tagged w/ Beluga Whales
Belugas trapped in icy Arctic waters at risk of death
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed December 14, 2011
More than 100 Belugas are trapped in ice flows off the Bering Sea
Unless the whales are rescued soon, they could die from suffocation or starvation
Local authorities have sought help from Moscow
Moscow (CNN) -- Prisoners in ice, more than 100 Beluga whales in far eastern Russia risk death unless rescued soon.
The flock of gentle ghost-white whales was trapped in ice floes in the Sinyavinsky Strait off the Bering Sea near the village of Yanrakynnot, said a statement from the Chukotka Autonomous Region.
Fishermen reported that the whales were concentrated in two relatively small ice holes, where, for now, they can breathe freely. But the Belugas' chance of swimming back to water is slim due to the vast fields of ice over the strait.
The whales have little food, and the ice flow is increasing, the statement said. They are at risk of rapid exhaustion and, ultimately, death by starvation or suffocation. Trapped whales are also susceptible to predators like polar bears and killer whales.
The Chukotka Autonomous Region government has sought help from federal authorities and asked for an icebreaker to help rescue the Belugas. A rescue tug, Ruby, was in the area helping a Korean cargo ship that ran aground on the southern coast of Chukotka but it would take one and a half days for it to reach the whales, the statement said.
Trapped belugas are a frequent phenomenon in the Arctic waters but are not often detected by people. In Chukotka, the last relatively successful case was recorded in 1986, when an ice-breaker helped free trapped beluga whales.
.CNN... . Belugas trapped in icy Arctic waters at risk of death By the CNN... more
After a two-day train ride from Winnipeg, Robert Reid of Lonely Planet (http://lonelyplanet.com) and Kim Mance (http://galavanting.tv), arrive in the subarctic 'polar bear capital of the world', Churchill Manitoba which sits on the Hudson Bay. The two travel writers take off on adventure tours to see wild polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat. They also get unexpected bonuses like a rocket launcher, souvenir shopping, a visit to Polar Bear jail, and a chat with Parks Canada Bear Patrol.
hosted by: Kim Mance from http://galavanting.tv & Robert Reid from http://lonelyplanet.com
edited by: Kim Mance
music by: Robert Reid
motion graphics by: Courtney Hannibal
travel & accommodations provided by: Tourism Manitoba http://travelmanitoba.comAfter a two-day train ride from Winnipeg, Robert Reid of Lonely Planet... more
We’ve been talking a lot here at Switchboard about the Pebble mine: a monstrous open-pit copper and gold mine that would cut a wound two-miles wide and 2,000 feet deep into Alaska's wild and pristine landscape. The mine, which would be operated by the huge British conglomerate Anglo American, is opposed overwhelmingly by local residents and by Alaska's Native communities. It also threatens the natural resources of the Bristol Bay watershed, including an incredible array of wild creatures from grizzly bears, to wolverines, to caribou.
One animal equally worthy of our concern is the beluga whale, also known as the “white whale” or “sea canary,” because of its tremulous, musical calls. There are only five populations of beluga whales in Alaska, and the Pebble mine threatens two of them: the populations in Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet.We’ve been talking a lot here at Switchboard about the Pebble mine: a monstrous... more
At a recent sea life gala in Anchorage, Alaska, Jean Michel-Cousteau, the ocean conservationist and son of well-known ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, reignited the issue of ocean pollutants causing cancer among beluga whales. The problem was first reported on in the 1980s when scientists discovered that the beluga whale population in the St. Lawrence rivers and runoffs in Canada were declining at an alarming rate due to what scientists speculated to be caused by pollution.
According to a 1988 article from The New York Times, “pollution from industrial activity along the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries, including the Great Lakes, is causing disease, premature death and a declining birth rate among the white beluga whales.”
Scientists had thoroughly investigated the beluga whale population in the St. Lawrence area, but today, the beluga whale population is at an all time low again and they still suffer from toxins and the onset of cancers. A New York Times national briefing reported in January that “the number of beluga whales in Cook Inlet is again declining.” According to the article, the beluga whales were put on the Endangered Species Act in 2009 because of the possibility of extinction, but that “the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report shows the numbers have slipped again to 321 animals, down from an estimated 375 in 2007 and 2008.”
Similar pollutions among other various ocean mammals have been discovered in recent years as well. In Norway, for example, whale meat was found to contain dangerously high levels of toxins. CNN reported that a “study by the International Whaling Commission determined levels of contamination among some marine mammals are so high that the animals would be classified as hazardous waste sites if they were on land.”
