Dozens of volunteers on South Padre Island are coming together to rescue cold-stunned turtles amid Texas’s deadly winter storm.
The power is out, and the water has stopped running for most of the typically warm beach town, but many residents braved the freezing temperatures to rescue the endangered sea turtles. The people ventured on foot and by boat, working tirelessly to gather as many turtles as possible.
Volunteers working with Sea Turtle, Inc. had transported over 3,500 comatose turtles by late Tuesday. The reptiles were brought to the town’s rescue center to be rehabilitated. Conservationists hope to gradually increase the turtles’ body heat as they lay them on tarps and kiddie pools indoors.
But Wendy Knight, the local rescue group’s executive director, fears that hundreds of the recovered turtles may have already succumbed to the cold.
“It’s unprecedented. A cold stun like this could have the potential to wipe out decades of hard work, and we’re going through it with no power and a unique, more catastrophic challenge to our efforts,” she told The Washington Post.
Below zero temperatures and prolonged power outages have left more than a dozen people dead around the U.S. as of early Wednesday. And it’s not just the turtles; other animals have also felt the brunt of the Arctic Chill that has ravaged Texas and other areas in the southern part of the country.
According to conservationists, it often takes days for them to know how many turtles were able to survive as the animals slowly regain warmth.
These turtles play a significant role in keeping the ecosystem balanced. Dubbed as the “lawnmowers of the ocean,” they consume the area’s thick, underwater vegetation.
However, when temperatures drop below 50 Fahrenheit—which rarely happens in South Padre Island—the low temperatures can cause them to become cold-stunned.
When this happens, a turtle’s heart rate lowers and its flippers become paralyzed. Its body will then float comatose above the water and will sometimes be washed ashore. This phenomenon can put them at risk of predators, boats, and even drowning.
In a typical year, Sea Turtle, Inc. volunteers expect to rescue anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred cold-stunned turtles, warming them inside the group’s facility. But this time, they were already filling up the rescue center to the brim before the weekend was up.
They put out a call for help, and the community didn’t disappoint. Soon, much of the island transported the turtles to an overflow facility at the South Padre Island Convention Center. The generators and good insulation in the place could help keep the animals warm.
On Monday and Tuesday, boats went out to scoop up cold-stunned turtles from the freezing water. Other volunteers on foot scanned the beach for any reptiles and loaded them into their trunks and truck beds to bring them to the rescue center.
Gina McLellan, a 71-year-old retired professor and longtime volunteer, said this is “a huge, huge community effort.”
“We very often don’t even think about the [cold’s] impact on animals, because we’re so worried about our own electricity and water. With this kind of event, it’s a classic display of humanity toward animals,” she said.
PETITION TARGET: Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar
India’s Ganges River turned red with blood as a group of attackers beat a critically endangered and protected Gangetic dolphin to death with wooden rods and an axe.
Disturbing video footage captured by a witness shows one of the men yelling, “Hit it now, hit it now” and the attackers then holding the dolphin’s head underwater until he drowned. A local official later found the dolphin floating dead, with multiple lacerations and other wounds to its body, The Guardian reported.
The highly threatened Gangetic dolphin population is now an estimated 1,800 or less, and they are moving alarmingly closer to extinction.
Police in Uttar Pradesh arrested three suspects in connection with this horrifying act of cruelty. Several others who may have been involved in the senseless killing are reportedly still free.
Anyone who assisted in bludgeoning and suffocating this defenseless dolphin must answer for their actions.
Sign this petition urging Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to push authorities to thoroughly investigate this appalling crime, use all available resources to find and charge any yet-unidentified suspects, and prosecute all perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.
The Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), literally “little cow” in Spanish, is a species of porpoise endemic to the northern end of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez, Vermilion Sea). Averaging 150 cm (for females) or 140 cm (for males) in length, it is the smallest of all living cetaceans.
Today, the species is on the brink of extinction. Recent research estimates the population at fewer than 10 individuals. The steep decline in abundance is primarily due to bycatch in gillnets from the illegal totoaba fishery. [source]
The vaquita is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Today, this is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. VaquitaCPR are trying to save the species but the outlook is bleak. You can learn more about their conservation efforts here.
A research team led by Florida State University found that sea turtles in the U.S. will have less suitable nesting habitat in the future because of climate change and coastal development.
Researchers found areas that will remain or become suitable for sea turtle nesting in the future because of climatic changes and sea-level rise will be exposed to increased coastal development, hindering the ability of turtles to adapt to these disturbances. Their work was published in the journal Regional Environmental Change.
“A reduction in available nesting habitat coupled with the pressures associated with coastal development could likely have detrimental impacts on the reproductive output of sea turtle nesting areas in the U.S. and population…
It probably comes as no surprise to you that plastics have been found nearly everywhere in our ocean—from the deepest reaches of the Mariana Trench to the most remote Arctic ice. Marine debris and plastic pollution pose a serious threat to our ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.
Congress has taken on the issue of marine debris through the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously, and now it is up to the House to pass the bill so that it can be signed into law!
