Whales reached huge size only recently

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40032372

WhaleImage copyrightSILVERBACK FILMS/BBC
Image captionBeing big means they can maximise the opportunities where they exist

Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever existed on Earth but they only recently* got that way.

This is the extraordinary finding from a new study that examined the fossil record of baleens – the group of filter feeders to which the blues belong.

These animals were relatively small for most of their evolutionary existence and only became the behemoths we know today in the past three million years.

That is when the climate likely turned the oceans into a “food heaven”.

Favoured prey – such as krill, small crustaceans – suddenly became super-concentrated in places, allowing the baleens with their specialised feeding mechanism to pig-out and evolve colossal forms.

“The blue whales, the fins and bowheads, and the right whales – they are among the most massive vertebrates to have ever lived,” explained Nick Pyenson from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, US.

“Some of the dinosaurs were longer, but these big whales even outweighed the largest dinosaurs. And isn’t that surprising? People kind of think of gigantism as being a fact of the geologic past. But here we are, living in the time of giants on Planet Earth,” he told BBC News.

*Whales have been around for about 50 million years – a blink of the eye in the 4.6-billion-year history of the Earth.

Dr Pyenson is publishing the new research – conducted with Graham Slater from the University of Chicago and Jeremy Goldbogen from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station – in a journal of the Royal Society called Proceedings B.

It is based on a deep analysis of the Smithsonian’s extensive collection of cetacean bones, and in particular of whale skulls which are a good indicator of overall body size.

The team estimated the lengths of 63 extinct species, including some of the very earliest baleens that swam in the oceans more than 30 million years ago. And combined with data on modern whales, this investigation was then able to establish the evolutionary relationships between whales of different sizes.

What emerges from the research is a picture showing not only that gigantism is a recent phenomenon but that this bigness arises independently in the different baleen lineages.

The smaller whale species that had previously persisted start to go extinct within the last three million years, right at the same time as the giants begin to appear.

Lunge feedingImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe baleen plates that hang from the upper-jaw filter prey from a gulp of seawater

It all points to a major shift in the environment and the team suggests the best explanation is the onset of ice ages at the end of the warm Pliocene Epoch, the beginning of the Pleistocene.

The existence of major ice sheets would have restructured the oceans, changing the way water and nutrients were distributed.

“This period sees some dramatic changes, including the closure of the Panamanian isthmus, shutting off connection between the Atlantic and Pacific,” explained Dr Slater.

“Ice sheets in the north develop a lot of cold water that sinks and is then transported around the globe. And what you get are intense upwellings that bring that nutrient-rich cold water back to the surface. That allows algae to go crazy and that allows krill to feed and to form really dense aggregations.”

It is not the abundance of prey per se that favours large baleens, but rather the prey’s patchy, concentrated nature. And with their filter-feeding system of eating, the big whales are able to take maximum advantage.

“They can travel from one feeding zone to the next very efficiently because their big size means their ‘miles per gallon’, their MPG, is very high. And they seem to know precisely the right time to turn up at these feeding grounds,” Dr Slater added.

WhaleImage copyrightSILVERBACK FILMS/BBC
Image captionBlue whales can reach over 30m in length, although this is rarely seen nowadays

Two points are worth noting. First, commercial whaling in the last century decimated baleen populations and very probably removed most, if not all, of the ultra-giants out there. Few blues now exceed the 30m lengths that were often recorded at processing factories.

Thanks to the international moratorium on whaling, the true giants could yet return. But this raises the second issue: the changing climate.

If the experts are right, we are heading back towards the Pliocene. Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could well see global temperatures in the next century that are three or four degrees warmer than they are today. This would almost certainly trigger further ocean changes.

“We’re playing with the dials on ‘Spaceship Earth’,” commented Dr Pyenson.

“We don’t know how things are going turn out, especially for these food resources which may or may not be persistent in space and time. There are some baleens that we think might be more flexible. Gray whales, for example, appear to have a very broad feeding range; blue whales not so much – they really need their krill.”

