This Week in Whales: Helping Spot Whales to Protect them from Industrial Activity; Dolphins still dying on East Coast; Boy Bands Everywhere...

Humpback whale NOAA.jpg

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

  • Physicists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany have converted a Navy infrared camera into an underwater thermal imaging system designed to automatically detect whales to help protect them from noise pollution, like that generated by pile driving for wind farm construction or airguns surveying for oil and gas deposits under the sea floor.  The camera constantly streams video footage to a software system that continuously monitors for whales (their spouts, for instance, are much warmer than the surrounding waters).  Once a whale is spotted, the hope is that industrial activities will ramp down and halt until it swims out of range.  This device could be an important complement to current mitigation practices, wherein look-outs posted on vessels visually monitor for whales.  Of course, such look-outs are not generally useful during nighttime, harsh weather conditions, or when whales are below the surface.  As you know, dear readers, underwater noise pollution is a significant threat to cetaceans, as noted reclently by my colleague.  Thus, any advancements in mitigation technology is good news.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to investigate the Unusual Mortality Event on the east coast (over 160 dolphins have died in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York since July).  As I blogged last week, we shouldn't ignore the potential human contribution to these dolphin die-offs, even if indirect.  Scientists have been talking to the media about these potential contributions--such as climate change and pollution--and their role in the mass strandings.
  • Speaking of human impacts on dolphins--an oldie but a goodie: Banksy built and installed a Deepwater Horizon BP-leak-themed dolphin ride at Brighton Pier in the UK.  Put in a quarter (er, 50p, 20p?), and you can ride a dolphin struggling to free itself from the weight of oil and fishing nets!  Now that's fun for the whole family.

Meanwhile, this week in Wales...

new mountain biking park has just opened to the public. It boasts 23 different trails.