Science Daily also reported that orcas and killer whales around the world, especially in Canada, where a recent study was conducted, may face major health issues and endangerment over the next several years due to contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Scientists have speculated that due to chemical and other pollution runoffs, there is a list of at least ten ocean mammals that are at an increasing risk for developing pollution-related illnesses including cancers. The list includes the following:
Mediterranean monk seals
While there are several grassroots organizations working on a small scale to reduce the number of pollutants in the ocean, the issue remains that a large-scale movement must be initiated. Some, including Cousteau, are attempting to bring attention to the issue in hopes that by highlighting the problem, a solution can be found. “The message is the fact that we are using the ocean as a garbage can by dumping things we don’t see — such as chemicals and heavy metals — into the environment,” reported Cousteau in a recent Q&A with Time magazine.At a recent sea life gala in Anchorage, Alaska, Jean Michel-Cousteau, the ocean... more
Nearly 2 million acres of water off Alaska's largest and busiest city were proposed Tuesday as critical habitat for beluga whales, raising concerns that the effort to save the whales will scuttle development.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service proposed that the upper Cook Inlet, the middle inlet and a strip along the lower western shore, as well as Kachemak Bay, be designated as critical habitat for belugas.
"Protecting these endangered whales is one of our top priorities," said Doug Mecum, the service's acting administrator for Alaska.
Public meetings will be held before a final rule is issued next year.
Cook Inlet's beluga whales are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Only 321 of the animals are left, down from an estimated 1,300 in the inlet in the 1980s.
While overharvesting by Alaska Natives was largely responsible for the initial decline, the whales have not recovered despite a decade of nearly no hunting. The population continues to drop by 1.5 percent a year.
The state strongly opposes both the listing and critical habitat designation because of concerns about development.
"Listing more than 3,000 square miles of Cook Inlet as critical habitat would do little to help grow the beluga population, but it would devastate economic opportunities in the region," said Gov. Sean Parnell. The state is reviewing its legal options.Nearly 2 million acres of water off Alaska's largest and busiest city were... more
In a Japanese aquarium three Beluga Whales sing for their keeper. There is also a musical walrus which sits up and plays a Swiss Horn. REMEMBER: this is the same culture that tricks and slaughters dolphins in THE COVE.In a Japanese aquarium three Beluga Whales sing for their keeper. There is also a... more
For the second time in less than a year, Palin’s administration has sought legal action against an endangered species in favor of the oil industryFor the second time in less than a year, Palin’s administration has sought legal... more
This is Beethoven the Beluga Whale. Here he demonstrates some of the vocalizations he can do. Beethoven was recently transfered from the Tacoma, Washington Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to the Texas State Aquarium.This is Beethoven the Beluga Whale. Here he demonstrates some of the vocalizations he... more
I watched a couple of PBS videos last week about orcas and beluga whales that blew my mind and broke my heart. Of course, I'd just heard and met Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society a few days before, so I was particularly engaged and enraged about whale issues. (Although, did you know that orcas are actually dolphins, not whales?)
Whales are under human attack on more than one front and the results are horrifying. Some experts say that as the oceans go, so go humans, and orcas, in particular, are the best indicator of how the oceans are fairing because they are at the top of the underwater food chain.
Whaling: A hugely controversial and internationally banned practice, whaling is allowed by Norway and Iceland, although Japan also partakes using the guise of scientific research as a means to line their pockets and supply the country's taste for whale meat. The problem is – besides the legal and moral questions – there's been a surplus for the past few years so prices have been dropping precipitously. Yet, the slaughters continue. Iceland just kicked off their annual hunt last week.
Navy Sonars: There have been a couple of instances – as documented in the PBS piece on orcas – of Navy sonars wreaking havoc in the oceans. In the Puget Sound, orcas were the only known victims; but in the Bahamas, both dolphins and whales scurried to the beach to escape the sonic assault. Nevertheless, national security trumps all, or so ruled the Supreme Court last November in a case that would have limited offshore exercises when marine mammals were nearby.
Toxins: Did you know that 27% of the beluga whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary off the coast of Quebec have cancer, including breast cancer? That rate is similar to the rate in humans. The belugas in the Cook Inlet (Alaska) have been a separate subpopulation for about 10,000 years. If they die off, they will not be replaced. Yet, as I've previously covered, Governor Sarah Palin doesn't care too much. She'd rather have her oil and gas exploration projects. Orcas from all over are living with 3-400 times the amount of toxins that appear in our systems. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) stay in their systems for 30 to 50 years and contaminate the meat the whalers are so keen on selling. The Pacific Northwest orcas ingest the PCBs through eating salmon, their favorite snack. But wild salmon are also on the wane due to farm-raised salmon polluting the waters with sea lice that the baby wild salmon can't fight off.
