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DocWatch
marine mammals
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News stories about "marine mammals," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?marine+mammals
Related Scary Tags:
hunting to extinction  ~ massive die-off  ~ arctic meltdown  ~ oil issues  ~ contamination  ~ overfishing  ~ toxic buildup  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  ~ ocean acidification  ~ rights of nature  ~ ocean warming  



Thu, Oct 2, 2014
from AP, via Globe and Mail:
Sea-ice shortage sends tens of thousands of walruses swarming Alaska beach
Pacific walruses that can't find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in northwest Alaska. An estimated 35,000 walruses were photographed Saturday about eight kilometres north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.... Pacific walruses spend winters in the Bering Sea. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf.... In recent years, sea ice has receded north beyond shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed three kilometres and walrus cannot dive to the bottom. ...


I think it's just a big ol' Walrus party!

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Fri, Jul 25, 2014
from Global Oceans Commission, via DesdemonaDespair:
Global fishing fleet capacity and productivity, 1975-2005
The main drivers leading to overfishing on the high seas are vessel overcapacity and mismanagement. However, measures to improve management alone will not succeed without solving the problem of overcapacity caused by subsidies, particularly fuel subsidies. Overcapacity is often described as "too many boats trying to catch too few fish". Indeed, the size of the world's fleet is currently two-and-a-half times what is necessary to sustainably catch global fish stocks. But it is not only the number of vessels that is of concern, it is also the type of vessel. Many argue that having fewer vessels, when they have larger engines and use more-destructive industrial fishing gear, is of equal weight to the number of vessels fishing as a driver of overcapacity. ...


We call that "aspirational infrastructure."

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Tue, Jun 24, 2014
from GOC, via CommonDreams:
Global Ocean Commission says rescue needed within five years
The world's oceans face irreparable damage from climate change and overfishing, with a five-year window for intervention, an environmental panel said Tuesday. Neglecting the health of the oceans could have devastating effects on the world's food supply, clean air, and climate stability, among other factors. The Global Oceans Commission, an environmental group formed by the Pew Charitable Trust, released a report (PDF) addressing the declining marine ecosystems around the world and outlining an eight-step "rescue package" to restore growth and prevent future damage to the seas. The 18-month study proposes increased governance of the oceans, including limiting oil and gas exploration, capping subsidies for commercial fishing, and creating marine protected areas (MPAs) to guard against pollution, particularly from plastics.... Government subsidies for high seas fishing total at least $30 billion a year and are carried out by just ten countries, the report said. About 60 percent of such subsidies encourage unsustainable practices like the fuel-hungry "bottom trawling" of ocean floors -- funds that could be rerouted to conservation efforts or employment in coastal areas. ...


Five whole years? We have time for far more study, I think.

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Tue, Apr 22, 2014
from Huffington Post:
Humpback Whale Quietly Removed From 'Threatened' Species List
The North Pacific humpback whale is no longer protected as a "threatened" species after the Canadian government quietly downgraded its classification earlier this month. Despite objections from several groups, the Harper government declared the humpback a "species of special concern" under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The whale population off the B.C. coast has increased "significantly" since it was first listed as threatened in 2005, so it is now at a point where it can be reclassified, according to a federal government notice in the Canadian Gazette. The change is being made as two major pipeline projects are in the middle of regulatory applications. Approval would increase vessel traffic, which collides with humpbacks about three times a year in B.C. waters.... The decision "has absolutely no basis in science and is simply a political move to clear the way to approve the [Enbridge] pipeline," Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, told CBC News. ...


We call it a pre-emptive strike against future regulatory impediments.

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Mon, Mar 31, 2014
from AP, via ABC News:
Japan Whaling Future in Doubt After Court Ruling
The future of whaling in Japan was thrown into doubt after the International Court of Justice ruled Monday that the nation's annual hunt in the Antarctic was not really for scientific purposes -- as Tokyo had claimed -- and ordered it halted. The ruling was a major victory for whaling opponents, as it ends for now one of the world's biggest whale hunts, for minkes in the icy Southern Ocean. The judgment was praised by Australia, which brought the case against Japan in 2010, and by environmentalists, who have been seeking an end to whaling since the 1970s on ethical grounds. The world court's decision leaves Japan with a tough choice between ending whaling outright -- despite past claims that it would never abandon such a deep-seated cultural practice -- or redesigning its program to make it a scientific endeavor after all. ...


Now we may never know exactly how other whales behave when their loved ones are mutilated before their ears.

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Wed, Feb 12, 2014
from Huffington Post:
BP Oil Spill: Dolphins Plagued By Death, Disease Years After Rig Explosion
Missing teeth. Lung disease. Extreme hormone levels. Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, gushing some 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the region is rife with death and disease, according to a major U.S. study. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, is the first of its kind since the devastating spill. "I've never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals," lead author Lori Schwacke of the Medical University of South Carolina noted.... Researchers captured 32 dolphins from the bay, a 24-km stretch near southeastern Louisiana, and deemed half of them to be seriously ill or dying. Among the cases? Liver disease, crippling pneumonia and even a pregnant female carrying a dead fetus. ...


And that's half of the dolphins who have survived the last four years!

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Mon, Nov 11, 2013
from Wired Science:
Dolphin-Killing Virus Spreads South, May Be Infecting Whales Too
A viral outbreak that's killing bottlenose dolphins is moving down the U.S. East Coast as the animals migrate south for the winter. Between July 1 and November 3, at least 753 animals have died.... The outbreak began along the coast between New York and Virginia this summer. Now, carcasses are washing ashore in the Carolinas and Florida. Researchers have identified the cause as dolphin morbillivirus, a pathogen that's related to human measles and canine distemper. Morbillivirus infects dolphins' lungs and brains, causing weird behaviors and skin lesions and pneumonia (but the marine mammals can't pass it on to humans).... Indeed, there's something in the mix this time around that could be even more worrying. Other species have been showing up dead with dolphin morbillivirus in their tissues. Since July, three out of four dead humpback whales (in Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina), and a two out of three dead pygmy sperm whales (in Georgia and Massachusetts) have tested positive for the pathogen. Dolphin morbillivirus isn't often reported in these species. Whether the whales are dead because of a morbillivirus infection - or simply exposed to it - is still unknown. ...


Bottlenose going viral? I didn't even know they had the Internet down there!

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Thu, Oct 17, 2013
from Washington Post:
Study links warmer water temperatures to greater levels of mercury in fish
In a lab experiment, researchers adjusted temperatures in tanks, tainted the killifish's food with traces of methylmercury and watched as the fish stored high concentrations of the metal in their tissue. In a field experiment in nearby salt pools, they observed as killifish in warmer pools ate their natural food and stored metal in even higher concentrations, like some toxic condiment for larger fish that would later prey on them. The observation was part of a study showing how killifish at the bottom of the food chain will probably absorb higher levels of methylmercury in an era of global warming and pass it on to larger predator fish, such as the tuna stacked in shiny little cans in the cupboards of Americans and other people the world over. "The implication is this could play out in larger fish . . . because their metabolic rate is also increasing," said Celia Chen, a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and one of six authors of the study. "Methylmercury isn't easily excreted, so it stays. It suggests that there will be higher methylmercury concentrations in the fish humans eat as well." ...


Finally! Something to solve the problem of overfishing!

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Mon, Oct 14, 2013
from Climate News Network:
Ocean Deteriorating More Rapidly Than Thought
Marine scientists say the state of the world's oceans is deteriorating more rapidly than anyone had realized, and is worse than that described in last month's U.N. climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They say the rate, speed and impacts of ocean change are greater, faster and more imminent than previously thought -- and they expect summertime Arctic sea ice cover will have disappeared in around 25 years. ...


Seas the day.

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Wed, Sep 25, 2013
from Science Daily:
Whale Mass Stranding Attributed to Sonar Mapping for First Time
An independent scientific review panel has concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by acoustic stimuli, more specifically, a multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited.... Based on these findings, there is cause for concern over the impact of noise on marine mammals as these high-frequency mapping sonar systems are used by various stakeholders including the hydrocarbon industry, military, and research vessels used by other industries. The report concluded: "The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions." ...


HEY! WHALES! STOP GOING CRAZY JUST BECAUSE OF OUR INCREDIBLY LOUD SOUNDS! WE NEED THAT CHEAP ENERGY!

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Fri, Sep 13, 2013
from Salon:
Study shows that 60 percent of plantlife can be saved
In partnership with Duke University and North Carolina State University, Microsoft researchers used computer algorithms to identify the smallest set of regions worldwide that could contain the largest numbers of plant species. The result, they say, is a model showing how putting just 17 percent of the planet's land surface off limits to human contamination could save a huge number of important plant species. ...


Microsoft-Funded Study Shows 60 percent of Operating System Might Be Saved

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Sat, Jul 13, 2013
from All Alabama:
Renowned whale expert studying Deepwater Horizon's toxic effect on Gulf sperm whales
... By going to the top of the food chain, Payne and the research team aboard the 93-foot research vessel, the Odyssey, hope to discover the long-term impacts of the spill that loosed 4.9 million barrels of oil and more than 1 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit into the Gulf.... "Every step of the food chain you get about a 10 times increase in the concentration of a contaminant, so if you're dealing with an animal at the sixth level of the food chain, you get 10 to the sixth power," Payne said. "That's a million times the concentration, so when you get some of these contaminants, even though they're in fantastically low concentrations in the water, when you concentrate them up a million times, you're creating a real hazard in the animal." ...


Jeez, whales: toughen up!

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Sun, Jun 23, 2013
from Tampa Bay :
Indian River Lagoon mystery ailment killing dolphins, manatees, pelicans
Then, beginning last summer, manatees began dying. As of last week, 111 manatees from Indian River Lagoon had died under mysterious circumstances. Soon pelicans and dolphins began showing up dead too -- more than 300 pelicans and 46 dolphins so far. How bad is it? In the past week, a dolphin a day has turned up dead in the lagoon, said Megan Stolen, a research scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. "When you lose the manatees, pelicans and dolphins, you know something is going on," said Marty Baum of Indian Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group that tries to act as a steward for the lagoon and the Indian River that flows into it. Yet so far nobody can name the killer. Biologists have some suspicions but are baffled about any connection among the species' problems. The diets are different: Manatees are vegetarians, while pelicans and dolphins eat fish. The symptoms are different: The manatees' stomachs are stuffed, while the pelicans and dolphins are emaciated. ...


The mystery serial killer seems unlikely to be caught by Dexter.

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Mon, Dec 31, 2012
from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
NOAA Lists Ringed and Bearded Ice Seal Populations Under the Endangered Species Act
NOAA Fisheries announced on December 21, in compliance with a court ordered deadline, its final listing decision for four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPSs) of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, in line with the proposal, NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk DPSs of bearded seals and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals. The Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals will be listed as endangered. ...


Ringed and bearded? How goth.

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Mon, Nov 5, 2012
from Yale Environment 300:
How Fishing Gear is Killing Whales in the North Atlantic
In early August, a small minke whale washed up on a beach in Chatham, Massachusetts. It was less than nine months old, not even weaned, and the cause of death soon became clear to Michael Moore, a veterinarian and biologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who came to perform a necropsy. Fishing line snarled the whale's snout, threading in and out of its baleen. Skull-bone fractures indicated that it had struggled in the rope underwater.... Entanglement has become a fact of life for large whales. Scientists examining scars on whale skin estimate that 82 percent of North Atlantic right whales and about half of endangered humpbacks between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia have become entangled at least once. Each year an unknown number die. Many of them manage to free themselves. ...


Fear gear.

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Fri, Oct 12, 2012
from New York Times:
Will Seismic Blasts Upend Atlantic Marine Life?
The tests are to be performed by a vessel that trails evenly spaced hydrophones in its wake as compressed air is blasted downward by the vessel's airgun. The resulting sound waves, as high as 250 decibels, are far greater than the sound emitted by a jet engine upon takeoff, Oceana notes. Once the sound waves hit the ocean floor, the hydrophones register echoes that reflect the densities of materials like gas and oil within the seabed.... The intensity and reach of the noise will not only drive some marine animals away and disrupt their feeding patterns, Oceana argues, but could damage or destroy their hearing. This is particularly worrisome for whales, which do not have sharp eyesight and depend heavily on their hearing. Without it, "they can't navigate, they can't function," Mr. Huelsenbeck said. "They keep contact with others based on their calls." Animals like whales decline slowly once their hearing is gone, making it difficult to link a death directly with the seismic tests, he added. ...


Environmentalist's concerns are falling on deaf ears.

