An eagle-eyed member of the public noticed this young seal struggling in Dunalley Canal and notified the relevant authorities. Pictures: DPIPWE Source : Supplied

An eagle-eyed member of the public noticed this young seal struggling in Dunalley Canal and notified the relevant authorities. Pictures: DPIPWE Source : Supplied

April 17th, 2014 (Bruce Mounster). A QUICK call to Tasmania’s WHALE hotline has saved a juvenile Australian fur seal from a slow and painful death.

A member of the public spotted the seal with netting caught around its neck on the banks of the Dunalley Canal, in south-east Tasmania.

Staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment’s Threatened Species and Marine section were able to capture the seal and remove the piece of blue polypropylene netting, which had been cutting into its neck.

Wildlife Biologist Sam Thalmann said such entanglements often resulted in death.

“Fur seals, especially juveniles, are extremely inquisitive and will intuitively inspect floating objects such as seaweed and rubbish,” Mr Thalmann said.

“But all marine life, from fish to seabirds to marine mammals including whales, are at risk of harm from marine debris, so people should be aware of what they put in the ocean.’’

Mr Thalmann encouraged anyone who saw a marine animal in distress to contact wildlife officers ASAP on the 0427 942 537 (0427 WHALES) hotline.

The liberated fur seal seal returning to the water. Picture : DPIPWE Source : Supplied

The liberated fur seal returning to the water. Picture : DPIPWE Source : Supplied

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Posted by: The ocean update | April 17, 2014

Whale Found Dead on Bow of Ship Examined in New Jersey (USA)

A 55-foot finback whale sits on a dry dock after it was found dead in New York Harbor.

A 55-foot finback whale sits on a dry dock after it was found dead in New York Harbor.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 (David Porter). Mammal researchers were conducting a necropsy Wednesday to determine the cause of death for a 60-foot-long whale that was found stuck on the bow of a container ship in New York harbor over the weekend.

Representatives from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine were in Jersey City on Wednesday examining the finback that weighs 55 to 60 tons. The whale was found on the bow of a ship in the harbor Saturday and later towed to an Army Corps of Engineers station near Liberty State Park.

Jay Pagel, senior field technician for the stranding center, said it isn’t uncommon for whales to make their way into shipping lanes as they travel up and the down the East Coast, though they don’t usually stray into the harbor. He said the last time a whale was found in the harbor was about four or five years ago. The mammals can occasionally become lodged on the front of a container ship or other large vessel because of the way the bows are constructed.

On a windy, chilly morning, the mostly intact whale lay stretched out on its side on the dock as researchers prepared for the necropsy, which would entail dissecting the body and checking the organs, Pagel said. A deep indentation was clearly visible on its underside near the jaw, but otherwise it looked undisturbed.

“Finding something this intact is an unusual opportunity,” he said.

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Posted by: The ocean update | April 16, 2014

Smelly dead whale gets a sandy burial at Seaside (Oregon, USA)

A 40-foot adult male gray whale washed ashore April 15, 2014, at Seaside. Photo by Seaside Aquarium

A 40-foot adult male gray whale washed ashore April 15, 2014, at Seaside. Photo by Seaside Aquarium

April 16th, 2014. The whale, a 40-foot fully grown adult male, was buried by city of Seaside employees in the wee morning hours Wednesday, according to Seaside Aquarium.

It took city crews about two and a half hours to dig a beach trench big enough and deep enough to bury the malodorous cetacean.

Before the burial, Debbie Duffield, a Portland State University biologist, and Jason Hussa, Seaside Aquarium aquarist, took tissue samples from the whale to test for toxins.

When whales and other marine mammals wash ashore dead, samples are often taken for tissue-banking purposes to aid in studies of marine mammal health.

While the 40-footer found at Seaside was massive, gray whales can grow up to about 50 feet in length, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.

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Posted by: The ocean update | April 15, 2014

Whale carcass spotted at RK Beach in Visakhapatnam (India)

India_relief_location_mapApril 15th, 2014. VISAKHAPATNAM : Beachgoers were taken aback to spot a decomposed whale carcass washed ashore near the Submarine Museum on R K Beach on Monday morning. Spotting a whale, dead or alive, is a rare occurrence in Visakhapatnam.

While scientists from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) have already collected tissue samples for DNA bar-coding and taxonomical classification of the whale, CMFRI Vizag centre principal scientist and scientist in-charge Subhodeep Ghosh said, “The whale, around 1.25 metres in length, was in a totally putrefied state when it landed early morning on the beach and might have died around 10-12 days ago. We are presuming that the deep sea creature died after it got entangled in fishing gear or trawl net or gill nets and was washed ashore along with the waves.”

