TURTLE RELEASE: Six sea turtles returned to the ocean off the coast of Argentina on Wednesday (1/12). The animals were nursed back to health after they were rescued from fishing nets and some were found to have plastic in their bodies. ——->https://t.co/mvRdOKhdQUpic.twitter.com/HqaZGPwpzR
Sea turtles appear to fly as they swim beneath ocean waves. With long, gray-green flippers that move like slow wingbeats, they glide through the water as birds do through the sky. Actually flying through the air, though, at 10,000 feet above the ground, the reptiles seem anything but graceful.
Inside the airplane, 120 sea turtles, 118 of which are juvenile Kemp’s ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), shift uncomfortably among beach towels inside stacked Chiquita banana boxes, their crusty eyes and curved pearlescent beaks peeking through slot handles. The windowless metal cabin vibrates with the sound of propellers as the pilots work to keep the plane aloft and the internal air temperature at a turtle-friendly 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s December 2020, and outside, the cold air above New England slowly gives way to balmier southern temperatures. The pilots are taking the turtles on a 2,900-kilometer (1,800-mile) trip from Massachusetts to Texas’s Gulf Coast.
Eight hours later, they’re nearly there. “We’re coming into Corpus Christi,” says Mike Looby, a pilot with a sea turtle rescue organization called Turtles Fly Too, as airport runways come into view among the sprawling buildings below. Looby and co-pilot Bill Gisler, both from Ohio, will visit four different locations in Texas to offload the animals. This is the largest number of turtles the organization has transported to date.
Charles Yanke, a volunteer pilot with Turtles Fly Too, helps load boxes of recovering sea turtles onto his plane in Marshfield, Massachusetts, for transport to rehabilitation centers outside the state.
Once the plane is on the tarmac, staff and volunteers from several aquariums and marine rescue facilities crowd around. The pilots gently slide each box of turtles toward the cargo door, and the group lines up to carry them to vans parked nearby.
“What happened to these guys?” someone asks.
“They were found stranded on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts,” says Donna Shaver, chief of the division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore, as she grabs a box.
In the summer months, the waters in the Gulf of Maine where Cape Cod is located are warm, calm, and full of food, serving as a natural nursery for 2- to 4-year-old Kemp’s ridleys, the smallest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. Migrating loggerheads (Caretta caretta), green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), and the occasional leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) also visit Cape Cod Bay. But as water temperatures plummet in November, December, and January, the cold-blooded turtles must migrate out or perish. Many lose their way and wash up, cold-stunned, on the inside edge of the hook-shaped Cape, which curls into the ocean like a flexing arm, forming what some locals call “the deadly bucket.”
The phenomenon is the largest recurring sea turtle stranding event in the world. While it’s natural — local records of sea turtle bones date back centuries — the scale is new and may, paradoxically, be a product of successful efforts to recover Kemp’s ridley populations, in addition to the effects of climate change.
The hook at the outermost tip of Cape Cod spirals back into the bay toward the cape’s southern coastline, creating a challenging obstacle for young sea turtles seeking the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico when fall temperatures plummet. Photo made possible by LightHawk
“This area is increasing in water temperature faster than 99 percent of water bodies in the world,” says Kate Sampson, sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who helps coordinate turtle transport. “Because of that, it seems like it’s drawing more sea turtles.”
Fortunately for the turtles, hundreds of volunteers and several staff members organized by the nonprofit Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary stand at the ready to patrol every inch of the 105-kilometer (65-mile) stretch of beach lining the inner Cape, twice a day, from November through December, no matter the weather. When they find a turtle, the animal begins a logistically complex journey from rescue to rehabilitation and, eventually, to release. Saving each flight’s worth of little lives involves approximately five vans, 1,000 miles, four organizations, and 50 people. Without this monumental collaboration across North America’s Eastern Seaboard, other efforts to save the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle from extinction might be futile.
Why turtle strandings are on the rise
Three weeks before Looby and Gisler’s departure with their precious herpetological cargo, Nancy Braun and her border collie Halo walked a stretch of Great Hollow Beach, near Cape Cod’s outermost tip. The unrelenting wind blew hard and Braun’s cheeks were rosy with cold, her hair frantically trying to escape from beneath a fuzzy winter hat. Every so often, she raised binoculars to her eyes to scan the sand and any promising-looking lump of seaweed. A resident of nearby Truro and a Mass Audubon volunteer, Braun was on the lookout for turtles.
Walking quickly, she passed small cottages in the dunes with window shutters closed tightly against the elements. Brightly colored beach chairs lined the shore like memorials to summers past. Along the way, Braun saw a group of people gathered around something in the distance, and she broke into a run in their direction, Halo bounding by her side. When she arrived, there they were: four sea turtles, clearly in need of care. As the group waited for the arrival of a Mass Audubon vehicle to take the turtles for initial processing, Braun and the others covered them with seaweed to protect against the wind chill.
Truro resident Nancy Braun, her dog, and a few others stand watch over four stranded sea turtles on Great Hallow Beach on Cape Cod in November.
“This is so cool,” said Richard Lammert, a visitor from New York. “We were just walking the beach and came across these turtles. I had no idea that sea turtles even came up this far. I’ve never seen one up close, let alone helped to rescue it.”
While the mood was light, there was also a sense of urgency among the group. “I called Mass Audubon to let them know what we found,” said Michael Weinstein, another Truro resident. That’s exactly the type of response turtle rescuers hope for and why rescuers prioritize educating the community in addition to recruiting and training volunteers, according to Carol “Krill” Carson, president and founder of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance and a volunteer with Mass Audubon. Without a clear understanding of why the turtles are stranded in the first place, some well-intentioned people might think they should throw the animals back into the ocean. “Anyone can walk the beach and find a sea turtle,” Carson says. “It’s what that person does when they find a turtle that is critical.”