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Mon, Oct 1, 2012
from Los Angeles Times:
Environmentalists oppose PG&E plans for undersea air blasts
Over objections of Central Coast residents and environmental groups, Pacific Gas & Electric plans to map earthquake fault zones near its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by blasting high-decibel air cannons under the surface of the ocean. PG&E's plan calls for towing a quarter-mile-wide array of underwater "air cannons" that emit 250-decibel blasts into the ocean every 15 seconds for 12 straight days... What we're after with this survey is the geophysical equivalent of a CT scan -- a combination of imagery and information that we could slice and dice and scrutinize in great detail," said Jearl Strickland, director of nuclear projects for PG&E. "These kinds of surveys are being performed right now around the world with no problems." ...


Under the water... no one can hear you scream!

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Thu, Aug 16, 2012
from Associated Press:
Study off Mass. coast finds noise harming whales
Researchers say increasing amounts of underwater noise, largely from shipping traffic, is enveloping rare right whales in "acoustic smog" that makes it harder for them to communicate. The endangered North Atlantic right whale relies far more on sound than sight, using distinctive noises to maintain contact. ...


(muffled)

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Tue, May 29, 2012
from New York Times:
Expert Links Dolphin Deaths to Sonar Testing
Did offshore oil exploration play a role in the recent deaths of nearly 900 dolphins off the northern Peruvian coast? Peru's fisheries minister said last week that government scientists had ruled that out as a possibility and that the dolphins probably died of natural causes. But a marine veterinarian and conservationist who examined many of the corpses contends they were probably harmed by sound waves from seismic tests used to locate oil deposits. ...


(muffled)

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Wed, Apr 4, 2012
from MSNBC:
615 dead dolphins found on Peru beaches; acoustic tests for oil to blame?
Conservationists counted 615 dead dolphins along a 90-mile stretch of beaches in Peru, a wildlife group said Wednesday, and the leading suspect is acoustic testing offshore by oil companies. "If you can count 615 dead dolphins, you can be sure there are a great many more out at sea and the total will reach into the thousands,ā€¯ Hardy Jones, head of the conservation group BlueVoice.org, said in a statement after he and an expert with ORCA Peru walked the beaches. Indeed, the head of a local fishermen's association told Peru21.pe that he estimated more than 3,000 dolphins had died so far this year, based on what he saw in the water and on beaches. ...


Dolphins can be pussies.

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Tue, Mar 27, 2012
from Washington Post:
Captivity could help polar bears survive global warming assault, some zoos say
Polar bears are ideally suited to life in the Arctic: Their hair is without pigment, blending in with the snow; their heavy, strongly curved claws allow them to clamber over blocks of ice and snow and grip their prey securely; and their rough pads keep them from slipping. The one thing they cannot survive is the disintegration of the ice. They range across the sea ice far from shore to hunt fatty seals, whose blubber sustains them. Heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuel are making the Arctic warm twice as fast as lower latitudes, and Arctic summer sea ice could disappear by 2030, according to climate models. So a group of activists, zoo officials, lawmakers and scientists have a radical proposal: Increase the number of polar bears in U.S. zoos to help maintain the species' genetic diversity if the wild population plummets. ...


Is there room for us in those zoos?

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Tue, Feb 28, 2012
from New York Times:
Pacific Sea Otters' Failure to Thrive Confounds Wildlife Sleuths
...For the wildlife biologists, a clear explanation for the sea otters' failure to thrive is proving just as elusive. Almost wiped out by fur traders, the species rebounded after an international ban on commercial otter hunting in 1911. But today, the otter population in California is just 2,700, in a mosaic of small, separate colonies off the coast, down from perhaps as many as 16,000 in the past. Multiple factors are stalling the recovery. One popular view, supported by veterinary pathologists who study dead otters, primarily blames coastal pollution -- in the form of parasites, bacteria, toxins and chemicals. But Dr. Tinker and other biologists say that, at least in the areas where the sea otter population is highest, off Monterey and nearby Big Sur, the underlying problem is simply that the otters are running out of food. ...


Or, perhaps, they're just giving up.

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Tue, Feb 21, 2012
from The Independent:
Whales and dolphins are so intelligent they deserve same rights as humans, say experts
Marine biologists and philosophers have joined forces to support a controversial declaration of rights for whales and dolphins on the grounds that their astonishing intelligence and emotional empathy puts them on a par with humans. Research into the complex behaviour of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises - is revealing that these sea mammals are so highly evolved and complex in terms of their behaviour that they deserve special protection with a universal bill of rights, they said. Dolphins and whales have complex vocal communications and are able to learn an astonishing variety of behaviours when they come into contact with humans, such as cooperative fishing with native fishermen. The proponents of the bill of rights argue the cetacean mind is so advanced and self-aware that whales and dolphins should be classified as "non-human persons" who deserve the right to life, liberty and wellbeing. "A person needs to be an individual," said Tom White, a philosopher at the Hilton Centre for Business in Los Angeles. "If individuals count then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. ...


If they're so smart, why aren't they rich?

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Wed, Feb 15, 2012
from Live Science:
Global Warming Makes Elephant Seals Dive Deeper, Study Suggests
Lumbering elephant seals in Antarctica seem to be taking the heat from global warming, as scientists have found the mammals must dive to deeper than normal depths in warmer seas to snag food. The deeper dives may also mean less time to get food, the researchers say... Their dive depth, it seems, depends on the prey the elephant seals are searching for. And as their watery world warms, the researchers found, the squid and fish that are usually in waters above 3,280 feet (1,000 m) are forced to deeper waters. ...


From what I hear, the deeper the food, the tastier the finds.

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Sun, Feb 12, 2012
from CBC:
B.C. killer whale habitat protection ruled a legal duty
The federal minister of fisheries has no discretion when it comes to protecting the critical habitat of B.C.'s southern resident killer whales, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled. The precedent-setting case relates to the Species at Risk Act (SARA). "We are thrilled with the court's decision and we now look forward to the opportunity to get on with the work of actually protecting the whales," remarked Margot Venton, a lawyer with Ecojustice, an environmental law firm that fought the case on behalf of nine environmental groups. In a statement issued Friday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it would not comment until it had completed a review of the decision. ...


Another case of the law protecting a killer.

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Tue, Jan 31, 2012
from Toronto Star:
Killer whales finding prey further north as Arctic ice melts, Inuit tell scientists
Warming Arctic waters and depleting sea ice are making it easier for killer whales to swim ever northward in search of sources of prey, including other species of whales, a new study has found. After spending three years interviewing more than 100 Inuit hunters from 11 different Nunavut communities, researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the University of Manitoba believe killer whales, also known as orcas, are increasingly targeting prey in northern areas where they didn't previously. ...


Like kids in a candy store.

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Thu, Oct 13, 2011
from Mobile Press-Register:
4 dead dolphins wash up on Gulf Coast beaches in 5 days; deaths part of 'unusual mortality event'
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama -- A dolphin carcass, bloated and violet in the morning sun, was found on Fort Morgan early Saturday, bringing the number lost since the BP oil spill to more than 400. Three other dolphins have washed up in Alabama in the past week, including a pregnant female on Dauphin Island and a mother and calf pair on Hollingers Island in Mobile Bay. "We should be seeing one (death) a month at this time of year," said Ruth Carmichael, a Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientist tasked with responding to reports of dead dolphins. "We're getting one or more a week. It's just never slowed down." An examination of the Gulfwide death toll, broken down by month, reveals that dolphins continue to die at rates four to 10 times higher than normal. ...


Are those darn dolphins eating cantaloupe again?

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Thu, Sep 1, 2011
from Associated Press:
Federal agency lifts Alaska scientist's suspension
An Alaska scientist whose observations of drowned polar bears spurred national publicity on climate warming returned to work Friday at the federal agency that oversees offshore petroleum drilling. Dr. Charles Monnett was suspended from his job at the Anchorage office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement after federal inspectors said he helped a polar bear researcher prepare a proposal even though he was the government official responsible for determining whether the proposal met minimum qualifications. He was away from his job for the last six weeks. But advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has claimed Monnett was targeted for his 2006 paper in a scientific journal on the drowned polar bears. ...


It would seem scientists are a threatened species as well.

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Thu, Aug 25, 2011
from Reuters:
Polar bear death at BP oil field under investigation
Federal authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a polar bear at an Alaska oil field operated by BP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the oil company said on Thursday. The female bear was shot in early August by a security guard working for a BP contractor and died of its wounds about 11 days later, the agency and BP officials said. BP said the guard had been trying to ward off the bear rather than kill it and believed he was firing nonlethal ammunition....Polar bears, considered to be at risk because the Arctic sea ice they depend upon is dwindling, are listed as threatened with extinction under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are also managed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which generally forbids hunting of the animals. ...


BP can either wait for global warming to kill them or take matters into their own hands.

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Fri, Aug 5, 2011
from London Daily Telegraph:
Was pollution responsible for mass stranding of pilot whales?
Scientists are probing whether pollution may have caused 70 pilot whales to strand in north west Scotland last month. The whales may have been poisoned by years of toxic waste. Experts have now asked the UK government for £20,000 to carry out the first such major diagnostic tests on a super pod in Scotland - which could show the legacy of decades of pouring toxic chemicals into the sea. No such link between strandings and pollution has ever been proved before - but scientists say they are now finding killer whales with toxic readings "hundreds" of times over the limit. There are growing fears that Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's) - which are now banned - are so prevalent in the marine environment that over a period of time they have entered the food chain widely. ...


Turns out those so-called killer whales are softies.

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Fri, Jul 15, 2011
from Earth Island Institute, via Huffington Post:
Humpback Whale Thanks Those Who Saved Her
The group came upon a stranded humpback whale who was so tangled in a mesh of nylon netting that she was beginning to drown, and as Fishbach noted in this video, was possibly an hour from death. The crew worked tirelessly for more than an hour to free the stranded whale and, to their elation, eventually succeeded. Then, magic happened. For miles on their ride home, the whale put on a beautiful show -- perhaps to say "thank you" to her rescuers?... This isn't the first time that a whale has put on a show in front of humans. Just last month, a group of whale watchers got an unexpected treat when they witnessed a twirling finback whale. Take a break from work and enjoy this hearty slice of human kindness (or jump to 6:40 if you're short on time). ...


Those eight minutes of video are a whale of a good time.

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Thu, Jul 14, 2011
from PBS, through Scientific American:
Loss of Top Predators Has More Far-Reaching Effects than Thought
Sea otters eat sea urchins and sea urchins eat kelp. When sea otters are present, the coastal kelp forests maintain a healthy balance. But when the fur trade wiped out the otters in the Aleutian Islands in the 1990s, sea urchins grew wildly, devouring kelp, and the kelp forest collapsed, along with everything that depended on it. Fish populations declined. Bald eagles, which feed on fish, altered their food habits. Dwindled kelp supplies sucked up less carbon dioxide, and atmospheric carbon dioxide increased. The animal that sits at the top of the food chain matters, and its loss has large, complex effects on the structure and function of its ecosystem, according to an article published on Thursday in the online issue of the journal, Science.... "We see it on land, we see it on water, we see it in high latitudes, we see it in low latitudes," said James Estes, a research scientist at the Institute for Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the paper's lead author. "We do not not see it anywhere." ...


I'm not not uncertain whether double negatives are not not less confusing than more.

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Sun, Jul 10, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Is ocean garbage killing whales?
Millions of tonnes of plastic debris dumped each year in the world's oceans could pose a lethal threat to whales, according to a scientific assessment to be presented at a key international whaling forum this week. A review of research literature from the last two decades reveals hundreds of cases in which cetaceans -- an order including 80-odd species of whales, dolphins and porpoises -- have been sickened or killed by marine litter. Entanglement in plastic bags and fishing gear have long been identified as a threat to sea birds, turtles and smaller cetaceans. For large ocean-dwelling mammals, however, ingestion of such refuse is also emerging as a serious cause of disability and death, experts say. ...


We just need to invent an edible plastic!

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Sun, Jun 26, 2011
from Times-Colonist, via DesdemonaDespair:
Southern dolphins pay a rare visit, add to biologists' confusion
Two dolphins that would be more at home frolicking in the warm bays of southern California or Mexico are cruising the chilly waters of Puget Sound and biologists are baffled by an apparent trend for tropical species to head north.... Victoria zoologist Anna Hall, who also skippers a boat for Prince of Whales whalewatching, said the only previously recorded sighting in local waters was in April 1953 when a longbeaked common dolphin stranded itself off Victoria. "It's really, really unusual," she said.... Another Bryde's whale stranded and died in southern Puget Sound in January 2010. Bryde's whales usually prefer tropical or warm temperate waters. It is a mystery why tropical species are coming north, Douglas said. "It seems there is a significant change and it's probably temperature related, but we don't know much more than that," she said. "Maybe in a year or two we will be able to say that this was the beginning of a change." ...


I bet they had a lot of SeaMiles™ they needed to use up, so they just took a vacation.

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Mon, Jun 20, 2011
from BBC:
World's oceans in 'shocking' decline
The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists. In a new report, they warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history". They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised. The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.... "The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised. "We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years." ...


I hear Britney is showing off plenty of skin on her new "Femme Fatale" tour!

