South Carolina waters, right whale calving habitat


This video from the USA says about itself:

Act right now! Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

7 January 2013

With fewer than 500 remaining, the North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction. The biggest threat to these animals was – and still is – man. Right whale populations were depleted to near extinction by whaling and are still struggling to recover. Because right whales are coastal and spend most of their lives in waters also heavily used by humans, 72% of their known mortality is attributed to either being struck by a vessel or entangled in commercial fishing gear. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With small changes humans and whales can share these areas without continuing to push this species to extinction. …

To learn more or sign the petition to increase protection for the North Atlantic right whale, visit our website: whales.org.

From The Post and Courier in the USA:

South Carolina waters proposed as right whale calving critical habitat

Bo Petersen

Feb 17 2015 6:21 pm

Ten years after the first reports of newborn right whales off South Carolina startled observers, federal regulators propose to include waters off the coast in the “critical habitat” calving grounds for the imperiled species.

The grounds and critical area have been in southern Georgia and northern Florida, but eyewitness reports and survey flights have shown the whales calved over a wider range. The proposal was forced by a court order, after a number of conservation groups petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2009 for the move, then sued in 2014 after delays in handling the petition.

It must move through an exhaustive review and public hearing process, but the proposal would expand the habitat from Florida and southern Georgia to southern North Carolina.

“Survey data and other studies over the past 20 years have increased our understanding of right whale ecology and habitat needs,” said Eileen Sobeck, NOAA fisheries administrator in announcing the move.

The designation would mean one more hurdle in a laborious process to win federal permits for offshore activities. It follows earlier controversial moves to protect the whales, including a 2013 NOAA requirement that makes large ships slow down in right whale waters.

Right whales are the rarest of the large whales, 40-ton creatures whose curious two-plume breathing spray and the lack of a dorsal fin distinguish them from other whales. Hunted to the brink of extinction a century ago, the critically endangered species now numbers 450 to 500 in the north Atlantic Ocean.

The whales have turned the corner toward potential recovery from a low of fewer than 300, thanks to awareness and conservation efforts. But the calving numbers have dropped in recent years, and the whales remain imperiled. Every whale alive is considered vital to the survival of the species.

Ship strikes, line entanglements and noise pollution are considered the biggest threats.

“It stops your heart for a second” to see a right whale, said Pawleys Island boater Mike Robino, who in 2005 piloted a vessel taking a state veterinarian offshore to confirm a report of a newborn calf and mom in the surf. “You realize how truly small you are compared to that animal. Having been up close and personal (to the whale), you can’t help but think if we can help them we should.”

Robino’s trip came after a sighting was made by a beach house roofer on the island. Even confirmed, the birth was considered a fluke. But survey flights begun shortly afterward found, on average, more than a dozen whales per year off South Carolina, including mothers and new calves.

The habitat proposal comes after a number of earlier protections, including a controversial rule requiring large ships to slow down near the coast when the whales are in season. The requirement was widely opposed by commercial shipping interests. The South Carolina Ports Authority helped fund survey flights out of Charleston for five years, partially to gauge the effectiveness of the rule.

“The (ports authority) will work in good faith with the U.S. Department of Commerce (NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service) to finalize the designation of shipping lanes developed through the evaluation of available science,” the S.C. ports agency said in reaction to the NOAA critical habitat proposal.

Survey flights ended here in 2012 due the loss of funding. They now fly the Florida-Georgia calving ground. A sighting alert network is still in place for shipping and other interests, but off South Carolina it now depends on private reports. No reports have been made this season.

NOAA did not immediately reply to questions asking what effect a critical habitat designation would have on current plans to permit sonic-boom tests and potentially drill for natural gas or oil offshore, or on military activities. Navy warfare and sonar training in the same waters recently were re-permitted without significant restrictions, despite scientific evidence the noise can deafen the whales.

The “critical habitat” proposal also would expand feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank region, according to the NOAA release.

‘Humpback whale is back in North Sea’


This video is about the young humpback whale, swimming in the Oosterschelde estuary in the Netherlands last weekend.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“Humpback swam back out to sea’

Yesterday, 22:09

The humpback whale seen this weekend in the Oosterschelde estuary is almost certainly back in the North Sea. Cyclists on the storm surge barrier have seen this afternoon that the animal swam out, says the foundation SOS Dolphin.