Will you take action and tell your Representative to support this legislation?
Your Representatives need to hear from their constituents that the issue of marine debris and plastic pollution is a problem that you want them to tackle. The bill:
Proposes a variety of new measures to bolster international engagement and cooperation to research and address the marine debris crisis;
Commits resources to scientific research to better understand solutions to plastic pollution, both here in the U.S. and around the world; and
Proposes a host of new efforts here at home to improve our waste management systems, particularly recycling infrastructure. For example, the bill creates a loan program for states to support trash wheel and litter trap technologies.
The Senate has already taken decisive action in the fight against marine debris by passing this important legislation. It is now up to the House of Representatives to vote on this bill so that it can be passed into law.
Nevertheless, a pair of belugas, named Little Grey and Little White, are enjoying their first taste of the sea since 2011, thanks to a leviathan relocation project that has been years in the making.
After being captured at a very young age off the coast of Russiaand spending years in a Chinese aquarium, the whales are about to get used to the freedom of an 8-acre sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in Iceland.
“It’s been quite the journey for these two,” Audrey Padgett, the Beluga Whale Sanctuary’s general manager, told CNN on a video call in front of the belugas. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been a labor of love.”
Back in 2011, Little Grey and Little White were moved from a Russian research facility to the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. The following year, the aquarium was bought by Merlin Entertainments, a company opposed to keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. And so the idea of taking the whales back to the sea was born.
The belugas’ new home, run by the Sea Life Trust charity, is a much “larger, natural environment” with lots of potential benefits, Padgett said.
More than 300 belugas are in captivity around the world, she told CNN.
“Some belugas are in cramped and unsuitable conditions,” she added. “And if what we can learn here from Little White and Little Grey can help improve welfare for other animals … that’s really the point.”
Although Padgett wasn’t involved in the logistics of transporting the whales from China, she stressed that moving two belugas was no easy task.
They each weigh a little more than a ton and consume around 110 pounds of fish per day between them.
The operation involved specially designed equipment, veterinarians and a whole lot of water and ice to keep them hosed down, Padgett said.
The belugas had bespoke “stretchers” or slings to move them overland, and the team did “practice runs” to get them used to being moved via trucks, tugboats and cranes, according to Padgett.
“If you’re trying to take your cat or your dog somewhere, you want them to have a positive association with travel … We had to make the belugas a comfortable as possible,” Padgett continued.
After their arrival in Iceland, the whales were kept in a care facility with a quarantine pool for several months,to allow them to adjust to the colder Icelandic environment.
And though the final leg of the journeyfrom the care facility to the sanctuary was a shorter one, the Covid-19 pandemic complicated it significantly.
“We’re already in a pretty remote location here in Iceland. It affected our ability to get experts here to help us with the move. It affected our ability to get supplies and just the length of time it took to do things,” Padgett told CNN.
“We also needed to protect our staff and put them into quarantine, because we need our people to take care of our animals.”
Little Grey and Little White’s odyssey isn’t quite over. They are currently in an “acclimatization space” within the sanctuarythat will allow them to adjust safely to their new home.
Padgett says, however, that they will have free rein of the sanctuary any day now.
Little Grey and Little White will be assessed around the clockas they get used to being back in the ocean environment.
And while the whales benefit from more space to explore and new kinds of seaweed, kelp and fish to enjoy, the whole operation also helps humans understand belugas better, Padgett explains.
“It’s kind of the finish line for these two,” she said, “but it’s a new chapter for belugas around the world.”
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By Lynda V. Mapes Seattle Times environment reporter
July 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Updated July 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm
Tahlequah is pregnant again.
The mother orca raised worldwide concern when she carried her dead calf 17 days and more than 1,000 miles, almost exactly two years ago. Now, she has another chance at motherhood, scientists have learned.
The pregnancies are not unusual, so the scientists don’t usually announce them. But Tahlequah’s pregnancy carries a special meaning for a region that grieved the loss of the calf.
The southern residents are struggling to survive, and most pregnancies for these embattled whales are not successful. Tahlequah’s baby was the first for the whales in three years. The southern residents have since had two more calves, in J pod and L pod. Both are still alive.
Tahlequah’s baby is still a long way away, and like all the orca moms-to-be, Tahlequah, or J-35, will need every chance to bring her baby into the world — and keep it alive. The gestation period for orcas is typically 18 months, and families stick together for life.
Everyone on the water all over the region can help, Fearnbach and Durban said. All boaters of every type should be careful to respect the whales’ space and give them the peace and quiet they need, they said.
Whales use sound to hunt, and boat disturbance and underwater vessel noise is one of the three main threats to their survival, in addition to lack of adequate, available salmon and pollution.
Just as important as the number of salmon in the sea — especially chinook, the southern resident orcas’ preferred food — is the salmon that southern residents can readily access in their traditional fishing areas.
“Just like human fisherman that don’t just go drop a hook in the ocean,” Durban said. “They have their favorite places.
“They are amazing societies that pass culture down from generation to generation. They are creatures of habit.”
