‘Whale prison’ discovered by drone in Far East Russia https://t.co/gkZBVmYwVp— RT (@RT)1541635201.0
In the video below, a crane lifts a whale into an onshore tank in preparation for transport to an unknown destination.
It's believed that the cetaceans will be sold to Chinese aquariums, despite the fact that it is illegal to capture wild whales except for scientific and educational purposes. Commercial whale hunting has been banned worldwide since 1982.
Killer whales can reportedly fetch up to $6 million at marine parks in China.
Из «китовой тюрьмы» в Приморье вывозят млекопитающих www.youtube.com
Citing Russian newspaper Novaya Gazetta, The Telegraph reported that the four companies that are renting the enclosures exported 13 orcas to China between 2013 and 2016. The companies allegedly involved were given permission to capture 13 orcas in the wild.
A prosecutor is investigating whether the orcas and belugas were actually captured for scientific or educational purposes. The conditions of their confinement as well as the legality of their holding pens are also being examined, The Telegraph said.
"The holding pens … are not very large—I'd say no more than 30 to 40 feet on a side, and probably only about 10 to 20 feet deep," Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo. "If they stay there through the winter, ice can form on the top of the water and they have to break through to breathe."
Greenpeace Russia described the conditions as "torture" and said that capturing the marine mammals could threaten the species' survival.
"Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population," Greenpeace Russia research coordinator Oganes Targulyan said to The Telegraph. "The capture quota now is 13 animals a year, but no one is taking into account that at least one orca is killed for every one that is caught."
The orca population in the nearby Kamchatka region has decreased so drastically that they were listed as endangered this year.
"The trauma and distress these animals experience during captures is not opinion or emotion—it is fact," Rose added to The Dodo. "They suffer intense stress-related reactions and their mortality risk spikes sharply soon after capture and then again after transport—they don't get accustomed to the process. The decimated pods may experience similar stress and trauma—their offspring are being taken from them."
With only 74 individuals remaining in the wild, time is running out to save Southern Resident orcas, but last week… https://t.co/ulPmTnR9hC— Oceana (@Oceana)1541601013.0
A study published in Science Friday found that current concentrations of PCBs could lead to the disappearance of half of the world's killer whale, or orca, populations over the next 30 to 50 years, according to an Aarhus University press release published by ScienceDaily.
"It is like a killer whale apocalypse," study author Paul Jepson at the Zoological Society of London told The Guardian.
Ten out of the world's 19 killer whale populations were rapidly dwindling, the study found.
PCBs were widely used in electronics and plastics beginning in the 1930s. Countries began to ban them in the 1970s and 1980s, and in 2004 the Stockholm Convention came into effect, in which 152 countries promised to phase them out entirely by 2025 and clean up existing waste, CNN reported.
But the research suggests the convention isn't moving fast enough.
"I think the Stockholm Convention is failing," Jepson told The Guardian. "The only area where I am optimistic is the U.S. They alone produced 50 percent of all PCBs, but they have been getting PCB levels down consistently for decades. All we have done in Europe is ban them and then hope they go away."
Killer whales are especially impacted because they are at the top of the marine food chain, and concentrations of the toxic chemicals increase as they accumulate in the tissues of larger and larger animals.
Further, killer whales pass PCBs onto their offspring through their milk.
The researchers, from universities and institutions around the world, assessed PCB levels in more than 350 killer whales, the largest number ever studied. They then used models to predict the impacts of PCBs on the mortality rate, fertility rate and immune response of killer whale populations over the next 100 years.
Killer whale populations in highly contaminated areas like Brazil, the Strait of Gibraltar, the northeast Pacific and the UK were especially under threat and had already been reduced by half in the years when PCBs were being used.
"In these areas, we rarely observe newborn killer whales," study participant Ailsa Hall of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of Saint Andrews said in the press release.
Killer whales who fed on larger animals like seals, tuna and sharks were also more impacted than populations that fed on smaller fish like mackerel or herring.
The killer whales off the eastern coast of Greenland, who eat a lot of marine mammals, were also at risk.
The least contaminated populations swim in waters in the far north, off of Norway, Iceland, Canada and the Faroe Islands, and the study's models showed that these populations would continue to grow.
Jepson said that killer whales could return to currently contaminated areas if global cleanup efforts are successful.
"It is an incredibly adaptive species—they have been able to [live] from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between," he told The Guardian.
'Shocking' Levels of PCBs Found in Beloved Orca https://t.co/bKBpOe7gMt @Greenpeace @World_Wildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1493855405.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Tahlequah—a southern resident killer whale whose heartbreaking story has captured attention around the world—has been carrying her dead calf for more than two weeks now.
