Volunteers Form Human Chain in Tireless Effort to Save Beached Whales in New Zealand
In a tireless, two-day effort, volunteers in New Zealand joined together to successfully refloat a pod of long-finned pilot whales stranded on the beach.
On Monday, the pod of 49 long-finned pilot whales was found stranded on Farewell Spit, a remote beach on the South Island, AP reported. In response, rangers from New Zealand's Department of Conservation, volunteers from Project Jonah, a whale rescue group and local residents joined efforts to keep the whales alive and in deep waters, AP reported.
When first sighted, nine whales were already dead, but volunteers drenched the animals still alive with buckets of water and ensured the animals kept the pressure off of their fins throughout the day, Louisa Hawkes, a spokesperson for Project Jonah said, according to AP.
By late Monday, when the tide had risen, 150 people, most of them volunteers, formed a human chain and guided the whales back into deeper waters, Stuff reported.
Darren Foxwell, the Department of Conservation whale stranding operations manager, said the purpose of the human chain was so the whales could "re-orientate" and so the volunteers could "keep them together, otherwise there's a risk of re-stranding if they take off on their own," according to Stuff.
Once the whales were in deep enough water, boats moved back and forth to prevent the whales from swimming back to shore, AP reported. Yet despite these efforts, the whales still had not swum deep enough into the ocean for safety by the end of the day.
"It's always fantastic to see whales out in deeper water where they should be," Hawkes told AP. But the volunteers worried their efforts may not save the pod. "Everyone is very hopeful but also very realistic," Hawkes added.
On Tuesday morning, the pod of whales was found stranded once again, Stuff reported. This time, only about 28 whales were alive and their chances at survival looked slim.
By that point the whales had become languid and were making little effort to swim away, a local Department of Conservation ranger, Andrew Lamason, told RNZ. With another dry tide on the horizon, volunteers were rocking the whales and attempting to direct them into the deep water.
By early Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Conservation reported that the pod had successfully swum offshore, following the formation of another human chain that pushed the animals deeper into the water, Stuff reported.
"Volunteers have been pulled out of the water now, because the whales are swimming below the low tide zone and heading out to sea," Lamason told Stuff. "That's really good news; such good news that I'm going home."
This is not the first time New Zealand's Farewell Spit has experienced whale strandings. Each year, about 300 whales and dolphins are stranded at the top of New Zealand's South Island, BBC reported. In 2017, more than 400 pilot whales were stranded on the beach's three-mile-long stretch.
This is partly due to the region's unique geographical shape, creating a "natural trap" for long-finned pilot whales, BBC noted. Shaped like a hook, the spit's geography causes a whale's echolocation signal to bounce back, disorienting the animal into shallower and unsafe waters.
While scientists do not have a definite answer as to why whales and other animals consistently find themselves stranded on these shores, they do suspect it may also have something to do with changes in feeding patterns and altered ocean temperatures, especially in January and February, BBC reported.
The whale pod is now swimming offshore – their success credited to the efforts of volunteers and whale advocates alike, now relieved and heading home.
"I'm just doing what I can, it's not something I've done before and it's not how I hoped to see whales. I just hope we can help them live and survive," one volunteer at Farewell Spit said, according to Stuff. "But as sad as it is, this kind of thing also brings people together," another commented.
If you are able to support our rescue efforts with a one off donation, we'd really appreciate it. As a really small… https://t.co/zrcQVmO1lM— Project Jonah (@Project Jonah)1614022252.0
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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