However, right where orcas hunt — the west side of San Juan Island, Swiftsure Bank, and other salmon hot spots in the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca — right now are busy with boaters, commercial ships and fishermen.
Down to a population of just 72 whales, every baby counts for southern resident orcas. And their chances for successful pregnancies are not good. About two-thirds of all southern resident pregnancies are typically lost, researcher Sam Wasser of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington has found. Stress from hunger due to lack of salmon is linked to the whales’ poor reproductive success, according to his research.
Several of the juveniles in the pods also are looking thin, Fearnbach said, including J-35’s living offspring, J-47.
“There are stressed whales out there, critically stressed,” she emphasized.
While doing their field work this year, both scientists said they have seen a lot of boat traffic on the water, too much of it moving too fast. The faster the boat, typically the louder it is.
It’s likely that Tahlequah will once again lose her calf, given the history. She lost another calf before the baby she gave birth to two years ago, which survived only one half-hour. She carried the more than 300-pound, 6-foot-long calf day after day, refusing to let it go.
Will her next calf live?
“We are concerned if she has a calf, will she be able to look after herself and the calf and J47, too?” Durban said. “There has been a lot of talk I am not sure a lot has changed for the whales.”
In their observation of the orcas this summer, the families are quite spread out as they travel in small groups, over miles of distance, Fearnbach said.
That is a sign of working hard to find enough to eat, with less resting and socializing.
The scientists will take another set of photos of the whales this fall and hope to see Tahlequah even rounder.
“People need to appreciate these are special whales in a special place at a vulnerable time,” Durban said. “These whales deserve a chance.”
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @LyndaVMapes. Lynda specializes in coverage of the environment, natural history, and Native American tribes.
Cook Inlet belugas are on the brink of extinction – but we can help them right now by keeping toxic waste out of their home.
These belugas are declining, and as a small population, every loss severely impacts the group’s chance of survival. Experts believe that pollution could be one of the barriers standing between these whales and recovery.
But the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency responsible for issuing Clean Water Act permits, hasn’t stood in the way of toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet. One corporation, Hilcorp, has been allowed to dump waste in Cook Inlet for years – the only place in U.S. waters where this kind of dumping is allowed.
With the survival of endangered belugas on the line, we can’t wait to act.
Send a message to the ADEC: Stop permitting toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet that threatens marine wildlife!
Earth’s oceans, covering two-thirds of the planet, are so vast and so deep that it’s easy to take their importance for granted.
They provide us with oxygen and regulate our climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — important functions for both humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, the world’s oceans — home to whales, sea otters, seals and sea lions, dolphins, manatees, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, fish, corals, and countless other species of marine life — are in a sea of trouble. The oceans are overworked; they cannot remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere quickly enough to keep up with how much we create, leading to ever-increasing ocean acidification.
The Arctic Sea is now warming at twice the rate than in past years, reducing sea ice — a growing threat to threatened marine mammals such as polar bears and ice seals. Over a third of the Great Barrier Reef is dead, harming commercial and recreational fish stocks and impoverishing Australia’s iconic biodiversity. We are killing off marine mammals, sharks and rays, and fish stocks faster than they can replenish themselves. The health of the Earth’s oceans are indicators of our planet’s overall health; when they’re in trouble, so are we. It’s important to keep our oceans healthy not just for marine life, but also for the future health of the entire planet.
Myriad threats face our oceans and marine wildlife. Climate change causes ocean acidification, warming temperatures, changing ocean currents, sea level rise, and stronger storms. A warming planet makes it more likely for temperature-dependent species like sea turtles and manatees to face cold stress or venture past their usual habitats. Increased shipping traffic and offshore seismic blasting and drilling also increase noise pollution, threatening marine mammals and species at every level of the food chain. Shark finning, bycatch, overfishing and fisheries entanglements endanger sharks and rays, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and many other species. Contamination from pollution and plastics and the toxic effects of red tide and other harmful algal blooms caused by fertilizer runoff sicken and kill vulnerable marine species. To top it off, habitat loss and the loss of protected areas reduce the spaces already-vulnerable marine species need to forage and reproduce.
Defenders is fighting for ocean habitats and ocean protection off all our national shores and around the globe. We defend marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries from administrative attacks. We are opposing seismic blasting and offshore drilling in the courts and in Congress.
We are working to develop best management practices for responsible wildlife-friendly offshore wind siting, construction and development. We defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act from legislative and regulatory rollbacks and work to protect individual marine species through the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act. We worked to gain international protections for sharks and rays and have worked to translate those protections into protections at the domestic level through the ESA.
In Washington State, we are actively engaged in the governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, working to protect the dwindling southern resident orca population and restore the Salish Sea.
In 2017, Defenders joined forces with the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies, local and national organizations and hundreds of local residents to redirect community science efforts into a new program called ‘Belugas Count!’ to help monitor Cook Inlet beluga whales in Alaska.
We advocate for North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales as a conservation member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, a stakeholder group under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that advises NMFS on how to implement fishery management measures to minimize or avoid the risk of deadly entanglements.
