A juvenile humpback whale that had become “anchored” to the sea floor by fishing ropes has been rescued off the Boston area.
Ropes attached to submerged fishing traps were wrapped around the base of the whale’s fluke, or tail. While the mammal could surface to breathe, it struggled to swim.
The whale had been in this perilous situation since at least last Thursday, when it was discovered by commercial fishermen. “The whale had likely been anchored by its entanglement for the better part of a week,” the Center for Coastal Studies said in a statement posted Monday.
Rescue work was performed from an inflatable vessel. The team used a hook-shaped knife attached to a 30-foot pole to remove ropes from the whale’s injured fluke
After the 30-foot whale was freed, the team followed the cetacean for two hours and reported, “While the prognosis for the whale is now much better, it will take time for it to heal.”
Last week off Northern California, commercial fishermen took matters into their own hands and cut loose a humpback whale that had become badly entangled in crab-fishing gear.
Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/wildlife/humpback-whale-anchored-fishing-gear-rescued-off-boston/#1XMtfstShYiBILVH.99
August 4, 2016
In some of the last quiet, pristine waters on the British Columbia Coast, humpback whales are making a comeback. In the mid 1960s, when Canada stopped whaling on its West Coast, there were only about 1,500 of them left in the North Pacific. Ten years ago, a study estimated that their numbers had multiplied to about 22,000.
Today, however, these whales are facing another huge menace: a proposed supertanker highway through one of their few remaining peaceful havens. A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that’s being planned for the northern part of the province and possible bitumen oil pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. Coast would route a potential 2,000 to 3,000 tankers through the Great Bear Sea per year, putting whales in daily risk of ship strikes.
That’s not the only danger the tankers would pose. If the pipelines are approved, each ship would carry over two million barrels of oil—the equivalent of 127, Olympic-size swimming pools. These colossal quantities of oil traveling along one of the world’s most dangerous shipping routes means that there’s a high risk of spillage. Smaller leaks and spills and the introduction of invasive, exotic species are additional threats these huge boats would bring to the waters of the Great Bear Sea. And, supertankers are the loudest marine vessels on Earth. Here, where current low noise levels allow the whales to communicate and forage successfully, the thunder of these carriers could displace the whales again.
SAN FRANCISCO – In a unanimous rebuke, the Ninth Circuit court ruled Friday that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had illegally approved a permit authorizing the Navy to use its high-intensity long-range sonar – called low-frequency active sonar (or LFA) – in more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans. Designed for submarine detection over vast expanses of deep sea, LFA has the capacity to expose thousands of square miles – and everything in it – to dangerous levels of noise.
The case against the Fisheries Service was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Humane Society of the United States, Cetacean Society International, League for Coastal Protection, Ocean Futures Society and its President Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Michael Stocker, a bioacoustician and director of Ocean Conservation Research in California.
In its decision, the three-judge panel found that the Fisheries Service had unlawfully ignored reasonable safeguards recommended by the government’s own scientists to reduce or prevent harm from the sonar system, resulting in a “systematic underprotection of marine mammals” throughout “most of the oceans of the world.” Experts had recommended that the Fisheries Service protect the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off of Hawaii, Challenger Bank off of Bermuda, and other areas around the world important to whales, dolphins, seals, and other marine mammals. But the Fisheries Service went ahead and gave the Navy the greenlight to operate its intense sonar in the vast majority of these areas.
Among other things, the court also found that:
- Protecting marine mammal habitat from Navy sonar is “of paramount importance” under the law.
- The Fisheries Service has an independent responsibility to ensure the “least practicable impact on marine mammals” (i.e., the lowest possible level of harm)before giving the Navy – or anyone else – permission to harm these protected species; and that the Fisheries Service must err on the side of overprotection rather than underprotection.
- The Fisheries Service had given “mere lip service” to the requirement to minimize impacts during Navy sonar training.
- The law requires the Fisheries Service to mitigate harm to individual marine mammals and their habitat, rather than ignore its statutory responsibility until species as a whole are threatened.
AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE
From Captain Oona Layolle
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
WATCH THE COMPELLING VIDEO
Sea Shepherd Saves Humpback Whale
READ CAPTAIN OONA’S FULL REPORT
Learn More About the Rescue
EO Media Group
CANNON BEACH — The humpback whale stranded in Seaside in January may have become entangled or struck by a boat, according to Debbie Duffield, a Portland State University biology professor.
More than 30 people gathered for a lecture, “Marine Mammals, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Marine Reserves,” last week at the Cannon Beach Library.
The topic was particularly timely. In the past few weeks, a humpback whale washed ashore in Seaside, and a harbor porpoise and two striped dolphins were found on the North Coast. Experts are still waiting on necropsy results for the whale to see whether it was infected or if it had an accident.
The humpback has bruising that could have been from entanglement or a boat strike, Duffield said. It also carried a fairly heavy parasite load for a whale not more than 2 years old.
The presentation — a partnership between Duffield and Keith Chandler, the Seaside Aquarium general manager — was part of Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s lecture series.
