Thousands of cormorants abandon their nests

By Cassandra Profita

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Published on May 20, 2016 11:33AM

Last changed on May 23, 2016 10:03AM

A month-old double-crested cormorant at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.

Joshua Bessex/The Daily Astorian

A month-old double-crested cormorant at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.

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A double-crested cormorant rests atop of nest of eggs in the colony on East Sand Island.

The Daily Astorian/File Photo

A double-crested cormorant rests atop of nest of eggs in the colony on East Sand Island.

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Officials say thousands of cormorants abandoned their nests on East Sand Island in the Columbia River and they don’t know why. Reports indicate as many as 16,000 adult birds in the colony left their eggs behind to be eaten by predators including eagles, seagulls and crows.

The birds’ mysterious departure comes after the latest wave of government-sanctioned cormorant shooting. It’s part of a campaign to reduce the population of birds that are eating imperiled Columbia River salmon.

Amy Echols, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the contractors who monitor the birds for the Corps reported May 16 that the East Sand Island colony had been significantly disturbed.

“The disturbance resulted in nest abandonment and the loss of all the cormorants’ eggs by avian predators like seagulls, eagles and crows,” she said. “We don’t know yet what the cause of the disturbance was.”

Officials didn’t see any evidence of a coyote or any other four-legged predator, but they did see 16 bald eagles on the island.

“Bald eagles are known to significantly startle and disperse nesting colonies,” Echols said. “We don’t know if that magnitude of bald eagles could have done this.”
Eagles may not be responsible
Bald eagles have been blamed for decimating Caspian tern and cormorant colonies on the island in the past. But Dan Roby, a researcher with Oregon State University who has studied the tern and cormorant colonies for decades, said he doesn’t think eagles could have flushed so many cormorants off their nests.

“I’m pretty confident that’s not what caused the cormorants to abandon the colony,” he said. “We’ve seen that number of eagles out there before. We’ve seen them killing cormorants on their nests, and it doesn’t cause that kind of abandonment.”

Roby said researchers on his team did an aerial survey of the island on Tuesday and saw a large group of cormorants on another part of the island. But the nesting area was completely abandoned.

“There were absolutely no cormorants anywhere in the colony,” he said. “It’s a real mystery for us. It actually amazes me that any kind of disturbance — even people going on the island if that’s what happened — could cause all the birds to leave their nests with eggs and then gather on the shoreline as if they were afraid to go back to their nests. It’s certainly unprecedented in all the years we were out there working on that cormorant colony.”
Biologists investigating
Echols said about 4,000 birds have returned to the island, but not the nesting area. A team of biologists is investigating what caused the birds to flee their nests.

Federal agents have been shooting cormorants in the area and oiling cormorant eggs on the island as part of a long-term plan to shrink the cormorant colony and reduce how many threatened and endangered salmon the birds are eating. They reported killing 209 cormorants between May 12 and Wednesday.

Officials haven’t attributed the disturbance of the cormorant colony to any shooting or egg oiling activity. Echols said the last time the agents were oiling eggs on the island was May 11. Agents were on the water shooting cormorants on May 16, she said, but they have now stopped all culling activities because the number of cormorants in the colony has dropped below the level where they’re required to stop.
Vocal critic
Bob Sallinger with the Portland Audubon Society has been a vocal critic of the Corps’ cormorant management plan. He said colony failure has been one of his chief concerns as federal agencies shrink the size of the cormorant population.

“When you do that, you make a population extremely vulnerable,” he said. “Regardless of whether this abandonment was caused by eagles or their own activities, the fact is they’ve gone in there and deliberately decimated the population. Federal agencies have deliberately put the western population of cormorants at direct risk, and it needs to stop.”

Echols said federal officials are monitoring the Columbia River estuary to see where all the cormorants have gone.

Roby said it’s still early enough in their breeding season that the birds could still return to their nests and lay more eggs to avoid complete colony failure for the year.