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Image Image Credit David Bocanegra/USFWS
Image Image Credit Lia McLaughlin/USFWS
Image Image Credit Greg Thompson/USFWS Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
Image Image Credit FWS
Image Image Credit Steve Brooks
Image Image Credit Michele Hoffman
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Image Image Credit Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
Image Image Credit NPS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Senior Conservation Policy Analyst Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
Previously, researchers believed that marine mammals could be so large because the buoyancy of water frees them from the constraints of gravity. Although this freedom may still be a factor, Gearty says that his results show that marine mammals need their heft to keep themselves warm in the often chilly oceans.
“These animals are big for very specific reasons. It’s not that they could be big, it’s that they must be big,” he says.
Bigger is Better?
When Gearty and colleagues created a series of computer models analyzing factors that influence size, they found two that converged to determine body size in aquatic mammals.
But larger animals need more food to support their bulk, which created the second factor in Gearty’s model. Big mammals may trap heat better, but if they can’t get enough food to fuel their metabolism, then it doesn’t matter. (See National Geographic’s amazing whale pictures.)
Body size is one of the most important traits to study in animals, according to Chris Venditti, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading in England who wasn’t involved in the new study.
“If you’re going to measure one thing in an animal, it should be body size because that one thing is related to so many others,” Venditti says. “If you know how big an animal is, you probably know something about how it moves and its metabolic rate.”
In the last five years, scientists have uncovered evidence showing that, over time, families of mammals have tended to evolve larger body sizes. Bulkier animals can better fight off rivals for mating, food, and other resources, as well as access a wider variety of foods.
Land mammals, however, are hemmed in by gravity: They need massive bones and blood vessels to support their bulk while maintaining mobility—no easy feat when you tip the scales at several tons, like an elephant. (Read how blue whales are mostly “left-handed.”)
Initially, when Gearty started studying the factors that affected body size in marine mammals, he thought that he would simply see the elimination of gravity as a constraint.
Instead, his data told him that the minimum size of aquatic mammals was a thousand times larger than the smallest terrestrial mammals. The maximum size, however, was only 25 times larger, which meant that something must be forcing marine mammals to get large.
Scientists still haven’t entirely cracked the mystery of what determines body size in animals, Venditti says, but that hasn’t stopped life from evolving an array of shapes and sizes to fill every niche.
Just about 400 of the whales survive in the wild, and they continue to die at an alarming rate
A North Atlantic right whale off the coast of Cape Cod in 2015 (Photo by David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
By Nora McGreevy July 16, 2020
North Atlantic right whales are facing a crisis. Just 409 survive in the world, according to data from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, and the whales continue to die at an alarming rate.
Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) moved the species from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” on their “red list” of threatened and endangered species, Jamey Keaten and James Brooks report for the Associated Press.
Most right whale deaths in the last three years have been linked to interactions with vessels and fishing operations along the coast of the United States and Canada, per the IUCN. Right whales swim with their mouths open to catch copepods, tiny zooplanktons, and other small sea creatures that make up the majority of their diet.
As they swim with mouths agape, they can easily become entangled in the fishing lines that connect lobster and crab traps to the ocean’s surface, as Tom Cheney reported for Smithsonian magazine in 2018. Ships can also strike and kill the whales, who often feed close to the surface. Entanglement and deadly collisions can cause massive, devastating injuries to the animals.
Many scientists believe that climate change is partly to blame for the uptick in right whale deaths. The whales typically migrate in the summer from their calving grounds in Georgia and Florida to the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy. As the ocean warms, however, copepod populations have shifted north, causing the whales to follow their food source further north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reports Lisa Friedman for the New York Times.
Estimates in 2018 showed that without a substantial turn for the better, the whales could be “functionally extinct” in 20 years, reported Cheney at the time.
“It’s devastating,” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, the executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America, told the Atlantic’s Ed Yong in June 2019. “There’s now more people working on right whales than there are right whales left.”
Scientists suspect that an average of 17 calves per year need to be born for the population to grow, as Brigit Katz reported for Smithsonian magazine last year. However, studies show that birth rates for female right whales have declined dramatically over the last few years. Fewer than 250 sexually mature right whales were estimated to exist in the wild in 2018, according to the IUCN.
In 2017, the NOAA Fisheries declared an “Unusual Mortality Event” as right whale deaths ticked up to even higher numbers. In the last three years, 31 right whales off the coast of the U.S. and Canada have died and 10 have been seriously injured, nearly all the result of crashing into vessels or entanglement in fishing gear.
On June 25 this year, the carcass of a six-month-old calf—the first observed earlier this breeding season—was discovered floating off the coast of Elberon, New Jersey. He had likely been hit by two separate vessels, NOAA Fisheries said in a statement.
Recently, President Donald Trump vowed to defend the U.S. lobster industry, which means the administration will likely not advocate for measures to protect the whales at the expense of fisheries in the area, reports Friedman.
