One of the World’s Most Endangered Whales Is Experiencing a Mini Baby Boom
TWO MORE RIGHT WHALE CALVES SEEN IN #CAPECOD BAY! On 4/11/19 the CCS #rightwhale aerial survey team saw 2 more mom/… https://t.co/owh2HdvQSW— CoastalStudies (@CoastalStudies)1555092647.0
With just over 400 known individuals left, the North Atlantic right whale was once decimated virtually to extinction by commercial whalers by the early 1890s, leading to their 1970 listing under the Endangered Species Act. Hopes for their recovery were dismal last year after researchers did not report any new calves last summer. However, the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) right whale aerial team now says they spotted two mother and calf pairs in Cape Cod Bay. The two mothers, dubbed EgNo4180 and EgNo3317, bring the total number of new calves off the coast of Massachusetts this year to three.
EgNo4180 was first spotted in 2010, indicating that she is at least nine years old. She was seen again last April, but researchers were not aware that she was pregnant at the time — or that she was indeed a female. Unfortunately, at some point between then and now she encountered gear and was most recently seen with new entanglement wounds on her back, reports CCS. The other new mother, EgNo3317, was born in late 2002 to another known whale who was also spotted in the bay this year. After making a final appearance in 2003, she did not return to Cape Cod Bay until 2016, which was the last time she had a calf.
North Atlantic right whales give birth in the southern states of Georgia and Florida during the winter before traveling north to their vital feeding grounds of New England to feed in the early spring. Weighing up to 70 tons and reaching a lifespan of up to 70 years, the massive whales are baleen feeders and survive by feeding on tiny shrimp-like krill and fish.
Major threats to their species today include entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, ocean noise, climate and ecosystem change, disturbance from whale watching activities, and a lack of food, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Particularly worrisome are collisions with ships, which has prompted NOAA to establish the North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (RWSAS) in order to alert vessel-goers to the presence of right whales. Regulations established speed restrictions of 10 knots for all vessels with a length of 65 feet or longer within designated high-risk areas along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard where right whales predictably and consistently visit every year. Though the animals come close to shore during their feeding season, it is Illegal to get within 1,500 feet of the animals without a federal research permit.
"However, the right whales often feed very close to shore, offering whale watchers on land unbeatable views of one of the rarest of the marine mammals," wrote CCS.
There are three species of right whale around the world and only one that is rarer than the North Atlantic: The North Pacific. NOAA reports there are likely fewer than 200 left.
Marine Mammals and Turtles Protected by the Endangered Species Act Are Bouncing Back. #oceanoptimism #ESAworks https://t.co/DJ6CifITuA— Ctr4BioDiv Ocean (@Ctr4BioDiv Ocean)1547849270.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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