Former director of Mass Audubon Bob Prescott started the sea turtle rescue program back in 1979. At the time, Prescott says he would find only a handful of turtles each year. The number has since skyrocketed. In 2014, volunteers found a record-breaking 1,242 turtles stranded on Cape Cod beaches. In 2020, there were 1,045, the second-highest number on record.
Carol “Krill” Carson, president and founder of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance and a volunteer with Mass Audubon, drags a sled as she searches for stranded sea turtles along a Cape Cod beach near her home.
The most common species found is Kemp’s ridley, which nests in only two places in the world: a stretch of beach in Mexico and one in Texas. Between the late 1940s and the mid-’80s, Kemp’s ridley populations plummeted from more than 40,000 nesting females to fewer than 300, due to entanglement in fishing gear and the harvesting of adults and eggs for human consumption. Today, Kemp’s ridleys still face a wide variety of threats, including habitat loss, coastal development, ship strikes, plastic waste, and climate change. With so few ridleys left, “every life counts in the survival of this species,” says Prescott, which makes the turtle rescue effort that much more important. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Connie Merigo, executive director of the National Marine Life Center, in Bourne, Massachusetts, agrees. “You hear a lot in biology, ‘Why are you interfering? Shouldn’t you just let nature run its course?’ In this case, a lot of these threats are not under control. So, if we let thousands of these turtles die every year in a cold-stunning event, the population is that much smaller.”
Interestingly, though, the success of ongoing conservation efforts is likely one of the factors driving the increased need for rescues. That’s because there are simply more turtles around to strand. Conservation efforts on nesting beaches in Mexico, strict regulations on pollution, and new technological advancements in fishing equipment have all helped, as have new nest sites developed in Texas since the 1970s. Today, there are an estimated 5,500 Kemp’s ridley females nesting in Mexico and 55 in Texas.
Although this is a good sign, the current population is still critically low. According to NOAA, the number of nests grew steadily until 2009 but has fluctuated since then, underscoring the importance of ongoing monitoring and conservation. “Endangered species recovery is the long game,” says Shaver, who leads the Kemp’s ridley nesting program in Texas. “It’s so heartwarming to work with people who have the same mission at heart to try and give back to preserve and sustain this population.”
Boxes of cold-stunned sea turtles sit in a cool room at Mass Audubon in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Rehabilitators slowly bring the turtles’ body temperatures back up to normal to avoid shocking the animals.
The other likely factor contributing to turtle strandings is the warming of the Gulf of Maine. Climate change has caused the water here to warm earlier each year and to stay warm for longer, keeping young Kemp’s ridleys in the fertile shallows of Cape Cod Bay later each fall. But the temperatures of the outer Cape and the North Atlantic still plunge as summer comes to a close. When fall arrives and the turtles attempt to navigate northward around the cape’s hook, they hit a disorienting wall of cold and turn around in search of the warmer water of their southerly ocean habitats.
This leads them back to the shallow flats inside the bay, where they encounter land instead of the open ocean. When the waters inside the cape reach a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit, any turtles still there will become hypothermic and eventually die unless they get help. Given the compounding factors, there’s no obvious end in sight to the trend.
“We are going to continue to see an increase of cold-stuns on Cape Cod,” says NOAA’s Kate Sampson.
New England Aquarium interns Kristen Luise, right, and Lauren Jaeger listen to the heartbeat of a hypothermic Kemp’s ridley sea turtle at the aquarium’s rehabilitation center in Quincy, Massachusetts.
That increase has only heightened the need for collaboration. In 2010, the New England Aquarium built a sea turtle rehabilitation facility in Quincy, Massachusetts, to meet demand. And with the high stranding numbers in 2020, breaking the record for live admitted turtles at 754, and limited staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, Massachusetts, also opened its doors to help with triage of incoming turtles, on top of the rehab services it already provided.
In addition to being hypothermic, Kemp’s ridleys usually arrive at these facilities with pneumonia or develop the condition within the first week or two of their arrival. Turtles also sometimes show up with traumatic injuries like broken bones and cracked shells from ocean waves tossing their bodies repeatedly into rocks, jetties, and seawalls when the animals are too cold to swim out of the surf.
Initially, when the turtles arrive, the goal is simply to assess their injuries through physical examinations and X-rays and to stabilize them. Rehabilitation staff members give the turtles fluids to rehydrate them and antibiotics to treat infections. They also work to slowly bring the animals’ internal body temperatures back up.
Gabbie Nicoletta, a coordinator at the National Marine Life Center, watches a previously stranded sea turtle as it continues its recovery in a tank at the rehabilitation center in Bourne, Massachusetts, in December.
Still, the two Massachusetts facilities can only care for so many turtles. At some point, the animals, including those that Braun and the others found on Great Hollow Beach, must be transported to other aquariums and facilities to complete their rehabilitation and ready them for release back into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In total, 29 additional rehab facilities are prepared to take in sea turtles for long-term rehabilitation. And flying, it turns out, is the fastest, least stressful, and safest way to transport the animals. That’s where Turtles Fly Too and its team of dedicated volunteer pilots come in.
The first — and only — US operation permitted to airlift sea turtles
On a frigid, clear December day, the early morning sun peeks over the horizon as four vans pull onto the tarmac at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts. Yawning, their breath turning into clouds before them, Kate Sampson of NOAA, Connie Merigo of the Marine Life Center, and a handful of other turtle rescuers from the New England Aquarium, pour out of the vehicles to meet with pilots Looby and Gisler. They strategize about the loading process to get dozens of turtles into the air as quickly and safely as possible. And that’s just one phase of the process.
Among the myriad details that must be worked out are how many turtles the rehabilitation facilities need to move, what planes are available and their capacity, where the pilots are coming from, where they’re going, and who will be on hand for pickup — all right up to the moment when the turtles arrive at their destination.
Adam Kennedy, a biologist at the New England Aquarium, closes the lid on a container holding one of many previously stranded sea turtles bound for rehabilitation facilities outside New England.