The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which Duffield and Chandler belong to, responds to mammal strandings from Tillamook to Long Beach, Washington. They see 149 stranded animals a year on average. The most common animals include California sea lions, harbor seals and Steller sea lions.
Strandings allow researchers to evaluate otherwise inaccessible animals, and necropsies tell scientists vital physiological and biological information. Marine mammals’ tissues are sampled and used for studies on ocean pollution, biotoxins and other environmental changes.
Once they evaluate a stranded animal, researchers take samples back to the university to study it in a controlled area and test for infections. After they finish the necropsies, they might prepare the bones for students to piece together.
“Every once in awhile we have species that, because of their charismatic value, are of great interest to everybody,” Duffield said.
For example, a killer whale was stranded in Long Beach several years ago, drawing veterinaries, researchers and onlookers alike. Duffield also recalls when a Baird’s beaked whale came in live in Seaside during a volleyball tournament. “Luckily, people weren’t around it when it started to die and thrash, because it could have killed somebody,” she said.
Why do these animals appear on shores? Seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins and porpoises are primarily stranded due to human interaction, such as gunshots, fisheries interaction and net entanglement. Bacterial disease, cancer and infections also cause strandings.
Sometimes the human-related interactions are extreme. Duffield displayed a jarring photo of a California sea lion that had part of its face destroyed by an explosive device.
She also showed a picture of plastics and debris on the Seaside beach. Sea lions get entangled in plastic bands, but since they bite, it’s difficult for humans to help them remove bands and recover from wounds. In 2010, a dead whale stranded in Washington’s Puget Sound beach had 50 gallons of material in its stomach that was mostly algae, but also human debris, such as sweatpants, plastic bags, duct tape and towels.
The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network works to improve treatment and disentangle marine mammals from debris and fishery gear.
Duffield said that the animals are resilient. Seals and sea lions often carry worms in their stomach that can form ulcers. “They just live with that,” she said. “Their parasite loads are tremendous.”
The strandings may also point to larger forces at work. The El Niño climate pattern that’s increasing coastal temperatures, along with the warm “blob” of water in the north Pacific Ocean, affect the animals’ prey.
“We’re at the apex of these changes that we can actually follow annually,” Duffield said. “It’s a fascinating change that we’re living through.”
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.
Posted here:http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/15/breach-the-snake-river-dams/ by Carl Safina of The Safina Center on June 15, 2015
By Kenneth Balcomb, guest essayist
Note: In this guest essay, long-time killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb shows how obsolete but still salmon-killing dams are helping cause the decline of killer whales due to food shortage in the Northwest. The dams do feed us one thing: propaganda. As Ken wrote to me, “I was flabbergasted that the dams are closed to photography, and that their wasteful secret is downplayed in the mainstream propaganda fed to the public.” For more on the dams, see my book Song for the Blue Ocean. For more on Ken and the whales he has spent his life loving and studying, see my soon-to-be-released book Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, which will hit bookstores on July 14. — Carl Safina
I have studied the majestic southern resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest for forty years (approximately one productive lifespan – whale or human), during which time much has been learned and shared with the world about this iconic endangered population. They are now arguably the best known whales in the world! But, that was not always the case. The common response in the 1960‘s and 1970‘s to my announcement that I was studying whales was, “Why?” “What good are they?”
My best response was to point out that as top marine predators whales are indicators of the health of that environment in which they live – the ocean – and that is also an environment upon which humans depend. Now, with growing numbers of people appreciating the whales’ natural role in the marine environment, and better understanding their ecological requirement for specific food—Chinook salmon in this case—to survive, the conversation has moved toward a strategy of how best to provide that food. There is currently an active discussion about removal of the Snake River dams to save fish, or whales. The issue of whether dams should be breached to provide this food for the whales has now arrived. Would that be reasonable? Are we sure that will work?
I don’t consider this lightly. I tend to consider the status quo of institutions and structures to be enduring and worthy of protection, even if only as displays of the truly amazing feats our species has achieved in the course of human evolution and ingenuity. Not all of our feats have been without unforeseen consequence, however; and, most tend to crumble over time anyway. Dams require maintenance, and they eventually fill with sediment.
Until recently, dam removal was against my conservative nature. And it still seems to be counter to our government’s intent. This is in spite of clear evidence that the salmon-eating population of “killer” whales that I am studying is on a path to extinction along with significant populations of their main food resource—Chinook salmon—huge numbers of which formerly spawned and returned to the Snake River, and fed whales in the Pacific Ocean and humans, before the dams were built.
I had to see for myself what was going on in the Snake River watershed currently. So last week my brother and I drove up the highway to visit the dams on the Columbia River and upstream, sightseeing and taking photos and videos along the way and learning about the current passage of remnant populations of salmon.
