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sydneyst
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 Posted: Mon Jan 11th, 2010 07:53 am

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Puget Sound Orca Population Stable But Affected by Salmon and Toxics

 
see the following for more pictures and information about Puget Sound orcas:
   http://www.orcanetwork.org/

How are the little ones doing?

Updated January 4, 2010



Southern Resident Orca Community 1976 - 2009

A quick look at this population chart, compiled from data supplied by the Center for Whale Research, shows the precarious survival of the Southern resident orcas. Their survival rate reflects overall Chinook salmon abundance with a lag time of a year or two as births and deaths respond to conditions. Ocean conditions have generally favored salmon since 2000, and while the population may have stabilized in the past few years, seven members were lost, including two reproductive females, from the Southern Resident orca community in 2008, and four newborn offspring have been seen so far in 2009.

The Puget Sound food web remains permeated with toxics like PCBs, PBDE's PAHs, dioxins and heavy metals like mercury. Watershed, shoreline and wetland habitats are still being destroyed faster than they are being restored. Whenever ocean conditions cycle into less productive phases the resulting effects on the orcas' food supplies could be devastating.

There is no dispersal from, or immigration into, the Southern resident community, so every newborn orca is especially precious while the population regrows. Well-wishers are watching them closely in hopes they will make it through their perilous early months and years. Below are some of the young ones we are watching with hope that they may grow strong and live long.

 

Last edited on Mon Jan 11th, 2010 01:22 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Mon Jan 11th, 2010 07:23 am

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New Baby Orca for Puget Sound Pod

excerpts from Seattle Times and AP


A little over a year after researchers feared a drop in the Northwest's endangered killer whale population meant disaster, the number of orcas has bounced back with six new babies and no whales lost.  The latest baby Orca was spotted on January  3 swimming with its mother near Seattle.

A sixth infant was born Jan. 3 while its family, J Pod, was near Seattle on a winter visit, making it 88.
A little over a year after researchers feared a drop in the Northwest's endangered killer whale population meant disaster, the number of orcas has bounced back with six new babies and no whales lost. Though scientific evidence is skimpy, some whale experts say the good news might be the result of enough salmon for the majestic black-and-white mammals to eat. Others say so little is known about orcas that the baby boom could be due to any number of factors - or simply a statistical fluke.
Whatever the reason, they're overjoyed about the new arrivals.


Photo by Jeff Hogan - NOAA permit #781182400.
January 3, 2010 - J47 was first seen and photographed with J35 near Vashon Island, Puget Sound. Note the fetal folds on the calf's head.

Last edited on Mon Jan 11th, 2010 07:48 am by sydneyst

sydneyst
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 Posted: Mon Dec 28th, 2009 08:34 pm

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Pilot Whales Stranded and Die in New Zealand:

63 Saved by Dedicated Environmentalists

 
People gather in the water around a stranded pilot whale at Colville Bay, north of Coromandel, New Zealand, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald)

(AP)  Some 125 pilot whales died in New Zealand after stranding on the beach over the weekend — but vacationers and conservation workers Sunday managed to coax 43 others back out to sea.

Rescuers monitored the survivors as they swam away from Colville Beach on North Island's Coromandel peninsula, and by Monday morning they were reported well out to sea.

Department of Conservation workers and hundreds of volunteers helped re-float the 43 whales at high tide. The volunteers covered the stranded mammals in sheets and kept them wet through the day.

"Some 63 pilot whales stranded ... but it looks pretty good, we've got 43 live ones," Department of Conservation ranger Steve Bolten said as the pod swam out to sea.

Bolten said one of the whales may have been sick, or their sonar may have led them into the shallow harbor and they couldn't find their way out again.

Meanwhile on South Island, 105 long-finned pilot whales that stranded died Saturday, conservation officials said Monday. 


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/12/28/tech/main6028549.shtml


Last edited on Mon Dec 28th, 2009 08:36 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 06:56 pm

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Whalers Pressured by Bankers and Environmentalists 

December
4th 2009 

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2009/11/13/funding-cuts-may-sink-japanese-whaling-industry/

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2009/12/04/whale-wars-why-this-season-might-be-the-most-dangerous-yet/


Monday, December 7th {marked} the start of yet another season of cat and mouse games between the Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whaling fleet. For the longest time, Paul Watson and his ship, Sea Shepherd, have harassed the Japanese whaling fleet with the goal of reducing their quotas and hemorrhaging their bank accounts. {Now a more powerful threat may defeat the whalers: finances.  The Japanese whaling industry needed $1.2 million in taxpayer money to break even during the 2008-2009 season. Total whaling subsidies have amounted to $164 million since 1998. These subsidies are now in question…

Last edited on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 07:00 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat Nov 7th, 2009 10:15 am

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Breathtaking Idea in Whale Research: Scientist
Discovers Non-Invasive Way to Test Whale Hormones



excerpt from article by Deborah Smith, Science Editor
April 14, 2009: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/whale-watch/well-blow-me-a-homemade-whale-of-an-idea-
20090413-a4te.html

also: http://www.newkerala.com/nkfullnews-1-140111.html


IN A case of classic Australian ingenuity, Sydney researchers have used a knee-high stocking and a cane embroidery ring to pioneer an easy, non-lethal way to study the sex hormones of whales at sea.