The service that Turtles Fly Too provides is unique. Besides the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has the authority to move any endangered animal, “we have the first and only permits in the nation to fly sea turtles,” says Leslie Weinstein, the organization’s president. Turtles Fly Too got its start in 2014, the record-breaking year of strandings. Weinstein was running an aviation parts manufacturing company full time and had just transported a green sea turtle successfully to a facility in Dubuque, Iowa, that summer. In November, when cold-stranded sea turtles began washing up, turtle rescuers put Weinstein in touch with Sampson and Merigo, who was then directing the New England Aquarium’s Rescue Rehab Program. And thus, Turtles Fly Too was born.
Weinstein found the organization’s first pilot through a volunteer group called Pilots N Paws that transports domestic animals. A full-time dentist in New York, Ed Filangeri’s assignment was to fly eight turtles from Massachusetts to Baltimore, Maryland. Filangeri was immediately hooked, and the two joined forces. These days, Filangeri doesn’t hesitate to cancel dental appointments, because, he says, “the turtles can’t wait” and the clients understand. The organization now counts more than 350 pilots among its ranks and provides emergency transport to other species too, including sea otters, pelicans, and seals.
The flights vary in cost from $1,500 to $100,000 depending on the plane used, the number of drop locations, and the number of turtles on board. According to Weinstein, the average ticket price comes in at about $1,000 per turtle. Public contributions to Turtles Fly Too help cover that, as do airfields that waive landing fees or provide discounts on fuel. One Christmas Eve, when Filangeri had a mission to Virginia, he showed up in a Santa hat, and he and the crew named each of the eight traveling turtles after a flying reindeer. “I thought it was funny that they were flying with a man with a white beard on Christmas Eve,” Filangeri laughs. But, joking aside, “We do what’s necessary. We are the turtle movers,” adds Weinstein. “You can’t put a value on one Kemp’s life.”
After months spent healing from injuries, being treated for their illnesses, and regaining their strength, the turtles that Looby and Gisler transported in December are ready for release. “These guys come in chronically ill, and it takes time to get them healed,” says Joe Flanagan, senior veterinarian at the Houston Zoo. On the appointed day in March 2021, the beaches of Galveston, Texas, are warm, and the spring sun reflects off the light-colored sand. Boxes filled with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles gathered from the New England coastline sit in the shade of a small tent. Several beach-goers line up behind strips of bright pink tape wafting in the wind, marking a safe corridor for the turtle parade. Aquariums and rehabilitation centers coordinate with each other to combine their releases and allow the public to attend. “We’ll probably not see these guys ever again, I hope. But if we do it would be nice to see them nesting,” says Flanagan.
A rehabilitator with the Sea Life Aquarium holds one of approximately 85 endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles released at Galveston Beach in Texas in March.
Staff and volunteers carefully grasp the small Kemp’s ridleys just behind their front flippers and carry them one by one down the sandy strip toward the ocean. The people gathered to watch cheer, clap, take selfies, smile, and wave as the animals complete the final leg of their strange, human-assisted migration. “Goodbye, little one! Good luck!” someone yells. “Look at how cute they are,” says another bystander. The sea turtles seem equally enthusiastic, waving their flippers wildly as if in anticipation of the swim, longing for the embrace of warm water, at last, eager to once again fly beneath the waves.
“Oh my god, he is so ready to go!” says one of the turtle rehabilitators as she places a small pale-green Kemp’s, named Hagrid, slowly into the water. With several fast pumps of his flippers, the young turtle disappears into the Gulf of Mexico.
This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and solutions powered by the California Academy of Sciences.
Conservations warn horseshoe crabs could go to extinct because their blood is being used in Covid vaccines and for drug testing: Up to 30% of the crustaceans have already been killed off in the US
By Stacy Liberatore For Dailymail.com 12:44 EST 17 Dec 2021 , updated 16:42 EST 17 Dec 2021 +7
Horseshoe crabs have bright blue blood that is a natural source of Limulus polyphemus
This is used to test vaccines, including those for COVID, and drugs for dangerous bacterial toxins before the products hit the market
The horseshoe crabs are drained for up to eight minutes and returned to the ocean
However, data shows up to 30% of the marine creatures die shortly after
Horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years, surviving mass extinctions and several ice ages, but conservationists say the creatures could soon go extinct because their bright blue blood is vital to pharmaceutical companies.
The blue blood has immune cells, known as Limulus polyphemus (LAL), which are sensitive to toxic bacteria and can be used to test vaccines and drugs for dangerous bacterial toxins before products hit the market. null
The coveted blood has been used for nearly 20 years and has been vital tool in testing the coronavirus vaccines currently on the market.
Scientists drain the horseshoe crabs of their blood and return them to the ocean, after which most of the creatures die – one South Carolina lab says crabs are drained for up to eight minutes.
‘As it is now, the entire supply chain for endotoxin testing of drugs rests upon the harvest of a vulnerable or near extinct sea creature,’ Kevin Williams, a scientist who manufactures synthetic LAL told The Washington Post.
Convationists fear the Atlantic horseshoe crabs could go the way of the Asian horseshoe crab that is extinct in Taiwan and disappearing in Hong Kong, as a result of mainly biomedical testing.
While the US horseshoe crab is not currently endangered – they are near threatened – data shows up to 30 percent of the crabs harvested for their blood die when returned to the ocean.
Ryan Phelan, co-founder and Executive Director of Revive and Restore, a wildlife conservation group based in California that lobbied for the synthetic, told Yahoo News: ‘You’ve got a very large, biomedical bleeding industry with a vested interest in keeping those horseshoes crabs coming in and basically protecting this monopoly.’
‘In the US, 525,000 horseshoe crabs per year were captured during 2013 to 2017 and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates short-term bleeding-induced mortality to be 15 percent (4 percent to 30 percent), resulting in mortality of approximately 78,750 horseshoe crabs annually in recent years comprising a minor portion,’ according to a study published in Frontiers.
The Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission also estimates that in 2019 US labs extracted blood from 640,000 horseshoe crabs.