HumpbackImage copyrightMARIA TERESA LARA
Image captionWhat will happen to the oceans if the global climate returns to the Pliocene?

Richard Sabin is the curator of marine mammals at London’s Natural History Museum.

He called the research “compelling and important” and also highlighted the ecological knife-edge on which some of these animals must live: “There are 90 or so cetacean species. They’re a very diverse group and some of them are very specialised.

“So, you have creatures like the river dolphins that use echo-location to find their prey and the blue whales that are very specialised feeders with their krill. These animals have evolved within systems that they now depend on remaining stable.”

London’s NHM is about to make its blue whale skeleton the star attraction of a remodelled entrance hall.

The near-4.5-tonne specimen has been hung from the ceiling in a lunge-feeding pose, mouth open.

The display is under wraps for the moment, but a big unveiling is promised in the next few weeks.

“The visualisations that we released give you an idea, but they don’t really do it justice. She looks spectacular. You get so many different perspectives from the different angles, and you get a real sense not just of her size but of her dynamism as well.”

London’s Natural History Museum will also stage a new exhibition on whales to coincide with the unveiling.

Whale calf died after getting tangled in crab lines

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20170511/whale-calf-died-after-getting-tangled-in-crab-lines?ct=t(DA_Updates)&mc_cid=9595e17d2d&mc_eid=e8e1dd5a65

Migrating north to Arctic waters
 Last changed on May 11, 2017 10:20AM
A dead whale calf was examined by researchers on May 4 after being towed to an island in the Columbia estuary.

CASCADIA RESEARCH

A dead whale calf was examined by researchers on May 4 after being towed to an island in the Columbia estuary.

LONG BEACH, Wash. — An entangled gray whale calf died after being caught in crab pot lines, Olympia-based science group Cascadia Research Collective reported following an examination.

The whale, a 20-foot-7-inch male born this calving season, was initially reported dead in late April, anchored in place half a mile off of the Seaview beach approach. On May 1, it was discovered the whale was entangled in apparent commercial crab pot gear, researchers said.

The whale was towed to a remote island inside the mouth of the Columbia River.

A necropsy last week showed the whale was at the age when mothers with calves migrate north from their winter breeding and calving grounds in Baja to feeding areas primarily in Arctic waters. This migration is often close to shore and through commercial crabbing grounds.

“The whale was entangled in numerous areas including through the mouth and showed bruising around these areas indicating it was alive when it became entangled (and) had died as a result of the entanglement,” researchers said. “The whale was in excellent body condition with a large and oily blubber layer and even fat reserves around the heart all indicating it had been in good health prior to experiencing a more sudden death. Many of the internal organs were decomposed likely as a result of rapid decomposition due to the insulating blubber layer.”

Whale entanglements have increased in recent years along the West Coast, most dramatically with humpback whales off California, and have been of growing concern, according to Cascadia Research. Authorities are on the lookout for another gray whale first spotted off California that has its head stuck in a metal framework.

These incidents have prompted increased efforts to identify solutions as well as help disentangle whales when encountered still alive, the scientists said. Another threat to whales was highlighted by a boat strike on a well-known adult gray whale in Puget Sound, caught on video in April. Fortunately, that whale survived, though the full extent of its injuries are not yet known, researchers said.

There are an estimated 26,000 gray whales that migrate off the West Coast, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which calls their recovery “a great conservation success story.”

Gray whales were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1994.

Mass Die-Off of Whales in Atlantic Is Being Investigated

Photo

Workers inspecting a dead humpback whale that washed up on Rockaway Beach in Queens this month.CreditSpencer Platt/Getty Images

Humpback whales have been dying in extraordinary numbers along the Eastern Seaboard since the beginning of last year. Marine biologists have a term for it — an “unusual mortality event” — but they have no firm idea why it is happening.

Forty-one whales have died in the past 15 months along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Maine. In a news conference on Thursday, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries said that they had not identified the underlying reason for the mass death, but that 10 of the whales are known to have been killed by collisions with ships.

