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
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.”
While common dolphins tend to travel in groups in the hundreds, they have been known to gather in large schools containing thousands of dolphins, dubbed megapods or superpods. Some of the largest contain more than 10,000 individuals. Within these congregations, there are a number of sub-groups, each consisting of 20 to 30 individuals who are connected through relation or factors such as age and sex.
“Super pods of common dolphins are spectacular but not rare. If the conditions are suitable, they can occur anywhere in the world,” Danny Groves, a spokesperson for marine charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), told Newsweek, noting they have been spotted off the U.S., Scotland, South Africa and many other places.
Large pods like these often form for a short period of time during courtship or in response to prey. Take, for example, the gathering that aggregated near Monterey Bay, California, on Labor Day last year. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, hundreds of common dolphins came together “hot on the tails of billions of baitfish.” Something similar appears to be occurring here—according to Newport Coastal Adventure, the dolphins were spotted chasing fish.
“I would say we see this phenomena a few dozen times a year. Sometimes we go months without seeing it. Other times we will see it a few times in one week,” said Lawler. “Common dolphins often travel and live in groups of 20-200 here, but if there is enough food around they will form a super pod such as this one for a small amount of time to take advantage of the strength in numbers in pursuing their prey, anchovies.”
“If prey are plentiful, then hunting in big pods can be beneficial. Likewise if there is a predator threat to the dolphins, then being in a large group provides security,” said Groves. “If they are just being sociable, then we might expect dolphins to get similar benefits that humans get from getting together in large groups—a sense of community and enjoyment, ironically something they are able to do right now whilst we are isolating.”
Groves added: “Whilst we humans are locked down, the seas are quieter and less polluted, and nature seems to be reclaiming its territory.” A pod of common dolphins surf the bow wake of a boat on July 16, 2008 near Long Beach, California. Footage taken last week shows a superpod of “at least” 1,000 common dolphins near Laguna Beach. David McNew/Getty
It is not clear from the video what type of common dolphin is being filmed. Though initially considered a single species, since 1994 it has been split into the long-beaked common dolphin and the short-beaked common dolphin.
According to WDC, advances in science suggest the initial classification was correct and the short-beaked and long-beaked dolphins are variations of the same species, which can be identified by their different sized beaks and their coloring.
Hippocampus nalu, also known as the African pygmy seahorse, is about the size of a rice grain, and was found living well camouflaged among algae and sand in Sodwana Bay, South Africa.Photograph by Richard Smith
In rough, boulder-strewn waters off eastern South Africa, researchers have found a new species: a pygmy seahorse about the size of a grain of rice. null
The finding shocked them because all seven species of pygmy seahorse, except for one in Japan, inhabit the Coral Triangle, a biodiverse region of more than two million square miles in the southwestern Pacific. This one lives 5,000 miles away, the first pygmy seahorse seen in all of the Indian Ocean and the continent of Africa.
“It’s like finding a kangaroo in Norway,” says Richard Smith, a marine biologist based in the United Kingdom and co-author of a new study on the species, known as the African or Sodwana Bay pygmy seahorse. The second name refers to the location where it was found, a popular scuba-diving spot close to the Mozambique border.
The new species looks somewhat similar to other pygmy seahorses, except that it has one set of spines on its back that have sharp, incisor-like points on the tips, says co-author Graham Short, an ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences and the Australian Museum in Sydney. In contrast, the other similar pygmy seahorses have flat-tipped spines.
“We really don’t know what these spines are used for,” Short says. “Many species of seahorses in general are spiny, so their presence could be possibly due to sexual selection—the females may prefer spinier males.” (Related: Strange mating habits of the seahorse.)
The surprising discovery, described in a study published May 19 in the journal ZooKeys, shows how little we know about the ocean, particularly when it comes to tiny creatures, the authors say—and that there are likely many more pygmy seahorse species to be identified. null
“A gift from the sea”
Dive instructor Savannah Nalu Olivier first stumbled upon the creature in Sodwana Bay in 2017, while examining bits of algae on the seafloor. The bay is known for having many species of rare fish, sharks, and sea turtles.