But Balcomb said Tahlequah might drop the calf soon because its body is starting to deteriorate. A recent image shows that its intestine and blubber has been exposed.
The baby whale was born near Victoria, British Columbia on July 24 and was seen alive and swimming with its mother, referred by scientists as J35, and other members of its "J" pod. The newborn died half an hour after its birth.
It's not unusual for orcas to carry their dead offspring for about a day or so, but this is likely the longest period researchers have observed.
"I certainly think the length of the situation is unprecedented," Sheila Thornton, lead killer-whale scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said to The Times. "There are many species who do undertake this sort of behavior if a young animal has failed to survive, they will carry the carcass, you can look at that as mourning behavior."
Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca told The Times on Wednesday she is "gravely concerned for the health and mental well being of J35."
"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 cannot be getting the … nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning," Giles added.
Scientists have also raised flags about a 3-year-old orca called Scarlet, also known as J50, who is part of the same pod as Tahlequah.
"J50 appears lethargic at times with periods of activity, including feeding. Scientists observing her agree that she is in poor condition and may not survive," according to NOAA Fisheries.
Government officials and other experts are exploring options to aid Scarlet, ranging from no intervention to providing medical treatment, potentially delivered in a live Chinook salmon, their favored prey.
The stories of the ailing whales have highlighted the plight of the critically endangered species and have renewed efforts to save them. The current population of southern resident killer whales has dipped to only 75 individuals.
"The recent, tragic death of the orca calf is heartbreaking and we all feel the pain of the mother and her pod," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted last week. "Protecting and restoring the complex ecosystem these beautiful animals rely on will take a lot of work. There are no do-overs with the orcas. We must get this right."
Their decline has been attributed to pollution, underwater noise and disturbances from boat traffic, and lack of Chinook salmon. Recent deaths, particularly among calves, mothers and pregnant whales, appear to be driven by food scarcity, the Center for Whale Research says.
Members of Inslee's task force met Tuesday to discuss the emergency situation and how to improve the orcas' health and numbers. The task force will issue a comprehensive report and recommendations for recovering the species, with a full draft due by Oct. 1 and a final report the following month.
Orca Whale 'Crewser' Presumed Dead as Population Reaches Its Lowest Point since 1984 https://t.co/dOsGudmYW4… https://t.co/jxiN1Dl6tw— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1529339255.0
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Researchers scanned the waters all day before the mother orca and her deceased newborn turned up near British Columbia's Southern Gulf Islands.
"I am relieved we see her, that she is healthy and swimming strongly, and that she is with her family," Taylor Shedd of Soundwatch, which has been monitoring the pod, told the publication. "But it is so emotional that she is so caring. It boggles my mind. To carry it is hard for her physically and mentally. It is just heartbreaking."
The baby whale was born near Victoria, British Columbia on July 24. The newborn was seen alive and swimming with its mother, Tahlequah, and other members of its pod near Clover Point on the Victoria shoreline in the mid-morning but died a short time after, according to the Washington-based Center for Whale Research.
"The baby's carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas toward San Juan Island, USA," the center said in a press release. "The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset."
It's not unusual for orcas to carry their dead offspring for about a day or so, researchers told NPR. However, Jenny Atkinson, executive director of The Whale Museum on San Juan Island, noted this is the longest period researchers have observed.
Researchers are also concerned about Tahlequah's health.
"I am so terrified for her well-being," Deborah Giles, a research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, told The Seattle Times. "She is a 20-year-old breeding-age female, and we need her."
The story of the "grieving" orca mother has captured international attention as the population of southern resident killer whales fights to survive.
In June, the Center for Whale Research reported that a 23-year-old male orca was missing and presumed dead, leaving the community of orcas with just 75 individuals remaining.
The population grew 48 percent to a high of 98 in 1995, but has since fallen to their lowest number in 30 years.
Experts say their decline is due to pollution, underwater noise and disturbances from boat traffic, and lack of their favored prey, Chinook salmon. Recent deaths, particularly among calves, mothers and pregnant whales, appear to be driven by food scarcity, according to the Center for Whale Research.
"The larger environmental question reflected in the J35 story is that both the USA and Canada MUST redouble efforts to restore wild salmon (particularly Chinook) throughout Washington State and British Columbia for a food supply for the SRKW in this region," the center tweeted last week, citing a statement from founder and senior scientist Ken Balcomb.
The larger environmental question reflected in the J35 story is that both the USA and Canada MUST redouble efforts… https://t.co/QYd4Ak0eUg— Whale Research (@Whale Research)1532727020.0
"The diets of southern resident orcas consist largely of Chinook salmon, but the Chinook are listed on federal and state endangered species lists," Inslee's office stated. "If the Chinook population continues to decline, the southern resident orca population will follow."
