This Week in Whales: North Atlantic Right Whales Head South for the Winter; Big Victory for Belgua Whales; Surviving Baby Dolphin May Hold Clues in the Gulf; Canadian Seal Industry Can't Compete...
News in the world of whales this week and from last week (or close to it).
- The endangered North Atlantic right whale (there are likely less than 400 left in the world) is heading south for the winter. Leaving their feeding grounds off Canada and New England, pregnant right whales are heading to the warm coastal waters off South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida their only known calving ground. It’s in these calmer and warmer waters that the whales will give birth and nurse their young. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the US agency charged with administering the laws protecting the right whale, have sent out notice to boaters, ship captains, etc. about the annual migration. Right whales are very difficult to see at the surface, making them vulnerable to ship strikes – a leading threat to their survival. NOAA grants help pay for airplane survey crews to help monitor the migration to alert vessels about the whales location.
- Two weeks ago, I wrote about the discovery of approximately 80 whale fossils dating back seven million years in Chile’s Atacama Desert. This new brief article on the discovery has a really cool photo of a whale fossil. Check it out.
- Yo! NRDC and its allies secured a victory for the Cook Inlet beluga whale. We intervened in a lawsuit initiated by the state of Alaska seeking to overturn the beluga’s listing under the Endangered Species Act. Why is the state of Alaska such a hater when it comes to these belugas? About two weeks ago a judge ruled in our favor – the law was on our side. Hopefully rulings like these will help the species from going extinct, which is a real risk in the next 100 years.
- If only Sherlock Holmes was on the case (and no, I don’t mean the Robert Downey Jr. version. I’m thinking more of Basil Rathbone’s Holmes), maybe we’d get to the bottom of what’s killing all of the dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico (me thinks the BP Disaster is to blame, but the “official” verdict is still out). One new clue that could help solve the mystery is the rescue of a live baby dolphin in Alabama. Other baby dolphins have not been so lucky; a dead dolphin, the fifth to wash up on Gulf Coast shores in the past week, was found a few days ago in Mississippi. Over 600 dolphins have washed ashore in the region since February, 2010, when normally only 60 a year would be found. Researchers, like Moby Salangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, hope that studying the rescued baby dolphin – which now has about an 80% chance of survival (the people of Alabama have taken to calling the rescued dolphin, Chance) – are hopeful that studying the rescued dolphin will yield clues to explain the cause of the mass die off. I bet Sherlock Holmes would have already turned over BP executives to Scotland Yard for this crime.
- Everyone embraces “market” forces and complains about government red tape getting in the way of entrepreneurism until the market for their crappy products go bust. Then it’s time to run to the government to prop up their dying industry. Such is the case for Canada’s seal industry. Despite the fact that (Surprise!) people don’t want to eat seal meat and are horrified by the brutal seal harvest, Canada’s seal industry is seeking help for marketing from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for marketing its foul products around the world, although not in the European Union and U.S., which have banned the products. I wonder what they’ll come up with. “Seal, the other red meat.”
- Apparently, killer whales use the tropics how most of the fancy 1% do, as a spa trip destination. Researchers have released a study showing that killer whales in Antarctica migrate rapidly to the tropics potentially seeking spa-like relief from Antarctica’s icy waters. The killer whales traveled more than 5,000 miles to visit the tropical waters off southern Brazil before quickly swimming back to Antarctica 42 days later. The scientists “believe these movements are likely undertaken to help the whales regenerate skin tissue in a warmer environment with less heat loss.” Hmm, brings whole new meaning to seaweed wraps and sea-salt scrubs.
- I did not know that some male spinner dolphins that live in the eastern tropical Pacific have backwards dorsal fins. Matthew Leslie, a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is raising funds for an experiment that he hopes will answer the question as to why some of these adult male dolphins (it does not appear in femals or juveniles) have the strange fin. I’ll let Matt take it from here:
- And, rounding out our news with a segment on the bizarre, an amateur photographer captured an image of thousands of starlings in the shape of a whale and a dolphin and Pakistani authorities do not want you to text about “flogging the dolphin”….
Meanwhile, this week in Wales…
First Minister Carwyn Jones told the Eurochild conference in Cardiff that the Welsh government is committed to eradicating child poverty by 2020. Wales is the only UK country to enshrine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in national law. There are only two nations in the world that have not ratified the Convention: the U.S. and Somalia. Ah, the company we keep.