Right whales were severely threatened by hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries—at one point, their numbers dropped to an estimated 60 mature individuals, reports Cheney. The whales even got their names from hunters: slow and easy to kill, they were known as the “right” marks because they would float to the surface after dying. At the turn of the 21st century, right whale numbers were estimated at about 500, due in part to serious protection measures against hunting. Now, the population is once again on the decline.
“For nearly a century, North Atlantic right whales have been protected from the commercial whaling that pushed them to the brink of extinction, but they continue to be killed by human activities,” says Jane Davenport, the senior attorney for conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. “…This status change is a call to arms: unless we act decisively to turn the tide, the next time the right whale’s Red List status changes it will be to ‘extinct.’”
The Olive Ridley turtles floated to shore at Cox’s Bazar with a huge mass of plastic bottles, fishing nets, buoys and other debris
About 160 sea turtles, many of them injured after getting entangled in plastic waste, have been rescued after washing up on one of the world’s longest beaches in Bangladesh, an official and conservationists said Wednesday.
The Olive Ridley turtles began floating to shore at Cox’s Bazar with a huge mass of plastic bottles, fishing nets, buoys and other debris at the weekend.
Survivors were released back into the Bay of Bengal, but some were returning to the beach that stretches 120 kilometres (75 miles).
About 30 had died and were buried in the sand.
“This is the first time we have seen such a large-scale death and washing up of injured turtles on the beach. It is unprecedented,” said Nazmul Huda, deputy director of the local environment department.
“Around 160 turtles have been rescued alive… but after their release in the sea, some of these turtles have come back to the beach. I think they are too weak to stay in the sea.”
Many of the turtles sustained injuries from being caught in the estimated 50 tonnes of waste floating in a 10-kilometre stretch along the coast.
“Some of the turtles did not have legs or heads,” said Asaduzzaman Sayem from local conservation group Darianagar Green Boys.
“We rescued a 40-kilogramme (88-pound) turtle alive. It was entangled in plastic nets and it did not have legs.” Many of the turtles washed up on the beach in Bangladesh sustained injuries from being caught in the estimated 50 tonnes of waste floating off the coast.
Leading Bangladesh turtle and tortoise expert Shahriar Caesar Rahman of the NGO Creative Conservation Alliance said the creatures were “heavily stressed” and may not survive even after being freed from the waste.
“Local volunteers are trying their best to release them in the sea. But considering the injuries of these turtles it is unlikely they will survive,” he told AFP.
“So the best long-term solution will be to establish a rescue and rehabilitation facility for these turtles in Cox’s Bazar.”
The government is investigating why the turtles came ashore and sent two carcasses to a state-run university to be examined.
But Rahman said he believed the turtles may have become stuck in a massive plastic garbage patch floating in the sea.
“In the long term if we don’t manage pollution in the Bay of Bengal, many of these marine species will face similar fate,” he said.
Olive Ridleys are the most abundant of all sea turtles around the world, according to conservationists.
But their numbers have been declining and the species is recognised as vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
Senegalese fishermen who once profited from poaching, are now protecting highly-endangered sea turtles in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Joal-Fadiouth, a 57-square-mile area that serves as a safe place for vulnerable marine species.
Sea turtles routinely migrate to this stretch of the Atlantic Ocean along the West African coast, and turtle meat has long been considered a culinary delicacy in the area. In an effort to stop people from killing these beautiful creatures, the former poachers spend time educating people about the turtles’ crucial role in the marine ecosystem through a series of public awareness and activism campaigns. They also patrol the protected area, where they help turtles caught in fishing nets by disentangling and releasing them back into the ocean.
“We went from being poachers, the biggest turtle eaters, to being the biggest turtle protectors,” Abdou Karim Sall, who manages the protected zone, said. “Not all fishermen have turned away from turtles, and when the fishing is not good, some even hunt them.”
The Senegalese government, local authorities, and various organizations are working together to provide economic incentives to those who transition from poaching to protecting in communities that are historically dependent on fishing industry revenue for survival.
Thank you to the dedicated workers, who repurposed their seafaring skills to help save sea turtles from the brink of extinction.
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered large whale species in the world.
Hundreds of years of commercial whaling decimated the species by the early 1900s. The species got its name as the “right” whale to hunt: these animals swim slowly close to shore and are so blubber-rich they float when dead. They have a stocky, black body, no dorsal fin and bumpy patches of rough skin, called callosities, on their heads.
These massive marine mammals migrate each year between their northern feeding grounds in coastal Atlantic Canada and New England to their calving grounds in the warm waters off South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and back. It is a journey fraught with danger as the whales navigate waters where they encounter vessel traffic, millions of fishing ropes and other hazards associated with human activity.
Defenders is building support in Congress to enact the SAVE Right Whales Act, to provide much-needed funding for develop technologies to protect the species from fishing entanglements and vessel strikes. We are also fighting in court to protect right whales from deadly entanglements.
In January 2018, Defenders and our conservation allies filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act by failing to protect North Atlantic right whales from entanglements in the American lobster fishery.
We advocate for right whales as a conservation member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, a stakeholder group under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that advises NMFS on how to implement fishery management measures to minimize or avoid the risk of deadly entanglements. We are also litigating to stop seismic blasting in the Atlantic and working to promote responsible wildlife- and whale-friendly offshore wind development.