The agency is starting a broad inquiry into the deaths.

These whales “have evidence of blunt force trauma, or large propeller cuts,” said Deborah Fauquier, a veterinary medical officer at the agency’s Office of Protected Resources. These collisions with ships were “acute events,” Dr. Fauquier said, and were being treated as the “proximate cause of death.”

Dr. Fauquier said that the number of whale strandings was “alarming,” and that she hoped the investigation might give a sense of what kind of threat this presents to this population of humpback whales and those around the world.

COn average, eight humpback whales are stranded each year from Maine to Virginia, and fewer than two are hit by ships, according to data from NOAA.

An unusual mortality event is a specific designation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and is defined as “a stranding that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.”

Whale or other marine mammal die-offs are often poorly understood by scientists, and this case is no exception. Officials from NOAA Fisheries could not explain why the animals were coming into greater contact with vessels, or if there were any human-caused or climate-related disturbances that had changed their behavior.

Gregory Silber, marine resources manager in the agency’s Office of Protected Resources, said that there had not been any increase in ship traffic in the region, and that the whales might be following their prey — they mostly eat krill and small fish — to areas where there could be more shipping.

Ten whales other than those killed by ships have been examined, but officials have not yet determined the cause of death. There is no indication that they were killed by disease.

Humpback whales — which can be as long as 60 feet, weigh as much as 40 tons and can live for 50 years — are found in all of the world’s oceans. There are 14 distinct population segments — groups that follow certain migration and breeding patterns — of humpback whales, some of which are classified as endangered or threatened. The population along the Atlantic coast, which winters in the Caribbean and summers in the North Atlantic or Arctic regions, is not now considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Around the world, there are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 humpback whales, about a third of its original population. The Atlantic population is around 10,000.

Scientists have suggested that some whale deaths could be a result of marine noise, often a result of military activity, offshore drilling or exploration, which can disorient the animals and send them in the wrong direction, possibly toward beaches where they get stuck instead of into the deeper ocean. Mr. Silber, the NOAA manager, said he was not aware of a connection between ocean noise and these strandings.

A recent study has shown that dolphins, when escaping predators or the source of marine noise, might shoot up from a dive more quickly than they otherwise would, switching from slow, deliberate strokes to faster, longer ones, which can cause them to use double the energy they normally do, and exhaust them.

The last major mass casualty event for marine mammals in this part of the world took place from 2013 to 2015, when a resurgence of the morbillivirus killed thousands of bottlenose dolphins on the Eastern Seaboard.

Among humpback whales, there was an unusual mortality event in 2006, following others in 2005, which involved other large whales, and 2003, which was primarily humpback whales. In each investigation, the cause was undetermined, officials said.

NOAA officials said members of the public looking to help could report stranded or dead floating whales to numbers listed on their website.

This could explain all those strange happenings in Alaska’s waters

Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska. Photo: NOAA© Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska. Photo: NOAA

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-could-explain-all-those-strange-happenings-in-alaska%e2%80%99s-waters/ar-BBpA0Cf?ocid=spartanntp

The Washington Post
by Ryan Schuessler

New research is shedding light on how far toxic algae blooms have spread in Alaska, and surprised scientists are saying this is just the beginning.

A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest fisheries center found domoic acid and saxitoxin – algae-produced neurotoxins that are deadly in high doses — in 13 marine mammal species across Alaska, including as far north as the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Researchers say the study is just the latest piece of evidence that warming ocean temperatures are allowing these blooms to stretch into Arctic ecosystems, threatening marine life and the communities who rely on the sea to survive.

“The waters are warming, the sea ice is melting, and we are getting more light in those waters,” said Kathi Lefebvre, NOAA Fisheries research scientist. “Those conditions, without a doubt, are more favorable for algal growth. With that comes harmful algae.”

