Judge fines Greenpeace as Shell ship retreats from Ore. protest

Judge fines Greenpeace as Shell ship retreats from Ore. protest

Royal Dutch Shell PLC icebreaker Fennica heads upriver in Portland, Ore., Thursday, July 30, 2015.

Groups want hunting season suspended for rare Alaska wolves

— Six conservation organizations are asking state and federal authorities to stop hunting and trapping seasons for Alexander Archipelago wolves, a southeast Alaska species that den in the root systems of large trees.

Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the wolves as endangered in August 2011.

The groups say large-scale logging fragments forests and reduces carrying capacity for Sitka black-tailed deer, the prey of the wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September agreed to decide by late 2015 whether the wolves warrant endangered species protection.

Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity says without hunting and trapping suspensions, wolves on Prince of Wales Island will be gone before the government can decide whether they need endangered species protection
Read more at http://www.wral.com/groups-want-hunting-season-suspended-for-rare-alaska-wolves/14791150/#xiWVTIADPi8vqbkV.99

Group ups reward for information on June sea lion killings

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson


— A Cordova group has raised the government reward offered for information on those responsible for killing at least half a dozen Steller sea lions near the fishing community last month.

KTUU-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1NY3bzT ) that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday the reward is now $7,500 after Cordova District Fisherman United added $5,000 to NOAA’s original $2,500 reward for help solving the case of the sea lions.

The sea lions were found on a Cordova-area beach June 1. NOAA officials say biologists examined the dead animals and determined they were intentionally killed.

The western United States population of Steller sea lions is protected under the Endangered Species Act, with harassing, harming or killing them banned except in extremely limited situations.
Read more at http://www.wral.com/group-ups-reward-for-information-on-june-sea-lion-killings/14765222/#45HXfKChj8wZMmkX.99

Alaska’s Seal Hunt Lasted Only a Few Days Because It’s So Hot

By Julia O’Malley

July 01, 2015

KOTZEBUE, Alaska-In this Far North village, no animal provides more protein
to fill freezers than the bearded seal. A single seal can supply hundreds of
pounds of meat, enough to feed a large, extended family for a winter.

For generations, every late June and early July, native hunters like Ross
Schaeffer and his niece Karmen Schaeffer Monigold have motored through the
broken sea ice of Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska, looking for seals
basking on frosty rafts. But this year, temperatures were close to 70
degrees, there was no ice in sight, and the seals had already migrated

This seal-hunting season was the shortest in memory, lasting less than a
week, compared with the usual three weeks.

Schaeffer and Monigold did manage to get a few animals, but the conditions
were nothing like Schaeffer, 68, had seen before. By the third week in June,
when Monigold would usually be dressed for cold, she drove out to check on
her drying seal hide wearing flip-flops and shorts.

“Every year we’ve gone out, it’s getting harder and harder because the ice
is so rotten by the time it’s time to go hunting that the seals are hard to
find,” Monigold says.

Pictures of ice melting in Kotzebue, Alaska from a helicopter
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

The amount of ice near Kotzebue, Alaska, changed dramatically between May,
2015, (on the left) and June (on the right.) This May was the warmest on
record in Kotzebue.

Photographs by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

In Kotzebue, as temperatures and ice become increasingly unpredictable,
hunters worry their children and grandchildren will no longer be able to
participate in the traditional seal hunt. Kotzebue is among the largest of
roughly 40 Alaska Native communities on the coast between Bristol Bay and
Kaktovik that rely on bearded seal.

< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/rights-exempt/nat-geo-s


Kotzebue’s changing seal season is part of another chapter of Alaska’s
accelerated climate change story, which is threatening the food, economics,
and culture of Native communities.

The longtime patterns of many animals are changing. For example, the timing
of caribou migration
< http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/library/pdfs/wildlife/caribou_trails
/caribou_trails_2014.pdf> has been later, which scientists say may be linked
to warmer temperatures. And in the Bering Sea, wild weather and unusual sea
ice patterns have hampered
< http://www.fws.gov/alaska/fisheries/mmm/walrus/pdf/influence_of_wind_ice_sp
ring_walrus_hunting_success_2013.pdf> walrus hunting, causing serious food
shortages in some villages.
< http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304795804579101440469640728>

An Alaska Hotspot

The winter of 2014 was the warmest ever measured
< https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/%E2%80%9Cwinter%E2%80%9
D-alaska> across Alaska, and this summer has so far followed a similar
pattern, according to the National Weather Service, with hot, dry conditions
fueling hundreds of wildfires. It was the warmest May ever recorded in
Kotzebue– 8 degrees warmer than usual.

