Tag Archives: beached

SeaWorld is investing heavily in stranded marine mammal rescue

SeaWorld plans to build state of the art marine mammal rescue facilities at their San Antonio park as well as at their new killer whale-free park in Abu Dhabi.
They are pumping millions of desperately needed dollars into rescue and “return” (they don’t call it rescue and release anymore, possibly because “return” is specific while “release” leaves the door open to release captive animals in general). Dolphins and whales seem to be stranding in increasing numbers as human-caused noise and pollution pair with climate change to disrupt much of the ocean environment.

Money is tight for most stranding organizations, and governments are limited in what they can and will do so if SeaWorld helps the animals and doesn’t just cherry-pick unreleasable dolphins and small whales for exhibits, they have the potential to make a huge difference.
We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.

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“Over a three year period, SeaWorld San Antonio is committing over $1 million in additional funding and resources, including having SeaWorld animal care professionals and veterinarians dedicated to work with [Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network] TMMSN. Plus, the park is committed to building a new state-of-the-art facility at SeaWorld San Antonio where they will provide 24-hour care for sick and stranded animals that need long term rehabilitation.”

“TMMSN is one of the nation’s most dedicated animal rescue organizations, relentless in its work to help marine mammals in the wild,” said Chris Bellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations, SeaWorld San Antonio. “I am personally and professionally moved by the many volunteers who tirelessly donate their time and energy.  It is a pleasure to work alongside the TMMSN and offer our professional resources as we join together to help rescue and rehabilitate stranded animals with the shared goal of returning them to the wild.”

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“And the stakes are high. This announcement comes at a critical time, as January marks the beginning of the annual stranding season which is triggered by winter weather, changing water temperatures and the calving season. The TMMSN typically can see up to 150 stranded or injured marine mammals each year along the Texas coast, with the most common being the bottlenose dolphin.”

“State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) commended the partnership between SeaWorld and TMMSN as an example of the private and non-profit sector working hand-in-hand for the betterment of Texas wildlife.  “Protecting our marine mammals and the beautiful natural habitat of the gulf coast is important to the quality of life for all Texans,” said Taylor.  “I commend TMMSN for its commitment to assist and rehabilitate injured animals.  With the resources that SeaWorld provides, we are helping to ensure that our marine mammal populations will continue to thrive for generations to come.”

For more information about Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network visit:  www.DolphinRescue.org

Young Orca L-112 Was Killed by Blunt Force Trauma

Little Victoria, L-112, before she was killed.
Little Victoria, L-112, before she was killed.

UPDATE: The complete report can be found here, and states:
“These results do not conflict with gross
observations and the proposed cause of acute or peracute death by blunt force trauma;
however, blast- or seismic-related injuries cannot be entirely discounted. We
acknowledge that post-mortem decomposition may have obscured some lesions and
hindered mass-spectroscopy gas analysis.”
Please go to the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network for continued updates.
We will have to wait for the details of the necropsy, but there is nothing in this information to absolve the Navy from blame, since the fact that the young whale was hit  implies that she may not have been able to hear an approaching vessel, and and also the information doesn’t rule out trauma from a blast or explosion that may have occurred during military exercises.
Here is the information as released by AP:

SEATTLE (AP) – Two years after a 3-year-old endangered orca washed ashore in southwest Washington, investigators have concluded that the whale was hit, struck or rammed in the head and neck. But they couldn’t determine the source of that blow.
In a report released Tuesday, the team of biologists and veterinarians ruled out possible sources of the blunt trauma, including sonar and small underwater explosive activity in Canadian waters off Vancouver Island.
The death investigation found that the orca known as L-112 likely died miles south of there, somewhere between north and central Oregon.
The report by the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network also notes that no U.S. naval training activities involving sonar or explosives were conducted in the area during the time of the whale’s death in early February 2012.
Some whale advocates had raised suspicions that the orca’s injuries were linked to an underwater explosion or military training activity at sea.