The home-made device, attached to a long pole, captures the exhaled breath - or blow - of the giant mammals as they briefly surface from the deep. Previously, hormones could only be obtained from killed whales, or from faeces left by the whales as they swam along.

A University of NSW scientist, Carolyn Hogg, said that, as a result, little was known about the hormonal systems of whales, information that is vital for understanding conservation issues such as the low breeding rate of North Atlantic right whales.
Scientists could not even tell whether a whale in the wild was pregnant, for example, she said, "until you see them the next year with a calf".

Dr Hogg said the huge amount of air that baleen whales blow out when they surface contains some mucus and lung cells. With an international team, which included her university colleague, Tracey Rogers, she set out to see if the blow also contained hormones that had crossed over from the bloodstream into the lungs. They used the nylon stocking device attached to a 13-metre carbon fibre pole to sample the blow from humpback whales off Queensland and from North Atlantic right whales near Canada.

The team isolated two hormones, testosterone and progesterone, from some of the blow samples and the results are published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.  "We now have a technique to look at the internal physiology of whales using non-lethal means," said Dr Hogg.

Attached Image (viewed 915 times):

whalereserchpic1.jpg

Last edited on Sat Nov 7th, 2009 10:36 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed Sep 30th, 2009 11:05 am

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Zurich Zoologist Reports New Effects of Marine Noise on Blue Whales

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/6219970/Blue-whales-forced-to-make-more-noise-to-compete-with-ships.html

excerpts from article by Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Published: 12:01AM BST 23 Sep 2009
 



The study, published in Biology Letters, provides the first evidence that blue whales change their calling behaviour when exposed to sounds from seismic surveys.  "This study suggests careful reconsideration of the potential behavioural impacts of even low source level seismic survey sounds on large whales. This is particularly relevant when the species is at high risk of extinction as is the blue whale," added Dr Di Iorio.

source: Daily Telegraph

abstract title: Exposure to Seismic Survey Alters Blue Whale Acoustic Communication

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/09/17/rsbl.2009.0651.abstract?sid=4deb1d2d-6bcb-4634-808a-1e220d317d20

Last edited on Tue Oct 27th, 2009 09:39 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 05:32 pm

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Researchers Track Blue Whales Off Patagonia

video link: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=4464998&page=1

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 Posted: Wed Aug 12th, 2009 09:00 pm

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Tacoma Whale Struck by Ship

excerpt: JOYCE CHEN; The News Tribune
Published: 08/09/09   7:26 am


The dead whale found Friday in the Port of Tacoma was most likely struck by a ship, according to a necropsy performed Saturday.

A team of eight from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Olympia-based Cascadia Research Collective conducted the 61/2-hour necropsy on McNeil Island. The examination revealed that the animal was a 46-foot-long juvenile fin whale. 

Broken ribs, hemorrhaging, bruising and associated trauma in the whale’s chest cavity indicate that it was alive when the collision happened, said Jessie Huggins, marine mammal-stranding coordinator for Cascadia Research.

Last edited on Wed Aug 12th, 2009 09:01 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed Aug 12th, 2009 08:56 pm

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Baleen Whale Found Dead in Tacoma Harbor
 
excerpt: Tacoma News Tribune
ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune
Published: 08/08/09   8:34 am



photo PETER HALEY/THE NEWS TRIBUNE

 
Scientists will try to determine today what killed a whale found Friday at the Port of Tacoma.


Crews on tugboats bringing the cargo ship Ever Uranus into port early Friday spotted the whale lodged on the ship’s bow, said Brian Gorman, a Seattle-based spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service.

A port security guard later saw the animal’s carcass floating at the southern end of the Blair Waterway, port spokeswoman Tara Mattina said.

Initial indications are that the animal was either a fin or sei whale, probably a calf, Gorman said.

Both species are baleen-type whales that favor the open ocean. Baleen whales feed on small marine creatures by filtering them through the sieve-like structures in their mouths.

Collisions between ships and whales are not infrequent off Washington’s coast, she said. At least two such collisions were reported in 2006.