Sea Shepherd Intercepts Fleet of Illegal Fishing Vessels in the Indian Ocean – High Seas Pursuit Now Underway. .

– High Seas Pursuit Now Underway.

The Sea Shepherd ship, under the command of Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, has now engaged in a pursuit of on…Show more

Sea Shepherd Global - Sea Shepherd Intercepts Fleet of Illegal Fishing Vessels in the Indian Ocean preview image

Sea Shepherd Global – Sea Shepherd Intercepts Fleet of Illegal Fishing Vessels in the Indian Ocean

High Seas Pursuit Now Underway The Fu Yuan Yu 076, currently on the run from the Steve Irwin. Photo: Tim Watters Sea Shepherd’s

 

Video: Sea Shepherd Saved a Life Today‏

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE
From Captain Oona Layolle

————————————-

Dear Friends,

While patrolling the vaquita refuge for illegal gillnets this weekend, we discovered a humpback whale hopelessly entangled in a gillnet. We knew that it was a race against time to save this exhausted humpback. Our crew jumped into action to rescue the whale from drowning and I notified the Mexican Navy and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA).

Since mid-January, the crews of the R/V Martin Sheen and M/V Farley Mowat have worked tirelessly to find illegal gillnets and remove them from the Vaquita Refuge in the Gulf of California. Removing gillnets is vital to the survival of both the vaquita and the totoaba bass.

Gillnets are nets of death, trapping any marine life that comes into contact with them. The crew of both vessels have worked to develop net retrieval devices that uncover the sunken gillnets. Search teams from the ships, drag the net retrieval devices in search patterns to find nets daily. Once a net is located by the search teams, I notify the Mexican Navy so that we can remove the nets and the Navy can seize the illegal fishing gear.

With your continued support, the life-saving work of our crews, and our continued partnership with the Mexican Navy, we can save the vaquita from the brink of extinction.

For the oceans,

Captain Oona Layolle

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WATCH THE COMPELLING VIDEO
Sea Shepherd Saves Humpback Whale

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READ CAPTAIN OONA’S FULL REPORT
Learn More About the Rescue

Marine experts seek answers in death of humpback whale

A whale washed up Sunday evening on the beach in Seaside. — Kyle Spurr/The Daily Astorian

 

SEASIDE — The dead 24-foot humpback whale that washed ashore on the north end of Seaside’s beach Sunday caused quite a stir.

A couple of dozen onlookers stopped to watch Tuesday as a team of marine experts from Portland State University and Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers performed a necropsy on the animal, which had been moved slightly inland and north on the beach. Some came to town specifically to see the whale.

The team collected biological samples that will be used to help determine a cause of death. If there are no “smoking guns,” such as bullet holes or something stuck in the mammal’s throat, then it can take days or weeks to determine a cause of death, said Keith Chandler, the general manager of Seaside Aquarium.

It was clear the animal did not die from old age, as it was only about a year old, Chandler said. He said it is not unusual to see a whale wash ashore on the North Coast, but they tend to be gray whales. Humpbacks are rare — Chandler said he has only see a few in his 20 years with the stranding network — but the species was spotted in nearby waters recently.

“There were a few humpbacks hanging out in the mouth of the Columbia River last year,” he said. “They are usually further offshore. It could have died offshore and with the storm, washed in.”

The whale was one of at least five cetaceans to wash up in the area in three days. A harbor porpoise and two striped dolphins were found Saturday. One dolphin was found in Cannon Beach and the other in Ocean Park, Washington. A third striped dolphin washed ashore in Seaside Monday. Chandler said it is “quite unusual to get them all together,” especially the striped dolphins.

The Ocean Park dolphin showed signs of being entangled in a net and had a hole in its tail that appeared to be from a gaff, Chandler said. The dolphin from Seaside had a similar hole in the same area, but it had not undergone a necropsy by Tuesday. Chandler said it could be a single event — getting caught in the net — that caused the unusual occurrence of killing multiple dolphins at once. If a single event is the cause of death, Chandler said, then “we know it’s just an accident,” as opposed to persistent conditions impacting a species, like disease.

