’s coast by wildlife enthusiasts and members of the public, the Sea Watch Foundation have reported.

Reports, photographs and videos of humpbacks have been flooding in to researchers at the Sea Watch Foundation. The latest in a recent spate of humpback whale sightings took place just off one of the UK’s largest cities, Liverpool.

Local boat worker, Lee Sparks, filmed the distinctive pectoral fin slapping of a humpback as he helped guide large boats in and out of the world famous port. Mr Sparks sent in his video to Sea Watch Foundation. Sea Watch Foundation monitors whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) all over the UK. Having been set up over forty years ago, Sea Watch operates one of the first ‘citizen science’ schemes in the world, utilising cetacean sightings from the public to inform policy on how best to conserve these species given all the changes happening around our coasts.

“Sightings of both harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins seem to have increased in Liverpool Bay in the last few years, corresponding perhaps to an improvement in water quality as well as increased effort with more dedicated watches and surveys being conducted by our Regional Coordinators and local volunteers, but no one was expecting a humpback whale,” said Katrin Lohrengel, Monitoring Officer for Sea Watch.

“In fact, this may well be the first sighting of a humpback whale in Liverpool Bay on record but we will be delving into our records and historical archives to confirm! Either way this is a very exciting sighting.”

Other recent humpback whale sightings this year include one off Aberdeen on 18th May, one off the Cornish coast on 28th May and another animal in the Sound of Raasay between Rona and Skye in the Hebrides, north-west of Scotland on 7th June.

Also, back on 12th April, there were unconfirmed reports of a humpback whale off the Norfolk coast and on 5th March an animal was seen in the English Channel not far from Dover.

“This recent spate of sightings also highlights the importance of citizen science and voluntary observers to charities such as ours. It shows that you don’t have to be an expert to get involved and make a difference; you just need to take a moment to report your sighting!” says Kathy James, Sightings Officer for the charity. “People from all over the UK can help us to monitor these incredible creatures by taking part in our National Whale and Dolphin Watch which starts next month” continues Kathy.

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch takes place from 25th July – 2nd August. You don’t need to have any experience to get involved; you can join organised watches or set up your own with a little advice from the team at Sea Watch Foundation. Please visit www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw to find out more!

Sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises can easily be submitted online at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform/ and you can also find out more information about the work of the charity and species fact files too.

False killer whale research in Hawaii


This 2013 video from Ari Atoll in the Maldives is called False Killer Whales caught on tape while feeding.

From Honolulu Civil Beat in Hawaii:

Cluster of False Killer Whales Tagged for First Time Off Kona

Rare group was photographed and tagged last weekend — the first time they’d been seen in four years.

June 11, 2015

By Cliff Hahn

In an exciting encounter with an elusive group of Pseudorca (that’s “false killer whales” in non-geek terms), a team of biologists from Cascadia Research Collective were able to tag three of the cetaceans (marine species that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises) which will enable satellite tracking of their movements throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Each tag is attached remotely (smart idea) and will provide GPS coordinates 10 to 12 times a day for the next few months.

The team was also able to photograph about 20 different individuals and will compare them to an existing photo catalog. “Every adult in the population is distinctive,” says Dr. Robin Baird, a research biologist with Cascadia, the non-profit organization that is leading the research. “We’ve already discovered that one of the individuals photographed was first documented in 1986, twenty-nine years ago.”

The new tags are showing that the whales have remained off the north end of Hawaii Island and in the Alenuihahi. (Channel that separates the island of Hawaii and Maui.)

But where are they going next? That’s anyone’s guess.

False killer whales have not been studied much in the wild — which is why last weekend’s tagging is so important. In November 2012, the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognized the Hawaiian population of false killer whales, which numbers around 150 individuals, as endangered. Historically, the species was thought extinct until the discovery of a large cluster in the Baltic Sea’s Kiel Bay in 1861.

Researchers refer to false killer whale “social clusters”, which are like killer whale “pods” – long-term groupings of closely related individuals who tend to stick together. “Cluster 1” and “Cluster 3” whales are seen a few times a year. But the recently tagged whales are part of “Cluster 2” and hadn’t been seen by anyone in nearly four years. Hawaii’s false whale population is unique, since they remain within 70 miles of the state’s shore.

“We’ve been hoping to find Cluster 2 for years, but they obviously spend very little time on the leeward sides of the islands where our research is based,” says Baird. “Saturday was our last day on the water and the winds were calm, so we were able to spend time in deep water north of Kona, an area we rarely get to.”

The research project was funded by grants from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center of NOAA Fisheries and the Hawaii Ocean Project, and was undertaken in collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuary.

Blue whale Isabela’s long journey, new research


This video is called [New Animal documentary 2015] Ocean Voyager Whale Documentary – The Biggest Sea Creatures.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society today:

Scientists studying blue whale DNA uncover an epic journey by ‘Isabela’

14 hours ago

Scientists studying blue whales in the waters of Chile through DNA profiling and photo-identification may have solved the mystery of where these huge animals go to breed, as revealed by a single female blue whale named ‘Isabela,’ according to a recent study by the Chile’s Blue Whale Center/Universidad Austral de Chile, NOAA and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The researchers have discovered that Isabela—a female animal named after the lead author’s daughter and a major Galapagos Island of the same name—has traveled at least once between Chile‘s Gulf of Corcovado and the equatorial waters of the Galapagos Islands, a location more than 5,000 kilometers away and now thought to be a possible blue whale breeding ground. The journey represents the largest north-south migratory movement ever recorded for a Southern Hemisphere blue whale.

The study titled ‘First documented migratory destination for Eastern South Pacific blue whales’ appears today in the online version of the journal Marine Mammal Science.