According to The Verge, horseshoe crab blood has become a $500 billion industry – it can bring as much as $15,000 per quart – and a South Carolina lab that still clings to the old practice is worth $13 billion because of it, The State reports.
Representatives from Charles River previously said that more than 80 million LAL tests are performed each year .
Dr James Cooper, who founded the Charleston facility in 1987, wrote in a company publication last year: ‘The horseshoe crab blood donation is similar to human blood donation.
‘The crabs are bled for a few minutes and returned to sea unharmed.’
A Charles River representative told The State: ‘Eight minutes is unofficially recognized as the maximum bleeding time across the industry.’
Research conducted at the College of Charleston shows that half of the horseshoe crab’s blood can be drained within those eight minutes and this much harvested can the creatures to move slower when returned to the ocean.
Never mind the stress of being captured, hours spent out of the water and mishandling in the lab – all of which experts say contribute to their deaths. null
A 2011 study conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), conservation officers responsible for enforcing the environmental and conservation laws and policies, found 20 percent of the crabs died, according to records obtained by The State.
This barreleye fish has a transparent head! This fish can actually look up through their own head to see what’s above it. Its tubular eyes help barreleyes both see prey silhouetted against the lighted waters above and what’s in front of them! #FishyFridaypic.twitter.com/JM7bJvZrt8
A rare fish was found washed ashore at a beach near San Diego earlier this month. Only about thirty samples of this particular species of fish have been found so far, making this a particularly interesting discovery.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego confirmed to Fox News that a football fish was found on at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas on Dec. 10. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego)
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego confirmed to Fox News that a football fish was found on Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, California on Dec. 10. The fish, a female, measured to about 13-inches-long and weighed 5.5 pounds.
According to Scripps, only 31 known specimens of this particular species of fish have been collected worldwide.
The football fish is a deep–sea creature and is part of the anglerfish family.
Ben Frable, Collection Manager of Marine Vertebrates at Scripps recovered the most recent football fish. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego)
Several other deep-sea fish were discovered washed ashore in the area in recent weeks. A 4-foot-long lancetfish was found washed up on La Jolla Shores, which was also collected by researchers at the Scripps Institution.
Another football fish was photographed near Black Beach, but it was not recovered by researchers.
Ben Frable, Collection Manager of Marine Vertebrates at Scripps recovered the most recent football fish. The fish was X-rayed and tissue samples were collected for genetic analysis.
Several other deep-sea fish were discovered washed ashore in the area in recent weeks. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego)
According to the Scripps Institution, researchers don’t have any theories as to why these fish have been washing ashore.
According to the post, “As seen in the animated film Finding Nemo, female anglerfish are easily recognized by their globular body shape, sharp teeth, distinctive dorsal spine or illicium (the “fishing pole”), and the fleshy phosphorescent bulb (or esca) used to lure prey. Footballfish are typically found at depths of 650 to 2,600 feet, but there is still much we don’t know about these creatures.”
In 2019 UK Government finalised a free trade agreement (FTA) with Faroe Islands which allows for £100 million of exports of wild caught and farmed fish to Britain per annum (20% of the Faroe Islands global trade). This FTA should be suspended until all whale & dolphin hunts on Faroe Islands end More details
The Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands gives the UK Government significant leverage when it comes to ending the mass slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins on the Faroe Islands which causes huge anger and revulsion around the world. If the UK is to be considered a world leader in the protection of marine mammals it must use this leverage nowSign this petition
Created by Dominic Dyer
Deadline 21 March 2022 All petitions run for 6 months
The organization shared on Instagram, “The Faroese eat dolphin meat and defend a tradition called ‘Grindadrap’, which allowed their ancestors to survive in a hostile climate while today, their supermarkets are full of food of all kinds and yet the hunting persists anyway. On average, 800 cetaceans are killed each year in the Faroe Islands in the name of ‘tradition’ despite less than 20 per cent of the islanders even consuming pilot whale meat and blubber anymore. Once we spread enough awareness and there is enough public outcry about this then barbaric traditions like this will stop once and for all.”
According to Sea Shepherd, 6,500 whales have been killed during the practice in the last decade. Robert Read, chief operating officer at Sea Shepherd, said in the Daily Mail, “The grindadráp is a barbaric relic of a bygone age. A needless hunt of hundreds of pilot whales and dolphins which should have ended a century ago which is not needed to feed anyone on the islands.”
Photo Credit: Mother Manatee and Calf (c) Sam Farkas/NOAA
Over 670 manatee deaths has shocked scientists and wildlife lovers alike – we must act immediately to save Florida’s state marine mammal!
This has been one of the deadliest winters ever recorded for threatened manatees. Pollution is destroying the seagrass they depend on for survival, causing hundreds of manatees to turn up dead across the central and south Atlantic coast of Florida, many with signs of starvation.
This crisis needs an immediate and powerful response. We’re calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect manatees and their habitat to save manatees right now and to prevent similar crises from happening in the future.
Urge the FWS to protect and restore manatee habitat – click here to add your signature!