City crews planned to bury the whale at the beach by Wednesday morning.

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20160203/marine-experts-seek-answers-in-death-of-humpback-whale?utm_source=Daily+Astorian+Updates&utm_campaign=b5c32b3710-TEMPLATE_Daily_Astorian_Newsletter_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e787c9ed3c-b5c32b3710-109860249

Make the Gillnet Ban Permanent to Save the Vaquita!

https://www.change.org/p/make-the-gillnet-ban-permanent-to-save-the-vaquita?tk=yiaboXSGrYZoj8CTjXeQw6T2X-psCv0jRHADusYpMtM&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt&utm_campaign=new_signature

VIVA Vaquita Coalition
42,068

Supporters

The critically endangered Vaquita porpoise is the rarest marine mammal species on the planet.

Between 50 and 100 remain, and all of them live in a tiny region in the northern Gulf of California, Mexico. Their only threat is accidental entanglement in fishing nets called gillnets, which are illegally set for the also-endangered Totoaba fish. There is a lucrative black market trade in Asia for the swim bladders of the Totoaba, fueling this highly destructive fishery. The Vaquita is simply an accidental victim in this situation, but nevertheless, it is on the absolute brink of extinction.

2016 is a “make or break” year for the Vaquita.

In 2015 we convinced the Mexican government to ban all gillnet fishing in the Vaquita’s range, which is amazing news!

Now this year, we are going to have to make sure they flawlessly enforce the ban as well as make it permanent with the aid of Vaquita-safe fishing gear.

2016 has to be the Year of the Vaquita, or else it will be too late to save this magnificent animal.

Thank you for signing this petition and speaking on behalf of the voiceless!

Please visit the websites below to learn more about the Vaquita and how you can help!

http://vivavaquita.org/

Anonymous collective hackers bring down Iceland sites in whaling protest

Image

Activist hackers from the Anonymous collective have claimed responsibility for bringing down five government websites in Iceland in a protest against whale-hunting by the North Atlantic nation.

The sites, which included the prime minister’s official website and that of the environment and interior ministries, went offline on Friday and remained down until about midday on Saturday.

In an anti-whaling video posted on social media, activists called for people to hack websites linked to Iceland to protest persistent commercial hunting despite an international moratorium.

On a new Twitter account devoted to the campaign, screenshots showing the sites down were published late on Friday by activists who said they belonged to the loose Anonymous collective. The government made no comment about the outage.

Iceland is a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an inter-governmental body which imposed a ban on all commercial whaling from 1986. The moratorium remains in place, but both Iceland and Norway continue to hunt whales.

Iceland has come under fire for whaling for decades, including in the 1970s and 1980s when activists from Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society tried to disrupt annual hunts using boats or by sabotaging hunting stations.

Isolated in the North Atlantic with only Greenland as its close neighbor, Iceland has relied on fishing and whaling as a key part of its economy. Icelanders argue whales reduce the stocks of the fish they hunt for.

Since its devastating financial meltdown in 2008 and a sharp currency devaluation, however, tourism has boomed and whale tours are increasingly popular.

(Reporting by Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir in Reykjavik and Sabina Zawadzki in Copenhagen; Editing by Helen Popper)

Read the article on News Republic

Read the original article

Paris talks a fraud: Watered down climate agreement is too little, too late

by Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson

COP 21 – The Positives and the Negatives

The positive: (1) The attention of the world has been focused on the issue of climate change. (2) The issue has been given great credibility through the recognition and participation of 195 nations. (3) there will most likely be a surge in support for alternative energy technologies. (4) It could have been worst.