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Sat, Apr 16, 2011
from BBC:
Humpback whale song spreads to other whales
Recordings of male humpback whales have shown that their haunting songs spread through the ocean to other whales. Researchers in Australia listened to hundreds of hours of recordings gathered over more than a decade. These revealed how a specific song pattern, which originated in Eastern Australia, had passed "like Chinese whispers" to whale populations up to 6,000km away in French Polynesia.... The research team, led by Ellen Garland from the University of Queensland, say the findings show the animals transmit such "cultural trends" over huge distances.... Using sound analysis software, Ms Garland and her colleagues discovered that four new songs that had emerged in a population in Eastern Australia gradually spread eastwards. Within two years of this new song being invented, whales in French Polynesia were singing this same "version". "It's a culturally-driven change across a vast scale," said Ms Garland.... "We can only begin to speculate what those factors might be, but exploring this will certainly open a new understanding into the lives of these truly cosmopolitan, singing giants." ...


Too bad they're just dumb animals, or we might not hunt 'em.

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Fri, Apr 1, 2011
from Reuters, via WHNT, from DesdemonaDespair:
Government tightens lid on dolphin death probe
The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year's BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists. Wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to collect specimens and tissue samples for the agency were quietly ordered late last month to keep their findings confidential. The gag order was contained in an agency letter informing outside scientists that its review of the dolphin die-off, classified as an "unusual mortality event (UME)," had been folded into a federal criminal investigation launched last summer into the oil spill. "Because of the seriousness of the legal case, no data or findings may be released, presented or discussed outside the UME investigative team without prior approval," the letter, obtained by Reuters, stated. A number of scientists said they have been personally rebuked by federal officials for "speaking out of turn" to the media about efforts to determine the cause of some 200 dolphin deaths this year, and about 90 others last year, in the Gulf. ...


When they try to gag scientists, it's usually because bad news is coming back up.

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Wed, Mar 30, 2011
from Life Science News, via EurekAlert:
Whale and dolphin death toll during Deepwater disaster may have been greatly underestimated
The team focused their research on 14 species of cetacean, an order of mammals including whales and dolphins. While the number of recovered carcasses has been assumed to equal the number of deaths, the team argues that marine conditions and the fact that many deaths will have occurred far from shore mean recovered carcasses will only account for a small proportion of deaths.... The team's analysis suggests that only 2 percent of cetacean carcasses were ever historically recovered after their [natural] deaths in this region, meaning that the true death toll from the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be 50 times higher than the number of deaths currently estimated.... "While we did not conduct a study to estimate the actual number of deaths from the oil spill, our research reveals that the accepted figures are a grave underestimation," concluded Dr. Williams. "We now urge methodological development to develop appropriate multipliers so that we discover the true cost of this tragedy." ...


If you'll forgive the expression.

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Wed, Mar 2, 2011
from The Independent:
Oil spill link suspected as dead dolphins wash ashore
The dead dolphins began appearing in mid-January along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the United States. Although none of the carcasses appeared to show outward signs of oil contamination, all were being examined as possible casualties of the petrochemicals that fouled the sea water and sea bed after BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded last April.... nearly five billion barrels of crude oil before it was capped in July.... The remains of 77 animals - nearly all bottlenose dolphins - have been discovered on islands, in marshes and on beaches along 200 miles of coastline. This figure is more than 10 times the number normally found washed up around this time of year, which is calving season for some 2,000 to 5,000 dolphins in the region.... One of the more disturbing aspects of the deaths is that nearly half - 36 animals so far - have been newborn or stillborn dolphin calves. In January 2009 and 2010, there were no reports of stranded calves, and because this is the first calving season since the BP disaster, scientists are concerned that the spill may be a cause. ...


Maybe it's everything Mom ate.

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Sat, Feb 26, 2011
from AP, via PhysOrg:
Scientists scrutinize rise in baby dolphin deaths
Scientists are trying to figure out what killed 53 bottlenose dolphins - many of them babies - so far this year in the Gulf of Mexico, as five more of their carcasses washed up Thursday in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It's likely to be months before they get back lab work showing what caused the spontaneous abortions, premature births, deaths shortly after birth and adult deaths said Blair Mase, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's stranding coordinator for the Gulf Coast. "It's not like CSI where the very next day they have the results in. It doesn't work that way, unfortunately," she said.... Solangi said he'd never seen anything like the calf deaths, or found word of anything like it in 30 years of records from his area - Alabama, Mississippi and east Louisiana.... "We've collected tissues and sent them off to various laboratories for pathology and toxicology," he said. "All we can tell is some of them may have been premature, some of them were stillborn and others may have just survived for a day or two and died." Dolphins usually calve in March and April, he said. ...


I can't see what toxic Gulf of Mexico event could possibly be causing so many premature births. The spill ended months ago.

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Wed, Feb 16, 2011
from AP, via HuffingtonPost:
Sea Shepherd Activists Prompt Japan To Suspend Whaling
Japan has temporarily suspended its annual Antarctic whaling after repeated harassment by a conservationist group, a government official said Wednesday. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships have been chasing the Japanese whaling fleet for weeks in the icy seas off Antarctica, trying to block Japan's annual whale hunt, planned for up to 945 whales. Japan has halted the hunt since Feb. 10 after persistent "violent" disruptions by the anti-whaling protesters, said fisheries agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku. So far, the attacks have not caused any injuries or major damage to the vessels, he said, but the protesters are throwing rancid butter in bottles and once the protesters got a rope entangled in the propeller on a harpoon vessel, causing it to slow down. "We have temporarily suspended our research whaling to ensure safety," he said. The fleet plans to resume hunting when conditions are deemed safe, he added, but declined to say how long the suspension is planned for. ...


The "science" in "scientific whaling" needs more study.

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Sat, Jan 29, 2011
from Los Angeles Times:
Polar bear's long swim illustrates ice melt
In one of the most dramatic signs ever documented of how shrinking Arctic sea ice impacts polar bears, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska have tracked a female bear that swam nine days across the deep, frigid Beaufort Sea before reaching an ice floe 426 miles offshore. The marathon swim came at a cost: With little food likely available once she arrived, the bear lost 22 percent of her body weight and her year-old female cub, who set off on the journey but did not survive, the researchers said. ...


We can only hope being "dead" might clarify the debate between "threatened" and "endangered."

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Tue, Jan 25, 2011
from Hebrew University of Jerusalem via ScienceDaily:
Climate Change Threatens Many Tree Species
Global warming is already affecting the earth in a variety of ways that demand our attention. Now, research carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicates that many tree species might become extinct due to climate change if no action is taken in time. According to the research, trees which disperse their seeds by wind, such as pines and maples, will be unable to spread at a pace that can cope with expected climate changes. ...


I suspect we'll all have trouble keeping up.

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Sat, Jan 1, 2011
from Associated Press:
Japanese whalers, activists clash off Antarctica
SYDNEY - Japanese whalers shot water cannons at anti-whaling activists on Saturday, the conservationist group's founder claimed, hours after the activists tracked down the hunting fleet in the remote and icy seas off Antarctica. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is chasing the fleet in the hopes of interrupting Japan's annual whale hunt, which kills up to 1,000 whales a year. The two sides have clashed violently in the past, including last year, when a Sea Shepherd boat was sunk after its bow was sheared off in a collision with a whaling ship.... New Zealand-based Glenn Inwood, spokesman for Japan's Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, which sponsors the whale hunt, said he had no comment. ...


I'd like to do a little "research" on their asses.

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Thu, Dec 23, 2010
from Los Angeles Times:
Polar bear status pits environmentalists vs. administration
A dispute about how much the government should protect polar bears has turned into a battleground for environmentalists and some of the country's most powerful business organizations over the larger question of global warming. On Wednesday, the Interior Department filed arguments in federal court defending its decision to classify polar bears as "threatened" rather than "endangered" despite widespread shrinkage of the sea ice that forms the bears' natural habitat. What makes the issue so sensitive is that, if polar bears received the stricter endangered classification, the Obama administration would be pressured to attack the problem at its source: the petroleum, coal and manufacturing companies that emit the greenhouse gases scientists say are a major factor in climate change. ...


I propose a third category for polar bears: screwed.

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Wed, Nov 10, 2010
from EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
NOAA-funded tagging of narwhals finds continued warming of southern Baffin Bay
Temperatures in the study were collected by narwhals, medium-sized toothed Arctic whales, during NOAA-sponsored missions in 2006 and 2007. The animals were tagged with sensors that recorded ocean depths and temperatures during feeding dives from the surface pack ice to the seafloor, going as deep as 1,773 meters, or more than a mile.... As a result [of difficulty and cost], for the past decade, researchers used climatology data consisting of long-term historical average observations rather than direct ocean temperature measurements for winter temperatures in the area.... The published study reported that highest winter ocean temperature measurements in 2006 and 2007 from both narwhals and additional sensors deployed using helicopters ranged between 4 and 4.6 degrees Celsius (39.2 and 40.3 degrees Fahrenheit). The study also found that temperatures were on average nearly a degree Celsius warmer than climatology data. Whale-collected temperatures also demonstrated the thickness of the winter surface isothermal layer, a layer of constant temperature, to be 50 to 80 meters less than that reported in the climatology data. ...


I can't believe the narwhals will even work with us.

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Mon, Nov 8, 2010
from New Scientist:
Whale mass strandings linked to hearing loss
In "one of the biggest mass deaths of cetaceans in Irish history" at least 33 whales have beached themselves on the north-west coast of County Donegal.... The whales' deaths come just after the latest research into cetacean strandings, which suggests that stranded whales and dolphins often suffer from hearing loss. The finding is the latest salvo in the long-running controversy over whether undersea noise pollution is harming whales. David Mann of the University of South Florida and colleagues looked at eight species of cetacean, all of which had either stranded themselves or become entangled in fishing gear. 4 out of 7 of the bottlenose dolphins they looked at, and 5 out of 14 rough-toothed dolphins, had either severe or profound hearing loss, as did one short-finned pilot whale.... "We do not know the noise exposure history of any of these [animals]. Based on the locations of stranding, it is possible that some of them have been exposed to chronic noise from boating and shipping, while for others this is unlikely."... Earlier this year, north Atlantic right whales were found to be calling more loudly to each other, apparently to compensate for the constant noise. ...


They can't hear, and we can't listen.

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Mon, Oct 18, 2010
from Scientific American:
Melting Ice Turns 10,000 Walruses into Landlubbers
The lumbering marine mammals normally spend their summers resting on the ice as it floats north, making periodic dives to the ocean floor to forage for food. But this year, as in 2007 and 2009, a lack of ice in the eastern Chukchi Sea has driven thousands of walruses to congregate on land instead.... "This is the third time in the last four years that this has happened, and we're still learning and looking for patterns," Jay said. "Anything could have happened. In 2008, there was enough ice that stayed over the [continental] shelf that they never did come ashore, but we were kind of betting the odds they would come to shore again this year."... One of their initial studies, published last week, found "a clear trend of worsening conditions" for the animals through the end of this century. "Our biggest concern right now is stampeding," said Bruce Woods, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska regional office. "That's the big risk posed to these animals." That's because the intensely social -- but easily spooked -- animals have congregated in numbers that dwarf their normal groupings of up to 500 animals. ...


There's a worsening trend of evidence supporting "a clear trend of worsening conditions."

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Tue, Sep 14, 2010
from Alaska Dispatch, via DesdemonaDespair:
Tens of thousands of walrus on land haulout near Point Lay, Alaska
A few miles down the coastline, tens of thousands of walruses are jammed together in a tight beach-bound pod to catch a little R&R from their daily routine. This is not a small group -- we're talking in the neighborhood of 40 million collective pounds of massive marine mammal.... But government scientists suspect it has more to do with an increasing lack of sea ice. Walruses have been known to haul out onto land in large numbers in Russia, but never on the Alaska side of their migratory corridor in the tens of thousands, as is being witnessed this year. ...


"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, Of cabbages, and kings, And why the sea is boiling hot-- And whether pigs have wings."

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Sat, Aug 28, 2010
from BBC:
Anti-whaling NGOs warn of 'contaminated' whale meat
Environmental and animal-welfare groups are urging the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to persuade the World Health Organization (WHO) to act over fears about eating whale meat. The coalition of organisations wants the WHO to issue guidelines amid fears about the safety of the meat. The groups say whale meat is highly contaminated with mercury and should not be eaten. But whaling nations say they already have health guidelines in place.... They say dangerously high levels of mercury accumulate up the food chain. Small cetaceans, like tooth whales and pilot whales, are near the top of it and therefore a lot more toxic compounds tend to accumulate in these mammals' tissues than in smaller inhabitants of the marine world, warn the NGOs.... [Faroe Island whaling defender]: "It's true that pilot whales have very high levels of mercury in the meat and PCBs in the blubber and in 1998, the relevant health authorities at the Faroes issued a safety recommendation advising people on how much it was safe to eat. And people have taken that advice on board."... "If we don't have the whale meat and the blubber, what do we eat instead? We don't have meat production as such in the Faroes other than sheep and a limited amount of cattle that is kept mostly for milk. The sheep population is certainly not enough to serve the meat needs," [she continued].... Though the conservationists think it is rather unlikely for the IWC to extend the whaling ban to cover the small cetaceans, many hope that getting people to think about their health will do the trick. ...