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The study, which analyzed more than 900 samples taken from stranded or harvested marine mammals in Alaska between 2004 and 2013, found algal toxins in all species sampled, including bowhead whales, fur seals and sea otters.

“We were surprised,” Lefebvre said. “We did not expect these toxins to be present in the food web in high enough levels to be detected in these predators.”

“There seems to be a potential risk for marine mammal health,” she added. “Then there’s also a seafood security risk, in that these communities rely on and depend on these animals for food.”

“I think that’s going to have a huge impact on the Native communities and coastal communities in Alaska,” said Bruce Wright, senior scientist for the Aleutian and Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s indigenous Aleut citizens. “I think that we’re going to see a number of shifts in our ecosystem as a consequence of warming, and I think some species will be displaced by other species, and others will disappear. There [are] going to be consequences and people are going to have to adapt.”

NOAA’s new study, released last week, comes after months of strange marine life die offs in Alaska. Last year, NOAA declared the deaths of more than 30 whales in the Gulf of Alaska to be an unusual mortality event. Just last month, thousands of dead birds began washing ashore in Prince William Sound.

“I’m pretty sure that’s associated with these algal blooms,” Wright said of the bird die offs and other events. Toxic algal blooms in the region, particularly 2015’s, likely wipe out entire parts of the lower food chain, he added, the effects of which reverberate through the ecosystem.

A massive toxic algal bloom, believed the largest ever recorded, reaped havoc in the Pacific in 2015. Stretching from southern California north to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, it prompted the closure of recreational and commercial fisheries across the American and Canadian coastlines.

“It really does point out that there is a need for more monitoring,” Lefebvre said.

Increasingly warm waters in the north Pacific are believed to be behind other strange disease outbreaks as well. A recent study from the University of Puget Sound found that warmer waters in 2014 contributed to an epidemic of sea star wasting disease in the North Pacific, which decimated starfish populations in the north Pacific.

“My thought is, absolutely, the environment is changing very rapidly in Alaska,” Lefebvre said. “And it’s warming, and there are changes in fundamental parts of the ecosystem.”

She added: “And these ecosystems have developed over millions of years, so when they’re rapidly changing, the chances they’re going to be changed for the better, over all, are very slim.”

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-could-explain-all-those-strange-happenings-in-alaska%e2%80%99s-waters/ar-BBpA0Cf?ocid=spartanntp

The ghost fishing gear crisis

read:http://www.worldanimalprotection.us.org/our-work/animals-wild/sea-change-campaign-tackling-ghost-fishing-gear?gclid=CJe3oZOm-soCFQoNaQodwj4PiA

Abandoned, lost and discarded nets, lines and traps are one of the biggest threats to our sea life. A staggering 640,000 tons of gear is left in our oceans each year. That gear traps, injures, mutilates and kills hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, turtles and birds annually. So, through our Sea Change campaign, we’re aiming to save one million animals by 2018.

By bringing together governments, businesses and fishing organizations, we can protect sea life and move towards a future free from the ghost fishing gear threat

Ghost fishing gear: our work

We’re working in three ways to protect animals from ghost fishing gear. We:

  • Bring together partners to stop gear being abandoned
  • Support new ways to remove ghost gear from the seas
  • Help to replicate successful local sea animal rescue efforts on a global scale.

Global Ghost Gear initiative

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative is a big part of our Sea Change campaign. By collaborating with a range of partners, we’re working to understand just how bad the problem of ghost fishing gear is – and to respond with solutions that work for animals and people. The seafood industry spends millions each year untangling nets from propellers, for example, so we’re developing solutions that protect animals and benefit businesses too.

Resources

Download the following resources to learn how ghost gear is endangering our sea life:

David Burdick / Marine Photobank

Ghost Gear Dodge

How to play Ghost Gear Dodge:

1. Visit ghostgear.worldanimalprotection.org and play on your computer or your mobile phone
2. Click/tap to swim up & release to swim down to avoid getting caught in ghost gear
3. Sign-up at the end of the game to learn more about Sea Change work happening locally and share the game with your family and friends to help build the movement

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

Things you see when you don’t have a camera

A trip to town yesterday was pretty amazing, wildlife-wise. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera. From the north side of the Astoria bridge we saw the humpback whale who’s been seen hanging out around in the lower Colombia River for a few days.