Following her death, Victoria washed up on an Oregon beach.
Following her death, Victoria washed up on a Oregon beach.

Experts Examine Dead New Zealand Killer Whales – Remain Puzzled

The recent death of a pod of killer whales on a rocky beach in New Zealand saddened people the world over and everyone is hoping to find a clear cause of their demise, though it is seldom possible to determine that information without lengthy tests on stranded animals.

Scientists examine orcas who stranded on New Zealand beach (Southland)
Scientists examine orcas who stranded on New Zealand beach (Southland)

When Orca Research Trust biologist Dr. Ingrid Visser arrived on the desolate scene after lengthy travel, she found the recently beached orcas too far decomposed to be able to determine the cause of death – but further examination, such as seeing damage to bones, may yet give clues.

One carcass had been washed away, another partly eaten by sharks and the remaining seven were severely decomposed.
Wildbase pathologist Stuart Hunter said tests yesterday would not be able to determine the cause of death. “They are too far decomposed,” he said.
Orca Research Trust founder Ingrid Visser said the animals when living were in very good condition.
“I don’t know any of them, which is good but sad because where have they come from?”
Initial observation of their teeth resembled a pod in the northern Pacific region that fed predominantly on sharks. (TVNZ)

Fortunately, one of the younger whales had been taken before substantial decomposition could take place to Massey University where the carcass was frozen.  Dr. Visser and her team will perform further tests, and at the very least will learn more about these unfortunate whales.
 

Last Orca to Die in the New Zealand Stranding Was Comforted by a Compassionate Bystander

Find updates on this subject at the target=”_blank”>International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network.
New Zealanders are reacting with concern and outrage to  the recent tragic death of nine orcas who stranded on their shoreline this week (International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network), but also with touching compassion.

A Southland woman held an orca as it lay dying and crying out near Tuatapere, while the rest of its pod lay dead on the beach on Tuesday night.
Debra Drain was one of the first to reach the nine stranded mammals, near Blue Cliffs, after a tramper told her husband Jeff Drain he had seen them while walking the Hump Ridge track.
Mrs Drain said several residents raced to the beach only to find eight of the orcas had already died.
They had been pushed up against rocks, with their flesh torn from them, and the last one was still crying out, she said.
“I couldn’t leave so I hugged a dying orca as it cried for its life.” Southland Times.

whalessad21214 dead orcas nz strand

Ngai Tahu representatives blessed the orcas.

And when the local Maori (the Ngai Tahu) representatives arrived, they gave the deceased orcas a traditional blessing.
Ngai Tahu spokesman Dean Whaanga said that ”…like our human friends that have passed on, (give) a blessing to them and wish them well on their last journey, their final farewell,” Mr Whaanga said. “Whales are like chiefs of the sea and because they died before we got there we said a wee farewell to them, on this their last journey” .

Māori sometimes remembered significant events and stories about whales by naming islands and landforms after them. The names referred to, among other things, significant strandings, navigational pathways, and important journeys.For Maori, the land is believed to be the body of Papatūānuku (the earth mother), the womb that gave birth to people.
Imbuing landmarks with the memory of whales shows the reverence with which these creatures could be regarded. Whales Tohora

Seismic exploration.
Seismic exploration.

While the cause could be due to many factors, local residents blame the stranding on the seismic oil exploration going on in the area.  These explorations involve a near constant bedlam of sound, often for months, because the ships need to  generate loud enough sound to penetrate the seabed, which then returns an echo for analysis.
According to a post on the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network, New Zealanders are planning to protest the presence of the seismic vessels, one person wrote:

“…I live reasonably close to where these orca were stranded – the concerned citizens of the east coast of NZ are actually protesting, this saturday, the seismic surveying happening right fucking now. Here in our country and off our beaches. This is the 2nd mass stranding in 3 weeks – the other being a mass stranding of Blackfish on farewell spit – when Anadarko were doing seismic surveying on the west coast of NZ – These whales did not die for nothing – we are making posters and preparing for the protest this Saturday with renewed anger and rage.”