She shared photographs of the fish with her colleagues, and in 2018 they made their way to Smith, who, with colleague Louw Claassens, collected several specimens of the animal at depths of 40 to 55 feet. null
The researchers have named the new seahorse Hippocampus nalu, after Olivier, whose nickname is appropriately “Fish.” (She’s also a Pisces.) In the South African languages Xhosa and Zulu, “nalu” roughly translates to “here it is.”
“I told her that this was a gift from the sea,” says Louis Olivier, Savannah’s father, who owns a scuba diving outfit called Pisces Diving Sodwana Bay. He adds he’s “super stoked about her discovery.”
Smith sent several specimens of the new species to Short, who analyzed their genetics and body structures using a CT scanner.
His research revealed that, like other pygmy seahorses, the newly found animal has two wing-like structures on its back, rather than one, as in larger seahorses. These “wings” in general serve an unknown purpose for seahorses.
Also like other pygmy seahorses, the African species has only one gill slit on its upper back, instead of two below each side of the head, like larger seahorses—another mystery. null
That would be “like having a nose on the back of your neck,” Short says.
But the new seahorse is unique from its tiny kin in that it was found living in turf-like algae, amid boulders and sand. Sodwana Bay has large swells, and the little seahorses appear to be comfortable being swept about, says Smith, who observed a pygmy seahorse get covered in sand and then wriggle its way out.
“They regularly get sand-blasted,” Smith says. Other pygmy seahorses, which stick to the calmer waters around coral reefs, “are more dainty. But this [species] is built of sturdier stuff.” null
Like other pygmy seahorses, the African version is thought to eat tiny copepods and crustaceans. It also is well camouflaged to match its surroundings.
This finding “demonstrates that there are still many discoveries to be made in the oceans, even in shallow waters near the coast,” says Thomas Trnski, head of natural sciences at the Auckland Museum in New Zealand, who wasn’t involved in the study. Almost all pygmy seahorses have been discovered in just the last 20 years, he adds.
The only pygmy seahorse found outside the Coral Triangle is the Japanese pygmy seahorse, also known as the “Japan pig,” first described in August 2018.
Although populations of regular seahorses have fallen in many areas because of harvesting for use in traditional Chinese medicine and the aquarium trade, that’s not an issue for pygmy seahorses because they are difficult to find, Short says. That being said, some of these species have very low population densities, and there’s not enough data to get a good sense of how many there are, Smith adds.
These fish can spread only very short distances via the current. The study suggests that Hippocampus nalu diverged from the ancestors of all known pygmy seahorses species more than 12 million years ago.
“This means that it is extremely likely that there are many more species of pygmy seahorses yet to be discovered in the western Indian Ocean” and beyond, Short says.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including China. But because sharks are endangered thanks to human behavior, we cannot afford to kill any more of them. Yet, people are still trafficking in shark fins. In fact, in April and May of 2020, officials in Hong Kong seized 26 tons of shark fins from over 38,500 endangered sharks in two different cases. Luckily, they have a suspect in custody for one of the seizures. But still no word on the other seizure or any official charges on the first suspect.
It’s critical we keep the pressure on to make sure they hold everyone involved with this massive slaughter accountable. Sign now!
The main way sharks are consumed is in a dish called shark fin soup. That means traffickers don’t even care about the rest of the shark’s body. In fact, they often slice off a shark’s fin and toss it back to the ocean to drown and die a slow and painful death. Fins from over 73 million sharks are used in this “delicacy” every single year.
The seized shark fins in Hong Kong were largely from thresher and silky sharks, both of which are endangered. Sharks are predators, playing a crucial role in maintaining sea biodiversity. Losing an entire predatory species would have dire consequences for our planet’s ecosystem. That’s why it’s so tragic to learn of 38,500 ruthlessly slaughtered sharks.
The good news is that this particular crime carries a fine of $10 million and imprisonment for 10 years. We need to demand anyone involved in this horrible act gets that punishment. Please sign on to demand justice for all these poor sharks!moreSHARE6.5KTWEETEMAILEMBED
Jennet Orayeva, IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications 3 minutes
According to the UN Environment Programme, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up the world’s oceans every year, often carried there by rivers. If the trend continues, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastic than fish.
Environmental plastic pollution has become a major ecological and societal concern. Plastic pollutants vary widely in size, from large debris, such as fishing nets and single-use plastic bags, to invisible nano-sized plastic particles. While the visible impact of large plastic debris, so-called macroplastics, in marine environments has been well documented, the potential harm caused by microplastics and even more by nanoplastics is much less clear.
