This Week in Whales, 9/15/11

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

  • Many Southern California residents were given a rare treat this week when a pod of blue whales showed up off the coast of Redondo Beach.  This is the second year in a row that a pod of the largest animal ever to have lived (take that dinosaurs!) has shown up so close to the beach city’s shore.  Blue whales are an endangered species, nearly wiped out by commercial whaling.  They average about 100 feet in length and can weigh up to 200 tons.  The global population is somewhere between 10,000 to 25,000, with this pod probably coming from the approximately 3,000 blue whales that live off of California and Baja California.  Fortunately, the global population trend is increasing so maybe in the future we’ll see even more blue whales right off our coast to the continuing delight of Southern California residents.
  • And, what may be a first in the world of blue whales, an NBC camera crew recorded a blue whale song above water.  Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society researcher heard the above-water sound and said it was a once in a lifetime experience.  I don’t think this “song” is going to make it to the top of the charts, but it is still very cool.
  • Earlier in the week, Iceland expressed false “surprise and disappointment” over the Obama Administration’s certification of Iceland pursuant to the Pelly Amendment – a US law that outlines steps the Administration can take against countries that engage in whaling or trade whale products in contravention of international law.  Adding the right amount of insincerity to their “outrage,” Iceland engaged in the kind of childish false equivalency that too often characterizes our politics by suggesting that the US was hypocritical on whaling because it allows the subsistence take of bowhead whales.  But, of course, there is a difference between sustainable subsistence harvest of animals and the commercial whaling of endangered whales for the international market. 
  • Ugh.  A mass starvation of dugongs is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef.  Scientists believe that the cyclone and floods that afflicted this part of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef this past year have wiped out the sea grass that dugong and sea turtles rely upon for food.  It is feared that this disaster could result in nearly 1,500 dugongs dying from starvation in the coming months.

Meanwhile, this week in Wales…

Who knew there would be so many stories about whales coming out of Wales?  This week, we get the story of a bottlenose dolphin engaged in aggressive parenting in New Quay, Cardigan Bay, West Wales.  In what has been characterized as “baffling behavior” a bottlenose dolphin repeatedly tossed her newborn calf out of the water.  Scientists think the mother may have been disciplining or teaching the newborn, although similar behavior is often associated with dolphins attacking smaller porpoises and ultimately killing them.  Luckily everything turned out fine.  All the dolphins in this group, including mother and newborn, were later seen feeding and engaging in normal behavior.

And finally, special thanks to our Marine Mammals Program Assistant, Lauren Packard, for keeping us updated on the world of whales last week while I was away on vacation.  Thanks Lauren!

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