The scientist said that tissue samples from the whale had been sent to Kochi for DNA bar-coding and taxonomical classification, which would enable them to pinpoint the age, species and other details about the marine creature. “It’s a rare occurrence because in this part of Vizag we usually find dolphins but not whales. I have been in Vizag since the last four years but have never come across any whale,” he added.

K Sujatha, chairperson, Board of Studies, department of marine living resources, Andhra University, however, opined that the death of the deep sea creature could have been due to water pollution and not necessarily due to nets. “Usually in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, Baleen whales or spotted blue whales are seen. It’s difficult to tell the type of species till tests are done, but it could be a Baleen whale, which at times is spotted near Bheemilipatnam, say once in a year or two and feeds on plankton,” she said.

Agreeing that the occurrence of whales in this part of Vizag was quite rare though not impossible, Prof Uday Bhaskar Reddy from AU’s department of environment sciences said: “The cause of the death needs to be ascertained. If it’s not due to natural causes or injury induced due to fishing nets or trawlers, then it could be due to toxicity of water. All that needs to be verified.”

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Acidic waters affect fish behavior by disrupting a specific receptor in the nervous system, called GABAA, which is present in most marine organisms with a nervous system. When GABAA stops working, neurons stop firing properly. 

Acidic waters affect fish behavior by disrupting a specific receptor in the nervous system, called GABAA, which is present in most marine organisms with a nervous system. When GABAA stops working, neurons stop firing properly.

April 15th, 2014 (Mark Prigg).

  • Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed into ocean waters, where it dissolves and lowers the pH of the water.
  • Fishes sensory systems were impaired by the change, causing neurons in the brain to misfire
  • Were unable to distinguish predators

Fish are losing their survival instinct as the world’s oceans become more acidic because of climate change, researchers have claimed.

The study confirms laboratory experiments showing that the behavior of reef fishes can be seriously affected by increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed into ocean waters, where it dissolves and lowers the pH of the water.

The new study is the first to analyze the sensory impairment of fish from CO2 seeps, where pH is similar to what climate models forecast for surface waters by the turn of the century.

‘These results verify our laboratory findings,’ said Danielle Dixson, an assistant professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

‘There’s no difference between the fish treated with CO2 in the lab in tests for chemical senses versus the fish we caught and tested from the CO2 reef.’

The research was published in the April 13 Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature Climate Change.

The pH of normal ocean surface water is around 8.14.

The new study examined fish from so-called bubble reefs at a natural CO2 seep in Papua New Guinea, where the pH is 7.8 on average.

With today’s greenhouse gas emissions, climate models forecast pH 7.8 for ocean surface waters by 2100, according to theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

‘We were able to test long-term realistic effects in this environment,’ Dixson said.

‘One problem with ocean acidification research is that it’s all laboratory based, or you’re testing something that’s going to happen in a 100 years with fish that are from the present day, which is not actually accurate.’

Previous research had led to speculation that ocean acidification might not harm fish if they could buffer their tissues in acidified water by changing their bicarbonate levels.

Munday and Dixson were the first to show that fishes’ sensory systems are impaired under ocean acidification conditions in the laboratory.

‘They can smell but they can’t distinguish between chemical cues,’ Dixson said.

Acidic waters affect fish behavior by disrupting a specific receptor in the nervous system, called GABAA, which is present in most marine organisms with a nervous system.

When GABAA stops working, neurons stop firing properly.

Coral reef habitat studies have found that CO2-induced behavioral changes, similar to those observed in the new study, increase mortality from predation by more than fivefold in newly settled fish.

Fish can smell a fish that eats another fish and will avoid water containing the scent.

In Dixson’s laboratory experiments, control fish given the choice between swimming in normal water or water spiked with the smell of a predator will choose the normal water.

But fish raised in water acidified with carbon dioxide will choose to spend time in the predator-scented water.

In future work, the research team will test if fish could adapt or acclimate to acidic waters.

‘It’s a step in the right direction in terms of answering ocean acidification problems.’ Dixson said.

‘The alternative is just to wait 100 years.

‘At least now we might prepare for what might be happening.’

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Posted by: The ocean update | April 14, 2014

Dead whale washes ashore in Southampton (New York state, USA)

A 15-foot dead pilot whale was discovered Sunday, April 13, 2014 on a beach in Southampton near Cryder Lane. Credit : Riverhead Foundation

A 15-foot dead pilot whale was discovered Sunday, April 13, 2014 on a beach in Southampton near Cryder Lane. Credit : Riverhead Foundation

Monday, April 14th, 2014 (Tara Conry). A 15-foot dead pilot whale was discovered Sunday on a beach in Southampton near Cryder Lane, according to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Robert DiGiovanni, the foundation’s executive director and senior biologist, said researchers took a few samples Sunday, and that he was headed back to the beach Monday morning with a crew to conduct a necropsy on the whale.