Then, after visiting the sea lions who reside on the East Moring Basin docks, we went to Hammond, by to Fort Stevens State Park, and watched a friendly herd of elk close up in a scene reminiscent of Mammoth Village in Yellowstone National Park. 

For a grand finale, we stopped to walk the dog at the “Dismal Niche”* rest area (*a name indicative of Lewis and Clark’s lack of appreciation of the area),  and saw a group of around 30 harbor seals just offshore in a channel of river. They were treading water, popping up and going under, probably looking for fish though we never saw them catch any). Perhaps they were just enjoying the gentle current in the eddy they found there. 

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Why We Can’t Compromise With the Whale Killers

A whale's eye peeks out of the sea.

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Response to Arizona State University News Article

A Professor at the University of Arizona wants save the whales by advocating the killing of whales.

Just another one of these wishy-washy, self-proclaimed academic experts pandering to the whaling industry by posing as a conservationist. The same kind of mind-set as Texas big game hunter Corey Knowlton who justifies killing rhinos because he calls himself a conservationist.

Leah Gerber is a marine conservation biologist and professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. She wants a compromise with the whale killers.

She is one of those academics who seem to know everything about whales except for what is really important. She has advocated “culling” (killing) whales to increase fisheries which in my opinion is a very ignorant approach to ocean ecology. She has also advocated placing a value on whales saying that conservationists should be willing to buy their lives. In addition she tends to use other utilitarian wordage like “take” and “harvest instead of kill and “stocks” instead of population. She most definitely lacks empathy for the whales themselves or an understanding of the true value of the whales to the oceanic eco-systems. Leah Gerber boasts of being a sushi lover and is an advisor to the seafood industry which explains her commercially oriented viewpoint on whales.

This is my point-by-point response to this “expert” on whales who lives in that “maritime” state of Arizona.

Arizona State University

ASU: Is it time to cut a deal with Japan on whaling?

Captain Paul Watson: Why is it time to cut a deal with Japan on whaling? Because a professor in Arizona says so.

ASU: The three-decade international moratorium on commercial whaling isn’t working. Animal-rights activists insist the ban remain absolute, while the three rogue nations still pursuing the world’s largest mammals refuse to quit hunting.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes they are rouge nations and they should be dealt with like rogue nations. Japanese whaling has already been condemned by the International Court of Justice. When nations violate international agreements the solution is not to simply legalize their activities because they refuse to stop. Gerber reveals her bias here by referring to whale conservation activists as animal tights activists. This is the mindset that sees only animal rights activists as opposing whaling. Gerber works with WWF, NOAH and other utilitarian groups that see whales as a commodity and thus they see conservation as management, that includes lethal exploitation.

ASU: Leah Gerber, a marine conservation biologist, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, floated the idea of a compromise in the September issue of scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Captain Paul Watson: She may have floated the idea but it’s an idea that needs sinking.

ASU: Rebounding whale populations, the predominance of other threats, and stubborn stakeholders make the moratorium a “failed management system,” Gerber said. The past 30 years of the International Whaling Commission’s conversation has been stalled by disagreement on the ethics of killing whales.

Captain Paul Watson: The laws to enforce the moratorium exist. There is simply a lack of political and economic will to do so. The moratorium needs strong leadership from the conservation oriented majority members of the International Whaling Commission. The USA should invoke economic sanctions as provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce specifically to uphold the moratorium. This is like saying it is illegal to rob a bank but the bank robbers continue to rob banks despite the law therefore we should allow them to rob some small banks to satisfy their greed.

ASU: “It really boils down to an ethical argument: that it’s not right to kill a whale,” Gerber said. “Personally I don’t like the idea of killing a whale, but that’s my value, and other people have other values. Insisting on our values in discussions about whaling has resulted in a global stalemate.”