Orca Whale 'Crewser' Presumed Dead as Population Reaches Its Lowest Point Since 1984 https://t.co/DnswjvwhXG… https://t.co/1apBKA0gF5— Sea Shepherd SSCS (@Sea Shepherd SSCS)1529448773.0
British travel giant Thomas Cook announced over the weekend it will stop offering tickets to animal attractions that keep killer whales in captivity.
"This was not a decision we took lightly," CEO Peter Fankhauser wrote in a blog post posted Sunday. He did not specifically name SeaWorld and Loro Parque in the post.
Fankhauser acknowledged that both parks passed the firm's audit process and made improvements to the way they treat animals.
However, "from next summer, we will no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity," he said.
Fankhauser said that more than 90 percent of the firm's customers believe it is important that their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously.
"We recognized that customer expectations were changing when it comes to animal attractions," he said. "And when so many of our customers are so clear in their view, I could not allow our business to ignore them."
After implementing an animal welfare policy 18 months ago, the travel firm has removed 29 animal attractions from its catalogue because they did not meet the minimum ABTA standards, which sets guidelines for animals in tourism.
Thomas Cook sells more than 10,000 day trips a year to SeaWorld Florida, according to the Telegraph.
Animal rights group PETA UK celebrated the news, calling it a victory that culminated after more than 150 protests around the country and multiple meetings with Thomas Cook management over the past year.
"This momentous victory means that Thomas Cook has now become the world-leading travel provider for animal welfare that it had claimed to be, and if other travel providers hope to maintain a shred of credibility with animal-loving British holidaymakers, they must follow its lead and immediately announce that they, too, will end the financial lifeline they are giving these cruel marine parks," PETA said in a press release.
You did it! Thomas Cook will stop selling tickets to SeaWorld following pressure from PETA and our supporters. ✊… https://t.co/wfKm4a9ASG— PETA UK (@PETA UK)1532839419.0
The marine mammals currently in their care "will be with us and our visitors for many years to come," SeaWorld said in a statement to BBC News.
"Millions of UK guests" visited its parks and it would continue to "welcome the public" to them," the company said.
"They have seen first-hand the incredible care we provide all of our animals and learned about how we are protecting and saving species in the wild," the statement continued.
In their own statement, Loro Parque said more than a million visitors have come to the park with Thomas Cook's booking services in the last 45 years.
"In all these years we have not received a single complaint from any of them regarding the welfare of our animals," the statement read.
The statement continued:
The decision of Thomas Cook is clearly influenced by anti-zoo organizations leaded by a minority of activists not really concerned about the animals, but just aimed in destroying the zoos and their conservation, research and educational activities. But this will not change our determination to continue working for the welfare of every single animal in this world, and for the conservation of the biodiversity in a planet threatened by the sixth extinction as has been scientifically proven.
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Increasingly, large predators like mountain lions, alligators and killer whales are moving into ecosystems not traditionally associated with them. Mountain lions have been spotted prowling grasslands, alligators have been seen lounging on Florida beaches and killer whales have been spied swimming in freshwater rivers.
Many hypothesized that the animals were taking over new territories as their populations rebounded due to conservation efforts. But research published in Current Biology Monday suggests that they are actually taking back what was rightfully theirs.
The researchers looked specifically at sea otters on the Pacific coast of the U.S., who have expanded from kelp forests to estuaries, salt marshes and seagrass beds, and alligators in the Southeastern U.S., who have expanded from freshwater swamps into marine habitats like mangroves and seagrasses. The researchers argued, based on both the species' success in these "new" habitats when protected from human interference, as well as historical and archaeological evidence placing both sea otters and alligators in coastal marshes, that the predators were reconquering ground they had occupied before human activity drove them out.
"We can no longer chock up a large alligator on a beach or coral reef as an aberrant sighting," study co-author and Rachel Carson associate professor of Marine Conservation Biology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment Brian Silliman said in a Duke University press release. "It's not an outlier or short-term blip. It's the old norm, the way it used to be before we pushed these species onto their last legs in hard-to-reach refuges. Now, they are returning," he said.
The study's authors, who, in addition to Duke, came from the University of California Santa Cruz, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Florida and Kansas State University, suggested that the same might be true of other large predators moving into new niches, though more research needs to be conducted to confirm this hypothesis.
Examples of other potential reconquests include the movement of orangutans into disturbed forests, river otters into marine wetlands, canines like wolves and coyotes onto beaches and rocky shores and grey, harbor and harp seals from Arctic into subtropical waters.
Taken together, these movements also indicate that large predators are more adaptive than ecologists thought.