I have the right to murder an intelligent mammal, because I want to eat its toxic fat and meat. How hard is that to understand?

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Fri, Jul 30, 2010
from Reuters:
Dead whale found pinned to Alaska cruise ship
A dead whale was discovered pinned to the bow of a Princess Cruises luxury liner near Juneau, the third such incident involving the company's Alaska fleet in a decade, officials said on Thursday. The whale, believed to be an adult female humpback measuring 43 feet in length, was found Wednesday on the ship's so-called "bulbous bow," the section of the vessel's leading tip that goes through the water, said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Juneau.... About a dozen biologists and marine-mammal experts were examining the whale carcass on Thursday, NOAA said. Experts will conduct a necropsy on Friday to try to determine the cause of death, NOAA said. Humpback whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. ...


Whattaya expect? It shouldn't have been swimming in our sea lanes!

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Wed, Jun 30, 2010
from PhysOrg:
World's smallest whale population faces extinction
The world's smallest known whale population has dwindled to about 30 individuals, only eight of them females, according to a study released Tuesday.... The Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska once teemed with tens of thousands of North Pacific right whales. But hunting in the 19th century wiped out most of them, with up to 30,000 slaughtered in the 1840s alone, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Poaching by the Soviet Union during the 1960s claimed several hundred more, making Eubalaena japonica probably the most endangered species of whale on Earth. "Its precarious status today ... is a direct consequence of uncontrolled and illegal whaling, and highlights the past failure of international management to prevent such abuse," said the study, published in the British Royal Society's Biology Letters.... "The probability of ship-strike mortalities may increase with the likely future opening of an ice-free Northwest Passage," the researchers note. ...


At least now we can remember their names!

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Tue, Jun 29, 2010
from BBC:
Finless porpoises in China on brink of extinction
Finless porpoises, a rare type of toothed whale, may be even more endangered than previously thought. A survey of finless porpoises in Asia has revealed there are two species, not one, and that they rarely intermingle. More worrying, finless porpoises living in the freshwater of China's Yangtze river are genetically unique, say scientists, who warn that greater efforts must be made to prevent these animals, numbering fewer than 1000, from following another Yangtze cetacean, the Baiji, to extinction.... "The most recent field survey conducted in 2006 suggested that there were around 1000 individuals in the Yangtze River," says Prof Yang. "This is much smaller than previous estimates, suggesting a significant population decline in the past two decades." ...


Compared to the Baiji, there's lots of 'em!

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Sun, Jun 27, 2010
from PhysOrg:
What is killing Argentina's right whales?
Fatal strandings of southern right whales around Argentina's Valdes Peninsula have soared in recent years, and worried scientists are not sure why, the International Whaling Commission heard Friday. From 1971, when systematic monitoring began, only a relative handful of whale deaths were reported over the next three decades. Starting in 2003, however, the mortality rate began to soar: from 31 that year, to 47 in 2005, 83 in 2007, 95 in 2008 and 79 last year, the IWC's scientific committee reported. "Over 90 percent of the deaths have been of first-year calves," the scientists said.... Three causes, possibly in combination, have been fingered as possible culprits. One is reduced availability of food for adult females, notably small crustaceans called copepods and krill. Poor feeding conditions lengthen the normally three-to-five year reproduction cycles, studies have shown. High concentrations of biotoxins and the spread of an infectious disease are also suspects.... Weakening might also explain "an extremely strange phenomenon": kelp gulls that alight on the backs of young whales at the water's surface and feed on their backs, creating lesions vulnerable to toxins or viruses. ...


I think the right whales just don't want to be the only things left.

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Fri, Jun 25, 2010
from Scientific American:
Unintended whale kills deadlier than intentional whaling
More whales are being killed by chemical and noise pollution, entanglement in nets, climate change or collisions with ships than by whaling itself, delegates to the world's main whaling body said this week. Harpooning whales for their meat and oil pushed many species close to extinction in the last century. Stocks have begun to recover under a moratorium on whaling agreed in 1986, although Japan, Norway and Iceland still hunt the giant mammals. But climate change now means it is harder for whales to find food, ship collisions are growing, pollution is disrupting their reproduction, and fishing nets can kill or wound them, according to delegates at the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) annual meeting in the Moroccan Atlantic city of Agadir.... Marine wildlife experts say growing numbers of whales succumb to "by-catch" -- getting entangled in nets or hooked to fishing lines stretching up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) and known by green campaigners as "curtains of death." Many of the whales which escape succumb to their injuries months or years later. ...


Pretty soon that worldwide pool will be spanking clean!

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Thu, Jun 24, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Seismic probe threat to endangered whales: experts
International Whaling Commission scientists have warned that a seismic survey in Russia's Far East could push a critically endangered population of whales closer to extinction. "The committee is extremely concerned about the potential impact on western gray whales and strongly recommends that Rosneft postpone their survey until at least June 2011," the scientists said in a report released this week, referring to the Russian company carrying out the testing. There are probably fewer than 130 Western North Pacific Gray Whales remaining, and only a couple of dozen females of calf-bearing age, according to the IWC.... "The Rosneft survey (is set to) occur while the highest number of feeding gray whales, including cow and calves, are present," the 120-strong committee cautioned.... "It's not as if the committee is asking them not to do the survey," said Wendy Elliott, species manager at WWF International. "All they have to do is wait a year and conduct it earlier, before the whales arrive in the area." ...


Wait a whole year for just a buncha whales? Nyet!

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Wed, Jun 23, 2010
from AP, via PhysOrg:
Nations fail to limit whaling, Japan still hunts
An international effort to truly limit whale hunting collapsed Wednesday, leaving Japan, Norway and Iceland free to keep killing hundreds of mammals a year, even raiding a marine sanctuary in Antarctic waters unchecked. The breakdown put diplomatic efforts on ice for at least a year, raised the possibility that South Korea might join the whaling nations and raised questions about the global drive to prevent the extinction of the most endangered whale species. It also revived doubts about the effectiveness and future of the International Whaling Commission. The agency was created after World War II to oversee the hunting of tens of thousands of whales a year but gradually evolved into a body at least partly dedicated to keeping whales from vanishing from the Earth's oceans. "I think ultimately if we don't make some changes to this organization in the next few years it may be very serious, possibly fatal for the organization - and the whales will be worse off," said former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. ...


This "international effort" was almost as effective as Copenhagen!

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Wed, Jun 23, 2010
from 3News New Zealand, from DesdemonaDespair:
Squid-fishing industry starving whales of food
Mr O'Shea has been studying beached whales for seven years and their food source, squid, for 20 - and he doesn't like what he's seeing. Around 10,000 whales have died on New Zealand beaches in the last 30 years. Research by marine biologist Steve O'Shea shows many of these whales now beaching are in such a poor state of health he believes they may be starving. "We're exploring the possibility that these animals are hungry, are both hungry and thirsty in fact, because they get all of their food and their water from squid and if you take the squid out of the food chain there's obviously going to be cascading effects," he says. Mr O'Shea's team will take samples from the dead whales' stomachs; almost 100 percent of the whales they've studied so far have had ulcers.... The young pilot whales at Raglan have worn teeth, a sure sign they're eating the wrong food - in their case that's anything other than squid. ...


Whattaya expect? They're stealing our squid!

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Mon, Jun 21, 2010
from BBC:
Secrecy of talks on whaling compromise condemned
The opening session was swiftly adjourned so that delegates could begin a day and a half of private talks. Some observers condemned the secrecy, one commenting that recent UN talks on North Korea's nuclear programme were held in public - so why not on whaling? Conservation groups are split on the merits of pursuing a deal. Some argue for maintaining a hard line against all whaling, while others believe agreement could improve the current picture, where Iceland, Japan and Norway set their own quotas and run their hunts without international oversight. ...


Secret agreements have worked out pretty well for the world so far!

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Sun, Jun 20, 2010
from Scientific American:
Oceans choking on CO2, face deadly changes: study
The world's oceans are virtually choking on rising greenhouse gases, destroying marine ecosystems and breaking down the food chain -- irreversible changes that have not occurred for several million years, a new study says. The changes could have dire consequences for hundreds of millions of people around the globe who rely on oceans for their livelihoods. "It's as if the Earth has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day", said the report's lead-author Australian marine scientist Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The Australia-U.S. report published in Science magazine on Friday, studied 10 years of marine research and found that climate change was causing major declines in marine ecosystems. Oceans were rapidly warming and acidifying, water circulation was being altered and dead zones within the ocean depths were expanding, said the report. There has also been a decline in major ocean ecosystems like kelp forests and coral reefs and the marine food chain was breaking down, with fewer and smaller fish and more frequent diseases and pests among marine organisms. ...


I've been told that the four out of five doctors smoke Chesterfields.

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Tue, Jun 15, 2010
from AP, via PhysOrg:
Japan may quit whaling commission if ban stays put
Japan is considering withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission if no progress is made toward easing an international ban on commercial whaling, its fisheries minister said Tuesday.... The proposal to allow commercial whaling has drawn criticism from all sides and drawn fresh attention to the whaling issue. The foreign minister of New Zealand and Australia's environment minister are due to attend next week's meeting.... Japan's whaling program includes large-scale scientific expeditions to the Antarctic, while other whaling countries mostly stay along their coasts. Opponents call Japan's scientific research hunts a cover for commercial whaling. ...


If you won't play by my rules, I'll take my scientific cetaceacide and go home.

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Mon, Jun 14, 2010
from New Scientist:
Extreme tactics in the battle to resume whaling
Japan's tactics in attempting to overturn the ban on commercial whaling have come under fresh scrutiny following an undercover investigation by UK newspaper The Sunday Times. Opponents of whaling have long accused Japan of offering foreign aid to small, poor countries if they joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and vote to resume whaling. But hard evidence of Japan's tactics have not been documented until now. The Sunday Times used undercover reporters, posing as representatives of a billionaire conservationist, to approach officials from pro-whaling countries. They offered them aid packages in exchange for their votes.... According to the newspaper, senior fisheries officials for the Marshall Islands and Kiribati said their vote at the IWC was dependent on the funds that Japan gave them. In a commentary, The Sunday Times wrote that Japan "systemically" recruits these small countries - who have little or no direct interest in whaling - onto the IWC. Japanese officials deny all of the allegations, and according to The Sunday Times "insists it is a coincidence that the countries it targets with overseas aid happen to be voting members of the IWC". ...


Bribery is just part of the "scientific exploration" of whaling.

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Tue, Jun 8, 2010
from CBC:
Humpback whales form lasting friendships
Female humpback whales appear to form lasting friendships, with pairs searching out each other every summer in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a finding scientists say shows they are more social than previously thought. The discovery may also mean that commercial whaling breaks apart long-established social groups. The whales spend most of the year on their own while they migrate, coming together with males only briefly to breed. But the females return to the Gulf each summer, pairing up with the same female each time, says Christian Ramp, a researcher with the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, a non-profit marine research organization in St. Lambert, Que.... Until now, baleen whales were not thought to be particularly social, but this most recent research shows humpback friendships lasting as long as six years.... The researchers say the most likely explanation for the annual gathering is co-operation in finding food, which might explain why females "with the most stable and long-term associations also had the highest reproductive output," the researchers write. ...


Hey, Japan and Iceland -- how about we "scientifically" murder a few females to see how sad their friends get?

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Wed, Jun 2, 2010
from The Independent:
End of moratorium on whaling threatens more blood in the seas
The moratorium on commercial whaling, one of the world's major environmental achievements, is in danger of being abandoned after 24 years at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which begins this week in Morocco. A proposed new deal, which stands a realistic chance of being passed at the conference in Agadir, would allow the three countries which have continued killing the great whales in defiance of the ban - Japan, Norway and Iceland - to recommence whaling legally in return for bringing down their catches. However, many conservationists do not believe that catches will actually fall under the proposed new agreement, and one of the world's leading whaling scientists recently described it in testimony to the US Congress as "a scam ... likely to fool many people".... Yet the chances of the deal going through are increased by a bizarre bureaucratic twist which may mean that European countries such as Britain, which are opposed, may not be able to vote against it in the final section of the meeting, which begins in three weeks' time. "This is a great deal for the whaling countries," said Mark Simmonds, international head of science for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. "In Norway they're already celebrating. But it's potentially a tragedy for the whales." ...


Heck -- they'll all just die eventually anyway!