Captain Paul Watson: It is both an ethical argument and an ecological argument. Plankton has been diminished by some 40% since 1950 and this has happened in part because of the removal of a very large part of whale biomass. When you consider that one Blue whale defecates 3 tons of iron rich, nitrogen rich feces every day and we removed some 300,000 Blue whales since 1946 alone and whale feces provides a nutrient base for plankton, what whaling has done is to diminish these farmers of the sea. Lower whale populations means lower plankton populations means lower oxygen production and diminished carbon sequestering by plankton. We need to revitalize bio-diversity in the sea and to do that we need to bring back whale populations to pre-exploitation levels.
And there is an ethical argument. Slavery was abolished and was no acceptable compromise that allowed some people to own slaves so that other slaves could be freed. Whales and dolphins are highly sophisticated, intelligent social, self aware, sentient beings. They communicate on a very high level and they have their own cultural units. There cannot be any justification for killing whales or dolphins by any group of humans for any reason, anywhere. The very idea of a compromise is unethical when you consider that to a great many people the idea of killing a whale is simply murder. There is no global stalemate. Commercial whaling is illegal. It just needs to be enforced.

ASU: Changing course and allowing Iceland, Japan and Norway to legally hunt under regulations and monitoring might break the current stalemate. Currently Japan whales under a loophole allowing for scientific research. The other two countries hunt whales commercially in protest of the ban

Captain Paul Watson: Since 1974 my course has been set on 100% abolishment of the slaughter of whales and dolphins. I have no intention of changing course because a professor in the desert somewhere has decided that Japan, Norway, Iceland and Denmark should be allowed to kill whales.

ASU: “If our common goal is a healthy and sustainable population of whales, let’s find a way to develop strategies that achieve that,” Gerber said. “That may involve agreeing to a small level of take. That would certainly be a reduced take to what’s happening now.”

Captain Paul Watson: I have a major problem with anyone who refers to killing as taking. You don’t take a whale’s life, you kill an intelligent sentient being. A so-called “small level of killing” simply keeps an industry alive that should be tossed onto the dustbin of history. Whaling needs to be abolished 100% by everyone, everywhere for any reason. Sea Shepherd has seen to it that the Japanese kill quota has been substantially reduced.

ASU: Since the moratorium was declared in 1982 and begun in 1985, whale populations have rebounded across the board, Gerber said.

Captain Paul Watson: First Gerber says the moratorium in not working then in the same breath she says the moratorium has caused whale populations to rebound. Whale populations are indeed slowly recovering but there is still a long way to go before returning to pre-industrial whaling levels. We need more whales to address climate change and the health of the Ocean. We do not need whale meat on anyone’s plate. Economically whales are more important alive than dead both to what the contribute to the ecology of the Ocean and in terms of the revenue generated by the whale watching industry which is far more lucrative than commercial whaling.

ASU: “Overall the whaling that’s happening is not threatening any population,” she said.

Captain Paul Watson: I disagree. The loss of every whale is a loss to the planet in a world where whales and dolphins are dying from pollution, reduced fish populations and habitat destruction.

ASU: “With the exception of the J stock (a population that lives in the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea) of minke whales, current levels of take are fairly sustainable.”

Captain Paul Watson: Gerber has not provided any evidence to back this ridiculous statement up. To say that Bowheads, Southern and Northern Right whales, Humpback whales, Fin whales, Blue whale populations can be sustainably slaughtered is absurd. The Icelanders want Fin whales. The Greenlanders want to kill Bowheads, Humpbacks, Fins and Minke’s.

ASU: The appetite for whale meat has been on the decline in Japan. An April 2014 poll by Asahi Shimbun,Japan’s newspaper of record, revealed that 14 percent of respondents occasionally or rarely ate whale meat. (Thirty-seven percent said they never ate it.) Consumption in Japan peaked in the 1960s and has steadily decreased; today, whale-meat consumption is about 1 percent of its peak, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Captain Paul Watson: Having stated this, it is a puzzle as to why Gerber feels there is a need to allow a legal return to whaling.