“We’ll do as much of a necropsy as we can, but it’s going to have to remain on the beach,” he said.

DiGiovanni said the Southampton Highway Department was able to move the animal further up on the beach, so it wouldn’t wash away, but the whale is too large for researchers to take to the foundation’s necropsy lab in Riverhead.

The team will look first for any external injuries, and then take more samples before disposing of it, DiGiovanni said.

DiGiovanni said the foundation usually sees one to two pilot whales wash ashore each year.

He added that the public should never approach animals they encounter on the beach. Instead, call the foundation’s 24-hour hotline at 631-369-9829 to report a sighting.

In recent weeks, DiGiovanni said the foundation has received a number of calls about gray and harbor seals spotted on local beaches. While some were healthy, others were brought to the foundation’s facility to recover. There are 13 seals being rehabilitated there, including one that will be released Saturday in Hampton Bays.

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Posted by: The ocean update | April 14, 2014

New Research explains Rich Puget Sound Waters (Washington state, USA)

A new study may help explain why the famously rich waters of the Puget Sound are able to support such an abundance of life, including shellfish, salmon runs, and occasional pods of whales. Pictured are oceanographers lowering an instrument into Juan de Fuca Canyon to measure fast-moving water close to the seafloor. (Photo : Parker MacCready/University of Washington)

Oceanographers lowering an instrument into Juan de Fuca Canyon to measure fast-moving water close to the seafloor. Photo : Parker MacCready/University of Washington

April 14th, 2014 (Anthony Barstow). A new study may help explain why the famously rich waters of the Puget Sound are able to support such an abundance of life, including shellfish, salmon runs, and occasional pods of whales.

Oceanographers at the University of Washing have made the first detailed measurements at the headwaters’ source – a submarine canyon offshore from the strait that separates the US and Canada and draws up nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean. Their observations reveal water surging through the canyon and mixing at high rates with the waters above, according to a release from the school.

“This is the headwaters of Puget Sound,” said Parker MacCready, a University of Washington oceanography professor and co-author of the study that originally appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. “That’s why it’s so salty in Puget Sound, that’s why the water is pretty clean and that’s why there’s high productivity in Puget Sound, because you’re constantly pulling in this deep water.”

The intense flow and mixing measured inside the canyon could help explain the mysterious productivity of northwest shores. While nutrient movement up the West Coast is generally attributable to coastal winds, those numbers do not hold true for the northwest Pacific region.

“Washington is several times more productive – has more phytoplankton – than Oregon or California, and yet the winds here are several times weaker. That’s been kind of a puzzle, for years,” said co-author Matthew Alford, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

MacCready and Alford took their measurements from the Juan de Fuca Canyon and showed water flowing as fast as 1.3 feet per second at 500 feet below the surface and mixing at up to 1,000 times the normal rate for the deep ocean.

University of Washington oceanographer Barbara Hickey first suggested the idea that the northwest’s outsize productivity could be marine canyons. There are 11 such canyons along the Washington coast, more than either coastal region of Oregon or California. The deep water forced up through the canyon is rich in nutrients that support the growth of marine plants, which then feed other marine life.

“The location of this sill would be an outstanding place to fish,” Alford said. “People fish in Juan de Fuca Canyon pretty actively, and that’s probably no coincidence.”

Source

Posted by: The ocean update | April 14, 2014

5-ton whale buried in central Vietnam

Monday, April 14th, 2014. Fishermen in the central province of Quang Ngai towed a five-ton whale corpse ashore on Sunday.

Monday, April 14th, 2014. Fishermen in the central province of Quang Ngai towed a five-ton whale corpse ashore on Sunday.

Monday, April 14th, 2014. Fishermen in the central province of Quang Ngai towed a five-ton whale corpse ashore on Sunday.

Truong Dinh Ky, 49, spotted the carcass Friday, during a fishing trip off the coast of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, some 170 nautical miles from his home in Ly Son District.

Ky and his crew decided to tow the ten meter, decaying carcass home for a ritual burial at a temple in An Hai Commune.

All along the Vietnamese coast, whales are revered as harbingers of good luck at sea.

Temples and festivals celebrate the creatures all along the Vietnamese coast.

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Eddie Rexford butchering a bowhead whale head on the beach in Kaktovik. September 6, 2012. Loren Holmes photo

Eddie Rexford butchering a bowhead whale head on the beach in Kaktovik. September 6, 2012. Loren Holmes photo

April 13th, 2014. Barrow whaling captain Herman Ahsoak took a break from chopping a trail through the sea ice on the first day of the spring whaling season to ponder the upcoming hunt. He and his crew had been on the ice for five days at that point and were chipping away by hand with ice picks to break trail and get their boats to open water.