“It started raining, and it rained every night for about four or five
nights. It rained hard. That rain is so warm it just seeps right through the
ice and the ice pops up and it’s all rotten already,” says Schaeffer, who
has been hunting for about 60 years. “It’s not like it used to be.”

Picture of Ross Schaeffer
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

Ross Schaeffer, 68, who has been participating in subsistence hunts since he
was a child, says the ice conditions In Kotzebue Sound last month were
unlike any he has ever seen before. “It’s not like it used to be,” he says.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Picture of children in Alaska swimming
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

Children swam in the sea on a warm day in June in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Temperatures hit as high as 80 degrees.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Kotzebue in particular is a hot spot in the state. Six of the ten warmest
winters in the village on record have occurred since 2000. Climatologists
say the village is likely to have more unusual heat this summer and into the

Above-average sea surface temperatures contributed to Alaska’s abnormally
warm winter when increased southerly winds flowed over the ocean and spread
inland. Next winter could be cooler, but over the long term, experts say
that warmer and wetter weather could become more common.

“The decades-long trend seems pretty clear: less and less sea ice,” says
Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather
Service in Alaska.

Ice coverage in Kotzebue Sound has been shrinking steadily since the 1950s,
with acceleration in recent years.

Related Content

< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

1. Watch A Seal Hunt
< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

“There is open water in the Chukchi Sea, almost up to Barrow now, which is
remarkably early,” Thoman says.

Seals Follow the Ice

Bearded seals, called ugruk in the Inupiaq language, migrate up and down
Alaska’s northwest coast, from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi and Beaufort
seas, following the ice as it advances in winter and retreats in summer,
says Peter Boveng, polar ecosystems program leader at NOAA’s Alaska
Fisheries Science Center.

Scientists estimate there are roughly 300,000 bearded seals in the Bering
Sea breeding population and an unknown number of others that breed in the
Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska, he says. As the sea ice patterns
change, there could be changes in the places where the animals spend time,
he says.

During Kotzebue’s traditional hunting season in late June, bearded seals are
hauling out on ice. They depend on the ice to give them platforms for
basking, he says, which raises their skin temperature and stimulates hair
growth to fill out their coats. That’s what complicated the hunting; seals
will only stay in the waters near Kotzebue as long as the ice conditions are

Picture of a child holding a rope attached to a dead walrus in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

Inupiat families from Barrow, Alaska, hunted for walrus instead of bearded
seal when melted sea ice ended the seal hunt abnormally early in June.
Walrus this close to town during this time of year is rare. The hunters
bring their catch to stable sea ice to butcher it and then haul it back to
town by boat.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

“If the animals are really in the peak of their molt, they will probably
want to stay with the ice. And if the ice goes out earlier in Kotzebue
Sound, Kotzebue really could see be a big decline in the number of animals
visiting that area on their way north,” Boveng says.

There is no evidence so far that the changes in the ice patterns are harming
seals. However, if they can’t find ice of the quality they need, scientists
say they might not be able to grow adequate coats, which protect their skin
from abrasions and infections, Boveng says. (Read about weird changes in
other ocean life linked to global warming.
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150411-Pacific-ocean-sea-lions-b
irds-climate-warming-drought/> )

In 2011, several species of ice-dependent Alaska seals, including bearded
seals, were part of an unusual die-off
< https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/ice/diseased/> .
Animals turned up dead or sick with abnormal coats, among other symptoms, he
says. It is unclear whether there was a link between the event and climate
change, however.

There was once a time when Kotzebue relied on beluga whales for much of its
subsistence, says Alex Whiting, an environmental specialist for the Native
Village of Kotzebue. But then, in the 1980s, many belugas stopped coming
into the sound for reasons not entirely understood. Hunters are adaptable,
he says, and will find ways to get their seals, even if the animal patterns

Picture of a person cutting seal meat in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

A woman prepared bearded seal for an annual feast in Point Hope, Alaska.