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Tue, Jun 1, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Australia takes legal action to stop Japan whaling
Australia has launched legal action at the International Court of Justice to stop Japan's hunting of whales, Japanese officials said Tuesday, calling the move "extremely regrettable".... Australia's action in The Hague follows months of tension between Canberra and Tokyo, which kills the ocean giants under a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium that allows lethal "scientific research".... "We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean," said Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett last week, vowing "to bring a permanent end to whaling in the Southern Ocean". A Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP on Tuesday: "We are studying our strategy regarding the lawsuit. Details are yet to be decided, but we won't disclose our strategy even after we make a decision." ...


Perhaps if we "scientifically murder" an official, we'll be able to discern their strategy.

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Tue, May 18, 2010
from UN, via AFP/Yahoo:
Ocean fish could disappear in 40 years: UN
The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 unless fishing fleets are slashed and stocks allowed to recover, UN experts warned. "If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York. A Green Economy report due later this year by UNEP and outside experts argues this disaster can be avoided if subsidies to fishing fleets are slashed and fish are given protected zones -- ultimately resulting in a thriving industry.... Environmental experts are mindful of the failure this March to push through a worldwide ban on trade in bluefin tuna, one of the many species said to be headed for extinction. Powerful lobbying from Japan and other tuna-consuming countries defeated the proposal at the CITES conference on endangered species in Doha. But UNEP's warning Monday was that tuna only symbolizes a much vaster catastrophe, threatening economic, as well as environmental upheaval.... According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050. ...


But wasn't I taught "there's always another fish in the sea"?

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Thu, May 13, 2010
from AFP, via Yahoo:
Scientists stunned as grey whale sighted off Israel
The appearance of a grey whale off the coast of Israel has stunned scientists, in what was thought to be the first time the giant mammal has been seen outside the Pacific in several hundred years. The whale, which was first sighted off Herzliya in central Israel on Saturday, is believed to have travelled thousands of miles from the north Pacific after losing its way in search of food.... "What has amazed the entire marine mammal research community is there haven't been any grey whales in the Atlantic since the 18th century," he said. Scheinin said the creature, a mature whale measuring some 12 metres (39 feet) and weighing around 20 tonnes, probably reached the Atlantic through the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route that connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is normally covered with ice. ...


That's not quite what I was thinking when I said "save the whales."

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Sat, May 8, 2010
from ThinkProgress:
Gulf Coast Wildlife: 'All Bets Are Off'
As Nancy Rabalais, a scientist who heads the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, said, "The magnitude and the potential for ecological damage is probably more great than anything we've ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico."... ThinkProgress' Brad Johnson was blogging from the Gulf Coast and spoke with Gulf Coast marine scientists who all agreed that the "unfolding oil disaster could mean devastation beyond human comprehension" and "all bets are off."... "I can't imagine we're not going to have some mass casualties" among birds in the Gulf region, predicted Michael Parr of the American Bird Conservancy.... At least 38 endangered sea turtles "have washed up dead on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico,"... Comyns told Johnson that he found blue fin tuna larvae "right in the vicinity" of the oil rig's discharge. Even the dispersant BP is using -- Corexit 9500 -- has a "toxicity to early life stages of fish, crustaceans and mollusks" four times greater than petroleum.... Officials shut down additional fishing grounds, effectively putting out of work hundreds more in an industry that is the lifeblood of the region, as well as the Breton National Wildlife Sanctuary. Out in the gulf, birds dove into oily water, dolphins coughed and sharks swam in weird patterns, said marine specialists who have been out on the water tracking the disaster." ...


Thank you, BP, for using the lowest bidder and thereby saving each of us a trillionth of a cent.

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Tue, Apr 20, 2010
from KIRO TV (Seattle):
Researchers Say Dead Gray Whale Filled With Garbage
Researchers said a dead gray whale discovered on West Seattle's Arroyo Beach last Wednesday was filled with a variety of debris, reported KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Cascadia Research Collective, which has performed hundreds of whale necropsies, said it has never seen so much debris in the stomach of a gray whale. Researchers said items found inside the gray whale included small towels, sweatpants, plastic bags, surgical gloves, a golf ball and small bits of plastic. Though the volume of junk was unusual, scientists said the debris was probably not what killed the whale. The cause of the whale's death is still being investigated. ...


I bet it was the sweatpants.

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from BBC:
Whaling peace plan to go forward this year
A proposal aimed at bridging the split between whaling nations and their opponents will almost certainly come to governments for decision this year. Sources say it could involve Japan accepting quotas below current levels; but Iceland is opposing proposed catch limits and an international trade ban. Some anti-whaling countries see such a "peace package" as the only way to constrain whale hunting.... The "peace package" would set terms for the next 10 years, with a review after five. Initial quotas could be amended downwards if scientific assessments indicated the necessity. Governments would agree not to set quotas unilaterally. Whaling nations would have to agree to a monitoring regime involving observers on boats and a DNA register designed to keep illegal whalemeat out of the market. ...


Sure, guys, keep the Einsatz going for another decade. Just keep it at lower levels. For peace.

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Mon, Apr 12, 2010
from AP, via PhysOrg.com:
Calif. gray whale-watchers fear dip in population
Long held as an environmental success story after being taken off the endangered list in 1994, California gray whales draw legions of fans into boats or atop cliffs to watch the leviathans lumber down the coast to spawning grounds in Baja. But whale-watching skippers became alarmed after sightings dropped from 25 a day in good years to five a day this season. Such anecdotal evidence has left conservationists and state officials worried about the whale's future, especially now. The federal government's monitoring of the mammals has fallen off in recent years. And the International Whaling Commission in June will consider allowing 1,400 gray whales to be hunted over the next decade.... "You can't set specific quotas for 10 years based on 2006 data," said Sara Wan, a California Gray Whale Coalition member who is also a state coastal commissioner. "It's irresponsible." In January, the California Coastal Commission pressed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for an updated gray whale study. The count is done but the analysis won't be finished until long after the whaling commission's decision. ...


Seeing nothing can be the same as seeing something.

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Tue, Mar 30, 2010
from LiveScience:
Mysterious Whale Die-Off Is Largest on Record
Mass death among baby right whales has experts scrambling to figure out the puzzle behind the largest great whale die-off on record. Observers have found 308 dead whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdes along Argentina's Patagonian Coast since 2005. Almost 90 percent of those deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old, and the calf deaths make up almost a third of all right whale calf sightings in the last five years. "This is the single largest die-off event in terms of numbers and in relation to population size and geographic range," said Marcela Uhart, a medical veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).... Only a few clues have emerged so far regarding the cause of death, such as unusually thin layers of blubber on some dead calves. Whale calves typically have lower chances of survival during their first year of life, but the high rate of death at Peninsula Valdes is unique. Southern right whales are baleen whales that filter their tiny prey from the water with their comb-like mouths.... ...


I wonder if they've checked the whale baleen for a plastic coating?

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Sat, Mar 27, 2010
from ENS Newswire, via DesdemonaDespair:
Worst Ice Year on Record Kills Canadian Seals Before Hunters Can
Thousands of harp seal pups are presumed dead in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence and starving pups are being found abandoned on the beaches of Prince Edward Island, victims of the worst ice conditions ever recorded in the region. Environment Canada said March 16 that ice conditions in the Gulf were the lowest in the 41 years it has kept records. Off Newfoundland, Canada's other seal hunting ground, ice has formed only off the Northern Peninsula when, by now, it has usually extended along the island's northeast coast.... "The conditions this year are disastrous for seal pups. I've surveyed this region for nine years and have never seen anything like this," said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW. "There is wide open water instead of the usual ice floes, and rather than the hundreds of thousands of seal pups that we normally encounter, only a handful of baby harp and hooded seals, animals that are normally found on ice, remain on the beaches," she said. ...


The Canadian government, however, knows better: it increased the quota on harp seals last week.

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Tue, Mar 9, 2010
from CBC:
Pack ice scarce off Eastern Canada
A Canadian Coast Guard official said Monday that many parts of the ocean near Newfoundland and Labrador are devoid of pack ice -- a condition that hasn't been seen in at least 40 years. "It's been an unusual year this year, to the point that there is no ice. There have been high temperatures, high winds, and as a result we have very little ice," said Dan Frampton, the Coast Guard's supervisor of ice operations. "By this time of year, pack ice is usually down to the St. John's area." Frampton said icebreakers have been idle because there's no pack ice in the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador, as well as in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or further north off central Labrador. It could be a problem for harp seals that give birth to pups on the ice. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence their population can swell to a million but with next to no ice this year only 500 seals have been counted so far. "Yes, there's only water around the island. There's no ice at all around the island. There's no ice at all," said veteran mariner Jean-Claude Lapierre. "I'm 69 years old and I never saw that before. I talked to the older people and it's the first time they saw that." ...


Is this Canada's way of getting around that whole seal-clubbing thing?

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Tue, Mar 9, 2010
from Orlando Sentinal:
Orcas have 2nd-biggest brains of all marine mammals
Neuroscientist Lori Marino and a team of researchers explored the brain of a dead killer whale with an MRI and found an astounding potential for intelligence.... It's not clear whether they are as well-endowed with memory cells as humans, but scientists have found they are amazingly well-wired for sensing and analyzing their watery, three-dimensional environment. Scientists are trying to better understand how killer whales are able to learn local dialects, teach one another specialized methods of hunting and pass on behaviors that can persist for generations -- longer possibly than seen with any other species except humans.... These researchers have yet to find evidence that an orca in the wild has ever killed a person.... They swim the world's oceans -- they are more widely distributed than any whale, dolphin or porpoise -- in at least three distinct populations. There are fish-eating orcas that stay in one area, flesh-eaters that wander more widely along coasts, and a third group that roams the deep-blue waters. The three groups have starkly different diets, languages, hunting techniques and manners of behaving around other marine life, and they don't seem to interact much with one another.... Hal Whitehead, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, awakened the world of cetacean research in 2001 when he co-authored a controversial paper that suggested no species other than humans are as "cultural" as orcas. "Culture is about learning from others," Whitehead said. "A cultural species starts behaving differently than a species where everything is determined genetically." ...


If they're so smart, why did Tilly murder his prison guard?

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Fri, Feb 12, 2010
from Mongabay:
Expedition to save world's rarest cetacean threatened by lack of funding
Little known beyond the waters of the Gulf of California, the world's smallest cetacean (a group including whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is hanging on by a thread. The vaquita—which in Spanish means 'little cow'—has recently gained the dubious distinction of not only being the world's smallest cetacean, but the also the world's rarest. In 2006 it was announced that the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was likely extinct, and conservationists fear the Critically Endangered 'little cow' is next. An expedition for this year is set to identify vaquita individuals, but even this is threatened by lack of funding. Tobias Nowlan, a member of the proposed expedition, told mongabay.com that the situation was dire with only 100 individual vaquitas left in the world. The vaquita lives in what Nowlan calls "the most restricted range of any marine mammal", inhabiting about 2,500 square kilometers of the Gulf of California. As far as researchers know the vaquita is threatened by one thing and one thing only: gillnets used to catch the local fish totoaba (which is also considered Critically Endangered). "The vaquita has declined dramatically as a result of bycatch in gillnets. A gillnet ban is now in place in the 'Vaquita Conservation Zone', though their use continues illegally. ...


We've got more important things to spend money on -- like oil exploration subsidies.

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Mon, Nov 23, 2009
from Greenpeace:
Final voyage of the Japanese whaling fleet...
Following a week of potentially crippling budgetary reviews and a high-profile visit from US President Barack Obama to Japan, the so-called 'scientific' whaling fleet crept out of port. Greenpeace called for the departure to be the program's last.... This year, the fleet's Antarctic hunt will be subsidized by $8.8 million of taxpayer money. However, the program already operates at a loss due to lack of demand for whale meat -- the wholesale price of whale meat has just been lowered for the second time this year in an effort to stimulate the low demand -- and program costs are set to increase.... With well over 9,000 minke whales killed in 22 years and no useful data produced, Japan's so-called 'research' in the Antarctic is an international embarrassment. ...


"No useful data"? Those are 9,000 data points.

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Thu, Nov 5, 2009
from Times Online (UK):
One in five mammals threatened with extinction
A fifth of the world's known mammals, a third of amphibians and reptiles and more than two thirds of plants are threatened with extinction, according to the latest "Red List" of endangered species. Of the 5,490 mammal species that have been identified by scientists, 79 are extinct or extinct in the wild, 188 are critically endangered, 449 are endangered and 505 are classed as vulnerable, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. The annual Red List, published yesterday, also shows that 70 per cent of identified plants, 35 per cent of invertebrates, 37 per cent of freshwater fish, 30 per cent of amphibians, 28 per cent of reptiles and 12 per cent of birds are under threat. The survival of a total of 17,921 species is in jeopardy. ...


We're still winning the War On Nature!