The last dead whale pushed into the Port of Tacoma by a ship was a blue whale in June 1989, according to an article published last year in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. That time, a fin whale was found on the bow of a ship at the port, the article states.

Late last month, a cruise ship entered the Port of Vancouver, B.C., with a dead whale lodged on its bow, according to news reports.

blogs.thenewstribune.com/crime

Last edited on Wed Aug 12th, 2009 09:04 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed Jun 17th, 2009 07:40 pm

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Right Whales Found Near Greenland: Detected by Listening Devices


At least three endangered North Atlantic right whales have been identified by acoustical listening devices at Cape Farewell Ground off the southern coast of Greenland.  This is an area where the species was thought to be extinct.  Findings were presented on May 20, 2009 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Portland, Ore. 

The discovery is particularly important, researchers say, because this is in an area that may be more heavily trafficked by commercial vessels if sea ice continues to melt in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

At present dozens of vessels per month navigate Cape Farewell Ground using AWT routing services or software.  David Mellinger, Assistant Professor of Bioacoustics at Oregon State, led the research team on board an Icelandic Coast Guard vessel.  His group recorded over 2000 whale vocalizations over a 17-day period in 2007.  According to Mellinger, three is the minimum number of verified right whales.  The number could be as high as 17.


Mellinger added, ”The technology has enabled us to identify an important unstudied habitat for endangered right whales and raises the possibility that — contrary to general belief — a remnant of a central or eastern Atlantic stock of right whales still exists and might be viable."  Only two right whales have been sighted in the last 50 years at Cape Farewell Ground, where they were hunted to near-extinction prior to the adoption of protective measures.

Right whales produce a variety of sounds, Mellinger said, and through careful analysis these sounds can be distinguished from other whales. The scientists at Cape Farewell Ground used recordings of North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales to identify the species’ distinct sounds.

The pattern of recorded calls suggests that the whales moved from the southwest portion of the region in a northeasterly direction in late July 2007, and then returned in September 2007 — putting them “directly where proposed future shipping lanes would be likely.”

According to Phillip Clapham, a whale researcher with NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory and participant in the study, “Newly available shipping lanes through the Northwest Passage would greatly shorten the trip between Europe and East Asia, but would likely cross the migratory route of any right whales that occupy the region.   It's vital that we know about right whales in this area in order to effectively avoid ship strikes on what could be a quite fragile population."

Strikes by ships are considered a main recent cause of right-whale mortality, accounting for about 40 percent of current deaths of the species. Entanglement in fishing nets is also a major cause.  Whaling previously devastated the world-wide population, but in 1937 a ban was set in place that restricted commercial harvest of all whales.

Right whales are particularly vulnerable to ship strikes because they typically respond to perceived threats by rising to the surface.  According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) only 300-350 North Atlantic right whales remain, a level at which species survival is precarious.  

The main known concentration of the species is on the Eastern Seaboard, which has now been designated a right-whale protection zone, subject to US regulations, enforced by the Coast Guard.  It is unknown whether the right whales at Cape Farewell Ground represent a distinct population of their own or are linked to that on the East Coast.

The East Coast conservation zone was established by the US in 1999, with concurrent recognition from the IMO and the International Whaling Commission.  Larger vessels entering the zone are subject to NOAA guidance and reporting requirements.   Vessel separation and speed control are required to reduce the chance of whale strikes.

Any future controls to protect whales off Cape Farewell would involve consideration by Denmark and potentially the International Whaling Commission and the IMO.  The acoustical data record right whales within the Danish “exclusive economic zone” for Greenland that extends 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Last edited on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 07:43 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed Jun 17th, 2009 07:33 pm

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Blue Whale Sightings off Pacific Coast


see Environmental News Service for full article
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/may2009/2009-05-11-02.asp

excerpts

OLYMPIA, Washington, May 11, 2009 (ENS) - The first known migration of giant blue whales from the coast of California to areas off British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska since commercial whaling ended in 1965 has been documented by marine mammal scientists. In the scientific journal "Marine Mammal Science," researchers from Cascadia Research Collective in Washington state, NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in California, and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans identified 15 separate cases where blue whales were seen off British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska.

Four of the whales were identified as animals previously observed off the coast of California, suggesting a re-establishment of their historical migration pattern.
Researchers made this identification by comparing photographs of blue whales taken in the North Pacific Ocean since 1997 with a library of nearly 2,000 photographs of blue whales off the West Coast.