Plastic particles below 5 mm in length are called microplastics. The smaller ones, with a size equal to or less than 100 nm (1/10 000 mm) are called nanoplastics. They are so tiny that one cannot see them with naked eye or even with an ordinary optical microscope.
Microplastic particles are accidentally consumed by marine organisms, which are then consumed by predator fish. Nanoplastic particles are even more toxic to living organisms as they are more likely to be absorbed through the walls of digestive tracts and thereby transported into the tissues and organs. Consequently, such plastic particles can interfere with various physiological processes, from neurotransmission to oxidative stress and immunity levels of freshwater and marine organisms.
Over the last decade, the global scientific community has invested substantial work into advancing the knowledge of the impact of plastic debris on diverse aquatic organisms. However, monitoring methods for small microplastics and nanoplastics are still in the development phase, which means that their exact concentration in the oceans remains unknown.
“This is where nuclear technology can play an important role,” added Metian. “Nuclear and isotopic techniques are already successfully used to study pollution processes. Their advantage is that they are highly sensitive and precise and can be used similarly to study small microplastic and nanoplastic movement and impact.”
At the same time, from a toxicology perspective, it is important to distinguish the toxicity of plastic particles per se from the toxicity associated with the contaminants that can become attached to them. To date, research into the effects of virgin micro and nano-sized plastic particles in freshwater and marine fish is still limited, hence the increased focus on investigating the toxicity of virgin plastics at the IAEA.
A North Atlantic right whale swims in Cape Cod Bay.
Peter Flood In a ruling that could have a major impact on the region’s lobster fishery, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the National Marine Fishery Service violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to reduce the risk of North Atlantic right whales becoming entangled in millions of lobster lines. The lines, which extend from traps on the seafloor to buoys on the surface, have in recent years been the leading cause of death for the whales, whose numbers have declined by about 20 percent over the past decade to a population of just 400. Without significant changes to the lobster fishery, right whales could go extinct within two decades, scientists say. The ruling by Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court in Washington, D.C., found that the agency’s failure to follow the law, after its scientists found that the lobster fishery was threatening the viability of right whales, was “about as straightforward a violation of the [Endangered Species Act] as they come.”
Environmental advocates who filed the lawsuit said they hoped the decision would lead to greater protections for right whales. “This decision confirms that even the federal government is not above the law,” said Erica Fuller, a senior attorney at the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, one of four groups that filed the lawsuit. “We must do whatever it takes to ensure right whales are here for future generations, and that starts with obeying the Endangered Species Act.” Scientists at the agency have said that the species can’t sustain more than one unnatural death a year. Over the past three years, 30 right whales have been found dead, and when a cause of death was determined, all of them were found to have died as a result of entanglements or vessel strikes.
In a 20-page ruling, Boasberg called the agency’s failure to produce what is known as an incidental take statement — a requirement of the Endangered Species Act when the government finds that an industry or other actor has been threatening the sustainability of an endangered species — a “signal omission.” Buoy lines pose “an especially grave danger to the species,” he added. The judge noted that in 2014 the agency estimated that lobster lines would lead to more than three whale deaths a year, on average. “The figure was well over the … maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock, while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population,” he wrote.
Boasberg called the agency’s arguments for why they failed to comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act “a novel interpretation of the law.” “Defendants cannot rewrite the statute just because they do not agree with its consequences,” he said. Agency officials declined to comment on the potential impact of the judge’s ruling. “NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the court’s decision,” said Allison Ferreira, a spokeswoman for the fisheries service. Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, said she was “carefully” reviewing the ruling.
“The MLA expects to submit a briefing to the court during the remedy phase of this proceeding to protect the rights and livelihood of the lobstermen it represents,” she said. Jane Davenport, a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington-based advocacy group and another plaintiff, called the ruling “timely,” noting that just 10 calves were born this year, about a third of the number needed to prevent the species from going extinct. “Low calving rates are directly linked to the chronic stress of fishing gear entanglements,” she said. In his decision, Boasberg didn’t say what the agency must do now. But he said he would seek briefings about potential remedies soon. Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, another plaintiff, said the decision “should send a clear signal that federal officials must take immediate action to protect these amazing animals from suffering more deadly, painful entanglements, before it’s too late.”
