tagged w/ Right Whales
Endangered whales gather in unprecedented numbers
By the CNN Wire Staff
April 22, 2011 1:49 p.m. EDT
Boaters have been warned to be on the lookout for right whales around Cape Cod Bay.
Scientists count record number of right whales in Cape Cod Bay
A rich food source is drawing the whales
Only 450 right whales are known to exist, scientists say
Boston (CNN) -- What scientists say is the largest concentration of endangered right whales ever spotted in one location is giving researchers an unusually rich opportunity to study the animals and their feeding habits.
But the gathering, an annual affair in the chilly spring waters off Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, also raises the threat of boats striking the 70-ton mammals, according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries. The agency has posted an advisory to boaters urging them to be on the lookout for the whales and steer clear.
Scientists believe that there are only 450 right whales in the world but say the numbers have been slowly recovering since commercial whaling of the species was banned more than 70 years ago.
The more than 100 whales counted in the bay this month is the largest number recorded in one place, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
"We're looking at an exceedingly rare animal in unusual numbers in one of their last critical habitats," Charles Mayo, a scientist at the center who studies right whales, said Friday.
Why so many in one place?
In a word, food, said Mayo. One way or another, the whales caught wind of a unusually rich repast of plankton available in the waters of the bay and arrived to take advantage of the easy dining, Mayo said. The plankton bloom often occurs, but it's been particularly rich and long-lasting this year for unknown reasons, he said.
There have been no boat strikes on the many whales contained in the bay's waters, said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Marine Fisheries Division.
In fact, the last known fatal strike on a whale in the area happened in 1999, he said.
State and federal law makes it a crime to close within 500 yards of a right whale, according to the state Marine Fisheries Division.
Seeing so many right whales in the same place is encouraging for researchers, even though they are well aware that the species is on the road to recovery after dipping in the early 1900s to as few as a handful of breeding females and male suitors.
It's also a spectacle for the public, Mayo said. The whales feed on the surface and can be seen from shore, he said.
"Anytime you see a whale from the beach that's actually alive, it's pretty exciting," he said.
The whales should begin trickling out of the bay sometime in the next few days heading for deeper waters offshore, Mayo said.Endangered whales gather in unprecedented numbers By the CNN Wire Staff April 22,... more
Professional photographer Brian Skerry shoots life above and below the waves -- as he puts it, both the horror and the magic of the ocean. Sharing amazing, intimate shots of undersea creatures, he shows how powerful images can help make change.Professional photographer Brian Skerry shoots life above and below the waves -- as he... more
March 15, 2010 6:18 p.m. EDT
A trendy California sushi restaurant charged by federal authorities with serving whale meet offered an apology Monday, saying it "ignored its responsibilities" to endangered species.
Prosecutors charged Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of Santa Monica's The Hump, and chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose.
Although it is considered a delicacy in Japan and some other countries, meat from whales -- an endangered species -- is illegal to consume in the United States.
"We write to address the misdemeanor charge recently filed by the U.S. attorney," the restaurant said in a statement posted on its Web site.
"The charge against the restaurant is true: The Hump served whale meat to customers looking to eat what in Japan is widely served as a delicacy," the statement continued. "In serving this meat, The Hump ignored its responsibilities to help save endangered whales from extinction and failed to support the world community in its uphill fight to protect all endangered species."
The restaurant pledged to set up procedures to ensure that it complies with laws and "becomes a good corporate citizen."
"We sincerely apologize. We pledge to work hard to re-earn the trust of the public and respect of our customers."
The misdemeanor charge carries a federal prison sentence of up to a year and a fine of up to $200,000 for the company, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
The law firm for the restaurant and its parent company deferred questions to The Hump's Web site. However, Typhoon attorney Gary Lincenberg has said the restaurant accepts responsibility for serving whale and will agree to pay a fine, CNN affiliate KTLA reported.
The investigation into the restaurant began in October, when two members of the team that made the documentary "The Cove" visited The Hump, officials said.
"The Cove," which exposes the annual killing of dolphins at a Japanese fishing village, won the Academy Award for best documentary this month.
The restaurant, located at the Santa Monica Airport, is known for its exotic fare. Its Web site asks diners to surrender themselves to its chefs for "a culinary adventure ... unlike any that you have previously experienced."
Armed with a hidden camera, the two women captured the waitress serving them whale and horse meat and identifying them as such, a federal criminal complaint said. A receipt from the restaurant at the end of the meal identified their selection as "whale" and "horse" with the cost -- $85 -- written next to them.
The women snuck pieces of the meat into a napkin and later sent them for examination to a researcher at Oregon State University. He identified the whale sample to be that of sei whale, prosecutors said.
The sei is found throughout the world's oceans. Whalers began to hunt them after the populations of right, humpback, blue and fin whales declined due to overfishing. It is now considered an endangered species.
In February and March, the activists returned and again asked for -- and were served -- whale meat, the criminal complaint said.
A DNA test of the meat smuggled out after the February visit confirmed it to be meat from the sei whale, Mrozek said.
During a final visit in March, officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed the activists asking for "kujira," or whale meat.
One of the officers then saw the sushi chef leave the restaurant and return with a wrapped package that he seemed to have retrieved from a parked Mercedes, the complaint said.
The chef told a customer it was whale meat, the document said. Next, officials raided the restaurant, and chef Yamamoto admitted that he had served whale meat, the complaint said.
"Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of an endangered species," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
Conservation agencies are engaged in an ongoing feud with Japan over whaling.
In the early 1980s, the International Whaling Commission determined that there should be a moratorium on commercial whale hunting. However, whaling is allowed under international law when done for scientific reasons, which Japan cites as the legal basis for its hunts.