But when we got to the McNary and Ice Harbor dams just below the Snake River and on it, it seemed as if an iron curtain had come down and we were prevented from taking any photographs, or even carrying cameras and cell phones behind the fences surrounding the dam structures. It was as if something was being hidden from view. And, it was. There was no point in our continuing upstream to Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams to take photographs and videos of fish passage, because that was not allowed.
In truth, already well known to others but not to me, these four Snake River dams are obsolete for their intended purposes and are being maintained at huge taxpayer expense for the benefit of a very few users. Plus, they are salmon-killers in a former river (now a series of lakes) that historically provided spawning and rearing habitat for millions of Chinook salmon. And, they now doom all technological attempts to bolster these salmon populations to expensive failure.
Even many of the Army Corps of Engineers’ internal documents recommend that returning the river to natural or normative conditions may be the only recovery scenario for Snake River fall Chinook salmon, and it will also benefit other salmon populations.
You and I are paying for this economic and ecological blemish with our tax dollars spent to maintain structures and negative return on investment in power generation, “barge” transportation, and recreation. The question I would now ask is “Why?” and “What good are they?”
Removal can be done inexpensively and doing so makes perfect ecological sense. The technological fixes for the dams have not improved wild salmon runs, and there is nothing left to try. There are no fixes for the deadly lakes behind the dams. As a nation, we are dangerously close to managing the beloved southern resident killer whale population to quasi-extinction (less than 30 breeding animals) as a result of diminishing populations of Chinook salmon upon which they depend. There are only about eighty of these whales now remaining (including juveniles and post-reproductive animals), down from nearly 100 two decades ago and down from 87 when they were listed as “Endangered” in 2005.
If you really want to have healthy ecosystems with salmon and whales in the Pacific Northwest future, and save tax/rate payer money at the same time, please contact or mail your thoughts to your elected representatives in support of a Presidential mandate to begin the return of the Snake River ecosystem to natural or normative conditions by the end of the current presidential administration. The time is now!
When they are gone it will be forever. Returning the Snake River to natural condition will help salmon and whales, and save money. Please do not wait until all are gone. Call or write your representatives today!
Ken Balcomb, 11 June 2015
Senior Scientist, Center for Whale Research
Author: Eric M. Johnson
A Native American tribe’s request to resume its sacred canoe and harpoon hunts of federally protected gray whales off the Washington state coast has drawn fresh opposition while the treaty-enshrined proposal is weighed by U.S. fisheries managers.
The application is at the heart of a decades-long quest by the Makah Tribe to hunt the marine mammals for both subsistence and religious purposes, which the tribe says it has done over millennia in the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Conservationists have criticized the practice as an unnecessary and barbaric death for animals that have high sentience and intelligence levels.
“The bottom line is that the Makah don’t have a legitimate need to kill the whales,” said D.J. Schubert, a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit group.
The Makah Tribe is the only Native American tribe outside Alaska to hold whaling rights, enshrined in an 1855 U.S. treaty, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is evaluating the request.
The Makah tribe ceased the practice in the early 20th century as whale populations dropped. But after gray whales were de-listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1994, tribe members harvested one whale in 1999 with the U.S. government’s approval.
In 2004, a U.S. appeals court ruled the Makah must seek a waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act to hunt whales, and that NOAA officials must analyze the environmental impact of the request.
The tribe sought a waiver a year later, asking to take as many as five gray whales annually from an estimated stock of 20,0000, NOAA said.
The tribe did not respond to requests for comment. It says on its website that “whaling and whales are central” to its culture, describing capturing an animal that can weigh 80,000 pounds (36 metric tonnes) using little more than a harpoon thrown from a canoe. NOAA says whalers use .50-caliber gun for the final kill.
In 2007, lacking government approval, Makah whalers killed a gray whale.
A NOAA study from March looked at range of options, including allowing the tribe to hunt up to five whales a year during limited seasons and under other restrictions.
The final analysis, which NOAA hopes to finish by year’s end, will be evaluated during a hearing by an administrative law judge who will decide whether to grant the hunting request.
(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott)
ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Aquarium wants to bring 18 Beluga Whales to the US.
The Aquarium was denied their request to bring the whales here more than two years ago, but Wednesday, they will appeal that decision.
When they first asked to bring the mammals here, it started a firestorm of controversy from animal rights advocates.
The whales were collected at a research facility in Russia in 2006, 2010, and 2011.
There has been strong opposition to bringing the Belugas to the US from environmentalists who think the whales should stay put… But the aquarium argues it would do more good to have them here, where they say they can teach people to care about wildlife and serve as ambassadors.
This is a very long running fight between the two groups.
All the way back in June of 2012, the Aquarium submitted the application to bring the whales to the US.
A year later, in November, NOAA denied their application, which at the time, was unexpected.
The Georgia Aquarium filed their appeal, in October of 2013
The court will hold a hearing on Wednesday about documents the Georgia Aquarium wants uncovered.
According to the Aquarium, NOAA seemed likely to approve their request and then changed course.
The Aquarium is asking for all documents related to the decision not to allow the whales to come to the US.
There will likely not be a ruling Wednesday.