Earlier today things still looked bad for the whale. It swam in the east of the Oosterschelde and it was questionable whether it could find the “exit” again and whether it would dare. After 14:00, the animal was not seen.

But tonight, Jolanda Meerbeek of SOS Dolphin got a liberating phone call from a family who had cycled over the flood barrier. “At the first pillar they saw a meters long animal swimming out. It was in the lee of the pier and slid as it were into the sea. They also saw it exhale, a great jet emerged from the blowhole. When it was through the barrier, they saw it swim away to the north.”

See also here.

Humpback whale strays into Oosterschelde estuary


This 2014 video says about itself:

During the world circumnavigation with the ‘Oosterschelde‘ we were welcomed by about 6 humpback whales who did a nice performance. This happened on the south-east side of Australia.

Unfortunately, today not so good news from the Oosterschelde estuary after which that ship was named.

This video is about a humpback whale, seen 15 February 2015 near Wemeldinge along the Oosterschelde.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Little hope for humpback in the Oosterschelde

Today, 11:41

In the Oosterschelde, near the Zeeland Bridge this weekend a young humpback whale was spotted. That had never happened before. The animal still swims around. Its survival chances are not big, says the SOS Dolphin Foundation. …

On Saturday, the first report on the humpback came, one day later the animal first appeared on images.

It is unknown how young the animal is, what is its sex, and whether it can survive independently. “It accidentally swum into the Oosterschelde, hunting for fish,” thinks Annemarie van den Berg of SOS Dolphin.

The animal swims at this time in the eastern corner of the Oosterschelde. Not a good sign. “There are just more rivers there, so it is more likely it will get stranded.”

There is still hope. “It swims properly and if the animal find its way back, it’ll be fine,” says Van den Berg. “But porpoises have previously shown that they often do not dare to get back.”

The foundation calls on people to stay away from the animal. Van den Berg: “If people are going to flock to that animal in boats, then it is in big trouble. The boats can block the way back to the North Sea. Then the probability of survival really becomes nil. In addition, the noise may cause a lot of stress and of that it has enough already.”

Saving sixty pilot whales in New Zealand


Volunteers care for stranded whales on Farewell Spit earlier this year. Photo: DOC

From Radio New Zealand:

Sixty beached whales refloated

Updated at 7:41 pm on 14 February 2015

The 60 remaining whales that beached at Golden Bay are being refloated, some on pontoons.

Department of Conservation staff and volunteers rushed to the Farewell Spit area to try to rescue 198 long finned pilot whales yesterday, but this morning the whales stranded again.

At high tide at 6pm tonight, up to 200 rescuers led the whales into the ocean.

DoC spokesperson Andrew Lamason said everything was so far going to plan.

“There’s a lead group of about twenty and they’re swimming out into deeper water and the remaining whales are sort of straggling, but they appear to be generally following that lead group as well. At the moment it’s looking quite positive.”

Mr Lamason said he would not know until dawn if the whales have stranded again.

Related

See also here. And here.

Hundreds of pilot whales beached in New Zealand


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Whale Rescue Farewell Spit

24 January 2012

Volunteers work to free a pod of stranded pilot whales on Farewell Spit, New Zealand; an area notorious for whale strandings. Project Jonah CEO, Kimberly Muncaster, talks about the rescue. 24 January 2012.

This video says about itself:

13 February 2015

Almost 200 pilot whales stranded themselves Friday on a New Zealand beach renowned as a deathtrap for the marine mammals, conservation officials said.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Mass whale stranding in New Zealand kills 24 with more fatalities expected

Almost 200 pilot whales became stuck on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, prompting nearly 100 volunteers to help refloat them

Australian Associated Press

Friday 13 February 2015 06.59 GMT

A mass whale stranding on Farewell Spit in New Zealand’s Golden Bay has left 24 of the animals dead and local authorities expect the toll will continue to rise.

Close to 100 volunteers worked on Friday to help refloat almost 200 pilot whales which became stranded on the stretch of beach.