The oil industry should take this seriously, when Kiwis make up their mind on something and take a stand, they are resolute…just consider how they kicked the U.S. Navy out of their waters because we would not agree to their ‘no nuclear powered ships’ legislation. It took three decades for New Zealand to renew relationships with the U.S. Navy (and they still won’t let the nuclear powered ships within 12 miles).
People the world over have had enough of sitting by while the marine environment is destroyed – a handful of fishing boats disrupted seismic explorations in the Caribbean, for example – and will expect a full report on the whales’ deaths.
My guess is that the New Zealanders will see that we get it.
 

Orca Whale Pod Strands and Dies in New Zealand

Also see:  Last Orca to Die in the New Zealand Stranding Was Comforted by a Compassionate Bystander

Most of the orcas who frequent New Zealand are known to researchers.
Most of the orcas who frequent New Zealand are known to researchers.

The Southland Times reports today that 9 killer whales have stranded and died in Southern New Zealand.
Early reports of this unusual mortality event (UME) are sketchy, but New Zealand killer whale experts are on their way to investigate.  Dr. Ingrid Visser and colleagues from the Orca Research Trust are racing to get to the scene at a remote beach on the southern reaches of the country, near Tautapere, where they may find whales who they know and have studied for years.
New Zealand orcas are known to beach themselves as they hunt for rays, but it is unlikely that an entire pod would die this way.
New Zealand orcas are known to beach themselves as they hunt for rays, but it is unlikely that an entire pod would die this way.

It is the equivalent of having an entire family from the J – pod Southern Resident killer whales turn up beached and dead along the Washington coast, it is unheard of and would be a clear sign that some major event occurred. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the U.S., it would classify as an UME because it is “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.” This designation is applied worldwide for this type of stranding, so we can expect a fairly thorough investigation.
Strandings of this magnitude are often linked to noise or explosives, from seismic surveys for offshore oil, or by military exercises.  Both the military and the oil industry are known to be currently active in the area.
Dr. Visser is returning from sea, but was able to substantiate from photographs that the animals were “in pristine condition” at the time of the stranding. She was consulted in the decision to airlift one of the whales from the area for necropsy in case rough weather sets in before they can examine the whole pod.
Please check the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network for updates. You can tweet using #IntlStrandingNetwork.
Also please consider making a donation to the Orca Research Trust, they need your support to get to the bottom of this, and it going to be financially challenging for them to participate in the investigation.

To Protect Dolphins and Whales, Look Behind the Masks of Industry

FacebookphotoOfWolfhunters

“Fed Up in Wyoming” reads the caption under this stunning photograph posted on a hunter’s Facebook page (reproduced here under Fair Use). The photo is yet more evidence that, two years after political reactionaries led a successful campaign in the House of Representatives and then the Senate to remove the North Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list, the slaughter of wolves continues to escalate as wolf hunters fall deeper in their paranoid fantasy that the wolf represents a liberal conspiracy against rural communities. (Earth Island)

You may be wondering what shooting wolves in the Rocky Mountains has to do with marine mammals, and the answer is that even though most of what people do to marine mammals occurs out of sight in the open ocean or underwater, the perpetrators are equally hesitant to show their faces as are these wolf killers. Standing up for your beliefs carries risks – someone, somewhere, is guaranteed to oppose your point of view – but hiding behind masks and walls of paperwork only serve to show an awareness of the wrongdoing.