North Atlantic right whales are threatened by entanglement, ship strikes and offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
What You Can Do
Tell your members of Congress to support the SAVE Right Whales Act.
about 50 feet long and weigh about 70 tons (140,000 pounds), with females larger than males
Under ideal circumstances, 50 -100 years; however, most adult whales are killed by human actions by the time they are 30-40 years old.
North Atlantic right whales are found from Atlantic Canada to the southeastern United States and migrate along the length of the east coasts of the United States and Canada.
Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remain and of those, only 85 are reproductively active females.
Right whales are slow swimmers, averaging just six miles per hour. They are known to make brief shallow dives in succession before submerging themselves underwater for up to 20 minutes at a time. They usually travel solo or in small groups.
Females usually give birth to their first calf at 10 years. Although usually they give birth every 3-5 years thereafter, their calving intervals are now approximately 10 years because of the energy demands of dragging entangled fishing gear around. Right whale calves are 13-15 feet long at birth.
Mating season: winter Gestation: 1 year Litter size: 1 calf
North Atlantic right whales eat zooplankton and krill larvae. They take large gulps of water and then filter out their tiny prey using baleen plates.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced today that it is changing the status of the North Atlantic right whale from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its Red List of Threatened Species, recognizing that the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species.
Endangered marine life will soon be massacred with dynamite in Brazil in the name of economic progress. Not only is the Amazon river basin home to countless species, but it is also a food source for locals. Demand that this heinous plan be shut down.
70 Magellanic penguins were discovered on two neighbouring beaches in Brazil
R3 Animal Association found the birds on the Santinho and Mocambique beaches
One penguin was discovered alive and was taken to a centre for rehabilitation
The bodies of 70 penguins have been discovered on two neighbouring beaches in Brazil after apparently getting caught in fishing nets.
The horrific scene was discovered by the R3 Animal Association on the Santinho and Mocambique beaches in the city of Florianopolis in south-eastern Brazil.
R3 Animal Association are one of the institutions which carry out the Monitoring Project of the Santos Basin Beaches. 70 dead Magellanic penguins were discovered washed up on two neighbouring beaches, Santinho and Mocambique, in south-eastern Brazil The horrific scene was discovered by the R3 Animal Association which carry out the Monitoring Project of the Santos Basin Beaches
They said: ‘We monitor the beaches on the island [of Santa Catarina where Florianopolis is located] in search of dead or weak marine animals.
‘The dead animals undergo examination to determine the cause of death, and the living animals are rehabilitated before being released.’
The beach monitoring is monitored because of an environmental requirement enforced when licensing was given for the exploration of possible oil and gas reserves in the Santos Basin.
Marks on the flippers of some of the Magellanic penguins and the fragment of a fishing net still attached to one of the penguins led to the belief that the birds were killed after getting caught in the netting.A member of the R3 Animal Association walks up to the body of a penguin in BrazilThe dead penguins are carefully photo-documentedIt is believed that marks on the flippers indicate the penguins were caught in fishing netsOther signs indicating that the penguins may have been caught in fishing nets are a lack of feathers on the flippers
All 70 birds have been taken to the Centre of research, Rehabilitations and Depetrolisation of Marine Animals for an autopsy.
Vet Janaina Rocha Lorenco said that preliminary analysis shows a lack of feathers on the birds’ flippers, generalised congestion and other signs point to the penguins potentially having been trapped in fishing nets and trying to free themselves.
One penguin was discovered by a team on Mocambique beach and has been taken to a centre for rehabilitation.
Magellanic penguins are often seen in the area at this time of year as they migrate from Patagonia in southern Argentina.
All 70 birds have been taken to the Centre of research, Rehabilitations and Depetrolisation of Marine Animals for an autopsy
Bottlenose dolphins hunt in French Polynesia’s Rangiroa Channel. The marine mammals use two types of tools to find food, a rare behavior in nature.Photograph by Greg Lecoeur, Nat Geo Image Collection
In Shark Bay, Australia, bottlenose dolphinsthat aren’t related have been observed teaching each other a new way to use a tool, a behavior that until now scientists have found only in humans and other great apes.
It’s also the first known example of dolphins transmitting such knowledge within the same generation, rather than between generations. That’s significant, the authors say, because such social learning between peers is rare in nature.
In a practice called shelling, dolphins will chase fish into abandoned giant snail shells on the seafloor, then bring the shells to the surface shake them with their noses, draining the water and catching the fish that fall out.
A Shark Bay dolphin practices shelling, one of only two known examples of tool use in the cetaceans.Photograph by Sonja Wild, Dolphin Innovation Project
“The fact that shelling is socially transmitted among dolphin peers rather than between mother and offspring sets an important milestone, and highlights similarities with certain primates, who also rely on both vertical and horizontal learning of foraging behavior,” senior study author Michael Krützen, an anthropologist at the University of Zurich, said in a press statement.