Most of the whales that survived were refloated in the high tide, but were “swimming in a confused fashion”, said Andrew Lamason from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

“What the risk is, is you’ve got some of those whales in that pod which are determined to restrand and they’ll be dragging the ones that have been refloated back onto the beach,” he said.

But as for what caused the whales to strand in the first place, Lamason said it was part of nature.

“It’s sad but in a way it’s how nature works. You’ve gotta be pragmatic when you’re wearing my shoes,” he said.

The DOC and the volunteers called off help for the night but will be back at the beach on Saturday morning to keep the whales comfortable and healthy.

Farewell Spit is a narrow sand spit at the northern end of Golden Bay and there have been numerous previous whale strandings there.

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.”

British seals and whales news


This video from England says about itself:

28 January 2013

Record numbers of grey seal pups have been born on Blakeney Point Nature Reserve in Norfolk, taking the size of the colony to possibly more than 1,000 pups for the first time.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

More seals to see by the seaside

Friday 23rd January 2015

Thought our flippered friends were vanishing from the east coast? Don’t be so sealy, cautions Peter Frost

Mother nature certainly hasn’t lost her talent both for fighting back and surprising those who study and marvel at her mysterious ways.

In December 2013 I reported in these very pages that the storms and tidal surges on the east coast had devastated the seal colonies that come to pup and breed over the winter months.

It seemed clear that numbers would be down and I, alongside experts, predicted that it would take years for the numbers to grow again to sustainable numbers.

How wrong we all were! This winter the seal colony at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast has seen record numbers of both visiting adult seals and pups born on the beaches and dunes.

National Trust wardens have counted a record 2,426 pups born at Blakeney this year. Including the adults, this has bought the total Blakeney grey seal population to something approaching 5,000.

This means that in just 14 years the grey seal population has increased a hundred fold.

Twenty years ago here you might have found a handful of common seals and hardly any grey seals at all. Now it has become the biggest breeding site for the animals in England.

To prevent walkers disturbing the seals, National Trust rangers and volunteers have fenced off part of the beach and dunes and introduced viewing areas. Still, the best way to see the seals is by tourist boat from nearby Blakeney or Morston harbours.

If you come across a seal pup on a beach walk please do not to try to pick it up or get too close. Although they may look like they have been abandoned, the mum is almost always nearby. It can be very dangerous to get between a mother seal and her pup.

This year the seals will be even easier to watch and study as they are starring in the BBC’s Winterwatch programme. The programme will include unique footage shot at night using thermal imaging techniques. This will show the seal pups actually being born, which normally happen in the hours of darkness.

The programme will also show remarkable footage as the huge alpha male bulls battle on the sands for the right to pass on their genes and mate with the females — who come into heat just a day or two after giving birth to last season’s pup.

Bulls typically measure nearly 7ft (2.1m) long and weigh up to a quarter of a ton (250kg), but may be even bigger.

Cows are always much smaller, usually 5-6ft (1.6-2m) long and perhaps only half the weight of a big bull. Grey seals come in many colours from grey to reddish brown.

The cuddly and almost unbelievable cute pups however are almost all snowy white. They suckle the rich fatty milk from their mothers. Forget your semi-skimmed, seal milk is 50 per cent fat. The pups suckle for just three weeks and then they head out to sea to fend for themselves.

The bulls fight and also try to frighten other bulls by slapping their huge stomachs on the sands. The noise and shock waves are certainly impressive.

Other seal beaches on England’s east coast have seen record pupping too. In the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast, 1,651 pups were born this year — the highest total since 1971.

A marine mammal even bigger than the giant bull grey seals was washed up on a Cornish beach earlier this month. Indeed this huge beast made the seals look positively tiny.

The corpse of huge fin whale was discovered on Wanson Beach near Bude early in January. Marine biologists established that the mammal measured over 65ft (20m) and the lower jaw bone alone was over 16ft (5m) long.

Fin whales are the second largest whale species after the blue whale, and can grow to up to 90ft (30m) in length and weigh between 40 and 80 tons.

As solitary mammals, fin whales travel the world’s oceans and are still hunted for their meat by Iceland, Greenland and Japan.

Baleen Whales Hear Through Their Bones – Understanding how baleen whales hear has posed a great mystery to marine biologists: here.