There are other man-made hindrances for whales to battle, such as boats that cause propeller accidents and nets or other debris that cause entanglements. I dare say that all of the ocean critters can survive without us, but I don't think we can survive without them. We need to find a better way.
Orcas - http://www.pbs.org/video/video/1099394282
Belugas - http://www.pbs.org/video/video/1094847767I watched a couple of PBS videos last week about orcas and beluga whales that blew my... more
In October, while Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was campaigning to be vice president, the federal government added the beluga whales in the state’s Cook Inlet to the endangered species list. At the time, Governor Palin opposed the listing, saying it would be “premature.” (She said the same thing about protecting polar bears.)
Now Ms. Palin has announced that she will sue to remove the whales from the protection of the Endangered Species Act.In October, while Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was campaigning to be vice president, the... more
The state of Alaska has announced its plans to sue the federal government over the decision to list the Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species. The listing, announced last year, affects only Cook Inlet belugas, which are genetically distinct from other belugas.
From a statement posted on Gov. Sarah Palin's website:
"The State of Alaska has worked cooperatively with the federal government to protect and conserve beluga whales in Cook Inlet," said Palin. "This listing decision didn't take those efforts into account as required by law....
"While challenging the listing, we will continue to protect beluga whales," said Palin. "We will also be assisting Alaskan communities and stakeholders with navigating the complex bureaucratic process this listing decision imposes on their projects and working cooperatively with federal agencies on the required consultations, designations of critical habitat and development of a recovery plan and objectives."
But many environmental activists voiced their opposition to Alaska's challenge. Prime among them was Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, who said, "Gov. Palin seems more than willing to sacrifice endangered whales on the altar of oil company profits." The Anchorage Daily News reports on other notable dissenters:
"It seems the Palin administration only likes one kind of science -- the kind it agrees with," said Craig Matkin, an Alaska marine mammal specialist with the North Gulf Oceanic Society. "Every objective expert who's looked at this small and isolated (beluga) population agrees it should be listed."
Audubon Alaska scientist John Schoen noted that the protective status for local belugas was strongly endorsed by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission empaneled by Congress.
In 1979, University of Alaska biologists estimated that about 1,300 belugas lived in the Cook Inlet. Fewer than 400 remain today.The state of Alaska has announced its plans to sue the federal government over the... more
The US state of Alaska is planning to launch a legal challenge against new federal regulations to protect threatened beluga whales in Cook Inlet.
The white whales were listed as endangered last year after federal scientists warned they were headed towards extinction.
The listing requires the designation of critical habitat for the animals, as well as the drafting of a recovery plan and a review of activities in Cook Inlet.
However, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wants the listing removed because of the impact it could have on oil and gas projects, as well as the expansion of Anchorage port.
The Centre for Biological Diversity is accusing Ms Palin of being willing to sacrifice the whales for the sake of the oil industry.The US state of Alaska is planning to launch a legal challenge against new federal... more
Please Sign Petition! Protect the Habitat of Endangered Beluga Whales NOW!
Target: James Balsiger, NOAA Acting Assistant Administrator
Sponsored by: Ocean River Institute
On October 17, NOAA's Fisheries Service determined that the Cook Inlet beluga whales would be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This is a great victory for these irreplaceable creatures!
This success is, however, bittersweet - the whales are still an endangered species, and we need to do everything we can to protect their habitat. With their numbers having fallen steadily since 1979 to only 302 whales today, the beluga is in danger of extinction throughout its range in Alaska!
These whales are in trouble the Cook Inlet beluga population was estimated at 1,293 in 1979. Since then the population has fallen steadily until there were only 302 in 2006, the most recent count.
The low numbers and shrinking population causes Cook Inlet beluga whales to be much more vulnerable to all natural sources of mortality, such as disease, predation and stranding. Limiting their range to portions of Cook Inlet, the belugas are particularly vulnerable to human caused sources of whale weakening and mortality as well. Oil drilling tailings are not regulated. Sewage insufficiently treated; non-point source and storm overflows are untreated. Heavy metals, petro-chemicals and endocrine disruptive chemicals bio-accumulate in the fat tissues of belugas and are magnified when passed from mother to calf.