Dear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: As a member of Defenders of Wildlife and an advocate for imperiled species, I’m asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to prioritize safeguarding and securing manatee habitat to prevent further unprecedented loss of manatees. The past few months have been some of the deadliest on record for manatees. In just three months, over 670 manatees have died, with many showing signs of starvation as the seagrass habitats they depend on for survival have disappeared, leaving them with nothing to eat. I urge you to work with the state of Florida to address excessive runoff from various sources, including agricultural,residential and industrial uses, that is polluting our waterways and leading to widespread manatee deaths. Runoff into our precious waterways is fueling algal blooms that have shaded out and killed tens of thousands of acres of seagrasses. Sediment washing into the water from agriculture and land development can also damage seagrass beds by smothering the seagrass and blocking sunlight. Waterbodies around the state, including Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River estuary, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay, are all experiencing devastating impacts from pollution generated by agriculture, development and industry. In addition to comprising a primary food source for manatees, seagrass meadows are one of the most productive ecosystems in Florida. They provide food and shelter to a biologically diverse community of species, from seahorses and commercially important fish, to sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds. The greatest long-term threat to the manatee is lack of warm-water habitat that they need to survive. Coastal development continues to degrade natural habitat, like rivers and springs. Manatees become susceptible to cold stress, which is often lethal, at water temperatures below ~68F. Due to habitat loss, more than 60% of the manatee population depends on warm-water outfalls at electric power plants to survive cold winter days — an unsustainable situation. Restoring natural warm water winter habitat, such as the Great Florida Riverway, is essential to ensuring the long-term recovery of the species. FWS must coordinate with Florida Power & Light to convene a meeting that focuses on establishing and securing regional networks of natural warm water where manatees can take refuge in cold weather that have healthy, adequate food sources nearby. As the number of manatee deaths continues to rise, FWS must ensure that all protections for manatees remain in place and are expanded as necessary. I’m asking you to please take urgent steps to protect manatees and their habitat before the future of this species is once again in jeopardy. Sincerely,
I need your help urgently to persuade the Norwegian government to stop plans to experiment on live minke whales. Bad weather has delayed the tests but they could start any day – we don’t have much time.
Funded by the US and Norwegian navies, as well as the oil and gas industry, the Norwegian government has approved plans to capture young minke whales to test their reaction to noise from naval sonar and seismic testing for oil and gas. The whales will be caught and forced, one by one, into a modified salmon-farming pen. Once there, each whale will be clamped between two rafts and electrodes attached under his or her skin.
The whale will be bombarded by noise at various frequencies while their brain signals are measured. They could be held like this for up to six hours.
The people carrying out these experiments claim they want to know how much noise the whales can withstand and at which frequencies. They plan to run these tests in May and June, and again next year.
It could literally scare them to death.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation have sent a letter to Norway’s prime minister signed by more than 50 leading scientists and vets. These experts say the stress could kill the whales. Even if it doesn’t, the ordeal will be dangerous and terrifying for these intelligent and highly sensitive individuals.
This appalling experiment is utterly inhumane and unnecessary. Existing research already tells us what we need to know about the effects of underwater noise on whales. We know that noise created by oil and gas exploration and military sonar scares whales and can cause them to strand and can even cause internal bleeding, organ failure and brain damage.
The charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation is supporting me with this petition and they are fighting hard behind the scenes with the Norwegian NGO, NOAH – for animal rights.
Target: Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
Goal: Shut down businesses that willfully kill endangered species for profit.
The Kiu Yick Trading Company, based in Victoria, Canada, has been found guilty of importing shark fins from endangered species. As a penalty for importing 434 kilograms of illegal shark products, this company has been fined a measly $60,000. This fine is a pathetic amount for a company that generates over $2 million in annual sales, and which contributed to the extermination of threatened species.
Most of the fins came from silky sharks, which is considered to be near-threatened. This shark has a long gestation and gives birth to only a few young that are slow to mature, making it particularly susceptible to illegal hunting.
Such businesses should not be allowed to continue to operate. Sign this petition to urge the government to take stricter actions against such willful disregard for the natural world, and shut down these reproachable companies.
Dear Honourable Wilkinson,
Despite national and international bans, companies are still bringing illegal animal products into Canada. Recently, the Kiu Yick Trading Company from British Columbia was found guilty of importing shark fins from “near threatened” species of sharks. In response, your government has fined this company only $60,000. This is a pathetic penalty for a company that draws over $2 million dollars of revenue every year.
I urge you to consider the devastating environmental impact that illegal acts of this nature have upon the whole world. Companies that willfully commit such criminal acts should be severely penalized.
Marine scientists are calling on the EU to adopt a comprehensive plan to protect dolphins and porpoises from fisheries bycatch in European waters. To help address the bycatch issue, which is the primary global threat to dolphins and porpoises, the researchers put forward a framework to reduce bycatch levels.
The scientists have outlined a two-step approach that involves establishing a quantitative management objective for each population and implementing monitoring programs:
To ensure an accurate estimation of bycatch levels, the experts recommend using electronic monitoring systems that allow a more comprehensive and representative sampling of the fleets.
The scientists also recommend regular formal assessments of small cetacean populations, including generation of estimates of abundance and bycatch mortality. If total bycatch has been estimated to exceed the calculated biological reference point, then a mitigation strategy needs to be put in place while monitoring is continued until levels are below the reference points.
“Bycatch of small cetaceans in European fisheries is widespread, including very large numbers of common dolphins in trawl fisheries and bycatch of the critically endangered population of harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea…The failure to effectively conserve Europe’s dolphins and porpoises is not a result of a lack of scientific knowledge or difficulties in monitoring fisheries and bycatch. Instead, it reflects a lack of political will to ensure that these iconic animals are protected from unsustainable mortality in commercial fisheries throughout European waters. We can and must do better.”
-Professor Andrew Read, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment
Journal reference: Emer Rogan, Andrew J Read, Per Berggren. Empty promises: The European Union is failing to protect dolphins and porpoises from fisheries by‐catch. Fish and Fisheries, 2021; DOI: 10.1111/faf.12556
North Pacific loggerhead turtles’ years-long oceanic journeys remain poorly understood. Using data from satellite tracking and other techniques, scientists reveal a unique phenomenon that may explain the endangered migrants’ pathway.
“Not all those who wander are lost … ” — J.R.R. Tolkien
Known as “the lost years,” it is a little-understood journey that unfolds over thousands of miles and as much as two decades or more. Now, a Stanford-led study illuminates secrets of the North Pacific loggerhead turtles’ epic migration between their birthplace on the beaches of Japan and reemergence years later in foraging grounds off the coast of Baja California. The study, published April 8 in Frontiers in Marine Science, provides evidence for intermittent passages of warm water that allow sea turtles to cross otherwise inhospitably cold ocean barriers. The findings could help inform the design of conservation measures to protect sea turtles and other migratory sea creatures amid climatic changes that are altering their movements.