 Researchers identified individual blue whales by the shapes of their small dorsal fins.
(Photo by John Calambokidis courtesy Cascadia Research Collective)

A positive match was determined based on pigmentation patterns in skin color and shape of the dorsal fin. Reaching lengths of nearly 100 feet, the blue whale is the largest animal on Earth today and the largest known to have ever existed.
They were nearly hunted to extinction throughout the world and are currently listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Canadian Species at Risk Act, and on the authoritative IUCN Red List.


Last edited on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 07:36 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 12:20 pm

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NOAA and Coast Guard Changes Vessel Lanes and Rules in Coastal Waters to Protect Right Whales


May 26, 2009

excerpts from NOAA report:



One of the biggest threats to right whales is ship strikes.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Years of study and effort by NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard will pay off this summer when two changes to shipping lanes into Boston are implemented. Both changes significantly reduce the risk of collisions between large ships and whales.

Beginning on June 1, ships 300 gross tons and above will be asked to avoid an area in the Great South Channel from April through July, when right whales face the highest chance of being struck by ships. The channel is a feeding area for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

Also, ships transiting primarily from the south and entering Boston Harbor in shipping lanes will travel a slightly different path. The north-south traffic lanes have been modified to reduce the threat of ship collisions with endangered right whales and other whale species.

The width of the north-south portion of the lanes will narrow from a total of four miles to three miles. The width of the east-west portion of the lanes was narrowed and modified in 2007.

Implementing the “Area To Be Avoided” and narrowing the “Traffic Separation Scheme” by one nautical mile will reduce the relative risk of right whale ship strikes by an estimated 74 percent during April-July (63 percent from the area to be avoided and 11 percent from the narrowing of the Traffic Separation Scheme).



Right whale and calf.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Slow moving North Atlantic right whales — among the most endangered whales in the world — are highly vulnerable to ship collisions, since their primary feeding and migration areas overlap with major East Coast shipping lanes. Along with existing measures to prevent entanglement of right whales in fishing gear and regulations to reduce ship strikes by slowing ships, these changes in vessel operations are a part of the comprehensive approach that NOAA has taken in its effort to help right whales recover.

 “Through years of study we have determined that these changes will likely provide a safer environment for whales and mariners, and at the same time, provide the least amount of disruption and impact to the economy,” said Jim Balsiger, NOAA’s acting assistant administrator for
NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “NOAA and our partners are working extremely hard to do all we can to help save this critically endangered species, while helping mariners stay safe and productive.”

Approximately 3,500 ships move through the entire Boston shipping lanes area every year, and more than half of the world’s North Atlantic right whales are known to be in this area during the spring. NOAA researchers used more than 20 years of sighting data to determine the risk of whales being struck by ships in and around the Boston shipping lanes to help develop these changes. Working with the Coast Guard, which assessed safety and navigational effects of ship lane modification to the shipping industry, NOAA proposed the changes to the International Maritime Organization in March 2008.

The International Maritime Organization adopted both of these changes, so they will be reflected on all charts globally and used by the international shipping industry. NOAA’s Fisheries Service is working with
NOAA’s Ocean Service and the U.S. Coast Guard to have these changes added to nautical charts and to the U.S. Coast Pilot as well.

“NOAA's scientific expertise and their investment in research into the seasonal distribution of right whales provided the Coast Guard with valuable data and information and helped identify shipping lanes that reduce the likelihood of vessel interactions with this protected species. Fewer collisions involving commercial shipping vessels and right whales will be a great outcome for the agencies, for mariners and coastal commerce and for the public," said Steven Tucker, deputy chief for marine protected species, U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Office.

Existing protective actions also include seasonal and dynamic vessel speed restrictions in selected areas, mandatory lanes into certain ports, surveying whale migration routes by aircraft and mandatory ship reporting systems that provide advisories and information on right whale locations to mariners.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Last edited on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 07:49 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 12:11 pm

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Where is Cape Farewell?

from Wikipedia: Cape Farewell (Kalaallisut: Uummannarsuaq, Danish: Kap Farvel) is a headland on the southern shore of Egger Island, Greenland. Located at 59°46′23″N 43°55′21″W / 59.77306°N 43.9225°W / 59.77306; -43.9225 it is the southernmost extent of Greenland, projecting out into the North Atlantic Ocean and the Labrador Sea on the same latitude as Stockholm and the Scottish Orkney Islands. Egger and the associated minor islands are known as the Farewell Archipelago. The area is part of the Kujalleq municipality.



Last edited on Sat May 30th, 2009 12:12 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Fri May 29th, 2009 07:40 pm

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Right Whales Found Near Greenland: Dectected by Listening Devices


information from Livescience.com



Three endangered North Atlantic right whales have been identified by acoustical listening devices near Greenland at Cape Farewell Ground.  This is an area where the species was thought to be extinct.  Findings were presented this week at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Portland, Ore.  The discovery is particularly important, researchers say, because it is in an area that may be opened to shipping if the climate change continues to melt sea ice in the North Atlantic.