Such persistent pollutants can affect the fertility and reproductive rate of whales. Meanwhile, ship traffic through Cook Inlet is increasing with Anchorage Port exceeding the projected tonnage growth rate of 2.5 percent per year.
Alaska's marine ecosystems and fisheries are particularly vulnerable to the immediate impacts of global warming temperature variations and carbon-loading of the atmosphere. A third of increased atmospheric carbon goes into the ocean causing acidification of seawater and further challenging marine invertebrates in Cook Inlet, a vital part of the beluga's food pyramid. Taking management steps to avert these problems will not only save belugas, it will benefit Alaska's economy by increasing seafood value and tourism.
Join us in urging NMFS to follow through on their proposal to designate critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale now that it is an endangered species. Only by addressing troubled waters in Cook Inlet can beluga whales recover and thrive once again.
Please Sign Petition! Protect the Habitat of Endangered Beluga Whales NOW! Target:... more
After reading this I am thoroughly convinced that she IS everything that is currently wrong with the world.
The federal government on Friday placed beluga whales that live in Cook Inlet in Alaska on the endangered species list, rejecting efforts by Gov. Sarah Palin and others against increased protection.
The relatively small, whitish whales, sometimes visible from downtown Anchorage, declined by almost 50 percent in the late 1990s, and federal scientists say they have not rebounded despite a series of protections, including a halt to subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives. About 375 whales have been counted in Cook Inlet each of the last two years, according to scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
After reading this I am thoroughly convinced that she IS everything that is currently... more
Jazz musician David Rothenberg is perhaps unique in his choice of musical collaborators. They sing a capella, their voices travel for hundreds of miles, and each musician is roughly the size of a school bus.
Using underwater speakers and microphones, Rothenberg intertwines the rhythmic rumbling, clicking, booming, honking, whooping, howling vocalizations of the humpback whale with his own improvisations on clarinet and synthesizer, creating free-form jams that give a whole new meaning to the word “fusion.”
In his latest book, “Thousand Mile Song,” which includes a CD of his improvisations with humpbacks in Hawaii, as well as belugas in Russia and orcas in Canada, Rothenberg says his attempts to musically connect with humpbacks “could be the ultimate interspecies experiment.”
Humpback whales are perhaps the most acoustically sophisticated creatures on earth. Their songs, intricate layers of repeated notes, phrases, and melodies that can last for hours at a time, seem to contain their own syntax, and yet are nothing like human language.
Nobody really knows why they sing. Some scientists believe that the songs are for mating – only the males sing – but there is little evidence that the females actually pay attention to their vocalizations. Others think that whales use the songs to help each other navigate the deep. But this also has yet to be proven.
Rothenberg, who is also a professor of philosophy at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has found that jamming with humpbacks has changed the way he plays (”Six octave shrieks are starting to become the norm,” he writes.) But is it reciprocal? Do the whales improvise back?
Rothenberg believes they do, but he says he can’t prove it scientifically. Humpbacks – with their huge brains and highly social behavior – would certanly be capable of changing their songs in response to Rothenberg’s playing. The only question is whether they want to.
His recordings have drawn some criticism. In his book he recalls a conversation with Mark Johnson, an engineer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who thinks that he is bothering the animals for no good reason.
“If you’re trying to learn something about whales which could then translate into a tool for conservation,” says Johnson, “that’s worth doing, but simply trying to enjoy an event in which the animal doesn’t know he’s participating, to be honest, I don’t see the point.”
Rothenberg demurrs. His project is not strictly scientific, but musical. “Music,” he replies, “is knowledge too.”
Rothenberg’s view of nature – which emphasizes beauty for its own sake – doesn’t quite square with that of biologists who attempt to explain phenomena such as whale songs and bird plumage purely as adaptations to maximize selective fitness. But Rothenberg, who likes to describe natural selection as the “survival of the interesting,” is in good company. He often quotes Charles Darwin, who in his Descent of Man described birds as having “a taste for the beautiful” that seems to exist beyond any instrumental value.
Jazz musician David Rothenberg is perhaps unique in his choice of musical... more
The Graham Amazon Gallery and the Arctic Canada Exhibit (beluga whales) are the best in my opinion. I was lucky enough to see the new baby beluga and her mother, Qila. (see a video of the baby beluga being born here). They haven ’t named the baby yet. I suggest calling the baby Marshmallow. What do you think?The Graham Amazon Gallery and the Arctic Canada Exhibit (beluga whales) are the best... more