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Tue, Oct 20, 2009
from University of Adelaide via ScienceDaily:
Conservation: Minimum Population Size Targets Too Low To Prevent Extinction?
Conservation biologists are setting their minimum population size targets too low to prevent extinction. That's according to a new study by University of Adelaide and Macquarie University scientists which has shown that populations of endangered species are unlikely to persist in the face of global climate change and habitat loss unless they number around 5000 mature individuals or more....Conservation biologists worldwide are battling to prevent a mass extinction event in the face of a growing human population and its associated impact on the planet. ...


Can we pleeeeze not use the word "targets" in these kinds of stories?

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Mon, Oct 12, 2009
from Times Online:
Man-made noise is blamed for driving whales to their deaths
Scientists are blaming not just military sonar, but a large range of man-made noises that they fear are driving the normally deep-water animals to shore.... The noise of oil exploration (which uses loud underwater explosions to help geologists search for undiscovered reserves), wind farm construction and shipping are all possible culprits. "It seems military sonar caused the mass beaching of dolphins we saw in Cornwall last year, but this is different," said Dr Simmonds.... Fish farms use 'Acoustic Harassment Devices' in an effort to dissuade seals from looting from their nets. While designed to be used intermittently, it appears that at least some fish farms leave theirs running continually. "It's an awful siren sound -- very, very loud." ...


Aren't the whales smart enough to just ignore us?

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Wed, Oct 7, 2009
from Journal of San Juans, in DesdemonaDespair:
Derelict fishing nets in Puget Sound kill 30,000 marine birds, 110,000 fish and 2 million invertebrates a year
"Lost" gill nets are never really lost. Fishing boat operators cut loose snagged nets and get their boats free and head for port. The derelict nets remain where they were snagged -- often for decades -- catching and killing marine life.... Since 2001, the foundation's Derelict Net Survey and Removal Project has removed 1,300 gill nets covering 280 acres through June of this year. The effort was stalling for lack of money. ...


Let's just call them "static micro-ecosystems" and be done with it.

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Sat, Sep 26, 2009
from BBC (UK):
Iceland plans big whalemeat trade with Japan
The company behind Iceland's fin whaling industry is planning a huge export of whalemeat to Japan. This summer, Hvalur hf caught 125 fins -- a huge expansion on previous years. The company's owner says he will export as much as 1,500 tonnes to Japan. This would substantially increase the amount of whalemeat in the Japanese market. The export would be legal because these nations are exempt from the global ban on trading whalemeat, but conservation groups doubt its commercial viability. ... This compares with a total of seven caught in the previous three years. The fin is globally listed as an endangered species, though Icelandic marine scientists maintain stocks are big enough locally to sustain a hunt of this size. ...


What's Icelandic for "I hope you go bankrupt and are sued for dispensing the toxic flesh of intelligent mammals"?

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Wed, Sep 23, 2009
from The Japan Times:
Mercury danger in dolphin meat
...Dolphin and whale meat is high in mercury, and [Tetsuya Endo, a professor at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido], one of the world's foremost authorities on mercury levels in dolphins and whales caught off Japan's coastal waters, has discovered Taiji residents who eat the meat sold in local stores have extremely high concentrations in their bodies. "Between December 2007 and July 2008, myself and a team of scientists and researchers took hair samples from 30 male and 20 female residents of the Taiji area. In three cases, the levels of mercury present were more than 50 parts per million, high enough that it was possible nerve damage, like that seen in victims of Minamata disease, could occur," Endo told The Japan Times in an interview last week. ...


It would be rather ironic if these beasts are so toxic they are saved from the dinner table.

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Mon, Sep 7, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Iceland kills 93 fin whales, according to conservationists
The conservation group said at least 93 endangered fin whales were killed this summer, more than at any time since an international ban on commercial whaling was brought in more than 20 years ago. In addition 63 minke whales were killed making it the largest commercial whale hunt in North Atlantic waters for decades. The meat and blubber from the whales may yield a staggering two million kilograms of edible products, the charity said. "There is simply no way that so much whale meat and blubber can be consumed domestically, and the whalers are deluding themselves if they think they can make any money exporting whale meat to Japan," she said. "Sales of whale products in Japan have made financial losses for much of the last 20 years, and market demand there has dropped. Iceland’s whaling policy seems as ill-founded as its economic policies have been." ...


No data yet on the heavy metals, PCBs, and other yummy spices embedded in that murdered flesh.

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Wed, Sep 2, 2009
from EcoWorldly:
Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji's 'Cove' Suspended
O'Barry has been trying to raise awareness in Japan about the secretive dolphin slaughter that takes place in the small fishing town of Taiji for years, but the Japanese media has refused to cover it. Until now. "Today is September 1st, the first day of the dolphin slaughter season in Japan. But when I arrived today by bus from Kansai Airport with media representatives from all over the world, the notorious Cove from the movie was empty. There were no dolphin killers in sight. So today is a good day for dolphins!", wrote O'Barry today in a report for the activist social network, TakePart.... O'Barry sees an opportunity to turn the disgraced town into a place where dolphins are cherished rather than slaughtered. In time, he thinks Taiji could become a model for dolphin activism and education, raising awareness about dolphins much in the same way that Nantucket, once the center of the whaling industry in the U.S., has changed its image by stopping the killing and marketing to whale-watchers instead. ...


Activism is so crazy it just might work!

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Wed, Aug 12, 2009
from BBC:
Killer whales and 'social clubs'
Killer whales create and visit social clubs just like people do, scientists have discovered.... But no-one knew why the whales form these huge superpods, when they normally live in smaller groups. Now scientists report in the Journal of Ethology that these groups act as clubs in which the killer whales form and maintain social ties. Fish-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Avacha Gulf live in stable groups called pods that contain an average of ten individuals and up to 20 in the largest pods. But researchers have seen up to eight of these pods coming together to form large groups of up to 100 animals.... "As far as the eye can see, in every direction you see groupings of two to six killer whales surfacing, spouting then dipping below the surface." "Each grouping has a focal mother figure surrounded by her offspring, some of whom may be full grown males with up to 2m dorsal fins that tower over the females," he says.... "The superpods are like big social clubs," says Hoyt. "These clubs could help them stay acquainted, could be part of the courting process but could have other functions that we need to learn about." Maintaining social bonds is crucial for many social mammals which live and hunt together. ...


Let's just agree that we never again kill any animal whose family will miss it. How about that for a simple rule?

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Sat, Jun 27, 2009
from BBC:
Whale chief mulls ending hunt ban
The outgoing chair of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has suggested whale conservation could benefit from ending the commercial hunting ban. Dr William Hogarth's remarks came at the end of this year's IWC meeting, which saw pro- and anti-whaling nations agree to further compromise talks.... The 1982 commercial whaling moratorium is one of the conservation movement's iconic achievements, and environment groups and anti-whaling nations are, at least on the surface, lined up four-square behind it. But Dr Hogarth, a US fisheries expert who led the compromise talks for the last year, suggested it could now be a problem for whale conservation. "I'll probably get in trouble for making this statement, but I am probably convinced right now that there would be less whales killed if we didn't have the commercial moratorium," he told BBC News immediately after the meeting ended. ...


I'm "probably convinced" you're in the pocket of the whaling industry.

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Wed, Jun 24, 2009
from World Wildlife Fund, via EurekAlert:
Disappearing dolphins clamour for attention at whale summit
Madeira, Portugal: Small whales are disappearing from the world's oceans and waterways as they fall victim to fishing gear, pollution, and habitat loss – compounded by a lack of conservation measures such as those developed for great whales, according to a new WWF report. Small cetaceans: The Forgotten Whales, released today, states that inadequate conservation measures are pushing small cetaceans -- such as dolphins, porpoises and small whales -- toward extinction as their survival is overshadowed by efforts to save their larger cousins.... For example, the hunt of 16,000 Dall's porpoises every year in Japan is considered unsustainable. Yet several of the pro-whaling nations taking part in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting this week object to discussing small cetacean conservation. ...


Ah, Flipper, we hardly knew ye.

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Tue, Jun 23, 2009
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
'Bycatch' whaling a growing threat to coastal whales
Scientists are warning that a new form of unregulated whaling has emerged along the coastlines of Japan and South Korea, where the commercial sale of whales killed as fisheries "bycatch" is threatening coastal stocks of minke whales and other protected species.... Their study found that nearly 46 percent of the minke whale products they examined in Japanese markets originated from a coastal population, which has distinct genetic characteristics, and is protected by international agreements. It will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Animal Conservation. Their conclusion: As many as 150 whales came from the coastal population through commercial bycatch whaling, and another 150 were taken from an open ocean population through Japan's scientific whaling. In some past years, Japan only reported about 19 minke whales killed through bycatch, though that number has increased recently as new regulations governing commercial bycatch have been adopted, Baker said. ...


What: whoops, I caught a whale! My bad...?

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Sat, Jun 20, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
Europe to hunt more whales than Japan, figures show
Europe plans to hunt more whales than Japan for the first time in many years, dividing EU countries and dismaying conservationists who say that whaling is escalating in response to the worldwide recession. Figures seen by the Guardian before a meeting of more than 80 countries next week, show that Norway, Denmark and Iceland propose to hunt 1,478 whales compared to Japan's 1,280 in 2009. This would be an increase of nearly 20 percent by Europe on last year. "Europe likes to point the finger at Japan as a rogue whaling nation but Europeans are killing whales in increasing numbers in their own waters. Europe has become whale enemy number one", said Kate O'Connell, campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). ...


Exactly what part of sentient, self-aware, intelligent mammal aren't we getting?

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Thu, Jun 18, 2009
from Environmental Health News:
Antibacterial found in dolphins
For the first time, the popular antibacterial agent triclosan is found in the blood of a marine mammal. A bacteria-killing chemical widely used in an array of consumer products has made its way down kitchen and bathroom sinks and into dolphins living in US coastal waters. Researchers report for the first time that a marine mammal -- the bottlenose dolphin -- is accumulating triclosan from water bodies where treated sewage is released. The study examined animals from rivers, an estuary, a harbor and a lagoon in South Carolina and Florida. Triclosan is a common additive in soaps, deodorants, toothpastes and other personal care products that is included to help control bacteria and their related illnesses. It is also put into consumer products like socks, cutting boards and garbage bags to curb the growth of bacteria. ...


This is flippin' me out!

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Mon, Jun 1, 2009
from InterAcademy Panel on International Issues:
Ocean acidification must be on the Copenhagen agenda, world's scientists warn
Ocean acidification, one of the world's most important climate change challenges, may be left off the agenda at the United Nations Copenhagen conference, the world's science academies warned today.... 70 national science academies signed the statement.... "The implications of ocean acidification cannot be overstated. Unless we cut our global CO2 emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 and thereafter, we could be looking at fundamental and immutable changes in the makeup of our marine biodiversity. The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging the local economies that may be least able to tolerate it." ...


Fundamental and immutable means the ocean as we know it will die. Or, perhaps most frighteningly, "no more Filet o' Fish McSandwiches."

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Sun, May 31, 2009
from Cornell University via ScienceDaily:
Blue Whale Discovered Singing In New York Coastal Waters
For the very first time in New York coastal waters, the voices of singing blue whales have been positively identified. Acoustic experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed that the voice of a singing blue whale was tracked about 70 miles off of Long Island and New York City on Jan. 10-11, 2009, as the whale swam slowly from east to west. At the same time, a second blue whale was heard singing offshore in the far distance...."It's just amazing to hear one singing out there on New York's ocean stage only tens of miles from Carnegie Hall and Broadway!" said Christopher Clark, director of Cornell's BRP. "This opens a whole new universe of opportunities for all of us to learn more about and appreciate these species and the vitality of New York's marine environment." ...


Sounds like it's auditioning to me!

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Wed, May 27, 2009
from Cape Cod Times:
Study links strandings to pollution
Cape Cod is one of the top areas in the world for marine mammal strandings. The animals are sometimes loaded with parasites or are sick. But, despite a long history of pollution in our coastal waters, the toll pollution takes on sea creatures has been harder to establish. In a study, recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution, Eric Montie, a University of South Florida scientist who did most of his research while a doctoral student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, found high levels of man-made chemicals in the brains and fluid surrounding the brains of marine mammals. Scientists have known for a while that dangerous compounds like the pesticide DDT, the insulating material PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) and the flame retardant PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) accumulate in the fatty tissue of mammals, particularly top-of-the-food-chain predators that eat chemical-laden prey....Montie tested for the presence of 170 chemicals in brain and cerebrospinal fluid he'd collected from the stranded animals. He found exceptionally high levels of both the widely used flame retardant PBDE and a form of PCB. ...


And here we thought they were just looking for hamburgers & fries!