"The assumption, widely reinforced in both the scientific and popular media, is that these animals live where they live because they are habitat specialists. Alligators love swamps; sea otters do best in saltwater kelp forests; orangutans need undisturbed forests; marine mammals prefer polar waters. But this is based on studies and observations made while these populations were in sharp decline. Now that they are rebounding, they're surprising us by demonstrating how adaptable and cosmopolitan they really are," Silliman said in the press release.
This is good news for both predators and the ecosystems they are calling home again.
In the press release, Stillman used the example of sea otters' movement into estuaries. This habitat flexibility will help sea otters survive as kelp forests are threatened due to climate change. But it also helps estuaries, because the sea otters eat Dungeness crabs who otherwise eat too many of the sea slugs that prevent the estuaries from being overrun by epiphytic algae fertilized by urban and agricultural runoff.
The study's conclusion argued that its findings should be taken into consideration when determining conservation policy.
"As many of these consumers (and their habitats) are protected and managed by legislation, the habitats they are now re-colonizing (e.g., salt marshes) will also need to be considered as critical habitat in recovery plans. Indeed, as is the case with sea otters and alligators, these 'novel' ecosystems can potentially support much higher populations than current habitats listed as critical," the study's authors wrote.
New Study Is First to Demonstrate That Biodiversity Inoculates Against Extinction https://t.co/GsoGXgDP2b… https://t.co/W30DNURvN9— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520853013.0
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Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Canada is losing a lot of its wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund's 2017 Living Planet Report Canada found half the monitored mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species declined from 1970 to 2014. Threatened and endangered species continue to disappear despite federal legislation designed to protect them and help their populations recover. What's going wrong?
One reason plant and animal populations continue to suffer is that protection under the Species at Risk Act is plagued by delays at every step. The government often delays making a decision on whether to accept scientific recommendations that a species should be listed. The woodland caribou, for example, was listed as threatened in 2003 but its recovery strategy wasn't available until 2012. More delays regularly follow between a species being listed and following up with measures to protect it. And actions finally taken are sometimes inadequate to stop the decline or start the recovery of a species. The David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental groups have gone to court many times to try to end these delays.
Enter a little used legal tool: an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act. An emergency order is a flexible, effective tool that can be tailored to a species' specific needs. It provides measures to address imminent threats to a species. Emergency orders helped stop further declines of western chorus frogs and rebuilt greater sage grouse populations.
West Coast conservation groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation, are calling for an emergency order to protect Canada's most endangered marine mammal: southern resident orcas, or killer whales. The 76 remaining animals—which can be found in the Salish Sea near Vancouver and around Washington State's San Juan Islands and BC's Gulf Islands—face threats that imperil their ability to survive. This is the orca's lowest population in more than three decades, and no surviving calves have been produced since 2015.
The act compels the ministers responsible to recommend an emergency order to cabinet if they believe a species is facing imminent threats to its survival or recovery. Emergency orders can require actions over and above any laws, policies or regulations already in place to recover the species. Although the act requires that southern resident orcas and the habitat they need for recovery be given automatic protection, not enough has been done to prevent their continuing decline. Urgent additional measures are needed to ensure survival and recovery.
The three biggest threats to the whales' recovery are underwater noise and disturbance, contaminants and a reduction in the whales' favored prey, chinook salmon. While all these threats require an immediate response, recent deaths—in particular among calves and mothers or pregnant whales—appear to be driven by food scarcity.
The orcas feed primarily on Fraser River chinook, whose populations and nutritional yield have declined over the past 12 to 15 years. Habitat change, harvest rates and hatchery influences, along with climate change impacts and possibly disease threats from open net-cage salmon farms, all play roles in the chinook's decline. Recreational and commercial fisheries are competing with the whales for salmon and disrupting the whales when they try to feed.
Salmon and Orca Survival Threatened by Chlorpyrifos Pesticide: Government Report https://t.co/UThR2E78dd… https://t.co/dZ46pRKQDm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515593239.0
The emergency order calls for limits to the number of chinook that can be caught and for other restrictions on fishing. It also calls on government to designate whale feeding refuges during spring and summer for a minimum of five years. The refuges would allow the orcas to forage without noise and disturbance from fishing and whale-watching vessels. Protection could also include introducing speed limits for large commercial vessels that travel along key foraging areas. These solutions are supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's own science and are part of recovery strategies and action plans.
Research indicates a 24 to 50 percent risk of southern resident orca extinction this century if conditions don't change. It's a colossal failure of policy and will that finds Canada's wildlife in such dire circumstances. The extinction of these whales, and many other endangered species in Canada, is a preventable tragedy. It's urgent for government to act immediately to ensure these iconic Salish Sea animals survive.
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