Nutritious and Spiritual6-4Hansens-trophy-goat

Pound for pound, caribou is the most important wild food source in Kotzebue,
followed closely by bearded seal, a nutritious, lean protein rich in omega

“Large adult bearded seals in particular provide singular types of meat and
oil products that are not replaceable,” Whiting says. “If the window to
harvest them is missed, it will be another year before the opportunity
arises again.”

Monigold says her main concern with the changing seal season is spiritual.
Taking children in the village to hunt instills in them a sense of purpose
and connects them to culture. When they take a bearded seal, for example,
she teaches her sons to put fresh water in the mouth to release the spirit
into the ocean, a gesture meant to bring more seals back the next year.
Sharing the meat teaches them respect and gives confidence.

Picture of people walking after returning from a seal hunt in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/

Because of melting sea ice, Inupiat men and boys from Barrow, Alaska,
returned to town after hunting bearded seal. The season was disappointing:
It ended early in June as the seals migrated north in search of ice.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Schaeffer worries that if the warming trend continues, his grandchildren
will eventually lose the opportunity to hunt bearded seals in the sound. His
grandparents traveled by dogsled and relied entirely on food they caught and
gathered but so many of their traditions have been lost in a relatively
short time. Technology was the first agent of change; now it’s climate.

Seal is a soul food for indigenous Alaskans. When Monigold goes without it
and other native foods while traveling, she feels listless and looks forward
to a meal at home.

“As soon as I take a bite, it’s like all of a sudden I’m me again,” she

This reporting was supported by a grant from the
< http://pulitzercenter.org/> Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


Alaska’s Current Off-the-Charts Wildfire Situation

Alaskans can take a peek out the window this week to catch a glimpse of climate change. It seems the entire state is on fire, and those fires are burning up land at a pace far beyond that of 2004, the previous record-setting year.

Here are the stats:

  • Wildfires in Alaska have burned more than 1.25 million acres so far this year. That’s an area 32 times the size of Washington, D.C.
  • 3,343 firefighters are currently working in Alaska. That’s one-third of all the wildland firefighters currently tasked in the United States.
  • 85 percent of the area burned nationwide this year by wildfire has been in Alaska.

The state of Alaska is at its highest level of alert. Its Tuesday wildfire situation report was 65 pages long. And the problem is getting worse: Wildfires now burn five times more acreage each year in our northernmost state than they did in 1943.

More: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/30/alaska_wildfires_climate_change_is_helping_spark_big_fires_at_a_record_pace.html



5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic


Published: Jun 30, 2015 

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic
“Kayaktivists” gather in Everett to protest oil drilling in the Arctic.
EVERETT, Wash. – Police detained five so called “kayaktivists” Tuesday who tried to slow down Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling ship Noble Discoverer as it left for the Arctic Ocean.

In all, police say 20 protesters were in the water as the ship departed Everett on its way to Alaska at about 4 a.m., guarded by two Coast Guard vessels.

Coast Guard personnel brought the activists to shore and issued citations for violating the safety zone around the drill ship. All were later released.

The protesters oppose Shell’s plans to drill for undersea oil in the Arctic. Groups of people from Oregon, Washington and Alaska have been holding a vigil on the waterfront since last Wednesday.

Shell’s drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, left Seattle earlier this month. Two dozen protesters were cited when they tried to block that rig from leaving Seattle.

Starting next month, Shell proposes to drill up to four exploration wells over two years in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s coast.

24 activists detained as Arctic oil rig heads out of Seattle


by KOMO Staff Published: Jun 15, 2015

SEATTLE – A massive oil-drilling rig pulled out of Seattle on Monday and headed for the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean despite a last-ditch effort by protesters to block it from leaving by forming a waterborne blockade of the harbor.

The Coast Guard says 24 people were detained while taking part in the blockade of the Polar Pioneer.

Many of those detained were in kayaks – including Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien, said a Greenpeace spokesman. Around 50 other protesters on the water were not arrested, Greenpeace said.