“For decades, our ability to connect the migratory dots for this endangered species has remained elusive,” said study lead author Dana Briscoe, who was a research associate at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment during the research and now works at the Cawthron Institute, New Zealand’s largest independent marine science organization. “This work builds on the backbone of exceptional research about these ‘lost years,’ and for the first time ever we are excited to provide evidence of a ‘thermal corridor’ to explain a longstanding mystery of one of the ocean’s greatest migrants.”
Satellite tracks of 231 juvenile North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles (light gray), including six (various colors) that migrated to the coastal waters of Baja, California. Credit: Dana Briscoe, et al. / Frontiers in Marine Science
Wildlife seekers thrill to the sight of sea turtles, but ship traffic, fishing nets, and other perils have been less kind. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists six of the seven sea turtle species as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.
Despite scientific advancements in core habitat use, we still know precious little about the movement of turtles and other long-lived sea creatures between disparate locations. This knowledge gap makes it impossible to effectively assess and protect these species.
The researchers wanted to know how and why some loggerheads travel to the western coastline of North America while others remain in the central Pacific Ocean. How is it that some sea turtles – creatures highly sensitive to temperature – can cross a frigid zone called the Eastern Pacific Barrier between the two ocean regions that normally stops most creatures in their tracks?
To unlock that mystery, the researchers created the largest dataset on satellite-tagged loggerhead sea turtles ever compiled, employed sophisticated remote sensing oceanographic techniques and collected one of the first detailed records of sea turtle aging and stable isotope testing – a bone analysis that can be used to provide information about an animal’s life. The work relied upon decades of research by the international team of scientists.
Loggerhead sea turtle swimming. Credit: Ralph Pace
They started by looking at a 15-year study tracking the movements of more than 200 turtles tagged with satellite tracking devices. Six of the turtles caught the researchers’ attention because – unlike their peers – they made distinct movements toward the North American coast. Adding to the intrigue, the “sentinels,” as the researchers called them, made their journey during the early spring months. A look at remotely sensed ocean conditions for the time period showed that the farthest-roaming of the sentinels swam through water significantly warmer than their peers had confronted on their travels.
A bigger picture analysis involved identifying the years loggerheads arrived in Baja California by measuring stable isotope “fingerprints” in the bones of sea turtles stranded on beaches there. Because like us, turtles are what they eat, these stable isotope signatures can reveal when the turtles transitioned from the open sea to the coast. The analysis showed significantly greater annual numbers of eastward-bound sea turtles during warm ocean conditions.
The likely cause, according to the researchers: the development of a “thermal corridor” from unusually warm sea surface temperatures due to El Niño and other intermittent warming conditions that allowed the turtles to cross the Eastern Pacific Barrier to coastal foraging grounds.
The corridor was present during the late spring and summer, and was also preceded by early warming of temperatures in the months before it opened. Such anomalous conditions, especially if sustained for several months, may provide key environmental cues to sea turtles and other animals concentrated in the eastern edge of the central Pacific that the thermal corridor is opening. Studies combining data from loggerhead aerial surveys, at-sea-sightings, stranding records and tissue samples supported the hypothesis.
A dangerous trend
The phenomenon may be part of a trend. As the planet undergoes unprecedented climate changes, locations once considered impassable obstacles to species movements, like the Eastern Pacific Barrier, are being redefined. This, in turn, is shifting the distributions and migratory pathways of creatures ranging from sea birds to white sharks and presenting new conservation challenges.
For the North Pacific loggerhead, the trend could mean higher exposure to bycatch – unintentional fisheries harvest – off the Baja California coast and other potentially important North American foraging grounds, including the Southern California Bight. The study provides important insights, such as an understanding of how animal movements relate to climate variation, that could help predict when sea turtles and other protected species could be vulnerable to such threats.
The researchers caution that their multi-year dataset represents only a snapshot of an important developmental period for sea turtles. The small number of turtles that moved into the eastern North Pacific limits the ability to fully test the study’s hypothesis under varying conditions. To do that, the researchers call for more satellite tagging and stable isotope studies of turtle bones in this region.
“Understanding how and why species like the North Pacific loggerhead move among habitats is crucial to helping them navigate threats,” said study senior author Larry Crowder, the Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station. “Emerging technologies and analyses can help illuminate these journeys.”
Reference: “Dynamic Thermal Corridor May Connect Endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles Across the Pacific Ocean” by Dana K. Briscoe, Calandra N. Turner Tomaszewicz, Jeffrey A. Seminoff, Denise M. Parker, George H. Balazs, Jeffrey J. Polovina, Masanori Kurita, Hitoshi Okamoto, Tomomi Saito, Marc R. Rice and Larry B. Crowder, 8 April 2021, Frontiers in Marine Science. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.630590
Crowder is also a professor of biology in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Co-authors of the study include Calandra Turner Tomaszewicz and Jeffrey A. Seminoff of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service; Denise Parker and George Balazs of Golden Honu Services of Oceania; Jeffrey Polovina of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; Masanori Kurita and Hitoshi Okamoto of the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium (Japan); Tomomi Saito of Kōchi University (Japan); and Marc Rice of Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy.
Funding for this study provided by the Crowder Lab at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford’s Department of Biology and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Scientists Can Now Watch Whales Feed Underwater (Photo credit: Mike Baird)
NGOs, animal welfare charities and a host of other stakeholders have urged Mattilsynet, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, to reverse its approval of an experiment on captured minke whales that they claim amounts to nothing more than torture.
The experiment is designed to see how whales’ brains respond to ocean noise. During the experiment, juvenile migrating minke whales will be trapped using a net and herded into a small enclosure. Once inside, they will be subjected to a host of noises, from naval sonar to the sounds emanating from oil and gas exploration. The experiment will last for up to four days, and up to 12 whales will be subjected to this.