The country's annual hunt kills up to 1,000 whales. Many in the international community believe that such hunts amount to needless slaughter.March 15, 2010 6:18 p.m. EDT A trendy California sushi restaurant charged by... more
There are only about 325 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and approximately 80 of them have assembled in the waters near Cape Cod.
They have come together to feed on an unusually huge population of zooplankton. The whales normally follow zooplankton from Canada as they are moved with ocean currents down to the Massachusetts coast. This year the extra numbers of zooplankton are attracting a record congregation of North Atlantic rights, which are one of the most endangered species in the world.There are only about 325 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and... more
A right whale that was tangled in rope off the St. Johns County coast is free after searchers found the whale and cut the lines, federal officials said Sunday.
A rescue team in a small inflatable boat used a blade on a long pole to carefully slice through a bridle-like loop of ropes that was lodged in the whale’s mouth, the coordinator for that effort said.
If that hadn’t been done, “there’s no way for that animal to get rid of that gear on its own,” said Jamison Smith, who manages whale disentanglements for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Part of the rope was still in the whale’s mouth after it was cut Saturday afternoon. But a reconnaissance plane that spotted the whale later reported the rope was gone and the whale was free, said Kim Amendola, a NOAA spokeswoman.
Right whales are endangered animals, with only about 300 to 400 remaining, who raise their young off the Florida and Georgia coasts each winter.
Being tangled in rope or commercial fishing gear is a serious danger to the animals that can prevent them from eating or moving normally. Whales can also develop life-threatening infections where lines cut into their flesh.A right whale that was tangled in rope off the St. Johns County coast is free after... more
The Bush administration yesterday proposed scaling back protected zones for endangered whales in the Atlantic Ocean, yielding to cargo companies' concerns about new speed limits for ships in these areas.
The proposal, unveiled yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could end more than a year of wrangling between federal fisheries scientists and the White House over new measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale. About 300 of the whales remain, and researchers say their tiny population has been reduced further by fatal collisions with large ships.
In July 2006, NOAA announced plans to create 30-nautical-mile buffer zones off of several East Coast ports, in which ships would be required to slow to 10 nautical miles per hour during certain times of the year.
But cargo companies said that this would cause their ships to lose time and burn more fuel, and the proposal was held up for months by the administration.
Yesterday, in a document called an environmental impact statement, NOAA announced a change. Its new plan would reduce the buffer zone to 20 nautical miles, or about 23 standard miles.
Anson Franklin, a spokesman for the agency, said the reduction was motivated in part by shippers' concerns. "Time is money in shipping," Franklin said. "There was a concern about the increased cost to carriers . . . We accommodated that by reducing the speed zones."
The new plan would put in place the first speed zones off the U.S. coast aimed at helping right whales. But environmentalists and those who study the whales said they were unhappy with the changes. Any reduction in protection, they said, could be dangerous for a species so close to the brink.
"It's disappointing that it can't be all that it could be," said Amy Knowlton, a researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston. "If we didn't lose one or two females a year" because of the expanded speed zones, she said, "that could be the difference between letting this population recover, and letting this population continue into extinction."
The right whales' population crashed because of 19th-century whaling -- whalers called them "right" whales because they were the easiest to hunt. But in recent decades, scientists say, one major known cause of death has been collisions with ships.
To reduce those, NOAA proposes to create seasonal speed-limit zones off Georgia and Florida, in the whales' calving grounds, and in their feeding areas off Cape Cod. It would also establish similar zones off major ports from New York to Brunswick, Ga. -- including the Hampton Roads ports.
According to the "preferred alternative" in the impact statement released by NOAA, these areas off the ports would be in force from Nov. 1 to April 30, as whales migrate.
"We want the speed to be slow enough so that the whales . . . have a chance to get out of the way, or the blow will be a glancing blow, and they will survive," NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. said in a telephone news conference yesterday. He said that the agency does not think the ships themselves are maneuverable enough to change course and miss a whale.
Franklin, the NOAA spokesman, said that about 83 percent of right whale sightings are within 20 nautical miles of shore. Within 30 miles of shore, the number is about 90 percent, he said.
The proposal was criticized yesterday by the World Shipping Council, a trade group that has led opposition to the idea of speed zones.
The Bush administration yesterday proposed scaling back protected zones for endangered... more
The federal government is moving forward with a rule to protect endangered right whales from ship strikes along the East Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to announce this afternoon that it is filing a final environmental impact statement, one of the last steps in the process to implement long-awaited shipping restrictions.
The agency proposed a rule years ago requiring ships traveling parts of the East Coast to slow down to avoid colliding with endangered right whale. The rule has been delayed by an internal debate within the Bush administration about whether the benefits will outweigh the cost to the shipping industry. The industry has argued that the rule will make large ships harder to maneuver.
Ship strikes are considered the top human threat to the survival of right whales, one of the world's most endangered whales. Other existing and proposed rules have focused on another human threat -- entanglement in lobster and fishing gear.
The federal government is moving forward with a rule to protect endangered right... more
According to this article, there are only about 300 North Atlantic right whales trying to survive in waters off the east coast of North America. And of course, politics are what stands in the way of protecting them. Right now a measure is stalled ... that measure is a "proposal from U.S. government scientists to require commercial ships to slow down to 10 knots inside a 30-mile "bubble" near ports where and when these whales are migrating."
It's such a shame, that issues like this actually need to be thought about. I guess we're waiting for the ocean to be empty and layered with trash?According to this article, there are only about 300 North Atlantic right whales trying... more