Though dolphins and great apes have very different evolutionary histories and habitats, they’re both long-lived, large-brained mammals with tremendous capacity for innovation and culture, Krützen says.
In 2007, Krützen launched a study of Shark Bay’s dolphins, identifying more than a thousand individual dolphins over 11 years. During this time, scientists observed shelling 42 times among 19 dolphins. Half of these events occurred after a marine heatwave in 2011, which may have caused a die-off among giant sea snails, leading to more discarded shells on the seafloor. (Read about a new species of dolphin discovered in Australia.)
By dragging a net across the ocean floor, fishers can easily catch many fish at a time. However, this practice comes with a price — it often results in larger marine creatures being unintentionally picked up by the nets as well. This unfortunate situation happened recently off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea when a fishing boat accidentally caught a pregnant female whale shark in a drag net.
Upon getting news from divers on a diving boat that the animal had been scooped up by the net, the fishing boat’s captain reportedly said that they would release the whale shark. But instead of doing so promptly, the crew left the whale shark hanging on the side of the boat for upwards of two hours, leaving the poor creature unresponsive and with severely dry skin.
By the time the fishing boat crew finally cut the ropes that the whale shark was caught in and released her back into the ocean, it was already too late — she had spent too much time out of the water, and she had died. What’s worse, the diving crew reportedly spotted an unborn baby whale shark coming out of the mother and floating away into the sea. This drag net operation took the lives of not one but two innocent whale sharks.
When he heard about this tragic incident, Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawata, a marine activist and an official counsellor for the Department of Marine and Coastal Resouces (DMCR), was understandably outraged. He reportedly posted on his personal Facebook page, “The whale shark is protected by the international Species Conservation Act. It is also classified as prohibited in the Fisheries Act. The female whale shark should not be caught or taken onto a fishing vessel. The sentence is a fine between 300,000 and 3 million baht.”
We certainly hope that the fishing crew receives a hefty fine for the murder of these two poor whale sharks.
To make sure justice is served for these whales and help more people learn about the harsh consequences of drag net fishing, a conservation group in Thailand called Go Eco Phuket is encouraging individuals to spread the word about this tragedy. Doing so is a great way to play your part in ending reckless fishing practices. Another easy thing you can do to help reduce the needless slaughter of marine life is decrease your seafood consumption. If we all work together, it’s very possible for us to enact change and preserve our planet’s precious marine animals!
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Even the most optimistic lovers of unmolested wildlife, unpolluted oceans, un-degraded habitats, unextinguished species and understanding humans will be beginning to lose heart. Even as reports increase of resurgent wildlife during these Covid months, so it is gradually becoming clear that once humans are unlocked again, the only way will be down.
Here are just a few magnificent marine mammals to admire. All were photographed from the BMMRO research vessel in Abaco or adjacent waters. They are protected, recorded, researched, and watched over in their natural element.
Pantropical spotted dolphins
Today we contemplate our oceans at a time when the humans species is having to confront a sudden and indiscriminate destructive force. Maybe the impact will lead to a recalibration of the ways we treat other species and their environment. We have contaminated the world’s oceans, perhaps irreparably, in a…
A crab swims above a waving seagrass bed in the Chesapeake Bay.Photograph by Jay Fleming
When scientist Wen Jun Cai and his colleagues boated across the pea-soup-like waters of the upper Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 2016, water sampling kits and pH sensors in hand, they didn’t expect to find chemical magic at play.
The scientists were taking stock of a looming problem facing the 200-mile-long bay: the acidification of its waters, a human-caused phenomenon that threatens the health of the crabs, oysters, and fish iconic to the large estuary.
They started collecting their samples in the recently restored, vibrant underwater grass beds of the Susquehanna Flats near the top of the bay, and motored their way some 60 miles downstream to the deep central channel.
When they rounded up their hundreds of data points and analyzed them, they found evidence of something surprising and encouraging: Gently waving seagrasses in the bay are performing a magnificent chemical trick. As they photosynthesize in the beating sunshine, they produce tiny granules of a carbon-based mineral that acts like a miniature antacid tablet.
And those acid-neutralizing “micro-Tums” don’t stay put. They’re swept miles down the length of the bay, eventually dissolving into the deepest waters, which have long been soured by acidification caused by human sources like agricultural runoff and untreated waste.
“It’s like the seagrasses are producing antacids that counter the indigestion of the bay,” says Jeremy Testa, a marine ecologist at the University of Maryland and an author of the paper in Nature Geoscience describing the newly discovered phenomenon.
Without this acid-neutralizing trick, the bay’s waters and shelled creatures would be even more vulnerable to the human-caused threats, he says.
Acid waters run deep
The Chesapeake gets its name from the Algonquin word for “great shellfish bay.” For thousands of years, its rich ecology depended on the ways its shellfish, grasses, fish, and other species interacted; each influenced the chemistry and biology of the others, in a delicate biological dance.
Seagrasses and other underwater plants packed the bay’s shallows, stilling and smoothing the surrounding water, leaving it clear and clean for baby fish, crabs, and shellfish to populate. Vegetation stabilized the muddy bottom during storms. And it absorbed the brunt of wind and waves, protecting shorelines against erosion.