Researchers at the New England Aquarium also welcomed the ruling. “We have seen firsthand the trauma this species has suffered from fishing gear entanglements,” they said in a statement. “It has been incredibly challenging to witness their suffering and decline while also getting pushback from fishing industry representatives who remain resistant to considering changes to how they presently fish.”
Tuna is delicious, but it often comes at a terrible price. In many parts of the world, fishermen use gillnets to catch the valuable fish, but those nets don’t just entangle tuna. Other nontarget animals are also caught in their webs. The unwanted catch is called “bycatch.” From sea turtles, sharks and other nontarget fish to cetaceans, the “wicked web” does not differentiate – they all die. The number of creatures from dolphins to sharks to other cetaceans that get caught and die in gillnets is astronomical! It is time for a complete ban on the use of gillnets in the Indian Ocean. According to a recent study, as many as 100,000 cetaceans were killed by commercial fishing in 2006. That number has dropped to 80,000 this year, but that 20% decline in deaths doesn’t have conservationists celebrating. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Researchers believe the number of dolphin casualties hasn’t declined, rather the actual number of dolphins has. The lower number just indicates that there are fewer dolphins in the Indian Ocean to become bycatch in the first place. In fact, they believe the death toll for cetacean deaths over the past 70 years in Indian Ocean fisheries is a whopping 4 million. Gillnet fishing is virtually unmanaged in the Indian Ocean and some of the biggest commercial fishing nations are the worst offenders when it comes to dolphin bycatch. One study estimates that for every 1,000 tons of tuna caught, around 175 cetaceans are snagged. For context, Iran averages around 214,262 tons of tuna every year. That means their bycatch is more than 30,000 dead nontarget marine mammals annually! And that number doesn’t include Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan’s catches which, along with Iran, make up the five nations that catch the most tuna using gillnets. Please join Care2 in asking the nations of Iran, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to ban gillnetting and to step up their efforts to protect Indian Ocean cetaceans.
Kristian Laine was free diving near Lady Elliot Island in Australia, hoping to get a few good photos of the diverse sea creatures who call the Great Barrier Reef home.
He had no idea that he was about to get the luckiest shot a photographer could ask for.
Pink manta ray spotted off Lady Elliot Island
Laine spotted six male manta rays chasing a female, known as a manta train, so he held his breath and dove down. Looking through the viewfinder of his camera, he focused on something unusual. One of the mantas leading the chase wasn’t black or white — he was bright pink.
“I was looking through the viewfinder and locked eyes with it,” Laine told The Dodo. “Only when I fired my strobes to take a photo I noticed its pink color. I had no idea there were any pink mantas in the world so I was confused and thought my strobes were broken or doing something weird.”
Pink manta ray named Inspector Clouseau
Laine was pretty sure that his camera was malfunctioning, but he decided to follow the train and snap a few more shots of the special ray. And the rosy manta didn’t seem to mind the attention: “He was extremely calm,” Laine said. “I remember looking into its eyes and it was almost like he was smiling or at least very friendly.”
The whole interaction only lasted about a half hour but would change Laine’s life forever. “I felt a connection there,” he added.
When Laine returned to land, he came across a photo of the area’s most famous and reclusive inhabitant — a bubblegum pink manta named Inspector Clouseau.
“I rushed back to check in my camera,” Laine said. “My jaw dropped when I realized what I had just witnessed.
Pink manta ray spotted in Australia
Inspector Clouseau was first spotted in 2015, sparking debates as to what exactly gives him his rosy hue. A skin biopsy of the ray in 2016 ruled out any infection or irregularities in diet causing the color, National Geographic reported.
Scientists’ current theory is that the color is caused by a rare genetic mutation, such as erythrism, which causes an abnormal redness in an animal’s skin, fur or feathers, according to National Geographic. Or, in this case, a pinkness.
Pink manta ray pursuing a mate
The 11-foot manta seems to be doing just fine, despite standing out from the crowd. And if he’s successful in his courtship, we may see more pink mantas in the next few years.
But for now, Inspector Clouseau is wowing the world — one diver at a time. “It’s pretty humbling and I feel extremely lucky,” Laine said. “It was a pretty special day for me.”
NEPA: the most important law you’ve never heard of.