 [Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
[Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
Out in the oceans, fishermen consider dolphins and whales to be competitors or bycatch (unintended when fishing)  and willingly kill them, the animals get tangled in crab and lobster pots or fishing nets, and are hit by ships. The ambient noise levels in the ocean is continually rising, interfering with the whale’s long-range communications. Navies worldwide engage in espionage and mock warfare movements involving loud sonar, and bombing practice occurs over wide swaths of the ocean.
Nations continue to hunt whales and dolphins for meat while pretending it is for scientific research. The oceans are increasing polluted with effluent and plastic debris. Our demand for oil has resulted in devastating spills, and nearly constant deafening sound from seismic surveys.
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/whale-watch/wildlife-rangers-watch-over-pod-of-whales-that-were-stranded-near-fraser-island-20130703-2pbia.html)
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (www.brisbanetimes.com.au)

There is no escape for whales and dolphins, other than to cast themselves on our beaches, which they appear to be doing in increasing numbers.
Unlike the wolf killers, the masks worn by the perpetrators of ocean destruction are more subtle – they hide behind international partnerships that protect them from each country’s laws. Currently Exxon/Mobil and BP are teaming up with Canada’s Imperial Oil to drill in the Arctic, and even though Exxon/Mobil is a U.S. corporation, they have a Canadian subsidiary and also own controlling interest in Imperial.  The upshot? Environmental protections that are drastically more lenient than the U.S., and where the only consideration given to marine mammals is in how the indigenous population will be effected in their hunts. 
canada oil eis
Perhaps most insidiously, they are hiding behind the issues that frighten us most – climate change, energy shortage, and the threat of losing all that we have spent lifetimes building. An example of this occurred last March when a pod of orcas were trapped in the ice at Hudson’s Bay, thought to have been caught off guard by shifting ice patterns. While this shift in conditions was initially blamed on climate change, it turns out that the local power company is probably responsible:

“There’s a connection between the freshwater plumes sent into Hudson Bay from the Quebec power corporation’s huge dams and the quick freezing of water in the bay which led to entrapments of eiders, beluga and killer whales this past winter, suggests Joel Heath, a biologist whose film People of the Feather about Sanikiluaq hunters and eider ducks, received acclaim.
The connection is worth studying, he said, because although entrapments occur naturally, this past winter there were at least three occurrences in southern Hudson Bay.”

Wherever people are hiding behind masks, covering their tracks, or working below the public radar, a price is paid and the world as we know is quietly being changed.

Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013.  They were guided back to sea.
Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013. They were guided back to sea. (Huffington Post)

The good news is that although it may seem as though we are powerless to bring about change, we are not – an International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network is being created which will keep track of sightings of injured, stranded, and dead whales and dolphins on a global scale.  This will make it difficult for industry and military to deny the impacts of their activities, and it will help provide data to scientists to help determine why there are alarming numbers of dolphins and whales beaching and dying.

Overall, the experts pointed out that the dead dolphins may be alerting us to troubles in our oceans.

Said NOAA’s Spradlin, “Marine mammals are like the canary in the coal mine”—many bottlenose dolphins live on the same coasts and eat the same fish that we do.
“Our first mandate is to protect the dolphins, but the underlying bigger picture is if things are hurting these animals,” he said, “[they] could also be hurting people as well.”

While an outbreak of morbillivirus (related to measles) is known to be responsible for some of those dolphin deaths, it is important to be aware that there could be other causes as well, and not let the disease create a smokescreen. The scientists need our support. For more information, please visit the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network.

Stranded Sperm Whale Met With Gruesome Death – Help Prevent Similar Events in the Future

On Saturday (10/5/13) a sperm whale was discovered after it stranded in a bay in the Philippines. It had met with a gruesome death at the hands of poachers – although the whale was beginning to decompose the red blood around it showed that it had been alive when it was attacked. Jojo Bascug, who is the province’s consultant on environment ” pitied the whale’s fate in the hands of the poachers who only wanted a portion of its body for sale”