According to Dr. Siri Martinsen, a veterinarian with NOAH, Norway’s largest NGO for animals:
“This research project is alarming for several reasons. We are very concerned for the welfare of the involved whales, as these circumstances are very likely to cause them stress and may even impact their health. There is a significant risk that the whales will panic once they are trapped, causing them to thrash or flail about, which could lead to serious injuries as they attempt to flee.”
You can help the whales by contacting the Norwegian government with your objection here.
Sam Helmyhttps://www.deeperblue.comSam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life!
Its not a good week for whales. 🐳 🇳🇴 NORWAY have hunted and killed 32 minke whales. FAROE ISLANDS have hunted and killed 10 or 12 pilot whales (dolphins) NORWAY 🇳🇴 have decided to conduct scientific tests on live juvenile whales to see the effect of Seismic blasting #OpWhalespic.twitter.com/GhnjpPGgoP
Saving dolphins and whales is more than just ending their captivity. Dolphin Project believes that ocean conservation is vital to the survival of all marine animals. Marine species are currently facing more human-caused threats than ever before.
There are many ways we can help protect them. Here are a few ideas:
1. Ditch single-use plastics
Disposable straws, cups, lids, utensils, bags, water bottles and other single use plastics make up a huge percentage of marine pollution. With an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste entering the oceans each year, countless marine animals ingest plastics, become entangled in them, or worse, are killed by them. To minimize your impact, do a trash audit and see exactly how much you are throwing away. Think of what you could live without! Every reduction makes a difference. If every person in North America used just one fewer single use plastic item per year, there would be 579 million LESS pieces of plastic thrown away!
Plastic Garbage in Sea Pen
2. Join beach or community clean ups
Ocean conservation is vital to the survival of all marine species. In order to protect wild populations and continue to return captive dolphins and whales to the ocean, we must ensure a safe and clean habitat. Clean ups can take place anywhere – you don’t have to live near a beach to partake in one. Every piece of plastic and debris that you clean up is one fewer item of trash that will find its way into the ocean and potentially entangle and harm marine life. Cleanups can take place at a beach next to the ocean, at a park, a river, or just around your local town- or even join in our global beach clean up on July 14th!
3. Avoid items and experiences that exploit marine life
Certain products contribute to the harming of ocean habitats, which in turn affect the species that live in them. Avoid purchasing jewelry made from turtle shells or coral, and cosmetic products that contain squalene (a compound obtained for commercial use from sharks).
Experiences such as swim with dolphins programs, dolphin therapy and dolphin shows may be promoted as “educational” or “fun,” but in reality they are forms of exploitation. Not only do dolphins suffer greatly in captivity, but as long as these experiences are promoted this way it will fuel the demand for cruel wild dolphin captures to continue to fill the tanks of new marine parks around the world. Take the pledge NOT to buy a ticket!
Overcrowding at captive dolphin facility
4. Be mindful of what’s on your plate
Overfishing of the oceans is a tremendous problem on a global level. Fish populations around the world are rapidly being depleted due to seafood demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. Commercial fishing methods often involve gear that entangles unintended species. Bycatch, or the incidental capture of non-target species such as dolphins, whales, pinnipeds, sharks, turtles and seabirds causes a staggering number of deaths each year.
If you consume seafood, stay informed about different fishing methods and their harmful impacts, and the health of populations that your seafood came from, so that you are able to make the meal choices with the smallest environmental impact. As an even better alternative, take a step further and avoid seafood all together!
5. Be an ocean-minded pet owner
Make sure to read the labels on your pet’s food, and to extend sustainable seafood practices to your pet’s diet. Be sure to responsibly dispose of your pet’s waste and to never flush cat litter; when owners neglect to pick up after their animals, pet waste can wash into storm drains, where it becomes a pollutant in drains and waterways, eventually ending up in the ocean. Both on land and in water, the waste left by our pets can spread harmful diseases through bacteria and parasites.
6. Contact representatives and lawmakers
Be aware of authorities and governmental figures with jurisdiction over your area. Contact them and let them know just how important the oceans are to the environment – and to us! Ask that they take action for the oceans such as banning single-use plastics, supporting renewable energy and other initiatives to ensure clean and healthy marine habitats. One urgent call to action we must continue to take now is to ask for the Snake River dams to be breached to save the Southern Resident orcas from extinction!
Southern Resident orca Scarlet/‘J50′ swimming with her mother Slick/‘J16′. Credit: NOAA Fisheries /Public Domain
7. Reduce your carbon emissions
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint both inside and outside your home: take a bus or bike to work, adjust your thermostat, turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them, use cold water to wash your clothes and shop local to avoid products shipped over long distances.
8. Travel the seas responsibly
When boating or embarking on a marine eco-tour, make sure that responsible practices are used. Be a whale-wise boater and keep respectful distances from marine mammals that do not negatively affect their behavior. Make sure to contain any trash, so that it does not get blown into the water. When on the beach or in the water, be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen and keep mindful distances from animals that may be nesting on beaches.
9. Ignite change in your community
Tell family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and anyone else who will listen about why the oceans are so important. Share incredible facts about dolphins and other marine species that they may not know, and inspire them to love and protect the oceans! Present the facts about dolphin captivity to anyone who may be vacationing at or near captive facilities. Contact local restaurants about offering locally sourced produce and sustainable seafood (and more vegan options!).
Empty the Tanks Demo at Duisburg Zoo
10. Stay informed; make your voice count
Be informed of opportunities to vote on issues related to the ocean and the environment. Stay up to date on petitions, public demonstrations and opportunities for public commenting, making sure to add your voice! We often post these opportunities on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and additionally have ongoing petitions for several of our campaigns!
Every action we take makes a difference and collectively, the difference is huge! We must hold ourselves accountable to not only what we are comfortable doing, but capable of doing to help the environment.
Let’s all continue to care for the oceans!