The negatives: (1) Having attended these international conferences since 1972 I’ve yet to see any past agreements translated into action. So we shall see. Promises are cheap. (2) the Ocean was virtually ignored. (3) Oxygen depletion was completely ignored as was phytoplankton diminishment. (4) the issue of animal agriculture was not only ignored it, the food concessions at the events contradicted that concern 100%. Serving fish and chips during an ocean forum and hamburgers at forums dealing with greenhouse gas emissions was a disconnect that was painfully obvious. You would think the delegates and the NGO’s could have weathered a meat free two weeks considering that the animal agriculture industry slaughtering 65 billion animals a year produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry. (5) and no one wanted to hear about cutting off the 75 + billion dollar government subsidies to the industrialized fishing industry.

In the agreement signed in the COP21 climate deal: the words “fossil fuels” do not appear. Neither do the words “oil” or “coal.” I find that quite revealing.

My two solutions to address climate change were two solutions that no one wanted to hear. (1) shut down industrialized fishing and allow the ocean ecosystems to repair themselves. And (2) convert the majority of the 7.5. billion humans on the planet to a plant based diet.

My summation is that this watered down agreement is too little, too late, and what is on paper will most likely not see any realistic application in practice.

Hopefully I will be proven wrong.

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Also: James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’

The former Nasa scientist criticizes the talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020,

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

Killing of Cormorant Over…For Now

Painting Courtesy Barry Kent McKay

Painting Courtesy Barry Kent McKay

http://www.chinookobserver.com/co/local-news/20151109/cormorant-killing-comes-to-seasonal-end-litigation-set-for-march

CHINOOK — The federal government last month stopped shooting cormorants and oiling their nests to reduce cormorant predation on juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River estuary.

Wildlife Services, a federal agency contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, killed 2,346 double-crested cormorants and destroyed more than 5,000 nests on East Sand Island between May 28 and Oct. 1. The island is located in Baker Bay near Chinook and the gunfire could sometime be heard echoing around the bay.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the Corps a one-year permit in April 2015 to kill 3,489 double-crested cormorants and to oil 5,879 nests through the end of January 2016. The permit also includes destroying 105 Brandt’s cormorants and 10 pelagic cormorants.

This year’s culling activities end once most of the birds begin to migrate south for warmer climates, which is usually by the end of October.

 

Salmon impacts

 

NOAA Fisheries estimated that during 1998-2012, double-crested cormorants consumed 6.7 percent of juvenile steelhead, 2.8 percent of Chinook yearlings and 1.3 percent of juvenile sockeye migrating to the ocean.

Looking at it another way, NOAA also calculated the birds ate an annual average of 12 million juvenile salmonids, many of them listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The East Sand Island’s cormorant colony, estimated at 15,000 nesting pairs, represents about 98 percent of the double-crested cormorant population in the lower Columbia River. In 1989 the cormorant breeding population was about 100 pairs.

As tons of dredged rock and soil from the Columbia River streambed piled up over the years, avian predators, such as cormorants and Caspian terns, set up colonies on the fill.

The Corps has a four-year plan to reduce the cormorant population in the estuary by 56 percent. The plan is spelled out in the final environmental impact statement, dated Feb. 6, 2015.

 

Lawsuit pursues end to bird cull

 

In response, the Audubon Society of Portland and four other groups filed for a preliminary injunction against the Corps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wildlife Services in April 2015. The environmental groups argued their suit was not about “birds versus fish.” Rather, they said, federal agencies were targeting cormorants rather than operating dams to minimize juvenile salmon mortalities.

NOAA Fisheries calculated annual cormorant consumption rates of juvenile steelhead, yearling Chinook and juvenile sockeye at 6.7 percent, 2.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, based on data from 1998-2012.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled against the Audubon and its allies May 8, citing their failure to prove that lethally removing the number of cormorants stated in the Corps’ plan would likely cause “irrevocable harm” to the overall population. The decision allowed the federal agencies to start their 2015 culling operation in late May.

Final oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 7, 2016, before Simon.

Meanwhile, on Goose Island upstream of the Columbia’s confluence with the Snake River, fewer than 20 nesting pairs of Caspian terns have been counted this year.