The season started a week ago, and excitement overtook exhaustion as Ahsoak and his young five- to eight-man crew worked away. They were already about three miles from shore Thursday evening, and still had a ways to go, Ahsoak said from the ice.

Once the trail to the water’s edge is open, a launch pad is made for the skin boats. Crews will camp on the ice next to their launch. Some groups will join forces for the arduous task of making the paths in the ice, Ahsoak explained, with reports of some crews having to break five miles of sea ice to reach open water.

The past few years, crews are seeing more “young ice,” said Ahsoak, who has been a captain for 10 years.

“That can be two to three feet thick, which can be pretty dangerous when it gets into May and it starts really melting,” he said. “It’s getting thinner and thinner every year.”

The concern with thinning ice is that chunks will break off while crews are camped, Ahsoak said, recalling the rescue of more than 100 hunters in 1997 who had drifted out to sea after the ice broke off behind their camp. “It’s always in the back of our minds, but when we’re breaking trail we monitor the ice from the shore to where we’re at, to make sure there’s no movement.”

Once the boats are in the water, crews wait for the bowhead to come within paddling distance, usually a couple miles or less from the ice.

The number of strikes allowed has gone up to 25 for Barrow crews this spring, from 22 last year.

The International Whaling Commission allows 67 annual strikes to Alaska bowhead whalers in 11 communities. Last week, the St. Lawrence Island village of Savoonga landed its first bowhead of the season.

But on the North Slope, winter is still going strong, with temperatures still well below zero at night. “My crew is really excited,” Ahsoak said. “We’re one of the youngest crews, and they’re really gung ho this spring.”

Last spring was bad for hunters as a west wind and an ocean current from the south held the ice closer to shore, Ahsoak recalled. The ice didn’t move out until late May. “We were fortunate to get two whales in June and one in July, but last year was a really bad season in the springtime,” he said. “We made up for it in the fall time, though.”

If crews don’t use the allotted strikes in the spring, they carry over to the fall hunt.

One whale can feed an entire community, Ahsoak said. But the more, the better. Different parts of the behemoth are shared around the community at various times during the year.

In June, captains will serve up fermented whale at the blanket toss festival while some meat is saved for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Every captain does the same thing, it’s been done since time immemorial and has never changed,” Ahsoak said. “I wish all the crews good luck and hopefully we have a good year.” The blessing that kicked off the season happened April 2 at the Assembly of God church in Barrow, with a standing-room-only crowd, said Eugene Brower, president of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association.

“We don’t have much open water, but it’s still early,” Brower said. “God willing, we’ll have a bountiful season.”

With around 35 crews in Barrow, it was quite lively out on the ice last week, he added.

On April 1, belugas were spotted at Point Hope, though there has been no word of bowhead moving through. Once bowhead are spotted around Point Hope, they take about a week to migrate to the Barrow area.

“Each captain has a preference where they want to go and wait for them,” Brower said. “Hopefully they’ll pop up right in front of them.”

The traditions vary slightly from village to village along the coast, but one thing is the same, the spring whaling season in the Arctic brings communities together with the promise of feasts and warmer days ahead.

“The whole town gets involved, it’s really, really exciting,” said Leonard Barger, a crewmember for captain Herbert ‘Popsy’ Kinneeveauk in Point Hope. “We’re out there to feed the people, especially the elders.”

Source

Officials with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies disentangle a minke whale off Boston Friday. CCS image, NOAA permit 932-1905

Officials with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies disentangle a minke whale off Boston Friday. CCS image, NOAA permit 932-1905

April 13th, 2014. BOSTON – Members of a marine entanglement emergency team released a minke whale Friday that had become entangled in fishing gear about ten miles outside Boston Harbor.

A spokeswoman said experts from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies released the animal on Friday afternoon. Whale researchers located the entangled whale while in the area earlier in the week.

The juvenile whale had a buoy line wrapped tightly around its lower jaw. Experts from the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team returned to the location on Friday and saw the whale swimming in large circles, indicating that it was anchored in place by the fishing gear.

The spokeswoman said the whale swam off after members of the emergency response team cut the line.

On Wednesday a Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies research vessel collided with a North Atlantic right whale, which surfaced directly beneath the boat, according to Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, who was on the vessel, the R/V Shearwater. The boat was traveling at 9 knots at the time of the collision, which prompted a warning from center officials to boaters to use caution because of the high concentration of whales in Cape Cod Bay.

On Saturday an aerial survey found 145 North Atlantic right whales in the bay along with nine fin whales, four minke whales, two humpbacks and about 18 dolphins, according to the center’s Facebook page.

Material from the Cape Cod Times was used in this report.

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