Humpback whale fluke at sunset on the open ocean | Photo by Tracie Sugo
Featured image: Short beaked common dolphins frolic off the coast of Southern California, credit – Tracie Sugo
Whale and dolphin watching tours are a fantastic alternative to seeing captive dolphins under inhumane conditions in marine parks and dolphinariums. When responsibly conducted, eco-tours play a huge role in inspiring people to love and cherish wild dolphins, and in turn be inspired to help protect them. The benefits of responsible marine mammal-based ecotourism span from a better appreciation of the marine wildlife to supporting local economies, especially in developing countries in where whale and dolphin watching tours present an alternative to hunting or capturing dolphins.
It is vital to find a responsible tour operator that minimally impacts dolphins and whales, so that both you and the animals can have the best encounter. Below are tips to having the best encounters with wildlife, and letting the wildlife have the best encounter with you!
Wild orcas swimming free in Monterey Bay, California | Photo by Tracie Sugo
How do I find a responsible ecotour operator?
Responsible operators stick to local whale watching guidelines, are led by knowledgable captains and naturalists, notify the appropriate authorities when a whale is in distress and set an example of how to maneuver around marine mammals for other boaters. Oftentimes these aspects are evident on operator’s websites, or reviews of their tours posted online.
The trip should be about education, not sensation. Always remember to let whales and dolphins decide what happens; never force an interaction and keep a respectful distance appropriate for each species. Some dolphins willingly approach to surf in the pressure wave created by the bow on the front of the boat (also called “bow riding”); larger whales typically travel or forage at a distance but may occasionally approach or “mug” a vessel.
Humpback whale breaches off the coast of California | Photo by Tracie Sugo
What are some red flags to look for?
Responsible operators would never overcrowd a marine mammal; if there are too many boats around a whale or a pod of dolphins, they must be left alone. Having too many vessels around may make it difficult for the animals to travel, forage or rest; it is best not to interfere with their natural behavior.
Responsible operators would also never approach marine mammals head on, or at high speeds. Baleen whales, such as humpback, blue, minke, gray and fin whales do not have echolocation like dolphins and toothed whales do. This makes it difficult for them to anticipate a boat and put them in danger of being spooked, or worse, in danger of collision. High speeds and irresponsible driving can also potentially disturb hunting or resting pods of dolphins.
Lastly, responsible operators would never chase or harass marine mammals. If whales or dolphins do not want to be watched, they will swim away. In these cases, it is best to leave them to go as they please. Chasing them would make them expend unnecessary energy; for migrating whales who fast for long periods of time, this is quite harmful.
Is it possible to watch wild whales and dolphins from land?
In some parts of the world and during the right time of year, it is possible to see wild cetaceans from shore. Some populations either have a permanent coastal range, or come very close to land during their migration.
The growing trend for land-based whale watching is taking off big time in South Africa, Hawaii, Scotland and Norway. With zero impact on the animals, land-based whale watching is the least invasive way to watch marine wildlife. It’s also the best method for anyone who suffers from sea sickness.
The west coast of the United States has many great spots to watch gray whales as they migrate near shore from Alaska to Mexico and back again. Many areas of the world are also home to coastal populations of bottlenose dolphins that can be seen from beaches as they surf and play in breaking waves. There are many great places around the world to watch dolphins and whales from land, particularly with species that have a very coastal range.
Gray whale breach near the California coast | Photo by Tracie Sugo
Is swimming with wild dolphins a responsible alternative to captivity?
Wild spotted and bottlenose dolphins together in the Bahamas. Credit: DolphinProject.com
For some, swimming with wild dolphins can be a very attractive alternative to visiting a captive facility, but extra caution and consideration is necessary. A tour should never guarantee or promote that you can swim with dolphins, or make any physical contact with them. In fact, touching or pursuing a dolphin in the water can be considered “harassment”, which is illegal under US federal law.
In order to guarantee wild dolphin interactions, some operators have been known to feed wild pods to encourage interaction, which can be harmful to their independence, upset their digestion and health, or encourage them to approach other boats and increase the risk of a strike. Any tours that offer fish food or feeding opportunities should be avoided.
In some areas such as Hawaii, there are additional concerns that boats and tourists are disrupting sleeping pods of dolphins, which can reduce birth rates and cause additional stress. Ask a tour operator if they follow federal or local guidelines to prevent disruptions to sensitive species.
Finally, every operator should have rules of conduct and safety information regarding potential encounters of wild dolphins by swimmers. Those rules should be designed to discourage contact and protect the dolphins from unwanted interference. Wild dolphins are exactly that – wild, and they should be respected as such. Just as you would not approach a wild lion to pet it, you should treat all encounters with wild marine mammals with caution, for your safety and theirs.
Some dolphins are curious and may approach a swimmer or diver in the water, but it should always be their decision to initiate contact as well as end that encounter.
Keep in Mind Whales and Dolphins are Wild Animals
The ocean is a wild environment; we are visitors and we must respect the residents. Wildlife viewing is not always people watching wildlife; oftentimes it’s also wildlife watching people. It can bring people to tears when they make eye contact with a dolphin or whale during a close approach.
Chances are that people will always want to see dolphins and whales, and where they choose to spend their money makes a big difference. It is important to support responsible dolphin and whale watching tours because the alternative is to watch them in captivity, where cetaceans are known to suffer. As more and more people become aware of the problems of captivity, they may choose to see them wild and with that in mind, we must not overcrowd or harass marine mammals but watch them in a responsible and sustainable way. Marine mammal-based tourism, if conducted properly, can not only work, but it can work well for both people and mammals.
Marine mammals’ welfare should always remain the most important aspect of these eco-tours because, without these animals, there will be no ecotourism at all! Let’s help inspire more people to care about dolphins and help ecotourism stay responsible!
Wild common dolphin looks towards people on a whale watching boat | Photo by Tracie Sugo
Taiji: A pod of approximately 15 Risso’s dolphins including a mother with a juvenile by her side were driven from their home in the open ocean into the Cove. The dolphins fought hard for over 3 hours but were eventually forced under tarps where all were slaughtered. pic.twitter.com/aM7kYRr5jl
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…
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!
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.
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
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