This Week in Whales, 9/29/11

News in the world of whales this week (or close to this week):

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  • A humpback whale baby boom is in full display off the southeastern coast of Australia.  According to Geoff Ross of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, there will be more baby humpback whales traveling the east coast over the next couple of months than have been seen since commercial whaling was banned in Australia in the 1960s.  Mr. Ross says, “It’s taken decades, but we’re starting to see remarkable year-on-year increases in the number of whales migrating along our coastline.”  Part of this baby boom includes an incredibly rare white whale calf, spotted near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  Witnesses described seeing the white whale calf as a “once in a lifetime event.”  And they’re not exaggerating – only about .1 percent of the humpbacks living along Australia’s east coast are white.
  • Unfortunately, humpback whales are not out of the jungle just yet.  While we’ve stopped commercial whaling (well, most nations have stopped; Iceland and Japan are still up to no good) there is evidence that other human activities may lead to humpback whale starvation.  While humpback whale numbers are increasing, so are the number of strandings, with evidence of malnutrition.  An expert in Australia says that many of the calves “are skinny and sickly, they don’t have a lot of blubber and it looked like most of them hadn’t had a chance to feed from their mothers.”  And it’s not just the calves.  John Woodbury, a whale watching tour operator, says, “The adult humpbacks, the mothers, are looking thin,” which he blames on environmental pollution:  “The ocean is absorbing more and more carbon from the atmosphere, making it too acidic for Antarctic Krill [humpback whales’ traditional food source] to form a strong shell.”  Mr. Woodbury’s describing ocean acidification, which NRDC has been warning about, and working to halt, for years.  If we don’t get our carbon emissions under control, we’re going to see a lot more sickly whales. 

Meanwhile, this week in Wales…

It’s “hot” in Wales this week.  Yesterday, some areas of Wales were hotter than Hawaii.  Temperatures topped out at 25°C (77°F) in Colwyn Bay, reaching 24°C (75°F) in Aberystwyth, and 23°C (73°F) in Cardiff.  Usually for the end of September temperatures are more like 13°C (55°F).  Meanwhile, the temperature at Maui’s airport reached 22°C (72°F).  Watch out Hawaii, I may throw my next luau in Wales.

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