ASU: The Japanese have argued that it’s part of their cultural heritage. They also call American protests hypocritical because Alaskan Inuit tribe members hunt whales every year.

Captain Paul Watson: Whaling is not part of Japanese culture historically. It was an activity that took place in a few isolated communities. It was never a national traditional activity. 95% of Japanese people never ate whale meat until General Douglas MacArthur introduced the modern whaling fleet in 1946 to provide cheap protein for post war Japanese populations. Whaling was part of Ainu culture but Japan passed laws to ban whaling by the Ainu. It is hypocritical of Gerber to compare Inuit whaling allowed by the U.S. government to Japan where aboriginal Ainu whaling has been banned.

ASU: Norwegians have eaten whale meat since medieval times, but that habit has slowed in more recent times. Whale was served in school cafeterias and as military rations during the 1970s and 1980s, making it the mystery meat for a generation who won’t touch it anymore. It’s seen as something your grandparents ate. (Oddly, it’s enjoying a renaissance among young Norwegian foodies.)

Captain Paul Watson: Norwegian whaling is a blatant violation of IWC regulations and the global moratorium and economic sanctions should be invoked against Norway, Japan and Iceland by the signatory members of the IWC.

ASU: The 2015 catch netted about 700 tons of whale meat, while the Norwegian market won’t bear much more than 500 tons.

Captain Paul Watson: Norway’s whaling operations are illegal under international conservation law. The killing of these whales is not only illegal but ecologically senseless and economically unnecessary.

ASU: “Good catch is all very well, but we have challenges in the market,” Åge Eriksen, CEO of a seafood supply company, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK last year. “We’ve got more meat on land than we can sell, and it is not a desirable situation.”

Captain Paul Watson: Unfortunately that is the situation with the commodity market over all – over production resulting in huge wastage.

ASU: Minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere have such a large population that taking a few wouldn’t be a big deal, Gerber said.

Captain Paul Watson: Gerber lacks the data to make such an assumption. In fact in a paper she wrote Minke whale populations are not as large as they need to be. We need a great increase in whale populations in order to repair the ecological instability in the Ocean, Also from an ethical point of view, killing (not taking) of a highly intelligent sentient being should not be allowed. In one of her papers she stated that the moratorium failed to increase whale populations and now she contradicts herself.

ASU: The media perception of whaling is often that it’s evil, but there are worse threats to the whales’ livelihoods, Gerber said. For instance, she said that whale mortality numbers are also driven by the mammals being hit by ships. For instance, blue whales off the coast of Long Beach, California, simply didn’t know to get out of the way of ships, according to a Stanford University study released in April. Because they are the biggest creatures in the sea, they’ve never had to avoid threats.

Bycatch entanglement, where whales are snagged in nets, and contaminants in seawater are two other serious threats.

Captain Paul Watson: To say that there are worse threats is like saying that murder is not the worst evil because more humans die in auto accidents so we should allow for a few murders. Stopping ship strikes is something that must be worked on and there is the technology to address this threat. There are many other threats to the whales like radiation, chemical and plastic pollution, climate change and diminishment of plankton and fish. These other threats to the survival of the whales cannot be used to justify the slaughter of whales.

ASU: “For most populations, whaling actually makes up a pretty small fraction (of whale deaths),” she said, pointing out that International Whaling Commission members know this. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but let’s take some baby steps.”

Violent action by animal-rights groups has not had an effect, either.

Captain Paul Watson: Baby steps may be fine for the whalers but the whales need abolition of whaling now. The prejudice of Gerber can be seen in her reference to “violent action.” There has been no violent action by anti-whalers. Not a single whaler has ever been injured by a whale defender. Japanese whalers have violently attacked whale defenders and have caused injury. Sea Shepherd may be aggressive but certainly not violent. You cannot describe the saving of the lives of whales from harpoons as violent. Whaling is violent, saving whales is not. Blocking a weapon of violence is a non-violent act.