The Polar Pioneer’s owner, Royal Dutch Shell, plans to tow the rig to the Arctic Ocean off Alaska to drill for undersea oil deposits during relatively calm summer weather conditions.

The first wave of “kayaktivists” headed out in the predawn darkness, as soon as they got word the Polar Pioneer would be on the move. Protesters accused Shell of trying to sneak the rig out of town during the darkness of night.

“Shell was trying to get the Polar Pioneer out of Seattle under cover of darkness, but the kayaktivists prevented them from leaving for several hours and exposed what they were doing to the world,” said Greenpeace’s Arctic Communications Manager Travis Nichols.

Several tugs guided the Shell-owned oil rig out of Elliott Bay as the sun rose over the city.

The petroleum giant’s plans to drill in the waters off Alaska drew a similar kayak protest in May. Activists also have chained themselves twice to a support ship in Bellingham, north of Seattle.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith says the company remains “committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.”

The Coast Guard didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.


This is a developing news story. More information will be posted as it becomes available.


(Can you say Deepwater Horizon?)

NOAA investigates Steller sea lion deaths near Cordova

(L-R) Kate Savage (NOAA), Noah Meisenheimer (NOAA), Lt. Matthew Keiper (US Coast Guard), and Sadie Wright (NOAA) collect samples from a dead Steller sea lion near Cordova, Alaska. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of several Steller sea lions southwest of Cordova.

Julie Speegle, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska region, says 15 dead sea lions were discovered in the area on June 1.

“Three to five of them had wounds that our biologists could definitely say were human-caused wounds,” Speegle said. “So that indicates that these Steller sea lions had been deliberately killed.”

Killing sea lions violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which only allows limited exceptions for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives

These particular animals were from the western stock of Steller sea lions, which are also listed under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA law enforcement is looking for information from anyone with details about the event…and are offering an award up to $2,500 dollars for information leading to a conviction.

Gray Whale Threats



According to the Government of Canada’s Management Plan for gray whales, threats to the eastern North Pacific population of gray whales include:[106]

  • Increased human activities in their breeding lagoons in Mexico
  • Climate change
  • Acute noise
  • The threat of toxic spills
  • Aboriginal whaling
  • Entanglement with fishing gear
  • Boat collisions
  • Impacts from fossil fuel exploration and extraction

Western gray whales are facing, the large-scale offshore oil and gas development programs near their summer feeding ground, as well as fatal net entrapments off Japan during migration, which pose significant threats to the future survival of the population.[32]

The substantial nearshore industrialization and shipping congestion throughout the migratory corridors of the western gray whale population represent potential threats by increasing the likelihood of exposure to ship strikes, chemical pollution, and general disturbance.[33][97]

Offshore gas and oil development in the Okhotsk Sea within 20 km (12 mi) of the primary feeding ground off northeast Sakhalin Island is of particular concern. Activities related to oil and gas exploration, including geophysical seismic surveying, pipelaying and drilling operations, increased vessel traffic, and oil spills, all pose potential threats to western gray whales. Disturbance from underwater industrial noise may displace whales from critical feeding habitat. Physical habitat damage from drilling and dredging operations, combined with possible impacts of oil and chemical spills on benthic prey communities also warrants concern.[33][58]

Along Japanese coasts, four females including a cow-calf pair were trapped and killed in nets in the 2000s. There had been a record of deceased individual thought to be harpooned by dolphin-hunters found on Hokkaido in 90s.[107][108] Meats for sale were also discovered in Japanese markets as well.[109]


A gray whale in captivity

Because of their size and need to migrate, gray whales have rarely been held in captivity, and then only for brief periods of time.

In 1972, a three-month-old gray whale named Gigi (II) was captured for brief study by Dr. David W. Kenney, and then released near San Diego.[110]

In January 1997, the newborn baby whale J.J. was found helpless near Los Angeles, California, 4.2 m (14 ft) long and 800 kilograms (1,800 lb) in weight. Nursed back to health in SeaWorld San Diego, she was released into the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 1998, 9 m (30 ft) long and 8,500 kg (18,700 lb) in mass. She shed her radio transmitter packs three days later.[111]


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