But as more and more people populated the land around the bay, the grasses took hit after hit. A steady flow of nitrogen-rich pollutants overloaded the waters; the grasses and other underwater plants died off en masse. Between the 1950s and 1980s, vegetation coverage across the bay plummeted. Only 10 percent of sites in the upper bay had vegetation when they were surveyed in 1980.
The nutrient overload also spurred enormous, suffocating algal blooms at the water’s surface. When such blooms happen, the algae die off and sink to deeper water, where they’re eaten by bacteria that use up any oxygen in the water and breathe out carbon-rich acid waste, creating “dead zones.” Almost nothing can survive in such corrosive waters. Worse, during strong winds or at certain times of the year, currents can sweep that deep, super-acidic water into places populated by creatures like oysters and crabs, potentially eroding their ability to maintain their calcium-carbonate based shells.
“Acidified waters can be really challenging for oysters, especially in their larval stage,” says Allison Colden, a biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In other coastal regions, particularly along the U.S. West Coast, acidification has already damaged shellfish populations, thinning their shells and messing with their offspring’s ability to mature. But scientists aren’t totally sure if those same effects have hit the East Coast. In estuaries like the Chesapeake, natural acid levels vary a lot, so shell-forming creatures have a built-in ability to deal with some amount of ups and downs. The worry, for some scientists, is that there might be a tipping point beyond which the iconic species of the bay might not be able to adjust.
“We don’t have enough data anywhere in the world to tell us exactly how those creatures are going to meet the thresholds of acidification,” says Doug Myers, a scientist also with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
They’re particularly concerned because there’s another force, besides nutrient overloading, that’s making the bay’s water more acidic: human-caused burning of fossil fuels. That leads to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air, which gets pulled into the surface waters as ocean and air make their way toward equilibrium, where it dissolves and makes the water more acidic.
During the early 2000s, states bordering the bay collaborated to rein in polluting runoff, putting the bay a “nutrient diet—” and in response, it began to heal. Old seagrass seeds, long buried in the gooey sediments, started to sprout as the water above them cleared. By the mid-2010s, underwater vegetation covered expanded over an extra 65 square miles of the Bay, more than 300 percent more area than was covered in the 1980s.
Those grasses, like the ones in the Susquehanna Flats, can offset some of the acidity. But they’ll have to work harder and harder as carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere grow.
“This is one of the big questions for us all,” says Emily Rivest, a biologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “What’s going to happen to our oysters, our blue crabs, all the things that live in our waters, as the waters get more acidic?”
Grasses to the rescue
It’s obvious just from looking at the Susquehanna Flats that they’re doing something special, Testa says. Outside the beds, the water often looks pea-green. But inside, it’s crystal clear and much warmer than the water outside the Flats. When they looked closely, they found that even the chemistry was different.
As they photosynthesize, seagrasses and other vegetation pull particular forms of carbon out of the surrounding water, making that water less acidic. They use some of that carbon to build their plant bodies, but turn some of it into tiny crystals of calcium carbonate, a chemical variant on the material that shells are made of. The plants hoard these crystals—which are essentially tiny antacids—both inside and on the surface of their leaves.
The crystals are big enough to feel with your fingers, like a fine grit coating the leaves, says Myers. When a grass dies, it disintegrates, releasing the built-up crystals from its inside as well as out.
The crystals make a big difference for the water chemistry and biology up near the Susquehanna Flats. But they also make a big difference far downstream, demonstrating with unusual clarity how interconnected the ecology of the bay can be. In total, the team calculated, the seagrass-sourced crystals reduced the acidity of the down-bay waters, some 60 miles away, by about 0.6 pH units. They reduced the acidity of the water by four times than it otherwise might have been (because the pH scale is logarithmic, small changes in the numbers on the pH scale mean big changes in terms of acidity).
“If not for the dissolution [of the tiny crystals], the pH downstream would be even lower,” says Cai (a lower value of pH signifies a more acidic environment). “So the vegetation upstream provides a more stable environment for what’s living down the bay.”
Seagrasses and other vegetation do this chemical trick elsewhere, as well, and scientists have seen similar local chemistry shifts in places where grasses have been restored, like the estuaries fringing the Loire River and Tampa Bay. But they haven’t seen this long-range effect before.
It’s not yet clear exactly what impact the seagrass-driven help has on the blue crabs or the oysters. But it does seem clear to many scientists that the whole bay can benefit from the effect as the grasses spread their little acid-neutralizing crystals far and wide—also serving as building material for the shell-growers downstream.
“The dissolving of last year’s grass beds is helping to feed this year’s oysters [to help them build their shells],” says Myers.
The new discovery makes a strong case for restoring even more of the seagrasses in the bay, says Jonathan Lefcheck, an ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. “You just see so clearly that there are these knock-on effects [from the seagrass restoration],” he says.
“Everything is connected. Something that was happening under our noses—this big unintended benefit, this added value—it turns out we’re solving two problems by attacking just one.”
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard