Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators, study finds

Scientists reveal unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves as well as silent method to initiate suckling

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

They dont want any unwanted listeners, researcher Simone Videsen, lead author of a study published in Functional Ecology, said.

Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it.

Whales are known for their loud calls, congregating fellow members of the pod. Male humpback whales also emit reverberating sounds to attract females during the mating season.

But this is the first time scientists have observed a unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves.

Researchers from Denmark and Australia tracked each of eight calves and two mothers for 24 hours in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, a breeding ground for Antarctic humpback whales seeking warmer waters to mate and give birth.

Using tags attached to the animals, the team of scientists recorded their faint squeaks and grunts.

These signals between mother and calf are more quiet than those of normal adult humpback whales, Videsen said, noting they were 40 decibels lower than the singing of males in the area.

While a males cry can resound over an area covering several kilometres, the pairs in the study could only hear each others calls within a distance of less than 100 metres (330 feet), she added.

The low sounds were detected when the pairs were swimming, suggesting the discreet tone helps the mammals stay together in the murky breeding waters, infested with killer whales preying on stray calves.

The faint sounds are also a way to keep mate-seeking males from interfering in the humpbacks nurturing, a crucial time in the newborns life as it braces for an arduous 8,000km (5,000 mile) journey back home to the Antarctic, the researchers speculated.

And the migration is no less challenging for the mother.

There is no food for them in the breeding grounds so the mothers feast while they are there, Videsen said.

The researchers also believe that mother and calf in their effort to go undetected may have developed a silent method to initiate suckling.

Instead of signalling hunger vocally and risk getting spotted, the calves rub against their mothers, according to the studys findings.

Humpback whales can be found both in the Arctic and Antarctic. Each pod spends the summer at the poles and travels to tropical areas in their respective hemispheres during the winter to breed.

The scientific investigation also shed light on the growing problem of ocean noise pollution that can severely disrupt marine life.

Because mother and calf communicate in whispers, shipping noise could easily mask these quiet calls, Videsen said, potentially provoking the pair to lose each other.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

North Atlantic right whales could become extinct, US officials say

Noaa scientist says you do have to use the extinction word while study suggests whales leave protected areas to feed

US federal officials say it is time to consider the possibility that North Atlantic right whales could become extinct, unless new steps are taken to protect them.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has said there are only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left and 17 have died in 2017.

The situation is so dire that US and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population will not recover without action soon, said John Bullard, north-east regional administrator for Noaa Fisheries.

The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction. There are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

You do have to use the extinction word because thats where the trend lines say they are, Bullard said. Thats something we cant let happen.

Bullard and other Noaa officials made the comments during a meeting this week of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for Noaa, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.

The US and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales deaths.

The current status of the right whales is a critical situation and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency, he said.

A
A North Atlantic right whale dives, near a New England Aquarium research boat. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The animals give birth in temperate southern waters and then head to New England and Canada every spring and summer to feed. All of this years deaths were off New England and Canada.

Some recent scientific studies have shed some light on why whale deaths have increased. One, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, stated that the whales move around much more than previously thought. Some scientists have posited that whales might be venturing outside of protected areas in search of food, putting themselves in harms way.

In another study, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined right whale feces and found whales that suffer long entanglements in fishing gear produce hormone levels that indicate high stress. The stress negatively impacts their ability to reproduce even when they survive entanglement, scientists said.

My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish but not entangle whales, said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

A five-year Noaa review of right whales released in October said the animals should remain on the endangered list. It also included recommendations to protect the species including developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use and studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

‘That is definitely not a dolphin’: shark attack victim plays down hysteria

Jade Fitzpatrick says reports of attacks often make them sound bigger and scarier and he will be surfing again within days

Jade Fitzpatrick is still in shock a day after escaping the jaws of a 2.7-metre great white off the New South Wales north coast, but he says reporting of attacks should be kept in perspective and netting beaches is not the solution.

The 36-year-old surfer suffered three puncture wounds to his upper thigh when his surfboard bore the brunt of the attack off a beach between Suffolk Park and Broken Head near Byron Bay on Monday morning.

He described how he was lying on his board waiting for a wave when the shark struck. He bit down on my leg and this fin has got him in the mouth and he has spat me out, he told Network Seven 24 hours after the attack.

I thought, that is definitely not a dolphin, he said.

After analysing his board shark experts determined it was a 2.7-metre great white that took the bite. I have been up and down a little bit, Fitzpatrick said on Tuesday.

With the help of a friend, he was able to paddle into shore and make his way to Byron central hospital. He was discharged later in the day.

The attack has not deterred Fitzpatrick from surfing in the area and he said he would be back in the water in 10 days, when his wounds heal.

The attack, the third in a month, prompted the states primary industries minister, Niall Blair, to announce he would fast-track legislation in an attempt to have the nets installed before the summer school holidays, despite opposition from some locals.

But Fitzpatrick does not want shark nets, which he said would kill dolphins, whales and other marine life that provide a healthy ecosystem. [Nets] will maybe keep us a bit secure at the cost of [sharks] lives, or maybe it will give us a false sense of security.

He believes there is a lot of hysteria and fear mongering when it comes to the reporting of shark attacks. Everything gets bigger and scarier.

He holds no grudge against the shark. I am just doing what I love and he is just being what he is.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

When They Saw This Giant Leatherback Turtle In Distress, They Didn’t Hesitate To Help

When Jacksonville Police Lieutenant Steve Mullen and Officer Brad Smith were out enjoying the ocean on their day off, they saw something in the water that warranted investigation. As they got closer, though, they realized it was a matter of life and death…because caught in a crab trap was a nine-foot-long leatherback turtle!

The rope was wrapped around his neck, so each time he tried to dive, it only tightened further. Seeing that if they didn’t cut the rope soon he would die, the two officers leapt into action.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Saved From Crab Trap By JSO Officers

Leatherback Sea Turtle Saved From Crab Trap By JSO OfficersJacksonville Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Steve Mullen and Officer Brad Smith were off shore two miles out in front of Hanna Park around 1:00 p.m. today. They observed a nine foot Leatherback Sea Turtle in distress. The sea turtle had become entangled in a crab trap. The trap's rope was looped around the sea turtle's neck, and the buoy was still attached to the trap. As a result, whenever the turtle tried to dive, the rope tightened around its neck. Lt. Steve Mullen was able to disentangle the distressed turtle from the crab trap while keeping the turtle in the water.Great job Lt. Mullen and Officer Smith! Even off duty, saving lives!^MB

Posted by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Monday, February 22, 2016

Thanks to these two off-duty officers, another life was saved. And since that turtle isn’t capable of saying thanks, bravo, gentlemen!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/leatherback-turtle/

Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators, study finds

Scientists reveal unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves as well as silent method to initiate suckling

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

They dont want any unwanted listeners, researcher Simone Videsen, lead author of a study published in Functional Ecology, said.

Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it.

Whales are known for their loud calls, congregating fellow members of the pod. Male humpback whales also emit reverberating sounds to attract females during the mating season.

But this is the first time scientists have observed a unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves.

Researchers from Denmark and Australia tracked each of eight calves and two mothers for 24 hours in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, a breeding ground for Antarctic humpback whales seeking warmer waters to mate and give birth.

Using tags attached to the animals, the team of scientists recorded their faint squeaks and grunts.

These signals between mother and calf are more quiet than those of normal adult humpback whales, Videsen said, noting they were 40 decibels lower than the singing of males in the area.

While a males cry can resound over an area covering several kilometres, the pairs in the study could only hear each others calls within a distance of less than 100 metres (330 feet), she added.

The low sounds were detected when the pairs were swimming, suggesting the discreet tone helps the mammals stay together in the murky breeding waters, infested with killer whales preying on stray calves.

The faint sounds are also a way to keep mate-seeking males from interfering in the humpbacks nurturing, a crucial time in the newborns life as it braces for an arduous 8,000km (5,000 mile) journey back home to the Antarctic, the researchers speculated.

And the migration is no less challenging for the mother.

There is no food for them in the breeding grounds so the mothers feast while they are there, Videsen said.

The researchers also believe that mother and calf in their effort to go undetected may have developed a silent method to initiate suckling.

Instead of signalling hunger vocally and risk getting spotted, the calves rub against their mothers, according to the studys findings.

Humpback whales can be found both in the Arctic and Antarctic. Each pod spends the summer at the poles and travels to tropical areas in their respective hemispheres during the winter to breed.

The scientific investigation also shed light on the growing problem of ocean noise pollution that can severely disrupt marine life.

Because mother and calf communicate in whispers, shipping noise could easily mask these quiet calls, Videsen said, potentially provoking the pair to lose each other.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/26/baby-whales-whisper-to-mothers-to-avoid-predators-study-finds

Sea lion deaths linked to severe brain damage caused by toxic algae bloom

Sea lions on US west coast beaches that ingest domoic acid may face neurological problems that impair behavior and survival abilities, new study finds

The mystery of why sea lions have been stranding in droves on US west coast beaches in recent years is closer to being solved.

A new study suggests that sea lions have been eating crabs and small fish laced with the algal toxin domoic acid, which causes chronic seizures and brain damage, impairing the animals ability to navigate, eat and generally survive in the ocean.

Domoic acid was already a known cause of sea lion deaths, but the new study is the first to pinpoint how it affects behavior and thus how it could indirectly lead to widespread declines in the population even when it doesnt kill the animals.

By studying rescued sea lions at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, researchers found that domoic acid bioaccumulates in sea lions as they eat large quantities of small fish until it causes significant brain damage, specifically to the hippocampus, a process which erodes memory.

And not just short-term and long-term memory deficit, but probably more global deficits as well, Peter Cook, the lead author said Monday. Whats happening is probably a chronic thing repeated exposure to domoic acid causes repeated seizures, which damage the brain.

Record numbers of sea lions have stranded in each of the past three years, according to the Marine Mammal Center. There are likely a number of factors, but Cook says domoic acid probably increases those strandings both directly, through damaging the animals navigation abilities, and indirectly, through pups being abandoned by mothers.

The findings provide critical new information about the impacts of domoic acid, which has increasingly devastated wildlife and fishermen in recent years.

The toxin is the reason why the season for Dungeness crab, a well-known and lucrative fishery along the west coast, has been delayed this year and has increasingly become one of the main impacts of warmer waters along the west coast as domoic acid-producing algal blooms grow larger and longer-lasting.

Those impacts have grown rapidly and recently.

In 1998, hundreds of sea lions experiencing seizures stranded off Monterey Bay, 75 miles south of San Francisco. At first, the reason for the seizures was a mystery. People thought it was mercury poisoning, said Kathi Lefebvre, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist who was not involved in the new research. She happened to be looking at the effects of domoic acid in fish in 1998 and thought the toxin might be the cause for sea lion seizures.

It turned out to be the first documented case of domoic acid poisoning in marine life. Those cases have grown since, and this year could be the worst ever. Every year since for the last 17 years there have been sick and dying sea lions, sometimes in the hundreds, Lefebvre said.

This year was the first in which a sea lion affected by domoic acid poisoning was reported north of California, she said. What were most concerned about right now is this year we have had the likely largest ever recorded algal bloom producing domoic acid on the US west coast, spanning the largest geographic range.

Historically, the toxic algal bloom would last just a few weeks, but due to warmer waters from climate change and this years El Nio weather phenomenon, this years bloom lasted for months. She said that persistence and its northward expansion makes studying the sub-lethal chronic effects domoic acid has on animals particularly important.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/15/sea-lion-deaths-toxic-algae-bloom-domoic-acid-brain-damage

Big oil v orcas: Canadians fight pipeline that threatens killer whales on the brink

Conservationists say the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion project poses the greatest risk yet to a killer whale population on the edge of extinction

On one shore there are snow-capped mountains. On the other side loom towering skyscrapers. These churning waters off the coast of Vancouver are marked by a constant flow of ferries and containers ships but they are also home to 80 or so orcas.

Known as the southern resident killer whales the group has long had a fraught relationship with the urban sprawl they live alongside, leaving them on the knifes edge of extinction.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the worlds most contaminated marine mammals.

But now the orcas of the Salish sea face what conservationists say is their biggest threat to date: an expansion proposal for a pipeline that would snake from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

Spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, the C$6.8bn ($5bn) Trans Mountain Expansion project is designed to transport Albertas landlocked bitumen to international markets.

Canada pipeline map

The proposal which still needs the approval of the federal government, led by Justin Trudeau would expand an existing pipeline to lay nearly 1,000km of new pipeline from Alberta to Vancouvers coastline. Oil tanker and barge traffic in the region would soar nearly sevenfold, to as many as 408 tankers a year.

Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US.

The approval of the project is also the approval of the extinction of the population, said Ross Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. No one is disputing it. Nobody is saying thats not accurate. Its been accepted.

In May, Canadas energy regulator wrapped up two years of review into the Trans Mountain proposal, recommending that the federal government approve the project. The approval was conditional, subject to 157 conditions that include 49 environmental requirements. The regulator also noted the project is likely to result in significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whale.

Trudeaus cabinet has until 19 December to make its final decision.

Anti-pipeline
Anti-pipeline signs are seen on the side of a road in the First Nations village of Old Massett, British Columbia. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Analysts have long speculated that the approval of the pipeline is imminent. The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one, Trudeau told attendees at a Vancouver conference on clean technology in March. We need both to reach our goal, and as we continue to ensure there is a market for our natural resources, our deepening commitment to a cleaner future will be a valuable advantage.

Trudeau has faced immense pressure from Alberta where sagging oil prices have sent unemployment soaring to around 8.5% to approve a pipeline, but promises by Donald Trump to resurrect plans for the Keystone XL pipeline could alleviate some of this pressure.

Many are not taking any chances. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation has joined forces with several other organisations to launch a legal challenge against the energy regulators approval of the project, arguing that it failed to take into account the impact on the orca whales and their habitat. The groups are currently waiting to hear whether their application for judicial review, filed in June, will be given the go ahead by the court.

The anticipated increase in tanker traffic will heighten the physical and acoustic disturbances in the water, said Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. The noise of the propeller and the engine emits at a frequency that can mask the communication of the whales, she said. And the overall traffic combines to create sort of a din so it reduces the actual space over which the whale can hear and be heard by other whales.

The result could hamper the whales ability to catch food, she said. Theyve got a unique diet, theyve got a unique language in terms of their dialect and theyve got a unique culture. And its that package thats in jeopardy.

Climate change has steadily diminished the availability of Chinook salmon, the whales main food source. Drone research has revealed whales with altered body shapes and lacking fat deposits, suggesting they are starving. You can visibly actually see the ribs on some of these whales, said MacDuffee.

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A pod of orcas in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

If tanker traffic increases, the whales will not simply move to another area. That critical habitat is not just a space on the map. It has these acoustic components, food supply components and water quality components.

The fate of the orcas is just one facet of the broad opposition the project is facing. More than 20 municipalities and 17 First Nations communities have come out against the proposal while hundreds of youth marched in Ottawa last month to urge the government to shelve the proposal. Thousands more are expected to turn out for a protest march in Vancouver this Saturday.

The existing pipeline which began operating in 1953 passes near several schools, at one site running under a school playground, said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans.

It was concerns over this trajectory that launched 92-year-old Elsie Dean into action. It comes right through our community, said Dean, pointing to the pipelines route through her home of Burnaby, a city of some 220,000 people in British Columbia.

Since 1961, the pipeline system being eyed for expansion has reported approximately 82 spills to the countrys energy regulator, she noted. It just seems rather insane to consider putting this amount of bitumen in a community of people.

Those
Those opposed to the pipeline say increased oil tanker traffic will hamper the whales ability to catch food. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dean helped launch Broke, or Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion, four years ago in an effort to steer Canada whose greenhouse gas emissions rank among the highest per capita in the OECD away from fossil fuels and towards meaningful efforts to tackle climate change. We know that if we dont cut back on fossil fuels, the future generation or certainly my grandchildren will be affected adversely by climate change.

One First Nations community has countered the proposal with a demonstration of the alternative. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which sits directly across an inlet from the existing Kinder Morgan tanker terminal, recently launched a fundraising campaign to expand the communitys commitment to solar energy. Its a poetic way to illustrate the choices before us, said Charlene Aleck, a councillor with the community.

The Kinder Morgan project was analysed through the same lens as all others that come through the territory, said Aleck. Is it feasible, is it something good for the water, land and air? The community of 500 people was unanimous in its opposition. It didnt even pass the lowest entry form of how we would run business on our land.

Chief among the communitys concerns was the possibility of an oil spill, she said. One accident and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as salmon, dolphins, whales, seals and a multitude of other aquatic and hundreds of thousands of avian species, would be destroyed forever.

Earlier this month, Trudeau announced C$1.5bn in funding to improve response measures. The move was widely seen as an attempt to quell some of the opposition to the proposed pipeline.

Aleck welcomed the funding as a way to address the issues arising from the industry already in operation in the region. But the best way to mitigate an oil spill is not to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion, she added.

When queried on the opposition facing the proposal, Kinder Morgan pointed to a series of links on their website highlighting the companys funding of orca research and its efforts to engage communities affected by the pipeline.

Since
Since 1961, the pipeline system being eyed for expansion has reported more than 80 spills. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The project has received 41 letters of support from Aboriginal groups located along the pipeline and marine corridor in Alberta and British Columbia, said the company. More than C$13m in funding had been provided to some 98 communities who wanted to learn more about the project, it added.

The pipeline does not run under any buildings, the company noted. Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose any health risk. Where the pipeline runs near schools, it said, we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are coordinated.

If the project is approved, the company said it would invest more than C$150m in marine spill response in the region. The investment will fund five new response bases, about 115 new employees and approximately 26 new vessels at strategic locations along BCs southern shipping lane, the company said.

The millions in funding does little to address what seems to be a certainty of the project the risk posed to the resident orca whales, said Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. If this population goes extinct, its gone for good, he said. Theyre part of our identity, theyre part of the place in which we live. If we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/16/canada-oil-pipeline-expansion-killer-whales-kinder-morgan

‘That is definitely not a dolphin’: shark attack victim plays down hysteria

Jade Fitzpatrick says reports of attacks often make them sound bigger and scarier and he will be surfing again within days

Jade Fitzpatrick is still in shock a day after escaping the jaws of a 2.7-metre great white off the New South Wales north coast, but he says reporting of attacks should be kept in perspective and netting beaches is not the solution.

The 36-year-old surfer suffered three puncture wounds to his upper thigh when his surfboard bore the brunt of the attack off a beach between Suffolk Park and Broken Head near Byron Bay on Monday morning.

He described how he was lying on his board waiting for a wave when the shark struck. He bit down on my leg and this fin has got him in the mouth and he has spat me out, he told Network Seven 24 hours after the attack.

I thought, that is definitely not a dolphin, he said.

After analysing his board shark experts determined it was a 2.7-metre great white that took the bite. I have been up and down a little bit, Fitzpatrick said on Tuesday.

With the help of a friend, he was able to paddle into shore and make his way to Byron central hospital. He was discharged later in the day.

The attack has not deterred Fitzpatrick from surfing in the area and he said he would be back in the water in 10 days, when his wounds heal.

The attack, the third in a month, prompted the states primary industries minister, Niall Blair, to announce he would fast-track legislation in an attempt to have the nets installed before the summer school holidays, despite opposition from some locals.

But Fitzpatrick does not want shark nets, which he said would kill dolphins, whales and other marine life that provide a healthy ecosystem. [Nets] will maybe keep us a bit secure at the cost of [sharks] lives, or maybe it will give us a false sense of security.

He believes there is a lot of hysteria and fear mongering when it comes to the reporting of shark attacks. Everything gets bigger and scarier.

He holds no grudge against the shark. I am just doing what I love and he is just being what he is.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/25/that-is-definitely-not-a-dolphin-shark-attack-victim-plays-down-hysteria

When They Saw This Giant Leatherback Turtle In Distress, They Didn’t Hesitate To Help

When Jacksonville Police Lieutenant Steve Mullen and Officer Brad Smith were out enjoying the ocean on their day off, they saw something in the water that warranted investigation. As they got closer, though, they realized it was a matter of life and death…because caught in a crab trap was a nine-foot-long leatherback turtle!

The rope was wrapped around his neck, so each time he tried to dive, it only tightened further. Seeing that if they didn’t cut the rope soon he would die, the two officers leapt into action.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Saved From Crab Trap By JSO Officers

Leatherback Sea Turtle Saved From Crab Trap By JSO OfficersJacksonville Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Steve Mullen and Officer Brad Smith were off shore two miles out in front of Hanna Park around 1:00 p.m. today. They observed a nine foot Leatherback Sea Turtle in distress. The sea turtle had become entangled in a crab trap. The trap's rope was looped around the sea turtle's neck, and the buoy was still attached to the trap. As a result, whenever the turtle tried to dive, the rope tightened around its neck. Lt. Steve Mullen was able to disentangle the distressed turtle from the crab trap while keeping the turtle in the water.Great job Lt. Mullen and Officer Smith! Even off duty, saving lives!^MB

Posted by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Monday, February 22, 2016

Thanks to these two off-duty officers, another life was saved. And since that turtle isn’t capable of saying thanks, bravo, gentlemen!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/leatherback-turtle/