“Last year, before the dissuasion program, there were about 400 nesting pairs,” said Michael Lesky, natural resource specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Ephrata Field Office.

Caspian tern

This Caspian tern wears ankle bracelets, actually bands that indicate where the bird was tagged.

Tern populations have been big consumers of juvenile salmonids. Studies conducted during 2008-2013 estimated terns were annually taking 16 percent of upper Columbia River steelhead smolts and 2.5 percent of spring Chinook. BuRec and the Corps will release estimates next month of the number of juvenile salmon and steelhead taken by Caspian terns in 2015.

Relocation efforts

As part of the dissuasion plan, federal agencies have created alternative Caspian tern nesting habitat at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in San Francisco Bay. The alternative habitat was available for the 2015 spring nesting season.

Lesky, who visited the refuge in May, said he saw the birds nesting, rearing their young and using the habitat there.

The purpose of the new California habitat is to attract Caspian terns away from the Columbia River to a location where there are fewer or no ESA-listed species for prey. The San Francisco Bay refuge is on the bird’s annual flyway.

It won’t be known if Caspian terns at the Don Edwards refuge are terns from Goose Island until agency personnel have information from satellite tags on the terns, which will come later this year, Lesky said. The terns nesting there could also be from East Sand Island on the lower Columbia, where efforts to reduce their numbers have met with limited success.

To redistribute Caspian terns, a method called social attraction is used to entice them away. This involves the Corps of Engineers building up islands at appropriate locations, and biologists then holding a big, loud party there. Instead of setting out chairs and tables and turning on music, they plant the new terrain with Caspian tern decoys and blast audio recordings of screeching terns.

Social attraction seems to work to lure a limited number of the terns to new areas, but it’s hard to predict whether this widely dispersed and migratory species will continue to return to a new island or breed there, and whether relocation helps reduce Caspian tern consumption of juvenile salmon and steelhead on the Columbia.

Entangled Whale Partially Freed off California Coast

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/entangled-whale-partially-freed-off-california-coast-34877294

Rescuers who removed 150 feet of rope from a humpback whale entangled in fishing gear off the California coast said Saturday that they hoped to remove the rest of the netting but weren’t sure if the animal would resurface close enough to shore.

A rescue team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was able to cut away some of the line late Friday after hours of trying, but about 100 feet of rope is still trailing from the whale. Rescuers are especially concerned because the rope appears to be stuck in the whale’s mouth, which will make it hard for it to eat, Jim Milbury, a NOAA spokesman, said Saturday.

The whale dove deep after the team did its work, and authorities aren’t sure where it will show up again — if at all.

A whale watching vessel reported the entangled whale Friday morning.

Rescuers are asking boaters to notify authorities if they spot the whale over the weekend.

Enforce Laws & Regulations to Protect Whales & Dolphins from Fishing Entanglements

Enforce Laws & Regulations to Protect Whales & Dolphins from Fishing Entanglements

  • BY: Sue Lee
  • TARGET: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

we’ve got 8,320 supporters, help us get to 9,000

So many whales and dolphins are continually caught in fishing gear and other methods of entanglement in the waters that they live in.  A major concern that affects these animals is entanglement among other concerns due to lacking of fishermen worldwide.

Many whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are unintentionally caught and killed in fishing gear worldwide each year.  Such entanglements often leads to the death of these animals.  A bill was passed back in 1972 that limited how many whales and dolphins would be caught by fishermen.  The laws continue to be ignored but the Center for Biological Diversity and the U. S. Government is stepping up the game to protect these mammals and other creatures of the sea through enforcement of the law.

Since the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are encouraging the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize its rules and be more diligent in protecting marine mammals. Such an action would drastically reduce the number of whales and dolphins that die in nets each year while also preserving those on the brink of extinction.

Our efforts through this petition is to help the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from perils of fishing and possible extinction.  You can help in this matter by signing and sharing this petition.  We need to encourage the NMFS to be more diligent in protecting these mammals.

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