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Mon, May 11, 2009
from BBC (UK):
Whaling peace talks 'fall short'
Moves to make a peace deal between pro and anti-whaling nations have stalled, with no chance of agreement this year. Countries have been talking for nearly a year in an attempt to hammer out an accord by this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting.... A source close to the talks blamed Japan, saying it had not offered big enough cuts in its Antarctic hunt, conducted in the name of research. Earlier meetings had raised the possibility that Japan might countenance annual reductions in its catch over the next five years, perhaps down to zero. However, the source said that at a meeting held last month in San Francisco, Japan had offered to cut the haul to 650 minke whales per year, only 29 fewer than were caught last season. ...


Killing intelligent mammals "in the name of research." Didn't Mengele do that?

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Thu, Apr 2, 2009
from Agence France-Presse:
Climate change to bring more whale beachings
Experts studying the mass beaching of whales along Australia's coast have warned that such tragedies could become more frequent as global warming brings the mammals' food stocks closer to shore. Almost 90 long-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins died after washing up last week at Hamelin Bay, on the country's west coast. It was the second mass stranding in March, and took the total number of cetaceans to beach in southern Australia in the past four months beyond 500, including a single stranding of almost 200 on King Island. Researchers tracking the beaching of whales in the region since 1920 said strandings tended to occur in 12-year cycles which coincided with cooler, nutrient-rich ocean currents moving from the south and swelling fish stocks. ...


Aren't beached whales one of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse?

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Sun, Mar 15, 2009
from Wiley - Blackwell via ScienceDaily:
Human-generated Sounds May Be Killing Fish
Anthropogenic, or human generated, sounds have the potential to significantly affect the lives of aquatic animals - from the individual animal's well-being, right through to its reproduction, migration and even survival of the species. According to a new study marine animals could suffer detrimental effects ranging from a loss of hearing to increased stressed levels as a result of environmental noise - in ways not dissimilar to humans and land animals. The study also describes some recent well-controlled experimental studies while highlighting areas for future study.... "The detection of the auditory scene plays a critical role in sound detection - along with the detection of communication signals. Anything in the environment that alters the organism's ability to detect and analyze its auditory scene has the potential to cause a detrimental impact on the life of the animal as well as the survival of the species". ...


One way or another... we're gonna wipe 'em out!

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Mon, Feb 2, 2009
from Wired News:
Melting Arctic Prompts Calls for 'National Park' on Ice
With arctic sea ice melting like ice cubes in soda, scientists want to protect a region they say will someday be the sole remaining frozen bastion of a disappearing world. Spanning the northern Canadian archipelago and western Greenland, it would be the first area formally protected in response to climate change, and a last-ditch effort to save polar bears and other animals. "All the indications are of huge change, and a huge response is needed if you want to have polar bears beyond 2050," said Peter Ewins, the World Wildlife Fund's Director of Species Conservation. National Parks have proven to be one of the most important ways to protect and preserve natural areas and wildlife. First established in the United States in 1872, national parks have since been adopted internationally. But protecting an area outside of a single country's borders could prove to be difficult. ...


So... why don't we name earth itself a national park?

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Mon, Jan 26, 2009
from Science News:
Pacific Northwest salmon poisoning killer whales
Killer whales that feast on salmon in the Pacific Northwest are getting a heaping side of contaminants with each meal. The chinook salmon are heavily dosed with chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, nearly all of which the fish acquire in their years at sea, reports a new study in the January Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.... Salmon are known to deliver pollutants, especially PCBs, to coastal, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. PCBs are a kind of endocrine disruptor, known to interfere with development, meddle with immune system function and cause a host of other problems. . The Environmental Protection Agency banned most uses of PCBs in 1979; but the chemicals had been widely used in coolants, pesticides, plastics and other products and are extremely persistent in the environment, cycling through the food web for decades. ...


If only we could train these Free Willies to spray out the toxins.

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Thu, Jan 15, 2009
from Seattle Times:
Scientists find contaminated orca food
The food supply of Puget Sound's endangered orcas is contaminated, a team of Canadian and Washington scientists has found. The scientists measured persistent organic pollution concentrations in chinook salmon in order to understand the orcas' exposure to contamination in their food supply. Orcas, or killer whales, are actually a type of dolphin, are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world, and are at risk of extinction in Puget Sound. The so-called southern resident population of orcas that frequents Puget Sound was listed as an endangered species by the federal government in November 2005. Southern resident orca whales seem to prefer chinook salmon for their diet — fish that the scientists found were contaminated with PCBs, flame retardants and other persistent chemicals that are retained in body fat. ...


A new kind of food chain: the pollution chain!

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Sun, Jan 11, 2009
from Canadian Press:
Scientists track climate change through whale teeth
WINNIPEG -- Researchers are hoping the huge tusks of the walrus and choppers of the beluga whale will help track the increasing impact of global warming on Canadian Arctic mammals and the Inuit communities that depend on the creatures for food. Scientists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Winnipeg are preparing to study the teeth of mammals killed during Inuit hunts to look for any signs that greenhouse gases are taking a toll. Although scientists have studied the teeth — which have annular rings similar to those of a tree trunk — for many years, this is the first time they are being used to unlock the impact climate change is having in the North. Experts expect to find a growing number of contaminants like mercury and PCBs in the teeth, as well as evidence of a thinning diet — all attributable to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ...


How charming that scientists are now using belugamancy -- divination via whale's teeth!

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Thu, Jan 8, 2009
from Reuters:
Global whale 'hot spot' discovered off East Timor
One of the world's highest concentrations of dolphins and whales -- many of them protected species -- has been discovered off the coast of East Timor, local and Australian researchers said on Wednesday. A "hot spot" of marine cetaceans migrating through deep channels off the Timor coast, including blue and beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon headed whales and six dolphin species was uncovered in a study for the Timor government.... In just one day, more than 1,000 individuals and possibly as many as 2,000 whales in eight separate pods -- each one containing up to 400 mammals -- were spotted over a 50-kilometre (31-mile) stretch of coast, Edyvane said. Concentrations were similar to those near Antarctica, where Japan's whaling fleet is currently carrying out its yearly five-month research hunt, chased by anti-whaling activists. ...


Will the Japanese go where the waters are warmer for their "research"?

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Tue, Jan 6, 2009
from Environmental Health News:
Mercury-laden whale meat may foster heart disease
Eating mercury contaminated seafood increases the risk of heart disease in men, reports this unique study that examined Faroese whalers. The risk of heart disease increases in men who eat mercury contaminated seafood -- in this case whale meat. The results support previous findings with other human populations that show higher exposures to methylmercury can promote heart disease. Methylmercury is an environmental pollutant found in fish and seafood. It is at particularly high levels in some top level predators that eat smaller prey, such as tuna and other large fish and marine mammals. People who eat enough mercury-laden food to increase their body levels may suffer from well known and adverse health effects, including reproductive and neurological problems and an increased risk of death from heart attacks. This unique study looked at a group of 42 Faroese whalingmen aged 30-70 years old. More than half (26 (or 63 percent of the men) ate "3 or more whale meals per month." The researchers investigated if long-term exposure to mercury by eating pilot whale meat led to adverse heart related health effects, such as heart attacks....The researchers found a clearly significant correlation of increased blood pressure and arterial thickness with higher mercury levels found in their bodies. ...


Sounds like nothing but a bunch of blubber to me!

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Sat, Jan 3, 2009
from Science Daily (US):
Hot Southern Summer Threatens Coral With Massive Bleaching Event
A widespread and severe coral bleaching episode is predicted to cause immense damage to some of the world's most important marine environments over the next few months. A report from the US Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts severe bleaching for parts of the Coral Sea, which lies adjacent to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and the Coral Triangle, a 5.4 million square kilometre expanse of ocean in the Indo-Pacific which is considered the centre of the world's marine life. "This forecast bleaching episode will be caused by increased water temperatures and is the kind of event we can expect on a regular basis if average global temperatures rise above 2 degrees," said Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader for WWF's Coral Triangle Program.... The bleaching, predicted to occur between now and February, could have a devastating impact on coral reef ecosystems, killing coral and destroying food chains. There would be severe impacts for communities in Australia and the region, who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. ...


That is one massive canary.

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Fri, Jan 2, 2009
from The Economist:
Troubled waters -- the ocean collapse
The evidence abounds. The fish that once seemed an inexhaustible source of food are now almost everywhere in decline: 90 percent of large predatory fish (the big ones such as tuna, swordfish and sharks) have gone, according to some scientists. In estuaries and coastal waters, 85 percent of the large whales have disappeared, and nearly 60 percent of the small ones. Many of the smaller fish are also in decline. Indeed, most familiar sea creatures, from albatrosses to walruses, from seals to oysters, have suffered huge losses. All this has happened fairly recently. Cod have been caught off Nova Scotia for centuries, but their systematic slaughter began only after 1852; in terms of their biomass (the aggregate mass of the species), they are now 96 percent depleted. The killing of turtles in the Caribbean (99 percent down) started in the 1700s. The hunting of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico (45-99 percent, depending on the variety) got going only in the 1950s. ...


You mean the ocean is a finite resource? Why didn't anyone tell me?

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Wed, Dec 31, 2008
from The Economist:
A sea of troubles -- an ocean wrapup
The worries begin at the surface, where an atmosphere newly laden with man-made carbon dioxide interacts with the briny. The sea has thus become more acidic, making life difficult, if not impossible, for marine organisms with calcium-carbonate shells or skeletons. These are not all as familiar as shrimps and lobsters, yet species like krill, tiny shrimp-like creatures, play a crucial part in the food chain: kill them off, and you may kill off their predators, whose predators may be the ones you enjoy served fried, grilled or with sauce tartare. Worse, you may destabilise an entire ecosystem.... And then there are the red tides of algal blooms, the plagues of jellyfish and the dead zones where only simple organisms thrive. All of these are increasing in intensity, frequency and extent. All of these, too, seem to be associated with various stresses man inflicts on marine ecosystems: overfishing, global warming, fertilisers running from land into rivers and estuaries, often the whole lot in concatenation. ...


Concatenation, concentration, feedback loops, the underwater stripmining of biomass.... Lucky we can't see it, or we'd be adding our tears to the salt in the sea!

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Thu, Dec 4, 2008
from Associated Press:
Conservation group sues to protect walrus
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A conservation group went to court Wednesday to force the federal government to consider adding Pacific walrus to the list of threatened species. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for failing to act on a petition seeking protection for walrus under the Endangered Species Act. Walrus are threatened by global warming that melts Arctic sea ice, according to the group, which was one of the parties that successfully petitioned to list polar bears as threatened. The group also has filed petitions to protect Arctic seals. ...


goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob!

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Thu, Dec 4, 2008
from Reuters:
Man-made noise in world's seas threatens wildlife
ROME (Reuters) - Man-made noise in the world's seas and oceans is becoming an increasing threat to whales, dolphins and turtles who use sound to communicate, forage for food and find mates, wildlife experts said on Wednesday. Rumbling ship engines, seismic surveys by oil and gas companies, and intrusive military sonars are triggering an "acoustic fog and cacophony of sounds" underwater, scaring marine animals and affecting their behavior. "There is now evidence linking loud underwater noises with some major strandings of marine mammals, especially deep diving beaked whales," Mark Simmonds, Science Director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, told a news conference in Rome... According to "Ocean Noise: Turn It Down," a new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the distance over which blue whales can communicate has been cut by 90 percent as a result of higher noise levels. ...


eh?

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Mon, Nov 24, 2008
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Rescued whales reunite in Bass Strait
Five pilot whales tagged with satellite tracking devices after surviving a mass stranding have successfully joined a larger pod in deeper waters off Tasmania. It's the first time whales rescued from stranding have been tagged to track their progress. Wildlife officers were celebrating on Monday after launching a huge rescue operation, which followed Saturday's mass beaching by more than 60 whales at Anthonys Beach near Stanley on Tasmania's north-west coast. Despite the efforts of 60 volunteers and 15 government wildlife officers, 53 whales died, but 11 were saved after being transported on trucks 17km along the Bass Highway and released in deep water at Godfreys Beach on Sunday. ...


Good job, Aussies. Now, will the Japanese kill them for scientific research?

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Mon, Nov 17, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Japan's whaling mother ship sets sail
A fleet of catcher ships was expected to join the Nisshin Maru as part of its foray into the waters of the Antarctic where it is this year due to hunt up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales as part of its controversial scientific research programme.... Reports of the departure of the fleet coincided with the Australian government unveiling a major scientific whaling study to prove to Japan that it was not necessary to kill whales for science. ...


Japan: what you are doing is unforgivable. Australia: good on yer!

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Wed, Oct 29, 2008
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
Killer whales disappearing off southern B.C.
There were early signs of starvation and then declining birth rates - now a growing number of adults and calves have vanished from a population of orcas found in the waters of southern British Columbia and northern Washington. Although no bodies have been found, it's thought that the whales, which rarely stray from the group, have died, perhaps tipping a key population toward extinction. And scientists say the worst is yet to come for the southern resident orcas and a second, separate population known as the northern residents, which are both heading into winter undernourished because there are so few salmon to feed on. ...


