Pilot Whales Recently Beached in Florida, Taiji, and the U.K. – What Made the Difference?

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  • September 1st – 22 pilot whales stranded in Avalon Beach State Park, Florida. Five juveniles were taken into captivity, the remaining whales were euthanized, no effort was made to return them to the ocean.
  • September 2nd, 2012 – 26 pilot whales stranded in Fife, Scotland, of these 10 were rescued and successfully returned to the ocean. None were taken for captivity.
  • September 7th – 22-24 pilot whales were artificially ‘stranded’ in Taiji, Japan when fishermen drove them into a netted cove. Three juveniles were taken for captivity, the remaining whales were brutally slaughtered.

What exactly is the difference in these cases? In the UK, there was no bid by the captive industry to keep some of the whales, so whether by an advanced attitude towards keeping cetaceans captive (it is getting phased out of many European countries) or by a sense of compassion, the people there coordinated a remarkable effort to save the whales, then followed the whales to make sure that they did not re-strand.
That leaves the Florida stranding versus the Taiji capture – in both cases the young pilot whales were taken for captivity and the rest slaughtered. The difference is that the officials here did it quietly, kindly, and bloodlessly.
Because of public sentiment, the disgrace of Taiji has made it impossible for American amusement parks to be connected to the Japanese dolphin drives so places like SeaWorld opt to take a patient approach to obtaining whales and dolphins for their shows – they know that sooner or later these benign animals will toss themselves up on nearby beaches. The executives at SeaWorld are not dummies – they just need to make sure they are informed of seismic testing or military activities, then bide their time. It is not rocket science, just logic and experience.
For instance in the Gulf of Mexico, the combined sonic cacophony of seismic oil exploration and military detonations frightens, disorients, and often destroys cetaceans, while the contours of the seabed off of Florida are a natural trap for the cetaceans who might have been injured or confused. If the pilot whales are offshore along the perimeter of coastal shelves and are suddenly disoriented they can find themselves in a relatively featureless environment making navigation difficult, the equivalent of you being lost in the woods in a pitch dark night – particularly if their hearing is damaged.
While it may seem to be a bleak situation for the whales and dolphins in this environment, it is possible for anyone to make a difference for them by voting – with your pocketbook by not going to amusement parks that keep cetaceans captive, and in the elections by choosing candidates who care about the environment.
It is up to you.

Recent explanations for such strandings include bottom topography, coastal configuration, or geomagnetic topography; meteorological or oceanographic events; extreme conditions in the environment; auditory trauma; toxicity of pollutants in the environment; and parasitism. Contributory factors may also include unusual tides, sea state, nature of the adjacent seafloor, and meteorological events such as
electrical storms…Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) mass stranded more frequently than all other species (32 of 76 events).

Sea floor depth (Dark blue is the deepest). (NOAA)

Locations of mass cetacean strandings, 1977 to 2001 off Florida.
Mass cetacean strandings (Edward Keith)

Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base and the Pensacola Naval Station military ranges.
Joint-Gulf Range (1000friendsofflorida)

This spiderweb over the Gulf (below) represents acoustically invasive seismic explorations for oil:


FloridaSPAN includes newly acquired offshore data and an onshore grid of reprocessed legacy data from Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI) and Geophysical Pursuit, Inc. (GPI). The offshore data covers the shelf margin and deep water in the eastern Gulf of Mexico while the onshore grid transects four states to reach the east coast. These lines connect to the GulfSPAN onshore and offshore grid and will connect to the East Coast Atlantic Margin program (USAMSPAM). FloridaSPAN covers an important part of the history of the Gulf of Mexico rifting events as Florida breaks away from Africa.

  • Offshore Data Example
  • Onshore Data Example

Newly Acquired Eastern Gulf of Mexico Data

The offshore data includes seismic data newly acquired in the eastern Gulf and depth imaged to 40km with both Kirchhoff and Reverse Time Migration (RTM) to integrate gravity, magnetic and well data. They are positioned to cross the Florida shelf and escarpment and extend into deep water with special emphasis on crossing the continental to oceanic crustal boundary, tying important wells and transecting Jurassic basins and highs. The deep imaging on this dataset reveals more criteria to assist models of crustal structure and show the nature of the boundary between continental and oceanic crust as a
crustal boundary detachment feature.

Click on the data example to zoom and pan over the data.
Click on the image to zoom and pan over the data.
This key offshore line shows the Florida shelf to deep water and crustal structure. The line is merged to GulfSPAN on the left.

When your success depends on quality seismic data, turn to the professionals and vast multi-client library at Geophysical Pursuit Inc. (GPI). For more than 27 years, both large and small energy companies have counted on GPI to supply the seismic required to make the right decisions.
GPI owns what it licenses. Through joint ventures or on our own, we’ve acquired approximately 21,000 miles of 2-D data and approximately 12,000 mi2 of 3-D data. Quality data in mature and pioneer regions could make GPI your primary seismic provider.
Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI®) is a full service 2D seismic and 3D seismic data marketing firm established in 1975, with offices located in Dallas, Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi and Tulsa, and with a strong presence in Lafayette, Jackson, Midland, and Bakersfield.
SEI owns over 1,850,000 miles of domestic proprietary 2D seismic data and has over 54,000 square miles of domestic proprietary 3D seismic data located onshore, throughout the Gulf Coast, Permian Basin, Mid-Continent and Rockies and Alaska Regions, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. We offer a comprehensive seismic search department to expedite requests for data availability.

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