The whales had holes in its head, and its stomach had been slit in order that the thieves could search for ambergris, a substance that sperm whales produce which is valuable to the perfume industry. (To help prevent this happening in the future, please see this project*).
Nearby, in another part of the Philippines, two Risso’s dolphins and a striped dolphin that also stranded met with a better fate.  The authorities were notified and were able to assess the dolphins, so the two Risso’s were returned to the ocean, while the striped dolphin was taken in to be rehabilitated.

risso's dolphin strand philippines
STUDENTS of Tanjay City Science High School, supervised by Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer Jac Senagan (left), provide care for the stranded Risso’s dolphin off the Tanjay City shoreline last Thursday. SIDNEY R. LEE/CONTRIBUTOR newsinfo.inquirer.net

Given the nature of the striped dolphin’s injuries however, there may be little that the authorities can do.

In Pangasinan, a rare striped dolphin was found stranded at a Lingayen beach in Lingayen town on Friday. Personnel from the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council tried to bring the dolphin back to the Lingayen Gulf but it kept on returning to the shoreline, according to council head Fernando de Guzman.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) veterinarian Dr. Samantha Licudine said the 2.2-meter adult female dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) had a tear near its right fin, which “could have been caused by a predator.” She said the dolphin returned to the shore because it could not swim well. “It was listing and could not balance itself,” she said. Sun Star 

The fact that the dolphin was listing (turning to its side) can be indicative of balance problems – either in the hearing apparatus or brain/nervous system complications. The torn fin could have happened after the major event that disrupted the dolphin’s ability to stay upright.
In the video below, rescuers struggle with a pilot whale in Scotland that also had difficulty staying upright:

Although a half a world apart – one in the Philippines, the other in the British Isles – these stranding events have some things in common.
In both situations an usual variety of normally deep water species were involved, and both involved animals that looked battered and behaved unusually. (Please see “Panicked Whales Are Stranding in Area of Seismic Exploration” for information on the Great Britain strandings).
Both occurred in areas of intense exploration for oil. While the North Atlantic region has a longer history of offshore exploration, some areas of the South China Sea are just opening up. The Philippines is poised to exploit anticipated offshore sources of oil and gas, and is in a hurry to do so – the region is plagued with power shortages and has financial incentives to encourage foreign oil companies to perform seismic surveys of the seabeds.

Wikipedia Commons.
Wikipedia Commons.

In April, the 13-million-hectare continental shelf off the east coast of Luzon, near the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, was declared by the United Nations as part of Philippine territory. In 2008, the Philippines filed the claim in the area, which is an extinct volcanic ridge.
The area, which is also known as Benham Plateau, is a deepwater fishing ground for deepwater fish like bluefin tuna. It is also believed to be rich in natural gas and manganese nodules.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to bid out portions of the 13-million-hectare Benham Rise in the eastern Luzon Seaboard for oil and gas exploration projects next year. But the DOE will first have to secure seismic survey data to encourage investors, an official said.
The DOE, along with other government agencies, is also fasttracking the permitting process for other petroleum projects as the Philippines is largely underexplored compared with its Southeast Asian neighbors. 

The exploration for off shore sources of oil and gas is disruptive to the marine environment, and while researchers struggle to define how to safely go about minimizing that impact, they need more data on the animals that strand. Perhaps, had the unlucky sperm whale that was attacked been reported to the authorities in time, it would not have had to suffer a brutal death and would have been properly euthanized.
An international stranding network will help on both accounts – it will provide more data to scientists, and help get stranded animals the help they need.
*International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network development:

The effects of this sound can be profound on cetaceans and lead to blast type injuries or drastic alteration in dive behavior. Bleeding in the brain, ear canal, and melon (the forehead), is characteristic of whales and dolphins who beach themselves following exposure to loud sounds.
The continuous onslaught of sound can also make it difficult for family members to find other pod members in the din. This furthers the chance that pods will intermingle in assemblages not characteristic for them, or find themselves without a pod leader. There is even a chance that in attempting to escape the worst of the sound, dolphins and whales may flee to unfamiliar areas and find themselves lost