Mourn Willy.

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Sat, Oct 25, 2008
from Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Are the orcas starving?
Showing signs of starvation as salmon runs faltered up and down the West Coast, Puget Sound's orca population lost seven of its number over the past year, bringing the population to just 83, anxious scientists reported Friday. The development marks the biggest reduction in the orca population since a series of bad chinook salmon seasons in the 1990s battered the killer whales' numbers. Revealing the degree to which the orcas are interrelated to a far-flung marine ecosystem, the collapse of California's Sacramento Valley chinook run seems likely to be partly to blame for declining killer whale numbers... ...


Feed Willy

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Mon, Oct 20, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Not so common: scientists raise alarm as Britain's seals disappear
Marine biologists have warned of significant and serious changes in the seas around Britain after detecting a steep and "frightening" fall in the numbers of common seals around the coast.... "This is very abnormal. To give you an idea of the level of abnormality, the rates of decline are equivalent to these populations producing no offspring for five or six years." ...


This should seal the deal.

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Fri, Oct 17, 2008
from Associated Press:
Government declares beluga whale endangered
The federal government on Friday placed the beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, concluding that a decade-long recovery program has failed to ensure their survival... The findings by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service conflict with claims by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has questioned scientific evidence that the beluga whale population in the waters near Anchorage continues to decline. ...


It almost onomatopoetically sounds like the alarm siren for threatened species: beLUga! beLUga!

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Fri, Oct 3, 2008
from Ecology Society of America, via EurekAlert:
Decline in Alaskan sea otters affects bald eagles' diet
Sea otters are known as a keystone species, filling such an important niche in ocean communities that without them, entire ecosystems can collapse.... [S]ea otters can have even farther-reaching effects that extend to terrestrial communities and alter the behavior of another top predator: the bald eagle. In nearshore marine communities, towering kelp can reach heights of 250 feet and function much like trees in a forest, providing food, homes and protection for fish and invertebrates. The most important enemies of these giant algae are tiny sea urchins, only inches in diameter, which live on the kelp's holdfasts and eat its tissue. When urchin populations become too large, they can defoliate entire kelp forests, leaving only barren remains.... Otters can eat the spiky urchins whole, making them the major urchin predator. The otters' presence keeps urchin populations in check and maintains the balance of the ecosystem.... The results are the first to show that the presence or absence of otters influences a terrestrial animal, and that the complex food web linkages can reach as far as five different food chain levels: from sea otters to sea urchins, kelp, marine fish and finally bald eagles. ...


Our country's symbol is at risk? TO THE BARRICADES!

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Wed, Oct 1, 2008
from Science:
Acidic Oceans Getting Noisy, Too
The ocean is becoming a noisier place. As seawater turns more acidic, due to absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) building up in the atmosphere, it allows sound waves to travel farther, according to new research. That's potentially bad news for a host of marine animals, including whales and dolphins, that rely on sound for hunting and communication--and that are easily stressed by background noise from ship traffic and military sonar. ...


Thank goodness we can all rely on our iPods to drown it out.

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Sat, Sep 20, 2008
from Blue Flipper Diving:
Abu Dhabi tries to save the dumpy 'lady of the sea'
The city's expansion along the coastal belt has encroached on the dugongs' habitat, and dredging has disturbed the seagrass beds, the mammal's only source of food, explained Thabit Zahran al Abdessalaam, the director of the marine biodiversity management sector at the EAD. "Abu Dubai is attractive for dugongs as almost all the sea grass beds in the entire UAE are here," he said, adding that dugongs are protected under UAE law and anyone found to be harming them can be prosecuted. ...


If the Ay-rabs can protect the dugong, maybe we can protect our manatee.

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Tue, Sep 16, 2008
from Engineer Live:
Studies confirm challenges of man-made pollutants in the environment
New evidence that chemical contaminants are finding their way into the deep-sea food web has been found in deep-sea squids and octopods, including the strange-looking 'vampire squid'. These species are food for deep-diving toothed whales and other predators. "It was surprising to find measurable and sometimes high amounts of toxic pollutants in such a deep and remote environment," Vecchione said. Among the chemicals detected were tributyltin (TBT), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs), and dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). They are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they don't degrade and persist in the environment for a very long time. ...


That's a whale of a problem, POP.

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Sun, Sep 7, 2008
from TCPalm (Florida):
Dolphin die-off in northern Indian River Lagoon is raising red flags
"Indian River dolphins are excellent sentinels of ecosystem health and, beyond that, human health," said Dr. Gregory Bossart... "We need to address the problems they have not just for their sake but out of concern for the health of the ecosystem and even our own health."... Since May 1, 47 dolphins have died in a stretch of the Indian River Lagoon from the southern end of the Mosquito Lagoon near Titusville south to Palm Bay, ...


That's one big canary.

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Fri, Aug 22, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Whaling under fire as Norway catches only half of its quota
Norway will not catch enough whales to meet its quota this year, in what environmentalists are claiming is proof that the nation should abandon the activity completely. Since the whaling season started on April 1, fishermen have caught around half the number of animals allowed by the authorities – 533 common minke whales out of a quota of 1,052.... Norway hunts only one type of whale, the common minke whale, which is considered as "threatened with extinction" according to Cites, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which bans its international trade. ...


And here I used to think Norway was cool.

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Tue, Aug 12, 2008
from Thaindian (Thailand):
Wild elephant seals to track changes in temperature of Antarctic seas
A team of scientists has glued electronic sensors to the heads of 58 wild elephant seals to track changes in the temperature of the Antarctic seas. Mounting evidence that the Southern Ocean is warming more rapidly than expected has fuelled interest in temperature dynamics and sea-ice formation rates near the South Pole. But thick sea ice cover makes it virtually impossible to collect data by conventional methods such as buoyant floats and research ships. Now [a research team] from Paris got round the problem by gluing electronic sensors to the heads of 58 wild elephant seals. ...


"My hat? It came direct from Paris. All the chic cows are wearing them."

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Tue, Aug 12, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Humpback whales make a comeback
Humpback whales are making a comeback more than 40 years after a ban on commercial hunting was brought in to save them from extinction. Marine biologists estimate that the number of humpbacks worldwide may have grown to more than 40,000 adults and about 15,000 juveniles, following the ban that began in the 1960s. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has revised its classification of the whales as "vulnerable" to "of least concern" on its latest annual list of endangered animals. The southern right whale population has also begun to recover -- the number of these is believed to have doubled from 7,500 in 1997. Randall Reeves of the IUCN said: "This is a great conservation success and shows what needs to be done to ensure these ocean giants survive." ...


The response from the Japanese 'scientific whalers': "We reserve the right to murder several hundred Humpbacks a year, to study how they are recovering."

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Sun, Aug 3, 2008
from San Jose Mercury News (California):
Porpoise deaths raising questions
"It's the tip of the iceberg," said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. "These are open ocean animals. For every one we find dead there are probably many others that are out there."... Harbor porpoises are not commonly tracked by the state and so little is known about where they feed or mate. Over time, state records show the mammals have a tendency to die during the summertime calving season, but researchers don't know why. "It could be that the acid bio-accumulated in the fetus," Schramm said. "If it's something that the mother ingested and passed through the placental barrier, it could be something that she passed on to her fetus." ...


If only we could translate Porpoise:
"Ack-ack-Brrreee-ack-ee-ack":
"Something's wrong with us."

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Mon, Jul 7, 2008
from University of Exeter, via EurekAlert:
Study shows rise in Cornwall's dolphin, whale and porpoise deaths
The research team analysed records of cetacean strandings from 1911 to 2006 from around Cornwall's north and south coasts and the Isles of Scilly. They found a marked increase from the early 1980s, with common dolphins and harbour porpoises being the worst-affected species. In total, fewer than 50 cetacean strandings a year occurred in Cornwall in the 1980s but numbers since 2000 have ranged from 100 to 250 per annum.... The researchers analysed records of 2,257 cetaceans, 862 of which were common dolphins. They found that, since 1990, at least 61 percent of incidents in Cornwall are the result of fishing activity, with animals being caught up in nets in a phenomenon known as 'bycatch'. The seas around Cornwall are known to be a major hotspot for large scale fisheries, with many vessels coming from other EU nations. ...


I thought that was called
collateral damage.

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Sun, Jun 22, 2008
from The West Australian:
Australia to argue need for whale ban
Environment Minister Peter Garrett will lead the Australian push to continue a ban on whaling at what is expected to be a highly charged meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).... "I will be making very clear the ... strong view that the Australian government and Australians have generally about the practice of killing whales in the name of science," he said. "I will be saying clearly and strongly at this whaling commission that we think there is a much better way of approaching the question of looking after our whales, conserving whales." ...


Apocaiku:
A much better way
of looking after our whales
is not killing them.

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Sat, Jun 21, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Blue whale song is getting deeper
The haunting song of the world's biggest animal, the blue whale, is getting deeper, researchers have discovered. Underwater recordings of the giant endangered mammals have revealed that the tone of their rhythmic pulses and moans has become steadily lower as their population have slowly recovered after nearly being wiped out by whaling. Before large-scale hunting, the global blue whale population was thought to have been around 200,000 animals, but numbers fell to just a few hundred by the 1960s when a hunting ban was introduced. The population has since recovered to around 4,500 animals. ...


Apocaiku:
Perhaps the whales mourn
the hollowness of the sea:
the empty ocean.


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Thu, Jun 12, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Sharks 'functionally extinct' in Mediterranean
Researchers used fishermens' notes and archives to show that numbers had declined by as much as 99 per cent in the last two centuries.... The scientists who conducted the study said that 47 species of sharks live in the Mediterranean, but that many of them had not been seen for decades. They added that other predators, such as whales, turtles and large fish such as tuna, "had declined similarly" and that the entire ecosystem of the Mediterranean was at risk. Sharks help control the populations of various fish and keep the food chain balanced. ...


That's winning the war on terror.

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Fri, Jun 6, 2008
from NOAA Fisheries Service, via ScienceDaily:
Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean Dolphin Populations Improving
The numbers of Northeastern offshore spotted and eastern spinner dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are increasing after being severely depleted because of accidental death in the tuna purse-seine fishery between 1960 and 1990, according to biologists from NOAA's Fisheries Service. ...


This deserves a Flipper laugh:
ka-ka-KA-ka-ka!

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Fri, May 23, 2008
from NOAA, via EurekAlert:
New study finds most North Pacific humpback whale populations rebounding
The new research reveals that the overall population of humpbacks has rebounded to approximately 18,000 to 20,000 animals. The population of humpback whales in the North Pacific, at least half of whom migrate between Alaska and Hawaii, numbered less than 1,500 in 1966 when international whaling for this species was banned. In the 1970s, federal laws including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act provided additional protection. ...


Once upon a time we made some laws that protected and nurtured the world, instead of legalizing the raping and pillaging of it.

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Fri, May 2, 2008
from The London Independent:
US plan to protect right whale from shipping blocked by Cheney
"Efforts to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from being killed by ships are being blocked by Vice President Dick Cheney according to leaked documents. A behind the scenes struggle is raging between the White House and US government scientists who want to force ships to slow down near the calving grounds of the almost extinct right whale." ...


You'd think a whale associated with the right would get full support from Cheney.

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Sun, Feb 10, 2008
from Times Colonist:
Killer whales loaded with fire retardant
"They wow tourists and remind people of the mysteries and majesty of the ocean, but killer whales swimming around the waters of Vancouver Island are the most contaminated animals on Earth...Blubber studies on the two salmon-eating populations of resident killer whales -- the endangered southern residents with 88 members and the threatened northern residents with 230 members -- have found a significant buildup of toxins in their systems....A growing concern is the rapid buildup of PBDEs, the chemicals found in fire retardants..." ...


What's more "killer" than a killer whale? You guessed it: human-made chemicals!

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Tue, Feb 5, 2008
from AP (via Yahoo):
Navy must comply with no-sonar rule
"Scientists have said loud sonar can damage the brains and ears of marine mammals, and may mask the echoes from natural sonar that some whales and dolphins use to locate food. The president signed a waiver Jan. 15 exempting the Navy and its anti-submarine warfare exercises from the injunction, arguing they are vital to the nation's national security." ...


Sonar has been around since the end of WW I, awhile before we realized it was like blasting a siren into both human ear canals and expecting the victim to echolocate its lunch. Glad one judge recognizes that we share the earth, rather than own it.

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Thu, Dec 27, 2007
from Associated Press:
Loss of sea ice could harm walrus
"Federal marine mammal experts in Alaska studying the effects of global warming on walrus, polar bears and ice seals warn there are limit [sic] to the protections they can provide. They can restrict hunters, ship traffic and offshore petroleum activity, but that may not be enough if the animals' basic habitat "sea ice" disappears every summer." ...


This is bad news for walruses but we're guessing the clams aren't too happy about it either.

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