This Week in Whales: Another Mass Dolphin Die-Off in Peru; Ice Age Was Bad for Killer Whales; Sea Shepherd Proclaims 2014 Best Year Ever...
- Around 400 dolphins washed up dead on Peruvian beaches last month—officials are conducting necropsies, but the cause of death remains unconfirmed. A similar mass stranding occurred in Peru in 2012, with over 800 dolphins washing up in the north of the country. While officials never determined a cause of death in that case other than “natural causes,” they did rule out impacts from oil and gas exploration or infection by a virus or bacteria. Nonetheless, some scientists continue to believe that nearby seismic surveys for underwater oil and gas deposits could have caused the 2012 die off and could also be causing the current strandings. Hopefully they can come up with a better answer than “natural causes” this time around.
- Researchers at Durham University in England have sequenced the whole genomes of killer whale communities worldwide and discovered that killer whale genetic variation was severely restricted during the last Ice Age, indicating that populations dropped dramatically due to lower ocean productivity.
- Check out this aerial footage of the large and elusive fin whale taken by a whale-watching drone. Some experts question whether or not the use of whale-watching drones poses any risk to whales—right now, it’s unclear whether legislation mandating a 1,000 foot buffer between whales and helicopters applies to drones as well. NMFS is discussing the issue and hopefully will promulgate some whale-friendly regulations. I found the noise of the drone very annoying, but it’s unclear what impact that could have on whales.
- Sea Shepherd is hailing 2014 as its most successful year for whale protection, halting Japanese whaling activities in the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd’s success comes despite a collision between a Japanese whaling vessel and a Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker.
- In other Japanese whaling news, this author explores the philosophical implications of the Taiji dolphin slaughter for humankind, arguing that the mass killings reveal our collective inhumanity. Sounds right to me.
Meanwhile, this week in Wales...
Welsh officials are considering strengthening protections for seabirds by expanding the range of protected sites and updating the lists of protected species.
This blog was written with NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project’s assistant, Lauren Packard. Thanks Lauren!
Photo Credit: NOAA