‘Efforts to protect blue whales and other ocean-going species will always fall short without full knowledge of a species’ migratory range. Moreover, with this kind of findings we encourage eastern south Pacific governments to think about the creation of a marine protected areas network for the conservation of this and other migratory species’ said lead author Juan Pablo Torres-Florez of the Universidad Austral de Chile and the Blue Whale Center. ‘Isabela points us in the right direction for further research.’

‘The discovery emphasizes the benefits of collaboration between scientists and research organizations from different countries,’ said Paula Olson of Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

‘The discovery of Isabela traveling between southern Chile and the waters of Ecuador is important and very timely as we work to promote the recovery of the largest species to ever inhabit the earth,’ said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. ‘The movement of this one whale provides important information that will enable us to look further at these important areas for blue whales with goal to ensure their long-term protection.’

It is unknown how old Isabela is, or if she has produced any young, but she is at least 82 feet in length and may weigh up to 100 tons.

Seeking to establish links between populations of blue whales in the Gulf of Corcovado and other regions, the researchers examined DNA collected from the skin of blue whales with biopsy darts fired from crossbows across the eastern South Pacific. The team also used data from recorded sightings and photographs in their attempt to connect individual animals to different locations.

The analysis produced a genetic match between a female whale observed and sampled off the coast of southern Chile in the Austral summer of 2006; it turned out the same whale sampled the waters of the Galapagos eight years earlier by NOAA scientists. The team then found that photographs taken of both whales revealed the same distinctively curved dorsal fin and blotchy blue-gray patterns on the back, confirming that both whales were in fact the same animal.

The authors note that blue whales are frequently observed in equatorial Pacific just west of the Galapagos and that a more detailed study might confirm the location as a wintering and breeding ground for at least some of the blue whales of southern Chile.

Reaching nearly 100 feet in length, the blue whale is thought to be the largest animal that ever existed. Blue whales were nearly hunted to extinction by commercial whaling fleets before receiving international protection in 1966. A calf can measure between 23 and 27 feet in length at birth and weigh almost 3 metric tons.

Explore further: Study on world’s biggest animal finds more than one population in the southeastern Pacific

More information: First documented migratory destination for eastern South Pacific blue whales

Journal reference: Marine Mammal Science

Provided by Wildlife Conservation Society

Tell President Obama: Protect Blue Whales: here.

Rare grey whale twins, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

Rare Twin Whale Calves Seen off Dana Point by Whale Watching Boat

For the first time ever a gray whale mother has been filmed with not just one but two calves from a drone! Whale watching passengers and crew with Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari aboard the Manute’a (seen in this video) out of Dana Point, California, could not believe what they were seeing.

How rare is one mom with two calves?

“This year is our 20th year owning a whale watching business, explained Capt. Dave, “and I have never heard of anyone even seeing a gray whale with two calves, never mind filming it. I wanted to be absolutely certain that these were both calves that I was seeing by comparing the size of these three whales from above, so I put our drone up, and what I saw through the goggles made me want to give them all a big hug. One calf was in the baby position next to the Mom on the right and one in baby position, head next to pectoral flipper on the left. They all appeared normal sized and appeared to be swimming normally like one big, happy, healthy family! This was fantastic, since they still had thousands of miles to travel to their feeding grounds in the Aarctic.”

“This was truly one of the rarest and amazing sights I have ever seen!”

It is not known if these whales are twins or if one was adopted by the mother. There have been cases of dolphins adopting other dolphin calves of the same or different species into their pod. We have seen this with a lone common dolphin that we saw for several years living in a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins. And in 2013 a pod of sperm whales adopted, at least temporarily, a bottlenose dolphin with a spinal deformity. There are no known cases of a gray whale mother taking care of a second calf.

Captain Dave explains further, “because of the long journey, (the longest migration of any mammal), and the life threatening drain it puts on the mothers reserves to feed two calves, it is extremely rare for a gray whale to adopt a calf that has lost its mother. I heard about a right whale that did this in 2012 off Africa but never a gray whale. I think it more likely, though also extremely rare, that these whales were born to the same mother. While one calf is slightly longer than the other, neither calf appears to be undernourished, like we might expect in the case of an adoption. But, unless someone gets skin samples of all three whales we will never know for sure.”

Caring for two baby whales is a huge undertaking. Gray whale mothers can lose 30% of their body weight nursing just one calf on milk that is over 50% fat. In addition to the arduous 6,000-mile journey back to the arctic waters, this mother must also keep her calves safe from predators such as orcas. 1,000 dolphins and whales are estimated to die annually from entanglement in fishing gear worldwide.

“Let me tell you, Mom has her work cut out for her! These calves are growing at rate of 50 pounds a day feeding on mother’s milk. So Mom has double trouble as she won’t have a good meal until she gets at least to Oregon or further north as there is not much for them to feed on till then,” says Capt. Dave.

“She has to protect the calves from killer whales that are estimated to kill up to 35 percent of gray whale calves. And she has to watch out for ships and fishing gear which is often near shore where these whales hide in the kelp from the killers.”

“I hope to hear about more sightings of this beautiful trio as they make their way up the coast. We know that we handed off the whales to other boats out of Newport but we hope to hear more from others. I’ll say a little prayer that they make it to the feeding grounds and Mom weans them properly.”

Gray whales give birth after about 12 to 13 months of gestation to only one calf. Newborn gray whales are about 14 to 16 feet long and weigh around 2,000 pounds. Every year gray whales make a 10,000 to 12,000-mile round trip migration from the feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas to the warm waters of Baja, California. Pregnant females give birth during the southbound migration and in the protected lagoons in Baja.

(Filmed June 1, 2015 off Dana Point, CA)

Grey whale twins

See also here.