We often ask you, our extended whamily, to join us in speaking up whale and dolphin protections. Those opportunities for the public voice (your voice!) to be heard are usually part of a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – one of our most important environmental laws. NEPA is a vital tool in our policy toolbox to make sure whales, dolphins, and their environments are not harmed by human actions, but this doesn’t only apply to whales and dolphins! This law is important for wildlife, the environment.
This law is important for wildlife, the environment, and making sure that the public continue to have a voice.
If you’ve ever joined us in calling for ships to reduce their speed in right whale habitat, or even weighed in on a new highway or wastewater treatment plant built in your community – you’ve participated in NEPA.
What NEPA does:
Reviews how proposed actions could affect the environment
Allows the public to provide input
Creates transparency in government actions
Relies on robust scientific reviews
Thanks so much for helping us protect NEPA, the law that protects the environment and the voice of the public! Without strong environmental review under NEPA, based on the best available science, it’s much harder to make sure that human actions don’t harm wildlife and our environment. If you breathe air and drink water, you need this law, so please share this with your family and friends!
Tell Mattel: No More Plastic Packaging | Take Action @ The Animal Rescue Site
Sponsor: Free The Ocean
Every parent has seen it: the amount of plastic packaging for toys is ridiculous. The consequences for our oceans are dire.
Over 28 BILLION pounds of plastic enters the ocean each year.1 Plastic packaging is the single biggest contributor, representing a massive 42% of the plastic polluting our oceans.
Plastic in our oceans kills over ONE MILLION marine animals each year. Mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds die from entanglement in or ingestion of plastic.2 Sea turtles are especially susceptible as the plastic they consume gets trapped in their stomachs, preventing them from swallowing real food… and they starve.3 This is a serious issue.
Toys are one of the worst offenders when it comes to plastic packaging, and Mattel is one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers.4 The amount of plastic used to package their toys is staggering. Ironically, the kids opening the toys enclosed in plastic packaging are the ones who are going to be impacted the most. If nothing changes, by the time a 5-year old today turns 35, plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.5 Let’s not make children choose between toys packaged in plastic and a healthy ocean.
Although there’ll soon be a ‘How2Recycle’ sticker on some of Mattel’s products6, the truth is only 9% of plastic ever actually gets recycled.7 Mattel needs a wake-up call when it comes to the impact created by their plastic packaging. Not only would a change in packaging benefit our environment, the ocean, and marine life – it would also benefit the children who play with Mattel’s toys. We know this can be done, because Hasbro has already committed to phase out plastic in all of its packaging.8
When we speak out together, we can make companies take action. Tell the CEO of Mattel, Ynon Kreiz, to redesign Mattel’s packaging to eliminate plastic!
Plastic Pollution Affects Sea Life Throughout the Ocean
Pew Charitable Trusts, September 24, 2018
For Animals, Plastic Is Turning the Ocean Into a Minefield
National Geographic, June 2018
Just a Few Pieces of Plastic Can Kill Sea Turtles
New York Times, Sept. 13, 2018
The Top 7 Toy Companies Ranked by Market Share
Global Toy News, December 8, 2018
By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, study says
Washington Post, January 1, 2016
Mattel Joins How2Recycle
How2Recycle, February 07, 2019
Plastic recycling is a myth: what really happens to your rubbish?
The Guardian, August 17, 2019
Hasbro to Phase Out Plastic from New Toy and Game Packaging
Hasbro, August 20, 2019
To: Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Mattel, Inc.
Plastic packaging is the single biggest contributor to the plastic that ends up in our oceans – which is a staggering 18 billion pounds per year. Plastic pollution kills over 1 million marine animals every year and severely damages the marine ecosystem.
As one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, Mattel’s product packaging contributes to a massive amount of plastic. I know you’re adding a ‘How2Recycle’ sticker to some of your products but unfortunately, only 9% of all plastic actually gets recycled. The reality is, this won’t meaningfully reduce plastic waste, but using plastic-free alternatives for your packaging will.
It’s estimated that by the time a 5-year-old today, turns 35, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish. But we can change that. Let’s not give a child the choice between a toy packaged in plastic and a healthy ocean. Ynon, changing Mattel’s packaging would not only benefit the ocean and marine life but would also benefit the children who play with your toys. Please make the right decision and redesign Mattel’s packaging to eliminate plastic.
“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