Right whales were hunted for their blubber and baleen until a world-wide ban on right whale fishing was put into place in 1937. Scientists estimate there are fewer than 350 of these whales left in the oceans, according to the New England Aquarium.

Stikes by ships are responsible for about 40 percent of all known North Atlantic right whale deaths. The main known concentration is off the Eastern Seaboard which has now been designated a whale protection zone.



"The technology has enabled us to identify an important unstudied habitat for endangered right whales and raises the possibility that — contrary to general belief — a remnant of a central or eastern Atlantic stock of right whales still exists and might be viable," said OSU's David Mellinger, chief scientist of the project. Only two right whales have been sighted in the last 50 years at Cape Farewell Ground, where they had been hunted to near extinction prior to the adoption of protective measures.

Right whales produce a variety of sounds, Mellinger said, and through careful analysis these sounds can be distinguished from other whales
. The scientists used recordings of North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales to identify the species' distinct sounds.

The pattern of recorded calls suggests that the whales moved from the southwest portion of the region in a northeasterly direction in late July 2007, and then returned in September 2007 — putting them directly where proposed future shipping lanes would be likely.

"Newly available shipping lanes through the Northwest Passage would greatly shorten the trip between Europe and East Asia, but would likely cross the migratory route of any right whales that occupy the region," said Phillip Clapham, a participant in the study and a right whale expert with NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory.  "It's vital that we know about right whales in this area in order to effectively avoid ship strikes on what could be a quite fragile population."


Last edited on Fri May 29th, 2009 07:48 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed May 27th, 2009 07:09 am

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What Are the Threats to Whales?

According to the Australian Whale Conservation Society, these are the main threats:


Whaling


The most widely publicised threat to whales is the whaling industry, still thriving despite a ban on commercial whaling having been introduced in 1986. Three whaling nations have refused to honour the spirit of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) decision and have found ways to continue killing whales for commercial markets.]


Today Norway continues commercial whaling by way of a formal Objection to the moratorium; Japan issues scientific permits to its whaling fleets in the North Pacific and the Southern Oceans; and Iceland exploits both loopholes. 


Entanglement


Every year fishing operations, predominantly various forms of netting, kill hundreds of thousands of cetaceans including many whales. A tragic side-effect of the industry is the insidious "ghost net". These are sections of fishing net that are lost or discarded as a result of bad weather or accidents. Remaining afloat or suspended, and taking years to decay, they sweep through the ocean entangling untold numbers of whales and other marine creatures.


Noise pollution


Cetaceans have acute hearing, and odontocetes (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) possess highly developed sonar abilities. Increased shipping and boating activities are making the rivers and oceans incredibly noisy. Excess noise can disturb cetaceans, displace them from critical feeding and breeding areas, interfere with social activity, and make them more vulnerable to predators.
Intentionally generated underwater noise, such as that created by seismic exploration activity, is another cause for concern.

There is also mounting evidence that mid- and low-frequency sonar devices operated by the military are potentially fatal to cetaceans.
This is not basic navigation sonar, but more powerful, sophisticated systems used to detect submarines and other objects over great distances.



At best, exposure to such devices can distress and displace some cetaceans. At worst they might cause severe injury or death. There have been a significant number of strandings whose timings and locations have coincided with navy sonar activity of this type, and even the IWC Scientific Committee has expressed concern about the potential for harm to whales. 


Marine debris


Vast quantities of our rubbish enter the ocean every year. Much of it is discarded directly into rivers and the sea. A significant amount also finds its way from the land via drainage systems.


Some can be easily mistaken by cetaceans for food, and even large whales have been found to have died as a result of swallowing indigestible plastic bags. Cetaceans can also choke on, or become entangled, in a variety of waste material.  


Climate Change


Climate change and global warming modelling predicts profound physical, chemical and biological impacts in the ocean including increasing water temperature, changes in ocean circulation and nutrient upwelling, elevated seawater acidity, decreasing polar ice coverage and consequential impacts on the food chain.


There are concerns for marine life on a global scale. These include migratory whales returning to the polar waters and needing to find abundant food resources quickly. Current models suggest that Antarctic foraging areas are likely to become far less productive and more widely separated. 


Not Fully Covered: Over-Fishing and Marine Pollution of Toxics that bioaccumulate in whales.  Both problems are especially important impacts on orcas.

Last edited on Wed May 27th, 2009 07:29 am by sydneyst


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