ASU: “A lot of the (non-governmental organizations) like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd raise a lot of money in advocating for saving whales by chasing whaling vessels in the open ocean,” Gerber said. “What success has that had?”

Captain Paul Watson: Gerber needs to do some research. Over 6,000 whales saved in the Southern Ocean is what I call success. The Japanese have failed to get their quotas every year since 2007 and in most years they took less then 30% and sometimes as low as 10% and in the last season (2014/2015) they took zero whales. The ICJ ruled against them. The IWC ruled against them. The campaign has been quite successful Leah Gerber, thank you very much. As for collecting money, Sea Shepherd has raised a fraction in donations to oppose whaling compared to the profits that whalers made before Sea Shepherd intervened.

ASU: Japanese whaling delegates have said they’re open to compromise arrangements, Gerber said.

“The animal-rights groups, on the other hand, are like, ‘Nope. My deal or nothing.’ To me, it’s not the best way to lead to change.”

Captain Paul Watson: You do not compromise with lives. We will not compromise on the lives of whales. One position is to kill whales. The other position is to not kill whales. The only possible compromise is to allow the killing of some whales which means killing whales, but if our position is against killing whales how can that be justified? To get what they want in a compromise the whalers can agree to accept lower profits. However we cannot morally agree to accept lower deaths. Whales are not a commodity to us. They are distinct individual living sentient beings. It would be extremely cold hearted for us to barter their lives in exchange for allowing whalers some profit.

My position is clear I cannot respect any scientist who advocates the killing of whales or dolphins. There is nothing scientific about killing whales. Advocating lethal exploitation benefits only those who profit economically. It does not benefit the species and it does not benefit science. All my life I have had to battle these scientists who act as apologists for the exploitation industries. Many years ago I coined a name for them. Biostitutes, the appeasers of those who profit from inflicting cruelty, death and diminishment.

Scientists Baffled as 30 Large Whales Die in Mild Alaska Waters

http://www.accuweather.com/en/features/trend/dead_whales_washing_up_stranded_alaska_gulf_warmer_water_pacific/52033116

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By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
August 26, 2015; 4:33 PM ET

Scientists are baffled as to what may be causing a high volume of whale deaths in the Gulf of Alaska this summer.

From May 2015 to mid-August, 30 large whales have stranded in the region, triggering an investigation into the cause of the “unusual mortality event,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service said in a statement.

“To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average,” NOAA said.

The 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded along the shores of the Gulf of Alaska where water temperatures have consistently been above average for the four-month period.

Bears feed on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska, near Kodiak. Adult fin whales in the Northern Hemisphere measure up to 78 feet, roughly the size of an eight-story building. (Photo/NOAA)

In all of 2014, just five large whale strandings were reported in the western Gulf of Alaska.

Out of the 30 spotted whales, only one has been sampled as of Aug. 14. Most carcasses were floating and irretrievable, NOAA said.

While different species of whales prefer various climates, the fin whale and humpback whale can be found in most of the world’s oceans. Humpback whales migrate to temperate and even polar waters during the summer before migrating back to tropical waters in the winter, according to the American Cetacean Society (ACS).

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Record-Setting Toxic Algae Bloom Wreaks Havoc in Pacific From Alaska to California

While fin whales are believed follow a similar pattern, taking to colder areas in the summer for feeding, the ACS said recent evidence suggests they may disperse across deep ocean waters.

In May when the strandings began, water temperatures in the region hovered a couple of degrees above normal in the mid-40s F, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines said.

“Current water temperatures are also couple of degrees above normal,” he said.

Coinciding with well above-normal sea surface temperatures, a record-setting algae bloom has been plaguing the Pacific from Alaska to California. The algae can produce a potent toxin that can be harmful to people, fish and marine mammals, NOAA said.